I was a good teacher you know. Once. Back in the day. Back when teaching meant something, when there was respect for teachers. Not like today. I wouldn’t want to be a teacher these days. Too much interactive gadgetry for my tastes. And the paperwork. Christ on a cracker, the paperwork is demoralising as hell. I was head teacher here you know, for a while, until that accident at the hotel. I guess I should have seen it coming but…well, I was too wrapped up reliving our adventures, I never stopped to think of the consequences.
You know how it is, don’t you Jester?
You don’t mind me calling you that do you?
I’d apologise if I thought you’d accept it. Actually why should I? I didn’t ask you to come back here but here you are nonetheless. After what you did I never expected you to show up like this. Bet you never expected to find me here either. Not like this anyway. You keep moving like that and it’ll come off. No. Just sit there and listen to what I have to say, do what your best mate tells you and you’ll be… I was going to say ‘just fine’ but we’ll have to wait and see. I guess from your point of view that doesn’t seem very fair, but hey, life throws the punches and if you don’t try to dodge them you go down without a fight.
Do you still smoke, Jester? I quit when my daughter was born. The very day she came out kicking and screaming in fact. I still keep a pack with me though. Suppose you think that’s a bit nutty don’t you? No? It’s about choice you see. If I keep that pack of smokes in my pocket I can choose not to spark one up. But not having them with me means I don’t have a choice and that makes me sad. I’m sad a lot these days.
Hey Jester, remember when we used to sneak out of History class with Rebecca Freshwater and hide behind the gym for a relaxing smoke? Old man Withers was half blind. He never even noticed we weren’t there! Those were the good old days. You had a thing going with Rebecca, remember? Didn’t she spread that rumour about you? The one about your problem? Oh don’t get upset about it now, Jester. That’s all ancient history and besides you weren’t the first guy that’s happened to. Probably shouldn’t have been so shit faced drunk at the time. Drink and the badoinka-doink don’t exactly go together.
You keep struggling like that and we’re going to fall out. Like that time when you dared me to jump out of the window of the bus on that school trip to the castle. Remember that one? Sure was funny. I couldn’t stop laughing even when I pissed my shorts. My mother wasn’t too happy though. I was in hospital for a week. My knees still hurt a bit when it’s cold.
The cane looked cool though, right?
Like Charlie Chaplin you said.
I didn’t blame you, Jester. It was my choice to jump. You were right, it did get some good laughs. Best trick of the year so everyone said. Even better than the time you talked Maria Hughes into eating that glue in Art class. Who’d have thought glue could do that sort of damage? What are you crying for? She was okay in the end. She didn’t have to eat it. Didn’t help that she had Asperger’s I guess. Didn’t call it that back then though. What was it? Oh yes, we called her Mental Maria. Poor lass. I heard she started working as a translator for the deaf when she left school. Worked out well really, what with her not being able to talk after the glue thing.
You should be proud of what you did to help her.
Want that smoke now? I can make a hole if you like? There you go. You know it makes sense. Might be the last time. Hey, I said might. Christ on a cracker, you are tense. Just grip it a little. There you go. Tastes good, right? Smooth? I’ll just leave it there. Just grunt or twitch or something when you’re done and I’ll stub that bad boy out for you. Don’t want you burning yourself, do we?
Oh man, hey Jester, remember that time we set the gym on fire? That was the hoot of the year. I still can’t believe you actually made a petrol bomb. Can you believe Greg Spencer ran off like that? Can’t say I blame him. How were we supposed to know Chrissy Jeavons was still in the changing rooms? I believed you when you said the screaming sound was just the gym mats burning. Watch out or you’ll be dropping your smoke with that blubbering. Don’t be so upset, Jester. Chrissy was okay in the end. Everyone thought she was cool when she got her first set of false eyeballs. She had rich parents. They bought her all sorts of cool stuff to help with her mobility, electric wheelchairs and stuff. Hell, she even had one of those Stephen Hawking talking computer gizmo’s.
You about finished with that? Here. I’ll stamp that shit out for you. Feel better? Sure you do. Nothing beats a good smoke when you’re stressed, right Jester? Sometimes I wonder what a good smoke would feel like, but it’s been too long, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it now. It would be like stripping down to go skinny dipping only to find you can’t swim.
Speaking of stripping, you remember that time when you talked Wendy Amos to strip naked in your back garden? That was fuck-a-doodle funny! When was that? Just after the midsummer ball? Sure it was, we’d come back from that big party, the whole gang was there. Man, we were out of our skulls. I could barely stand but she just kept singing and running around the garden. Strange how she didn’t find it funny when you posted that video of her on YouTube. Too bad she went psycho and ended up in the loony bin. Did you know she was primed to work on Wall Street? It’s true. She was a real brainiac.
Jester, all this crying is getting me down, man.
They were good times, you said so yourself.
I guess you’re right. Good times don’t last forever. We stuck together through thick and thin, you and I. But I never dobbed you in, not once. That time when we got arrested for stealing those bottles of Gin in high school. We kept our stories straight and blamed it on Jessica Timms. Good job you planted the booze in her bag when we got back from the store or we’d never have gotten away with it. Christ on a cracker, she turned into a real bitch after that. Her parents split up. Her father couldn’t cope with his daughter’s wild ways and ran off with a woman from the insurance place in town. What a bitch. I heard Jessica ended up in prison after stealing money from pensioners to pay for her drug problem.
Funny how life deals some people a losing hand, don’t you think Jester? Not for us though. We were winners. I got to travel the world with my wife and became head teacher at our old school. Nothing compared to you though, man. You did the lot. Fortune and success and every pleasure at your beck and call. I’d see you on TV sometimes, the red carpet treatment at some movie première or at the Oscars. That must have been the scariest moment ever. Not that anyone could tell. You were grinning like the luckiest guy on the planet.
I saw it though. That single blink. The one you used to do after we’d caused some major chaos but before we were caught. Just for a moment you’d be scared half to death. I saw it so many times I could recognise it in my sleep. The guilty blink I called it. Hey, no sweat, everyone’s guilty of something, right? What I couldn’t work out was why you’d look so guilty while accepting an Oscar. I could have been mistaken. Bang to a buck it was just me reading too much into it.
Hell, we hadn’t seen each other for years, not after your fiancée fell out of the window at the Hilton. You know, another half a second and we probably wouldn’t be sat here now and she’d still be alive. I had your back though, man. The police couldn’t touch us. Christ on a cracker, that was a long shitty summer. You got through it okay and came out smiling like always. Your fans were sympathetic. Hey, and then you came bouncing back with that blockbuster the year after, Cold Revenge, man, that was a shit hot movie. After the Hilton thing and the trial I kept my head down. Lynn left me. Yeah. Bummer. She took the kids. Said she couldn’t breath in the same air as a murderer. I was proven innocent! She left anyway and we sold the house. Things got real bad for me after that. The worst kind of bad. End of the road bad if you know what I mean. Funny how things turn out.
Oh man. That’s not funny, Jester. You need to get some control.
I’m not cleaning that up. You’ll have sit in it, man.
Did you know I tried to contact you a whole bunch of times before the reunion? Your manager always said you were out of the country or busy on location. The jet set life style. Can’t beat it. I almost bumped into you in Italy a few years back. Surprised? Thought you would be. We were staying at the same hotel. I needed to get away and clear my head after I lost my head teacher’s job. I saw you on the terrace of that posh restaurant but security wouldn’t let me in. I guess they didn’t pass on my message. No big deal. Besides I don’t blame you. That woman with you was smoking hot. I forget her name, that actress who’s in everything but no one ever remembers her name.
That must have been a shock when she was found dead on the beach a few days later. I heard they held you on suspicion of murder. Bad times. Seems your life has always been something of a mixed bag, extreme highs and lows sort of thing. You scraped through that one, like always. When it turned out to be a bag boy who killed her they let you off pretty quickly. I guess too much publicity isn’t always a good thing. Sorry about your last movie, man. I got to be honest, Rent A Spy was garbage. Everyone hated it.
Yes they did. It bombed everywhere.
Don’t get all pissed off with me, Jester. Blame your fans.
But I guess I should be thankful for that, otherwise you’d never have accepted the reunion invitation. You’d still be living the high life, sipping champagne and bedding gorgeous women. Instead you’re here. Back in our old school. Too bad they couldn’t hold the reunion here. Did you know this place has been closed for eight years? Budget cuts or some shit like that.
The reunion was good fun though, right? Just like old times. Almost everyone was there. Did you see the look Rebecca Freshwater gave you? She burned you down man. Must have brought back some memories, right? Maria Hughes, now she was in surprisingly good form. Her husband did all her translating. She showed me how to sign ‘fuck you’ which was nice of her. For a moment there I thought her husband was going to punch your face in.
Thank God for Chrissy Jeavons and her talking computer gizmo. She saved your bacon, man! Did you see that wheelchair? Oh man, that is the Ferrari of wheelchairs. It’s got more gadgets than the space station. She works for Microsoft now you know. Yeah. Mega rich I hear. Lives in L.A now. Good for her. You got to be thankful for folk who don’t hold a grudge. Not like Wendy Amos. I thought she’d be in the mental hospital for the rest of her life after the YouTube thing. She told me she’d been living out on the coast some place for a couple of years. She liked the peace and quiet. The reunion was a bit much for her I reckon. Especially when you showed up. Brought it all back again. I heard the doctor say she broke your jaw in three places.
Well I thought it was funny even if you didn’t.
Oh stop your squirming, it’s getting real old, Jester.
I was so surprised to see Jessica Timms there. After all those years in and out of prison, living rough, drugs and God knows what other shit, she still didn’t know it was you who hid that Gin in her bag. Well. She does now, obviously. I’m sorry man. It just slipped out. The police said they’d keep her in over night. She’d been clean for over a year until the reunion. Old habits suck. It was a strange old night. All those memories floating around, old rivalries and old romances sparking off again, and I hear you got lucky too. Man, some people looked really old too. And fat. Not us though, right Jester? You looked cool as a cucumber. I’ve kept in shape, sort of, can’t shift this belly though. Old age is a beast with teeth.
So I guess that brings us to you and I. The team. The Jester and the…well, I never had a nickname did I? I was always in the background. Always the shadow. You see I never thought you’d show up. Washed out movie stars tend to rot in their mansions don’t they? But not you. You just keep coming back like a turd that won’t flush. If you’d just stayed away she wouldn’t be dead now. Why do you have to do it, Jester? All my life I’ve watched you screw with people’s lives. Just for fun. You never ever thought of the consequences. So what if she laughed at your bedroom performance? I know some things can have an impact on the rest of your life but I reckon that royally messed up your head.
It was twenty five years ago, Jester!
How can you hold a grudge for that long and still remain sane?
What does it matter anyway? You won’t get out of it this time. The police should find Rebecca’s body in your hotel room sometime tomorrow. Yeah. Sucks huh? I followed you if you want the truth. When you left with her after the reunion I tagged along. I couldn’t keep up though so I didn’t get there in time to save her. Just like the actress in Italy. I don’t move as fast I used to. You know how the police pinned it on the bag boy? I stuck her panties and mobile phone in his locker. Yeah. That was me. I saved your ass again. We hadn’t spoken for ten years and I was still looking out for you.
Not any more, Jester. I’m done. I spent all night dragging Rebecca’s body from the beach. I waited until you left the hotel and hauled her into your room. No I’m not lying. She’s on your bed right now. I knew you’d come here. You’re too curious for your own good. My cryptic message got the better of you. You needed to see the old school one last time. Maybe you thought I had one final adventure for us. Didn’t turn out like you thought did it?
Soon, Jester. I’ll get to the point soon.
Just sit and relax, another smoke maybe? No?
Remember Jessica Timms? Remember how her father left because he couldn’t cope? He had an affair with a married woman who worked at that big insurance company. I’m guessing you never put the pieces together or you would have said something to me. That woman was my mother. She was a good person and a devoted, happy wife. So she had some flaws. Woop-de-fuck. We’ve all got them. But you hadn’t planted that booze in Jessica Timms school bag, she would never have gone off the rails, her father wouldn’t have gone insane with worry about his only daughter and…he wouldn’t have stolen my mother from me!
Some people only need a nudge to knock them off track. That was my mothers one nudge. My dad was devastated. He never recovered from that. Jessica Timm’s mother died a few years after the Gin thing. Turns out she had been using her daughters stash. She died in a house fire caused by a slow burning joint left on the sofa. My dad drank himself to death. I did everything I could to save him but after my mother left he lost his spirit. His life was meaningless.
All this is because I let you talk me into crazy ass shit. I know I’m weak. I’m easily led. You talked me into things when I should have stood up for myself. You were the cool kid, the popular one and I wanted some of that fame. When you invited me to the Hilton I could have said no. I could have stayed in my boring bubble. But you persuaded me, again. Your fiancée didn’t have an accident at all. You pushed her out of that window after you found the photos on her phone. Her and some tanned guy on a yacht. I know because I came out of the bathroom when you were arguing and saw the phone on the table.
Guess who erased the photos?
Me, Jester. I saved your ass there too.
And that’s it. That’s the end of the speech. Just think, this is the very classroom we started our adventures together all those years ago. You wouldn’t believe what it looks like now. Some drunks have been squatting here I reckon. There’s a dead cat over in the corner. Stinks like hell. They keep boarding up the windows but people always find a way in.
Smells funny too. Can you smell it? Like petrol.
Squirm all you like. There’s no way you can escape.
Looks like you figured it out, Jester. I’ve got a whole box of matches right here, just for you. You don’t deserve to go to prison for what you’ve done. With your luck you’d probably write a book about your problems, then get to star in a movie about your poor excuse for a life when you got out. I don’t think that’s fair. Instead I’m going to be your judge tonight, and your executioner. Hey, easy there, Jester. This is going to happen so just accept it. You can’t wriggle or sleaze your way out of this one old buddy.
I’ll just drop the match over there in the corner. It should take a few minutes before the flames reach us. You’ll burn up nicely when the fire gets going. It feels a shame to be burning down the school I was once head teacher of. But it’s worth it. I get to watch you scream as the flames get sucked into your lungs. It’s what you deserve, Jester. No more and no less. You have to pay for your crimes.
What’s that? Oh don’t you worry about me. I’m not going anywhere.
I’m going to sit here and watch you barbecue.
I guess you want to know why I’m not leaving. You think I’m stupid enough to let the flames crawl all over me too. Well that sure as shit won’t happen to me. Why? Because when my wife left me, and my house was sold, I lost my job, I had nothing left to live for. You ruined everything that was good in my life. I devoted myself to watching you, Jester. I waited for you to make another mistake. I knew you would. Just as I knew you’d come here tonight.
I’m tired now, Jester. If it’s okay with you I’ll just sit here and wait for the end. Not for me, you understand. A year after my life had been taken from me I stood on the cliffs not far from here. I looked out at the ocean and tried to imagine if there was a chance everything would be okay, that there was hope for me and you. That I could be forgiven for playing a part in your life, for letting you get away with everything. You know what I figured?
I figured I’d jump and take you with me.
This short story was inspired by Indigo Spider’s Sunday Picture Press – a challenge to write a 1500 word piece of fiction using one of 3 photos as a prompt.
This one is a bit longer, around 3,500 words or so. My brain feels like it’s on fire at the moment with characters screaming and bashing their way out of me! Fantastic feeling! I churned this lot out in about 2 hours and my finger tips are not happy with me!
Excellent picture prompts from Indigo. If you want to join in and write a short piece of fiction clicky-click Indigo Spider’s link above and wrap your imagination around one of the pictures.