Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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by Jackson French

From: Wade Garrett- 10/15/11, 9:13am

To: Jared Lord, Shannon Corriveau, Danny Streat, Rebecca Ryker, Jerry Barr

Subject: hooray for me

Guess what? I just found out that Rick Ferryfellows died yesterday at 8:15 AM at the age of 91. As director of the Deadpool, I'm sending this email to everyone regarding this thrilling news. With his death, I finally have one celebrity dead and am that much closer to winning this thing. To recap, after seven months of play, everyone's had one death except for Jared and Danny.

As Jared finished reading the email from Wade, he reached for the chart on the wall and pulled it down. With a red marker, he drew a slash diagonally down over the photo of Rick Ferryfellows posing with a few of his creations.

Jared examined the new standings for a moment. Beverly Cleary was crossed out in Rebecca's column, I. M. Pei (designer of the Louvre's glass pyramid) in Jerry's column, Nancy Reagan in Shannon's column, and now Harryhausen in Wade's column. His and Danny's columns were still devoid of red slashes. He sighed as he thought about the many fruitless Deadpool games he'd competed in over the years. He'd been in more of them than he could remember and had never won. It was always someone else who won the prize. Always someone else who walked away with 500 bucks at the end.

I deserve that prize, Jared thought. It was long overdue.

A few hours later, Jared sat at the kitchen table with his wife. She read the newspaper as she loudly munched her sub sandwich. "Hey, do you want to go see that new western movie today?" she asked through a mouthful of half-chewed sandwich. "That one we kept talking about seeing but never quite got around to?"

"Yeah," Jared said. "Is it still playing?"

"I'll check the times," Anna announced as she put her half-eaten sandwich on her plate and proceeded to flip through the paper.

Jared returned to his sandwich as he waited for her to find the times. Anna found a page that held her attention for a while. "The Barrett Mall is the only place that's still playing it," she said after poring over it for a moment.

"Damn. I hate that place. I guess that's what happens when you forget about that new movie for two months."

"We can go at 5:20 or 7:40," Anna reported as she continued to look over the paper. "How about the 7:40? We can get dinner beforehand."

"Sounds like a plan," Jared said.

After the movie ended, Jared and Anna walked through the empty halls of the rundown mall, killing time. They talked about the movie as they wandered through the dumpy hallways past abandoned shops. "So how's the Deadpool going?" Anna asked him after a moment of silence.

Jared was surprised that she even wanted to hear about it. "I'm still no closer to the 500 bucks," he began. "But Rick Ferryfellows just died and Wade had him picked."

"So none of yours have died?"

"No. I'm actually kind of surprised with one of them. We've started doing this thing where you pick one celebrity that's still somewhat young. The tragedy bonus section. The idea is to pick a celebrity that might soon die of unnatural causes for that slot. Like," he tried to think of an example. "Wade has Leeanne Logan and Danny has Anna Vinehauser. Me, I picked Sean McEwan and I'm surprised he hasn't kicked the bucket yet."

"Who is that?" Anna asked.

Jared exhaled deeply as he thought about how best to sum up his pick. "Ooh, there's a lot to talk about with that one," he said. "Sean McEwan was the singer for the Celturions. They pioneered the idea of combining traditional Celtic music with Punk. This guy is a heavy drinker, and about the most disgusting person I can think of. He's most famous for his teeth. He hardly has any left and those that remain are all brown and gross. Doesn't look like he's brushed them once in his life. He's the greatest celebrity train wreck of all time. He drank enough to get kicked out of an Irish band. All ethnic stereotyping aside though, I really have no idea how he's still alive. By all logic, he should be dead."

"Maybe you should wish for it," Anna teased, a wicked smile crossing her lips. Jared looked down and saw that she held a dime in her hand. She nodded toward a broken-down, bedraggled fountain bathed in a ray of moonlight that shone through a skylight in the ceiling directly overhead. Jared felt sorry for it. With the fountain's cracked, soiled retaining wall and sickening brownish water, it was the last place he wanted to put his money.

"What?" He laughed. "This is ridiculous. I'm not gonna wish him dead just because he's on my list."

"Come on!" Anna prodded. "Wish him dead. He's screwing you by staying alive. Hell with him!"

This is strange. She's not normally like this, Jared thought. Anna was usually opposed to his involvement in the Deadpool but now she was tempting him with the coin and promises of the immediate death of Sean McEwan and the money he would win as a result. So she wanted him to throw a coin into the fountain and make a stupid wish. Why not? What could happen?

She gently placed the coin in Jared's hand.

Jared laughed. "Fine! I wish Sean McEwan was dead," he said as he flung the dime into the fountain. It made a ringing sound as it struck the faux marble in the dry section and a weak splash as it bounced from there into the puddle of scummy water. As he gazed at the coin, barely visible beneath the shit-brown surface of the water, he decided he had spent too much time at the Barrett Mall for one night. "Can we go home now?" he asked with an exhausted sigh.

Jared woke up the next morning. He quickly showered and put on some clothes, then walked downstairs to his computer to check his email. "Let's see," he said as he scanned the list. "Boring, boring, boring... Oh my God! Another celebrity death so soon?" He furiously clicked the mouse a million and a half times to get the damn thing open already. As soon as the window flashed open, he read the message.

From: Wade Garrett- 10/16/11, 8:43am

To: Jared Lord, Shannon Corriveau, Danny Streat, Rebecca Ryker, Jerry Barr

Subject: 2 celebrities in 1 week?

Two celebrities in one week? It's true! This time it's Jared's friend, Sean McEwan, who died yesterday at 11:39 PM at the age of 52. Supermassive overdose. So the standings are: everyone has one celebrity dead except Danny. This is very exciting because this is the first time a young (or relatively young in this case) celebrity in our tragedy bonus section has actually died during one of our Deadpools. So congratulations on this trailblazing achievement, Jared.

A sudden wave of shock and confusion washed over Jared. He sat there staring at the screen with his mouth agape. He thought back to last night, when he'd flung the dime into the fountain and wished away Sean McEwan's life. This has got to be a coincidence, he reasoned. I mean he drank enough to get kicked out of an Irish band. You can't keep up that kind of behavior and expect to live a long time...

After a moment of deep thought, his stomach grew restless and irritable so he walked into the kitchen and started making some scrambled eggs. He set about the process like a man under hypnosis, his mind far away from what he was doing.

Anna came down the stairs in her bathrobe, yawning and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She walked over to him and gave him a big wet kiss.

Jared could tell by the stale taste he found that she hadn't brushed her teeth the previous night. Yummy.

Sensing that Jared was shaken, she pulled away and asked, "Honey, what's wrong?"

"I think I killed Sean McEwan," he answered hollowly, as his eyes stared dully into space.

Anna reacted with mild surprise. "What?"

"Remember last night at the ghetto mall when I wished that Sean McEwan was dead?"


"Well he's dead."

She laughed. "No! That's too funny! You wish him dead and he actually dies! What great timing!" After a few more guffaws, she stopped abruptly. "I shouldn't be laughing," she lamented. "Someone just died." A final giggle escaped her lips nonetheless.

"I can see this isn't bothering you as much as it's bothering me," Jared scolded.

"What are you even worried about?" Anna asked.

"I could have killed someone. I mean, I wish for Sean McEwan to die and he just dies. What are the chances of that happening? What if there's a connection?"

"You did not kill Sean McEwan," Anna said firmly. "Didn't you say yourself that he's a heavy drinker? His death shouldn't surprise you, especially if he died choking on his own vomit. This kind of coincidence isn't so out of the ordinary. It's like wishing for the Sun to rise at dawn."

"Yeah, I guess you're right," He started to see her reasoning. "I just- I guess I overreacted." He breathed a sigh of relief. "I didn't even want him to die, though. I like Sean McEwan. Saw him live once."

"Yeah? How was it?"

Jared blushed. "He -- ahh...haha. He was drunk off his ass."

They shared a good laugh about the situation over a mouth-watering breakfast of bacon and eggs, Jared's doubts and suspicions forgotten for the moment.

The next night, Jared drove over to Wade's house for poker. He walked into the large warm house and heard the rest of the Deadpool gang shouting greetings at him from the kitchen. He immediately walked over to them with a proud strut and parked himself at the only empty chair at the kitchen table as everyone threw congratulations at him in a loud, chaotic storm.

Soon they quieted down and Danny offered Jared a beer. After handing over his $20 buy-in, he was given four stacks of colorful chips. Wade shuffled and started to throw cards around the table in a circle.

"You got really lucky, Jared," Shannon said.

"Yeah. You're the first person who's ever had a young celebrity die," Danny added.

"He wasn't really that young, though," Wade reminded everyone as he finished dealing and took a look at his cards. "Remember when we discovered Jared was putting a fifty-something-year-old in his tragedy column? A lot of us thought that was too old. We tried to disallow it."

"You should have put up a better fight," Jared laughed, forgetting the feelings of guilt and uncertainty that had clawed at the back of his mind since yesterday.

That night was the best night Jared had had at poker in ages. He played with the skill and cunning of a seasoned warrior, winning victory after victory and plundered plenty of spoils.

Despair and doubt returned once more when Jared got home. This strange situation he'd found himself in only caused him agony. He sat in the dark of his kitchen and ruminated on the events of the last few days. Jared knew it couldn't be. A simple stupid wish couldn't affect anything. Couldn't kill someone. The very notion was ridiculous, he told himself. But still, that's one hell of a coincidence, another side of his mind argued. What if it's that fountain? What if it has some sort of magical power?

I have to test this out, Jared thought. He started scheming immediately. But I can't do it now. So many chosen celebrities dying at one time? The others will start to wonder.

A more rational part of his mind urged him to drop these ridiculous suspicions, but he sat down to begin his deliberations. Let's see. Deadpool ends when someone loses three celebrities. I can't choose any of mine. That would look suspicious. I should probably choose one of Danny's celebrities. None of his have gone yet. That's only fair.

He got up and stepped through the door atop the basement staircase and almost toppled down to the bottom in his hurry. He turned the lights on so he could at least see where he was going and raced over to the computer station in the corner and ripped the Deadpool sheet off the wall and put it on the desk. He pondered his options until his eyelids hung heavily over his eyes.

Rob Patrickson, evangelist and king of insane political proclamations, Jared eventually decided. He let out a long yawn. The world won't suffer any from the loss of its foremost hateful pious asshole. I'll wish for his death in a month, that way we don't have a bunch of people dying at once. Then we'll see if Sean McEwan was just a coincidence.

Without another thought, Jared walked into his bedroom and fell upon his bed beside Anna's sleeping form. Sleep took him almost instantly.

He went to the Barrett Mall a month later. Finally it was time to test out the fountain. After a month of agony and suspense, it was time to put his fears to rest. Jared told Anna that he was going out to buy her anniversary present and promptly zoomed off toward the Barrett Mall, hoping he could actually find a good present while he was there. Upon his arrival, he looked around for something Anna would like. To his surprise, he was able to find a dazzling necklace she was sure to love. He promptly bought it and walked to the fountain. It was still pitiful to look upon, abused and destroyed, probably once a pretty sight.

He put the bag down and looked around in his pocket for change. He pulled a coin out of the linty recesses of his jeans and held it out, a few inches from his face. A dime, he noticed as he thought on what he intended to do with the coin and the earth-shaking power he potentially held in his hand. There was nobody around to hear him, so Jared didn't hesitate to loudly say, "I wish for the death of Rob Patrickson." He tossed it over the barrier tape, into the fountain and casually walked away with his shopping bag.

Two days later, Jared looked over his email as his morning coffee warmed his innards and lifted his mind from drowsiness. He saw an email from Wade concerning the Deadpool and opened it. This is it, Jared thought as he hesitated to open the page. Moment of truth.

From: Wade Garrett-11/15/11, 8:16am

To: Jared Lord, Shannon Corriveau, Danny Streat, Rebecca Ryker, Jerry Barr

Subject: More Deadpool news

This game is moving fast. We've only been playing for seven months and already six celebrities have died. The distribution has been disturbingly even, too. With the latest death, everyone has one single celebrity dead. So who's the mystery corpse, you ask? He died yesterday at 9:40 PM. It's Rob Patrickson, the host of the New Apostles Club. Danny had him picked. With this death, our game is all tied up. Congrats, Danny.

"Well, that answers my question," Jared thought aloud. He knew this should surprise him but somehow it didn't. Finally receiving an answer to the question that had been haunting him for the past month was a relief.

I really can control people's deaths with that fountain.. He thought for a moment on his newfound power. It was too much for him to comprehend all at once. He knew that he would have to be responsible with this powerful secret and hoped he had the strength and iron will he would need to do so. I could kill tyrants and warlords, he thought. Then again, killing Saddam Hussein didn't exactly turn Iraq into a democratic paradise. Killing one man might just take a bad situation and replace it with complete chaos. It was a scary thought.

After a moment spent dwelling on this, a different idea entered his head. Hey, he said to himself. I can use this to win the Deadpool. I think it's about time I won the prize.

He looked at the clock in the upper right hand corner of the computer monitor. Damn it. I need to plan my strategy now but I have to get to work. Without any further hesitation, Jared tore the Deadpool list off the wall and took it to the office with him.

For most of the day, Jared pretended to work, with all his focus truly aimed at choosing the next victim from his list. How could he return to his boring, pointless job when he had a bet he knew for sure he could win? He looked over the Deadpool sheet and obsessively pondered his options, only pretending to return to his job when somebody walked by his desk. I can't just kill off my own celebrities. Everybody has one dead. If I kill someone else's celebrity, he'll only have one left to lose. I have no way to stop a death, so I can't risk it.... Jared had a very unproductive day. He couldn't concentrate on his Deadpool game and was no closer to concocting a winning strategy. And he hadn't gotten too far on those damned expense reports either. Angered and frustrated, Jared snuck out of work half an hour early.

He discovered that his thought processes ran much more smoothly in the tranquil interior of his car than they had in the office. In five minutes, he hatched a plan that he had struggled in vain for seven hours to envision. I've got it now, he thought to himself. It was a simple plan that wouldn't meet with any suspicion from his friends. He would simply wait for another celebrity to kick the bucket and wish one of his celebrities dead once that happened. This way he could have all three of his picks dead before anyone else as long as nobody got two deaths in a row. Simple but effective.

This period of waiting was much more serene than the last one now that he no longer had to wait to see if the fountain could win his bet for him. With newfound power came newfound confidence. Half a month later, Jared got his chance when he read another email from Wade.

From: Wade Garrett- 12/3/11, 12:51pm

To: Jared Lord, Shannon Corriveau, Danny Streat, Rebecca Ryker, Jerry Barr

Subject: 2 in a row

Goddamn! This is the fastest game of Deadpool yet. After only 8 months and 17 days, seven celebrities have died. This time it's Sherman Ripemoff. A shame too. Only 148 more years in prison and he'd have been a free man. With this death Danny pulls ahead with 2. Everyone else still has one. He's coming up from behind. Very exciting.

All right! Jared thought, elated. Another one of Danny's celebrities died already? It's time to strike.

Jared leaned over and scanned the Deadpool list that hung on his wall, searching for the ideal victim. Hell, it doesn't really matter, he thought after looking at the paper for a few seconds. I've pretty much got this in the bag anyway. Just to make sure he wouldn't arouse too much suspicion, he waited a week to enact his plan. He was edgy with anticipation as he waited for the time to pass.

When the week of waiting had finally come to an end, Jared found himself at the Barrett Mall once again. As soon as he stepped out of his car, he ran like a madman through the parking lot, through the heavy glass doors of the entrance, and through the mall corridors to the fountain. Jared stood over it just on the other side of the barrier tape, and peered into its tattered basin. He looked up for a moment and saw a man standing on the other side of the fountain, seemingly deep in thought, with a coin in his hand. He was clad in blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Though his face was swallowed up by his hood, the man seemed somehow familiar. Jared felt he knew him from somewhere but he couldn't tell with his face hidden in shadow.

The man looked up at him. An astonished look flashed across his face and Jared was surprised to discover that it was Danny. "Jared? What are you doing here?" he asked.

"Did you find out about the fountain, too?" Jared quickly put the coin back into his pocket, trying to hide his sinister intent.

"Yeah. Is this how Sean McEwan died?"

"Yep," Jared answered. "I wished for him to die. This very fountain. And he died the next day. I wasn't sure if it was a coincidence or not so I came back a month later to see if it would work again."

"And that was Rob Patrickson. Thanks for the favor."

"Don't mention it. Who did you come here to kill?"

"I'm going to wish Mikhail Maponatop dead."

Jared finally took a look at what he was doing and realized he had to put an end to it. He knew that he had to stop using the fountain but how was he going to stop Danny? He tried to speak rationally. "Dude, you can't kill him. He's not just another actor or singer or athlete. He's someone who really matters. He's important enough to be assassinated. Do you want to be the guy who assassinated the last president of the Soviet Union?" That's terrible logic. Nobody cares about Maponatop anymore. This isn't going to work.

It looked like Danny was contemplating the consequences of somehow getting caught for wishing for someone's death. "No, I guess not. Who should I kill instead?"

Jared was sickened. "Nobody. Don't kill anyone. We can't just kill people with a magical fountain for our own sick game." Danny gave him a blank stare. Shit. He doesn't get it. "This is wrong," Jared said, as plain and simple as could be said. "We're secretly killing innocent people we've never met. Put your coin away, man. I can't let us do this."

Danny put the coin in his pocket. "I think I know where you're going with this. You want a pact where we agree to do no more killing," he said as he walked around the fountain, toward Jared.

Not quite what he had expected but it would work. "Precisely," Jared said. He extended his hand. "Do we have a deal? For as long as we live, neither of us shall use this or any other magical means to wish others dead?"

"Agreed," Danny said as he reached out to shake Jared's hand.

"Agreed. Very good. Now what say we get out of this dump?"

Things soon got complicated between Jared and Danny. On March 17th, after three months had passed, Jared sat down to read the paper when he got home from work. The front page snatched his attention with a dynamic splash effect. The top half was covered with billboard-sized letters that shouted Maponatop On Brink Of Death. Below that was a dramatic picture showing Maponatop, white as a week-old corpse and covered with sweat, lying on a hospital bed.

Oh, shit, Jared thought. He did it. He actually did it. Danny, you fucker! We made a deal

Jared picked up his phone and called Danny right away. The ringing stopped shortly and Jared heard Danny's voice, quaking with poorly hidden fear. "He-hello?"

"Hello, Danny," Jared said maliciously.

"Oh, hey Jared. How's it going?" His voice was still saturated with unease.

"I just finished reading the paper," Jared said casually. "It's a very historic day. Mikhail Maponatop has fallen ill. ‘On brink of death' I believe is what the paper said." His tone suddenly grew sharp and accusatory. "You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

"No. Jared, I know how this looks but you gotta believe me. I had nothing to do with this."

"Believe you? You? Of all people? I think I'll pass."

"I know I'm not the straightest guy you know," Danny said. "But I swear to you, I didn't do it."

"Then where were you yesterday?" Jared asked.

"I took the day off to do some volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. After we finished we all went to a bar."

"Bullshit!" Jared charged. "When have you ever done anything charitable?"

"What makes you so sure it was me?" Danny asked his accuser.

""Oh I don't know," Jared said much louder than was necessary. "Maybe because you win the Deadpool if Maponatop croaks? Also you're the only other one who knows about the magic fountain."

"It wasn't me, goddammit!"

"You're the only person I know who would even try this." Except for me.

"Come on, man," Danny pleaded. "Maponatop is old. There's a reason I put him on my list. Him falling ill is not the most unlikely thing that could happen."

""If I find out that you did this, I'll...I'll..." With no way to finish that sentence, Jared hung up. What could he do? There was no way to ensure that Danny would no longer cheat. He couldn't go to the police. He couldn't tell his friends. Who the hell would ever believe something so stupid? A fountain that causes people to die? Plus, he'd abused the fountain too. By ratting on Danny, he was also ratting on himself. The powers of life and death were held in the hands of a man with no sense of responsibility and there was nothing Jared could do about it.

Jared obsessively monitored Maponatop in the weeks that followed. Every microscopic fluctuation in his health spiked the tension between Jared and Danny to stratospheric heights. Every day, there was a new development in the story of the last Soviet premier, either reporting on a tiny improvement or a tiny decline in his wellbeing.

After two weeks of this new conflict, Jared found himself at a party at Shannon's house. He stood amongst a multitude of people he hardly knew and didn't really care to get to know any better. Feeling lost, he heaved a sigh of boredom.

Jared walked into the kitchen to get a beer. He reached into Shannon's refrigerator and fished out a cold bottle. As he closed the door, he turned his head and saw that Danny was chatting with a few other people on the other side of the room. Jared quickly slipped away before Danny noticed him. He lost himself in a throng of acquaintances and made his way to the foyer where he haunted the corner by the large stone fireplace, hidden by a wall of partygoers.

After a few unexciting minutes had passed and he'd drunk half his beer, Shannon approached Jared. "I need to talk to you," she told him.

Jared could tell by her tone that this was a serious matter. "Okay," Jared said as he put his drink down. "What's up?"

"It's about you and Danny," Shannon said. "Something's happened between you two. We've sort of noticed that you two don't talk anymore. You guys just stay as far away from each other as possible. What's wrong?"

"It's just," Jared groaned. "He went behind my back. I made a deal with him and I think he went back on his word."

"What did he do?"

How was Jared supposed to answer that? He had to say something but he couldn't think of any bullshit in time. "Well," he started. "We both did something bad and we -- we made a deal that we wouldn't do it anymore and he did it anyway."

Shannon understood. "If you can't talk about what you did, I won't ask you, but you guys have sort of created a rift whenever we meet and it makes the rest of us uncomfortable. I know this sounds really unoriginal, but have you thought of maybe talking to him?"

"I already did and he denies that he broke his promise."

"Well how do you know he really did it? He might be telling the truth."

Jared stood silent for an endless moment. "I don't know," he sighed. "I'll tell you how it turns out, okay?" He returned to his beer.

"Oh, speaking of Danny, the Deadpool has taken an interesting turn, don't you think?" Shannon asked. "With Mikhail Maponatop being sick and all? Hell of a situation Danny's found himself in. If Maponatop dies, Danny wins, but the thing is, a few of us already have two celebrities dead. Danny's sort of got one foot in the door. Maponatop's on his way out but if another celebrity dies first, victory could be taken right away from him at the last second. The suspense is killing me."

Bringing that up was like pouring salt in a festering wound.

After Maponatop had been hospitalized for three weeks, Jared watched the news and discovered that Maponatop's health had made a micrometer of advancement for what seemed the 500th time.

Come on you old Russian bastard, Jared thought with frustration. I know Danny picked you. Just die already.

The sudden improvement in Maponatop's health proved to be no fleeting development, however, unlike all the others. From there, the former Soviet premier made rapid gains in his health.

Before he knew it, Jared saw that Maponatop was well enough to leave the hospital. Wow, Jared said to himself. I thought for sure Danny was to blame but I guess it was just a coincidence. Danny had not only told the truth, but had also kept his word on something. He'd been a friend for nearly 20 years but he had never been someone you could put your trust in. Must have been a cold day in Hell.

Jared grabbed for his phone and quickly scrolled through his contact list. He soon found Danny's entry and pressed the talk button. He waited as Danny's phone rang on the other end of the line. Then Danny's voice said, "You've reached Danny Streat's phone. Leave a message." A shrill beep followed.

"Hey Danny," Jared began. "Maponatop went home from the hospital today now that he's all better. It looks like you're off the hook. I just wanted to apologize for jumping to conclusions and not taking your word. It was very douche of me." His apology made him feel like an idiot. Why should he be sorry for naturally suspecting the least trustworthy person he knew? This changes things, though, Jared realized. Danny had kept his word and acted responsibly. He saw a side of Danny that he never knew existed before. A side equipped with a decent sense of responsibility and moral fiber. Since he had made his deal with Danny, he'd worried endlessly about Danny not keeping true to his promise. Now Jared was finally reassured. It appeared he could rest easy and just let the game run its course.

After another three months passed the game ended. Jared checked his inbox for a message from Wade. He didn't need an email to confirm that J. J. Kaiser had passed. The news media was doing a fine job of that. He read it anyway.

From: Wade Garrett- 6/5/12, 12: 28pm

To: Jared Lord, Shannon Corriveau, Danny Streat, Rebecca Ryker, Jerry Barr

Subject: GAME OVER

Well, it's been a hell of a ride. The ultimate winner, though, is Shannon. In case you haven't heard about it yet, J. J. Kaiser is dead, much to the joy of the media. With this last death, another exciting game of Deadpool has now come to an end. To complete our ritual we'll meet for poker at my house tomorrow night, same time as always. Everyone that's not Shannon: be sure to bring $100 to contribute to the winner's purse.

Jared showed up at Wade's house right on time Monday night and took his place at the table across from Danny. They silently stared at each other with looks of acceptance that said "It's all behind us now." They'd hardly spoken at all for the last several months but now they talked and joked and laughed like they did before their meeting at the fountain. Jared felt relieved that he and Danny could finally be real friends again and Danny seemed to feel the same way. The table where he sat with the Deadpool gang seemed like a healthy place again after months of tension. After Danny finished telling a particularly funny joke about two kids in Sunday school and the laughter around the table had died down, Jared looked to the wall clock and noticed that it was ten minutes past eight and Shannon still had not arrived. "Hey, where's Shannon?" he asked Wade.

"She's running a bit late. I'm sure she'll be here in a minute." Everyone sat around the table, talking, laughing, drinking and passing a big bowl of pretzels around as they waited for Shannon to show up. When the minute hand on the clock crept past the three, Wade said, "Damn, where is she?" He rose from his chair and walked over to the end table in the next room where the phone was and started flipping through his rolodex. A moment later Wade dialed her number. After a bit of waiting, he spoke into the receiver. "Shannon, this is Wade. I guess you're not answering your phone because you're driving. I'm just calling to tell you that you're late to your own award ceremony. Hurry on over here." After another fifteen minutes had passed, they started without her. Shannon never showed up. When it came time for Jared and the others to go home, they all decided they would have to pay up during next week's game.

The next day Jared and Anna sat on the couch and silently sipped their iced tea as they waited for the 6 o'clock news to start. After a moment of waiting, the anchorwoman appeared behind her desk and warmly welcomed them. "Hello and welcome to the evening news for Tuesday, June 12th, 2012. I'm Denise Fulton. Our top story tonight is about a local woman, Shannon Corriveau, who claims to be responsible for the death of blues legend J. J. Kaiser."

Jared spat out his tea and the atomized spray drenched half the room. "Oh my god! Shannon? She did it?" Though Anna was yelling at him to clean up the tea he'd sprayed onto the floor, Jared stayed glued to his seat and stared in rapt attention at the TV as the story of the fountain at the Barrett Mall and the death of J. J. Kaiser unfolded and the tea slowly soaked into the carpet.


© 2011 Jackson French


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