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Nope, Never Saw Him Before In My Life
“You ever feel like a mouse?” Rory asked, peering at David from over the top of his glass.
“Excuse me?” David asked.
“A mouse. Have you ever felt like a mouse?” Rory asked again, finally taking a drink.
“No… I don’t recall ever feeling like a mouse.” David replied slowly.
“Well I did, once.” he said matter-of-factly. David looked at him, waiting for him to continue on with his anecdote but he was silent, looking right back at David.
“Like when?” David asked finally.
“Well I’m glad you asked!” he smiled, shifting in his chair. “So there was this one time when I was little and my mom took me to this, like, funhouse thing. It was in this giant boat. I think it was called… Oh man… Pirate Palace! Yeah, that’s it. Anyways, I was, what, five? Yeah, five… I think. Anyways, she takes me and lets me run around with the rest of the rug rats inside this obstacle course thing. So, you know, I’m enjoying myself when all of a sudden this big kid comes struttin’ around the corner like owns the friggin’ place and goes ‘How old are you?’
“And I replied ‘Five’ and with this crinkle nose snotty look he goes ‘Yeah, well you’re pretty puny for a five year old’ so I said ‘Well how old are you?’ and he said he was seven. Seven? This kid looked like a monster. He had to of been around eighty pounds. An eighty pound monster in a blue Power Ranger shirt. An eighty pound monster in a blue Power Ranger shirt who was looking for blood.
“So the bulvon goes, ‘You fast, squirt?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I’m fast’ cause I was, I really was. So what do you think he does next? He leans his face in about an inch from mine, and with a breath that stunk of cheetos goes, ‘Then run’. And I look over the kids shoulder and see the brat had friends. So I’m five, and this beast and his crew had told me to run, so I ran. Ran as fast as my tiny feet would carry me.
“So I’m running through this maze, twists and turns and loops and doops and every possible thing you could throw in there to stall a kid who’s running for their life. And I’m running, running, running… thinking I’m doing pretty well… when BAM,” he slammed his hand on the table top, causing David to jump, “dead end. It’s this big yellow wall with holes in it, holes big enough for a normally sized toddler to get through. So I turn and see Godzilla come puffing around the corner towards me. So you know what I did? I climbed up that wall and squirmed my way through it, landing comfortably on a pile of foamy blue squares.
“I can still hear the doughboy yelling. ‘I’ll get you for this, I swear!’ Never went back again.” he finished. He put his glass to his lips again and drained the remaining liquid.
David eyed his friend quietly, shaking his head. Only Rory, he thought. The kid was a nut job, but for some reason he was David’s best friend. He was David’s complete opposite; loud, funny, always the life of the party as compared to David, the shy and sensible one. They’d known each other for years and hardly fought. Well maybe there were a few minor quarrels… nothing major…
“Hey, chap! HEY, CHAP!” Rory’s yell snapped David out of his musing. He looked up to see Rory’s face had turned beet red. “Refill!” he slammed his fist on the counter top. The bar tender shot David an annoyed glance.
“I think you’ve had enough for one night.” David said. He grabbed Rory’s arm, attempting to pull him away from the bar.
“Oh, you little muffin. Look at you you little muffin. Bein’ all muffin like.” Rory groaned, ruffling David’s hair. “Come here, let me eat you you muffin.” Rory smiled. Having quicker reflexes, David managed to block Rory’s face from coming any closer to his.
“You’re nuts.” David couldn’t help but smile.
“I’m nuts? I’m…” Rory’s eyes grew wide as he examined his hands quickly. “When did this happen?”
“Never mind that, let’s go.” David replied, pulling Rory a bit harder.
“Hey Dave. Dave. David. David!” Rory called until David finally stopped and faced him.
“What is it, Rory?” he asked as nicely as he could.
“I never noticed how beautiful your eyes are.” Rory said, taking David’s face in his hands. “Heeey Dave,” he strained to focus on David’s eyes, “they have a bit of green in them, looky at that.” he laughed. “Your eyes are green! Did you paint them when I wasn’t looking? Oh, you.” he smiled sloppily. David rolled his eyes, removing Rory’s hands from his cheeks.
“Rory, I’m taking you home.” David said seriously.
“Woah, woah….woah.” Rory put his hands up defensively. “I’m not really into… I’m not into guys like that, Dave-o.” he held back a burp and continued. “Is there something you need to tell me?” David pulled on his arm harder now, the front door nearly in sight.
“No, there’s nothing I need to tell you.” he replied.
“Dave!” Rory suddenly yelled, causing David to jump.
“What?” David whispered harshly. “And stop yelling.”
“Sorry,” Rory whispered, pouting, “but I feel like my arm’s about to be ampa…ampit…ampitimated...”
“Amputated, Rory.” David corrected him.
“Yeah, that’s it!” Rory perked up. David loosened his grip on Rory’s arm.
“Thanks buddy” Rory sighed happily. David reached for the handle of the door when Rory suddenly tensed next to him.
“Dude.” Rory said, punching David in the arm.
“Ow!” David whined.
“Dude, it’s him.” Rory growled.
“Him, who’s him?” David scanned the room for any familiar faces.
“It’s- It’s-” but Rory grew too flustered to finish his sentence. He broke free from David’s grasp and stormed over to a man sitting at the bar by himself.
“You!” Rory yelled, jabbing his finger at the man. From afar he had seemed normal sized, but up close David saw that he was a good two and a half times larger than he was, with the shoulders of a professional linebacker. His hair was trimmed neatly and his eyes wore a naturally apathetic look. He turned slowly in his chair, raising an eyebrow at the short, lanky Rory whose finger was still in the air.
“Can I help you?” the large man asked.
“You! You’re that kid! You were that kid! The kid with the cheetos breath! At Pirate Palace! When you and your little clan of- of- Power Ranger wearing, juice box sucking, booger eating little mongrels decided they wanted to traumatize me for the rest of my- my-” Rory did his best to hold back another burp, “childhood!” The man eyed Rory with curiosity, finally focusing on his blood shot eyes.
“Oh don’t tell me you don’t remember! ‘You fast squirt?’” Rory mocked in a voice much lower than his.
“Oh my God!” the man smiled. “You’re that kid…” he looked Rory over head to toe. “You’ve come a long way.”
“Yeah, yes sir, yeah I have. A looooooong way!” he said, swinging his arms out. The man smirked slightly. “But a long way doesn’t change the fact that you,” Rory sucked in a deep breath, “SUCK!” he stomped his foot on the ground. The man was silent.
“Pirate Palace was the place to be, man! It was the friggin’ BOMB! It was my muse, jerk, my center. And you RUINED it. You ripped the joy right out of here, man, right out of here!” he jabbed his finger into the left side of his chest.
“Well, I’m sorry…um…your name?” the man asked.
“Rory. Rory O’Ryan.” Rory said, rocking forward onto his tippy toes. “Whatta ‘bout you?”
“Walter. Walter Kelly.” Walter said. Rory looked at him for a second before bursting out into laughter. David struggled to keep a straight face, but quickly lost the battle.
“Wait, wait, wait!” Rory gasped, doubling over. “Your name- your name is Walter?” he asked, wiping the tears that were streaming down his cheeks. “Some big macho man you are, Walter.” Rory lost it again, his ears flaming red. “Your mom, she couldn’t of thought of anything better than- better than Walter?” he cried, placing his hand on Walter’s shoulder. “Oh man, oh man that’s good.” Rory gasped again. The faintest hint of a smile was tugging at Walter’s lips.
“Well listen up…Walter.” Rory rubbed his stomach. “Just cause you crack me up doesn’t mean I’m lettin’ you off the hook.” Rory said, his face growing serious again.
“Rory,” David warned.
“David,” Rory shot back, rolling his eyes. He turned back to Walter slowly. “You destroyed my spirit, you took part of my soul and crushed it beneath your size twenty four shoe, and you wanta’ know what the worst part is?” Rory asked, leaning forward with one eyebrow raised. He looked at Walter expectantly for an awkward length of time.
“What?” Walter finally asked.
“YOU CHEATED!” Rory yelled, stomping his foot on the ground.
“Cheated? Cheated how? It was an obstacle course!” Walter retorted.
“There was a bunch of you! I was out numbered! Had it been you against me, I would’ve been out of that place looooong before you, tubby!” Rory challenged.
“Yeah, right. You had to squirm your scrawny little *ss out a hole in order to get out of there. That’s cheating.” Walter argued.
“That’s being SMART.” Rory said.
“That’s being a coward.” Walter said.
“THAT’S IT!” Rory yelled. “There’s only one way to settle this.”
“Oh dear God…” David groaned.
“Fine.” Walter said smugly.
“Fine.” Rory crossed his arms. “Grab your keys, Dave-o-rama. We’re going to Pirate Palace.”
David was silent, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. It was growing dark, but the light from Walter’s car behind them lit up the interior of theirs. Rory could sense from the crease in David’s forehead that he was worried.
“I’m not gonna lose.” Rory said, trying to cheer him up. “I’m not gonna disappoint my bestest buddy like that, you think I’d do that, Dave? Naw, I’m not gonna lose.” Rory laid his hand on David’s back.
“I don’t think this is a good idea Rory.” David said bluntly.
“Well, why not? We’ll be fine! What the h*ll could go wrong at a place like Pirate Palace?”
David pulled into an empty parking spot, flicking off his headlights quickly. Walter pulled up next to them, climbing out of his car. Rory attempted to do the same but nearly fell over after catching his foot on the bottom of his seat. Reluctantly, David followed the other’s actions.
“After you, deary.” Rory smiled. With a hop and a skip he swung his arms out, gesturing for Walter to go first. Walter lumbered up to the front door and pulled it open. The chaos that awaited them was enough to overwhelm anybody.
Children were everywhere; running, screaming, squealing at the top of their lungs. Weary parents with shadows beneath their eyes sat at the small café to the left of the play place. Mothers pointed out their munchkins to one another while their husbands discussed the results of the latest soccer game.
Dominating the center of the room was the main attraction: the pirate ship. The bow protruded into the middle of the room and a wide set hole in the middle acted as the entrance. Just beyond that, inside the actual ship, was the obstacle course. The object of it was to race through the bottom, find your way up to the deck and slide down into the “ocean” and then you’d be free. Of course there were other ways out, but this time the two would be seeing it out until the very end. Rory and Walter stood side by side, eyeing the entrance steadily.
“Count us down, boy-o.” Rory said, leaning down into the starting position of a track runner.
“In three…” David closed his eyes, “two…” he opened one slightly, “one.” he sighed. And they were off. The two sprinted into the hole and were out of sight. David shook his head, slumping down at one of the booths in the small café.
The first room they entered split off into five different directions. A painted sign identified it as the Captains Quarters. It was painted dully, with a large statue of a jolly looking pirate dominating most of the room. There were treasure maps hung askew on the walls and arrows pointing down each hallway, describing what lie ahead. The two stopped, looked at each other, and then took off again in completely opposite directions.
Rory zigzagged down the hallway on the far left, nearly tripping over his own feet. He was stopped suddenly by a ramp of ropes tied into squares, making it a make-shift ladder. Kids to his left and right scurried up gracefully and within two seconds were up to his next challenge. Rory reached for a rope and pulled, hoisting himself up to the next rung. The ladder shook with every passing child, causing his balance to sway. He climbed again and smiled when the top was nearly in sight when suddenly, the small boy who had been just ahead of him slipped. With a shriek he came tumbling down onto Rory, who instinctively shot out his hands. Rory had thought he acted quick enough to catch the kid but was actually three seconds behind. The impact caused him to lean backward and fall himself, his long legs getting intertwined in the holes. The boy rolled off of him, landing safely on the ground while Rory was suspended by his feet in the middle of the ladder. The boy waddled up to him, looking at him curiously.
“Thank you mister.” he said with a grin. Rory glared at him, swinging his legs back and forth wildly, trying to untangle himself. The boy then began his journey upwards again.
“Any time, you little-” but his sentence was cut off by him collapsing onto the floor below.
Across the Captains Quarters down the far right hallway, Walter found himself having to bend slightly to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling. The hall was sloped upward, but so far nothing too difficult. Maybe I found a shortcut, Walter thought hopefully. But the sight before him quickly shattered his hopes. The floor beneath him disappeared as he found himself knee deep in a pit of multicolored plastic balls. There were kids everywhere, squealing with laughter as they threw the things at each other with all their might. Walter trudged forward slowly, trying his best not to step on anybody. He was almost halfway through when a shout from one of the kids caught his attention.
“Woah, it’s a grown-up!” somebody yelled.
“You’re not allowed in here!” another cried.
“Yeah?” Walter sneered. “Says who?”
“You can’t be in here!” the same kid repeated.
“Look, I’m just passing through,” Walter tried to reason, but was quickly cut off.
“GET THE GROWN-UP!” screeched the boy who started it all. Multiple battle cries followed as Walter saw nearly twenty kids charging at him.
“No, no, no!” Walter yelled helplessly. He was being ambushed from every angle. The air brigade was stationed around the perimeter of the pit, mercilessly pegging him with the plastic toys. The rest of the group made their way up to him, climbing onto him as if he were part of the course. The majority of them were not so nimble so they aimed for his legs, causing him to fall onto his knees. Walter laid flat quickly, keeping his head above the surface of the plastic. Kids were screaming at the top of their lungs, climbing onto Walter’s back as an attempt to hold him down. He winced slightly as he felt a tiny set of teeth chomp down on his ear. Annoyed, he shook his shoulders hard, causing some of the kids to fall over.
With all of his strength, he started an army crawl to the other side of the pit, doing his best not to get hit with their ammunition. The kids added weight to him, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. With a final grunt he managed to pull himself out from underneath the small bodies, running quickly away from the scene, the boos and screams from the kids fading away.
Nearing the end of her shift, a young waitress in the café waved goodnight to her fellow employee, who had the honor of closing for the night. She was a pretty young thing, a typical prep school air hung around her. She was nearly on her way out when she caught sight of a miserable looking David sitting on his own, twirling a sugar packet between his fingers. She approached him quietly, eyeing him with curiosity.
“Everything ok?” she asked, causing David to jump. He turned to answer her but forgot what he was going to say, too captivated by her appearance.
“Yes.” he squeaked, eyes wide. She laughed softly, sliding into the seat across from him.
“It doesn’t seem that way.” she prompted, resting her chin on her folded hands.
“How long do you have?” David asked, smiling softly. The girl shrugged.
“As long as you need.” David laughed, shaking his head.
“You’re in for it.” he chuckled, launching into the days events.
Back inside the pirate ship, Rory had managed to scale the ladder and land on the flat surface above him. He followed the curve of the wall with his hand, for the room was growing darker and he didn’t want to lose his way. He walked a bit longer until the room opened up before him, and what he saw was probably the worst thing he could have asked for in a state like his. The walls had been replaced with dozens of mirrors, curved and rounded every which way. Everywhere Rory turned, his reflection was different. To his left he was shown with a head the size of a peanut and a body in the shape of a pear. To his right he looked like an over inflated beach ball, and in front of him his body was long and thin with curves all the way down. His eyes widened as he looked all around him. All the shapes and colors were overwhelming, and he began to get frightened. He closed his eyes tightly, hoping it was all a dream, and yelled angrily when he realized it wasn’t.
He walked forward again, trying to find his way to an open door when a sudden impact stopped him. He had walked straight into one of the mirrors and stumbled backward, rubbing his nose.
“Son of a b****,” he mumbled, growing more annoyed by the second. He looked around the room and laid eyes on a girl who seemed to be no older than five.
“Hey, kid!” Rory yelled. The girl continued on like she had not heard him. “KID!” Rory yelled again, this time louder. She turned around with a questioning look.
“You know how to get out of here?” he asked approaching her. The girl was quiet, her eyes growing wider every second. “What are you deaf?” Rory asked. “I asked if you know how to get out of here!” By this time the girl’s lip began to tremble, and in no time she was in tears, sobbing loudly into the almost empty room. The rest of the kids inside seemed not to notice, for this was common for them to be around. Rory looked around frantically before kneeling before the girl.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Rory said, resting a hand on her arm. “I’m sorry, don’t- don’t cry.” but the girl had already launched into another round of hysterics.
“I just want to know how to get out of here, that’s all. Nothing to be sad about. Don’t worry, be happy!” he finished in a kind of sing songy voice. He put his fingers in the corners of his mouth and grinned hugely. “See, happy! Yaaaaay!” he said. The girl on the other hand, was not amused.
“Ok, fine, watch.” Rory said, hopping up quickly. The girl’s eyes were fixed on him. He stood up in front of one of the mirrors and walked into it, stumbling backward again and collapsing on the ground. The girl giggled as Rory perked up quickly.
“Happy? Great! Now get me out of here.” The girl grabbed his hand softly and led him down a narrow pathway. A bright light met him on the other end as he smiled hugely.
“Victory.” he smiled.
Out of breath, Walter continued on his journey forward. He nearly turned around and went home after he saw what was next, but he didn’t want to have to endure the ball pit again. Squirming his way through a narrow plastic tube was his only option for making progress. Windows on the side showed he was now nearing the end, so if he moved quickly, he might have a chance of winning. For the second time in the last ten minutes he laid on his stomach and started to army crawl forward. The majority of his journey was peaceful, for it was growing later and parents were beginning to pull their reluctant children off the rides and into their cars. Walter noticed, though, that the nearer he got to the end, the tighter the plastic was growing around him.
He shimmied his way up to the exit of the tube, the top deck in his line of vision but just out of reach. He pulled himself with all of his might but he did not budge.
“This can’t be friggin’ happening.” Walter muttered. He saw a tiny pair of sneakers run past him on the deck, then slowly make their way back to him. A face appeared before him, looking at him oddly. And then the face broke into a smile, which led to a laugh, which led to a laughing fit. The more the kid laughed, the angrier Walter grew. Finally when his patience wore out he barred his teeth at the child, growling as menacingly as he could. The boy’s smile instantly fell as he screamed, running as fast as he could in the other direction. Losing hope, Walter began to plan out how he was going to survive living in a tube for the rest of his life when a sudden laugh caught his attention. He knew that laugh.
Rory had somehow stumbled his way onto the top deck, and boy did he look bad. His blond hair was sticking out in every direction and his eyes were watery. This drunken mess was about to beat him, and Walter wouldn’t stand for it. With energy he didn’t realize he had, he pulled himself out of the hole and out onto the deck. Just as Rory was headed toward the slide, Walter grabbed him from behind, restricting him from moving ahead.
“Let go of me you b****rd!” Rory screamed.
“Fine!” Walter said. He twirled Rory around in mid air and placed him back on the ground behind him. Walter then headed toward the slide, but not quick enough. Rory jumped onto his back, placing his hands over his eyes.
“I can’t see!” Walter howled, groping around for something to hang onto.
“Well that’s not my problem!” Rory laughed. He jumped down from Walter’s back and ran around him, diving head first at the slide.
“Not gonna happen.” Walter said. He lunged forward and grabbed onto Rory’s ankle, leaving him suspended halfway down the slide. Rory tried desperately to hold onto something as Walter pulled him back up. Rory stood unsteadily and the two faced each other. There was a stony silence before they jumped again. Walter slid down head first with Rory on top of his back, grabbing onto his hair for support. They slid quickly and collapsed into the foam squares below. When they finally managed to untangle themselves from each other, they stood, both red in the face.
“I landed first!” Rory screamed.
“Are you kidding me? No you didn’t!” Walter hollered.
“I did too, are you friggin’ blind?” Rory argued.
“I’m not blind, you’re friggin’ drunk off your *ss!” Walter pushed Rory slightly.
“I’m not drunk enough not to realize that you’re a looooooser!” Rory pushed him back.
Walter stood, glaring at Rory. Rory glared back. There was peace for two seconds before five employees came barreling across the foam blocks.
“Enough! Both of you!” the lady in front shouted. The two turned to look at the short African American woman glaring up at them. Her name tag declared that she was the manager, and that her name was Tasha. “This is supposed to be a safe environment for children to be able to play in, and both of you are hazards. I want the both of you OUT OF HERE and you make sure I NEVER see one of your faces again or I WILL call the police AM I UNDERSTOOD?” she fumed. Walter and Rory gulped, nodding their heads. “Good, now get!” she grabbed both of their arms and led them to the door.
“Dave!” Rory yelled out helplessly. Tasha stopped walking and looked over at the only taken booth in the entire café. The young waitress had changed her seat so she was now next to David, and they had been in the middle of kissing when David heard his friend’s voice. With a sigh, David looked up, tearing his attention away from the girl.
“Do you know him?” Tasha asked, raising her eyebrow. David’s eyes darted quickly between everybody in the mob and finally settled back on Tasha.
“Nope, never saw him before in my life.” David smiled grimly.
“Dave!” Rory’s jaw dropped.
“Let’s go.” Tasha yanked on Rory’s sleeve again. While the two were being escorted out, David turned his attention back to the waitress. So maybe, unlike Rory, David had never felt like a mouse. But in that moment, it didn’t really matter, because on that night David felt like the king of the jungle. He watched the short lady drag a stammering Rory out the door and chuckled softly to himself.
“Kids,” he said, “they do the darndest things.”