Jump to content

Peter's Bad Day


Recommended Posts

Peter’s Bad Day

by Merkin

Peter Compton woke with a start and stared at his alarm clock. My god, it was after eight o’clock; he’d overslept! He turned to look over at his roommate Thomas’s bed. It was empty. Not only empty, but neatly made. Damn, Thomas hadn’t awakened him! Thomas woke him every morning, then his damned singing and banging around and scraping the furniture made sure he got up. But not this morning.

Peter quickly got out of bed. He just knew that this was going to be a bad day. He barely had time for breakfast before his nine o’clock class. He threw on yesterday’s clothes, jammed his feet into his flip flops, and made a quick pass through the bathroom. He didn’t bother to brush his teeth or his hair. “What you see is what you get,” he muttered as he stormed through the room, grabbing his keys and his wallet and his phone.

Peter opened the door to leave, then turned and went back to his roommate’s bed. He seized all the bedclothes at the neat top fold and with a heave pulled them off and onto the floor. He slammed the door as he exited.

The Commons was nearly empty as Peter piled a banana, a bowl of cereal, and a cup of coffee onto a tray and headed for a small table in the corner. His head was beginning to throb. He began to shove food into his mouth until he felt a presence looming over the table. It was his best friend Greg.

“Hiya, Peter, howsit going?” Greg sat down opposite him. “Do you have that ten? I’m collecting the gas money we owe Phillip for using his car last weekend.”

Peter threw down his spoon. “If you think I’m going to pay anything more for that lame double-date,” he said, “you’re a bigger ass than I thought you were. The whole thing was your idea. I didn’t even want to go, and I certainly didn’t have a good time.”

Peter got up, shoved the table back into Greg’s stomach, scowled at his astonished expression, and stalked out of the dining room. His headache was worse and he was late for his history lecture. He thought about cutting it, but then decided to go.

The door into the classroom was at the front, where Dr. Adams was standing at the lectern. The grizzled old academic stopped in mid-sentence and turned as Peter strode into the room.

“Good of you to join us today, Mr. Compton,” Dr. Adams said in his high reedy voice.

Peter paused. “Good of me?” he repeated, imitating Adams’ nasal whine. “Good of me? It’s my father’s tuition dollars that pay your salary, you old fart. Maybe you should take the day off, like I just decided to do. You could go to the library and write some new material. Those ancient tests of yours are in every crib file on campus.”

Peter turned in dead silence as the class sat gaping. He left the classroom, slamming the door behind him.

He decided he needed a little fresh air so he walked over to the main Quad and sat down on a bench. Two squirrels rushed over, looking for a handout, and he kicked at them. He pulled out his phone and dialed his sister Sharon’s number.

“Peter!” she squealed when she answered. “I’m so surprised to see you on my Caller I.D.! Is everything OK?”

“Do you even care, Sis?” Peter’s voice was icy. “I’m just calling to tell you not to expect me to babysit Arnold anymore when I come home.”

“But Peter, he adores you! All he talks about is his ‘Unka Peta’! It’s so cute!”

“Your free ride on my babysitting is over. Besides, I’m gay, so I don’t think you’ll want me around him anymore.” Peter hung up and walked down the hill into town.

He wandered around, looking in the shops and grazing on junk food. His phone rang. He looked and saw that it was from his mother. It hadn’t taken Sharon long to pass the word. He ignored the ringing phone while other shoppers stared at him. After the third call he switched the ringer to vibrate. It was still for a few minutes, then started to vibrate continuously. This time it was his father, calling from his office. Peter turned the phone off. He decided to see a movie.

He went to the Armpit and saw they were showing a revival of Citizen Kane. He bought a ticket for the matinee and sat in the back of the dark, nearly empty theatre.

Half-way through the movie someone sat down in the seat beside him and put a hand on his thigh. Peter looked over and saw a cute boy with a crew cut and wearing the cadet uniform from the military school on the other side of town. The hand gave his thigh a little squeeze.

“You think I’m that easy?” Peter snarled. “Fuck you.” He got up and walked out into the lobby where he found the manager.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve, charging eight bucks for a movie like that,” he said. “It isn’t even in color.”

Peter walked back onto the campus and headed for his advisor’s office. As he climbed to the third floor of Carpenter Hall he lifted a fire extinguisher off its hook beside the stairwell. When he reached his advisor’s office he upended the extinguisher and kicked the door open. Mouth agape, his advisor looked up from his desk. Peter played the hose carefully across the desk and foam splattered everywhere.

“Cripes!” yelled his advisor.

“I just wanted to tell you that all of my courses suck, and thanks to you everything I’m taking is wrong for me.”

Peter set the empty canister down and left. The day wasn’t getting any better so he thought he’d go back to bed. As he crossed the campus he took out his phone, turned it on, and called Charlotte. When she answered he said “Listen, you cow, forget about going out this weekend. I’ve invested enough money in food and booze for you, and you’re dragging my grades down. Besides, I’m gay. Have a nice life.” She was shrieking when he cut the connection. He tossed the phone into a waste receptacle.

When he reached his room he saw that his roommate Thomas was there, working on his homework.

“Hi, Peter! Thanks for reminding me to wash my sheets! I got right on it!” Apparently Thomas had missed the point.

Peter’s head still throbbed. “I thought you were going to wake me up,” he said.

“Aw, I’m sorry, roomie. I forgot. I wanted to pick up the package from my mother before class. She sent me a cake. Want some?” Thomas pointed to a chocolate cake sitting on the window ledge.

Peter went over to the window and opened it. He shoved the cake out and watched it fall to the ground and splatter.

“Too moist,” he said.

Thomas stared wide-eyed as Peter pulled off his clothes and threw them on the floor. He crawled into bed.

“Don’t forget to wake me up tomorrow,” said Peter. “I hope to hell I feel better.” He pulled the covers over his head.

Thomas sat still for a moment, then turned off the light and tip-toed out of the room.


Link to comment

Hmm. I guess my brand of humor kind of missed the mark here, eh? I was trying to play out a premise involving getting out of the wrong side of bed and deciding in schoolboy fashion to let impulsive behavior rule the day. Most schoolboys have fantasies about what they'd do if no holds were barred including, in this instance, finally coming out in a most resounding fashion.

It's clear from the remarks that readers didn't quite take it that way, so it's back to the drawing board. But that's what we're all here to learn, isn't it?


Link to comment

Having bad things happen to you is one thing... doing them wantonly to others is another... the first might be sad, or understandable as happening to us all.

I have to admit .. it was hurling his roomate's chocolate cake out the window that pushed the story over the edge for me. I could see no humor in that even now knowing it was supposed to be funny.

I guess we're so used to empathizing with bullied kids here that I find it hard to empathize with a bully.

Link to comment

I didn't see any humor in it, either. Willfully hurting others isn't very funny. I guess if you look at it as something a schoolboy might do, then it's a bit more rational because their brains don't work right yet, but to an adult, no, it's not funny.

But you're right, we learn as we write, hopefully getting a bit better all the time, but not every story is going to work.


Link to comment

Perhaps Peter is burning his bridges, all of them, along with his connections with people, because he's decided that he's gay and isn't happy about it.

Colin :icon_geek:

Link to comment

Colin has come close to what lies behind this piece. I envisioned a boy who is deeply troubled by his orientation, but has so far managed to cope socially and even personally, as so many do, behind a rather structured mask. Almost all social behavior is learned, and as youngsters we become "civilized" to the extent necessary to be accepted. We learn to control our impulses and our actions, even our thoughts. Soon--perhaps not soon enough--we come to accept and embrace the standards of the society around us.

Yet what if we awoke one morning and our 'civilized' switch failed to click to ON? What would we actually do, or fail to do, as we attempted to move through a day within our particular tightly-bound society? In this instance I envisioned the highly ritualized structure of a schoolboy's environment within which the mask, still unfinished, has failed. It has many consequences for Peter, not least being the release of the grasp he has so tightly held on disclosure of his orientation.

The mistake I think I've made here is taking what is a very serious topic indeed and trying to depict it in the style of "Animal House" or traditional collegiate humor magazines. When I was an undergraduate I thought of those as the ultimate source of sophisticated wisdom, and I remembered the sly jokes and the jaded air of undergraduate humor. Clearly it hasn't worked out as I envisioned, but I'm still invested in the topic and hope to give it another go at another time.


Link to comment

Now that Mike's Bad Day is over... I lie in bed this morning thinking about Peter's. What a great writer James is to be able to evoke so much emotion, negative or positive, in his readers... many of you excellent writers yourselves.

I always marveled at how Jamie in Scrolls of Icaria could stir my emotions and have me shouting at atrocities that happened against beloved characters.. James also has this gift.. it's one thing to create a lovable character, quite another thing to create one who - although you don't hate him, makes you want to take him over your knee and give a good spanking!

Good work, as always, James.


Link to comment

Overall I enjoyed the story, James. Yes, your main character is a rude and selfish person, or at least he is on this day. I had a few smiles, saw that humor was part of your plan. Flash Fiction always leaves a few gaps because there is little space for background. But the emotions you evoke in the reader would make this a difficult read if it was any longer.

But I can empathize with Peter, we all have bad days. There is a little envy involved as well. Wouldn't we all like to take the opportunity to tell someone off? I have a short list of offenders that deserve at least an F U on occasion. But civility injects itself just in time and I do nothing of the kind. I do however mourn the loss of that chocolate cake (is that Cole I hear screaming in the background?)

Link to comment

I felt all the things you guys did, and had also had thoughts along the lines of Colin's, that he was rebelling against any and everything and possibly because of his orientation. The biggest emotional jolt I felt, however, was that he was treating everyone he knew very badly because he was having a bad day, visiting his own woes on them simply because he was feeling them himself, and how terribly unfair and unjust of him this was. I agree, the cake did enter into it, and like with Mike, was the final blow, although I was already throrougly disgusted with him before that.

It showed how much we care about the way people treat other people, and it showed our own passions. How can one write anything that evokes emotions in others if we ourselves don't share those emotions? I'm quite passionate about what I like and dislike, and I get those same vibes from everyone here. No surprise, is it?


Link to comment

It showed how much we care about the way people treat other people, and it showed our own passions. How can one write anything that evokes emotions in others if we ourselves don't share those emotions? I'm quite passionate about what I like and dislike, and I get those same vibes from everyone here. No surprise, is it?


I agree, and I'm not sure anyone who isn't passionate about their likes and dislikes, and willing and able to empathize strongly, could be either a reader or a writer. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Putting ourselves into another's point of view, sharing their fears, frustrations, anger, disappointments, and joy. Understanding the process that we all go through as we struggle to understand ourselves and what is blocking us from getting to the next step.

Link to comment

I read the piece two more times. I think maybe James was writing a tale about the failure of adolescent impulse control--a sort of darker Ferris Beuller's Day Off. I think we have to be open to reading about the darker sides of human nature, but I cannot forgive the character's judgement of Citizen Kane. Really, James!

Link to comment

Yes, bi_janus, it was Peter's reaction to the hand on his thigh from a 'cutie' that revealed, to me, that this wasn't just a bad day for Peter, but that he had snapped and given in to his personal demons. If that wasn't bad enough, his inability to make a connection with Citizen Kane meant that he was in the process of abandoning whatever sensitivity he might have had.

Humour never occurred to me, but then I am not in the habit of finding the misfortune in men's lives as being funny, especially when they do it to themselves. I can cite a number of movies where disaster after disaster is supposed to be comical. Think about the first Homa Alone movie which had, more or less, the right amount of slapstick to enable the audience to be amused, whilst Home Alone II went too far, was over the top and left audiences aghast at the extremes of retaliation. Not so funny.

The trick that Shakespeare shows us is that if you are going to do comic-tragedy, then we must understand what is funny or the tragedy will be ludicrous.

It's okay for the tragedy to be ridiculous provided the comedy is apparent. Remember Hitchcock's, The Trouble with Harry ?

However, I am not condemning James for his efforts at all. His flash is actually very well written, and there is a whole school of thought that is devoted to art as not just depicting misery, but revelling in it. And making fun of quite horrendous situations.

Peter's Bad Day does actually have a departing ray of optimism in that he hopes he "...will feel better tomorrow." That is almost Gone With The Wind, stuff: "For tomorrow is another day."

The opposing thought to revelling in misery, is much more Renaissance, Enlightenment oriented, and is perhaps best expressed by quoting (as I've done before,) Gertrude Stein, "The artist's job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence."

Then, of course, there is the whole cultural thing, about Americans having a very 'different' sense of humour to other humans, but maybe I should stop before Santorum claims he is just being deliberately funny. That would certainly be tragic.


Link to comment

I haven't commented on the story yet, so I should correct that deficiency.

I generally prefer stories that make me happy, with characters I can like, or even identify with. However I do recognise that some of the best stories are not happy ones, and are about people with faults, and this story pulled me out of my comfort zone and made me appreciate it. I took it as demonstrating what destructive effects can result from living a life in the closet. Keeping any secret is stressful, and living a lie is enough to turn the sunniest disposition grouchy. It's not an easy message but James has managed to convey it very well - a remarkable writing feat.

Link to comment

You can never have too many comments, so long as they contribute to the discussion, or praise the author. :wav:

I certainly didn't mean to suggest there was anything wrong with all these comments; actually I meant the opposite. I was praising the story for evoking all the thoughts, all the emotions that it did. It was a short piece, yet got us all thinking and feeling and wanting to express ourselves. That's pretty special, I think.


Link to comment

It is pretty special Cole, and I took your post as if that was what you meant. I just wanted to affirm what you were saying, and take the opportunity to encourage more of the same. We're on the same line of thought. :hug:

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...