It’s the second half of the Ray Bradbury Challenge of writing a short story each week for a year.
A video game tester
Must cooperate with someone he hates
There were a million other places Wyatt wanted to be on a Friday night.
Ok, not true. There was only one place he wanted to be: back in his dorm room, firing up the beta test version of the latest Legends for PS4.
But when the dorm’s head resident made the schedule, there was no arguing nor rescheduling. He had to spend the next four hours babysitting the smoker outside the dorm.
Paul and George, his suitemates, were packing up their things to leave.
“Hey, I’ve never smoked a brisket before.” Wyatt dropped a book on one of the folding chairs.
Paul pointed to the side of the smoker. “There’s an instruction sheet with everything you need to do, and what time to do ti.”
“A gift from the Committees of Family Weekends Past.” George pulled his backpack onto his shoulders. “Where is Shawn? Isn’t he coming to help?”
“He is in charge of getting the tables and chairs for tomorrow, so I get to sit out here with Trey.” The last person in the dorm Wyatt wanted to spend four hours alone with, but then again, he couldn’t think of anyone in the dorm who would want to be paired with Trey.”
Paul and George looked at each other. “Good luck with that,” Paul said.
“Luck? Why would I need luck? It’s all laid out,” Wyatt said, pointing to the instructions.
George adjusted his backpack straps. “Good luck seeing your partner. The floor started a pool. I’ve got Trey showing up at 3:15 am.”
“My books are much better company than Harrison Truman Walker the Third.” Even the brisket was better company than the guy who lived across the hall from Wyatt. The brisket didn’t make snide comments about the time Wyatt spent playing video games. The brisket most assuredly did not brag about a trust fund or a future Wall Street career.
It was about 2:45 am when Trey showed up. Wyatt wondered who won the pool.
“Yo! Ringo! How’s things?” Trey’s words slurred a bit. His clothes were disheveled, and he was drinking something out of a Taco Cabana styrofoam cup. From the smell, Wyatt guessed the last margarita of the night.
“It’s Wyatt.” The dude never got his name right sober. Wyatt wasn’t sure why he was bothering to correct him.
Trey winked. “Right, Ringo, the secret identity. But I just saw Paul and George, so your cover is blown.”
“Fine, Harrison, call me Ringo. You get the next baste, it’s at 3 o’clock.”
“Sorry, hands are full.” Trey waved with the cup, “I would’ve brought you one, but this girl was cleaning out the machine while we were getting tacos after The Proudest Monkey closed.”
Wyatt waved back with his water bottle. “I’m good.” He shut his book and stood up, moving back from Trey and his tequila-lime aroma.
“Well, legally she wasn’t allowed to sell me this one. I didn’t want to draw you into the criminal life.”
“I appreciate the thought.”
Trey walked around the smoker. “So, we just babysit this? “
“There are instructions. Like I said, we have to baste soon.”
Shouldn’t take two of us.” Trey tilted his cup and drained it. “ You look like you got this.”
“Wait a minute. You were supposed to be here at midnight. If anyone is leaving early, it’s me. I’ve done my time.”
“Aw, Ringo, did you not have a long enough extension cord for your toy?” Trey laughed.
“It’s not a toy, it’s a gaming system, first off. And second, at least I have a job.”
Trey shook his head. “Playing games is a job now?” He bent down and opened the cooler next to the smoker. “Damn, not even a beer?”
“The committee can’t buy beer, there are freshmen around.”
Trey held up a Coke. “Who drinks all this sugar crap anymore?”
Wyatt went back to the chair and picked up the book. He turned back to face Trey. “So, you’ll stay?”
“ Nah, you got this, bro “
“You’ve got your comic book; that should keep you busy.” He walked over to the smoker, picked up the laminated instruction list, then dropped it “You wouldn’t understand this, but I met this girl and if I hurry, I can get to her apartment before she sobers up.”
This guy was disgusting. “You were assigned the shift, just like me. It’s not fair.”
Trey snickered. “Life’s not fair. Build a bridge and get over it.”
Wyatt took a deep breath and clenched his fists. “Okay, this is how it’s going to go. You are going to sit here with the smoker. I am going to stay, if only to make sure you don’t leave.” He sat back down. “Think of it this way. I am saving you from a date-rape accusation.”
“Dude, girls don’t complain about guys like me.”
“Guys like you?”
“Get real, Ringo. I’m a finance major. I come from money and I am going to have money. I have already interned twice on Wall Street. I have a permanent job offer from Burmans.” Trey numbered each of these with his fingers. “What will you have? A pile of comic books, some video games, and job where you ask if I want room for my coffee. Like every other English major.”
“They are graphic novels.”
“Not comic books. They are graphic novels. I have a class…”
“And one day, you’ll be standing on the corner, waiting for your bus, and I will drive by in my Porsche. If I’m lucky, and I always am, there will be a big muddy puddle that I can drive through and ruin your little book.” Trey tossed his cup under the smoker, in the grass. “I’m done here. Leave, stay; you are your own person, dude.”
Wyatt followed George and Paul down the hall where their suite was. They moved to the side to let some sweaty freshmen walk by carrying boxes.
Trey walked into the hall, “Oh, hey! Paul, George, Ringo? Where’s John?” He snickered at his own joke.
“Shawn is parking the car,” George said, rushing past Trey.
“Man, I wish I knew you’d be back in time. I already hired the team to move my stuff. Maybe when we move back in this fall?”
“Sure, Trey, whatever you say,” Paul said.
“Now, let’s not leave Trey on a bad note,” Wyatt said. “After all, I did get him a gift while we were out.” He handed Trey a small wrapped box.
Trey took the box and slowly unwrapped it. “A matchbox car?”
“Look closer, it’s a Porsche.” Wyatt smiled at Paul.
Paul handed Trey a small shopping bag. “This goes with it.”
Trey reached into the bag and pulled out a Gamer Magazine. “What’s…”
He didn’t finish the sentence, he was staring at Wyatt’s photo on the cover, “The Million Dollar Writer who Created Legends.”
“Oh, and I do have a bit of sad news for you,’ Wyatt said. “My dad? He works at Burman’s, that place you interned last summer?”
Trey’s face paled.
“Yeah, you know the place. They all thought you were an asshole. So when you work your “internship” this summer,” Wyatt made air quotes, “remember to ask if they need room for cream.”