I submitted the following entry to the Pittsburgh City Paper’s Valentine’s Day Fan-Fiction contest: stories about Pittsburgh celebrities, five-hundred words maximum, PG-13. Turning in a dour tale about an obscure TV personality who (spoiler alert) never actually appears may explain why I lost, but at the time, I felt like writing such a tale; literary geniuses must follow their muses, no matter how unamusing.
I’ve slightly revised my entry for its appearance here, but I still hit exactly five-hundred words.
One day in early 2019, I got a text from my pal Shawn, the first time he’d contacted me since we’d graduated high school twelve years earlier:
remember stiffy the dead clown? he has a new band called thunderblood. theyll make their world debut tomorrow 8pm at lesters. wanna go?
Shawn and I used to spend Saturday nights alone in his basement, watching It’s Alive, a Pittsburgh cable show. They’d play some old horror movie, hosted by a black-suited zombie named Professor Emcee Square. But we preferred his sidekick: Stiffy the Dead Clown, a loser with a chalky-white face, a round black nose, and black makeup lining his eyes and mouth—a loser who usually didn’t wear a clown outfit, just cargo pants and a rock T-shirt. Seeing the Professor abuse him each week made us feel better about our status as teenage losers in that boring-ass town, Monroeville.
So of course I went to Lester’s Bar, on Polish Hill. I hadn’t been to that bar since graduating. It looked the same, all stucco and smeary paintings of generic European streets.
Shawn had already arrived. With his flannel shirt, denim jacket, and long scraggly hair, he looked the same, too, only much thinner. And with fewer teeth.
“Hey,” he said, fistbumping me.
I sat down at his table.
“So what have you done lately?” he asked.
“I work at the airport as a TSA agent.”
“Really? You give strip searches to any hot babes?”
“All the time. But it’s for free now, since I’m working without pay due to the government shutdown.”
“Well, if you need money, you could always suck dick. Turn a hobby into a career.”
“Ha ha. What have you done lately, besides meth?”
“I don’t do meth.”
“How’d you lose all those teeth then?”
“I got into a fight. You should have seen the other guy.”
“Uh-huh. What else have you done lately?”
The concert, scheduled for eight, began at 8:50. The opening act, Swedge, sucked, but at least they played for only twenty minutes. Then nothing. Not a sign of Thunderblood anywhere.
10:00 passed. Then 10:30. 11. I kept drinking ginger ale. Shawn kept drinking whiskey, with me buying. I wanted to impress him for some reason. Due to the shutdown, I’d depleted most of my bank account and worried that—
“Hey, remember when Stiffy farted and made a giant mushroom cloud?” Shawn asked.
“Hee-larious! Better than Shakespeare!”
“Yeah. I don’t think the band’s gonna show.”
“Just a little while longer.”
“I have to get up early for work tomorrow.”
“Why? They’re not payin’ you.”
“I know, but I need to protect our country.”
“Screw our country. I hope the Chinese take over. Free General Tso’s for everyone!”
I got up and left. I never saw Shawn again, nor did I ever find out if Stiffy’s band had played. That was four decades ago, but it seems like four centuries.
I still love America. We all have our quirks, I guess.
Copyright © 2019 by David V. Matthews
further revised February 14, 2019