On October 29th, 2015, while sitting in the San Francisco Airport waiting to take an early flight to Chicago to see the world premier of Gone Dark, I challenged myself to write a short story on my phone. Originally published as a Facebook status update, this little piece is based on a group of men sitting opposite me. It was the first short story I’d written in years but was later brilliantly recorded as a monologue by actor Paul Rodrigues, and could certainly also be done as a monologue, but I suggest you read it first and then watch the video as Paul’s choices are infinitely funnier when placed in the context of the original.
#vegasba by Stuart Eugene Bousel
In the airport, sitting across from six dudes on their way to Vegas.
They are straight out of central casting: the alpha, the kid, the guy who has told three stories already, all of which ended with, “and she was bouncing on my dick.” The smart one has just educated everybody about how hashtags work, the sensitive one has been two-fisting beers at 7 am and twice said he wishes “Sara was a gay man so they could just be friends.” The kid is getting drinking tips from the alpha, who keeps punctuating the loudmouth: “Shut up Chris.” Number six is the square and is seriously worried that if they hashtag the photos they post his boss will find out he’s going to Vegas. Like that is a crime or something.
They are all wearing flip flops and two (the kid, the loudmouth) have sombreros. Alpha has a shell necklace, the smart one has a shark tooth around his neck. I have an overpriced omelette and tea. I am positive they know I am listening in on them.
The kid wants their hashtag to be vegasba. Because “ba” stands for “badass.” The smart one reminds him “ba” also stands for sheep.
“He can’t help being dumb bro, he’s like twenty-one.”
“Shut up Chris.”
Everyone else is maybe twenty-five.
If only Sara was here. If only she was a gay man so they could all just be friends.
A woman arrives at our gate. She takes one look at #vegasba and sits two seats away, opens a book. Not Sara.
Will Sara ever come?
Sensitive guy finishes his right hand beer and chucks it into a trash can. He still has most of left hand beer but announces he’s going to get another drink. The kid volunteers to buy everyone a round. He needs to be loved in a way that only someone like Sara, who breaks hearts with every word, would understand. The boys go get more beer, Shark Tooth yelling, “Todd, don’t fucking vomit on the plane again like last time.” Todd turns those sensitive hurt eyes on Shark Tooth and you can feel the love/hate. These men are not gay but they have absolutely fallen asleep together and Todd will one day name his son after Shark Tooth and Shark Tooth knows this but isn’t entirely okay with either the abyss of sadness that is Todd or his own uncanny ability to see the future (the alpha is The Alpha because he’s going to die first and Shark Tooth sees this too). The kid pulls Todd away, Shark Tooth shrugs it off, opens a book. What book?
The square wishes out loud that he had brought his laptop. He has so much to do. He wears a ring. Silver, so not a wedding ring.
“Dude you have no idea how to have fun.”
“Shut up Chris,” says Alpha, contemplating his own premature death, “Jake has a grown up job you loser.”
Chris laughs it off and tells Alpha to watch his bags while he goes to the restroom. To cry?
No one cares.
Is Jake the gay one? Do he and Alpha have the kind of love that Todd and the eternally complicated Sara can never have?
Another woman arrives and sits next to #notsara. They know each other. They take a selfie. They laugh at the selfie.
My tea is now cold. My tea is my armor. No omelette has ever been this terrible but I will not give up. This omelette is my Everest. It floats on the back of Moby Dick.
Alpha is Alpha and bites his thumbnail with disdain for everyone except maybe Shark Tooth and Jake, the rest he could care less about; most certainly Todd could fall off a cliff and not be missed.
What is Jake’s job, I wonder, and why are his friends so down on it? Is he a mortician? I hope he’s a mortician. That is certainly a grown up job. No, he’s a lifeguard. He’s very tan. Maybe he works at a tanning salon. He’s handsome. They are all handsome.
To be twenty five again.
I drink my cold tea. I shall finish this omelette. I will not have spent twelve dollars for nothing.
Shark Tooth is reading Gravity’s Rainbow. Jake stares off into the distance, then slowly turns to stare at Alpha, who is biting the other thumbnail now. Two rings on that hand. Both silver.
The sun rises. A hush falls. The airport is about to explode with life. One of the women is sleeping, the other plays on her phone. Is she writing about them too?
Sara. Rescue us. Please.
The beer boys have not yet returned but Chris does. “Dude,” he announces to the world, “I just shat my weight in there.”
The omelette defeats me.