Beer and Death
Jesus, I could use a beer, a Lutheran minister said to himself as he walked passed a young man's casket and stepped up to his pulpit.
“The question that we will forever ask is why. Why did God let this tragedy happen? We’ll be asking why tomorrow? And we’ll be asking why twenty years from now?”
Doing sermons like this for 30 years had taken a visible toll on the old man. When he was young, he hoped his words would heal. Now he just prayed he wouldn’t deepen any wounds.
“Although it is understandable to mourn our loss,” The preacher continued, “We must remember that death is not the end, but a new beginning.”
The congregation knew this funeral was going to be intense, but no one could possibly have imagined the depth of pain they would experience. They were caught up in a universe of indescribable emotions. Tears gushed, wails were released, and nearly everyone wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere else. A woman in the front sighed as the preacher finished his remarks.
“I know it will be difficult, but we can rest soundly knowing that Chad will rise again.”
Some were comforted by these words, but Chad’s closest friends didn’t buy it.
How were they going to rest soundly when their crew fell from 12 to 11?
You can’t replace a lifelong friend.
The group Chad belonged to called themselves, “The Ghetto.” The Ghetto was a reference to a fantasy football league that the young men participated in since they were in junior high school.
Today the group of friends discovered that The Ghetto was more than just a fantasy football league. The Ghetto was a group of men that would be forever linked by occasions such as fantasy drafts, guy’s nights out, weddings, and unfortunately funerals. For as much shit as they gave each other, every one of them knew that they had 11 guys who loved them.
Throughout the span of their friendship fantasy football championships were won, girlfriends had come and gone, kegs were drunk dry, and they even spent a night in jail together. These things brought them closer, but nothing could compare to the closeness that they felt listening to the old preacher while their close friend’s casket sat a few feet in front of them.
After the funeral they were told to leave the church and meet in the narthex. The group hugged one another and took turns consoling Chad’s mother. They would usually be cracking jokes and giggling when they were together, but today was awkward.
“Post funeral conversation has to be the uncomfortable type of conversation known to man,” One of the guys said. The rest agreed and tried to hold back socially unacceptable giggles.
“Do you know what would taste really good right now?” another one of the friends asked.
Six of the young men simultaneously responded, “A beer.”
Tuesday, April 10, 2007 (Four Months Earlier)
All of Jonny Carpenter’s students were idiots. Complete morons. Buffoons.
No wonder the famous Professor Schmitz had Jonny do all the grading, lecturing, teaching and most everything else. These kids weren’t going to amount to anything anyways. Why bother exerting any effort?
You can’t cure stupid.
Jonny had just spent the last two hours grading papers on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. In other words, he was reading the same Wikipedia article slightly reworded by each of his 75 intro to physics students.
What a bore.
The Professor was probably at some gala event being praised for how brilliant he was, while his assistant Jonny sat in his lonely apartment dreaming of a more extraordinary life. Jonny continued grading and dreaming until he heard his computer make the familiar beep that signaled the arrival of a new email.
He swung his chair around so it was facing his computer. He had the professor’s email account open, as well as his own. He made a few clicks and found the new email was intended for the Professor. He had access to his superior’s account because the idiots often emailed their papers when they too “sick” to come to class.
The new email was from a man named Hugo Whitney.
What could this buffoon want? Jonny thought.
He double clicked the subject line and a life changing message took over his screen.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Dear Professor Schmitz,
I found your name on the internet while searching for information on the M Theory or as you call it in your book “The Theory of Everything.” My name is Hugo Whitney and I am an independent researcher that specializes in the ancient cultures of South America.
The reason that I am contacting you is because I have reason to believe that Aztec royalty in the 11th century had knowledge of M Theory. Before you write me off as a crazy conspiracy theorist or a prankster, please take time to examine the file that is attached to this email. The file is a series of digital photos that were taken on the inside of a cave near Lake Texacoco in Central Mexico. The final photo I’m sending you is of a widely used Aztec symbol that represents their homeland, Aztlan. Please contact me A.S.A.P either by phone or email. Your knowledge could help me to unlock a mystery I have been trying to solve for almost 30 years: Where is Aztlan?
As soon as Jonny opened the email he felt a shiver race down his spine and exit his giddy body in the form of a quite noxious burp. He assured himself that there was no way that a barbaric ancient society could have come to understand something that even modern scientists were still baffled by. But just as a matter of curiosity, Jonny scanned the file for viruses and downloaded it.
When the first digital photo popped into view, he couldn’t make any sense of it. It was simply a horizontal line carved into a flat cave wall with a tally mark above it. The second photo that popped up didn’t make much sense to the assistant physics professor either; it was a combination of the first horizontal line with a vertical line crossing over it, a cross. That photo had two tally marks over it. The next photo began to make sense to Jonny. There were three tally marks at the top of the photo and the design below was a cross with diagonal line through it.
“Amazing,” Jonny quietly said out loud. He was looking at evidence that somehow an ancient civilization understood that our world had three dimensions.
“Height, width, and depth,” Jonny whispered to himself. “I’m looking at the first three dimensional piece of art in the history of mankind.”
Jonny clicked to the next photo and it sent an even more spectacular shudder down his spine. This exceptional shudder exited on the opposite end of Jonny as the original one.
This picture had four tally marks on the top, the symbol for height width and depth, and below the symbol was a carving of two figures. The first figure was obviously sprinkling seeds; the second figure w`as harvesting crops.
“Ummmmm…. I think that means time. How the hell would they know that time was one of the dimensions, I thought that wasn’t even considered until Einstein and Gauge tried to create the first Unified theory,” Jonny said to himself.
The last picture had 11 tallies at the top. There was the symbol for the four dimensions and there was the following symbol.
Jonny felt a bead of sweat fall down his cheek and than wiped off his forehead as he said, “So I guess this Hugo guy may have a point, the Aztecs may have known about Unified and String Theory. Assuming these eleven marks represent the dimensions.”
He sat back for a moment and was overcome by the ecstasy of a powerful thought.
Numbers and figures that Jonny had learned in school were suddenly making sense. He closed his eyes and savored the joy of mathematics fornicating in his head.
The Legend of Xander and the great Ghetto controversy
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wow, that sermon pretty much sucked, the Lutheran minister thought as he stepped down from the lectern. If I had to do my life over I’d be a truck driver. It’s a lot harder to screw up being a truck driver.
The preacher hobbled down a few steps, walked into a back room, and poured himself a tall glass of sacramental wine. He didn’t want to remember the rest of the evening.
The minister wasn’t only one in the church that felt that way.
After they had given their obligatory hugs, goodbyes, and condolences, six of the members of The Ghetto packed into a van and the other five called a cab. They decided that they were going to their deceased friend Chad’s favorite pub: O’Donovan’s.
O’Donovan’s is an Irish pub. Around the perimeter there are several dark wooden tables and chairs. There are dart boards and two pool tables in the back that seldom get any use.
The group arrived at the bar in their black suits; most of their eyes were still blood shot from funeral tears. They sat down underneath the dart boards, ordered a beer, took off their jackets and ties, and relived their favorite Chad moments.
While they fondling talked about the time Chad streaked across the field during a high school football game, Erik Jaster, or as he was known in The Ghetto, Jabber, stayed completely silent as tears poured onto his beat red cheeks. His offensive lineman sized body shook. He couldn’t take any more. Jabber snuck out of the bar and continued to sob in the men’s restroom. He later called his dad to pick him up at the bar.
Joey nursed his first beer and munched on shelled peanuts, knowing that he would need to drive home that night. Everyone else ordered their second round. Xander ordered a beer for himself and two shots of Jaggermeister for everyone at the table.
Xander loved getting shit faced at the bar, almost as much as he loved helping others reach a state of blackout drunkenness with him.
In high school, Xander was the smart kid that everyone would pick on. He swung his baseball bat like a girl, was a member of the math team, and ran with an awkward hitch his friends called his girly stride.
He hated high school.
Back then his name was Alex.
After he graduated from high school he knew he needed a change, so he decided to re-brand himself. The day before college, he bought new clothes, got contact lenses, and made a trip to the county courthouse and legally changed his name from Alexander to Xander. Since this change, Xander graduated from business school in three years, landed a job as a financial analyst where his starting salary started at over a hundred grand a year, and became engaged to a beautiful girl who was a finalist on the NBC show, The Apprentice.
The transformation was complete. He was no longer Alex. He was The Xander.
Everyone took the two shots of jag except Joey. He gave one of his shots to Xander and the other to Steve. The alcohol was starting to collectively ease the group’s pain and their conversation shifted to the topic that always came up after jag shots: Time travel.
“If time travel was possible, do you think Chad could go to his own funeral?” Xander posed to the table.
“You can’t travel through time! End of story. I’m sick of arguing about this,” Dan, another member of The Ghetto said knowing full well that he was going to have to defend his position that time travel is not impossible for the next hour or two.
Dan was the only one in the Ghetto that hadn’t been part of the league since junior high. None of the other guys could remember when they met their first member of The Ghetto.
Of course, no one else met quite like Joey and Dan.
August 3, 2000 (Seven years earlier)
Throughout Joey’s life he had two regrets:
1. He never went to his senior prom (although he did go to the junior prom)
2. He got out of bed on August 3, 2000
Even today, August 3 has weird spookiness attached with it. Kind of like September 11th has a creepiness factor connected to it for most Americans. Just writing August 3 can cause one to shiver. August 3… ehhhhh, weird, huh.
Just like every morning that summer, on August 3 Joey got up early, checked himself out in the mirror, and went to speed skating practice. Joey was a world-class athlete at 17 years old. He had won the National Speedskating Championships, broke the National record in the 500 meter event, and was on his way to representing the United States in the 2002 Olympics.
Just like every Thursday that summer, he did rollers and running intervals. And just like every roller practice that summer, afterwards Joey’s feet hurt and he was exhausted.
After the workout it was time for Joey to drive home. On the way the weather was perfect. He had the stereo blasting ZZ Top and was getting a bit toasty because his tiny Chevrolet Beretta’s air conditioning didn’t work.
When he reached the juncture of Bass Lake Road and 169 a semi truck came barreling down the road. Joey was in the left lane and the semi was directly behind him. The truck swerved into the right lane and began to pass Joey.
The 18 wheeled-beast swerved into the left lane. Joey spun his steering wheel to the left, to avoid the truck. His left front tire slid into the ditch.
He cranked his steering wheel hard to the right.
He had over compensated.
Wednesday, July 19, 2000
“Out on the streets we have good and than we have those who plan on being good sometime soon,” Dan adjusted the brim of his Minnesota Vikings hat and glanced casually at the camcorder he had mounted on the seat next to him, “My goal is to make sure that no one gets hurt on their way to becoming good.”
Dan’s dream was to become a philosopher. He had already thought of the name of his book that he would write, You’re only a Two-point Conversion away from Happiness. In fact, Dan literally had a dream where he was a philosopher on Late Night with Conan O ‘Brien. He didn’t remember much from the dream, but the thing that stuck out for him was his introduction. It went something like this: “The Late Show is proud to welcome the Nobel Prize winning author and award winning director, known to the world as a cross between Lebron James and Aristotle, please put your hands together for Dan Frailich!”
Why was Dan a cross between superstar philosopher Aristotle and basketball phenomenon Lebron James? Good question.
In an attempt to answer that question Dan decided to get his dream analyzed on one of the radio shows where you tell a squeaky voiced fellow your dreams and he somehow helps you make sense of your entire existence. Amazingly for Dan, after he made his call, his life made complete sense.
Here’s what happened.
He called 1-800-4-DREAMS and was connected with The Dream Doctor’s call screener, Dan’s television was blaring in the background.
“I’m sorry I can’t hear you with all of the sirens in the background,” the call screener said.
“Oh, let me turn my TV off,” Dan replied.
Cops, a television series that follows police officers, constables, and sheriff's deputies during patrols and other police work, and one of Dan’s favorite programs was on. Dan scrambled for the remote and looked up at the TV as a Los Angeles cop restrained a drunken bare-chested redneck. He put the phone’s headset against his thigh in order to muffle his chuckling at the redneck’s nonsensical babbling.
When he put the head set back up to his ear all he heard was, “If that TV show is more important than analyzing your dream than maybe you can find meaning in that.”
The call screener hung up the phone and Dan instantly found the meaning the screener was talking about.