Authors: Steven Manchester
The Thursday Night Club Copyright © 2014
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
The Story Plant
Studio Digital CT, LLC
P.O. Box 4331
Stamford, CT 06907
Copyright © 2014 by Steven Manchester
Jacket design by Barbara Aronica Buck
E-book ISBN-13 978-1-61188-203-2
Visit our website at www.TheStoryPlant.com
All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever, except as provided by US Copyright Law. For information, address The Story Plant.
First Story Plant Edition: November 2014
Jesse Cabral and three of his friends—Izzy, Ava and Randy—gathered for their weekly
Thursday Night Club
get-together on Izzy and Ava’s front porch; they waited for the group’s final member, Kevin Robinson, to start playing cards. They’d just settled in after their final college move and were ready to pick up where they’d left off in May.
As college seniors, who’d escaped the dorms the previous year, Jesse and the small crew had quickly grown to love the safe haven. A dim porch light illuminated their late night games, assisted by a gaudy table lamp that sat in their living room. On the interior sill, there was an external speaker that could be accessed when the window was open—which was most of the time. Although the gang was good about keeping their music at a respectable volume, the music was always on—as they took turns running through each of their play lists on their smartphones. An old, wooden table—its green paint worn and chipped—sat near the porch railing and was surrounded by mismatched chairs. There were several fixed items that sat on the table: an ashtray for guests (none of them smoked, so it was almost like a trap to unsuspecting guests who would face a serious lecture if they ever lit up on the porch); a worn deck of cards they counted each time to ensure there were still fifty two; and empty peanut jars left by Jesse. Knotty pine floorboards led to a creaky glider that sat in the porch’s corner; it was where Izzy and Ava sat—when they weren’t playing cards—buried beneath Ava’s grandmother’s colorful crocheted afghans. An old steamer trunk, filled with pillows and throws, was used as a footrest or seat—whatever—while a framed photo of a black Labrador Retriever they called McGruff hung above the glider. As they couldn’t keep any four-legged friends on the premises, it was the next best thing. The quaint space was an extension of the apartment’s interior—just another room in a poorly decorated dwelling indicative of young people on tightly fixed budgets. Just beneath the porch, a recyclable bin was filled with empty wine bottles, pizza boxes and soup cans, while a plastic trash can overflowed with everything else. The rent—much like their college books—cost ten times its true value. But they didn’t complain. Unlike most of the other college apartments in the area, this dump had a porch.
“I swear,” Ava said, “it’ll be nothing shy of a miracle if I make it through Professor McKee’s class.” Ava was a petite brunette with a cute face and shiny eyes.
Jesse grinned. “Well then, it’s a good thing that miracles do happen,” said the tall, lanky man.
“I’m serious, Jesse,” Ava said. “She’s inhuman.” Ava shook her head. “She’s honestly the coldest person I’ve ever had to deal with.”
“Stop,” Jesse said, shaking his short-cropped head, “she’s not that bad. I had her for philosophy last year. I admit she can be tough, but trust me…” he grinned, “…under that hard shell, you’ll find a warm, gooey center,” he finished, his protruding Adam’s apple nodding to each word.
“There’s no way we’re talking about the same Ice Queen,” Izzy, the theatre arts major, chimed in. With long blonde hair and brown eyes, the laid back dreamer was actually speaking foul of someone—drawing surprised looks from the rest of them.
Just then, like a sudden Oklahoma twister, Kevin arrived on the front porch. Wearing the usual Irish skelly cap and secondhand clothes, he claimed his seat at the table. “Sorry I’m late, guys,” he said, “but I broke down on the way over here.”
“Oh no,” Izzy said, concerned.
Kevin smirked. “My car’s fine,” he grinned. “It’s just that a really sad song came on the radio and I had to pull over to the side of the road and have myself a good cry.”
While Izzy and Ava slapped his arm, Jesse laughed. Randy shook his head. “You’re such an idiot,” he said.
Kevin’s head snapped toward Randy. “Says the guy who ate a tuna fish sandwich made of cat food.”
Everyone laughed but Randy—who sneered at each of them, while fighting back his own smile. “Yeah, real funny, clown,” Randy said. “You mark my words, I’ll get you back for that one too.”
Kevin shook his head and looked over at Jesse. “I swear, ever since we dressed Randy in that Easter egg costume and hid him where no one would find him, he’s gotten really mean.”
Jesse shrugged and looked over at Randy. “Sorry, brother,” he said, “I never realized we were supposed to look for you.”
Changing the subject, Ava asked, “Why were you late, Kev?”
“It’s probably that girl,” Izzy added. “What’s her name?”
“And she’s the reason Kevin’s cut back on the partying this year,” Randy complained.
“Well, there are worse things,” Jesse commented.
Ava nodded. “Why don’t you bring Marybeth by to meet the group?” she asked Kevin.
He shook his head. “Because she’d never survive in this viper pit.”
“What?” Izzy asked.
Kevin laughed. “We have way too much history together and almost everything we talk about is an inside joke.”
“Gotcha,” Ava said, and the others didn’t question it any further either.
Jesse turned to Kevin. “Yeah, I have to admit it, Kev,” he said, smirking, “you got Randy pretty good with that cat food sandwich.”
good? “ Kevin repeated, nearly squealing.
Randy’s eyes narrowed and his face turned red.
Jesse shrugged. “It wasn’t bad.”
“You’re insane,” Kevin said. “That gourmet sandwich is going down as legendary on this campus.”
“You’re the one who’s insane!” Randy barked. “That prank was lame.”
“And I suppose you could do better?” Kevin asked, defensively.
“Any one of us could top that stupid prank,” Randy said, looking over at Jesse for back up.
Wearing a devilish grin, Jesse nodded in agreement.
Izzy and Ava looked at each other and shook their heads. “Here we go again,” Ava said.
Excited with an idea, Kevin stood and held out his palm. “Okay. Okay. I know exactly how we can settle this.”
There was quiet, each of them looking at the others and smiling.
“We’ll make a bet,” Kevin said. “Each one of us will kick in twenty-five cents. For a full week, we’ll go out and have fun with any unsuspecting victim we can find. Exactly one week from tonight, we’ll report back here and reveal our greatest prank. After an honest vote, we’ll finally see who the true master is.”
While the boys nodded their approvals, the girls surrendered in disgust.
“That’s just asinine,” Izzy said, “and you can count us out.” She looked at Ava. “Aren’t you happy we don’t have testosterone?” she asked.
Ava nodded. “It’s unbelievable. We’re graduating from college in the spring and you guys are acting like you’re still in high school.”
“I know, right?” Izzy added “Real mature.”
Jesse, Randy and Kevin sat at the table, grinning.
“Maturity has nothing to do with it, Izzy,” Jesse said. “It’ll be a wonderful exercise in male bonding. It’s a guy thing, you know?”
The girls shook their heads again.
Kevin nodded. “That’s right, though we all know who will dominate…”
“Yeah, me!” Randy barked.
“You’re both wrong,” Jesse said. “You boys just don’t have the creativity to compete.”
The three guys argued for a bit, each believing that he was the wittiest. Then, Jesse got back to the bet at hand. “I like the idea, Kevin,” he said, “but there’s one problem.” He took a deep breath and grinned. “Randy and I both know that you tell the truth like a used car salesman.”
“Yeah, right,” Kevin snapped but still took a moment to give it some thought. “Fine. We’ll each record the craziness on our cell phones. The witness testimony of another player is the only other evidence that’ll be allowed. Deal?”
While Randy and Jesse nodded in agreement, Kevin dumped one of Jesse’s half-empty jars of peanuts onto the table and blew out the dusty remains. Grinning, he threw a single quarter into it. Randy and Jesse each added their quarters. Kevin screwed the cap back onto the jar and handed it to Ava. She shook her head and placed it into the corner of the porch.
“Any way to get disqualified?” Randy asked.
As Kevin began to shake his head, Jesse jumped in as the voice of reason. “Anything physically harmful or offensive should definitely be grounds for disqualification,” he said, grabbing a handful of peanuts from the table.
Each man nodded his agreement, Kevin, a little more reluctantly.
“Awesome,” Randy said. “Now we’ll see who the real funny man is.”
Kevin laughed. “And don’t worry about the money, boys. This prank-master plans to give you both your quarters back. I’m just in it for the braggin’ rights.”
They each chuckled.
Kevin nodded and continued. “And that’s braggin’ rights for all time.”
Jesse scooped another handful of peanuts into his mouth.
“Don’t you ever eat anything besides peanuts?” Izzy asked.
“Yeah, peanut butter,” Jesse said.
Ava laughed, which came out as its usual giggle.
Jesse stood and stretched. “Well, I have an early class tomorrow,” he said with his mouth full, “so I’ll see you good people around campus.” He looked at Randy and grinned. “And beware,
is open game now.” He chewed a few more times before swallowing whatever remained in his mouth.
Randy stood to join him. “I have to head out too,” he said, turning his attention to Izzy and Ava. “See you all next Thursday night.”
“Unless we see you first,” Kevin blurted.
Randy shook his head. “You’re so lame, Kev,” he muttered.
Kevin stood and turned to the girls. “Ladies, we’ll see you next Thursday.”
Izzy and Ava nodded.
“Bye boys,” Izzy said.
“And don’t go getting kicked out of school for seventy-five cents,” Ava added.
One final laugh echoed into the clear night.
Kevin and Jesse stepped into their first class of the day—Biology. Fifteen minutes into the mundane instruction, Kevin had an idea and grinned. On a clean sheet of white lined paper, he wrote a note:
Do you love me? Check Yes or No
, with a box beside each choice. He signed it,
and folded it in half.
Another ten minutes elapsed before the class was completely quiet and he decided to launch his attack. Without warning, he looked over at Jesse and yelled, “I’m not telling you again. Please leave me alone. I’m having a tough enough time in this class and I’m trying to pay attention.”
While the professor’s head snapped up, the rest of the class looked toward Kevin and Jesse.
Kevin shook his frustrated head, stood and approached the professor. He looked back at Jesse and smirked. “That guy who sits next to me just handed me this note,” he said, pointing directly at Jesse, “and I think it may constitute sexual harassment.”
The professor reluctantly grabbed the folded note.
“I came here to learn,” Kevin added, dramatically, “not be treated like some piece of raw meat.”
Still silent, the professor slowly unfolded the note and read it. Obviously trying to conceal his smile, he looked up at Jesse. “Please come see me after class, Mr. Cabral,” the older teacher said.
“Thank you,” Kevin said, returning to his seat.
“What did I do?” Jesse asked.
“Just see me after class,” the professor repeated.
Seconds later, Kevin looked over at Jesse again and yelled, “I told you…the answer’s no!”
When the class returned to the professor’s lecture, Jesse shook his head and chuckled. “That’s so bush league, Robinson,” he whispered, “and it’s going to take more than that to win a few quarters.”
Kevin grinned. “Just so you know,” he whispered back, “I would have checked yes.”
“What does that mean?” Jesse asked.
Kevin nodded. “You’ll see after class.”
Across town, Randy stood at the counter of a fast-food restaurant, filling out a job application. He wrote the name
on the first line. The young manager looked at him. Randy explained, “Whether it’s fast food or telemarketing, I swear I’m going to get a job if it kills me.”
The manager nodded compassionately.
Izzy and Ava were crossing the campus to head back to their apartment when they spotted a crowd congregating near the quad—the area cordoned off by yellow crime scene tape. Curious, Ava headed straight for it with Izzy in tow.
The college campus was surrounded by groves of pine trees and a wood line filled with maples and oaks to the north, east and south. A pond and manmade waterfall bordered the east side of campus, with a heavy planked bridge designed for students to stand around and reflect on their existences. It was used more as a shortcut to the community center building where the campus bookstore, gym and cafeteria were housed. Cement pathways—that must have looked like one giant spider web from ten thousand feet above—wandered throughout the campus. Each path met at its center—its core—the campus quad.
The quad was a concrete octagon pit, with stairs that descended into a large cement pad at its center—several rows of benches sprouting out. Unless it was raining or snowing, students and faculty alike lined the quad stairs. It was a place where people studied, socialized, played acoustic guitar or even tried out old tired lines on the opposite sex. All roads led to the quad and though many folks could be seen spending time in their own world on their smartphones, it was still the main hub.
As Izzy and Ava reached the quad, they both began to laugh.
Dressed in all black, Jesse was standing in the middle of the concrete quad. His stoic face was painted white like a mime. A sign reading,
CAUTION: MIME FIELD
was propped up behind him.
“Oh, my God,” Izzy muttered.
Ava shook her head. “What these stupid boys won’t do to win a bet,” she said.
The girls watched for a few minutes while Jesse mimed, atrociously. As they laughed, the large group that had gathered to watch was getting bigger by the second.
Izzy and Ava stepped closer to see a cameraman from the college’s cable television show filming Jesse.
“It’s being broadcast live across campus,” Ava realized aloud.
“Give me a break,” Izzy said under her breath.
One of the college’s female reporters stuck her microphone in Jesse’s face. “Sir, why are you out here today?” she asked.
Jesse said nothing but kept on miming—badly.
“To help save the environment?” she asked.
Jesse still said nothing.
“Is this some sort of protest?” she inquired further.
Jesse continued to mime.
“Perhaps you have a message to a society in ruins?” she suggested and looked back at the camera to flash her toothy smile.
Again, Jesse remained silent, offering his answer in dreadful mime.
The reporter turned to the camera again and smiled even wider. “Well, you heard it here first, folks. One brave soul has become a voice for those who don’t have one…” She quickly glanced back at Jesse before nodding to the camera. “…without ever speaking a word.”
Ava turned to Izzy. “Well, isn’t that sweet?” she said, sarcastically.
“Absolutely precious,” Izzy agreed. She thought for a moment and shook her head. “Doesn’t it seem like a lot of work to make seventy-five cents?”
Ava nodded. “It seems like a lot of work to make seventy-five dollars,” she replied and grabbed Izzy’s hand to fight their way back through the crowd.
As they broke free of the mob, the girls looked back one last time. Jesse was still miming.
Between classes, Kevin’s cell phone rang. He answered it. “Yellow?” He listened for a second. “No, I’m not interested in a future at Bob’s Burger Barn,” he snapped and listened again. “I don’t care what the application says. Please don’t call me again,” he barked and hung up.
Kevin thought about it and grinned. “You’re going to have to do better than that, Randy,” he mumbled under his breath. “Much better.” He laughed all the way to the sidewalk.
A few hours after the sun had gone down for the night, Randy was enjoying karaoke at his favorite local bar. He needed to sit through a few rounds of some very bad singing before his name was called. “Randy Duhon’s up next,” the DJ announced. Grinning, Randy stood and made his way to the small stage.
As the music started, he pushed play on his cell phone’s voice recorder, grabbed the microphone and began dramatically playing to the crowd—singing the old tune,
Baby Come Back
from Player, completely off key.
The crowd ate up Randy’s foolishness and started clapping. At the end of the song, Randy went to one knee and picked out the prettiest stranger in the crowd; she was with a group of female friends.
“That was for you, baby,” he said. “Please come back. Drugs aren’t the answer. The kids need you.” He wiped his eyes. “I need you, baby.”
“Ohhhhh,” the crowd sighed, sympathetically.
In the middle of the applause, Randy placed the microphone back on the stand, and waved. “Thank you,” he said. “I’ll be here ‘til Thursday. Please be sure to tip your waitresses on your way out.”
As he exited the stage, Randy pushed stop on his mini tape recorder. He looked up to see the attractive stranger sneering at him. With a chuckle, he winked at her and left—the crowd patting him on the back all the way out.
The following day, Jesse stood out in front of the pharmacy collecting money for a fake charity. A flimsy cardboard sign reading,
HELP STOP GINGIVITIS IN PERU
was propped up behind him. He shook his empty cup at each customer that passed him by.
In the midst of some really bad looks—directed at Jesse—a red-haired woman muttered, “Give me a break.”
Jesse acted hurt. “Do you have any idea how bad everyone’s breath is in Peru?” he asked.
“Bad enough to be stealing from people, I guess,” she replied in a huff.
As she stomped into the pharmacy, Jesse laughed. Just then, another customer threw a dollar bill into his cup—oblivious to Jesse’s sign or the phony cause it advertised.
Jesse looked into the cup and grinned. “We have enough for two packs of mints now.”
Not five minutes had elapsed when Jesse stood in the middle of aisle four. He grabbed a box of anal itch ointment, lifted it high into the air and yelled toward the red-head, “Is this what you’re looking for?”
Several other customers stifled their laughter before scurrying off to other aisles.
It was late afternoon at the Wonderland Costume Shop when Kevin paid the clerk for the rented gorilla suit.
“Little early for Halloween, isn’t it?” the clerk said.
Kevin laughed. “No, not really.” He reached for his wallet. “I think I’ll pay cash for this, if that’s okay?”
While the confused clerk cashed him out, Kevin smirked at his newest idea and left the store, lugging the heavy gorilla suit behind him.
The sun had just come up the following morning when Kevin was already hiding in the wood line near campus, dressed in the rented gorilla suit.
Time to give the world another glimpse of the missing link
, he thought. Every few minutes, he popped up and ran a few feet.
It didn’t take long before two passing co-eds spotted him and screamed in terror. “I’m going to get the campus police,” one of them yelled and took off running.
Her friend stood frozen, her mouth agape in horror. “It’s…it’s right there,” she stuttered, “in…in the woods…over there.” She put both hands to her mouth and screamed, “Oh, my God!”
Another female student rushed to the girl’s aid. “Oh, my God, what is it?” she yelled, pointing at Kevin.
, Kevin thought and turned to run away.
I’ve got to get out of here
, he thought, breathing heavily.
I could be disqualified for this.
Just then, campus police sirens wailed in the distance, getting louder as each second passed.
Panicked, Kevin yanked off the stifling gorilla head and swallowed hard. By now, there were dozens of students moving toward the wood line in search of Sasquatch.
I’ve got to get out of here fast
, Kevin thought and ran for his life.
An hour later, Jesse was sitting on a bench at the local park, pretending to do some bird watching. He held a pair of binoculars an inch away from his face, while a can of black shoe polish stuck out of his back pocket. As a female jogger came past, he whistled. “Oh my Lord, she’s beautiful,” he said, excitedly.
Jesse could hear heavy breathing and looked up from the goggles to see the woman jogging in place right beside him. With a smile, he happily handed the binoculars over to her. “It’s right there in the woods,” he whispered, pointing.
The attractive woman immediately placed the binoculars to her eyes and scanned the woods. “I don’t see anything,” she whispered, pulling the binoculars away from her face and looking back at Jesse. There were two perfect black circles surrounding her eyes.
Jesse cleared his throat, as he struggled not to laugh.
“I didn’t see anything?” the woman said, panting.
Jesse smiled and took out his cell phone to discreetly snap a photo. “It was a baby raccoon,” he said, taking the picture from his hip, “a little naïve, but really cute.”
The jogger placed the binoculars back to her face and scanned one last time. “Nothing,” she said and handed them back to Jesse—her eyes framed in shoe polish.
Jesse fought off the laughter and shrugged.
“Oh well,” she said, mirroring his shrug, “thanks anyway.” And she resumed her morning run.
Jesse waited a few moments before he allowed himself to laugh aloud. He checked his phone. The photo had captured the woman from her chin down.
That was dumb,
I can’t even get credit for this one.
It was nearly dusk. Kevin was just closing his Psychology textbook on the stairs of the Campus Community Center when he heard the college’s radio station report, “So the question remains, was there really a Big Foot sighting, or was it just some foolish kid who caused all the panic this morning?” There was a dramatic pause. “Campus Police are still investigating.”
As a victorious smile worked its way into Kevin’s face, his cell phone rang. He answered it. “Hello?” He listened and could feel his face burn red with anger. “I already told you people,” he yelled, “I don’t want to work at a dog shelter cleaning out kennels, so stop calling me!”
Kevin got up to leave. He was a few steps from the community center building when his cell phone rang again. He answered it and listened. “Now why in God’s name would I ever want a career at Wally’s Roast Beef?” he screeched.
That night, Kevin told Jesse, “It’s so irritating. I get three or four phone calls every day from fast food joints asking when I can come in for an interview or from strange men wanting to meet me because my online profile seems
Jesse laughed. “That sucks,” he said, “but it could be worse.”
“And how’s that?” Kevin asked, disgustedly.
“Randy could have targeted me with all those mindless pranks,” he teased.
Kevin was still shaking his head when Jesse blurted, “Oh, my God…”
Kevin looked up to find Randy’s smug face looking straight at them from the television screen. Randy was sitting comfortably on the college’s cable talk show couch. “Oh my God,” Kevin repeated and slowly took a seat.
Brandt Swanson, the host, introduced Randy. “Today, we have Randy Duhon on the show. He’s here to talk about some of the lonely folks in our college community who still find it hard to approach the opposite sex and ask for a date.”