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Dear John, a Short Story


Synopsis: Keith is a lonely college student engrossed in his world of reading Rolling Stone magazine when life suddenly throws him onto a rolling stone of his own. In this suspenseful thriller, Keith finds out his world isn't as safe as he thought.

Ha! This should be a funny read: “How Bush Destroyed the Republican Party.” The Sept. 8, 2008 Rolling Stone cover looked up at me, with a caricature of George Bush, holding two pistols, dressing a cowboy hat, bandana and two cowboy boots on top of a dead elephant. Flipping through the issue, I stop at “The Decade of the Dude” before hitting up “Bush’s Elephant’s Memory” article.

“This whole room is kind of dude-like,” Jeff Bridges said in the article. “It’s a summer afternoon at Bridge’s Santa Barbara, Calif., estate, and the 58-year-old actor is digging around his dusty garage, looking for memorabilia from The Big Lebowski” writes Andy Greene in the lead of the article. Man! I love the writing in this magazine. It’s just filled with so much imagery – it’s journalism disguised with storytelling.

Well, 9 a.m. Time for class. I leave the mag, opened to the front page of "The Big Lebowski" article on my kitchen table inside my school apartment, head downstairs and out to learn more about World War I. History is a piece of cake for me, but I’m not into going right now. I know should be focusing on school, but I can only think about writing for Rolling Stone. I mean, wouldn’t it be something to interview Paul McCartney or some high profile celebrity and be there, in that moment?

“Even though he wrote ‘When I’m 64’ and McCartney is now 70, he shows no signs of slowing down. Instead of ‘digging the weeds,’ McCartney pulls out a trademark left-handed Hofner bass violin guitar and asks what song I would like to hear.” Yeah, that would make a great lead for some story. Following class the day, I rushed home, and read about the weirdly normal appeal of The Big Lebowski. Once I finished that article, I moved the Republican party piece and before I knew it, a couple hours went up by like a puff of smoke. Well, I guess it’s a good thing I read all this today because I almost forgot this is due back at the library tomorrow.

The Next Day

I loved discovering that the college library carried Rolling Stone. I happened by the periodicals one lazy afternoon and was always interested in the magazine and proceeded to ask the librarian if they had it. The old man librarian sported worn-out khakis with a sweater vest, and reading glasses. He looked bookish, like he belonged there. He shuffled when he walked, and never was in a hurry to get anywhere. I approached the desk, his desk, at rapid speed. He was the gatekeeper between me and hours of reading material.

“Good morning.”

“Oh hi, how are you? Did you enjoy the read?” the librarian asked.

“Yes, very much. I especially liked the piece on The Big Lebowski.”

“Oh, uh huh. I’ll go get the new Rolling Stone for you.”

“Oh, okay, thanks!”

“If you liked the Bush piece in the last issue, they have a pretty good article on John McCain here.”

“Oh, sounds good! I guess I could just sign up for a prescription to it, but it’s a little cheaper to come to the library.

“Well, cheap is a bit of an understatement, wouldn’t you say? And don’t you mean subscription? What is your name by the way? I just thought I’d ask since you’d be coming in here.

“It’s Keith.”

“Keith, well, call me John. So let me ask you this Kieth, ‘Do you like Rolling Stone, or are you like a rolling stone?”

Bob Dylan. Nice. I think he was trying to be funny with what he thought was a joke though.

“Ha, both.”

“Got it. Well, nice talking to you Keith,” he said through a smile.

“Okay, thanks John. See you later!

“Bye Keith; see you soon!”

Next Week Tuesday

It’s been a busy week. I covered four stories for the newspaper, wrote two essays for two separate classes and worked extra hours at my part-time job at the journalism office. I had people yell at me this week, call me names about being interviewed, and covered a fire when I was supposed to be asleep. All I wanted to do was relax. I barely got to read Rolling Stone. Well, I’ll just have to check it out again.

The library this overcast October seemed a little quieter than usual. I don’t know where everyone on campus went to; I mean it’s only two p.m. If I know one thing, it’s that I know nothing. Campus doesn’t usually clear out until another three hours. The bookshelves are unattended and the computers are unused. The school’s library stands three stories, with great stained glass windows that extend through each level, and on bright, sunny days, they illuminate the entire building. Yet today, the lack of sunshine makes me feel even lonelier than I already am. I walked through the second floor, and eventually made my way down a flight of stairs to periodicals. There was no one here among the magazine racks. At the periodicals circulation desk, there was John, smiling. I walked up with my Rolling Stone, handed it over and said, “Hi John; where is everyone?”

“Everyone? You know Keith, I hadn’t even noticed. I get so caught up in my reading that it could be as busy as a bee or as slow as a sloth and it would mean the same to me.

“You don’t say? Well, I’d like to check out this Rolling Stone again. I barely had time to read it this week.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. What’s keeping you from reading?”

“Oh, well I’m on the newspaper at school, and I hold a part-time job here, and I’ve had a lot of homework and you know, I just haven’t had the time between all that.”

“I see...yes you are quite busy! What do you do for the paper and what job do you work?” John listened to Keith with as much attention as the Greek God Echo paid to Narcissus. “I’m an online reporter. So, I write stories for the newspaper’s website and post them on the site. Then I work for the journalism office here Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, but this week they had me work Monday too.”

“Hmm, I was on the newspaper when I was your age. I worked for my school paper too and then my love of reading kind of took over and I, well, long story short, I ended up here. That’s fantastic though Keith; you have to know what’s going on in the world around you.

“Yeah, I do love reading and writing, but sometimes it’s good to take the reporting hat off, like when I come here. You know, I’m not interviewing you or anything. We’re just talking. I don’t have a recorder in your face. Once in a while that’s nice.

“Haha, yeah I agree.”

“Well, I’ll see you next Tuesday John. Take it easy.”

“Okay, bye now. I’ll see you next Tuesday.”

And John smiled and stuck his arm out straight to wave, sort of like when Babe Ruth supposedly stuck out his bat to call his shot.

Next Wednesday

Oh great! I forgot to take the Rolling Stone back yesterday. At least I got to finish the magazine this time. Well, I think I can stomach the five cents or whatever it will be for the late fee.

I made my way to the library, back down the same familiar steps to the periodicals and back to the circulation desk.

“Hi John, sorry this is late.”

“Keith, I was worried about you. I was expecting to see you yesterday.

John looked as though he was sweating from his temple. He looked a bit shaken, as if he had too much coffee or something. His relaxed tone wore off and was replaced by a little more hypertensive.

“Oh, yeah, it’s, I’m, I’m okay. I just forgot to return it yesterday is all. What do I owe you?”

“Keith, we’re good friends! You don’t owe me anything.”

Oh....are you sure? I mean, I know it’s just five cents or whatever, but isn’t it library policy?”

“Keith, I decide what’s library policy.”

“Well, okay.”

“And here, here’s the next magazine.”

“Thanks.”

“Thank you, Keith,” he said. His breathing returned to normal even though he still had blotches of red in his cheeks.

Okay, that was a little weird. First off, he tells me he’s worried that I wasn’t here. Then, he doesn’t charge me for the late fee. Never in the history of my going to libraries have I not been charged for a late fee and I have returned books late so often that I should take out a loan to pay off the charges. And what was with that, “Thank you Keith?” What did he mean? Am I being paranoid? I mean, he is just a nice old man. He probably just likes seeing me come in so he can have someone to talk to. Eh, I think I’m getting paranoid.

Later that night

I can’t wait to read this issue! It’s all about John Lennon! There’s an interview from a 1980 Rolling Stone about the Double Fantasy album. Of course, I have to read that first!

Instead of John’s face looking up at me though in the center of the magazine, there’s

a note, a note that begins “Dearest Keith,”.

“Dearest Keith,

I can’t hide my feelings for you any longer. When you did not come in today to the library, my heart was crushed. How could you forget our special time together? Even though it may only last a few moments, my heart is a jackhammer when I see such an attractive, intelligent and ambitious young man come into my corner of the world. I know this may seem strange to you now, but search your heart! We are both one and the same! We are both writers and readers, intelligent men who could really make a valuable future together. If you come searching me out at the library, you will not find me. I cannot tell you where I have gone. Do not worry dearest Keith. I will find you and we will be together.

Truly Yours,

John

The weird thing is that John wrote a love letter in the middle of a John Lennon article about his love songs. Well maybe, not so weird. I should have seen that this guy was crazy. I mean, all this could have been avoided too I guess if the guy just knew I’m not homosexual. Or could it? Has he tried this before? Am I not his first victim? I have to go to the police. I don’t want this guy stalking me - “I cannot tell you where I have gone” kind of creeps me out. I have to show them this letter.

Okay, so I filed a police report. They have the letter. They said they’d notify me when they catch John and in the meantime I should room with a friend for safety. Time to go home, make some phone calls to some potential roommates. I’ll be up all night if I have to.

I pulled the car onto the street curb, walked the old, wooden steps up to my second floor apartment, flicked the light on, set my keys and phone on the kitchen table right above the Rolling Stone and headed into the living room to watch some TV.

Laughing along with SpongeBob Squarepants seemed to be the only thing that would calm me. Even though my eyes were half closed, there seemed to be a bright flash coming from somewhere. I didn’t know what it was or what direction it came from exactly. I stopped for a minute and decided to shrug it off and let the sounds of SpongeBob and Patrick take me back to my childhood.

Fifteen minutes later, I walked out into the kitchen to fix myself a snack and noticed that the door was left open. Did I do that? Did I leave the door open? I went to close the door, locked it tight, poured myself a bowl of Cheerios, sat down at the table, flipped through the magazine and ate as I flipped. Then my phone buzzed with a text message.

I picked up the phone, opened the message and my jaw dropped six feet. There was a picture of me watching TV with the words “Love My Little Boy!” written underneath. I couldn’t fly to the police department fast enough.

Well, the good news is that my friend Joe is coming to the station to take me to his apartment, so I can room with him until this is all over with and the not so good news is that the detective thinks that since Joe’s voicemail says “This number is no longer in service,” it will be a little longer to get to John than they thought.

Next Tuesday

Although the police said they haven’t found John yet, the roommate situation with Joe is going well. I haven’t heard or seen John since last week. Yet, I’m afraid to go anywhere alone and kind of force Joe to stay home whenever he can. This night, however, Joe has to go work his freelance newspaper job. Maybe I’ll go get something to eat, I thought. I’ll be around people at least. So I ventured out to a local Mexican place and hoped Joe would be back by the time I returned to the apartment.

About two hours later, I drove back to Joe’s place, but didn’t see Joe’s car. Well, he should be home soon, I thought. I turned the key to his apartment door, flicked on the kitchen light and saw John, standing there with that grandfatherly smile on his face.

My head swirled, my heart felt like it was going to explode, and I could barely say his name: “John...what are you doing here?”

“It’s Tuesday! It’s our date. Remember?”

“How did you get in here? How did you know I was here?

“Keith my boy, all of a sudden you turn into a reporter. Why can’t we just have a conversation, remember?

“I...”

“Haha, what’s the matter? Cat got your tongue? I’d like him to share your tongue if you don’t mind. Did you like the last Rolling Stone piece about John Lennon? It was rather ironic that I should choose that article to put my note in don’t you think?”

“What?!”

“Well, it’s just the article talks about Mark Chapman, John’s stalker, and you know, we all know what Mark did to John. And well, I guess you could say I’m stalking you now; although, stalking is such a negative word. I really prefer courting over stalking.”

“Listen, John.”

“Careful what you say Keith. You’re a journalist, a words man. We have to think about what we say right?”

Somehow, in the midst of everything, I thought of a plan. I would text Joe. He would know what it means. I told him I wouldn’t text him unless I was in trouble.

“John, do you want something to eat or drink?”

“Ah, now you’re being hospitable. That’s more like it. Well, I’d really like to eat you up, but I suppose I could start with a nice hot black tea.”

“Sure, sure. Tea drinker! I’ll have some too!”

“I took a lot of care in writing that letter for you Keith. I thought through every word and meant every word.”

“Uh huh, oh look, tea’s ready!”

In a sudden rush of adrenaline, I took the piping hot teapot over to the table and at first I acted as if I would pour John a glass and instead, poured the entire pot over

his head.

“Ah!” John screamed like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz.

I quickly fumbled with my cell phone and with the battery life dying, texted Joe 9-1-1,

apt. That’s all I could get out. I then rushed to the drawers to grab the longest kitchen knife I could find.

“Stay right there, John!”

“I hope you didn’t just text Joe. Well, that won’t go anywhere, haha!”

“Why is that?! Where is Joe?”

“Well, Joe is dead! How else did you think I could get in your apartment?”

“No...no, no, no, you, you monster!”

“Drop the knife, Keith. Drop the knife, and I won’t hurt you.”

I started to cry, started to feel weak, but only for an instant. My tears quickly turned

to anger, and I drove that knife right through John’s heart. I couldn’t stand it all anymore. He took Joe’s life; he was going to take mine. It was me or him.

“We could have been together Keith! Why, why?!” That’s when I ran, and as I ran, I still heard John’s cries. I ran and ran and ran until what seemed like forever. Then I finally hit the police station and told the story of what happened that night.

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