about the author

Garrett Ashley lives in Mississippi but unfortunately has no cats to contribute to this bio. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in places like > kill author, Brain Harvest, Caper Literary Journal, and a variety of small science fiction venues. He’s currently trying to hold together a blog at Scary Naked Giant.

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The History of Character X

Garrett Ashley

The Protagonist, Character X

Alicia Banning. Annette Broderick. Atara Baldemar. The name does not equate with the success of Character X. She might become He. Adam Banning. Aaron Broderick. Aloysius Baldemar. Gender is or can be the result of the personality of the creator. Genre, as well as. The creator may alter; the story will remain the same.

For now, Character X becomes AB. AB is not only catchy when read aloud from the rudimentary transcript, but is also much easier to say than Character X. (Though for some, Character X may imply mystery, or the preverbal form of a protagonist of Science Fiction.)

The Desire

AB is in love with Character Y. Their lives (both X and Y) have intercepted at point 0. Point 0 may be the Market Garden. A private room at Club Fire. The back row of Intermediate Light. Insert smells—tomatoes, onions, Clorox Bleach (from the mop bucket on aisle nine). Cigarette smoke, Southern Comfort, dry semen (from the private room’s couch, walls, ceiling). Used textbook paper, chalk dust, the cologne/perfume emanating from Character Y as he/she scratches out one formula and starts again.

It may be the smell AB is attracted to. The smells are followed by dialogue and tags, which may also strike the interest of AB.

These damn tomatoes are too fucking high, said Character Y.

These damn people are too fucking loud, said Character Y.

These damn problems are too fucking hard, said Character Y.

Character Y ignores AB’s attempt at further conversation. According to the fundamentals of the creation of round characters, Character Y will make conversation inexorably difficult. Character Y will always be uninterested in AB.

Kurt Vonnegut calls this story Boy Meets Girl. But it needn’t be that, he said.

The Obstacle, Part One

Character Y continues to ignore AB. It doesn’t matter if Character Y is even aware of AB’s infatuation.

Maybe AB follows Character Y home from the Market Garden and parks his/her means of transportation at a discrete distance so as not to be seen. AB loves how Character Y’s legs fold as he/she bends to the doormat and retrieves a hidden key. Exit Character Y.

Maybe AB follows Character Y to a tall brick apartment building next to a social office and leans against the chain-link fence stretching alongside a basketball court. AB loves how Character Y’s cheeks blush as he/she enters the wrong door code not once, but twice. Exit Character Y.

Maybe AB follows Character Y to the athletic dorms. Character Y does not play sports, but athletic dorms are generally cheap and available to students with low GPAs. AB sits on a picnic table, the sun setting, and thinks about the things his/her infatuation will do when he/she is alone with a soft, blue pillow. Exit Character Y.

Character Y should always exit the story more than once. A single exit may only present itself as coincidence, and may seem uninteresting—AB’s following of Character Y should become habitual, maybe even dangerous.

The Obstacle, Part Two

AB’s interaction with Character Y never exceeds the price of tomatoes, the volume of drunken patrons or the difficulty of an equation invoking Einstein’s mirror metaphor.

I should grow my own damn tomatoes, said Character Y.

I should drink alone, said Character Y.

I should like to travel at the speed of light, said Character Y, mirror outstretched before me. Would I see a reflection? Einstein didn’t even know, it took him ten years of thinking to decide on it.

The Pill

Pills almost always make us feel better. So after many repeated instances of The Obstacle (parts one and two), AB will be confronted with an instance of tranquility. In any of the three versions of the story, tranquility must be the result of confrontation.

Have you been following me? said Character Y.

AB won’t recognize this as any form of medication at first. It may seem frightening until at last Character Y’s inquisitive grimace becomes the curious, playful smirk that often comforts us in moments of embarrassment or distress.

In any of the three versions of the story, Character Y will walk away, looking back once and then twice. The sliding doors at the Market Garden will grind shut. The crowd at Club Fire will thicken and hide all recognizable faces from the viewer. Hands will shoot up in Intermediate Light. Everyone has their own theory of relativity and Einstein’s mirror. In such an exciting confusion, conversations are lost and broken.

A Climax

Anyone who recognizes the arc of Boy Meets Girl should know that after a decline in fortune, there is a rise. AB stops following Character Y home from Garden Market, to the apartment from Club Fire, to the athletic dorms from Intermediate Light.

In fact, AB stops seeing Character Y in produce. His/Her face doesn’t appear in the crowd at Club Fire. There is an empty desk at the back of Intermediate Light. The Professor doesn’t necessarily feel heartbroken, for Character Y is a difficult student to handle indeed and is consequently viewed as a stronger antagonist than before.

AB begins to shop at family owned stores, which eventually leads to the consumption of fatty foods from a variety of fast-food restaurants. (Food-To-Go, of course. AB doesn’t like eating alone.)

AB stops going to Club Fire with his/her friends. He/She wonders: What at this point in life is the use of friends, anyway? My friends cannot offer physical companionship, so there is no gain.

AB stops looking over at the empty desk in Intermediate Light. It’ll soon be filled, anyway, by a very large, red faced Neck-Beard who may try to hold a conversation every now and again. But by now everyone has already decided that—at the speed of light—there is no reflection. There is nothing.

The reader may wonder when and where the rise in AB’s fortune exists. The rise may certainly be ambiguous. Years later in either of the three versions of the story, AB witnesses Character Y pulling a two (maybe three or four) year old by the hand towards a Miskelly’s, Lowe’s, or Home Depot. The two (three or four) year old tries to pull back, its frizzy hair dripping sweat, as he/she is intercepted by a tall man with a shaved head or a short woman with teal fingernails. The unnamed spouse picks up his/her child and kisses Character Y on the cheek. They all go and live happily ever after.

And people love that story, said Vonnegut. They never get sick of it.

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