Nick Romeo

Initiated

A beautiful woman greets me with her hand open and extended, “Hello my name is Whun de Menshunelle. You can follow me.”

I accept the handshake then proceed to follow her as suggested. From viewing straight on, she looks amazing, but as the angle changes I can barely see her. She appears as a vertical line – a sharp edge cutting through space. She quivers and bends with each step.

“Have a seat.”

I sit in her office of leopard print and pink velvet. Her walls are decorated with various pictures. One photo shows her executing a keg stand while being cheered on by a group of individuals dressed in togas. In another photo, four men in letter jackets pour beer and whipped cream down a Slip ‘n Slide. She stands at the top of the hill about to jump down the plastic and sugary fermented covered slope.

She notices my confused and concerned expression, “Oh, college days.”

“When did you have time to study?” I ask as I hold back an embarrassed laugh.

“I didn’t. I just went to there to party and protest. And I got this job because I’m hot.” She stands up and spins around then sits back down.

I look around the room to check for video cameras, figuring this must be a social experiment, or I’m being uploaded onto the internet. No one can be this transparent.

“Yeah, I thank both parents for all of this hotness. My mom is from west North Korea and my dad is Puerto Rican.”

“Well, it looks as if it all worked out.” I tried not to flirt but this comment just fell out of my brain.

“Yeah I know, right,” she smiles. “So, why are you here again? Other than to look at my beauty.”

That’s a great segue out of this ditch I’m digging. I take another look around for video cameras. “Well, thanks for meeting with me. I was wondering if you could guide me in the right direction. I already bought a hang glider and wrecked it the same day. I answered some ‘women seeking men’ ads on Craigslist and that was also a series of disasters. After the first date I awoke on the side of I-376. The second date hacked into my bank account and 401k, then wrote mean emails to my mom from my Hotmail account. The third tied me to a chair and left me in a basement for two days with a burlap sack over my head. She was nice enough to have an IV hooked up to my arm. She was also addicted to huffing, and then got me hooked. I ran into a problem when I took up smoking at the same time. Anyway, I decided to give up on the dating scene and look into going back to school.”

She blinks several times while holding the same expression. “Okay, it sounds like you’ve been busy.” She licks her index finger and turns a few pages. “We have a great program in cryptozoology.”

“Nah.”

“How about hot air balloon maintenance?” Whun continues.

“I couldn’t take that pressure. I’m leaning toward architecture. It’s something I find interesting. I enjoy Legos and Minecraft.”

“Architecture? Are you sure not even ballroom dancing?”

“Yes.”

“How were your SAT scores?”

“Low twenties.”

“Perfect.” She writes that down.

“How about financial aid. We prefer to have everything paid in cash before the classes start. Method of payment is to be made in various denominations placed on a wooden palate and flown to us by helicopter, early morning before sunrise.”

“Do you take bitcoin?”

“Yes, that’ll work. We can factor the payments down to six decimal places.”

The door opens and a woman with powdered pale skin, black lipstick, heavy black eyeliner, black fingernail polish, a septum piecing, and a black Victorian ballgown glides into the room. “Greetings, I am the campus journalist, and I am gothic.” 

“Umm, nice to meet you.”

Whun rolls her eyes.

“My name is Anastacia Dark, but my friends call me Arisa Whitehead. You, of course are not one of those people, so call me Ms. Dark.”

“Actually, Arisa is her real name.” Whun interrupts.

“Silence.” Anastacia shouts. Thunder is heard in the distance.

“Since I am goth, I write about music. And I mean Goth music. Only bands and musicians who represent the unique lifestyle of goth. This means the bands and musicians must talk, look, act, and sing like a typical poster cutout of what gothic really is. And only I am a proper guide to what is gothic. And Hot Topics is also a great guide. Also, my friends, both of them, tell me what bands are cool. If not, then I write a condescending winy infantile hit-piece on them. And this is exactly what I teach the lower life form students in my class. You should sign up.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Don’t you have some graves to desecrate?” Whun sighs.

“Goodbye vermin. I have articles to write to insult the local unsigned scene, and later, I have a song to ruin with my guest vocal contribution. Last time I collaborated with a local unsigned band, PETA protested outside because they thought ferrets were being tortured, but I explained to them that the sounds you heard were strictly from me. And finally, that’s also why I’m an expert regarding music.” Anastacia exits.

“Nice lady,” I state.

We hear a knock at the door, then it swings open. A man with a long bushy beard, wearing a three-piece plaid suit greets us. “Hello. My name is Jordan Rivers, I am the English professor at this campus.”

“Nice to meet you.” I reach my hand outward to greet him.

He smacks my hand aside and pulls out a pipe from his suit, then lights it. Jordan coughs several times, then takes out a small notepad from the other suit pocket and jots down a few lines. “Now parse this sentence to find the subject, verb, object, etc…”

Whun announces, “Dr. Rivers was recently in trouble with the government. One balmy day in July he arrived early for the flight to London. When passing through the screeners, they found various poetry books duct taped to his legs and stomach.” She smiles, “He was interrogated for many days in a secret CIA black site. But he stuck to his story that he’s a licensed poet and prestigious existentialist author. TSA couldn’t prove intent to distribute poetry, so they released him, but placed him on the No-Fly List.”

I took the notepad and read, “The ultra-popular bearded hunk flew his spacecraft into the apple orchard.”

“Parse is Dr. Rivers’ favorite word,” Whun whispers.

He repeats, “Parse this sentence. Do it now.”

I study the sheet. “Well, ‘flew’ is the verb.”

“CORRECT.”

“Umm ‘hunk’ is the subject.”

“YOU ARE CORRECT AGAIN sir.”

“‘Bearded’ is the object.”

“INCORRECT, stupid.”

“The right answer is that there is no object,” I blurt out while laughing.

“So, you wish to dispense ill-humored puns? I immensely dislike puns!” He pulls out several zip ties and a long chrome chain from his pocket. Jordan ties my arms to the chair rests, then he tightly wraps the chain around my chest. “There, that’ll hold you. Now let’s talk grammar.”

“Dr. Rivers presses the smoldering end of his pipe into my hand. What is an indefinite article?”

“A comic book series that won’t end,” I scream through my grinding teeth.

“Ha. Your puns will be the death of you.”

The door opens again, and a gentleman dressed in a bright blue suit steps inside the room. “What’s going on here?”

Jordan Rivers hides the pipe behind his back. Whun stands up and launches a few flirtatious eye movements hoping to diffuse, or confuse, the situation.

“Dr. Cripkey, we are simply tutoring the new student here. Umm we are discussing grammar usage.”

“Ah, rules. What are rules exactly? Just a construct of a weak mind, or thoughts of a past life to forever remind us of our mortality,” Saul adds. “Rules are the prison of the mind, the shackles of the soul.”

Saul Cripkey proclaims, “I used to be a high-ranking member of a notorious street gang. But one day I attached a napalm canister to a remote-controlled helicopter then tried to fly it over my rivals, the 3-2-1 Contact Cru. The napalm detonated prematurely, burning my lower half of his body. Now I travel the world and teach philosophy. You have now just heard the bio I wrote for the back dustcover of my new book. You are Welcome.” He bows.

“Thank you,” Whun de Menshunelle winks again.

“And that was the name of my book,” Dr. Cripkey replies.

“What was?” I ask.

“And that was the book before my last book. Never mind. Who’s to say we sit in a finite dimension, on a singular planet, having this conversation? What if this is just one of many discussions in an inestimable number of distinct worlds? With each decision we make creating a fork in the timeline opening a new realm.”

“Shut up Crap-key,” Jordan shouts. “I am the champion of existentialism, for I use the word ontology three or more times in a sentence per day.”

Saul pulls out a gold plated ruby accented Magnum 44. “You got a problem?”

Jordan Rivers reveals a brick of C4 he had concealed in his murse. “Yeah I got, I mean, have a problem.”

Saul fires off a few rounds, as Jordan hides behind a small bookcase that holds Whuns trashy romance novels and college business management textbooks. Dr. Rivers clutches the C4, waiting for his chance.

Whun screams as a bullet tears through her shoulder. She quickly peels off some Scotch Tape from her desk and patches the hole. Then she camouflages herself in a pile of paper next to the printer, which is located under her desk.

The aggression stops as the walls shake from the vibrations of a gas-powered engine revving. The wall explodes, flinging dust and plaster chunks through the room. A motorcycle along with its rider skid to a stop in between the combatants.

“Hey everyone, that’s Shaikh S. Peire,” Whun screams from under the stack of papers. He wears sunglasses, a black leather coat, and a beard. He puffs on four cigarettes at the same time since it quadruples his outlaw image.

She continues, “Shaikh is the senior academic officer of this college. He started as an English student barely able to complete his work on time. One occasion his paper was due the next morning, but he suffered from intense writer’s block. So, he decided to regurgitate his thoughts onto the paper. Shaikh ingested a full can of alphabet soup, then stuck his finger down his throat. The result was a Haiku never seen by the literary world. It went on to become the new standard for poetry, as it was studied by the greatest minds of literature. It won the Nobel Prize in literature. It was also recited at the opening ceremony of the previous winter Olympics. Shaikh is the hottest academic I’ve ever seen.”

Shaikh takes off his sunglasses slowly and whips his front hair wisps behind him in a single snap of the neck. “I received my book deal by Ran-dumb House with a signing bonus of 210,000 dobra. After two months I completed my first book entitled, Crouch Rocket Art and Physics, Vol 1. The front cover is a snapshot of me jumping the Grand Canyon on my Ninja sports bike. I didn’t make it. But I was promoted to an administrative position at this college. And my book stayed number one on the Best Seller list for 67 weeks in a row. And I must always protect Dr. Jordan as much as I can.”

            Whun interrupts, “Shaikh and Jordan met years ago when they were editors for a local literary workshop and journal entitled, “The Barbiturate Bard Bar Brawl Makes Us Happy Review.” They congregated every Tuesday and discussed which piece should be publicly insulted on social media and/or set on fire. Shaikh, Jordan and the rest of the editors would take turns sending Ned’s work through the paper shredder. Sometimes they would also grab Ned’s hand and try to force it into the shredder. By the way, he was their least liked person at the workshop and likely their least liked person on this planet. One day, Ned decided to submit his newest short story for critique. The story was a frame narrative seen through the eyes of a paraplegic narcoleptic bipolar bisexual Bifrost giant who suffered from amnesia, hypertension, scabies, and crabs, as in, there were Fidler Crabs down the protagonist’s pants snapping at the nether regions. The workshop was furious and completely offended, since his story was written in the passive voice with the Helvetica Bold text font. He was taken outside by Dr. Rivers and Shaikh then beaten until he stopped moving. Then they covered him with lighter fluid and set him on fire.”

“What. That sounds like my last hot date. Get it? Hot. Date. Fire.” I look around and realize that everyone in the room is not laughing. “Well, I do kinda miss her,” I mention while my eyes scan the room, looking for a sharp object.

Whun rolls her eyes, “The court trial wasn’t too lengthy. The jury acquitted the defendants Jordan Rivers and Shaikh S. Peire based on the active euthanasia law put into effect minutes before the trial. The court labeled it as a mercy killing. The facts were that Ned didn’t have any friends. And his boss had a replacement the day before. His mom was the only person to show up at the funeral, his dad had lawn work to complete. Ned’s wife was so happy that she donated a portion of the life insurance payout to the workshop.”

Shaikh S. Peire shouts over the roar of his motorcycle at Dr. Rivers and Dr. Cripkey, “Stop fighting.” I wriggle in the chair trying to loosen the chain and ties.

“He started it,” Saul cries.

“Yeah right, Crippy Logstocking,” Jordan Rivers answers.

“My fingernails are crinkled. Get me out of here hon,” Whun exclaims.

“Jump,” Shaikh shouts. Whun de Menshunelle folds herself into a paper football and slides into his inner coat pocket. “Let’s go.” Shaikh S. Peire revs the engine and peels out, tearing the carpet and spewing exhaust as they leave.

Dr. Rivers uses the distraction, flings the C4 over the table, and detonates it where he thinks Saul might be hiding. Papers, debris, and smoke cloud the air. The room is finally quiet.

“Saul. Are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here you ignoramus.” Saul coughs, “You dirtied my new suit!”

“Excuse me. Can someone let me go, please?” I try to be polite as possible even hinting that I learned the error of my ways.

“NO!” Saul and Jordan answer in unison.

Jordan Rivers jumps out of hiding and onto the bookcase which acted as a cluster of sandbags from the barrage of bullets. The book which absorbed the most direct fire was the newest copy of the Pitts-Cyborg Writing Review, which is a literary journal that curates the latest mechanical kneejerk rhetoric which is rewritten from the script of the local six o’ clock news cast. Last issue, a copy of a printer test page won the coveted ‘Poem of the Month’ award. Jordan Rivers raises both arms, lifts his head high, and proclaims his favorite Faulkner quote:

“A man. All men. He will pass up a hundred chances to do good for one chance to meddle where meddling is not wanted. He will overlook and fail to see chances, opportunities, for riches and fame and well doing, and even sometimes for evil. But he won’t fail to see a chance to meddle.”

Saul used the distraction to reload. He jumps from behind his hiding place and squeezes off a fresh round. The bullet hits Jordan in the face and he collapses behind the bookcase. Saul’s victory dance gets interrupted as the door bursts off the hinges. Smoke fills the room, then seven to ten black military fatigued men rush into the room. They surround me with Saul standing outside the circle holding the smoking revolver. They aim their laser sights onto my clothing and forehead. One of the men holds his hand up, steps forward, and removes his helmet. He has a bushy handlebar mustache, short spiky hair on top and a long ponytail extending from the back of his head.

He looks at me then smiles, “Hello there sir. Please excuse the intrusion, but we heard quite the commotion and decided to respond.”

“Could you untie me?”

“We are from the classroom downstairs, between the cafeteria and daycare center. The course is called, Modern Warfare, Sabotage, Ballistic Training, and Asymmetrical Combatants 102. Even though we haven’t completed our certification, we are still asked to assist with police calls. Or simply make our own calls, and then respond to those calls.”

“Wow cool. What are the prerequisites for this class? Could you untie me?”

Moustache Man continues, “Ah, good choice. You must have credits in archery, shooting, bomb making, cake decorating, basic survival, and be accredited with nothing less than a third-degree green belt.”

“Sounds great, I’ll take those courses and any others that I need. Could you untie me?”

“Excuse me.” Saul steps forward and stands next to me. “I agree with my friend, since we all have an internal timeline in our DNA, which chronicles this life and it also has stored deep in the vault, so to speak, a complete record of our previous lives. I believe that quite possibly we had this very conversation perhaps on another planet at another age.”

The black clad figures applaud.

Mustache Man points to Saul’s gun “That is really cool. May I?” He holds out his open hands.

“Can someone untie me?”

“Sure. You can see this gun.” Saul Cripkey places his gold plated ruby accented Magnum 44 in Mustache Mans welcoming hands.

Mustache Man spins the gun around his pointer finger so fast that it disappears in a blur. He hands it back to Saul. “That was perfect. It made my day. Now team, let’s go.” He uses a few hand and arm signals, which look like he’s swatting flies to highlight the command to leave the room.

The team disappears, and Saul Cripkey follows still commenting on the unfair, amoral world and if Mr. Rogers was a Navy Seal or if that’s just an urban legend. Also, if urban legends exist or if urban legends are constructions of the mind to alleviate the burdens of our daily struggles in our urban life.

“Helloooo. Anyone there? Please help me.”

“Ouch.” Jordan Rivers sits up and slowly moves his neck and head. He feels around in his beard and pulls out a bullet along with several strands of hair. “Saved by the beard.” He stands and stretches his back and arms. “Phew, I hate when he does that.”

“Dr. Rivers, I’m so glad to see that you’re alive.”

“Yeah. It’s no problem. I’ve been through worse just yesterday in fact. That’s why we had to meet in this office instead of the usual one,” Dr. Rivers chuckles.

“I never knew what went on at college.”

“Now you know. You past your first test. Now I have to go teach my class.”

“Thanks so much. Could you untie me?”

            “Got to go. Nice meeting you.” Jordan Rivers walks out the splintered doorway.

Nick Romeo is a multidisciplinary artist, musician and writer.  His writings have been published in “The Brentwood Anthology, by Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange,” Peach Velvet Magazine, Panoplyzine, Rune, Degenerate Literature, Quail Bell Magazine, Basement Outpost, and others.  Nick lives in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with his wife and cat, Megatron. Poet’s Haven press has recently published his first chapbook entitled, “The Insolent Somnambulist.” 

web: www.instagram.com/nickromeoarts

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