Mark Finn has once again submitted the next installment of his Clockwork Storybook 30 Day Writing Challenge, and is sharing the second chapter of One in a Million with the Major Spoilerites.
NOTE: If you are not up to date on the story, the first two novels have been run in their entirety at revolutionsf.com.
The Transformation of Lawrence Croft: http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.php?id=1827
Chance of a Lifetime: http://www.revolutionsf.com/fiction2/condorks2/condorks2_00.html
One in a Million – Chapter 2
The Double Date
Burt Vaughn and Larry Croft stood outside Reymundo’s Pizza, waiting for their dates. Side by side, they looked like mismatched salt and pepper shakers. Burt was shorter, with an athletic build and square shoulders that gave him more physical stature than he really possessed. Larry, on the other hand, was larger in every single way; barrel-chested, with thick muscular arms, tree trunk legs, and Frankensteinian feet. Not long ago, he’d weighed over 300 pounds. After what happened at MagicCon, he was 240 pounds of muscle mass. Light exercise was enough for him to maintain his current size. It was a divine gift, and he was well aware of it.
Even dressed in jeans and a button-down shirt, Larry looked primordial. He wore his hair short, almost a buzz cut, and the lack of long, stringy hair accentuated the prominence of his brow ridge. Burt had, on more than one occasion, called him the world’s handsomest Klingon. Larry always took it in the spirit with which the compliment was offered. Next to that, Burt looked positively normal. Average, even.
While they waited on the appearance of their dates, they did the obvious thing; they got the geek-talk out of the way.
“My advice to Paramount is to let it die,” Burt said.
“No. No, that can’t happen. Too much has gone on. Thirty five years…” Larry as adamant.
“Yeah, but let’s look at that: it hasn’t been a great thirty-five years. It’s been a great twelve years. I’ll give you that. But the rest has been…ass. Just ass.”
Larry pounded his hand with a fist. “Star Trek is eternal.”
“No, it’s a joke,” Burt countered. “You didn’t even watch the last season of Enterprise. No one did!”
Larry started to protest, but Burt cut him off. “Maybe it doesn’t need to die. But it needs to go away for a while. Hibernate. Think about its choices. Because it hasn’t been good for a long time, and it needs to be better.”
Larry scowled. He hated it when Burt was right. In his circle of friends, Burt was the newbie, the student. Not the master. Not when it came to the Geek World. He tried one last time. “I still think that—“
“Hey, there they are,” said Burt loudly.
Larry shut up and turned around. Holly Day and her best friend Linda Grogan were a half a block a way and closing fast.
“We’re not finished talking about this,” said Larry.
“Yeah, I know,” said Burt, his expression glum.
Holly fast walked the rest of the way to the guys and flung herself into Larry’s arms. “Hey, baby,” she said, kissing him lightly on the mouth.
“Hey you,” he said, blushing. Holly thought that was sweet. Six months of dating and Larry still got embarrassed by any form of public affection more strident than hand holding.
“Burt!” Linda came in for a hug, bending down to do so. She stood a good six inches taller than him. She was as thin and willowy as Holly was busty and curvy. But her lanky frame made any clothing she wore look model-perfect on her. For her first date with Burt, she wore jeans with boots and a couple of layers worth of shirts, or vests, or whatever they were. It wasn’t important. She looked like a rock star. Not for the first time, Burt realized he was in over his head with her.
“Hi Linda,” he returned the hug. “You look stunning,” he said.
She beamed at him as she absently one-arm hugged Larry by way of greeting. “Hey Pal,” she said.
“Hi Lind,” Larry said. He caught the eye of two guys walking by and saw the question in their eyes: how in the hell did the Cro-Magnon get two beautiful women hanging all over him? “Come on, let’s go sit down.”
“Yes, let’s,” said Linda. “I’m dying to hear what this big announcement is.”
“They didn’t tell you, either, huh?” said Burt.
“Nope. Only that she’s not pregnant and they aren’t getting married.”
“Now I don’t feel so bad,” said Burt.
They were shown to a circular booth, where they sat boy girl boy girl, leaving a large gap in the middle for the women’s purses. They ordered salads, drinks, and a giant wood fired pizza, making small talk, all the while. Only when the drinks and salads arrived did Linda say, “Villains! Dissemble no more!”
Holly’s face screwed up in thought. “Edgar Allan Poe. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’”
“Bravo,” said Linda.
“We do that, too,” said Burt, amused, “only with far less cool literary references.”
“Hey, show some respect,” said Larry. “’Ghostbusters’ quotes are just as cool as Poe.”
“Can I get a ruling on that?” Burt asked the girls.
Linda made a loud, fake buzzing noise. “Nope. Different media, for starters. And also, Poe is the originator of American horror. Only another literary reference can trump him,” she said with such false gravitas that Larry found himself initially unable to reply.
Burt turned to Linda, his eyes brimming with sincerity. “You complete me.”
“Okay, fine, whatever,” said Holly, interrupting their act.
“Do you want to hear the news or what?”
Linda immediately turned away from Burt, even though their little staring contest sent her heart racing, and said, “Yes, please, God, tear up the planks, and tell me what the fuck?”
Holly took a deep breath, grabbed Larry’s hand for support, and said, “We’re moving in together!”
Linda’s mouth opened in a silent scream of joy. “You guys! That’s so great!” She reached across the table, through the maze of salad bowls, and grabbed Holly’s free hand with both of hers.
Burt stared at Larry, who was wearing a strange, rubbery grin on his face. “Wow,” said Burt. “Cool, man. That’s just…very cool, Larry.”
“Yeah, thanks,” said Larry. He seemed tipsy.
Linda was throwing a barrage of questions at Holly, who was blocking them much in the same way Wonder Woman deflects bullets with her magic bracelets. Eventually overwhelmed by the salvo, the two friends excused themselves to go to the bathroom. As soon as they were out of earshot, Larry pointed a finger at Burt. “Okay, excusing the last season of ‘Voyager,’ Star Trek—“
“Whoa, there,” Burt waved him off. “Nuh uh. We’re talking about the news, first.”
Larry slumped back, defeated. “Aw, man.”
“Never mind that. Was that what ‘The Talk’ Was about?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, pretty much,” said Larry. “She came over, and said she’d been thinking about us, and how good things were going, and she wondered how I felt about taking our relationship to the next level.”
“What did you tell her?”
“Burt, I don’t know what these levels are! But thankfully, Holly knows I’m not Mister Relationship Expert, so I just asked her what she had in mind.”
“So, it was her idea?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” said Larry. “She said that moving in would be a nice step to see how we felt about long term things, and well…I love her, Burt. She’s the…best thing that ever happened to me.” Larry almost said “second-best” thing, but stopped himself. The little white lie was worth telling if it meant not having to explain his sudden weight loss again to Burt.
Burt smiled. “Man, if this is what you want, then I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks, Man.” Larry smiled, too. “I’m scared to death, but I’m excited, too.”
“You should be,” said Burt. He took a bite of his salad and then cleared his throat.
“So…why tell just me? I know this was an excuse to get me and Linda together, but why not tell the other guys?”
Larry nodded, as if he knew the question would come up. “Aside from the fact that Linda is nuts about you, which I can’t understand at all…”
“Ye, yes, up yours,” said Burt, easily.
“…I didn’t want to tell everyone just yet because Deej just got his new apartment, and he’s about to move out of his parents’ house, and it’s a big deal for him, and didn’t want him to think I was trying to one-up him on the good news or something.”
“D.J. would think that?”
“He might,” said Larry. “His brain doesn’t quite work like the rest of us. He’s devious in that geeky, left field kind of way.”
“I guess so,” said Burt, who didn’t really agree with that assessment in the slightest.
“And,” Larry continued, “I didn’t tell Turk because…well, you know.”
“Now that I understand,” said Burt, nodding. “He’s been a real nickel-plated asshole lately.”
“So I was hoping maybe you’d help me figure out a way to tell them that wouldn’t get either of them flipping out.”
Burt made a face. “I’ll try, but there may not be anything for it but to rip that band-aid off quickly.”
“Yeah,” said Larry. He was quiet for a moment, and then he added, “Anyway, I wanted to, you know, thank you, for helping me figure out all of this ‘dating a girl’ stuff the last few months.”
“Not a problem,” said Burt.
“Well, I appreciate it. And I’m probably going to be leaning on you pretty hard for advice as I work on this new co-habitation thing.”
“Hey, don’t come to me for that,” said Burt, his hands up. “I’ve never lived with a girl before,” he said.
“What?” Larry gasped. “Wait, well, I guess I knew that, but still, can’t you help me with…?”
“Sorry Dude. When you’re living with a woman, there’s a whole new rule book. The politics are different, the structure is different. It’s like starting over again, from scratch.”
“Like it or not, Bud, but you’re on your own, now.”
Burt finished his salad. The girls came back from the bathroom, still chattering about things like fabric and wall colors. Burt made some joke that made both Holly and Linda laugh. And Larry sat in the booth like a man trapped. The pizza showed up, and everyone ate it, but he realized later that evening that he had no memory of what the food tasted like.