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Friday short story time: "Ruination"

This week, a rare sequel or follow-up. These have gone badly for me in the past, but I had a thematic continuation in mind. And since it’s a sequel to last week’s story, I can even pretend it was planned at the time.

Well, maybe not anymore. And no, you probably don’t need to read the original. Anyway, yes, this is once again a reflection on something that really happened. Are these stories close to becoming a form of therapy for me?


By Nick Bryan




‘What’s wrong? I found your laptop smashed downstairs.’

‘Sorry, Jenny.’

‘That’s okay, it’s not my laptop. What happened?’

‘Oh, something happened to someone. Doesn’t matter.’

‘Seems to matter a bit.’

‘This is the problem with the internet, I think. It opens you up to all these new people, and, y’know, I’ve seen the television programmes, with the hostage situations and the fighting, and the hero’s weakness is always measured by… by…’

‘Andrew, what happened to who, exactly? Have you been taking your…’


‘Okay, okay, I’m sorry, you were saying?’

‘Doesn’t… it’s just, you know, even if you don’t have arch enemies and shit, the more people who matter to you, the more weak you are. Something might happen to one of them, and then you have to feel bad.’

‘That’s kinda bleak, isn’t it? So something bad happened to someone online?’

‘… Yeah. Car crash.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry, Andrew.’

‘Doesn’t matter. Never even spoken to the guy.’

‘Clearly it matters to you.’

‘Yeah. You said that already.’


Luke was drunk. You could tell because the jokes he was posting on Twitter were getting much worse. It was embarrassingly early in the day too, he could barely claim it was evening.

“So,” he tweeted, taking a long time over the spelling of each word, “just been warming up the bar for when you 9-5ers get here. Try not to stand in it when you arrive.”

After that had sent, he gazed at it for a while. Yeah, he’d done better. He hadn’t gathered nearly two thousand eager followers with that kind of dribble. He was a funny guy, he knew he was. Must try harder.

‘Yo, Luke, stop fucking around on your phone,’ his friend heckled from the bar, ‘we still got time for one more before the normals turn up.’

They had met doing the 7-3:30 shift on checkout, and evolved a strange kind of superiority. They were earning the same as everyone else, but doing it at a slightly different time, which meant they got the best seats in the pubs and, as long as they were willing to swallow a lack of sleep, had just as much fun.

‘Nah, s’all good, think I’m gonna head home,’ Luke jerked his thumb towards a nearby door, which was actually the men’s room, ‘pretty trashed for this early, I might sleep it off. Dinner with my folks later, they don’t like it when I’m asleep in the food.’

‘Don’t be such a fuckin’ pansy.’

‘Sorry, dude,’ Luke shrugged, ‘I gotta do what I gotta do.’

‘Yeah, and you gotta get another beer.’

‘Ain’t happening.’

With a slightly bitter farewell, the two of them went their seperate ways. Apparently someone else they kinda knew was in the bar somewhere, so there might still be a chance to keep drinking. Which had tempted Luke for a second, but in the end he’d stuck to his guns and left his friend to searching.

Because, after all, he really was a bit smashed, and hadn’t been lying about that meal with his parents. If he hurried home, he might have time to lie down. Not to mention, although he wasn’t going to say it out loud, the quality of that last joke on Twitter had pissed him off. Who knows what incoherent pigshit he’d end up posting after even more drinks?

He was approaching the road crossing outside the bar now, which was busy as hell. Hundreds of cars powering through, trying to get home from work as fast as possible to snatch a few hours with their families.

It was one hell of a crossing, but he’d done this a million times. First, though, he reached into his pocket for his phone. An idea had slipped into his head, a chance for Twitter redemption.

“At a busy intersection. Wow, if the caveman who invented the wheel had negotiated royalties, his family would own all our asses.”

And, satisfied, he flung himself into that junction.


Andrew didn’t think of himself as worthless, but he knew he wasn’t funny.

So he was always in awe of people on Twitter who could rattle that stuff out, seemingly without effort. Take that joke about wheels, just posted by “LukeAtMe”. Obviously, his real name was Luke, but Andrew didn’t know him. Until they were met in real life, he naturally thought of these internet folk by their online usernames.

It wasn’t even that they had fascinating jobs; he knew from long-term reading of his stuff that LukeAtMe worked in an American supermarket. So he could hardly claim his office management role was holding him back.

He tapped his laptop and tried to think of something funny to tweet about the cup of tea he’d just made, but it wasn’t coming. He… hoped he didn’t leave the teabag in too long, flip out and spit it up over his walls?

No. That’s not funny, just unpleasant. These people made it look so easy, and he never gave them the credit they deserved. Sometimes passed on their jokes for others to enjoy, but never told them how much he enjoyed their work.

Mostly, if he was being honest, because he didn’t want to sound like a gushing teenager writing to a pop star. However, he decided, maybe it was time. He gritted his teeth and wrote a message to LukeAtMe, thanking him for “all the laughs”. After the final keystroke, he stared at it a while, before shaking his head and deleting the whole thing.

Fuck it, he was tired. Maybe tomorrow.

Copyright me 2012, don’t steal, email me if you like, blah blah. And no, Luke doesn’t really exist. All is fiction. However, Mike Pandel, comic podcaster and entertaining chap, really did tragically pass away earlier this week. For a more direct (and musical and funnier) tribute, click here. That story really was just me reflecting on the occasional sadness of the internet.

I’ll do some jokes next week, I promise.


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