Chapter 2: A Miserable Life
BlueTiger321: All right! So Josh had just missed catching Korra and returning her briefcase. What's he and Martin gonna do next? Read on and find out.
It was now afternoon, and Josh and Martin had returned to their home: a brown brick apartment building in the slums of Providence that had laundry hanging from the windows. Martin parked his van on the side of the street. Even though he was no longer employed at Mutt Cutts, he still owned the van and it still had the trademark dog covering around it. Josh came up next in a taxi after his employment was also terminated from the result of his employers discovering that he was involved in two hit-and-runs as well as wrecking one of their limousines.
Martin stepped out of the van and was now dressed in his regular clothes, which were a white T-shirt underneath a red and yellow unbuttoned shirt, khaki pants, a necklace with a red bead in the centre, and red and white sneakers.
Josh got out of the taxi, paid the cabbie for the trip and walked up next to Martin with the briefcase still in his possession. They then walked up to their apartment together while the other tenets went about their own business. It had been another bad day for them just like all the others.
"Hi, Josh," said Martin.
"Hi, Martin," said Josh.
"How was your day?"
"Not bad. Fell off the jetway again."
Not long after the two of them entered the apartment building, a brown Cadillac drove up to the curb. Harley sat at the driver's seat while Cain sat next to her. They followed Josh closely from the airport and were determined to get the briefcase back after the mishap in the terminal—but first they had to study their target closely before acting.
"Who the hell you figure this guy's workin' for, anyway?" said Harley.
"I don't know," replied Cain. "We sure as hell better find out."
A few seconds afterward, Cain took out a prescription bottle and ingested some of the pills inside. Harley looked at her cohort, thinking about his condition and why he was overmedicating himself so recklessly.
"The ulcer?" said Harley.
"I'll live," said Cain.
Josh and Martin entered their apartment, which was a dreary grey area with a kitchen, bathroom and one bedroom. They sat in the living room where the only furnishings were a leather chair, a couch, a lamp, a nightstand, and a poster of a woman in a swimsuit on the wall. Josh took the chair and set the briefcase on the nightstand while Martin sat on the couch. They sat in silence for a while as the light from the windows bathed them and they felt what little heat they could from the nearby radiator.
It was absolutely miserable for both of them and neither one of them was willing to admit what happened to them today, so Martin went first and asked Josh.
"So you got fired again, huh?" said Martin.
"Oh yeah," said Josh. "They always freak out when you leave the scene of an accident, you know?" He then shook his head and made a gesture with his hands like his reason for getting fired was so unclear.
"Yeah, well, I lost my job too."
Hearing that put Josh in high spirits and he couldn't help but smile and laugh at Martin's misery. "Man! You are one pathetic loser." Josh could not see that what he was saying was somewhat of an inferiority complex, but he kept laughing. "No offense."
Martin waved his hand apologetically and said, "No, none taken."
Josh then stood up while he kept up his laughter and walked towards the kitchen. He passed by a birdcage where a brown and beige bird known as a Pidgey was kept and a table where an ant farm that was full of worms and other objects were placed. Opening the fridge, Josh pulled out two beer bottles.
"You know what really chaffs my ass, though?" said Martin. "I spent my life savings turning my van into a dog."
Josh walked back into the living room and looked at the Pidgey in the birdcage. "Hi, Paulie!" he called out, referring to the Pidgey's name.
"The alarm alone cost me two hundred," Martin continued.
Josh gave his friend one of the beers and said, "Hey! Chicks love it. It's a shaggin' wagon."
Both men twisted off the caps of their beer bottles. For two guys like them, it was the only remedy for having such a terrible day.
Martin then happened to notice the briefcase on the nightstand. He never remembered having anything to do with it so he figured that Josh brought it inside. "What's with the briefcase?" he asked.
Josh waited for a few seconds and then fondled the briefcase like it was a newborn baby. "It's a love memento," he replied. His mind then raced through all the memories of Korra while he told the tale of how he met her. "The most beautiful woman alive, I drove her to the airport. Sparks flew, emotions ran high. She actually talked to me, man." Josh had no idea that he was being delusional of how Korra actually saw him.
Martin couldn't believe what his friend was saying. "Get outta here."
"Oh yeah, yeah. Tractor beam"—he then made a gesture with his hands and whistled as though it was some kind of laser—"sucked me right in. Anyway, she left this in the terminal and flew to Aspen and out of my life."
When he was done Josh took a swig of his beer, but still kept the memory of Korra fresh in his mind.
"What's in it?" asked Martin.
The question made Josh look at his friend like it was something that should never have been asked. "Man… I would have to be a lowlife to go rootin' around in somebody else's private property."
"Is it locked?"
"Yeah, really well." To prove his point, Josh lifted the briefcase slightly by its handle and slammed it on the nightstand that made a loud bang.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door, so the two friends put down their beers and walked over to the entrance without opening up. Martin looked through the eyehole and saw two people he didn't recognize, who were actually Cain and Harley. The woman stood at the door while the man stood in the back and got his Smith & Wesson ready.
"There's two of them. One of them's got a gun," whispered Martin.
Josh thought about who would ever want to hurt them—and that's when he came up with the only plausible explanation. "Did you pay the gas bill?" he whispered.
In response, Martin looked up at his friend with a terrified expression; he forgot to pay the gas bill. He was about to apologize for his mistake when Josh grabbed him by the head and almost made him yelp.
"Do you realize what you've done?" Josh whispered with a disappointed look on his face.
"I'm sorry," Martin whispered back. "I say we bail."
There was a moment of silence and Josh considered their options. They barely had enough money for anything, let alone paying the gas bill. Running seemed to be their best choice so he said, "Okay."
Josh and Martin then slowly made their way over to the fire escape in the kitchen, and Josh made sure to grab the briefcase on the way out. When they were finally safe, they ran over to the van so they could find new jobs and to stay out of sight until the heat went down.
Meanwhile, Cain and Harley had broken into Josh and Martin's apartment. Cain stood in the kitchen and slammed a cupboard in anger after he failed to find the briefcase.
"Briefcase ain't here; they must've taken it with 'em," he said.
Harley snorted in disappointment. "Well, he's gotta come home sometime."
"Maybe we should trash the place, send him a little message."
The woman glanced around the apartment and figured that it was already a dump, so trashing it seemed irrelevant. "I don't think he's gonna get that message, Cain." She gestured over to the worm farm and said, "I mean, the guy's got worms in his living room."
Cain looked around for anything he could use to scare the two men—and he noticed the birdcage and Paulie chirping happily. Then he figured that it would hurt emotionally if the boys lost something near and dear to them. "Oh, I got a better idea," he said devilishly.
Cain walked over to the birdcage and opened it up. He stuck his hand inside while Paulie tried to back away as best he could. "I tawt I taw a putty tat," said Cain, impersonating Sylvester the Cat. "Ooh, I did, I did."
There was a loud squawk as Cain narrowed his eyes and grin maliciously, and then nothing. What Cain had done made Harley stare at him with fear in her eyes. Now, she thought, she knew never to get on Cain's bad side.
Night time had settled in and Josh and Martin returned home after a long day, figuring it was long enough for the two mysterious people to leave them alone. The van was parked on the side of the street and the two friends stepped out with irritated looks on their faces. Their plan to find new jobs had not gone as well as they thought it would.
"I can't believe we drove around all day and there's not a single job in this town," said Martin. "There is nothing, nada, zip!"
"Yeah," said Josh, "unless you want to work forty hours a week."
Martin scoffed the comment, not knowing that was the usual number of hours for a regular job. "I knew I shouldn't have quit my job as a paranormal mystery investigator."
It was then that Josh handed the briefcase to Martin and produced what money he had left on him. "Here. I'm gonna go to the store."
"Okay, just get the bare essentials. This is the last of our dough."
That comment made Josh stare at his friend like he should've given him more credit than that. "Hey," he said. "What do I look like?" He thought that he would get the bare essentials.
Not long afterward, Josh walked down the street with two cases of beer in his arms with pinwheels sticking out of the top case, a paddleball in his hand and a large novelty cowboy hat on his head. He enjoyed the paddleball so much that he swung it around madly. The ball then hit a newspaper stand that sold adult magazines.
(A/N: To make sure that no one gets offended, I'm not going to name the magazine.)
Josh got a peek at the magazines. The women on them definitely seemed hot, but still nowhere near as hot as Korra. But maybe he could still fantasize about her, he thought. He set the paddleball on top of the stand and dug out his wallet to get the right amount of change.
The coins were put into the slot, so Josh grabbed his wallet and opened the door. The same hand that grasped the wallet was also being used to grab a magazine, but all the weight of holding onto the beer cases made it more difficult to get his fingers around it. When he was sure that he had a magazine, Josh swiftly brought in his hand and let the door slam shut. It was only then that he realized that in doing so he let go of the wallet. Josh knelt down to look at his wallet trapped within the stand, and his face showed frustration.
"Cripes!" he said.
The worst part of it was that he had no other change to get the wallet out, so he would have to find another way. He set the beer cases onto an adjacent newspaper stand and started looking for someone who would give him change for his last dollar. That's when he noticed an elderly woman named Madam Foster strolling down the sidewalk in her cart who had just passed by him.
"Excuse me, little old lady," Josh called out.
Madam Foster heard the call and stopped before putting her cart into reverse, forcing Josh to back away and slam into the stand until the old woman was next to him.
"Uh," Josh said, feeling a little embarrassed, "do you have change for a dollar?"
"Change?" said Madam Foster. "No, I'm sorry, I don't."
"Oh." Josh had given up; this whole thing was now a fruitless endeavour. So he immediately came up with a plan. "Well, uh, could you do me a favour and watch my stuff here while I go break a dollar?"
"Of course," said Madam Foster.
"Thanks." Josh walked away but then came back to look the old woman in the eye. "Hey. I guess they're right. Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose." Josh then walked away. "I'll be right back. Don't you go dying on me!"
Madam Foster was then left by herself with a smile on her face, happy to help the young man but feeling a little insulted by the remark about senior citizens.
Josh made his way back to the apartment, no longer wearing the cowboy hat, and he slammed the door and fell to the floor in defeat. Martin sat there on the couch and he stared at his friend while he sulked.
"Where's the booze?" said Martin.
Rather than explain to his friend about what really happened, Josh told a lie that he hoped that Martin would believe. "I got robbed by a sweet old lady on a motorized cart." He then shook a fist and gritted his teeth. "And I didn't even see it coming."
As if it wasn't bad news enough that they weren't getting any beer, Martin moaned while he stared at the floor.
"Martin," Josh said, trying to cheer up his friend.
"No, no," said Martin and waved his hand.
Josh sat next to Martin and tried to find out what was wrong. "Martin, come on. Cheer up."
"It gets worse, Josh. My Pidgey, Paulie…"
Martin then went teary-eyed as he dreaded saying the next few words but knew they had to be said. "He's dead."
The news came to Josh like a splash of cold water to the face. Feeling sympathetic he said, "Aw… Oh man, I'm sorry, Martin. What happened?"
"His head fell off!"
That news made Josh go wide-eyed in disbelief. "His head fell off?"
"Yeah, he was pretty old."
Josh couldn't believe it, so he walked over to the birdcage to make sure that Martin was telling the truth or playing a cruel joke. He looked inside and then looked away in disgust when he saw Paulie's decapitated body in the birdcage.
"That's it! I've had it with this dump!" Josh yelled in frustration. He then counted off all the bad things that had befallen him and Martin. "We got no food; we got no jobs… Our pets' heads are falling off!"
Now it was Martin's turn to get his friend under control. "Okay, just calm down!"
But Josh would not listen to reason. "What the hell are we doing here, Martin? We've gotta get out of this town!"
"Yeah? And go where? We are we gonna go?"
Martin was right: there was nothing for them anywhere outside of Providence. But Josh was determined to prove him wrong. Somewhere there was somebody waiting for them with something important.
"I'll tell you where," said Josh. "Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful woman instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano."
The whole idea seemed crazy to Martin, but he decided to hear Josh out for the sake of making him feel better.
Josh finished by saying, "I'm talking about a little place called Aspen."
"I don't know, Josh—the French are assholes," said Martin. But then Martin thought back and remembered Josh talking about that same place, and now it all figured together. He stood up off the couch and looked at Josh with a scrutinizing glare.
"Wait a minute," said Martin. "Wait a minute! I know what you're up to, mister." He was now talking like he was a father punishing his child. "Yeah, you just want to go to Aspen and find that girl who lost her briefcase, and you need me to drive you there! Right? Am I right? Am I right?"
The questions kept coming, so Josh kept yelling out, "Yeah! So? Yeah! So?"
The tension settled down and Josh gave Martin another reason for going. "So I wanna go someplace where we know somebody who can plug us into the social pipeline."
"No! No, no, no, no, Josh! No!" Martin said as he marched around the apartment. Now he was convinced that the whole idea of helping someone else when they couldn't even help themselves was stupid. "I say we stay here, we hunt for jobs, and we keep saving our money for the worm store!"
Josh turned away from his friend and looked out the window. Hearing his own friend reject his idea was like a stab in the heart and he could no longer take it. He always believed that Martin would support him and now hearing this made him feel like life was no longer worth living.
"I don't know about you," said Martin, "but I am getting sick and tired of running from creditors!"
When he was sure that Martin was done, Josh turned his head and stared at him with sad-filled eyes. "You know what I'm sick and tired of, Martin? I'm sick and tired of having to eke my way through life."
Martin then stared down at the floor, thinking that that was something that he was sick and tired of, too, but hearing it come from Josh made him see that it wasn't always about him. Now he was regretting saying those selfish words.
Josh looked out the window again and said, "I'm sick and tired of being a nobody. But most of all…" Josh then felt like he was going to choke up, so he looked back at Martin to see if there was one last chance to convince him. "I'm sick and tired of having nobody."
Martin then smiled. He and Josh were best friends, so he decided that they should stick together no matter what. "Okay, Josh," he said, and made his friend turn back to him. "Aspen it is."
With outstretched hands, Martin invited his friend over to him.
Josh felt tears in his eyes as he was overjoyed to see his friend finally support him. "You better not be foolin'."
But Martin wasn't fooling. He nodded his head and gestured Josh to come over to him. Josh accepted the invitation and so he walked over to embrace his friend and wept in his arms.
Martin patted his friend on the back while he hugged Josh. "Okay, okay," he said. "Just let it out. Have a good cry." Josh continued to cry and Martin still comforted him. "Okay, come on." Another sob and Martin nodded his head. "Okay, that's enough."
BlueTiger321: Well, it looks like the two friends are going to Aspen.
Josh: I can't believe that you're doing this for me.
Martin: Hey, that's what friends are for.
Martin: Okay, okay! You've already covered that.
Josh: Oh, sorry.
BlueTiger321: So folks, stay tuned when the two set out on their road trip. Until next time…
Josh and Martin: Read and review!