***SECOND PLACE WINNER MUTANT 750 #38***
Johnny stared at the portrait of the CN Tower that hung over the couch in his living room. He’d picked it out from the thrift store due to the contrast of the tower against the backdrop of a night sky which he rather enjoyed. It was the only thing that could keep his mind off of Andrew who’d been tapping his shoulder for a few hours straight.
“How can you pretend I’m not here when I am pretending that I am? We can’t both play this game,” Andrew said. He thought he might try picking Johnny’s nose if tapping his shoulder didn’t work. He spotted a few stalactites ripe for the picking.
Johnny threw up his arms, scaring Andrew but hitting nothing, “Go away, Andrew. You can’t keep showing up all of the time. Jesus Christ! I’m thirty-two years old. I should have been done with you years ago.”
Andrew balled up into the fetal position on the floor, “You know that hurts my feelings.”
Johnny paced around the room, “Are you even listening to yourself? It’s been non-stop since I was eleven years old. First, no one shows up to my birthday party…here comes Andrew. Then, I’m eighteen and my prom date switches plans on me while I’m at the restaurant …here comes Andrew. Now, I am suffering through my second broken engagement in as many years. What happens then, Andrew?”
Andrew scratches his ear with his back right leg, “But, you looked so lonely. Did you expect me to just leave you here all by yourself?”
Johnny slapped himself on the forehead. The image of Andrew flickered. When he reappeared, he was sprawled out on the couch.
“That wasn’t nice,” he said.
“You were doing that weird cat thing again. I hate the weird cat thing.”
Andrew flickered and reappeared in a white blazer and tight black pants with a black striped shirt underneath, “Okay, I don’t have to do the weird cat thing, but you either need the warm embrace of a sweet feline or I can be your wingman for a night out. You, sir, need to get back on the dating horse.”
Johnny reached into his pocket and pulled out a medicine bottle. His prescription had been running low for weeks. He never thought he’d actually run out on the day his fiancé—now ex-fiancé—would leave him. Grabbing his cellphone off the coffee table, he said, “I—I—needed a friend. That’s when you appeared.”
“I was more than a friend, Johnny. I was your Mom when she didn’t have time for you. I was your Dad when he ran away. I was your brother when he died in infancy. Most importantly, I was your friend when no one else was there.” Andrew flickered and reappeared behind Johnny. He whispered in his ear, “Put down the cellphone, Johnny. What’s the harm in letting me stick around for a few more days?”
Johnny studied his phone. Beth had not texted him all day. It was trivial but receiving hundreds of texts a day was a staple of their relationship. The feeling made his heart grow cold with longing.
He had made a point to not pick up his phone at all, but filling his prescription simply couldn’t wait any longer. Andrew needed to leave.
“You kept me from grieving, Andrew. I just wanted to feel my pain or to at least work through it, but I created you instead. Did you know that Beth caught me talking to you one night? I’m guessing no. I bet you didn’t know that my Dad walked out because he couldn’t deal with my condition. Mom picked up more hours at work so she wouldn’t have to see me and Davie died because I was too busy talking to you to notice that I was holding him under the bath water. You didn’t just replace all of those events. You caused them.”
Johnny hit speed-dial number two and waited for the answering machine to beep, “Yes, this is John Friendly. I need a refill on Clozaril. If you could call me back as soon as possible, I’ll be there to come get it.”
Andrew pointed at the clock on the wall, “So, it looks like we have a few hours together.”
Johnny took a deep breath, “I suppose it does.”
Andrew slowly moved his finger to point at the coffee table. In place of Johnny’s cellphone was a sharp pair of scissors, “You down for arts and crafts?”
Thomas William Shaw is an author and stage actor from Birmingham, AL. He lives with his wife, Lauren, their children, and their cats in a quiet place. Occasionally he will post about it.