by Ben Frost
My entry for a cramp contest.
| Of course, it was april again. Jerry hated April, but then he had good reason to. It wasn’t as if the past two and a half years had been a walk in the park, of course, but two years ago this month he had lost use of his left leg in a car wreck, all the way up the thigh. The following year was a harrowing trial of rehabilitation and addiction. By the time he had almost weaned himself off of the narcotics the doctors gave him, he got dumped by his girlfriend. In april. And he fell all the way down again, taking a full seven more months to get clean off the vicodin. Looking back, he thought, Of course, I would be dumped by a girl named April in April. I’m a throwaway character written to a contest prompt, and I’m just here to prove how cruel April is. But really, does that mean I lack value? His metafictional enlightenment, that is the fact that he knew he was a character being written, was not a first for his author’s characters, but he was unique in that he was the first self-aware character to be exploited for humor.
And who does he think he is? Why is it supposed to be so damned funny that I was dumped in April by April for ‘someone more mobile’ when my mobility was taken by April in a car wreck caused due to slippery roads in spring rain? My best friend was killed in that car wreck; every day that May, as soon as they let me out of the hospital, I put roses on his grave. For everything he understood about his existence, he had still not put together the simple pun that was being made: April showers bring May flowers. Pressed for time, his author had resorted to the morbid pun in lieu of more intelligent and complex dark comedy, or even legitimate and interesting drama. Sadly, and likely humorlessly, his life boiled down to that, the morbid pun. The cruelest of jokes found its home in the cruelest of months. That wasn’t even funny! He stopped having anything useful to say three sentences ago and now he’s resorting to drivel! I’m not going to stand for this, he thought, before realizing that he was being used again for a dark pun. He picked up his crutches and got out of his easy chair, where he would sit and watch showtime original series about men who killed people or men who killed people and had sex with women.
At least they have some decent writing, he thought as he swung himself to the kitchen. He poured a glass of water and washed down a vicodin, his first in five months, and picked up the phone.
“Hello?” “April? I need your help” “Jerry? What’s going on?” “I seem to have become self-aware as a character in a short-story about the cruelty of April, and I need to break the cycle” “You’re as crazy as you are crippled, Jerry”
At this point, even I, your humble third-person limited narrator, became doubtful about the merit of the story. “You’re just playing into his hand!” “Allright, I’ll help, but only because your name is so pathetically generic” In a predictable plot twist, given that he had just explained it to her incredibly predictable, she had now become aware of the short story that was their existence. “Again! You’re named after the month and are obviously a metaphor for it, so if you stop being cruel you negate the prompt and ruin this horrible story!” “You know I can’t do that; as much as my strong, intelligent female persona is designed to win points with judges who are impressed with that kind of forward thinking would like to, I’m still a fairly one dimensional character built around cruelty.” “Can you at least give me some ideas? He’s only got three hundred words or so left and I’m running out of time to be identifiable with, much less a realistic character” “That’s your chance! He obviously expected to end this much sooner, but is far too wordy and pretentious to stop writing until he’s at the 1000 words mark! Look, I can’t help with the cruelty thing, but if you want to be a more interesting character I’d suggest changing your name to Clint or something less boring.” Clint hung up the phone, realizing She’s being overly wordy and useless and given the prompt she’s doing it intentionally.
Narrator rebellion only necessary words. Clint kitchen starts cooking gets sour cream, ground beef, noodles, cream mushroom. What the hell am I doing? The beef stroganoff pun isn’t funny or relevant. Clint sat down, content realization author out of puns no way tie story into month. Declared victory, allowed mind wander. Talking with her again in so long was a trip. It’s a pity she’s being forced by a narrow, obtuse writing style to be so cruel. I used to really like April. I loved just being in april but when april came, april left me crippled. Victory too soon many double entendres pain Clint. Phone rings.
“Hello?” “I’ve got it” “April? Don’t waste what little existence I have left” “Wait! He’s been trying to figure out how to do that joke since he started, so he’s completely out of gas. There’s only a few words left so we can turn the ending around!” “You aren’t being cruel to me.” “I’ve got a bigger target now. Because you know what’s really cruel about april?” “What?” “Despite the thousand or so words he puts down, he’s still going to get beaten by a poem about rain.” Clint smiles, and the narrator begins taking up space again to help the cause. “that's so cruel, april.” “But not as cruel as calling him a big enough dolt to mix up TS Eliot with ee cummings.” And that is how the story ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
I am informed that this story is 999 words.
Edit History: 6:00am CST: Added italics because the paste forgot them and i didn't notice until now. Minor revision at the end (three words).