“Dude, there’s this huge sword stuck in a rock behind the Seven Eleven,” said Marlon, always a little too loud.
Arthur inserted a bony finger in each ear. Everything about him was bony. His kneecaps poked through his legs, poorly designed levers that carried his torso around like mechanized bendy straws stuck into a block of cheese. Wearing a garishly colored flannel shirt and ill-fitting pants, Arthur should have fit right in amongst his recently graduated, malaise-filled peers.
However, adulthood suited him particularly poorly, awkwardly. He was a little boy clomping around in his father’s dress shoes.
He always had the same confused and constricted look as a puppy in a novelty sweater. He had none of the confidence in himself that the world expects from someone entering the real world.
“Please quiet down, Marlon. I know you’re excited, but you don’t have to be so loud all the time. It sounds like you’re going deaf,” whined Arthur. Side by side, the two friends made their way to the convenience store. Birds fluttered above them while small-town traffic grazed the streets at a sensible twenty five miles per hour. No one waved to or greeted the boys.
City folks believe in an almost mythical kind of small town kindness. Ope. Sorry. Oops. Take care!
To the people who actually lived in a little pot of boredom and apathy like Ectorville, that stereotype was an insidious lie. At least the town council just paid to have the sidewalk fixed. Now, Arthur and Marlon could walk all over without worrying about the future of their ankles.
“Man,” Arthur complained as the Seven Eleven grew closer, “I don’t even care about this sword thing. We could just walk around the park like we do every other day. Those senior citizens are going to miss us on the bike path. They love us.”
“You have to see this sword, and you have to pull it out of the stone,” said Marlon.
He believed in Arthur a little too much. “If anyone can do it, it’s you. Plus, you can get a slushee if you want,” he elaborated, invoking his friend’s almost-spiritual love of frozen, artificially-flavored beverages.
“O-kay. I’ll do it. They do have the best slushees in town.”
“They have the only slushees in town.”
Marlon and Arthur looked upwards in awe at the orange and green building looming above them, necks craning. A greasy and sugary smell leaked from the pores of the structure’s cracked bricks. It drew in teenage boys like a seductive Siren.
The mustachioed clerk peered at them from his prison cell behind the counter. He wondered if they would stay outside long enough for him to nab them for loitering. When boredom stretched his days to an unbearable twang, the cashier would convict a teenage boy of a misdemeanor just for a little fun.
“Arthur, let’s get to the back. Now, please,” begged Marlon, placing a warning hand on his friend’s shoulder. “His 911-dialing hand is starting to twitch.”
“But we were supposed to get slushees. I had a mix planned. Blue, then red, then blue,” Arthur whined. Shrugging his shoulders, the slushee-less boy made his way to the back of the decrepit building.
“Okay, what is it?” Arthur asked as he turned the corner. He spied a group of teenage boys, all jeans and novelty tee shirts, gathered in a tight circle. The yellow grass around them was home to crumbling anthills and the occasional dandelion, beautiful like sunshine, but still a weed.
“Get over here,” yelled Marlon. The circle had already absorbed Arthur’s friend readily, gaining a couple inches in circumference. Some boys, with beaky noses and sheets of greasy hair, turned expectantly to Arthur. “I told all these guys that you could pull out the sword.”
“Why? Why would you do that? I can’t do anything. I couldn’t climb the damn rope in gym class,” said Arthur, but he approached the circle, anyway. They parted, a Red Sea of pimply faces, so he could see past them to the famous rock. A rusty blade stuck out at an odd angle like a broken bone.
That’s the sword? It’s so… lame. Why couldn’t it be an AR-15 or something?
“Do it, already,” several members of the circle murmured, already impatient even though Arthur had just arrived.
“Okay, I’ll try. But I can’t make any promises. I would tell you all to expect disappointment, but uh, I’m sure we’ve all experienced our fair share of disappointment by now. Disappointment is normal. Just don’t get mad at me if I fuck up, please,” said Arthur.
The sword did not do anything swords should do. It did not gleam in the Sun, did not beckon him forth, and did not even seem to know how it ended up stuck in a rock behind the Seven Eleven.
Arthur, at least, understood the sword’s confusion. He did not know how he ended up behind the Seven Eleven either.
Boredom. Marlon. The two entities that invited the majority of chaos into Arthur’s life.
Arthur’s bespectacled eyes glanced back and forth. Heat from the Sun burned the back of his disturbingly Polish head.
The situation gave Arthur the strange feeling that some youthful and cruel cosmic entity was holding a magnifying glass over him in an attempt to burn him like a helpless ant. He approached the rock and gripped his hands around the sword’s busted hilt.
Around him, the boys stayed reverently silent.
“Ugh,” grunted Arthur. The sword came out of the rock with little fanfare or excitement, save for a disturbing sound. It sounded like a shy cannibal scraping a human liver off a silver fork. “Well, I got it.”
“Rad,” muttered the group of teenage boys, the word rippling through the crowd like someone had just tossed it in the middle of a pond. Already bored, everyone except Marlon and Arthur evacuated the backyard of the Seven Eleven.
“Cool, man. Very cool. I knew you could do it,” said Marlon.
Arthur scratched the back of his head with his free hand. The sword felt heavy, too heavy. Its dented tip dragged through the dead grass as the two boys walked back around the Seven Eleven. The clerk perked up when Arthur and Marlon appeared around the corner.
“Still want that slushee?” asked Marlon.
“Sure, dude,” said Arthur while he pushed open the dingy glass door. A bell sounded, announcing their presence.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Get that thing out of here. Or I’ll call the cops,” warned the clerk halfheartedly. His prick perked up at the thought of a violent confrontation. The idea of a sword attack excited a certain masochistic part of his brain that would view any conflict, no matter how dangerous, as a welcome reprieve from boredom.
Marlon looked at Arthur, wondering what his friend would do. The slushee machine. The sword. Arthur considered both. The slushee machine. The sword.
Arthur left. The bell sounded again, and then, Marlon heard the sound of a sword clattering onto a cracked cement sidewalk. Arthur had thrown it all away.
“You’d rather have a slushee than a sword?” Marlon asked his friend.
“What can you do with a sword in 2015? You can’t just go around slaying people any more. That’s a thing of the past,” explained Arthur. He approached the slushee machine triumphantly, the backlight illuminating his face. The lever, sticking out of the machine as inviting as a fresh erection, fit snugly in his bony hand.
Blue, then red, then blue. He paid the disappointed cashier for the drink and walked outside, into the sunlight, with his disappointed friend.
“Man, where’d the sword go?” cried Marlon, looking wide-eyed at the bare cement.
Then, he saw them. Two young boys running off, one of them dragging the sword behind his worn sneakers.
“Let’s go kill some squirrels,” yelped the boy holding his new weapon. His companion whooped in response. Several innocent squirrels died that day.
“Hey, I got a slushee,” said Arthur. He shrugged. “That’s all I wanted. It’s not like I’d ever want to fight anyone. Sometimes, I get bored, but I never get that bored, the kind of bored that leads to killing someone. How could I? The world is amazing. I can get a slushee any time I want.”
“What are you talking about? You’re not gonna kill yourself or, like, do murder? Just because slushees exist?” asked Marlon.
“No, you idiot. Because of the world and stuff.”