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Jayden Wuorist, pronounced whoa-r-est, and not worst, was an unlucky man. Though, he didn’t like to call himself ‘unlucky’ and preferred the term ‘A Carrier of Misfortune’ as it gave a more awesome air to an otherwise unawesome circumstance in his life.
His unluckiness was very much connected to where he was living now, in a cheap apartment complex that smelled distinctly of damp mold and vomit, all the time. But, after striking a totally radical deal in the upscale part of town, a gas leak ignited the building and burnt it to the ground. No one was hurt, luckily.
So, now he was living in Failures-R-Us, and was working a job any high schooler would kill for. And, Jayden supposed, the life of ‘A Carrier of Misfortune’ was definitely not awesome, no matter how cool the name was.
The house burning fiasco had happened barely a week ago, leaving him in a horrendously kept building, and despite that, he had already seen more of his neighbors than he’d ever wanted to. Because, if there was one thing that Jayden hated most in the world, it was stupid people, and Failures-R-Us seemed to be a breeding ground for such a species. At his immediate left was a family that was the embodiment of the white trash stereotype, they couldn’t control their screaming brat if the fate of the universe depended on it. Then, to his right, was a very unhappy woman. What she was unhappy about, Jayden didn’t really care to find out, but she had the most annoying habit of bringing men home at stupid o’clock in the morning at least four times a week. That was a problem, since there was a strong possibility that the walls of Failures-R-Us were actually just sheets of paper, and that made the idea of sleeping unattainable.
There was one more tenant of his new abode worth mentioning. He was a wrinkled old man, with a thick Asian accent, and liver spots the size of West Virginia littering his skin. He sat on the cold, cigarette-butt littered, cement ground in front of the building. Jayden liked to imagine that old people like him made cabbage art, and hoarded thousands of editions of US Weekly in the privacy of their dwellings. The little old man didn’t talk often, and when he did it was in vague riddles and freaky proverbs. It would have been more unsettling if not for the extremely warm, kindly expression that the old man’s face seemed to be permanently jammed into place. Jayden had found himself questioning why he was always so happy, and he had settled on some sort of elderly induced ignorance.
The bitter young man walked by the smiling old man, his eyes squinted with age, and Jayden stopped in front of him.
“What d’ya have for me today?” He asked. Over the past week the old man had stopped him each morning to hands him a slip of paper, each its own unique fortune scrawled in thin, messy handwriting. The old man’s expression didn’t change, yet the young man got the distinct feeling the old man was amused with the situation. Most likely because for the precious six days Jayden had found himself exerting an ungodly amount of energy into avoiding the elderly man and his riddles since the first day he received one. Something about the old man and his never changing happiness made Jayden obnoxiously pissed off. But avoiding the old man had proven too much for his bad luck to handle, in which he had been chased by rabid dogs, and shot at by an unquestionably high dealer mistaking him for an undercover cop. Jayden had resigned himself to the old man because, in the end, he still got a damn slip of paper no matter what he did to avoid it.
“Focus on trusting your intuition and you will get through it.” He said, his voice soft and raspy, but slicked with something almost condescending. Yes, this old man was definitely making fun of him.
“Are you serious? Old man, have you been paying any attention at all this week! My intuition has the navigational ability of a blind, slightly intoxicated, hermit! Do you know how many times my intuition has nearly killed me?” So much rage- and so little reason to have it.
“New friends know little, take the time to talk.” The old man cryptically mumbled. Jayden seized up for a moment, hands by his side and face red in aggravation. Taking a deep breath, he turned on his heels.
“Breathe Jayden, breathe. He’s just an old man, remember the anger management classes. We don’t want to go back there, breathe.” He began to walk away, and not even the bird crap that sprayed its way down the front of his shirt fazed him. He had spare shirts in his car for a reason. As much as he hated that old man, each little slip of paper given had granted him some form of good luck in correspondence to its words. And, despite his reluctance to admit it, Jayden needed luck from where ever he could get it.
With a fresh shirt, and the safety of his car, Jayden finally peeled open the folded piece of paper. The now familiar handwriting scrawled out his daily message.
The majority of the word “can’t” is “can”.
“Of course it is.” The young man muttered under his breath, but if that’s what the old man had to say, he wasn’t one to argue.
As per-usual, Jayden’s day was composed of hap-hazardous events that kept him on his toes. In the afternoons he worked in a gas station, and despite majoring in mechanical engineering he couldn’t seem to pick up a job in his major.
It was quiet in the store, Jayden liked that, gave him time to contemplate how to get a dishonorable discharge from his rank as ‘A Carrier of Misfortune’ and start living the life he deserved, that being away from Failures-R-Us and the infuriating old man. The tiny t.v. that sat on the counter was playing a soap opera, the only thing that seemed to run at one in the afternoon, and all he caught was, “The person closest to you is more important than you realize,” before he flipped the channel.
And, as usual, some greater power cued the screaming children card as a mother walked in with two little boys. She immediately eyed him up, because apparently, something about Jayden’s appearance seemed to be the cat-nip to every menopausal, bored-with-her-underperforming-husband, middle-aged cougar. Jayden proceeded to subtly, except-not-at-all-subtly bash his head into the counter.
To add to the greatness his life was currently amounting to, a very distinct, all too movie like, “Freeze,” brought attention to a comically ski-mask clad gun holder. Robbing a gas station, as if Jayden’s life wasn’t a giant cliché already.
He looked like your typical, lounge-around, beer-belly-bearing, butt-of-all-mean-jokes-ever, token character that seemed to appear in nearly all, ultra cliché, almost-funny, face-palming, I-can’t-believe-I-just-read-that, stories. Plus a ski mask.
“Give me the money, and no one gets hurt.” Well, Jayden was glad this man had taken the time to cleverly think up some exciting, and totally original, dialogue.
“Yeah man, whatever, just take it and go.” Unfortunately, the relatively calm, borderline apathetic, drawl of Jayden’s tone seemed only to agitate this completely bodacious, master mind of crime.
“Why do you not fear me?” And now he was talking like some sort of uneducated barbarian, wonderful.
“Look man, I get it. Life is hard, sometimes you gotta do, what you gotta do. We’re in an economic slump here, no one’s blaming you.” Jayden raised his hands in peace, pushing the knobby little button on the cash-registers exterior. It dinged a particularly ironic, happy sounding, chime as the drawer opened.
“… Right?” Obviously this man happened to be slightly less intelligent than his average criminal counterpart, which was really saying something. The ski-masked man moved towards Jayden, the gun still pointed at him.
Bored with the situation, the young man’s attention drifted towards the cougar. She was cradling her children with teary eyes, as if the gun was pointed at her. Jayden had to stop himself from rolling his eyes, the I.Q. of this man probably wasn’t high enough to even accommodate an advanced skill like peripheral vision. He wasn’t even aware she was there. Then, not wanting to be infected with all the idiocy that seemed to be floating in the air, Jayden looked at the tiny television. The channel was airing some sort of children’s cartoon with two bears sitting in a rowboat. And, since this criminal’s advancements towards him had slowed to the pace of a drugged sloth, Jayden decidedly became uninterested in him and his stupidity.
In the most interesting section the store, two bears were arguing over… something in their very-much-too-small rowboat. The intensity of their argument was rising though, quickly and fiercely, and the bigger bear’s cheeks were flushed a neon red and white streams of steam whistled out his ears.
“Boogley, I am rowing the boat, I cannot possibly be rocking it! Grizzly Goodness!” Jayden raised an eyebrow, these bears sure were bearific. Plus, they were definitely going to teach him loads of beary pawesome bear puns for if he ever got caught in an animal pun showdown. Which, let’s get real here, was definitely going to happen eventually.
“So, the man who rows the boat doesn’t have time to rock it. Huh.”Jayden said aloud, clearly in awe of this life changing new knowledge that this totally not-pointless children’s show has bestowed upon him.
“What did ya say?” Mr. Criminal snapped at him. It appeared the man was changing his speech pattern with every sentence. Jayden only hoped it was some ingenious ploy the man had come up with to help disguise his identity. Jayden prayed so hard it was that.
“Um, the man who rows the boat doesn’t have time to rock it?” Jayden winced when the man raised one of his arms, he was going to get hit, he could feel it. As Mr. Criminal’s hands came down Jayden nearly lost his balance as he was forced forwards. The young man was frozen as Mr. Criminal’s death grip tightened and the man cried into Jayden’s shoulder.
“I know, everyone always expects me to do everything! But my plate is so full-“ yeah Jayden could tell by the belly- “already, I’m not Superman! How can people accuse me of stealing the office supplies when I don’t even have time for a lunch break? Oh…”
“Oh Jayden! You are the only one that understands, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” The young man robotically raised his arm to pat Mr. Decidedly-Not-Sane on the back.
“There, there?” He said awkwardly, what was wrong with this man? “You know, people probably think you’re the stealing office supplies because you rob gas stations wearing a ski mask.”
“Watch it kid.” Mr. Now-A-Psychopath shot back dangerously, Jayden felt the level of uncomfortableness in the store rise about eight more levels, they were now at level twelve and Jayden vowed never to go above level sixteen again.
“I can’t do this anymore Jayden, I can’t.” Yes, praise the Lord, praise this psychopath, and that cartoon, and the traumatized mother in the corner of the store, and the old man from Failures-R-Us. He knew what to do. Jayden pushed the sniveling, mentally deranged, man backwards. He made eye contact, and without missing a beat uttered the words to save his life.
“The majority of the word “can’t” is “can”, okay?” The crazy man froze for a minute, this was it, this man would reform his life and become a grade-A citizen. Jayden could see it now, first he would go back to school for politics, and after that create a very catchy campaign slogan like ‘Not Psychotic, I’m Patriotic’. And then, after successfully becoming governor of Montana, he would run for president, and in his acceptance speech as President he would mention the young man from the gas station that changed his life forever. And then, Jayden would be rich.
“You’re right!” Mr. President then proceeded to shove Jayden to the ground, rip the entire cash register, which previously had been bolted to the counter, up and run away laughing psychotically.
Jayden stood up, examining the damage from where the cash register used to reside. The mere fact the man could lift a cash register that had probably been built in the early 60s was stupidly improbable enough, but ripping the object from its bolts was just crazy enough to make sense in Jayden’s life.
“S-sir, are you alright?” Oh right, the cougar with the devil children was still here. Somehow, the kids were quiet. Oh, they were watching the beardacious bear duo, which was convenient.
“What? Yeah, I get robbed like once a week, it’s nothing new.”He waved her off looking closely at the broken hinges. “Well, the cash register ripping, superhuman strength was new.” He muttered to himself.
“You get robbed like that all the time?” She asked shocked, Jayden was more shocked she was still talking to him. Didn’t she have somewhere better to be?
“Right w-” Jayden stopped, he was not getting sucked into that, not a chance. He had better things to do, like learn more unbearably awesome bear puns. He did not need some middle aged mother/part time cougar sucking him into serving up his life story on a silver platter.
“So you have a girlfriend?” Oh no, she was a cougar. Why was Jayden always right about these things? She was a cougar with kids, and that was horrifying. Jayden just got robbed by a disturbed superhuman, he did not have time to deal with cougars. Luckily, sort of, he did have a girlfriend.
“Yes now go away.” The bear show was ending soon, and he was getting beary irritated with this woman, and once this show was over those slobbery, unsanitized brats would start acting up.
“I don’t believe you, where is she?”
“In a coma.”
“Liar… what happened?”
“She was committing suicide, she wasn’t very good at it.” S***, here he was serving his life story onto that silver platter, just like she wanted. He bet she had planned this little exchange beforehand, rehearsed it with those undisciplined trolls.
“… You know, the heart that loves is always young.” Jayden shot her a look- no way.
“You have an old Asian man giving you life altering advice too?”
“What the hell are you talking about, just think about it for a bit, I’m getting out of your hair.” Jayden watched her drag the two kids away, kicking and screaming because, and he quoted, “Boogley and Oogley haven’t found the Giant Golden Giraffe.” What the hell was wrong with kids shows?
Jayden didn’t have time to think about it anymore, he needed to back to the place he was currently residing. Failures-R-Us was not going to be home, he was just temporarily staying there to avoid cave life.
The trip back to the building was surprisingly uneventful, which could only mean horrible things awaited his future. And it started with that blasted old man. Jayden was seriously beginning to worry someone had glued the man to the ground, and he was just too proud to ask anyone for help, that man definitely never moved.
“Hi old man.” Jayden said dismissively, not greeting him resulted in explosions and rat attacks in the middle of the night. Jayden wanted sleep, not rat attacks.
“Sit.” That grating old voice said. Jayden froze, should he go against the old man something unspeakably horrible would happen. He sat, he could feel the amusement in the man’s gaze, it pissed him off.
The old man handed him a paper, an address, the hospital. He gave the old man a suspicious look. How did he know where Mickie was staying?
“Go, tomorrow.” He rasped before folding his hands and bowing his head. Jayden didn’t say anything, he stood up, and went to the stairs that led to his apartment. He wasn’t going tomorrow, nothing would come of it.
The next day Jayden stood in the doorway of a hospital room. A blonde haired girl was looking out the window, unaware he was standing there. Her wrists scarred, bandages long ago removed, and machines buzzed and beeped all around her. But, even from the door he could see she was holding a slip of paper, and he could, unfortunately, recognize that handwriting anywhere.
Jayden felt himself force a smile, he was so unbelievably pissed off that he couldn’t handle himself, crying was pathetic. The young man wiped his eyes on the back of his sleeve moving in the room, he could see the writing inside the paper in the girl’s hand.