The unreliable narrator (literary exercises #1)

I was at the usual Black Hole Coffee House this evening talking to my friends Catherine and Joy, whom I don’t get to see this often, when a guy game up and asked to use my cellphone. This was ok. He asked for a couple of other things that various people provided (cigarette, light, pen, etc.)

To start off, he seemed friendly but unreliable. He was somewhere in his twenties, very friendly and outgoing, charismatic, but a bit off. Something suggested that he was constantly calculating what to say next, like a salesman.

As we expected, he had a Tale of Woe. He’d arrived here in Southern California from points east without much of a plan, and had run out of money so that he ended up living in Stanton. Stanton isn’t somewhere you want to live: it’s a gang-riddled, dilapidated mess. Our friend had completely run out of money and was scouring the streets for a job when he happened into a “smoke shop” who said yes! they were hiring. The “smoke shop” also had an electronics business in the back.

He did indeed start working for them, but was not paid. Therefore, he did not have rent. This caused him to move in with the smoke shop’s owner in lieu of pay. He was then sleeping in the smoke shop’s office, or something. Long story short, the office was repo’d or something and all his stuff was locked up there. To cap it off, his complaining to various people about Mr. Smoke Shop’s behavior has resulted in the guy being “after him” in some unspecified way involving the threat of violence.

Our pal as we encountered him was “house sitting” at the local ne’er-do-well apartment building (the Coronado) and was worried because his whole circle of friends at this point was hooked up with Mr. Evil Smoke Shop Owner, and he had nowhere to go, etc.

I could tell that Catherine and Joy shared my skepticism about our new friend’s story. I wonder what he left out? Obviously someone who continues working at a head shop without being paid is getting something he wants. Obviously he didn’t go get a straight job immediately and stop partying with these characters when his first check didn’t arrive. Our muted suggestions that he find a normal job and stop hanging around with petty criminals were acknowledged, but…

My guess is his pals had the hookup with girls. He kept talking about “yeah and I was hanging out with these girls” as the connecting bit of each part of the sad story. Party gals like a guy who works at a head shop. Too bad landlords only like a guy who has the rent.

I’d just love to hear the story from another point of view, though. I’m a terrible voyeur that way; call me an aficionado of human weakness.

5 thoughts on “The unreliable narrator (literary exercises #1)

  1. Boy, have I been getting lucky with the coffee house insanity situation. First TA’s altercation, now this.
    I was there on Saturday night, and all I heard was crickets. Oh, and really bad geriatric blues.
    Usually, I can expect a visit from medicated Bob or something.

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