Sam’s Birthday (or How To Keep Your Drunk Superhero Buddy From Revealing His Identity)

“Hey, hey bartender! FOUR SHOTS OF TEQUILA!”

Thankfully, I don’t think the bartender heard Sam over the volume of the crowd surrounding the bar and the music pulsing from the speakers.

“Sam, hey dude,” I was practically shouting into his ear, “let’s go outside for a smoke and get some fresh air, yeah?”

“No way dude, we need to do shots, ish my birthday – IT’S MY FUCKING BIRTHDAY BISHES!”, he roared.

The crowd erupted in cheers and raised glasses.

“Happy birthday you drunk fuck!”, shouted a tall kid, his ballcap twisted on his head to the side.

“Hey, watch your fucking language around the ladies, kid!”, Sam shouted, gesturing his arm to the three women sitting at the bar to his left. The woman directly to his left, with her black hair and blue eyes, and the low cut blouse that shimmered in the low light of the bar looked up at Sam, eyebrow raised.

“Sam, SAM, c’mon man, let’s go outside for a minute, this song sucks.”

“Nuh uh, hold on a shecond, lemme shay hi to the ladeesh real quick…”, Sam slurred.

Sam only slurred when he had passed the point of no return. I knew there was no getting out of this night without something happening. Something always happened when Sam got drunk.

“…Shabrina, that’s a beautiful name.”, Sam was saying to the brunette sitting in the middle of the group. She had a very Bohemian style about her, wearing a peasant dress and loads of bracelets. Sam continued, “And yours was… Becky?”

“Stacy.”, corrected the beautiful blonde woman sitting at the left of the other two women. Stacy didn’t seem bothered in the least that Sam hadn’t remembered her name. In fact, she appeared grateful that Sam was even speaking to her. She was wearing business casual attire, apparently coming to the bar straight after work. I didn’t catch the first woman’s name.

“Staaacy, yesh, also a beautiful name.”, Sam said, pointing his finger in the air matter-of-factly. “I once knew a Stacy back home, but she didn’t even compare to you…”

For some reason, Sam was somehow always lucky when it came to talking with the opposite sex, even when he was slurring like a flooded engine.

“…and this ish my best friend in the whole world, Johnny boy. Johnny, shay hi to the hiccup beautiful ladies right here.”, Sam suggested as he threw his monstrous arm over my shoulders.

It felt like a log had been dropped on me, but my knees didn’t buckle as much as they use to when he would do that. Years of carrying this guy out of bars, or having to drag him off the couch after a long night of drinking and playing video games at the apartment had made my legs stronger than when I used to visit the gym back in the day, after getting out of a long relationship and having to find a way to spend my time. So much for splurging on a lifetime membership–

“Your friend’s not much of a talker, Sham.”, giggled the first girl whose name I hadn’t caught, imitating Sam’s slur.

She looked like a Tiffany.

“Oh, he’s a great guy, he jush hash a lot on his hiccup mind right now. We were downtown earlier, and there wash this huge wreck with a bus and an ambulansh–”

“Oh my god, that was just on the news a little while ago! You guys were there?”, exclaimed Sabrina. “But that was just a little while ago, I heard traffic was backed up for miles – our friend Lauren is still stuck in traffic down there. How did you two make it all the way up–”

“Ish because I can fly like a bird, love! Hahaha”, Sam exclaimed.

Oh boy. Here we go.

I tried to change the subject quickly. “Hey Tiffany, so, what do you ladies do around here?”

All three women turned to stare at me. If I had been a bit more sober, I would have imagined they were looking on in disgust. But with the dark lighting and the low cut of their shirts, it was hard to tell exactly what they were thinking.

“Who is Tiffany?”, asked Sabrina.

Oh shit.

“Tiffany? Oh, she’s the bartender, I was gonna ask what they do around here when it’s a slow night like tonight, haha.” I was never the best at thinking quickly on my feet.

Sam broke the following silence. “So thish bus, it’s driving down the road out of control right as Johnny and I, we’re crossing the shtreet, right? And ish bouncing off all the cars in the shtreet, and it gets right to the point ish about to flip over, so I–”

“Oh my god!” exclaimed all three girls.

“Yesh, exactly, ish about to crush everyone croshing the shtreet, and so I run over–”

“Sam, hey Sam, tell them that joke about the a capella group!”

“–I’m running down the shtreet right at the damn thing…”

The ladies eyes were wide, their mouths agape in disbelief.

“…and right ash I… right as… I…”

The ladies’ eyes were darting back and forth from Sam’s outspread arms hanging in mid-air to his mouth, eagerly waiting to hear what happened next.

“…I was running up to the bush… Hey! What do you call an emo a capella group?”

Oh my god, it worked.

The women looked at each other, their mouths slowly closing, brows furrowing as they looked back and forth at one another trying to contemplate what just happened.

“Wait, what?”, asked Not Tiffany.

“What do you call a, ah, an emo a capella group?”

“I don’t know, what do you call an emo a capella group, Sam?”, asked Stacy in a flat tone.

Sam’s arms were still outspread in mid-air, his long hair having come out of it’s small bun during his excitement in retelling the story from tonight. A strand of hair was hanging down his forehead, covering one eye.

Arms still outstretched, he blew a breath of air at his hair to get it out of his eyes, which were wide open in knowing excitement.

SELF HARM-ONY. HAHAHA“, he laughed, just as the music on the jukebox came to a quick close.

The entire crowd of patrons in the bar turned to look at us, myself with my drink having been sloshed and spilled halfway to empty, my other arm massaging my neck where Sam’s arm had been draped for support, and at Sam, with his monstrous build, crazed hair and wild eyes darting back and forth between the women in front of us.

“You asshole. My brother was committed for being a cutter.”, Sabrina spat.

Stacy and Not Tiffany just sat there shaking their heads in disapproval as Sabrina threw a few dollars to the counter. The women all gathered their purses, stood up, and walked right past us towards the door.

Sam’s eyes followed them, as he slowly lowered his arms. He turned his head back to me, and asked “What’s their problem? Is it something I said?”

“No man, you’re good… they just didn’t like the music.”, I reassured him.

As the music kicked back on within the bar, and the patrons began chatting and shouting at each other as they carried on with their drunken banter, Sam and I walked over to a booth to sit down.

“Man, things were going sho well there for a minute, I thought…”, Sam muttered, as he propped his chin up with his hand, letting his eyes begin to droop.

“Hey, Sam. You okay dude? Sam. SAM. Dude, don’t fall asleep!,” I shouted. I hated having to carry the guy outside by myself. “Hey man, stay with me here, alright?”

The jukebox changed songs.

The bartender jumped up from behind the bar on to the bartop, shaking her hips and shooting streams of soda water out into the crowd, as the people raised their glasses and cheered.

“Sam, hey dude, open your eyes man, you’re missing the show.”, I yelled, as I shook the arm propping his head up. “Samson, wake up dude!”, I yelled louder, as I pushed his heavy arm out from under his head.

He caught himself before hitting his head on the table, looking startled and sleepy at the same time. He looked around the bar, noticed the bartender dancing and gave a wide, goofy grin. He looked back at me, and asked “Hey, you ready to go home, J?”

“Yeah man, let’s take a cab this time though, alright? I hate when you grab me and just fly up in to the air like that, man. I told you I get sick of heights.”, I responded.

The jukebox changed songs again as we were getting our jackets on.

“Hey J, you have any smokes on you man? Can I bum one?”, Sam asked.

“Yeah dude, hold up, they’re in my jacket pocket somewhere…”, I answered.

I heard the jukebox music clearer as the crowd lowered it’s volume as they paid attention to the bartender singing along. She had a beautiful voice.

Now that the world isn’t ending
It’s love that I’m sending to you
It isn’t the love of a hero
And that’s why I fear it won’t do

Sam leaned down and whispered to my ear, “Come on dude, let’s boogie, I don’t care how hot that bartender is, I fucking hate Nickelback.”

The Great Empowerment

As soon as the door opened and shut on it’s own, Bill looked up and asked “Invisibility?”

“Yes sir!”, an excited male voice piped.

“Sorry, it’s a hard no. HR complications galore, you understand.”, Bill said apologetically.

The invisible man sighed dejectedly, and uttered “Okay. Thanks anyway.”

Bill continued, “But if you’re interested, there’s a Private Investigator office on the seventh floor, they might be hiring.” The sudden intake of air and the sound of hands clapping in excitement gave away more than Bill had expected to hear.

“Oh, great! Thank you so much!”, said the invisible person. The door opened and shut on it’s own again.

A few moments went by, before Bill looked up towards the wall.

“Still here, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sorry… bad habit.”

It was a small office, with bland walls and one large circular desk in the middle of the room, surround by a dozen chairs. The table appeared to be comically huge in the room, and it was always a pain to try to squeeze between the table and the wall just to get past it – and you could only pass by on the right, or else you would knock the clock off the wall if you went left.

Looking at the clock – it was 3:44PM – Bill sighed. He had been interviewing people all day.

When he was bored, Bill would often retreat into his memories of what it was like before everyone had super powers. He remembered the day everything changed.

It started with a video of a young baby going viral online. The mother had been recording the father trying to change their baby’s first diaper, when suddenly the child shot a stream of pee out right at the father.

As funny as it was, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, or special in any particular way.

It was when the baby began laughing at the father as he picked his baby up and held it out at arm’s reach, trying to get the baby over the sink as it was still urinating into the air, that the video changed the world forever.

The mother was chasing the father across the bathroom with her camera, when the father suddenly slipped on a diaper that had fallen out of the diaper bag beside him.

The sudden change in stance as he stumbled caused him to shoot his arms out, instinctively letting go of the young child in his arms, letting the baby free-fall into the air.

As the mother screamed, and the father hit the ground with a large grunt, the mother’s camera had dropped out of her hands as she rushed to catch the baby before it landed on the ground.

The camera just so happened to fall to the ground, facing up and catching on video the first known instance of what would then be referred to as the “Great Empowerment”.

The mother’s instincts and quick reaction led her hands to be where they should have been in order to catch her baby. However, the baby never landed in her arms.

As the mother looked around on the ground, she heard a giggle coming from above her.

The father had crawled to his knees, with a look of disbelief on his face, as he reached over to the mother, as they both looked to the ceiling of the room.

Their baby girl was floating in mid-air, a few feet above them. She looked as if she were swimming through the air, with her arms and legs stretched out, grasping at the air around her.

The mother and father gently stood together, and softly placed their hands around their baby, as the mother clutched her to her chest.

“Did you see that, Phil?”

“Yeah honey, I saw that… is she okay?”

“Yeah, yes, she… she looks fine. She’s smiling, after all. Oh my god… what was that?”

“I don’t know, but, look, don’t tell your mother, okay? She already hates me, she’ll never get over this.”

The video was put online, and despite many suggesting it had been edited, the video quickly became the most viewed video ever uploaded, within a manner of hours. Many debunkers tried everything they could to prove it was a fake, but continued to come up empty-handed.

It had been one week, and thousands of videos had been uploaded by people all trying to show off their new ‘super powers’ which were nothing more than clever video editing and special or practical effects.

And then, that weekend during a pro football game, one of the running backs for the losing team in the Super Bowl tackled an opponent, and the man who had been tackled suddenly burst into flames.

It was an outrageous spectacle to see on TV – the whole world assumed it was just another beer commercial.

But the footage never cut, the commercial never came on. The camera stayed focused on the man as he was screaming and burning alive, being witnessed by forty million people on live TV.

The running back looked on in horror, from the burning man that the rest of the football players were trying to pad the flames out on, to his own hands, seeing them glowing red.

Of course, it had been a decade and a half since that event, and it was no longer noteworthy to hear what someone’s super power was.

Everyone had one, and they were all unique in some way. Of course, the most notable ones quickly became super celebrities, or became actual super heroes. But the truth was, most people’s super powers were not that outstanding, nothing special that could really differentiate them from every other human.

From the mundane to the amazing, from the dangerous to the useful to the beautiful, everyone could do something simply no other human in history could have dreamed of in their wildest imagination.

And yet, here Bill was, sitting in a small office, working for the largest corporation in the country, behind a desk that was too big, hoping to find someone for this all important role sent from upper management to his desk.

“This is important, Bill, you hear me? We need to find someone for this role, and stat.”

Bill’s boss, the President of WAS, Inc., Mr. Ryan Slane, was a commanding presence in his office. The entire top floor was his own suite, with panoramic views of the city on all sides. He stood a foot away from the floor to ceiling window behind his desk, looking out at the people on the streets a thousand feet below.

He put the cigar in his hands to his lips and sucked some of the tobacco smoke in, letting it swirl in his mouth with the flavor of the Cuban plant.

“It’s not exactly something I can trust with just anyone. You’re my most loyal employee. I’ve known you were different from the day I met you. So that’s why I’m putting you in charge of this instead of Susan Delaney, she’s a sweetheart and has never done me wrong in recruiting the best of the best, I mean, hell, she brought you in. But I need this done right, and you’re the only choice where my gut doesn’t clench in hesitation.”

“Thanks Ryan,” Bill said. His hands were in his pockets as he took another step towards the window closest to him. He kept his eyes on the horizon, looking at the snow on the mountain crests just miles away outside the city limits. He had never been skiing.

Ryan continued on with his speech about their desperate need to find someone to fill the “professional hero” role he had just opened up in the office. It was his latest bright idea he believed would be vital to the company in the coming years.

In a world of heroes, how exactly would one fit the role of a professional hero?

Bill inched closer to the window, slowly lowering his eyes to the streets below. The wave of vertigo made him nauseous, which wasn’t helped at all by the scent of the cigar in the room.

Ryan appeared by Bill’s side, looking down toward the same area.

“Like a bunch of ants, aren’t they? Almost like they’ve got no rhyme or reason to anything they do, not caring about where they go,” Ryan muttered.

“I was in Hong Kong just before you came in to my office, looking out of the window just like you are now, and it’s no different. I’ve told you about their food, yeah? Amazing black truffle scrambled eggs at that one place…”

Bill answered, “Capital Café”.

“Yes! Exactly, Capital Café. I love that place. Have you ever been there? You should really go, I don’t know why you never take time off. I’ll even comp you the plane ticket, it’s just…”

Ryan continued, but Bill was focusing on the pedestrians below.

Everyone knew that Hong Kong had an abnormally high concentration of super powers that focused around food. Some people could snap their fingers and instantly heat a dish to the proper temperature, while some had telekinetic power over eggs, allowing them to crack an entire dozen at once without ever even having to touch them.

Bill had never been to Hong Kong. In fact, he had never even left Texas. Ryan was able to travel the entire world thanks to being empowered with teleportation. As far as anyone else knew, he was the only person in the world with that capability.

Bill was deathly afraid of heights, and so he had never even stepped foot on a plane.

For Ryan, the Empowerment allowed him to do market research on the fly, and to make in-person deals with his associates at the drop of a hat. He loved business, and the process of making money. And because of his natural workaholic attitude, his Empowerment was incredibly well paired.

WAS, Inc. was the fastest growing company in history, and it was all Ryan’s doing.

Bill didn’t have a power anywhere near as lavish.

“…anyway, it’s almost four in Australia, so if you’ll excuse me, Bill…”

Bill turned his gaze from the streets below, meeting Ryan’s.

“Yeah, of course, Ryan. Thanks again.” Bill smiled.

Back in the future, Bill, or Thursday at 3:45PM CST Bill, or Bill #15743 – he hadn’t settled on a naming convention for his multiple selves yet – sat at the round table in the tiny room, staring at the young man in the three piece suit sitting across from him.

“So, Kyle, you mentioned you’re able to remove people’s Empowerments, permanently, just by touching them, is that right?”

Charlie and the Pursuit of Actingness

“This guy is falling for you.”

“This guy is falling for you.”

This guy is falling for you.”

Charlie sat on the bus stop bench, repeating the line that had become something of a mantra to him over the past 3 days.

“THIS GUY is falling for you!” he shouted, gesturing his hands out in front of him as if he were catching a child falling from a window. The elderly lady behind the wheel of the minivan stopped at the light in front of him looked over at him, surprised.

“Oh, uh, I’m sorry. It’s a line!”, he yelled over at her, as the traffic light turned green.

“It’s a shitty line, kid!” the lady shouted back, as she drove on.

Charlie sat there, watching her car drive off into the ocean of cars down the road.

“This guy… is falling for you”, he whispered.

After a moment, he thrust one arm out in a wide arc, following the flow of traffic. With his right arm still sticking out, he looked back to his left, seeing an old man with one leg hobbling up on crutches.

“Everyone thinks they’re a fucking comic” the old man said, glaring at Charlie, who was staring at the blank space beneath the old man’s rolled up, tied off pant leg.

“Oh! Oh, no sir, I’m sorry, it was just a line for–”

“Yeah, up yours kid, I can still kick your ass with one leg. Two hits, me kicking your ass, you hitting the ground. The only falling you’re gonna do is fall in love with my boot up your ass. Back in ‘Nam, I used to dodge lead every morning while taking shits bigger than you. You wouldn’t last a goddamn minute over…”

As the old man continued his rant, Charlie slumped in his spot, embarassed, ashamed and confused at his purpose in life. His only solace was in repeating the line in his head, where nobody could misunderstand him.

The bus was 3 minutes late.

When his agent, Lucas Green, had called Charlie up to let him know that there was an audition for a small role in a local film company’s new feature film, Charlie had been so excited, he decided to ride his bike down to Lucas’ office, saving a few minutes and dollars.

“I’ll take it, definitely,” he said as he bounded through the office door, sweating and breathing hard.

In one look over at Lucas, who was calmly lighting the tip of his cigar, he barely had time to realize his mistake.

“Sit down kid, I said it’s just an audition, you haven’t gotten the role yet, Jesus.” Lucas was a salty old man in a young man’s body, jaded by his decade in the southern California ecosystem of dead dreams, broken hopes and the pungent stench of suntan lotion.

“Jesus, did you run down here? You’re sweating so hard I can see that shit getting all over my floor. Whatever, sit on the other chair – no, the other one, that fabric covered one. I didn’t spend a month’s salary on this fucking leather chair for your sweaty ass to get it all moist with your hydration problem.”

“Yeah, sorry Lucas, I just didn’t want to keep you waiting like last time. So what’s the deal, can you share any information about the gig with me yet?”, Charlie rattled off as he tried to catch his breath.

The fabric chair was uncomfortable, missing one arm and flattened over the years by the many hopefuls that had sat here before.

Lucas continued, as he studied the ash at the tip of his cigar, “So, this film studio is brand new, and they’re local, but they’ve just gotten a big dump of local investors involved because their main actor in this film, it’s going to be their first feature length film, the main kid is the son of that lawyer prick, the one on the TV with that crappy commercial-”

“Yeah, the one with that tagline, ‘Why bother praying if I can get them paying?’, Mark Babbott?”, Charlie suggested.

Lucas continued, reaching over to the ash tray on his desk to ash off his cigar.

“…Yeah yeah, that piece of trash. Anyway, his kid, Eric Babbott, is apparently some big YouTube sensation, overnight success and that whole bit, had a stint doing a few interviews on daytime talk shows, whatever. He’s gonna be the star of this studio’s new feature film, and they have a role for his gay best friend.”

“Yeah Lucas, I’m all in, man, I can be totally gay, I love it, just let me know when and where–”

“Shut up and listen, kid, Jesus, I’m fucking busy and I’m trying to brain dump this on you as quick as I can so I can get on my flight in forty-five minutes, okay? So, they have a whole lot of people really interested in getting this film made and put into as many film festivals as possible, where there are going to be a fucking ton of eyes from the industry on it. So it is big, and everyone wants in – think America’s Got Talent big. So they’re going to do a big mass audition, try to knock out as many as they can in one day. So the line they gave out for the actors to practice is ‘This guy is falling for you.’ So get that shit stuck in your head, okay?”

“Definitely Lucas, definitely man. This guy is falling for you. Gay best friend. Got it.”

“Charlie, kid, listen to me here. This shit needs to become your fucking life for the next few days, okay? There’s a lot of people on this, and this could be big for us both. It’ll get you out of that librarian gig you’ve got going on, and can seriously launch you into the fucking atmosphere in this city. You hear me? Don’t fuck this up, kid. You got this.”

It did not bother Charlie that Lucas never seemed to remember what he did for a living. He always referred to it as a librarian job, but Reading Out Loud Allowed was an open-mic slam poetry and improv comedy night that Charlie had started shortly after moving out West.

Working with the various bars and clubs around his neighborhood, it had begun to have a decent following around his neighborhood. It was good practice for testing new character voices out, and paid enough to pay his third of the rent. Sometimes he’d even make enough to cover the cost of an Uber ride somewhere.

He saved the Uber rides for special occasions.

Charlie stood on the corner of the street, glancing up from his phone at the sound of every car driving by.

Today was a special occasion, and so he had decided to splurge from his budget on getting an Uber ride down to the Bay Area Event Center, where the audition was being held.

“Come on Ismael, where the fuck are you? Get your blue Nissan ass out here already.”

The estimated time of arrival for his ride had been 7 minutes. It was 17 minutes in, and the GPS marker on the app had moved about half a block. Even after starting to walk towards the car, the marker seemed to keep the same distance from him.

“This guy is falling for you, you son of a bitch. Where the hell are you?”

Frustrated and nervous, Charlie decided to cancel the ride. He could catch the bus if he sprinted down the block, if he was lucky enough to —

Charlie heard the squeal of the tires on the pavement before he realized the bus stop was in the other direction. Or maybe it was in that direction?

oh I’m somersaulting through the air because I got hit by a car I’m falling this is going to hurt OW sonofabitch what is happening

As his body rolled to a stop, the blue door of the Nissan swung open and the driver jumped out, running over to Charlie.

“Sir, sir – are you okay? Oh my God, I am so sorry, I was looking for my Uber fare and, oh shit, oh my God… sir, are you okay? Can you hear me? Sir. What is your name?”


“Oh, no shit? Hey, that’s my name too, man. Haha, wow, what are the odds of… oh, here, let me help you up.”

“No, no, you’re Ismael.”

“Yeah, I know, and so are you. We just said that. Listen man, I think you might have a concussion. Look, it’d be real cool if we could just not have to call the cops or anything, you know? I wasn’t serious about staring at my phone when I ran over you, because I wasn’t. There was a deer in the street. I couldn’t do nothing, man, it–”

“No, dude, your name is Ismael, my name is Charlie. I’m the one you were supposed to pick up, like 20 minutes ago. What the hell, man?”

“Okay, check this out, so what had happened was, there was this girl jogging down the sidewalk, and she was wearing those yoga pants, you know the ones with the… hey, you know what, how about I just give you a ride and we just call it solid, is that cool with you? No charge man.”

Charlie knew he was under a time crunch, and if he didn’t absolutely have somewhere to be today, he would probably go straight to the hospital. His head really hurt, and his shirt had become torn at some point.

at least I’ve got my shoes still

“Yeah, Ismael, that’s fine man. Let’s just go, let’s leave right now.”

“Sure thing Charlie. Hey, you mind if I stop to pick up some smokes? This whole thing has been super stressful for me, and I’ve got a bad heart, you know? I don’t deal with this kind of stuff very well.”

As Charlie stood last in line, at the end of what seemed to be half the city waiting to get into this event center, he leaned over the shoulder of the girl in front of him, peering down the line of attendees.

Many of the actors were wearing headphones, playing on their phones, taking selfies and polluting social media with dog faces.

Man, it doesn’t seem like anyone is practicing lines or anything. Maybe I over-prepared. Maybe this is going to be easier than I thought–

“Alright everyone, that’s it. Auditions are closed.” said the bouncer at the doorway, a good fifty people between him and Charlie.

Charlie’s heart sunk, as the crowd in front of him started booing and jeering, before slowly dispersing, used to the familiar letdown in this industry.

Charlie turned, and walked back towards the parking lot, letting his hand run against the wall of the event center, thinking about the last few days misadventures.

A door opened behind him, and Charlie heard a few people talking.

As he turned around, he recognized two of the men in the group.

“Mr. Babbott?”, Charlie asked.

The man looked over at Charlie. “Yes?”

“Hello Mr. Babbott, my name is Charlie–”

“Look kid, if you’re here to audition, we’re done for today. These guys have gotta leave, and my son is tired.”

Charlie then noticed the younger man behind Mr. Babbott, dwarfed by his father’s linebacker-esque physique. He was about Charlie’s age, but slightly shorter and with a quiet demeanor.

“Listen, Mr. Babbott, and Eric, I know the auditions are closed, but this means the world to me, and I’ve just… I… it’s been a very weird past few days, and it’s all because of wanting to be here just to tell you–”

“Fine kid, spit it out. Give it your best shot. We’ve gotta roll.”

Charlie took a deep breath, nodding quickly at the lawyer. He looked at the young man beside him, and lifted one hand out towards him.

Gay best friend. Gay best friend. I’m gay, and I’m his best friend. This is it.

He turned his hand over, with his fingers slightly pointing skywards, gesturing at Eric.

“This… guy… is falling… for you.”

Charlie was sure the Earth herself took a sudden quick breath.

Clocks around the world hesitated a moment before they moved to click in the next second.

Somewhere, he knew that someone’s dog decided that, for just a tiny while, Charlie was actually the owner that they really wanted.

Never before had a line been delivered so perfectly, so eloquently timed, so holy in it’s delivery–

“I’m sorry, what was that?”

Mr. Babbott’s booming voice knocked Charlie out of his euphoric self approval.


“Can you say that again?”

“I said,” Charlie started, as he lifted his arm up and gestured toward Eric again, “This… guy… is falling… for–”

“Holy shit.”

They love it.

Mr. Babbott turned to his associate, a young man in casual dress, wearing a fedora and shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. “Tommy, did you hear this?”

That must be the studio producer. He loves it. They love me.

“Mark,” Tommy began, placing one hand over his heart, and throwing the other in the air towards Mr. Babbott, “this guy is falling for you.”

Mr. Babbott and Tommy started laughing, and continued laughing until they could hardly breathe. Mr. Babbott was doubled over, with his hand on Tommy’s shoulder, both of their faces scrunched into a wrinkled mess as they continued with their booming laughter.

Charlie was confused.

I don’t understand. If it’s so funny, how did they go through hundreds of people’s auditions today?

“Sir? Mr. Tommy? Mr. Babbott? What is so funny?”

Eric finally piped in, after having laughed a bit himself, but at a lower caliber than his company, and said “Hey man, it’s Charlie, right? Listen Charlie… we just heard the line we gave out said hundreds of different ways over the past few hours.”

Charlie nodded, and was about to begin apologizing for being so late, when Eric continued.

“Look, Charlie. We just had seven hundred and fifty-two people regurgitate to us the line we gave out the other day, and they all said it in their own special, unique way. We ended up choosing a 67 year old Korean man because he sang the line while playing a ukulele. Whatever, it is what it is. But man… you are literally the only person from today who not only got the line wrong… but damn, man, I think it might actually be better than what we had.”

Charlie’s blood drained from his face.

I got the line wrong. How did I get the line wrong? I’ve said it thousands of times, I’ve written it down hundreds of times. What did I do wrong?

“I… I’m sorry, I don’t understand, Eric. What do you mean I got the line wrong?”, Charlie stammered.

Eric responded, “Charlie, the line was ‘The sky is falling for you’, not ‘this guy is falling for you’.”

Charlie stood right where he was, not moving a single muscle out of fear that the whole world would notice him and his failure.

Oh my god. I’m an idiot.

“Oh, oh, that makes more sense, I guess,” Charlie said quietly.

Mr. Babbott was done laughing, drying the last of his tears with the pocket square of his suit.

“Kid, that was amazing. That was definitely worth listening to that Asian dude playing the tiny guitar for 15 minutes.”

“It’s called a ukulele, dad.”

“Whatever. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, Curtis, right?”

“Oh, uh, it’s Charlie, sir!”, Charlie shouted as he watched the men get into the limousine.

“Lucas, what the hell, man?!” Charlie shouted into the phone.

“Okay kid, you’re right, I screwed up biggo. My bad.” Lucas said.

“Lucas, nobody is ever going to accept me on their set if this gets out. The kid who got the one line of an audition completely not-anywhere-close-whatsoever wrong. And on top of that, they probably thought I was confessing my undying love to Babbott’s kid! What the fuck man?”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. But hey, it’s not like anyone’s gonna bring it up to you at work, right? No talking in the library and all that good shit.”

“Lucas, you suck.” Charlie said as he hung up the phone.

Charlie did go to his regular gig that evening. As he was MC’ing his improv comedy portion of the night, before introducing the highlight of the night, he decided to vent his frustrations out to the crowd.

The audience was laughing immediately, from the misunderstandings between him and the driver, the one legged man, the accidentally-almost-homicidal Ismael, to his reenactment of the ordeal between the lawyer, Eric, and Tommy the director.

At the end of the night, his audience politely applauded the headliners, but then began chanting Charlie’s name, wanting more of his hilarious recounting of events.

When he got home, Charlie called Lucas’ number and patiently awaited the voicemail message.

At the beep, Charlie said one thing.

“Mr. Green, I don’t think I’ll be needing any more acting auditions.”

He hung up the phone, and jumped into bed, his hands folded behind his head as he stared at the ceiling.

“The sky isn’t falling anymore.”

The Pirate and the Boy Who Saved Him

A young pirate captain was on his majestic ship, sailing across the vast ocean. His crew was happy, and they went on sailing for years, pillaging other ships that they would come across, overthrowing other sea captains, and often allowing the crew of the other ships to join theirs.

The pirate captain was happy.

One day, during an epic battle between the pirate crew and one of the biggest ships in the Queen’s Navy, the pirate captain was in a sword fight with three enemy sailors.

He fought like a warrior straight out of a tale, his dual swords slicing through the air and cutting his enemies down with ease.

Suddenly, a young boy came out of one of the barracks, carrying a pistol, and aimed it in the direction of the pirate captain.

Just as the pirate captain slashed at the last man standing before him, he saw the young boy, as well as the pistol aiming in his direction.

The boy fired.

The pirate looked down, and felt no pain.

Suddenly, he heard the thud of a body landing on the ground behind him. He turned around, and saw the Navy captain laying dead on the ground, his sword still in his hand, his outstretched arm above his head, his body frozen in the attempt of his ill-fated attack on the pirate captain.

The pirate captain was safe.

The pirate captain turned back to the boy who had saved his life. He stared at the boy, with his bright blue eyes open wide, giving away the fact that he had never once fired a pistol before, eyes which were partially covered by a lock of hair black as night.

The young pirate captain tipped his three-pointed hat to the boy as he leaned over with a slight bow.

“What’s ye name, me boy”, the pirate captain asked.

“Sebastian, sir”, the boy whispered.

“Aye, well Sebastian, me boy, a t’ousand t’anks and a t’ousand pieces o’ silver me owes ya.”

The pirate captain whistled to one of his crew, and ordered them to leave the young boy on the ship with a small chest filled with silver coins.

Then the pirate crew jumped back onto their majestic ship, and sailed off into the sunset.

Many years went by, and the pirate captain grew old, having lived quite the successful life of a pirate, which was quite rare, as they were constantly hunted by all of society for their ignoble actions.

One day, as the pirate crew was at harbor to resupply their ship, the pirate captain met a beautiful woman who not only failed to judge him, but was rather quite enthralled by his stories from the sea.

As they were sharing a bottle of rum, the pirate captain was reminiscing about his dual sword wielding days, which were no more, after having lost a hand to a stray cannonball many years prior, when the beautiful woman asked if he ever intended to settle down and have a family.

“Aye, me love, t’was always on the back of me mind, but me life has been wrought with adventure and chaos, and the thrills of a nomad pirate captain such as me’self were never too kindly looked upon by the fairer sex…”

The beautiful woman ran her hand across the pirate captain’s beard, caressed his face, and as she leaned over, she whispered “I always wanted to sail the sea… but I fear it was never in my stars, for I get seasick simply by stepping onto a ship. But your tales tell me that you have lived a mighty full life, and I fear I will never cease to dream of you after tonight…”

Then, the beautiful woman gently kissed the pirate captain on his lips.

For what seemed like an eternity, they stayed locked face to face, as the beautiful woman held the pirate captain’s good hand in hers, as he began to shake at the knees, melting at her touch.

As they pulled apart, the pirate captain said, “Bless the gods, me dear, I’ve never in me whole life felt the warm touch of an angel like that… just say the word, and I’ll follow you to the ends of the world and back.”

The night went on, and when it came time to part ways and sail off with his crew, the pirate captain realized that he couldn’t bring himself to go, for he did not want to leave behind the beautiful woman who had taken his breath away, and given in return a warm desire and fullness he had never felt before.

The pirate captain was in love.

He took his hat off, and handed it to his first mate, saying his farewells, wishing his crew the best of luck and long lives, and waved them away until they had sailed out of sight.

Again, many years went by. The pirate married the beautiful woman, they had a small army of children who grew up and set sail on their own adventures, and life went on.

The pirate captain was happy, but grew restless. Time had become a bitter enemy, causing his body to deteriorate even more and his mind to grow cloudy. His feet hurt from walking the solid land, and he missed his majestic ship, and his faithful crew.

His wife saw these things, and tried many times to lift his spirits, but it was fruitless.

The pirate had turned to drown his fears in his bottles of rum, and often could be heard hollering at the gravestones in the town cemetery, battling the ghosts of his past.

The locals had ceased to fear the once powerful and vibrant pirate captain, as he was now just an old shell of his former self.

He had grown fat, had lost most of his hair, and his long flowing beard had grown gray and disheveled. The hook on his hand had been replaced by a wooden knob with a cutout perfect for holding a bottle, and nothing more.

The pirate captain was sad.

Despite all her efforts, the pirate’s wife could not save him from himself. She grew tired and weak from all the fighting, until one day, she had had enough, and decided to leave him.

The pirate captain did not chase after her.

And so life went on, and the long days turned into long months, and the long months turned into longer years. The pirate was lost in a world he did not love, left alone with no friend to share a bottle with, and no enemy to swing a sword at. The pirate captain was alone.

He grew older, and weaker. His swords began to rust, and grew dull. His bottles lay strewn about his home, and his body regretted his heart’s decision.

One day, the pirate decided he would not end this way. He would go out as a pirate should. He would do whatever necessary to right the wrongs, or wrong the rights, in his case.

He would go down to the harbor, and steal a ship, and set sail into the sunset one last time.

Except, he could barely get out of bed. When he finally managed to, barely escaping a broken back in doing so, he barely made it to his door.

With a mighty tug, he opened the door, and what he saw outside his door almost made him fall to the floor.

There was a parade!

The entire town had filled both ends of the street, with children sitting upon their father’s shoulders, and women waving handkerchiefs at the performers in the street.

At first, the pirate was weary, and did not want to be surrounded by all of this joy, for he simply wanted his story to come to an end already, and dammit, these town citizens were getting in his way!

He shuffled along down the road, step by step, often having to put a hand against a wall or a fence post to stop and catch his breath.

His heart was beating a thousand times too fast, and his head ached with all the music being played in the street beside him.

Things began to grow dark in his vision, and sounds grew muffled.

He stopped to sit at a bench, wiping the sweat from his brow with his shirt sleeve. He looked around for a forgotten bottle of rum. Alas, there was none to be found. He saw a young boy running back and forth, peeking between the legs of the adults to catch a glimpse of the parade through the throngs of people watching the festivities.

The old pirate asked the young boy, “hey there, me lad…” The old pirate took a few deep breaths between his words, “would ye mind tellin’ an old man what all this fuss might be about?”

The young boy looked the old pirate up and down, curious why this old man was sitting on a bench not ten feet from the parade, sweating like a dog and panting like a horse.

“It’s the Queen’s Royal Navy, sir! They’re back! It took them 50 years, but they’ve finally killed all the pirates! The seas are free again!”

The old man chuckled at the idea that the sea was ever not free, but then took a sharp breath in as the boy’s words sunk in.

With the last of his strength, he pushed himself off of the bench, and walked to the street, pushing the bystanders aside with a roughness in him that had long been idle.

He looked at the paraders, who upon further inspection, were in battle dress. It was the Queen’s Royal Navy, indeed!

Then, standing on top of a box wagon, the old pirate saw what must have been the man in charge.

The man was middle aged, in peak physical condition, with striking black hair and blue eyes as big as the sea.

But it was what was in the man’s hand, as he waved it back and forth at the crowds, that caught the old pirate’s eye.

It was his old leather three-pointed hat.

This man, he was the one who had killed off the last of the pirates, and in doing so, had obviously killed the old pirate’s former crew, including his last first mate. As the old pirate stood there, wondering how he should feel, knowing that the life he had led and had dreamed of returning to could be no more, the man with the blue eyes turned towards him, looked at him, waving the hat, and continued to turn.

Stopping in mid-wave, the man turned back, and looked at the old pirate dead in his eyes.

The old pirate knew, right then, who this man was. He knew it like he knew the sound of sails flapping in the wind on a cool, cloudless night.

This man, he knew, was Sebastian, the very boy who had not only saved his life, but had felled one of his own crew in order to do so.

This man, who had brought an end to the life the old pirate once cherished, who had ended the lives of so many that had relied on the old pirate, was the one person that had ever saved the old pirate’s life.

The sudden epiphany took a hefty toll on the old pirate’s soul. He felt like he had been struck in the chest with a cannonball.

He almost lost his footing, falling back, reaching his hand out to find the bench behind him, with his wooden hand held to his chest to calm his heart.

It was beating too fast.

The man from the Navy, Sebastian, was running up to the old man, pushing his way through the crowd.

As he arrived at the bench, he looked the old man up and down.

The man, the boy, Sebastian, placed the hat gently on the bench beside the old pirate.

“I know you, old man. I once saved your life, and you repaid me with a ship and a thousand silver pieces. I have led my life in the hopes that I would cross paths with you again…”

The old man looked at the young man, and saw nothing but the young boy from that day so long ago, before him. He had dreamt of crossing paths with the young boy again as well, but his heart was hurting, and not in the heartbroken way he had become so used to over the years, but rather a physical pain, this time. It stopped him from being able to express the words in his lungs.

The boy with the blue eyes continued.

“…I lived every day of my life, and spent every last bit of silver I had because of you, trying to find you. When I ran out of money to fund my own ship and crew, I joined the Queen’s Royal Navy in the hopes that it would bring me to you…” The old pirate wanted nothing more than to reach out to the boy, to pat him on the shoulder, to thank him for finding him and giving him a last good memory to cherish on what was surely to be his last day on this earth. Perhaps he could ask the boy to send him out to sea, as a pirate should always be buried at sea… Sebastian continued.

“For, you see, I did not intend on saving the life of a murderer that day, I did not even intend on leaving that ship alive…

I did not want my last memories to be the vision of you and your despicable crew cutting down my friends, my crew…

…and had I seen my father behind you, with his sword raised and ready to strike you down, I never would have tried to fire that shot into your heart.

And I would have not missed, and killed my own father instead.”

The old pirate’s face grew white, his skin, cold.

The story he had shared countless times to his old crew and the land lovers at the pub, his favorite story of all of them… had all been a lie.

All because this boy was a terrible shot.

He had intended on killing him, and killed his father instead. And while the old pirate knew that his younger self would have reveled in this fact, his older self felt more guilty than he could have ever imagined feeling.

His entire life had been a farce.

He was not the least bit angry at Sebastian, nor did he doubt that he would pay for his actions today, likely at the gallows.

The boy continued.

“And so, here we are, having killed every last pirate sailing the ocean, and the one I have been hunting my entire life has been here in my hometown. Wasting away! A drunk and a fool, with no ship, no treasure, and a rusty pair of swords.”

“His wife left him!”, shouted one of the town members.

Sebastian looked back at the townsman, and looked back at the old pirate with a smug look on his face.

“And the old man had a wife, you say? It figures she would have left him! Who would want to lay by an old and dying pirate like this at night!”

The townspeople laughed and pointed their fingers, with mothers covering their children’s ears, yet standing there with beaming smiles on their faces. Sebastian picked up one of the old pirate’s swords, wielding it slowly and deliberately, feeling it’s weight.

“This must have been a wicked tool of death back in your day, old pirate. But now…”

He rested the tip of the sword on the ground, and gave a swift stomp to the middle of the sword, shattering it in half.

“…but now, it’s a piece of useless scrap. Now, tell me, old pirate, and do be kind, it’s the least you can do before dying on me after I’ve searched for you for so long, and after I’ve asked ALL your friends for your whereabouts…

WHAT, in almighty God’s name, HAPPENED TO YOU to make you such a feeble, weak, pathetic old geezer wasting away as the town drunk on a dirty bench so far from the ocean?

Please, tell me what caused this, and I might let you die quickly.”

The old pirate looked the boy up and down, realizing the boy was a man. A man that any mother would be proud of, and a boy any father would thank the heavens for carrying his name.

The old pirate coughed into his wooden hand, and saw blood which he wiped off onto his pants, and stretched to lean over with his good hand to pick up the hat Sebastian had placed beside him.

It took nearly all the energy he had in him, and as he righted himself, the world was spinning. His arm shot pains throughout his body as he raised his hat and placed it on his head.

He placed his good hand on the bench armrest, and pushed as hard as he could, raising himself from the bench to stand before the boy. A boy who was as tall, no, taller, than he was. But the old pirate had a bad back, and he was hunched over after spending so many years in his bed.

He stretched his back, and stood tall one last time.

He raised his good hand to grab the tip of his hat, and gently tipped it towards the boy, and as he bowed slightly, he could feel his heart pumping the last pulse of blood through his body… his fingers and toes growing cold, his vision growing cloudy, and his head feeling light, he uttered his last few words with every bit of strength that his soul would spare before finally leaving him.

With a smirk so slight, the Heavenly Father could have missed it, he answered the boy’s question.

“Sebastian, my boy…