And so, I’m back from the grave. Many have asked, “When are you gonna write something new?” “What are you working on?” “You still doing your blog?” “Spider-Maze? What kinda name is that?” Well, it’s quite elementary my dear interrogators, the answer is simply “I have no fucking clue.” And I say that with a nervous laugh because that’s how honest I am. Except…for the Spider-Maze question. I started calling myself that because like Spider-Man I live a complicated life. Even a friend told me just last night that I’ve a shitty year. I wanted to argue with him, but he wasn’t all that wrong. Not saying the entire year has been shitty. There have been some good moments, some bad, some Pokémon, and some have been groovy as smoothies! It’s just that there has been a multitude of shitty moments. Events actually. Not fun. But the title of my autobiography is The Shitty Times, The Good Times, The Pokétimes, and the Groovy Smoothies for good reason. Anyway, back to the whole “Spider-Maze” thing. Not only has my life felt like that of Peter Parker’s, but I have been reading so many Spider-Man comics these past few months that one day I just introduced myself to someone as their friendly neighborhood Spider-Maze. My mind works in clever ways, I know. So I just decided to keep it. I introduced myself as The Doctor once and the girl I was talking to believed me for about 5 seconds. Needless to say, I feel that my new self-proclaimed title will catch on. And what I also hope will catch on is my writing focus. I wanna write so many things this summer and don’t have much time to accomplish that. I first wanna start out with a short story, I’ve been working on for a couple months now. A story I have written before, but have revamped with all of the writing skills and elements I have learned since the first time I wrote it. To put into geek terms, I have leveled up and want to test out my new writing skills with something familiar. Welp, that’s the end of my monologue and, as always, stay groovy as smoothies, friends.
P.S. I wanna give a shout out and thank you to Sam Sanchez for consulting on this story and validating the legality of certain criminal actions of the characters in this piece.
Complicated Lives: Revamped
Eliasaph Maze Anderson
This is a story of a dumbass. His name is Ezra Best. He lives in a nice two-bedroom apartment in Seattle, Washington. It has the usual apartment furnishings of the 21st century. An island style, granite kitchen connected to a living room furnished with a black microfiber sofa, a dinner table for four, and a TV. All the walls are painted with this kind of tinted sky blue instead of the generic white. This complex is a bit on the fancy side. It’s pricey that’s for sure. “What veggies do you want for dinner, Sammy?” Ezra asked as he lowered the temperature of the rice on the stove. “We have broccoli, cream corn, zucchini, and…” he trailed off because when he turned around from the fridge he found Sam holding his cat right in front of his face.
“Pet Captain Meow Meow,” Sam said with a huge smile on his face. For the record, her name was not Captain Meow Meow. Sam was one of Ezra’s best friends and had been his roommate for almost a year now. He’s a 23-year-old, blonde dork. And…a dumbass. He looked like an intelligent guy, which he was, but he also looked like one of those guys that you can tell was fully capable of leading a four-hour conversation with you about Pokémon before needing a drink of water. Ezra stared at Sam and his cat with narrow eyes. He turned Sam around and inched him out of the kitchen. “But kitty,” said Sam in a disappointed tone.
“I’m cooking dinner, Sammy, I’m not petting your cat.” Ezra started the cream corn. As they waited for dinner, Sam refilled his cat’s food bowl and Ezra took a seat at the dinner table. “Have you seen Kumo? I haven’t seen him since I’ve been home.”
“Oh, I got someone to walk him because he seemed sad being inside the house while we were at work,” he said as he took a seat at the table. Sam had an uneasy smile. Like he did something he shouldn’t have.
“Who did you get to walk Kumo?”
“Just one of the neighbors,” Sam chuckled and backed up into his chair. Ever since Sam and Ezra were kids, Sam couldn’t keep up a lie or a secret for too long. Backing away with a chuckle was how people could tell if he did something stupid.
Ezra leaned towards him. “Sam. Which neighbor?” There was only one neighbor they had that Ezra had a problem with and for good reason. Sam turned his head to the side, but constantly looked back towards Ezra. “You didn’t.” Sam shrugged his shoulders. “You can’t be serious. You actually let her walk-”
“Hey guys,” pronounced a woman at the front door. She had glimmering black hair that went to her shoulders and flowed as smoothly as a river. She wore a red tank top featuring Snoopy and Woodstock, black skinny jeans with small tears, and a pair of red Toms. Her tattoos were intricate. One of a majestic bird could be seen on her right arm while a dream catcher rested on the underside of her left arm. She walked through the door with a Husky the size of a couch cushion; which was trying to shake off its leash. “Okay, Kumo, I’ll take it off just give me a minute.” As soon as she did, Kumo ran over to Ezra and leaped up to kiss his face. Francine moved into the two-bedroom apartment right across from the guys two months ago. She was still looking for a roommate but did pretty well on her own. Mostly because she always came over to the guys’ place and ate all of their food.
“Hey, Francine.” Sam and Ezra greeted simultaneously. Ezra’s grudged welcome balanced out Sam’s elated one.
“What did you do to my dog?” Ezra said.
“Why do you think I did something? Look. Kumo is perfectly fine and loved going on a walk with me. Isn’t that right, buddy?” She stroked the Husky’s back as she sat at the table.
“Because you have a habit of doing idiotic stuff and I’m making sure you didn’t make my dog an unwilling accomplice to one of your schemes.” Ezra’s voice rose.
“Are you still mad about last week?! I said I was sorry like twenty times!” Fran said.
“You think that makes up for it?! We’re just lucky Nick pulled us over instead of some other officer!” Ezra exclaimed.
“Exactly! It’s not like it was put on record!” She retorted in a louder voice.
“We still spent the night in jail!” He retaliated. Ezra usually kept a level head and remained calm, however, Francine was one of those few people who made him loose his cool.
“Okay guys. I think we should just calm down. It’s time to eat dinner anyway,” Sam pronounced from the kitchen. During the argument, he had backed away into the kitchen to check on the food. Francine and Ezra got up and helped Sam set the table. As they started eating, Sam asked, “How was your day, Ez?” He was trying to get rid of the residual tension in the room as if Francine and Ezra were partners bickering at a counseling session.
Ezra tried to focus on Sam and push his problem with Francine to the back of his mind. “It was pretty good. I repaired a few cars that didn’t have any major damages, so they were fairly easy to fix. It was just some engine problems or a leaking gas pipe. There was one car that had a busted heater hose, so that took longer took fix, but I had help. And there was this ninja motorcycle that had crappy suspensions, so that took a few hours to fix, but yea, my day went pretty well.” He proceeded to scarf down more food.
“What was wrong with the suspension?” Sam asked. He was very curious in Ezra’s work because he received his degree in computer science and didn’t know much about the mechanics of vehicles. He also enjoyed any distraction he could get from his own work. It took a second for Ez to finish swallowing his food, so he could give a reply.
“It was very loose and squeaked every time the weight on it shifted. Clearly the owner was dumb enough to buy it in such a dangerous state or the bike was wrecked by someone. I was never told how it happened, but I really didn’t care as long as I got it fixed.” Francine abruptly spoke out as Sam was about to say something,
“You have a motorcycle, don’t you?!” She seemed really excited even though she’s known about Ezra’s motorcycle for weeks.
“Yep. Ez got it from his girlfriend,” Sam explained. As soon as he said that, Ezra gave him a stern look.
“I thought you said you didn’t have a girlfriend?” Francine was very intrigued now. She, as well as Sam, loved meddling in Ezra’s love life, however, he always shrugged them off whenever they wanted to talk about it. He sat back in his seat and sighed.
“You know I don’t have a girlfriend. I got that bike from my ex as a birthday present last year.” He was annoyed now, but there was nothing much he could do about it. They were curious about his life. Especially Sam. To him, meddling with Ezra’s love life was not enough. However, Ezra was not very forthcoming about his past. He hated talking about it. There were many depressing memories that he would rather not even think about.
“Wow. You two must have ended it on a good note, huh? I wish one of my ex’s continued to send me gifts after we broke up. Why’d she break up with you anyway?” Ezra gave her a look that he gave many of his friends at one point in time. The “You’re an idiot look”. His eyes narrowed into a glare and he tilted his head slightly. Sam started to laugh when he saw Ezra give Francine that look.
“Why do you automatically assume she broke up with me? You know what? Don’t answer that. She just gave me the bike as a farewell present or something.” Francine was about to say something else, but Ezra spaced out and was engulfed by a particular memory.
The memory was a bit of a blur. Like a TV channel that fizzes out while you’re watching a show. Ezra was walking out of a house, colored with numerous shades of brown, to the adjacent garage. The sun was shining brilliantly as it scorched the dry air. He slowly walked past the gravel yard into the garage to find a black Dyna Glide with a golden tribal print. On the headlight was an envelope with Ezra’s name on it. The handwriting was so beautiful that it was clearly from a woman. He opened the envelope to find a letter. Ezra’s eyes scanned over the parchment, “I want you to have her as a good luck charm. I love this bike and I know it would be better if you kept her. I love you with all my heart, happy birthday.” At the bottom of the letter was written: Love you, Natalie Moon. Ezra stared at the bike for a few seconds and then suddenly turned around. At that moment, he could hear Francine’s voice.
“Ez. Yo, Ezra, are you still with us? Did you listen to a word I just said?” Francine kept calling him as he slowly came back to reality. Sam started to shake his arm.
“Yea I’m fine,” he said as he removed Sam’s arm. “I just spaced out for a moment.” He turned to Francine. “And no, I didn’t hear anything you just said.” He went back to eating his meal.
“I said that you shouldn’t worry about her. If she wasn’t into you that much, then she’s not worth your time. People come and go, it happens. You should go try looking for another girl. Who knows, you might find ‘the one’.” Francine’s voice lowered in decibels as she spoke. She knew firsthand what it was like having people you trust walk out on you. She realized how sad Ezra was over this and wanted to help him move on, but she knew he wasn’t close to ready to do that. Ezra remained silent.
Sam pitched in, “that’s a great idea. Ez you should go meet some girls, maybe get a few numbers.” Sam nudged his friend. Ezra laid back in his seat, looked at Sam, and reverted his eyes to Francine.
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll have any luck finding ‘the one’ anytime in the near future.” Ezra said. Sam, excitedly, jumped into Ezra’s eyesight.
“Not if you have me as a wingman. I’ll help you find the right one.” Sam smiled in a way that seemed almost devious.
“Coming from the guy who spent last Saturday night cuddling his cat while watching ‘Frozen’. Again.” Ezra smirked.
“Umm, excuse me, but Butterscotch loves it when I hug her,” Sam said as he picked his cat off the floor, “and I recall you watching the movie, too.” Sam stroked Butterscotch’s fur with his cheek.
“I only watched it with you because it was the only way to get you to watch ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. I wouldn’t willingly watch ‘Frozen’, ever, let alone the sing-a-long version. Listening to you try and harmonize with Idina Menzel is like hearing Kanye West speak. What comes out of your mouth is so sad, that I can’t help but laugh.” Francine was trying not to laugh herself.
“Ez, you’re just jealous that I’m a better singer than you. And your stupid ninja turtle movie wasn’t even that great,” Sam retaliated. Ezra became wide eyed and placed his hand on his chest like he was having a heart attack.
“First of all, the hell you are. And second, don’t dis one of my favorite 90’s movies, ya jerk.”
“Okay, Ez, I’ll let you indulge yourself in your delusions for now, but you’ll have to accept the truth someday.” Sam laughed as Ezra glared at him.
“Alright, guys, we’ve gotten too far off topic. Let’s go to a bar and pick up some girls. It will be fun.” Francine stood as if she was a superhero bettering the lives of two single men. She was so excited by her own idea.
“You say that like that’s an easy thing to do. Do you know us? That argument alone should tell you how easy it is for us to get a girl’s number.” Ezra found the idea of him and Sam getting lucky that night absurd.
“It’s okay, Ez, she’s new.” Sam assured him. Ezra nodded in agreement.
“C’mon. With me as your wingman, you’ll both be scoring. Just imagine all the women we can get if we work together.” Francine tilted her head and gazed at the ceiling.
“What the hell is she doing?” Ezra whispered to Sam. They both searched the ceiling. Francine slowly recomposed herself.
“Hello?” Francine shook her head slightly. “Haven’t you guys heard of having a daydream moment?” Fran crossed her arms. “I thought guys as weird as you two would do something wacky like that.”
The boys nodded their heads in understanding of their friend’s weird gesture. “We used to. When Arthur was still a relevant show on PBS.” Said Ezra.
“Fran, I’ve got a question. Didn’t you mean to say wing-woman instead of wingman?” Sam asked.
“Oh, good question, I was wondering that myself. Most women nowadays prefer being called wing-lady or something odd like that. I’m all for feminism, but don’t care for unnecessary political correctness.” Said Ezra. Francine sat back down at the table.
“The term is completely unnecessary. Women pretend to helpful when they really just wanna have fun sabotaging guys while getting their drinks get paid for.” The boys laughed ecstatically.
“Wow,” said Ezra. Their laughter lasted for a few moments until Sam had come to a realization.
“Fran, why do you want us to help you get girls, anyway?” Sam asked. “You do so well by yourself.”
“Yea, we see a new girl do the walk of shame out of your apartment every morning.” Ezra chimed in. “Sam and I even started rating which walkout was the best. Most of the women come out strutting down the hall like models on a runway or like they just finished a business deal.”
“Some of them even dressed the part,” Sam added. “However, some walk out all hung over and trip down the hall, it’s pretty funny.”
“Oh yea, remember the one from last Thursday?” Ezra chuckled.
“With the one high heel and the bride of Frankenstein afro?” Said Sam.
“Yep.” They were both trying to hold it in, but neither of them could contain their cries of amusement. “That’s the one!” Ezra had his arms stretched out and mimicked the walk of Frankenstein’s monster.
“I don’t see what’s so funny. The last woman I saw walk out of your place was, Butterscotch. And she walked right into my apartment.” Fran said over the boys’ laughter. She didn’t know why she was being so defensive. She couldn’t care less about those women, but she realized how much she needed them. Not them exactly, but what they provided.
“No need to get hostile, Fran, we’re just joking,” Ezra said.
“Yea, sorry, but it was just too funny.” Sam said as he chuckled.
“I know, I didn’t mean to act like a bitch,” said Francine.
“It’s ok, we’re used to it,” said Ezra. Sam didn’t want to but laughed at the remark.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Said Fran. She stared Ezra down.
“I’m pretty sure you know what it means.” Ezra said as he matched Francine’s stare.
“Alright, settle down,” Sam said as he rose from his seat. “Ezra was just joking. Right?”
“Uh huh.” Ezra replied without diverting his eyes from Francine’s glare.
“See? Let’s leave it at that,” Said Sam. He picked up the plates from the table and walked off into the kitchen. “I don’t know what’s been going on with you two lately, if you just haven’t been eating breakfast or something, but you should work it out.” Francine and Ezra lowered their eyes. The tension within them dissipated and they sat back down in their chairs. The only sounds left in the room were the running water in the kitchen, the clanging of dishes, and Kumo’s paws shuffling as he readjusted his napping position beside Ezra.
“How about a movie?” Sam suggested after a brief moment of silence.
“Sure. Let’s watch Star Wars,” Fran announced.
“Ok. What else should we watch?” said Sam.
“Its nine o’clock and you want to watch two movies? Don’t you have work in the morning?” Ezra said. He was glad Sam wanted to have a movie night. Sam’s always so committed to his work that he never has time for anything else. However, tonight, Sam was trying to do anything to avoid his work. Even though he loved his job the amount of assignments he had to complete stressed him out.
“I do, but I got a lot done today, so I can relax a bit.” Sam reassured his friend.
“Alright, if you guys want, we’ll watch episodes seven and eight.” Ezra knew if his friend was over worked, he wasn’t going to stop the guy from relaxing a little. Sam and Francine agreed. As Ezra looked for the movies, the other two took comfort on the couch.
“So, what did happen to you both last week that you have to do community service tomorrow?” Sam said. Francine and Ezra looked at each other and back to Sam.
“Nothing for you to worry about, it was dumb,” Francine said.
“Yeah, nothing too crazy,” added Ezra. Sam nodded slowly.
“Uh huh. And what happened has nothing to do with you two fighting all the time?” Sam said. Francine stroked Kumo’s fur while Ezra took the first movie out of its case. “As I recall, you two were arrested for running a red light?”
“Yep. I told you that when I walked through the door.” Ezra spoke with an exasperated tone, “While you called every place I hang out at, asking where I was…”
“…I was concerned…” Sam said as he broke eye contact. And then reconnecting eyes, he asked, “How’d you not see that the light was red? You’re a careful driver.”
Ezra inserted the movie into the playstation and stood up. “I was distracted.” He glanced at Francine. She glanced at Ezra and bit the corner of her lip as she returned her attention to Kumo licking her hand.”
“You get arrested for running a red light?” Sam continued, “A ticket sure, but arrested?”
“Racism?” Ezra shrugged.
“You said Nick pulled you over.”
“Yes. And Nick still has a job to do.” Ezra contemplated for a second before continuing, “It’s not like if one of our friends worked at Gamestop they would just gave me free games. Nick can’t just not give me ticket or arrest me if I break the law.”
Sam mulled over Ezra’s analogy. “Why didn’t you just tell him it was your birthday?” He smiled.
“How?” Ezra’s voice rose. He paused and let out a sigh. “How does that possibly change anything? ‘Oh, hey Nick. Today’s my birthday, so could you just, you know, not arrest me for being a criminal tonight? Thanks, man, I greatly appreciate it.’ You can’t just do that a drive off willy nilly.”
“Willy nilly?” Francine asked, reverting her attention back to the conversation.
Ezra pointed towards her, “don’t you even start.” Butterscotch purred at Ezra from beside his foot. Only adding to the boiling pot. Ezra quickly shifted his head to the floor, “Don’t you start either!”
“You gotta start thinking about these things, Ez, if you wanna stay out of jail. Play the system a little bit.” Sam said. He clicked a button the TV remote.
Ezra’s hands transitioned from holding his shaking head to opening up their palms to the ceiling. Like watching a flaming flower bloom. “What are you talking abou-” Ezra started to ask, but Sam shushed him.
“The movie’s starting.” Sam had lost interest in his conversation with Ezra. Ezra gave a soft rawr behind pursed lips. An imitation of a cat holding in a purr. Remember when I said only a few people made Ezra lose his temper?
Five minutes into Episode Eight of Star Wars, Sam fell asleep on Ezra’s shoulder. Kumo’s breathing could be heard as he slept on the floor in front of the couch. Francine reached over Sam to poke the top of Ezra’s head. He turned towards her and whispered, “What’s up?”
“Why don’t you want to tell Sam what happened?” Fran said. Ezra sighed.
“Sam loves his friendships more than anything else in the world. As you can tell, he’s a bit clingy.”
“You two do seem like a married couple,” Fran said.
“He has a big heart. A golden one. Anyway, I may not be fond of you, but he certainly is. If he found out about what happened, he’d be devastated. Probably wouldn’t want to be friends with you anymore.”
“I understand. Let’s not ruin what we’ve got goin’ here,” said Fran.
“We don’t have anything,” Ezra replied.
“You’ll warm up to me,” Francine smiled. Ezra rolled his eyes.
“Once you start paying for groceries, sure. Or eat at your own place,” said Ezra. “Just don’t do anything to get us into more trouble, alright? Sam and I have been through too much already.”
“You’re not the only ones,” Francine mumbled. Her smile faded a bit.
So, here’s what happened between Ezra and Francine. Ezra agreed to drive Francine to a friend’s house, so she could drop off a suitcase full of clothes. However, the night was not as simple as either of them had intended it to be.
“The light’s green,” Francine said. Ezra pressed on the gas. “Did you hear me?”
“Sorry, what did you say?” Ez took a quick glance towards the passenger seat.
“The light. Is green.” Ezra rolled his eyes at Francine’s comment.
“Very funny. I meant the other thing,” said Ezra.
“I said it’s okay to still be heartbroken after a year. You loved her, I get it. It takes time to acknowledge and accept that you won’t be getting back together. For some it’s a year, for others…maybe about a month.” Francine bit a corner of her lip. Her phone vibrated in the cupholder. She reached for it, reading the message.
“I never said I was heartbroken, I just – I don’t feel like dating right now,” Ezra replied. He took a right onto Queen Anne Avenue. “Do you mind skipping this song? I’m not really feelin’ “Hooked on a Feeling.” Fran continued staring at her cell.
“Feeling’s are your problem. You mull over them too much. Learn to enjoy life at face value.” Francine continued to text as she spoke. The car slowed to a stop at an intersection.
“Fran, could you skip- you’re not even paying attention.” Ezra narrowed his eyes at Francine. “And you wonder why I only talk to Sam about those feelings I apparently mull over too much.”
“You know, that special someone is out there for you, don’t stop searching.” Fran put her phone back into the cupholder and returned her focus to the streets of Seattle. With the all so rare Starbucks on her right and the Mezcaleria Oaxaca fading past Ezra’s window.
“Sure, if you believe in that sorta thing,” said Ezra. “Do I Wanna Know” by Arctic Monkeys began to play. Fran looked to Ezra with glossy eyes, but his focus was on the road.
“I do. And I bet you do too,” Fran said softly. Almost to herself.
The speakers sing, “If this feeling flows both ways?”
“Once upon a time, maybe,” Ezra shrugged.
“Baby we both know,” trails off in the background.
Francine slowly leaned over the console. “That the nights were mainly made…” She cupped his head in her hands. Their faces inched closer to one another. Eyes locked. They could feel each other’s lips separated by what seemed like a canyon when it was just by a hair. “Been wondering if your heart’s still open…” Francine glanced out the windshield. “The light’s red!” Ezra pulled away from Francine, eyes as wild as a child afraid of heights on a rollercoaster he swerved around a car crossing his lane. No other vehicles dared to step into Ezra’s path. He sped through the light. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” is sung through the silence. The song continues, “…I’m constantly on the cusp-”
“Holy shit! Why the fuck did you do that?! Are you trying to get us killed?!” Ezra combed his hands through his curly hair. “You know we could’ve died, right?!” Ezra turned to Francine for an answer.
“Fuck. I wasn’t expecting that.” Francine stared out onto the road for a moment before facing Ezra. “Well, it could’ve been worse.” She gave a weak smile. Suddenly, flashing red and blue lights appeared behind them. Ezra smacked his head against the top of the steering wheel.
“God dammit. I just can’t catch a break,” Ezra mumbled. He pulled over in front of The Thai Kitchen restaurant. Nick appeared at his window. Ezra rolled the window down.
“Hey, Nick. Sorry about the red light. I was distracted.” Ezra said.
“Hey, Ez.” Nick greeted. “Everyone alright?”
“Yeah,” Ezra started to speak, but Francine abruptly spoke out.
“More than fine, officer. We’re just enjoying our cruise.” Francine spoke quickly. Both guys looked at Francine bewildered.
“Anyway,” Ezra continued, “We’re ok, just rattled. I should’ve been paying attention. How much is the ticket going to cost me?”
“I’ll let it slide this time but be more careful, said Nick. “In a city like Seattle, many accidents end up with someone in a body bag.” Nick looked around the car. He saw the suit case in the back seat partly unzipped. “No Sam?” He asked as he squinted his eyes to the back of the car. Francine blinked from Nick to the back seat.
“Nah, he’s busy working,” Ezra replied. Nick noticed a suspicious plastic bag with a white substance peeking from the suitcase.
“Hey. I’m gonna need you both to step out of the car,” Nick said. He moved back from the door. Complying, Ezra and Francine stepped out into the breezy night air. “Could you take the suitcase out for me?”
“Yeah…sure.” Ezra said. He had no idea why Nick wanted to see the suitcase. Nick witnessed Francine’s worried face. Ezra grabbed the suitcase and noticed the same thing Nick had. He opened it up. His eyes slowly grew in circumference. He rose from the seat, glaring straight towards Francine. “What did you do?” Francine was about to speak but dropped her head instead. You could see her bite the corner of her lip before her hair veiled her face. The car cuts the silence wants again as it sings, “Do I wanna know?”
Ezra and Francine continued to watch Star Wars with the thought that that night would be the most of their worries. Unfortunately, that night would be the start of their complicated lives.