Stoned English Majors

By on Sep 4, 2023 in Featured, Fiction

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Flying Valiant on a psychedelic road

“You know, Stutz, what I’ve been thinking?” Phil halted mid-sentence to deposit our plates onto an empty table. “I’m wondering if in the next millennium— that’s 2000, I think—words will no longer be necessary.”

“We’ll be like, 50 years old, Phil. Almost dead.”

“Nearly.” He gazed over my shoulders and out the window as a wondrous female silhouette strutted by. “I’m thinking that, by then, and maybe way before, everyone will have fingers for eyes. Instead of speaking, we’ll waggle our digits at one another, so evolved, it will all make sense. Won’t need words at all.”

Phil U-turned to his napkin, its apparent length an enlarging circle of wonder.

“How will we see?” I leadenly interjected. “I mean, if we have fingers emanating from our eyes?”

“No. No. Listen, Stutz. Really listen. Not coming out of our eyes. Fingers for eyes. You can still see out of them, but they’ll look like fingers, eyeballs at the tips.”

“When you put it that way, it almost makes sense.”

Phil shifted into pedantic overdrive. “You, with your labyrinthian books, you fret, man, way too much.” His jaw jutted at me, eyes blasting from his glasses. I thought to inquire how the eyeglass industry might navigate this new grave new world, but didn’t want to encourage him. “And before you ask your next niggling question, relax—fingers will remain. Where they are now. The ones higher up, extras. God, Stutz, you inhabit such an uptight, pedestrian galaxy.”

By now the napkin had matured such that it seemed curled like a dozing snake, and with our table bare but for it and the bill, Phil went to the men’s room and returned with a few paper towels, wiped it dry, and prepped the paper icon for its destiny.

Transition seemed complete, I could see how its outer rim might stretch far and wide, maybe not around a car, but who knew? And as we plopped our crumpled dollars down, I wrestled with a decision that pinned me right back.

“Phil. One thing that’s been hanging me up all night.”

“Your virginity, what’s known as your first completed sexual experience.” (Phil was clearly reluctant to dive full-bore on this exposition bit, as it wasn’t his idea.) “Believe me, it will pass. And despite the things you’ve read, you really will be the same befuddled jerk-weed when it’s over.”

Another D.C. Comics hero strafed my thoughts, came to my rescue. Green Lantern, wielder of the powerful ring that saw him through pretty much any fix, so long as the color yellow, GL’s kryptonite, wasn’t about.

“Phil,” I offered, wiping mozzarella from my chin and holding it aloft. “Remember how Green Lantern’s ring was helpless against yellow, sort of like this cheese, because of what he called a necessary impurity?”

“Should be plenty of that in Europe this summer.”

I moved the cheese equidistant between Phil’s face and mine, mouthing an explosion sound. “This yellow blob,” I declared, feeling a bit guilty but declaring, just the same, “it’s draining your power ring. Boom—there goes Europe.”

Phil pushed his bony pinkies through the frames of his glasses, fingers-for-eyes popping into his dark lashes.

“Seriously, Phil. Second thoughts. Might hang tough in Philly this summer, work. Put away some bread.”

“Wait a minute, Stutz. We had this all sussed out. Ten weeks, ten countries. Wild times”—here he kinda choked on it, but went along with my comic-dialog thing, maybe hoping to sucker me back in—“for our wild generation, the Baby Boomers, conceived, heh-heh, after World War 2. Gonna be unforgettable.”

“I want to start forgetting now.”

“What’s the problem, man? When I promised we’d meet chicks if we hitched to Boston, didn’t we? And when I said we’d experience historic moments hanging out all night with that WDAS DJ after the Doors concert in ’68? Did we not? And what about last week, when we snuck into Temple Stadium to experience Hendrix? Have I ever let you down?”

“No, and yes.”

“Meaning what, man?”

I gazed in serious awe at Phil’s wonderful napkin, his fake comic shock thinly masking hurt, and jettisoned D.C. Comics jargon.

“Meaning everything is you, Phil. We have electric times, but, really, they’re your times. I’m, Sancho Panza, Ed McMahon, Tonto. Larry Hagman to your Jeannie.” I half-tried to cushion the blow. “And you haven’t got Barbara Eden’s navel.”

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Stuart Michaelson is a semi-retired journalist and Philadelphia native. He spent 22 years working on newspapers in the Philly area, Connecticut, and New Jersey as a reporter, editor, columnist, and supervisor, as well as more than a decade at TV Guide magazine, where he contributed to three books on television history. He started writing fiction in 2017, and had a short story published in 2018 in the Schuylkill Valley Journal. Apart from writing fiction, as well as part-time freelance non-fiction, he spends his time reading political and rock-music bios, listening to CDs, and watching old TV shows, ranging from Lost to such escapist fare as "Melrose Place."