Unfinished Stories – The Volunteer, by Jeffery Crow & Robin Nyström

Well folks, instead of a regular post, it will be another Unfinished Story.  Too many great stories this week to stop.  This week’s entry was started by myself, and it seemed like the perfect way to welcome Robin.  Keep dreaming folks, and see you tomorrow.

It was such a good party. New Year’s Eve. Champagne. Music. A really, really good time.

It’s no longer New Year’s Eve. It’s the next morning. And I feel every single ounce of champagne. And the 25-year old Scotch.  And the first, third, and fourth Jello-O shot. Possibly the second, as well.

OK, definitely the second.

All this before I even open my eyes. I don’t want to open my eyes.

I open my first eye. Nope. Try the other eye. Well, that one opens, but the room moves with that eye. Bad eye. Bad day.  Happy freaking New Year.

Is that my phone? I think it was my phone. It also could have been an air-raid siren. Make that stop. Crack open an eye.  Don’t like that, but the pain of the ringing is worse. Maybe.  Don’t move my head, the room just settled. Don’t want to disturb that. What the hell was in that Jell-O? Right…vodka.

Let’s see, in the living room, on the sofa. Television isn’t on.  Water glass, empty, next to me. Good thinking. No phone though.  Time. What time is it? Look at wrist. Oh! My arm moves, that good. And there goes the room, again. Stop. Where is that sound coming from? Man I have to pee. Oh! My pocket seems to be vibrating.

“Hello.” My voice sounds terrible.

“Hey buddy! You sound terrible.” It was Dave. Usually Dave is my best friend. But today is not usual. Today, I hate Dave.


“You must be feeling lousy. You were showing no mercy last night. Reminded me of college. Whew! You were on fire!” Dave is chipper. I hate Dave.

“What’s up Dave.” It wasn’t a question. I was dying, and dying people have no time for questions.

“I’m on my way over, just wanted to make sure you were ready.  Glad I did. I really appreciate this, by the way.”  What?  “I was so nervous about it, and then after you talked to me last night, man…” Far too much admiration in his voice. I really must have been convincing. About something. “And then to volunteer to do it with me! That’s just a whole new level of…” He was still talking. Why was he still talking? What was he saying? “…and then we should be back by about 10 tonight. Sound good?”

Just enough time to pull on jeans and a T-shirt. A thousand lightbulbs go off when I open the door. Dave tries to give me a hug, but I won’t let him.

“I gotta pee,” I say and wave him off. “Bladder’s about to explode.”

I do my business. Have to lean against the wall while I piss. Decide to close my eyes, for a moment. A car horn blares nearby.

Dave has a silver Mercedes. I sit in the passenger’s seat. Pop three Ibuprofens, gulp them down without water. Dave drives. Still no idea where we’re going or why. Don’t care.

Dave thanks me again for whatever promise I must have made.

“You know, we’ve always been more like brothers, you and I,” he says. “Not friends, but brothers, man. People even say we look alike. You’ve heard that, right?”

I look out the window. Airbrushed colors rush by. I feel nauseous. Everything is too vivid and unreal.


My grunts do not shut him up.

We drive for forty-five minutes. By the end of it, I feel like I could retch up all of yesterday. Dave instructs the car to parallel park, and it does, all by itself. Show-off.

We walk into a warp station. Dave buys a round-trip for two at the booth. We have to sign waivers, and we get our retinas scanned. Further ahead, an old woman stamps our tickets. She has tiny, black teeth. Nasty habit that, teeth coloring.

I look at my ticket stub.

‘July 12, 2012. 8:00PM.’

Now I know when we’re going. Still not where. Still not why.

Dave is going off about something again, jabbering. I try to drown out his words somewhere in my headache. We wait in a crowded room, seated next to a Japanese family that plays hologram chess.

Our names are called out. We are let into our cabin by a TSA agent. At least it’s quiet in there.

Dave is standing next to me, holding an old photograph. He stares at the picture, wordless.

There is a loud, pulsating thrum. Sliding doors open wide.

“Let’s do this,” says Dave. He smiles.

We step through the portal, and I sober up real quick.

* * * *

On the eve of July 12, 2012, we walk into a diner on the corner of Thomas Lane and Blueclock Road. The hostess seats us at an orange, plastic table. We’re given a leather-encased menu, each page sticky with a day’s worth of fingerprints. We’re told that our server will be with us shortly.

I know when we are, and where. But still not why.

“There she is,” says Dave, and he nods towards our approaching waitress.

I look at her. It’s the woman from Dave’s photograph. Her name tag, pinned to her red dress, says Margaret.

Dave orders a club sandwich. He almost manages to keep his voice steady. I order blueberry pie. The waitress locks her eyes with mine for a long while as she repeats our order back to us. I nod. Dave clears his throat.

As she walks off, I can see that Dave’s eyes are welling up. I understand, at last, why we’re here. Dave had to see her, for real. He had to see who she was before he was born.

His tears are spilling onto the orange tabletop.

“You can’t tell her who you are,” I say.

“I know,” says Dave. “But I feel like I owe her something.”

“Of course you do,” I say. “You owe her your life. But you didn’t choose to be her son, and she didn’t choose to die. Nothing we say or do can change that.”

He wipes his tears and breathes heavily.

The woman who will one day become Dave’s mom serves us the pie and the sandwich. We eat in silence.

This is what I volunteered for. I let my big mouth run wild on a drunken New Year’s Eve. Boom. Next you know, here we are, trying to reconnect with time forever lost. I’m such a shit-head.

I look over at the waitress again. She sure is beautiful. Short-cut chestnut hair. Skin pale as porcelain. Maybe too pale, on the verge of sickly. Long-nailed, slender hands.

Dave is ready to leave. He pays with a generous tip and gets to his feet. He motions to the door.

“I have to pee,” I say. “I’ll be right out.”

“Okay,” he says. “Hurry up, though. I promised to have you back by 10.”

“Back to what?” I say.

I walk to the other side of the diner and lock myself in the bathroom. I stare into the mirror. I don’t really need to pee. I just need to breathe for a second. Something feels wrong. It’s as if the whole world is out of focus. As if I’m walking wide-eyed but blind.

When I unlock the door and exit the restroom, I bump into someone who is standing in the hallway. It’s her. Margaret. She puts a hand on my chest and pushes me back into the bathroom.

“What did you think of my pie?” she asks.

“Um,” I say. “Tasty.”

Her lips move to my throat as she whispers. “There’s more where that came from.”

I am defenseless. It is too raw, too real. Inescapable.

We make love in that bathroom stall. She hikes up her dress, and I drop my jeans, and I press her up hard against a white-tiled wall spattered with graffiti.

The same thoughts run through my head, over and over, like a chant:

Today is not usual. Today, we made Dave.

Jeffery Crow – Sword And Quill

Robin Nyström – NicoLife

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