Hi all. You may have seen my last thread 'Dear Mother', which was a short story I wrote a long time ago. This is another. I wrote this at around the same time that I was writing Rival's Story and I've edited it a lot more recently than that. It's non-Pokemon like 'Dear Mother' but hopefully you will still give it a chance! =P
Please let me know what you think. I think there are a lot of issues with it that don't feature in my more recent work but I haven't edited it as I wanted to preserve what it was when I wrote it.
Misery Loves Company
The Brown Fox was not a bar for successful people. That much was obvious from the moment you walked into it. The staff of the Brown Fox had cleaned next to nothing in the building in months and, as a result, the floor was sticky and covered in glass from all the fights that had taken place and all the drinks that had been spilt, the latter often resulting in the former. The overpowering stench of dried sweat and stale beer was enough to make anyone with a glimmer of hope remaining in their lives turn away the moment they made the mistake of setting foot on the premises.
Although you wouldn’t expect it from this description, the Brown Fox actually had a fair number of patrons. The patrons of the Brown Fox were people who were hopeless, people who didn’t want to surround themselves with successful people and instead wanted to immerse themselves in the failure of others. The Brown Fox was living, breathing proof of the saying ‘misery loves company’.
Needless to say, people with even the faintest glimmer of hope in their lives avoided this pit of despair as best they could; even looking in was enough to drive a man to hopelessness himself. Still, day in and day out, people sat and drank in the Brown Fox, sharing with each other tales of their own pitiful lives. There was Big Joe who had left all kinds of formal education at sixteen, lived off his parents with no job and no prospects until the age of twenty eight and had not stopped regretting it since they had thrown him out. There was Angie, whose husband had left her for a younger woman. In truth, Angie hadn’t cared all that much about this until her kids all grew up, left home and she ended up alone every single day and night. There was Steve, who had led a double life for almost four years until his two wives and families found out about each other and now his only life was the Brown Fox. There were many people, just like Big Joe, Angie and Steve who sat and drank and told each other about the hopelessness of their own lives. There’s nothing quite like hearing the hopelessness of someone else’s life to make you feel better about your own.
Max was different. Everyone in this bar had lost something, but it seemed like Max just didn’t have anything to begin with. No one in the Brown Fox spoke to Max because if you spoke to Max, you could be sure you’d end up in a fight with Max and if you ended up in a fight with Max, you could be sure you’d end up getting beaten up by Max. The patrons of the Brown Fox felt a little bit better around each other, but Max arriving always sent them back to square one. Misery loves company, but not Max’s company. When Max arrived, you could feel the change of mood in the bar.
Not today though. Today when Max arrived, no one cared. No one cared because there was already someone in there making them feel awful about their lives. A man in a suit. What business did a man in a suit have in the Brown Fox? Successful people avoided the Brown Fox, everyone knew that, that was why they liked it there. The last thing a miserable person wants to see is a successful person, misery loves company after all. When Max arrived, he sensed that something was different in the bar and a quick scan around told him what. Max went and sat down next to the man in the suit.
The man had been sitting by himself, near the bar as if he was thinking about talking to the large, sweaty, foul mouthed bar man. His suit wasn’t a cheap suit either, one designer or another, Max didn’t recognise the name but it sounded like a rich man’s name. The man even smelled rich, his aftershave probably cost more than Max’s entire wardrobe put together. The man’s hair was slicked back the way New York business men from the 80s do their hair in films. Max hated everything about him. He was the polar opposite of Max. Max’s head was shaved bald, he couldn’t afford haircuts so he just did his whole head with an electric razor once a week, he wore the cheapest clothes he could find and he virtually never washed them. The worst thing about the man in the suit was that he was old, old enough to be Max’s father. Max couldn’t even be angry at the man for being dealt a better hand in life, the chances were that this man was rich through his own doing and Max knew that he would never be able to achieve that for himself.
‘Can I buy you a drink, son?’ asked the man in the suit amicably.
‘Get lost, old man,’ responded Max.
In truth, Max had only taken this seat so that he could start a fight with this man. It didn’t matter that the man was old, Max didn’t care, he had beaten up women and children before. No one was too pitiful to avoid a beating from Max. People in the bar began to turn around and look, they had been drinking there long enough to know when Max was going to start a fight. This time they were wrong though, Max wasn’t going to start a fight, no matter how much he wanted to.
‘Two beers please,’ said the man in the suit to the barman, handing him a fifty, ‘Keep the change.’
The barman did not need telling twice.
‘What are you doing here?’ demanded Max, ‘Trying to make yourself feel better by parading around the human filth that gathers here?’
‘Not at all,’ answered the man in the suit, ‘I’m trying to fix you.’
‘I don’t need fixing,’ growled Max in response.
The patrons began looking at the exchange between Max and the man in the suit with ever decreasing subtlety, the tension in the air was almost a physical thing, you could reach out and touch it. Max wore a sleeveless vest, no matter how cold it was and you could see his muscles quivering, itching to fight.
‘They say misery loves company,’ continued the man, ignoring Max’s comment completely, ‘But I think more than company, misery would just like to not be miserable any more. What do you think, Max?’
‘I’m thinking I don’t like that you know my name,’ snapped Max, ‘Who are you?’
The barman passed the man in the suit two beers, making himself scarce as quickly as possible.
‘I’m just a kindly, old man with more money than sense,’ answered the man in the suit with a gentle smile, passing Max a beer, ‘They say a leopard doesn’t change its spots, but I say it does if I tell it to. What do you say, Max?’
‘I say you’ve got a lot of nerve coming here and preaching to me,’ replied Max aggressively, ‘Who are you and how do you know me?’
‘Alright, Max,’ conceded the man in the suit, ‘I’m here because I’m a rich man, a very rich man, richer than you would believe in fact. Because I’m rich, I can do anything, people do what I tell them to do. A friend of mine told me that there are some things I can’t do and one of those things was change someone like you into a success.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ growled Max, tensing his enormous muscles in an attempt to intimidate the old man.
‘I’m not going to beat around the bush,’ explained the man in the suit, ‘You’re a failure, Max. You failed at life before you even began, but I can change all that, I can make you a success. I want you to come with me and I want to give you some money and show the world that even the most comprehensive failure can turn things around with a little help. What do you say, Max? Would you like that?’
Max didn’t like that, he didn’t like being called a failure, whether he considered himself one or not. He didn’t like the patronising tone this old man was using. He didn’t like the way the man in the suit flashed his cash or how certain of his own grandeur he was. He didn’t like anything at all about this situation and when Max didn’t like a situation, he made sure the people around him didn’t like it either. Max wasn’t an idiot, he felt like he knew a thing or two about this man and why he was really here. If this man really was as rich as he claimed to be, then he was probably bored. Max knew he was at rock bottom, there was so much for him to achieve, but the man in the suit was the opposite, he had succeeded at everything and now there was nothing left for him to do but to wait for death. The man in the suit had probably been ecstatic when his friend gave him the challenge to change Max, it had given him something to do, something else he could succeed at but Max didn’t want to give him the pleasure.
‘No,’ answered Max, ‘I don’t like that.’
‘But why, Max?’ questioned the man in the suit, ‘I’m sure it would make you very happy and, to be honest, it would make me very happy.’
‘I would rather both of us were miserable than you were happy,’ explained Max in response.
‘But why?’ asked the man in the suit in total bewilderment.
Max paused and gave a superior smile, he knew that denying the man in the suit the opportunity to succeed at something else would hurt him more than the most savage beating.
‘Because,’ explained Max, ‘Misery loves company.’