A Friendly Reminder

Steven fished the plastic ball from the plastic cup and prepared to drink another warm, foamy beer. Natural Ice, a veritable punishment. He dunked the ball in the water cup and threw it across the table. It came down six inches left of its target and bounced to the floor.

"Had the right distance," one of his opponents said, bending over.

Steven was getting bored. Worse, he was no longer drunk. The beer seemed now to have a sobering effect and he was starting to feel bloated and vaguely nauseous. Unfortunately, he and his partner, a sophomore called Jeremy, kept winning. They were running the table. Steven looked at his phone. Three twentyfour. She never did respond to that text message, the one he'd sent from the 7-Eleven parking lot. When they'd come back with the beer she was in the dining room sharing a joint with three other kids. That had disturbed Steven. Why? He didn’t know. Later they played beerpong together, though on opposing sides. That was the first game he and Jeremy had won. Things were jocular between them, Steven and Evelyn, but there was nothing like the vibe Steven thought he perceived earlier in the night on the couch. After the game she walked outside with Lynette and that was the last Steven had seen of her.

"Yer up," Jeremy told him.

Steven aimed and shot the ball with a high arch. There was a tiny splash as it landed in the beer. Only one cup left.

"All day," Jeremy taunted, "all fuckin day." He held his fist in the air and Steven, contriving arrogant pride, bumped it with his own.

Steven choked down his beer and turned and peered behind him. The house was still crawling with bodies, most of them drunk or high or both, some brimming with a dogged lust. A couple freaks had crashed the party and were being tolerated on account of the fact that they'd come bearing weed. The TV showed the same sports highlights over and over again to no one. Presently there was no music playing, and Steven could make out what people around him were saying. Someone asked whether there was more fuckin vodka in the house. Yeah, I think there's another fuckin bottle. Where? I don’t fuckin know—ask Brian. Where the fuck is Brian?—I haven’t seen him in like a fuckin hour. Me neither. Yo, Shawn, where'd the fuck Brian go? Huh? Where's Brian? Where d’you think? Ha-ha, ok, who's up there with him? [inaudible] Who? THAT—EVELYN—CHICK.

"Boomshakalaka!" Jeremy cried, hitting the last cup. He seized Steven by the shoulders and shook him. "Five in a fuckin row! Who's next?"




Michael Howard

Michael Howard's essays and short stories have appeared in a wide variety of print and digital publications. His website is michaelwilliamhoward.com. He recommends B'Tselem.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 20:50