A Short Story Not About Asprin

Beep! Beep! Beep!

That damned alarm, the most hated of Joseph McLaughlin’s possessions, began its insistent whining at precisely 7:15 a.m. on July 5th. A fist groggily snaked out from underneath the Cindy Crawford duvet cover and hit the top of the clock. It stopped whining. After some very peculiar movements, the duvet gave birth to a thirteen-stone, bleary-eyed seventeen-year-old boy. The inhuman apparition staggered towards the bathroom. It paused when it came upon the mirror, seemingly startled by the ghastly visage reflected in the honest glass. Joseph groaned, swore, spat and returned to the place affectionately called “The Black Pit” by the rest of the family.

He visited the bathroom an hour later, reemerging looking considerably more human that the thing previously spotted. He was wearing a smart but casual luminous green shirt and bright blue denims. He looked like something from the nightmares of the Man From Del Monte’s. Citrus-coloured and smelling like soap, Joe ambled slowly downstairs for his breakfast.

Joe met up with his best friend Ross Marshall at around twelve, just outside McDonald’s. As was the custom by this time, both argued over whose turn it was to pay for the food, resolved, as ever by the tossing of a coin. As they munched on their soggy Big Mac burgers, their conversation steered towards the party that night.

“You goin’ then?”

“Aye, widnae miss it fur onythin’ in the world. Anyhow, Martine’s gonnae be there, mebbes I’ll hae a chance wi’ her this time.”

“Aye, Ross, and my bum’s jist swallied China.”

“Ah thought ye were lookin’ a bit heavier that usual, but ah wis too polite tae mention it.” At this, the two friends collapsed in fits of laughter, not even stopping when Ross began to choke on his burger.

“Ross! Ross! Are ye chokin’ or aren’t ye serious?” Ross’ laughter didn’t help stop him choking, and it took five minutes for him to calm down enough to swallow, never mind talk.

Later that day, both boys went shopping for those last-minute items that always come in handy at parties. Joe bought his usual seven or so packets of Doublemint gum and chewed on one thoughtfully while he waited for Ross outside the Chemist. When he finally appeared, Ross was bright red from a mixture of embarrassment and anger. He explained to Joe what happened: “Ah wis standin’ at the counter, by masel’, a’body else wis looking fur stuff on the shelves. The wummin behind the counter must be wan of the stupidest people alive! Ah did mah usual, Ah said ’Do you have any asprin?’ while winkin’ and pointin’ like a mad yin. Daft bint only brought me o’er a box o’ Anadin. So, ah tried again, makin’ mah winkin’ and such a bit more obvious. Still the fool didnae get it. Aboot five minutes later, wi’ a queue behind me, she finally twigs, an says at the top o’ her bloody voice, ’Oh, ai get it! You want condoms, don’t you?’ I swear tae God, every single sod in that shop turned round tae look at me. Ah didnae even stop tae get my cha— Hey! Whit’re you laughin’ at?”

Joe was virtually having a heart attack on the pavement due to the hysterical laughter shaking his body. Seeing Ross’ indignant frown only made the images in his head clearer and started him all over again. Ross calmed down and began to see the funny side of the situation. “Aye,” he said, “It’s really bloody funny. But ye wilnae be laughin’ when ah get tae use these babies on wee Martine.” He grinned, his head now full of images, none of them unpleasant. As they reached the end of the road, they parted ways, agreeing to meet each other at the party. With that, they went home to get ready.

They used the time between the “Chemist Incident” (as it came to be known) and the party to get ready, and believe it or not, they used it all. They took five hours each to seemingly change, wash and fix their hair.

Anyway, they arrived at the party together. Smiles wide, hearts light due to the fact that they had their best ’ladykiller’ clothes and hair and stuff ready. The party was about half an hour in by this time. The perfect arrival time. The early arrivals would be loosening up and the drink and music would be in full swing. Joe just hoped that Martine wasn’t ’swinging’ with anyone else; he couldn’t bear the thought of having to escort a crying Ross through the streets of Cumbernauld. Still, on the bright side, it would be the ideal opportunity to throw him in a ditch somewhere and leave him there. Joe smiled; maybe the night would have a happy ending after all.

Ross started his ‘smoothie’ routine straight away. He sidled up to Martine and flashed her his most brilliant smile. Joe slapped a hand over his eyes theatrically when he noticed the small piece of lettuce between Ross’ front teeth. Martine smiled wryly and quietly informed Ross of the vegetable patch sprouting from his upper gum. He gave a little yelp and rushed to the bathroom, leaving Joe shaking his head in good-humoured disbelief. He decided to give Ross a little helping hand, and ambled over to where Martine was standing. It is noticed, at this point, that the boys’ use of slang seems to evaporate when speaking to members of the opposite sex. This may or may not be a subconscious thing, but it has been spotted in young men from Argentina to Zambia, no one has ever figured out why…

“He’s a nice guy, by the way, Ross is. Despite the, er, organic nature of his dental hygiene. He never stops talking about you.”

“Really?” asked Martine in her smooth Dublin accent, “That’s good.” She smiled again, “I’ve known that he likes me for ages. I quite like him too, I’m just having a little fun with him, don’t worry. I won’t bite him, unless he asks me to, of course.” She laughed.

“Don’t be giving him any ideas, he’s bad enough as it is.” They both shared a knowing smile and went their separate ways. Joe was content in the knowledge that he wouldn’t be mopping up any tears tonight, and went about the process of relaxing, and of enjoying the party.

About an hour later, Joe was watching Martine and Ross dance with an amiable smile on his face. Occasionally, Ross would give him a thumbs up sign behind her back, in reply to which Joe could only grimace theatrically. There was the lightest of taps on his shoulder, and he turned around. Standing in front of him, looking shyly at the floor was possibly the most beautiful girl that Joe had ever seen.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Samantha, Sam, what’s your name?”

“Hello?” she said. Joe continued to stare at her with a goofy expression on his face.

“Are you all right?” she said. Joe snapped out of it and returned from whatever planet he’d been inhabiting for the last few moments.

“I’m sorry?” he said. She repeated her question. “Oh! Hi! I’m… I’m…”

“Joe,” piped in Ross, who’d danced slightly closer so that he could listen in.

“Yeah, that’s right,” stuttered Joe, “I’m Joe. Joe McLaughlin. Pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise, I’m sure,” smiled Sam. “So, would you like to dance?”

“He’d love to,” came Ross’ voice from somewhere behind Joe’s left shoulder. Joe shot him a glance, smiled at Sam and they both hit the dance floor.

Things were going brilliantly until around half past twelve. Joe and Sam had danced and talked all night, and he’d even succeeded in getting her number and the promise of seeing her again when the dream was cruelly shattered by Martine yelling and swearing. Joe felt that familiar sinking feeling and turned around, dreading to see what Ross had done this time. Ross was standing in the middle of the floor, a look of terrified shame on his face as Martine stood a foot away, pointing at the condom lying on the floor.

“What the hell is that for then?! Eh? What kind of slapper do you think I am?”

Ross stupidly attempted to answer. “Well… Umm… No… I… You… I just wanted to be prepared just in case anything happened,” he managed. “But I wasn’t expecting it to… Honest,” he quickly added.

“Yeah, right!” shouted Martine, who then slapped Ross smartly on the cheek and stormed upstairs, daring anyone to follow her. Joe looked apologetically at Sam. She nodded, a resigned smile upon her lips.

“Yeah, I know. You’ve got to help your friend. It’s OK. I understand. I’ll see you later. Give me a call sometime.” With that, Joe took the dumbstruck Ross by the arm and gently led him out of the door.

As they walked home, the two friends reflected upon the night’s events.

“Ye should have seen your face, Ross! Ye were like a wean caught stealin’ a sweetie!”

“Yeah,” answered Ross, sadly, “But it wis a’ goin’ so well up tae then.”

“Talk tae her the morra, explain whit happened. If she’s worth it, then she’ll gie ye another chance.”

“Aye,” interrupted Ross, a cheeky grin on his face, “And if she isnae, at least I got tae feel her ar—”

The two friends laughed their way down the darkened, but familiar, old streets. It looked like the holidays were going to be a lot of fun.

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