Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

Closet Spelunking: First in a Series

In college, I put out a pamphlet of short stories called the Erratically. This story -- in all its awkward, clunky glory -- is from Volume III, Number 5, published on March 19, 1990.

Good Lord, I could have used an editor. And a better ear for dialogue. And a disinclination to use the word "cowed." And a thesaurus. And a clue about what living with a non-dorm roommate would be like. And...

The Grief of Brand Kintella

Brad Kintella was about to be unhappy, and he was about to be unhappy with his roommate.

He had just returned from work, tired and glad to be home. He was looking forward to dinner -- which Bob, his roommate, always had ready by six -- and going to bed early. He closed the apartment door behind him and shouted hello.

"Hi," Bob said from the kitchen.

Brad trudged down the hall and into the kitchen. Pork chops were laid out on the table, and a salad was set at both places at the table.

"Hey, Bob," he said. "This looks great! What's the occasion?"

"Nothing special. I just felt like cooking. Took a bit of doing, but everything turned out pretty well."

"I'll say," Brad said as he sat down at his place. "Could you pass the Italian?"

"Yeah, sure. Here."

Brad shook the bottle vigorously and opened it. He poured some dressing over his salad and speared several leaves of lettuce and a slice of radish with his fork. He raise the fork to his mouth and was about to eat when he stopped and blinked.

He blinked again, focusing on the radish on his fork. He drew in a sudden breath and his eyes slowly wandered from the fork, across the table and to a small jar of water on the kitchen counter, behind the sink, next to the window.

The jar was empty.

Brad dropped his fork and screamed.

He leapt from his chair, reached across the small table and grabbed Bob by his shirt. "Where," he hissed, "is Fred?"

Bob stammered. "Fred? Who the hell is Fred? What's wrong?"

Brad dropped Bob back into his chair and staggered to the sink, his hands tearing at his hair. "Fred... Oh, God, Fred." He was mumbling, near tears.

"You mean the radish?" Bob asked, disbelief crawling all over his face.

"Yes, of course I mean the radish!" Bob screamed. "What else would I mean?"

Bob had risen and was warily approaching Brad. "You named a radish Fred?"

Brad was hunched over the sink, his hands wrapped around the jar. The fading sunlight filtered through the slightly murky water and tears began to stream down his face. His body shook with grief.

"You named a radish Fred?" Bob repeated. He touched Brad gently on the shoulder.

Brad whirled, clutching the jar to his chest, spilling water on his shirt and the floor. "Don't touch me!" he shouted. "You killed Fred!"

"Killed Fred?" Bob said, hopelessly confused. "God, I didn't know you cared about the stupid radish!"

"Fred was my brother!" Brad wailed. "I swore to my mother the day she died that I would protect him! Oh, God, Fred... Fred..."

Bob's arms dropped to his sides and then slowly rose to his hips, where they planted themselves in indignation and irritation. His brow knit. "Brad, you're insane. 'Fred' was a radish, for Christ's sake! A vegetable! It belonged to an entirely different physical kingdom than you. It could not have been your brother. You are completely mad. It was a radish. Nothing more. Salad fodder! Now stop acting silly and eat your damned dinner!" He pointed to the table.

Brad had collapsed into quiet sobs during Bob's tirade and, sufficiently cowed, he returned to his seat and sat down, still clutching the jar of water.

Bob stomped across the room and sat down hard in his seat. He stared angrily at Brad, finally raising a plate at him and saying, "Potato?"

Brand dropped the jar and it shattered on the linoleum floor.

"Gretta!" he screamed.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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