Just One Starfish

by Grasshopper

Sunrise Gold
Brian
Chapter 8

Thursday night, Brian sat with his feet propped up on the work console, eating Doritos and watching Chester play Final Fantasy XII on his PS2. Nothing took the place of his beloved X-Files, but Chester did love to travel to Ivalice and fight the Archadian Empire. He would talk strategy for Vaan, the orphan kid who wanted to be a sky pirate until Brian told him to put a sock in it. "C'mon and play," Chester begged.

"You always want me to be the girl," Brian sighed.

"Well, Ashe is uber cool. I thought maybe with you being ....................." and there the conversation would stop due to the pillow in Chester's face.

"I need to talk to you, Ches. Stop for a minute, please."

Chester heard the tone in Brian's voice and pushed the pause button. "Okay, bud, I'm all yours."

Brian had his friend's attention, and suddenly didn't know where to go with it. "I need some advice."

"Lay it all out for me, buckaroo."

"Well, there's this guy.................."

"Ah, okay, not exactly my area of expertise, but I'll do my best."

"I want to see this guy again. I think about him all the time," Brian blushed. "I just want to see him and be around him a little and maybe all this will go away."

"He's gay?"

"No, at least I don't think so. He's cool and there's this pretty blonde girl."

"So, what's the deal?"

"There was just this feeling I got when I was with him."

"Hold on, you were with him, but you don't know if he's gay. I thought you guys had radar or something."

"Mine's not worth crap, I guess. Anyway, if I just knew one way or the other, I could get past all this."

"This wouldn't be the guy that keep saving you from sure and certain death, would it?"

Brian rubbed his hands over his face and groaned.

"Jesus, Bri. You've just got a crush on your superhero. Just be careful and he won't have to save you anymore. Wait, you aren't planning on staging another attack in the dark, are you?"

"No, damn Ches, I'm not a lurking scruzz. I just want to, I don't know, talk to him maybe."

"So, I know you've got something going on in that little mini-mind of yours. Spill it, as long as doesn't involve me doing bizarre things."

"Okay, well here's the thing. Alan and I looked him up in the school roster and," Brian saw Chester roll his eyes, "And, his birthday is tomorrow, October 24th."

"And you're gonna jump naked out of a big cake?"

"Okay, never mind."

Chester shook his head, "Sorry, Bri, I'm just kinda feelin' freaky counseling you on how to get at another guy; seems like, with us being guys, we should be able to figure this stuff out easy. Tell me your idea."

"I was gonna get a nice birthday card and send it to him. If he wants, he can answer it. I'd like to be his friend, if that's what there is."

Chester thought for a minute. "Can't go wrong with that, I guess. Make it a real jock card, you know, fish and deer heads and all that crap. No flowers. Oh, and no little hearts for periods on your i's." He didn't have time to react before the bag of Doritos hit him full up the side of the head.

Brian made up his mind. A card. A card couldn't hurt. All Gabriel could do was think it was stupid and throw it away. He tugged on his sneakers and a flannel shirt. The days were getting cooler now. "Okay, I'm going out for a while," he said to the room in general.

"Remember, Chester grinned, "A manly man card, like with trucks and beer cans on it."

Brian slammed the door. Walking along toward the bookstore, he ran words through his head. It had to be friendly, but not too friendly. Sweet, but not too sweet. Interesting, but totally not interested. Jesus! This was a crap idea.

He bought five different cards. One had a big fish jumping on the front. One had a deer head. One had lots of balls, foot, basket and base. One had a big wheel mud jumper truck. The last one showed a desert, a cactus and a trail winding up into the mountains. Brian had no idea which one Gabriel would like best.

He took the cards into Alan's room and flopped on the bottom bunk, "Help!"

Alan had already heard the plan and approved it. How could it hurt? He'd met Gabriel and the guy wasn't a jerk. He'd let Brian down easy. "What you need? Oh, you got a card?"

"I got five!! Now, I need to pick one."

"Brian, why do you make everything so difficult?"

"Just my carefree happy go lucky nature, I guess."

"Let's see what you got."

Alan tossed one after another on the floor. "Ugh, I hate fish. He doesn't have a big truck. Haha, the balls, that's kinda obvious. Jesus, who can kill a deer? I like this one. If he's in GeoSci, he's a hiker, he'll like this one. My vote goes with the cactus."

Brian didn't fish. He didn't hunt. He didn't drive a big truck and he hadn't played ball in high school, so the only one that said anything about him at all was the desert one cause it's where Brian had decided to go to school. "Okay, it's the desert one. Thanks, Alan."

"Do we get to read what you write?" Chester yelled from the other room.

"I don't think so, well, maybe, probably, yeah .... I think I'll write it out first and not mess up the card." He crawled up into his top bunk with a pen and a legal pad.

Okay, he had the card. All he had to do was write something. Anything would do. No, that wasn't right. It had to be perfect. Not too much, not too little.

He clicked the button on the pen:

Hi Gabriel~ (good)

I saw your birthday in the student roster. (Ugh, perv much?) I hear it's your birthday. (Where would I hear that?) Wheee, It's your birthday today!! (And could I just sound really gay !!) Happy Birthday ! Thank you again for saving me (Jesus, I sound like a girl) helping me. I'm indebted forever. (Yeah, that's won't make him run) My mailbox is Larson Hall 411 if you ever want to see me (pathetic much) I'd really like to talk to you again if you want. (God, I'm such an ass) It would be great to see you again when you're not being SuperGabriel. (Fuck this) See Ya !

Your Friend, (asking too much)
Sincerely, (Crapola)
Fondly ( yeah, right)
Brian

He climbed down the ladder and shoved the card at Chester. Chester opened it and stared at the neat printing, then looked up at Brian. "This is what you've been up there doing for over an hour? This?" He opened the card again and read:

Hi Gabriel ~
Happy Birthday ! Thank you again for helping me. My mailbox is Larson Hall 411. See Ya !
Brian

"Well, I didn't want to look pathetic," Brian mumbled pathetically. "Okay, this is the plan. We'll walk over to the GeoSci building tonight. I'll wait on the corner and you'll stick the card in the mailslot."

Chester wrinkled his nose. "This sounds like a really lame episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Aunt Bee catches Opie making a valentine to his little girlfriend. I always thought gay guys were uber cool. Hey, Alan, if I've gotta do this, you've gotta come with me. What if he walks up just as I'm mailing it? I'll look like a total tool !! You owe me an all nighter on Final Fantasy and you've gotta be Ashe and Penelo the whole time."

Enduring Chester and Alan's teasing, glaring at the sunglasses and ski caps Alan suggested they wear; Brian stuck the card in the envelope and wrote Gabriel Parelli and, under his name, BioSci #714 across the front. "Are we ready for our mission?" Chester said in an urgent voice.

They crossed the campus in the darkness, shoving and pushing, laughing about how totally ridiculous this was, and how being gay wasn't any different from being straight when it came to the first steps of trying to get somebody to notice you.

Chester was with Annie now and Alan had had several dates with Laina. It was way past time for Brian to have fun with someone. Brian was feeling crankier than shit having to spend so many nights on the floor in Jeff's or Charlie's rooms.

"There's the GeoSci building. Where are the mailboxes?" Alan whispered.

"Why are you whispering?"

He laughed, "I don't know. I feel like we're in a spy movie or somethin'."

Brian handed Chester the card. "Box 714. Make sure you see that box number, then mail it. Don't mess up!"

Chester pulled his jacket over his head and ran toward the building, zigzagging from tree to shrub. Alan snorted with laughter.

"I'm so gonna kill him if he messes up," Brian fretted. They watched Chester open the door and walk toward the wall of mailboxes. He located #714, turned back to look out into the darkness at Brian, point at the box and wave the card in the air.

"Mail it, you idiot," Brian growled. He watched his tall friend slip the card into the small slot beside the boxes and look to the right and then to the left. Coming back out the glass door, Chester did the Rocky Balboa bounce of victory and he and Alan both started the Rocky chant as he ran back across the yard. "Da Da Da .... Da Da Da ..." and he grabbed Brian by the arms and swung him around.

"The job's done and the bitch is dead!"

"What?"

"It's Farley ....... Chester Farley."

"Oh, okay, well c'mon, 00-4. I'm gonna go to sleep now and forget I sent that. I'm gonna be cool and not even think about it anymore."

Alan and Chester looked at each other and rolled their eyes, "Uh Huh," they both said. "You are so gonna freak now,"

Brian had that feeling you have when you've done something, that to you is monumental, but to the other person may be nothing. He pictured Gabriel pulling out his key, opening his mailbox, taking the mail from the box and thumbing through. He'd smile at the mushy card from his mom and dad, laugh cause his brother or sister sent him a silly one, pocket the money stuffed in one from his grandmom, and then turn the one over and over in his hand that was just addressed Gabriel Parelli and his box number. Brian couldn't get past that part because he didn't want to picture Gabriel's face as he opened it and couldn't remember who 'Brian ' was. He'd probably shove it in with the others and toss them on the seat of the Jeep by the dog's feet.

When he got home, wherever that was, maybe with that pretty blonde girl, Sam, he'd show her the cards and she'd remind him that Brian was that stupid kid who kept getting in trouble all the time. 'Oh,' he'd say. Just 'Oh', and throw it in the trash.

Brian lay in his bunk staring at the ceiling. He'd taped the poster Steve and Whit sent him on the ceiling above his face of Mark Twain, droopy moustache and wise old eyes. He read the quotes on the poster even though he had them memorized:

• Never miss a good chance to shut up.
• If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
• Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
• Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad experience.
• There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

He'd dug a big hole. He just hoped he wasn't peeing on himself.

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