“Of course, another dead end!” Natalia shouted.
He stomped on a fallen branch. He took the tree he had grabbed and in his rage he tried to knock it over. Failing to do that just made him angrier, and he gripped it with both hands, eyes wild. Natalia screamed into the sky as he pulled the young tree down. It splashed into the black water. He yelled again, thrashing and pulling at branches. He stomped on a root and slipped. He grabbed for the tree but he had toppled the only one in reach.
Natalia slid down the steep incline toward the water, it was frightening, he could see that the pond got deep fast and he wasn’t eager to find out what lurked below. His feet got wet, and he continued to slide down. The water was cold, and when it hit his thigh he finally snapped out of his rage and resignation and looked for handholds. He grabbed the log that he fell and stopped sliding. He pulled himself up the mud. Near the top of the slope the tree snapped from it’s stump and he had to reach the top on his own, digging his fingers into the mud. At the top he closed his eyes, his pants cold and wet, and went to sleep on the warm moss.
The next day Natalia decided to try something new. He was sick of towns, so he skipped them all and headed for the biggest city in the area. Nat looked in leather jacket. He had $250 in his wallet, good enough. He walked south for two days and finally reached his destination. Garage sales weren’t going to cut it anymore. He needed something bigger, and something that would provide him value even if he failed. The city wasn’t grand, in fact it was mostly run down, but that only made his goal easier. When people needed money, they sold valuable things that had no practical use. Things like records. He walked down Main Street until he saw a pawn shop and stepped inside.
“Do you have an original 1978 copy of Stained Class?” He asked.
The girl behind the counter looked to be in her late teens just like him. Her hair was bleach blonde and she wore a lot of black. Just the kind of person he was looking for; she might know something.
“No. We have Hell Bent for Leather and the rare Sad Wings of Destiny from 1976 though.” She said.
“No no, I’m looking for a replacement. Vinyl.”
“Well, I personally have that one, but you’d have to talk to me after work. We’re not allowed making side deals.” She smiled at him, “You know, I close up in about an hour.”
Natalia was certain she was giving him some kind of signal. Some girls sure were forward, but he was young, he liked signals.
“I’ll be back in an hour then. Do you want me too… take you out to dinner first?”
She laughed, “Yes!”
He didn’t know where to take the conversation from there, so he just left. He scouted the area, mostly fast food chains, but that was really all he could afford so it didn’t bother him.
“I don’t mind. I’m used to eating cheap.” They sat in a McRoland’s burger house, “My classmates have no idea how to treat a lady anyways. Most of them area still kids it seems, asking their parents for money. I guess that’s college folk around here though.”
“Oh, you’re not from around here?”
“No, I’m from the north! It’s strange not living in a small town, but there’s more part time work here, and a lot more cute guys that I didn’t grow up with. Far less awkward, you know? Plus, this is where I go to university.”
“Oh, what are you going to school for?”
“Umm… well I was going to be a teacher like my mother but I fell in love with patterns and problem solving, so I’m studying math now.”
Natalia finished his burger, the cheapest of the cheap. He found out that the girl’s name was Jennifer, and that she lived with two other girls in an apartment. He told her about his journey, he’d been walking for four days and sleeping outside, praying it didn’t rain. She couldn’t believe it.
They headed over the Jennifer’s house afterwards and Natalia bought the record for fifty bucks.
“Well, it was nice meeting you…”
“Natalia. When will I see you again?” She asked.
“Probably never. I live in Renison River.”
“What! We should meet up this summer! I’m from Jameson!”
“Really? That’s only an hour’s walk away!” Natalia was stunned.
They made plans, very detailed plans to meet up on May 4th, and then Natalia took his vinyl and bought a bus ticket home with the remaining money.
“I hope I bump into you again Jennifer!” He shouted to her from the window. He waved to her as the vehicle departed then fell asleep for the long drive home.
Natalia went to Casey’s house immediately after arriving and they sat at her kitchen table. Natalia told her about his adventure, everything except Jennifer anyway. He had walked for four days and bussed for one.
She was really impressed by all the effort he went through, “I can’t believe you did all that for me! And without a car too! But, I actually fixed my vinyl so I don’t need that copy. I guess you can keep it if you want.”
It turns out you can just fix a record with sandpaper.
Natalia was pissed. He stood up from his chair and slammed the Stained Class LP down on it. He stormed to the door, silently brooding. He put his shoes and coat on.
“Hey, chill man, why do you always get so mad and break things?”
“It’s better things than people!” He shouted, slamming the door.
“Ungrateful… Jeez, I put in all this work, I spent all this money, and I-” Natalia rummaged through leather coat, looking for his cash. He wondered how much of the original $300 he actually had left. In his left side inner pocket he found a note. How did that get there?
“Call me if you’re ever down.” It read, and had a number.
He expected a heart or a kiss mark, but she hadn’t drawn anything. Her signature was nice though, Jennifer Jezuit. Natalia was still furious. He tore the paper in half and threw it on the ground. He went to the bridge just outside of town stepped up on the rail. He looked down at the huge river below, and in a rage he jumped.
The freefall lasted an eternity. In reality it was only seconds later that he was hit by cold water. It washed his anger away slowly. He looked up at the sky from underneath the surface. It gleaned and shone in a warped distorted kind of way. He swam up and took a deep breath, and treaded to shore.
He thought about what Casey said as the sun set on him. She was right, he had raged when the vinyl got scratched. He’d had a bad day and was rocking out to the metal and destroying his room in a fury. He bumped his record player by accident and created a scratch. It was his fault all along.
Imagine if he did something like this to Jennifer? If his anger ruined their relationship or friendship or whatever? He chocked on air, then and bolted up, turning around one-eighty. He dashed down the road, water spraying off his joints and cuffs. He could only think about the number he’d just thrown away. He searched for the paper he’d torn up outside Casey’s house.
“Come on, come on!”
He searched for what seemed like minutes. Then he found it, one half of it, face down.
Natalia grabbed it, hoping it was the half with the number. He breathed the heaviest sigh of relief in his life. It had the number, her number.
“Yes! Oh man. Holy shit.”
Natalia went to Casey’s house next.
“Oh, you’re back. I thought you were done with me. I guess I had a kind of lame reaction to all you did for me…” She said. “I feel bad you know?”
“Yeah well, I feel like garbage too. I’m sorry for raging, but is that vinyl still okay? I kind of want it after all.”
“Yeah it’s fine.”
She handed it to him.
“Well,” Natalia said, “I’ll see you around, yeah?”
“Yeah.” She nodded, wondering why he was so wet.
Natalia got home to his bachelor pad, a cramped little place lined with VHS movies and posters. He dropped the record into his player and let the drum solo roll as he changed out of his damp clothes and put on something warm and fresh. He leaned back, falling into his bed and sighing. In his hands, he looked at the number, committing it to memory.
He blinked slowly, reaching for his phone. “I should call her. Or maybe… I should figure myself out first. I don’t know.”
His blinks got longer. He picked up the phone, unwinding the ever-tangled coil wire and dialed. One. Seven. Zero… and then he fell asleep.
That’s it! I’m honestly not that great at short stories, in fact this is my second one ever! But, you never learn if you don’t write, so here it is. This one takes place in the eighties, a decade I wasn’t actually alive in, but I did my best.
Post Note: Stained Class is the fourth album by the British Heavy Metal band Judas Priest. It’s not a personal favourite of mine (I prefer Screaming for Vengeance and Ram it Down) but I figured that the title was fitting to the theme of the narrative, so I used it. It is considered a legendary metal album, so feel free to check it out if you’re interested in classic rock.