words by Christopher Staley | artwork by Michael Twohig | Friday, March 4th, 2005

ClueOriginally published in Verbicide issue #13

The sunburned man’s tattoo read FTW: Fuck The World. I knew that’s what it stood for because I’d met him years ago when I was in high school, and he had explained how he’d carved it in his arm with a jackknife and a bottle of India ink. There had been an iron cross, too, but he’d only managed to complete two and a half sides. Looked like it was still unfinished.

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I’d only met him that once, though I’d seen him playing hackey sack on the square a few times. He was a mega-hesher, too hessian for even my most hessian friends. If it hadn’t been for the tattoo, I never would’ve recognized him — I don’t think I ever learned his name, I just remembered Fuck The World.

Now he was showing us his recent “professional” tattoo on his back, emphasis on the “”. Had this guy ever owned a shirt? I don’t know if I’d ever seen him with a shirt on. It was creepy how pink he was. No one should be that pink. You could even see pink scalp through his thin blond hair. The back tattoo was obviously some dude, but it was pretty hard to tell who. Maybe it was supposed to be Confucius or something. He had long hair and looked Chinese.

It was Bob Marley, he told us.

Why was he so pink? Why was Erin hanging out with him? I’d liked her for godsakes. Kind of in that way that you liked all females when you were seventeen, but still. And I think she’d liked me, too.

It had been five years since I’d seen her, actually, and we’d only gotten to know each other right before I moved to Rhode Island. But the fainter and fainter the memories became, the more the past was bathed in sfumato, giving a pearly glow to what really must have been insipid years.

But I couldn’t understand why she was hanging out with this cretin. Fuck the world, okay that’s cool, fuck the world. Why did girls always go for such assholes? It’s like, great, a girl will try and turn a shit like FTW into a nice polite guy like me, and spend years doing it probably — but why won’t she look at me in the first place?

But Erin seemed psyched to see me, I guess. I wasn’t as timid as I’d been in high school. I was wearing a Pearl Jam t-shirt and my jeans were ripped now. In Rhode Island, I normally wore a pair of hoops through my ears as well, but it was weird enough coming back to Flagstaff without having to totally explain a new identity.

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I couldn’t decide whether or not to lay low like I’d planned to, or try maybe to realize that you have to play the game like I’d learned to do in Rhode Island. I was still kinda pissed that she seemed so into FTW, but when she invited us both to her house, I went along. What the hell was she doing with him?

Fuck The World said he wanted to stop at the safeway on the way and get beer, and he knew a shortcut so he led us down this concrete stairway that didn’t seem to be connected to any sort of structure and onto a dirt road. He seemed really agitated, and nothing he said really made any sense, even though ostensibly he was talking about pretty mundane stuff. Mostly he talked about following Phish, how he’d lived in Chino Valley one time.

I mentioned that I’d never used this stairway shortcut before, even thought I’d grown up in Flag, and somehow that set him off. I felt like I had insinuated that he wasn’t really from here or something. Everything he said came out so angry. When he said he’d seen over two hundred Phish shows, he said it as if we’d just told him that Phish were a bunch of talentless addicts who were just milking and bilking other drugged-out degenerates, and that only a total pussy would go see them anyway…which was probably true…

But I’d barely said a word to this guy and here he was getting on the defensive. Erin wasn’t saying much either. So we just listened to Mr. The World. The way the guy talked about these Phish shows was like some crazy vet talking about Nam. Apparently he’d done a lot of nitrous, sold tanks of it in the parking lots. He’d done a whole tank himself once. Just kept taking hit after hit after hit for hours until he blacked out.

Normally, in a situation like this, I would regain my social ease by making fun of this guy, but I was afraid that the slightest dis would throw him into a psychopathic rage. God, I couldn’t believe how retarded he was. Why had Erin invited him to her house? How could she like this guy? Couldn’t she see that he just wanted to bone her?

She didn’t want to be boned by this guy, did she? She couldn’t. She wanted to be boned by me. There was no way. But that was what we seemed to be heading towards.

FTW is talking about the kind of people he hates, i.e. everybody, and especially people who don’t just come up to him and give him lots of money or suck his dick.

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Finally I can’t resist fucking with him.

“Yeah, you know. It’s like you know, you don’t owe the world, the world owes you, man. I mean, fuck the world. You know.” I look at his tat. “Is that what that tattoo stands for? Fuck the world?”

Fuck had no recollection of having ever met me, of course, and was even more wigged by my psychic powers than I could have hoped.

“Yeah? How did you know?”

“Lucky guess.”

FTW seemed immediately extremely agitated by this. He stops talking and just kind of glances everywhere, like someone was following him.

Well, that killed the conversation. Now we’re all quiet. Go me.

We kept on walking along the path in silence. I hadn’t realized that there was a stream and a fairly large patch of woods behind the safeway.

We stopped in a clearing, where I swear to god there was a campfire pit, and looked down at the pale ass of the strip mall. We sat down on a ring of boulders. FTW wanted me to get beer. He didn’t carry ID and there had been some problem with the security last time.

I could only imagine.

Now he was shoveling nickels and dimes into my palm, telling me to get a 40 of Bud Light, you might need to cover a bit…

I scrambled up the hill to a restraining wall and hopped down onto the pavement next to the loading bay. I only had forty-five cents on me so I hoped Fuck was close.

…well, I had to use the pennies, but I didn’t even have to cut into my own funds — even made a spiffy seven cents in the bargain.

When I got back to the clearing, FTW was standing on the rock with Erin about three inches away from her, looking her straight in the eye. He was talking more quietly so I couldn’t hear what he was saying.

I walked up to them and handed FTW his beer. He just glared at me. I couldn’t believe she wanted to fuck this guy.

“I didn’t think you were coming back,” he stared at me.

What, was the Bud Light supposed to be a bribe? Did Erin want me to leave, too? Did she really want to be with this barbarian?

FTW obviously didn’t want his Bud Light, so I cracked it. Bud Light is really gross. I would rather drink Steel Reserve than BL. At least the 211 has alcohol.

I offered Erin a sip.

She took the bottle and pretended to drink, and we headed off towards her house. It was a long walk — well, like a mile and a half — and FTW kept going on and on with one crazy story after another. Nothing he said made any sense. He told us that he hadn’t sat down in over a year. That’s why he was stressed out and we’d better not fuck with him.

“You know how when your water’s off?” he wanted to know.

“I lived in a place without electricity for a month after I didn’t pay the bill for forever,” I said.

“No, I mean when your water’s off. Like your water. It’s off. You know?”

But I didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue what the fuck he was talking about.

I take a swig of BL and am almost certain that FTW was going to perpetrate physical violence upon me. But he sets his jaw and makes a strange horse-like noise through his nostrils and turns away.

The two of them managed to figure out a route that almost entirely consisted of hacking through the forest, and ducking down alleyways past Doberman pincers chasing us invisible behind fences.

We were tired when we got to Erin’s house, and I felt a little awkward. She got us lemonade, and it occurred to me that I’d never really been invited over. But Erin seemed glad to have me here. She and I had talked a little on the last leg, once FTW had gotten tired. I hated how cocks like him could get all the attention by default just being threatening and never shutting up.

Once we finished our lemonade, Erin asked us if we wanted to play Clue. It seemed weird. What had I been expecting — a psychedelic weed house? Suddenly, I felt older and younger at the same time. Feeling older and acting younger, sophomoric. I’d seen wedding announcements for classmates of mine. What had I been thinking — Erin wasn’t a cute, freckled hippie girl. She was a woman who worked at the bank. She had fixed us lemonade and now we were going to play Clue.

But why was she still friends with FTW, who didn’t even know how to play Clue? Erin tried to explain the concept, until he nodded in assent. I don’t think he really got it, but at least he could participate while Erin and I played.

Well, not quite. It seemed that not only had Fuck never played Clue before, he had never played any game in which one rolled dice and moved the number of spaces indicated on the dice. This concept seemed alien to him, hostile and confusing.

He was content, when it was our turn, to ramble nonsensically. We moved for him for a couple of turns under the guise of “showing him how it’s done,” but when his roll landed him in the Study, he was going to have to be explained how to make a guess as to the culprit and weapon. He really had no idea how to even begin figuring out who dunnit, nor did he probably even care.

He had been sullen until yet, but now that he was forced to have to make a guess, FTW gave up in disgust and quit the game. He seemed happy enough not to play but seemed disgruntled that Erin and I continued on.

Things were going okay enough, with the two of us finishing the game by ourselves, when I licked my lips. I fished in my pocket for my chapstick, and placed Professor Plum in the Study. “It was Miss Scarlet…”

“Chapstick faggot.”

I put the pawn down, and Erin looked at FTW. “What did you say?”

“His foot touched mine,” The World explained. “You ever have that feeling where you wanna kill somebody, but you know you can’t so you don’t kill them?”

“Please leave my house.” Erin was assertive; I was a wuss.

“I have to leave?”

“Yes. Now. You can’t threaten my friends. My brother weighs two hundred and thirty pounds and he’s going to be back any minute.”

FTW got up and walked out. On his way through the door, he turned and flipped Erin the double bird.

Scarlet had done it with the candlestick and the fact that Erin had the Study meant that it was the Conservatory. The game was finished quickly and quietly. I guess trying to kiss her would be asinine now. Why did people like FTW have to exist?

And anyway, Erin’s big brother was coming home soon and anyone who served Clue and Lemonade probably wasn’t my type anyway, me being punk as fuck these days and all. I bid Erin farewell.

I still couldn’t believe she’d sunk so low as to associate with hessians like Fuck though. “Where did you know that guy from anyway? He was kind of creepy. Did he go to high school with us, or was he…?”

“What!? Wait a minute. I thought he was a friend of yours. I was wondering what you… He’d just asked me for a cigarette, and you came up to us and I thought you… You mean this is the first time you met him, too?”

She didn’t have a big brother, either.

Christopher Staley is a peripatetic soul, a lone wolf, coursing the continents for kind-minded curious souls. These are few and far between. He likes math and was able to come up with a clever solution to a friend’s problem as to why the squares of all numbers not divisible by either two or three are one greater than a multiple of 12. Yes, he has spent much time in the bush with many ghosts, and the sea and madness both often call. HOWEVER, Chris has emerged scathed only mentally (mostly) with the fruits of his labors, a charming little book he calls Button on the Nose, which he hopes to have published shortly. He has lived in Providence, Tucson, Portland, Chicago, Brooklyn, Orlando, Seattle, Phoenix, and, currently, Tacoma.

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