“Reads like a bullet train. I couldn’t put it down!” - BERT LOVITT, Director of the feature film PRINCE JACK
“Nemcoff’s stories cut to the chase — blistering action meets brutal reality on the way to over-the-top, big-budget finishes.” – NYT Bestselling author, SCOTT SIGLER
THE DOOMSDAY CLUB
by Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff
Hale doesn’t really seem to notice your life has headlonged into a massive clusterfuck of sorts. Not that you ever really expect him to but in your sometimes incredibly naive way of thinking, you’ve been hoping he’ll mention that you haven’t showered, shaved, gone outside in days, or eaten much more than Cheetos from the rusted-out, hunk of junk vending machine down the hall. For Christ’s sake, the least he could do is mention the haircut you’d given yourself. Though, you suppose if it was your roommate turning into a dirty, reeking, Cheeto-eating poster boy for mental patient hairstyles, you’d probably do your best to say nothing either. Truly, the funniest thing about this is that if he would just crack open one of his Psych textbooks long enough, he might even recognize this as a complete cry for help on your part.
It’s around the fourth or fifth day that he finally says something about it.
“I used to call her Mitten because she smothered you and gave you absolutely no distinctive form,” he tells you.
You glare daggers into his soul as he shakes his head.
“Thank you, drive through,” you answer.
At this point Hale picks up the framed photo on your desk, the one you’ve been unable to look away from since falling into this funk—a snap of Jackie and you in better times, and frisbees it through the open window.
You yelp as if he had carved out your spleen with a wooden spoon, knowing if you weren’t feeling so damned helpless you might sock him in the eye. Instead, you sit and stare at the empty space the photo of the woman you once loved had, until just now, occupied. To Hale’s credit, at least he doesn’t remind you that this is the second time this month you’ve been kicked to the curb.
Last year, Coach Riggs moved you from the outfield to starting shortstop. A lot of your teammates had hopes for getting to the bigs after graduation but you knew you’d never have the chops to go to the show so you were just happy not to ride pine. As a complete surprise to no one, you had a very lackluster season. You didn’t quite suck but you didn’t really shine either—except once.
In your inimitable way you blamed your sorry-ass excuse of a decent on-base percentage on the lack of a good bat. Everybody thought it was a steaming load, but in your gut you truly believed it. Jackie had gotten so sick of hearing about it that right before the third to last game of the season she bought you a brand new aluminum Louisville Slugger and damn if it didn’t look like something King Arthur could have pulled from a stone to slay a dragon with. On the spot, you dubbed it Excalibur. Jackie threw her arms around you, kissed you and said the words that put the ping back into your swing:
“Get thee a hit and thou mayest bed a lusty wench this evening.”
You went three for four that afternoon, including the triple that scored the game-winning run. You even homered in each of the last two games of the season. That damn bat made all the difference in your swing and your confidence and you treated it like some sort of holy relic by mounting it on a rack on the wall above your bed. This year, though, your mind is elsewhere and you field like someone punched a hole in your glove. At the plate you can’t see the ball to save your life. When Coach Riggs pulls you aside to say he’s making room for someone else on the roster until you get your head on straight, you pack your stuff and leave without saying a single word.
You’re anxious as Hale leaves to get your picture from the street, thinking some wino in this crappy neighborhood has already run off with it. When Hale comes back twenty minutes later, having replaced the shattered frame with something cheap from the corner market, you snatch it from him with both hands. Your heart still sinks. Jackie a.k.a. “Mitten” had been your steady girl for most of the last twenty-six months, two weeks and three days and the fact that she’d ejected you from her life with all of the fanfare usually reserved for tossing a cigarette butt from a car window was not exactly a state secret around here anymore. Nor was the fact that she had done so because you had become one unbearably morose son of a bitch.
Made you wonder how come you were always the last to know. Never before it happens but boy if a moment of horrifying enlightenment didn’t strike you between the eyes just as the words were about to spill out of her mouth. You have this crazy theory. You think your balls know and they crawl right up into your belly. They do a duck and cover and all of sudden you sense them pushing up against your gut and you know that it’s all turned into a big nine-ways-to-Sunday pooch-screw. It just beat the hell out of you how they got to be so damn smart in the first place.
And that’s when Hale sighs, reaches into his dresser drawer and does what he thinks would be best. He packs a very, very large bong hit for the two of you.
“A friend with weed…” he offers.
“Is a friend indeed,” you shoot back. Hale grins at you and today more than ever with that poker-straight hair of his he has that Messiah look that some dudes just have. Jesus with a joint, that is. You often think your little saying is kind of stupid but you do it because it’s one of those things that started four years ago and sort of stuck because tradition in a college dorm is saving twenty cases of empties so you can build a beer-can pyramid in the back of your room.
“Dude, you want more of this?” Hale passes the joint to you. “I think I’ve had more hits than the Rolling Stones.”
You smoke for a good hour during which time you’re joined by Nikko Desic—this real smart, round-shouldered, kind of pimply kid with an underdeveloped face that looks like it could have used more womb time, and your buddy Fuckin’ Dan, a skinny guy who can barely put three syllables together without dropping the F-bomb like some kind of redneck Enola Gay. These are your best friends. In private, Hale often half-jokes about someday publishing a paper declaring Dan’s profane condition as some sort of speech impediment or something. Right now you could care less.
At this moment, the only thing you know is that for the first time in almost a week you feel nearly human again. Somewhere just north of shit-fire awful and south of fine. You’re in metamorphosis from homeless-looking, manic depressive dipshit into giggly, smiley, stoned guy and you feel your pain melt away.
To everyone’s annoyance, you start to find every goddamned thing funny. You laugh like hell at the monster zit on Nikko’s forehead, at a dirty cartoon titled Bi-curious George that Hale shows you, at your self-inflicted hair wound and more than anything else, you laugh at the bright orange Cheeto stains that look like they’ll need to be sandblasted off your fingers. Suddenly you’re engrossed, knowing there’s no way whatever makes those damn things that godawful color could be anything other than exceedingly detrimental to your health. Your mind races to thoughts of wearing gloves to the dinner table when you go home so the Units don’t ask why your hands sport a lovely shade of dayglow toxic-shock monkey piss. Maybe, you think, if it comes down to that you’ll buy a pair of oven mitts so you can give your stepdad the finger whenever you feel like it, which incidentally is getting to be quite a lot when you’re home.
In a way, you know the city is doing this to you. You’re a suburban boy with soft hands. Maybe I don’t belong here, you wonder. And as you feel a kind of bubbling euphoric moment of clarity, you stop laughing because of the wave of paranoia that hits you like a sucker punch.
Ten minutes ago you had gotten up to take a leak and when you came back, you were in such a rush to toke up, you forgot to put the towel back under the crack in the door to keep the smoke from leaking out into the hall. This year you couldn’t even smoke cigs in this building, let alone doobage, and Hale was very adamant about the whole towel deal. Last year you watched as he got busted more times than James Brown at a wife-beating convention. So many times, in fact, the school threatened to boot his ass out entirely. His father, the ex-stuntman turned porn producer, a stocky fucker who went by the nickname “Bullet”, got so pissed that he left the set of Anal Fisted Bitches With Badges 3 to come here and give Hale an earful that you could hear from your old room on the other side of the floor. The old man told him, in no uncertain terms, that if Hale got himself punted from yet another school he’d get his ass beaten Brooklyn style, whatever the hell that meant. So, like any good boy Hale swore he’d straighten up and fly right and that he’d stop smoking pot, a promise he kept for nearly six whole hours after his dad got in the Seven-series and pedaled his deluded old self back to his house in Topanga Canyon and the twenty-year old trophy wife with giant pillowy tits.
This year, Hale lives with you. You get along well but you feel fairly certain it’s because you’re here on scholarship and he wants his dad to think he’s stopped hanging out with his burner friends. His parents buy into it — hook, line and stinker. They love you. You’re on the cusp of making something of your life. Little do they know your grades are sinking, your habit is getting as bad as his lately and the two of you account for most of the narf smoked on this floor. You just have the common sense to confine most of your shaking and baking to that little park on Mulholland where you and Jackie used to go sit and watch the lights of Hollywood twinkle like a tray of jewels after a good backseat romp.
And as you toke it up with your pals in your room with what is probably half the floor getting ripped on the second hand smoke leaking out from the crack under the door, you look around and see nobody else has noticed the missing towel. You tell yourself if you can just put the damn thing back where it belongs, it’s no harm, no foul, no big damn deal. You reach down into your crotch to check, and to your relief the boys are where they belong. Rock on, brother. Rock on.
As soon as Hale hits off the bong, you reach over to grab the towel and immediately see the thin shaft of light from underneath the door broken by the tree-trunk shadows of a large pair of combat boots on the other side. And even before the heavy knock on the door comes you know exactly that it’s the last person on this whole spinning rock that you want to see right now.
Richard “Bo” Boyd, the Resident Assistant on your floor, is without a single iota of doubt, the epitome of low-voltage social reject Marine ROTC attracts on this campus. About guys like Bo, Hale has a theory he’s dubbed the teenie weenie syndrome. Men with little dicks grow up over-aggressively trying to measure up against other males. Pity is that even though women can see right through this gross overcompensation, they get drawn to this type of mate because of how easily they can control him by letting him believe he’s just as big as anyone else. The often overlooked and sad part of the whole damn thing is that if the woman remains unsatisfied sexually, she may decide to hunt down an extracurricular larger organ. Thus threatening her mate’s newly found status of manhood and he in turn vents his aggressions on her. Deep down, you often think if Hale would ever get around to actually writing his thesis it would be about reducing domestic violence by making men less angry at their own dicks.
The school year didn’t start with Bo or else you would have transferred to the newly co-ed girls’ college down the street. In the Fall, when you moved in to find Becky Aldredge as the R.A.—kind of cute, kind of a chub-chub and a little bit granola around the edges—you all figured you had it made in the shade. You figured a little fiirting with the Beckster would ensure never getting busted for squat.
Well, if you had known that any right-minded man trying to wink at a feminist lesbian was apt to get his dick kicked in the dirt, you would have nixed the idea from the get go. Turned out the Beckster thought the four of you were goofing on her and got her panties all knotted in a bunch. Next thing you know, Hale was getting busted regularly and the simple easygoing life you’d worked so hard to attain had gone the way of the hot comb.
Two weeks before Christmas break and you were on the prowl at this Theta Delt party in Westwood and lo and behold, there was Becky’s girlfriend hanging out looking like she was hoping someone would go and talk her up. Now, unlike the Beckster, this chick was borderline hot—nice frame and a slow gap-toothed smile on the marginal side of sexy. Nothing to break your arm writing home about but in the general all-around, not too shabby and there wasn’t a straight man in attendance who hadn’t done much worse at one time or another. You figured all the drunken frat jerks would be crawling all over her, right? Well, all the Theta Delts knew she batted the other side of the plate and everyone there was trying their best to score at least one last party lay before break. So, as a result, the Beckster’s girl was flying solo.
You pooled your cash and came up with close to a hundred bucks and Nikko tossed it to one of his buds from the basketball team to go over and start flirting with her. Hale whipped out a camera phone and after an hour of googly eyes and a few more jello shots you became the proud owners of a snapshot of Becky’s honey pie jamming her tongue down the throat of one of the biggest black dudes you’d ever seen in your life.
You end up in such a rush to get back to your room to e-mail it to the Wicked Bitch of the West Dorm that you actually miss the best part of the whole damn evening. It turned out that Nikko’s buddy, Wallace, took Becky’s girlfriend back to the jock dorm and gave her the time until the wee hours of the morning.
Becky found the picture in her e-mail the next day and went positively apeshit. They broke up, Beckster swallowed a handful of OxyContin, and after a long night of puking her guts out in the infirmary she went back home to Idaho and to the best of anyone’s knowledge. No one had seen hide nor hairy leg of her since. “It just goes to show you,” Hale had said as her taxi pulled away. “Pussy makes you crazy no matter who you are.”
As the pounding on your door continues, Dan whispers, “Oh shit, it’s Major fuckin’ Dick!” and Hale bursts out giggling, blowing a mouthful of smoke right in your face. The laughter is completely contagious because Nikko and Dan can’t help giggling like drunken ten-year old girls. Not you though. What you get is a major case of the jumpies that old Bo is going to hand you some noise about your orange-stained fingers or your shitty homemade haircut. You realize then, pot does some very weird stuff to you sometimes.
“I said, open this goddammed door right now! I’m going to write up the whole bunch of you misfit motherfuckers!”
Hearing the chuckling through the door was pissing Bo off even more because he starts barking it now, just like the way they teach when you’re up to your ass in a river full of piranhas and God-knows-what and you have to give an order to all the other automatons in the platoon. In a whisper, Hale dares somebody to ask through the door if Semper Fi comes from ancient Latin for I am a fucking robot.
But you’re still gaping at the shadows of Bo’s shoes under the crack in the door when Hale calls your name, waking you out of your paranoid trance. You are completely sober again. That sinking feeling of depression has come back like a bad check.
“Scott, open the door,” Hale says again.
You look over at him while Nikko just shrugs his shoulders back in a calm way that makes you think if you were to take his pulse right then and there it would barely break sixty.
Yours on the other hand beats like a dance club kick drum and you start to feel it in your temples. You reach over and turn the knob and the door slams open, crashing against the wall and startling all of you. Bo stands there for a second, puts his hands on his hips and does his best General Patton tight-ass walk into the room.
And this is the point where Hale unfortunately decides to show off his finely honed sarcasm.
“Can I help you?” he asks, doing his best impression of someone who never gave a shit about anything even remotely authoritarian.
Bo squints at him the way you’d look at a dog turd stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Then, making absolutely sure that he has eye contact with all of you, he blurts: “You little rat-fucks are big-time busted.”
The word hangs in the air like a stale odor and you can tell Bo is enjoying this far too much and you absolutely begin to hate his stupid jarhead guts for it. Right then, you get this feeling deep down inside that nothing good can possibly come out of all of this.
Your balls know.
Duck and cover.
“Now, I don’t know what kind of bullshit Little Miss Muffdive let you jerks get away with but let me be the first to inform you that it won’t be tolerated any longer. You little dopers make me sick. I’m not about to let this go down on my watch, especially by little stoner faggots like you!”
He works his way up to a cadence and you suddenly become aware of the need to go pee again. Major Dick looks at you with those crazy eyes of his and you feel your boys decide to go hibernate for the winter.
“Congratulations,” he growls at you. “It looks like you’ll end up with this whole room to yourself after they kick your loser roommate out of school.”
You steal a glance at Hale but he just keeps his poker face.
“That is, if they let you keep your scholarship.” Bo knows he has your full and undivided attention.
“Tell you what. I’m even going to confiscate your stash so you little drug addicts won’t be lighting up until after they boot all of your asses out,” he adds, and that becomes enough to loosen up Nikko’s tongue.
“Hey man, you can’t do that!”
“Shut your suck, fucknut. Maybe you haven’t noticed it from your little drug-induced haze over there but there isn’t a soul on this floor right now but you scumbags and me. That means I could throw all of you down the fucking elevator shaft and say it was a weirdo tragic accident or some little stoner faggot suicide pact. Since I’m in a good mood, I’m just going to take your precious little dope down to the can myself and before I flush it, I’m going to drop my pants and take a great big crap all over it.”
You all flinch as Bo’s fleshy paw shoots out to grab your weed off the desk behind Nikko’s head.
“Just what I thought, just a bunch of little pussy-boys,” he says, crunching the rolled up baggie in his fist like Custer taking a Cherokee scalp.
As he turns on his heels and walks out, your hope that he makes it halfway to Neptune before anyone says anything gets shattered by Dan.
“Fuckin’ dick,” he mutters underneath his breath.
As Bo stops in his tracks, you swallow hard. “What did you say?” Bo barks as he snaps around on his heels.
Bo stands there, milking it to the point of sheer agony.
“What’d you say, fuckstain?” Bo’s nostrils flare and it flashes into your head that he has at least three inches and no less than sixty pounds over any of you. Wiping up a room full of pot-smoking smartasses is probably stepping into wet dream territory for him.
Dan stands up, and you want to punch him in the mouth for getting you all in way deeper shit than you were in already.
He looks Bo square in the eye. “I was fuckin’ wondering. If your parents got a divorce, would they still be considered cousins?”
You expect instant Hiroshima, but what Bo does scares you even more. He snorts, takes one step into your room and shuts the door behind him. Without a word he makes it very clear how this is going to be a very private ass-kicking for all of you.
“It’s about to get busier than a pair of jumper cables at a Puerto Rican wedding in here.” Bo grunts, puts his hand on Nikko’s face and shoves him into your dresser, knocking over the newly re-framed picture of you and Jackie taken at the beach last summer. Helplessly, you watch as Jackie and you hit the floor and as the glass breaks, you suddenly want so badly to be on that beach with her, drinking margaritas and making love in the chest high water instead of facing the ugly prospect of a mouth full of broken chiclets.
You don’t know how long you space out but when you turn around, Bo has Dan in a choke hold. Dan’s face starts to turn purple and Hale tries to pry Bo’s thick arms away with one hand while pushing his face back with the other. When you see Bo grinning like the Cheshire Cat after a blowjob, something inside you finally rages like a furnace.
“Do something!” Hale turns to you. The sudden blast of adrenaline feels like heroin jacking through your veins. A dry lump the size of Mexico fills your throat.
“Fucking do something!” Hale screams again and in one flash you know how to make it all go away. You know how to take control of the situation, make the yelling subside and bring back the calming sense of silence you now miss so much.
Your eyes dart to the relic mounted over your bed. Without a sound you feel the world stop turning as your fingers wrap around its handle.
You take a breath. You close your eyes.
And in one split-second you swing Excalibur again and change all of your lives forever.
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