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The Way Things Were

My name is Timothy Arcane and I’m the biggest idiot ever.

What’s that, you say? How can I be sure that I am the biggest idiot ever? Isn’t it possible that somewhere, in some distance place, there is a person who is a bigger idiot than I could ever be? A person who can’t even form sentences, let alone produce the motor skills and thoughts required to sit at a computer and type out that they are the biggest idiot ever?

Well yeah, there probably is. I mean it stands to reason, doesn’t it? But I didn’t mean I was the biggest idiot literally. See, I’m a writer, and while everything we do is literal it doesn’t mean that you should take everything we do literally. In fact most of us are apt to be metaphorical over seventy percent of the time. Not me though. I never fell in for that sort of crap. Which is probably why I don’t sell very many books. Very many as in any. Well, that’s not entirely true. I sold a children’s book once. They didn’t even bother to read it. It was called Johnny Just Lost His Kitten. Okay, I published a few other things, but that was the only one that really caused a ruckus.

Now I know I said that I am usually literal, but this book happened to be one of my few and far between metaphors. See, Johnny didn’t really lose his kitten. The kitten was an allegory for his girlfriend. Well, allegory isn’t the right word, I guess. I mean a person isn’t an abstract idea. So I guess it’s just a metaphor for his girlfriend, but you still get my point. No wonder I’m not a very good writer. Also, Johnny wasn’t really Johnny. Johnny was me. His girlfriend was my girlfriend. I had just broken up with my girlfriend, you see, and I was terribly depressed. I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t you always depressed, Timothy? Well yes, but now I was even more depressed. The sort of depressed where you write graphic children’s books about a boy whose cat is hit by a bus, and smeared half way to Manitoba . Not that I’m saying my girlfriend was smeared half way to Manitoba . Or even that she was hit by a bus. She was only hit by a car. Well, by two cars. She bled a lot. A lot of internal bleeding too, the doctors said. I would say I was really broken up about it, but there’s that whole literal/metaphorical thing again. See, she was the one who was really broken up. Broken arm. Broken hip. Broken leg. Me, I was just broken emotionally. I would do anything if I could just have her back. Which I did, but we won’t talk anymore about it until the next chapter, and seeing as how this is only the third paragraph, not counting the opening sentence, then we have quite a ways yet to go. Unless I run out of things to say that aren’t about her.

I suppose you are wondering more about me though. Who am I? Where do I come from? Why are you reading my book? Did you see me on A&E’s biography last week? What’s my favourite flavour of ice cream? What kind of socks do I wear? Well here are the short answers, Tim. Templeton. You aren’t. No. Cookie Dough. Knitted.

And here are the long answers;

To the question of, “Who am I?” I will give my answer in a rather novel-esque fashion of answer giving. It goes thusly: There he sat, in the corner of the dank, wood paneled bar. He was alone at his table, and alone in the world, lost in his own thoughts and a glass of brandy. Occasionally an idea would strike him, and he’d jot it down on his pad of paper. Mostly he’d just stare at the glass, and at the walls, and at the other patrons, and wish for a release from this sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, and this aching feeling in the pit of his heart.

He was a scruffy looking fellow, and a bit on the chubby side. Not to the point where you would notice he was very chubby, but just to the point where he was overweight and couldn’t run up stairs. Not that some chubby people cannot run up stairs, because some can. Just like some thin people cannot run up stairs. The actual shape you are in does not necessarily dictate the shape you are in. He had sloppy brown hair that was never so much combed as it was pushed out of his eyes or around his ears, to see and hear, respectively. He wasn’t exactly a handsome man, but he wasn’t exactly an ugly man either. He lay on that line that is somewhere in the middle. The line that quite a few men lay on. The line that never gets him any dates but saves him from people fleeing in terror at the mere sight of him. Had a big nose though. His clothes were baggy, and he was probably wearing too many of them. Then again, he did come in out of the cold, it being winter outside, but it not being winter inside, he should have at least shed a layer. I mean the sweater vest was okay, and the button up shirt was quite called for, and the suit jacket was rather stylish, and the old high school jacket wasn’t too bad, but the coat over that was going a bit far, and the scarf was totally out. But it gave a rather bundled appearance, which seemed to suit his rather bundled personality quite nicely. He was wearing pants too, if you care to know. Not that it much matters, since clothes change all the time, and if you are reading this in the year 2045, then I would suggest you upgrade the clothing so that it seems like it’s taking place in the current time, assuming that humanity hasn’t destroyed itself by then.

I guess that’s not really that much insight as into who I really am, now is it? It gives a slight physical description, and a bit of behaviour, but no real insight. For that, I suppose, we’d have to delve into my childhood, and into my life. And, well, since I need to fill out this chapter anyhow, I suppose this isn’t such a bad idea.

I was born one morning, when the sun didn’t shine. Don’t think I’m quoting old Merle Travis lyrics here or something, because I’m not. I actually was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine. I didn’t, however, pick up a shovel or walk to a mine. In fact, I don’t know what I did. Probably got slapped and cried and coughed up after birth and was put in swaddling and taken to a small plastic bed in a room filled with babies where I could lay around and poop and cry and generally be a new-born. Then a bunch of other stuff, that I don’t remember happened, and then I turned five and moved to a new town, and started kindergarten. The first thing anybody said to me was, “You’re weird.” My self-esteem has been pretty much shot since that point. So I went through elementary school alone, and then I went through high school alone, and then I went to college. Well, no, that isn’t entirely true. I met a couple of guys named Phillip and Henry. They were pretty good pals. They stuck by me through thick and thin, which was weird since Henry was pretty popular, and Phil… well Phil could do anything he wanted and get away with it. Yet they still didn’t mind hanging around me, the biggest loser to come out of Shady Oaks Elementary School , and later Lower East High.

Now Henry, he was a cool guy. He came from a cool family. The kids liked his dad, and liked his mom, and were friends with his sister. Coolness just came naturally to them, like buzzing does to a bee or flapping your wings 50 times a second to a hummingbird. Up to 200 when it dives to mate. They also had money, which I guess added to their coolness. I always liked him though, which was very odd since he became the sort of guy I shouldn’t like. You know what I mean. He was a high school football hero, for Christ sakes. Well, a hockey hero, since we don’t really play football up here, but it amounts to the same thing, only with less cheerleaders and more ice. But he was never arrogant. He never looked down on anybody. I don’t know how he managed to stay in with the popular crowd, but I can see why your average student would like him. Of course when we first met, none of that mattered. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Phil, on the other hand, he wasn’t exactly the jock of all trades. He was however, a rather archetypical schemer. I can’t make this stuff up. Again, it’s just another reason why I’m not that good a writer. I expect that you’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Well he was a lot like that guy. In fact I sometimes think they inspired each other. But who knows for sure? Anyhow, he was the type of guy who could always land on his feet, no matter what the situation. Needless to say, it was a rather good thing, being his friend. Especially when there was a particularly big test coming up, and you’d spent the last night watching Wrath of Kahn. Which we did. Rather frequently. I don’t know what it is about that movie, but there’s just this irresistible lure it’s got that can suck just about anyone in. But I’m supposed to be talking about my life. Not that there’s much to say.

I’ll tell you about how we all first met though. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon, and I was sitting, staring out my window, wishing I had some friends to play with. I’d just moved to a new town, you see, and school didn’t start until September. Not that that got me any friends. So there I was, watching the silent breeze blow the grass ever so slightly, while I heard the joyous laughter of other children in the distance. As I lay there on my top bunk, wishing there was something more I could do, or at least some decent cartoons on in the afternoon, I spotted something skirting across the front lawn. It was red and blue and lay low to the ground. I had no idea what it was. This, of course, peeked my curiosity, and so I decided I had better investigate, and after all, I had nothing else to do. Donning a pair of sneakers with Destro puffing out in the sides, I opened the front door and, quite to my surprise, came face to face with a boy. I would later learn that this was Henry. He, like myself, had also moved here and was going door to door looking for children to play with. Surprisingly, all the other houses either didn’t have children in the household, or they had already gone out. After the introductions, we were walking along the street, going along with no place in particular in mind. As we strolled down the street I noticed how beautiful suburbia was. Filled with its flower gardens, and perfect lawns, and well kept houses. I never would have thought how much my outlook on all that would change throughout the years. Anyhow, after a while we made our way out of the rows of generic houses and out to the highway that connected us with the big city. We skirted over the edge and down into the drainage ditch bellow. It was about that time that we heard the faint calling of a voice. As we drew closer, it was definite that there was somebody yelling for help from inside the open sewer system before us. Henry, impulsive as ever I would come to find out, charged right in dragging me along with him.

As we entered the damp, dark tunnels a putrid odour hit my face with the force of a large mobster and an aluminium baseball bat. Metaphorically, of course. Oh, I hate those metaphors. So there we were, trying to search through a sewer that was almost pitch-black. I stumbled and fell, getting my hands and lower legs wet with the cold water flowing here and there. Then… oh what’s the point? It was all a scam anyway. He was trying to pretend he was trapped in a well or some nonsense. All I remember was getting a decent spanking that night.

Anyhow, that was back in elementary and high school. We split apart after that. I haven’t seen either of those guys in five years. My only friend now is the bartender, and I don’t even like him very much. God, I’m depressed.

I’ve never tried to write an autobiography before. It’s not really what I’d expect. Plus, I don’t have very many little amusing antidotes to tell you about. I should probably have done some research before hand. You know, like to at least read a biography that somebody else wrote. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve never read a biography before, and yet here I sit trying to write one of my own. It’s ridiculous. This is horrible. I should just start all over, and make it in the style of your average novel. Right. That’s what I’ll do. Just after I go on a bender.

I awoke the next morning to the sound of a car alarm, and a distinct pounding in my head, like the energizer bunny was working double time. I wasn’t sure whose bed I was in, but I could tell by looking around that they kept a much shaper ship than I had ever done. At least until the events of last night, whatever those may be. I assumed, by the décor of teddy bears, candles, and those crushed, dried out flowers you keep in a bowl, that this was a woman’s room. I’ve always thanked the Lord for life’s little miracles. I sat up, and that’s when I realized I could feel the soft sheets on my sweaty body. I took this as meaning I was naked, and a quick check under the sheets verified the fact. So far this was turning out to be a pretty okay day. I got out of the bed and stood on the fluffy, light pink carpet. This was definitely a girl’s room. As I wandered about, looking for a pair of underwear, I felt sort of happy inside, for the first time in a long time. This sort of thing never happened to me. That’s when I found the birth control pills. Oh, you thought I was going to say something bad, eh? Like, that’s when I found the note from her jealous wrestler boyfriend or something? Well no, that didn’t happen. In fact, everything was looking pretty much perfect at that point. I finally found my underwear on top of some lacy doily thing, and put them on. I decided to hold off on the rest of my clothes until after I had a shower. As I turned towards the door I heard some footsteps. I guess she’s coming to serve me breakfast in bed. Or maybe dessert, if you know what I mean. I mean sex, by the way. I lay on the bed, trying to look nonchalant, as the door handle turned. What I saw through the doorway was something I never expected.