The internet is one of the most popular forms of mass and singular communication that the world has ever known, often surpassing the now largely defunct major method: talking to other people.
Now, this is no way means that talking to other people is a dead art form, or that there was any sort of art to it to begin with. There will always be occasions during which speech is an inevitability. Office parties would certainly lose some of their charm without that one moment where your boss makes an utter bollock of himself by once again attempting to chat up his married, uninterested and elderly receptionist. The world itself would miss out without speech, but it's becoming less and less necessary. Internet dating sites, online shopping, video conferencing, the list goes on.
Thankfully, the world still holds that one true champion of conversation: alcohol. Whether you're at a pub, a bar or a party, if you're completely off your tits, you're going to be talking s--t at anybody daring enough to listen or stupid enough to manage it without having their brain melt into mush. Alcohol, eternal friend to so many, provides quite the welcome reprieve.
Unfortunately for some, there is such a thing as too much drink, too many drugs and too little sense. Some people spend too long indulging themselves and not enough time indulging their brains. It doesn't even have to be alcohol and drugs, some people just stoutly refuse to learn any of the lessons that life offers them.
One of these people was Hugh Gee.
In his mind, the world could teach him nothing. He had proven far more effective at talking to people via instant messaging and internet forums than he had ever managed with an actual person. His one decent conversation with a girl had resulted in several weeks getting attacked by her boyfriend, which he had not enjoyed anywhere near as much as he had expected. Still, he honestly thought it had been worth it to make the one joke about his penis that he had found truly hilarious.
She hadn't. This was a lesson that he should have learned, but did not.
There were many more to come, and many to resurface just to annoy him
Work had been quite busy for Hugh today, with Greg providing interest variations of colour commentary on whatever football match he was watching in the back room. The shouting had confused and disturbed many customers, but Hugh was long since used to it. His job was rapidly becoming his favourite place to be.
Do you like drinking? Greg asked him as the day drew to a close. As usual, Greg had wandered out of the back room just as the last few customers were leaving and Hugh was preparing to lock the door.
Yeah, answered Hugh, well aware that he hadn't actually had an alcoholic drink since he had crashed his father's car and ended up working here to pay it off.
Do you like music? came the next question.
I work in a guitar shop, Hugh replied, confused. I work in your guitar shop. You hear me talking about music all the time.
Well, sometimes you just talk about noise, Greg told him defensively. Don't get me wrong, you've got cool moments, but you're a freaky kid, meatcurtains. Sometimes I'm not sure I should tell people I work with you her, on account of your weird reputation.
I don't have a weird reputation.
That's the problem; you're just too normal, announced Greg. I keep trying to tell people you mug people or drown kittens or something, but you're still not cool so they don't want to meet you, and I don't want boring employees. Come on pissflaps, do something interesting. Have a bath in the queen's tea or stab some girl in the eye with a paperclip.
Greg paused, as if waiting for Hugh to reply, but Hugh had learned from experience that ignoring Greg generally made the problem go away, so he just looked at his boss with a puzzled expression. Within moments, Greg began to frown, and then to look quite upset. If he'd taken psychology, Greg would have been an interesting specimen for Hugh to study, even if he was somewhat predictable.
Anyway, continued Greg, clearly a little frazzled, I'm thinking what the hell. You might not do much in your broken shell of a life, but people have been asking to meet this kid who works for me, so I'm thinking we tell them you're older than you are and go to this party tonight. Some kid wants to be in a band, and my friend invited me. You know what I mean by friend, right?
Somebody you smoke weed with but don't really know? Hugh supplied.
Yeah, you pick up some weird people, Greg told himself. He seemed to be stroking his counter now, but Hugh made no comment on it. It's all people as old as I thought you were, but it turned out I just had nutella on your paperwork. It'll be fun. You can be with the cool older guys who are a big high and calling people rimjobs and dumpsniffers.
It was the single strangest invitation that Hugh had ever been given to go anywhere and do anything. Still, his mother had convinced him to wear a shirt to work, so he was already dressed for the occasion.
Alright, he told his boss. I suppose it could be fun.
Brilliant, Greg responded. Be prepared to set fire to something, he added as he turned his back on his business once more and wandered once again into the back room.
Unsurprised, Hugh simply went back to the tasks ahead of him in locking up, cashing up, stocking up and then maybe sitting down himself. There were many reasons that he enjoyed his job, but working all day for five days a week while working with a band was starting to have an affect on his beautiful teenage physique. All of the alcohol he'd been drinking in the back with Greg, the endless supply of crisps and the take away dinners had left him with something of a belly that he was not much proud of. In his more than slightly addled mind, a party would do him good.
The party was not a high-brow one, but Hugh had not expected it to be with Greg being the one inviting him. A young man, fresh outside of his teens, had decided to throw a party both to celebrate his new home and his love of Trance music, which had Hugh eager to leave within minutes. Barely able to hear a word said by anybody, Hugh instead found himself focussing on the tiny flecks of spit that each person sent flying at his face. Thankfully, the more he had to drink and smoke, the more relaxed he felt about the whole thing.
He didn't know anybody, but Greg made a habit of introducing him to all and sundry, like an overbearing parent with nothing to show for their life but their child. At about ten, the music started to change, as did the company. A younger crowd began to appear out of the woodwork, including many people that Hugh went to school with. These were the cool kids; the recognised popular clique, and yet, for some reason, they were greeting him.
Slowly, the realisation dawned on Hugh that, at this party at least, he was just as cool as they were.
Frighteningly proud of himself, especially for the complete lack of effort he'd taken in something that he felt he deserved, Hugh increased his drinking. Confident of his position, Hugh began to move away from his secure seat beside Greg and go hunting. As he got older and went to different parties, he was becoming more welcome in the upper circles and he planned to take advantage. He chatted away quite happily with college girls, and drank shots with the guys. His crowning moment was when he convinced Monica Rush, in his year but far too attractive to know he existed, to give him a hug hello.
All was going well until the sight of Richard Meyers made him miss a beat. Meyers and his deceptively stunning girlfriend Sammy hated Hugh, and Sammy had seen to it that Hugh was soundly beaten by a gang of angry and muscled students. The gang weren't here, but Meyers himself was more than strong enough to handle Hugh. Quickly, Hugh began to retreat from the party towards the bathroom, where everything became quieter.
As they followed him, and the knot in his stomach tightened, Hugh realised something. He was cool at this party. In fact, he came with the older crowd: he was cooler than they were. If Meyers started trying to attack him, people would kick off and actually defend him. Smiling to himself, Hugh swaggered towards the muscled physique of Meyers and the black hair and tight jeans of Sammy.
Hey whore, he said to Sammy as a way of announcing himself.
Her reaction was a look of complete sarcastic pity. You never learn when not to be somewhere, do you? she asked of him, almost licking her lips in anticipation. Meyers though seemed to have caught on quicker. He was glancing around him uncomfortably at all of the people there. How did you end up on the guest list? she continued. Did they have an opening for a talentless moron?
No, but I'm sure you have an opening for a talentless moron right between your legs, Sammy, countered Hugh with a wide grin.
Sammy's smug smile didn't falter in the slightest. She looked Hugh over one more time as though he was complete scum, then turned her head to look up at her silent boyfriend. Well, she asked, are you going to let this freak talk to me like that?
She sounded so confident, and so sure. It took a moment to sink in with her that which everybody else knew: without backup her boyfriend was a complete coward. Sammy, he whispered to her, let's not make a scene.
A scream seemed sure to erupt from Sammy's mouth, but Hugh had already spotted the skirts of Monica Rush back down the corridor. Well, this has been fun, he said to both of his long time oppressors, but I have cool people to hang around with. You smell like puke by the way, Sammy; love the perfume.
Hugh cut his losses there and walked wide around Sammy to go back into the main party. She shouted something after him, but the wonderful Trance music swallowed it up.
If somebody were to use the word drunk to describe Hugh Gee, it would have been quite the understatement. The floor kept trying to give him a hug, which was strange for many, many reasons.
He'd spent most of the night throwing himself at popular people or hanging out with Greg in order to increase his social standing and keep Richard Meyers as far away from him as possible. He had escaped the first encounter admirably, but the threat was still there. Sammy, using her intense ability to be incredibly sexy, had tried to entice Hugh into many a dark and empty corner where her partner would be waiting. The bathroom was also a danger zone, but several plants in the garden had already been designated as piss and sick plants by the college boys. This was a wondrous idea that Hugh planned to carry back to school.
With the party finally starting to wind down, and his eardrums near dead because of the sheer volume of the music, Hugh had pulled open the cupboard where everybody was keeping their coats in the search for Greg's and his own. He scrambled through the pile frantically, fuelled by an intense need to keep doing things with his hands or face falling over. This made perfect sense to his drunk mind.
He had managed to find his own, and was searching for Greg's when he came across a coat he recognised as that of Richard Meyers. He flipped it over to confirm it from both angles and heard the unmistakable sound of keys in one of the pockets. In that moment, and to Hugh's great surprise, an utterly brilliant idea hit him.
Richard Meyers had a car. Why was he working to fix his dad's car when he could just take a car that would be parked right outside waiting for him. It would even mean that he and Greg would have a ride home, and Hugh could spend more of his money.
There was, in fact, absolutely nothing that could go wrong. Quietly, he opened up the pockets of the coat and slipped the keys into his pocket.
Let's go, melonfingers, said Greg moments later as Hugh handed him his coat.
All of the cars for the party invitees were parked somewhere on the street outside. As they walked out, Hugh cast his eyes around and zoned in on the vehicle that Meyers had spent the last year carefully preening, fine tuning and spending money on. That was an assurance of quality in Hugh's mind.
I got us a ride, Hugh told his companion. This guy I know has a car. We can drive it home.
I can't drive, you drive, was Greg's only objection. He was not in the best state himself.
The royal blue Fiat showed signs of use, but not of wear. The chassis was well looked after, the seats were clean and there was no hint of ash in the ashtray. Without a word, Hugh opened the doors and settled into the driver's seat. Greg chose against joining him in the front and spread out over the back seats instead.
Try not to drive too fast, he told Hugh. Or too loud. Or too bumpy. Or tooyou knowfast.
What the hell do you think you're doing!
Hugh's body twitched in the seat as he heard Meyers shouting across from the house that they had just left. Greg sat bolt upright, skimming the ceiling with his head. We're under attack! he shouted. Quick, drive man, drive!
Meyers was beginning to charge towards his car, with Sammy in hot pursuit. The engine growled as Hugh turned the key, but for a few seconds there was little more than that. In the back seats, Greg seemed to be rolling down the window.
Stay back! Greg called out to Meyers. I have a flamethrower.
Hugh would have rolled his eyes, but the next second he heard a hiss in the back seat and a jet of flame flew out of the window towards the actual owner of the car. Meyers stopped in his tracks.
What the hell?! Hugh shouted as the engine finally burst into life. How did you get a flamethrower? Who would give you a flamethrower? Of all people, why you? What the hell?!
Relax, said Greg quietly, leaning in closer. It's just a lighter and a can of deodorant. I use it when I've been smoking a bit too much in the back. It's nearly out now though, look. He proceeded to spray the can separate from his burnt out lighter, filling the car with a horrendous and choking stench until the little can sputtered its last. Good thing they don't know that, eh? We'd probably be in a lot of- Ah!
Greg's yelp of surprise brought Hugh's attention back to himself. Meyers had caught up to the car and Greg, with his window rolled down almost completely, now had a tight and fierce grip around his neck.
Roll it up, man! Hugh shouted, helpfully. Roll up the window!
With Greg fighting to get the window back up, Hugh caught Meyers reaching for the door handle in the rear view mirror. Knowing that this could only end badly, he put his foot down as forcefully as possible and drove away just as his own door began to open. Greg, now free, began to cough and fight for breath.
What was that all about? he shouted as soon as he could.
Well, Hugh began to explain calmly, it's sort of his car.
You just stole a car from a guy who's way bigger than you, and you're pissed out of your skull?
That is so f--king cool. Seriously though, do not hit any lamp posts or anything. Wake me up when I get home.
Tom Colohue is a writer from Blackpool, England. Though he specialises in Fiction, he also writes music theory articles, and new media articles based primarily on the internet. On occasion, these also intermingle. He is well recognised by numerous critics and analysts for his integrative descriptive work and his cynical textual mannerisms. For more information, Tom Colohue keeps a Facebook Fan Page, which contains updates from new articles and his personal blog, Mental Streaming. This page can be found via this link.