Saturday, October 24, 2015

Short Story - Keeping Up with the Jones or An Odd Love Story

Keeping Up with the Joneses or An Odd Love Story
words: 1431

Veins bulged on Randall’s forehead and neck as blood rushed to his brain, his concentration directed at the unseen sound. Even inside his garage, he knew he would see it soon. An instant later a blue muscle car rounded the corner. The driver accelerated and the car’s engine roared. Randall’s eyes focused, willing a rock from the road to hit the car. His efforts were rewarded when he heard a soft metallic clink. Success.
Randall’s powers were mild. Unfortunately telekinesis wasn’t his strength, but his abilities provided a certain amount of satisfaction when he could dent that blue ‘68 Camaro. It wasn’t the car that evoked the disdain. It was the owner, Dennis. Randall’s ill will for Dennis was ingrained at this point. He could still just barely hear the car in the distance as he grabbed a wrench, returning to his task. Spending the morning replacing the brake calipers on his ‘67 Mustang, he was now almost done. It was another repair on a long list that stretched across decades. He had become an expert on this Mustang, but the repairs all had one root cause. Dennis. Dennis was the reason for every issue, every problem, and the expenses generated by this Mustang.
Forty years ago when Randall was much younger, he had just gotten a job as a mechanical engineer. He needed a car for the commute and wanted something with a bit of flash. His future paychecks would easily replenish the savings. A car was a long term investment, he had to pick the right one.

There he was one morning, the sun shining on that beautiful summer day, the music playing his favorite song in his parents Fairlane driving around town looking for the car.  He had driven by sales lots and through neighborhoods, thinking maybe it was sitting in a driveway. He had just driven onto a cul-de-sac that had a pretty nifty car, at least that’s what his cousin had told him. The third house on the left had a car parked in the yard. He knew he had to have it. The car had poise, attitude, and it was the most beautiful shade of blue. Randall pulled into the driveway quickly, screeching to a halt. The metal beauty caused him to leave his car door wide open, mouth agape. Circling it twice, Randall pressed his face to the driver side window. It had black leather seats and four on the floor, the perfect driver’s car. From the white racing stripes to the ralley wheels, this was it. This was the car for which he had hoped.

Randall trembled, as he raised his hand to knock on the door of the adjacent house. He briefly rehearsed what he might say. Moments after he knocked, an older gentleman opened the door, clad in a bathrobe, loosely tied at the waist..
“I’m interested in your car.” Randall said, downplaying his excitement.
“Fine piece of machinery.”, was the reply.
“How long has it been for sale?” Randall asked.
“Not long, just put the sign in her the other day.”
“Looks like it has the four-speed. Three-twenty-seven?”
“Yeah, that’s right.” The older man sniffed and cleared his throat. “Want twenty-eight hundred for it.”
Randall nodded. “What’s the lowest you’ll take, cash?”
“Cash is the only thing I’ll take. Twenty-eight hundred is the price. Don’t really want to sell it, you see. If I don’t get my price, i’ll wait until I do.”
Randall nodded and licked his lips. “What if I can get twenty-seven hundred in cash?”
“Didn’t you hear what I just said? Twenty-eight and that’s final.”
“I can have that ready by this afternoon. Will you hold it for me?” Randall asked?
“Sure, I’ll give you until the end of the day.” The gentlemen fiddled with the robe’s drawstring. “Not going to wait through tomorrow though.”

That was how it happened, but when Randall returned just after lunch with a stack of bills in his hand, the car was gone. It had been ripped from his clutches.
“Fella gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Money is money.”
“Did you tell him I was coming back? That I had the money?” Randall asked.

Randall realized the culprit just a few days later when he saw Dennis in the driver’s seat of that beautiful car. Randall didn’t really know Dennis well, they both lived in a small community and had gone to the same school, Dennis was just a couple of years old. so Randall had seen him around, but now he knew exactly what kind of person Dennis was.

Randall ended up settling on a Mustang after sweeping the surrounding counties for his car.. He needed a car for his job and he just couldn’t find a suitable option. It was a nice enough car, but the problems with it had nearly made him a mechanic in the proceeding decades. It didn’t have to be like that, if only Dennis hadn’t stolen the Camaro.

That was the day Dennis committed his sin. Randall had pledged that he wouldn’t let Dennis ever forget it. That Camaro was Randall’s. Dennis would pay.

Randall was smart in his revenge. He didn’t want to get caught. To not get caught, you had to leave no trace of a crime. When Randall wasn’t driving his Mustang back and forth to work, or repairing it, the car was parked at the library. Randall researched telepathy, telekinesis, and extra-sensory perception. He realized quickly that he didn’t have an aptitude for it, but it was his only means to avoid implication. Even after decades of work, his powers were limited. He could move small objects less than eight pounds a few feet. He could plant ideas in people’s heads, and half the time they would take.

Randall had followed Dennis over the years, though they had never exchanged more than a few words, and then just at car shows. Randall hoped that one day Dennis would sell the car, but that day had yet to come. One time at a car show, Randall asked Dennis about selling it, but Dennis just laughed and shook his head. “Can’t do that, this is my dream car.”
Randall was so infuriated that he forced Dennis into a coughing fit on the spot. Randall’s small pieces of revenge paled to what Dennis deserved, but when the postman misdelivered mail, a passing car threw a can into Dennis’s yard, or the time a tree branch broke a window, Randall had been there. Randall had been watching. Randall had willed it to happen.

Randall’s first thoughts of each day were focused on causing Dennis to sleep through his alarm or to disable the clock. He had no way of verifying which method was successful, so he alternated. Randall’s mind jumped to the typical annoyances of everyday life. The toilet paper running out, spam  mail, pop-up ads, stubbed toes, items out of stock, and even sour milk. These things Randall focused on, trying to push the world’s share of these annoyance in one direction, onto one person.
The one idea Randall had yet to implant was that Dennis should sell the Camaro. He would drive by Dennis’s house, hoping to see the car out front with a big For Sale sign on the windshield, but it had yet to happen. Every year, Randall knew his persistence would finally pay off. He just need more training.

One Saturday morning as Randall was replacing a radiator hose on his Mustang, he heard the familiar rumble. He turned to look in the direction of the sound. He focused his mental energy on that car. “Stall out.” He thought. Randall could feel his heart reverberating throughout his body, each quick beat he heard. And then, everything went black. Randall hit the floor face first, his feet crossing as he fell. A few days later, a neighbor found him on the garage floor. Few people took any notice of his obituary. It was suspected he died of an aneurism.

Randall’s powers didn’t extend to the afterlife. If they had, he might have heard someone mention to Dennis that Randall the guy with the Mustang passed away a few weeks back. Dennis would have responded, “Not a bad car, but I always found the guy kind of creepy. Always caught him staring at me during the car shows, kept pestering me about selling the Camaro. I never liked the guy. If I was vengeful I’d condemn him to a life of meaningless mediocrity just because of it, but the fact is I didn’t really know him that well.
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