Fun With Fiction #1: Run Anywhere

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This is part of a 50000 word novel I was going to write for National Novel Writing Month that I decided not to follow through with because I wanted to instead update the blog. The novel was to be entitled The Wicked Eightfold Path, which of course, is a play on the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhist teachings. The novel was going to be a sequel of sorts to 13 Reasons Why, a show that I wrote quite a bit about last year. The novel was going to cover a character from 13 Reasons Why and how the aftermath of the events affected his future behavior. I may still follow through with this sequel for this years NaNoWriMo, but that remains to be seen.

In this particular scene, Justin Foley, a character from 13 Reasons Why, is looking for Bryce Walker, another character from the same book. He knows that Bryce often plays poker at a local casino for money. Instead, he runs into Mitch Crill, a character of my creation in The Wicked Eightfold Path. Mitch is the father of The Wicked Eightfold Path’s protagonist, Grant Crill. A disabled gambling addict who is a single father, Mitch is what I imagine myself being if I combined my gambling habits of today with my nihilistic attitude that I had 20 years ago, combined with the very strong sense of false hope that most gambling addicts have as well. Also, if I were to get married and have a family, I would likely get divorced, seeing as the divorce rate in the US is well over 2/3.

And since Season two of 13 Reasons Why has just come out on Netflix, I figure it would make sense to write about it again. Consider this an interlude of sorts between seasons.

Thanks to my buddy James for getting me back into writing fiction. Check out his work too, it is quite good.

Also, to Mr. Jay Asher, the author of 13 Reasons Why, I tweeted this post to you for a reason. If this ever gets to you, and if you do not feel comfortable with your characters being used in someone else’s form of fan fiction, feel free to tell me to remove this post and I will do so with no objection. Anyways, here goes nothing.

*************************************************************************************

Justin Foley approaches the main entrance to the casino, taking care to have his fake ID, the ID that Bryce gave him to buy booze, with him. The security guard, dressed in a black blazer and black pants, briefly acknowledges him as he enters. Despite having on his school team jacket which gives his age away, Justin walks right in through the front door.

He had been walking around for the entire day, which had been quite long. He recalls the encounter he had with Bryce he had earlier in the afternoon, as well as his response when Bryce asked him “since when did you upgrade to vodka?” “Its for my travels,” was Justin’s response. What travels? He thinks to himself, among the cacophony of slot machines and people screaming in delight. Justin clutches the handgun in his jacket, something else the flawless casino security decided not to care about.

Justin thinks about Jessica, and recalls the promise he made to her. “I’ll kill him myself, Just tell me what I have to do,” is what he said to her. He heads to the poker room, where he often played Poker with Bryce, Montgomery, Zach, and the other jocks. Jeff just started playing a couple of weeks before he died. None of them, except maybe Jeff, cared that they were playing underage. They knew that because they knew Alex’s father, they could do whatever they wanted, or so they thought.

The casino is crowded for a Wednesday night. Justin looks around and is even more surrounded by the never ending chorus of slot machines, people shouting at the table games, slot attendants dressed in red long sleeve shirts and black pants, and the cocktail waitresses walking around with drink trays. The poker room is next to a food court that the boys would often eat at before or after. Either Bryce or Montgomery would usually buy him food as well as buy in to most of the tournaments they would enter.

Justin passes the blackjack tables on the way to the poker rooms. Bryce always mentioned that if he had enough money, he would create a “blackjack team” or whatever that was supposed to mean. He remembers Bryce doing unusually good in math classes because to Bryce, if he did good in math he would be able to “count cards in blackjack” easier. Justin stares at the blackjack tables for a spell, but heads to the poker room, thinking that Bryce, Montgomery, or Zach would be there.

On his way, Justin is stopped by a woman wearing a black dress adorned with various jewelry. As phony as he thought she was, he couldn’t help but gaze at her overly pleasant appearance and demeanor. Her smile appeared so genuine, that it had to be fake. Bryce would have already fondled her in some way. And her, just like many others who Bryce did this to, would have giggled in an attempt to hide being uncomfortable.

“Did you buy in already? Which table are you joining?” She asks in a jovial tone which is, like her demeanor, too genuine to be genuine. She is a human mirage, but many who go to this casino know this about her and everyone else who works here. “I’m one of the hosts here, do you want me to look up your name?” She asks, again, in a tone that is too genuinely motherly to actually be motherly.

“…I’m at Bryce Walker’s table. I think 8 of us. Hold em’ Omaha probably,” Justin answers, on last second improvisation. He hoped he made sense.

The hostess goes into the computer and looks up Bryce’s name.

“Nope, not today. He has scheduled a game for Saturday at 8, do you want to place your buy in now? The minimum is $50,” the hostess asks.

Justin hesitates before answering. He already knows that he will not be there, but he is more distraught that Bryce is not here now. He looks around. For a few seconds, the environment takes over: The constant ringing of the slot machines and the announcements at the poker room make him look around in overwhelm. But he shortly comes back to his senses.

“I think I’ll just wait until Saturday,” Justin answers, faking a smile. Like the staff, Justin’s smile is too real to be real.

“Alright, see you Saturday,” the hostess replies back.

Justin begins to leave the casino and its controlled yet chaotic environment. Bryce had just begun scheduling these poker tournaments. It was an “initiation” for anyone new who was joining any of the sports teams in school. If you didn’t play, you wouldn’t get invited to any parties. Among those who did not go was Jeff Atkins. Justin is still convinced that he was murdered by either Bryce or Montgomery. This is what happens when someone has nothing to lose. They begin coming up with “reasons” to hurt others.

“I will fucking kill you, Bryce,” Justin mutters under his breath, clutching the handgun in his jacket, which the casino security never bothered to check or confiscate. He stole the handgun from his mother’s boyfriend. He walks among the cars in the parking lot, wondering where he will go next. He doesn’t want to go to Alex’s place. He will be sent right back home if that happens. He does not want to go home. He already stole the handgun, and he can’t go back now. After waking around the casino aimlessly for a few minutes, Justin finally makes his decision.

“Back to Rosie’s I guess,” Justin mutters to himself.

*************************************************************************************

Mitch pulls into the casino parking lot, wrestling about whether he should care about anything or not. It is the last time he is doing this; that’s what he said to himself last time, and it is what he said to his son, Grant. He says it, but never does it. He’s said it quite a few times this week. Grant thinks he has done it, but Mitch is very good at hiding. It is a trait that he hopes does not pass on to his son.

The musing is always the same; “this time will be different.” And sometimes, it is. He loses much less at the blackjack tables than everyone else at the casino, and knows that he is one good session away from winning just enough to not care about the blackjack table anymore. He is convinced that one day, he will leave the blackjack table with so much money, that he will leave for good. One good session is all he needs. He’s been saying that ever since he lost his ability to walk in a car accident five years ago, placing him on workman’s compensation for a while before being able to get disability checks.

Mitch is not an addict; he is bored. He uses half of his disability check to play blackjack, never taking out any more than that. He wishes he was an addict; life would be exciting then. If Mitch was an addict, and if he could use his legs, he would be able to do the things he did before his near-fatal car crash. He is only somewhat glad that Grant was not there. But sometimes, despite the fact that he has Grant, he really wished that he lost more than the use of his legs in the crash.

He eyeballs his money clip, containing the money he is playing blackjack with, about $600. “I’m turning you into $1000 today, buddy, maybe more.”

Despite his crippling injury, Mitch chooses not to park in the valet lot. He instead parks in the lot right outside of the casino, and begins the unusually quick process of getting his wheelchair out of his car. He pops the trunk open from inside of the car. He lifts his legs out of the car, lets himself get on his hands and knees, then closes the car door. Dragging himself with his elbows as if he was doing basic training for the military, Mitch then climbs to the trunk of his car. Passersby usually just stare at him, not helping. Mitch is used to this. he would do the exact same if he was in their shoes.

Seeing all this, Justin heads over to Mitch. Months ago, before getting more acquainted with Clay, he wouldn’t consider helping anyone, let alone a disabled person like Mitch. He would have just watched or even laughed. That’s probably what Bryce would have done, and certainly what Montgomery would have done. But Justin has changed. He believes it is too late, and after hearing about what happened to Hannah and Jessica, he knows it is too late. But still, he has changed. He walks ever faster towards Mitch and his car.

“Yo! Hey! I can help you! I can get that for you!” Justin shouts out to Mitch while now rushing over to the car.

Mitch despises when people try to help him. He never liked it. In the five years since he was permanently placed in a wheelchair, he has told Grant to never help him. Mitch feels like he cannot afford to look weak. While still climbing up the trunk of his car to get to a vertical base, he glances over at Justin. And he realizes that he has met someone who is even more devoid of hope than he. This discovery frightens Mitch so much that he accepts Justin’s help. For Justin desperately needs someone to feel gratitude for him.

Justin grabs Mitch’s hand, helping him up. “You were gonna get that yourself?” Justin asks, glancing at the wheelchair in Mitch’s trunk.

“Yeah. I do it all the time,” Mitch grunts back. “But you look like you got taken down so bad that you need to help someone. Go ahead and get it out. I’ll give you a twenty or something for it, what the hell. You look like you need it.”

“You don’t need to give me any money, I was just getting out of here anyways,” Justin replies while getting Mitch’s wheelchair. He places it on the ground, unfolds it, and helps Mitch into it. Mitch settles into the chair, and gets an idea.

“What do you play in this joint, anyways?” Mitch asks Justin.

“Just poker, really. I kinda get dragged into it,” Justin replies. “A friend of mine buys me in.”

“Do you play blackjack?” Mitch questions further.

“Nah. The boys are too hung up on poker. But they’ve been considering playing blackjack instead. They say they need to learn how to be advantage players, whatever that means.”

Mitch lights up upon hearing this. Despite the fact that high schoolers who are too young to gamble want to play blackjack, the idea of creating a new blackjack team sends a shock of hope down Mitch’s spine. His last blackjack team got in trouble at the last casino they played at. Because he was banned from the casino, Mitch moved shortly after this. Grant became accustomed to moving every time Mitch would get banned from a casino. He’s accustomed to Mitch being out late at random times of the day playing blackjack.

The two head into the casino. They head back into the overwhelming chorus of slot machine jackpots and cocktail waitresses shouting for people to buy drinks. Mitch excitedly pushes his wheelchair towards the blackjack tables, with Justin having to walk a little faster than normal to keep up.

“Blackjack is way better than poker. Tell your buddies that,” Mitch tells Justin. “In fact, if you run into them, tell them to meet me at my place. I’ll teach them everything they need to know. You too. How many of you play here, anyways?”

“Five of us,” Justin answers. “Well…four, now. You do realize we’re all underage, right?”

“That doesn’t mean shit,” Mitch replies. “They’ll let anyone play at these joints.” He points to a woman playing a slot machine with her child in her lap. “See what I mean?”

“I’ve…actually had a falling out with all but one of them,” Justin says. “I kind of don’t want anything to do with one in particular. I was hoping they would be here, so I could tell them that I’m getting out of here because of stuff that they did.”

“So what did they do?” Mitch asks.

Justin clenches the handgun in his jacket. It has exactly one bullet in it. A bullet that was reserved for himself, but is now reserved for Bryce.

“One of them…did something really bad to my girl. And did a…couple of other really bad things that I hate him for. Its a complicated thing. Let’s just say I want to give them a piece of my mind and maybe get a piece of them before getting out of here for good.”

Looking up to Justin in his wheelchair, Mitch sees more of Grant in Justin than anybody. He wishes it was Grant with him now. But he knows that Grant won’t ever come to a casino with him. He knows how Grant connects casinos to the constant moving. He just looks at Justin and nods. He wants to treasure this moment.

“You remind me of my son, kid,” Mitch says. “I never even got your name. I’m Mitch.”

“Justin,” Justin replies. “You have a son? Does he go to Liberty high?”

“He will in January. We just moved here after Thanksgiving. Got banned from my last joint on Black Friday. How’s that for a kick in the ass?”

Justin immediately regrets dropping out and running away. He knows what kind of environment Grant is entering. He could protect Grant. He could protect Jessica. He could protect Clay. He could protect them all. He took away his own opportunity to be a better person. Justin Foley is not addicted to substances, or at least he doesn’t think he is. He’s not addicted to gambling…yet. He’s addicted to sabotaging himself. For a few moments, he holds back tears.

“Why did you have to move after being banned from a casino?” Justin asks.

“Playing blackjack is pretty much my job. I get money from being in this wheelchair, but its not enough. Not enough for what I want for Grant. So now I live with my crazy sister and her kid, Garrett. They’re a mess, well my sister is. Garrett’s alright. Grant and I are getting to her level, closer and closer every day,” Mitch sighs, shame in his eyes. He holds back tears as well, wishing Justin was Grant.

Justin stops, his compulsion to tell Mitch about the chain of events that took place at Liberty high getting the best of him.

“I need to tell you something, Mitch,” Justin says.

Mitch ignores Justin for a second, eyeballing the blackjack tables in front of them. God dammit, six deck shoes, he thinks. So much for a good expected value.

“You know what, Justin?” Mitch asks. “These tables suck, so I’m just gonna get some practice in. Lets head to a table, and you can tell me about why your high school sucks.”

The two approach a blackjack table. The dealer, a tall, fair skinned brunette wearing a black bustier and a black miniskirt smiles and greets them. Mitch looks her over and grins. A middle aged stocky blonde woman and an equally middle aged black man look up at the pair from the table. Mitch places his 6 one-hundred dollar bills on the table.

“400 for me, 200 for my…nephew,” Mitch orders to the dealer, pointing at himself and Justin.

“You guys have player’s cards?” The dealer asks with a smile.

“Nope! We just moved here,” Mitch responds. “Pretty sure this won’t be enough to comp me anyways.”

“Well you can get player’s cards so you can be rated. I’m pretty sure you can get a comp,” the dealer responds. “If you want to play unrated, you can only play one spot, and you can’t bet higher than ten times the minimum on the table, which would be $100.”

Fuck, Mitch thinks, almost out loud. You need to be rated to play here. So much for a damn team, unless someone’s willing to be a fall guy.

“My son buys in for only about $100 at a time, and he gets lots of comps. He gets about $20 in comps per session.” the blonde says to Mitch. “I’m pretty sure you’ll get comped for that. Get a card, they give you some free play at one of the machines if you do.”

“You couldn’t pay me to put anything in a slot machine. I’m good,” Mitch says, pushing one of the chairs out of the way. “I just want to introduce my nephew to this,” pointing at Justin.

The four begin playing.

While they play, Justin tells Mitch about the events that took place involving Hannah, Jeff, and Alex. He warns Mitch about the school that Grant will be entering for the second half of the school year. The dealer chimes in, trying to act too jovial to be jovial like the rest of the casino staff.

“I remember Jeff and Hannah! They were both freshmen when I was a senior! I remember Hannah and some other girl trying out for cheerleading. The other girl made it in but Hannah didn’t. We all thought Hannah should have made it instead, but the coach wanted ‘more diversity’ or whatever. Poor girl. And Jeff, my god, that poor kid.” A tear rolls down her face. “I’m sorry, guys,” she says as she continues dealing.

The four continue playing. The dealer, Taylor, leaves for her break. She motions for Justin. Justin leaves the table as the other three continue playing. Taylor and Justin walk towards one of the bars, which is empty, as it has not opened yet.

“Hey, is it true about Hannah and all those tapes? One of the other girls just graduated and she says that’s what happened. That Hannah made a bunch of tapes before she died.”

Justin hesitates before answering. Tears begin rolling down his face. “Yeah. There were two that were made for me.” More tears stream down his face as he sits against a wall, head buried in his arms. “I feel like a murderer,” he hiccups. “She made two tapes for me…two!”

Taylor looks at him with overwhelming concern, as if she was his mother. She is not faking it this time. She takes his hand, and helps him up, looking around to make sure the casino security does not notice. She places her hands on his cheeks.

“Justin, right? Listen to me. That’s how kids are, especially at that dump. That place is a deathtrap. Five years ago, when I was a sophomore, a boy who I refused to go on a date with shot himself on my front lawn. And I thought I was a murderer too. I even quit cheerleading for a year. But you can’t just control how others react and be the perfect person for everyone. The best thing you can do is be the best person you can be. A counselor I was seeing during junior year said it best; ‘be the light that others want to follow.’ Alright, Justin?”

Taylor embraces Justin, again, looking around to make sure security does not catch her. She sees Mitch approaching, with a somewhat satisfied look on his face.

“Looks like your uncle’s happy,” Taylor says to Justin. “You gonna be okay?”

“I hope so,” Justin answers. “I really hope so.”

“By the way, I know you’re under 21, but don’t get caught. You’re good with me, but if anyone else catches you gambling underage, bad things will happen. If you need to see me, stop by. Just don’t play anything,” Taylor says to Justin. She looks around again, then gives Justin a hug.

Taylor heads back to the table she was dealing at. Mitch rolls up to Justin and hands him a one-hundred dollar bill.

“I hit a massive upswing. Had to use a 1 to 4 spread because I’m unrated but I still managed to get out while on top. $600 in, $925 out. Not a bad little session, huh?” Mitch asks, while handing Justin a $100 bill.

“You’re giving me $100?” Justin asks, surprised.

The pair begin heading out of the casino. Taylor smiles and waves at them before leaving. The blonde lady and the black man, now at nearby slot machines, wave to them as well. Mitch is banging his head to the music in the background with as much energy as he could possibly have for being disabled.

“Look, kid,” Mitch begins. “Grant doesn’t want to set foot into a casino. Because he knows I’ll eventually be banned from one at any given moment, he just dislikes them. You have no idea how much I want to do this with him, man. I’m giving you what I would give him.”

Justin glares at Mitch. If he was not homeless, he would throw the money back at Mitch’s face. While Mitch is a much kinder person than either of his parents, he is doing the exact same thing that Bryce and Montgomery did: treat him like a charity case. They head to the parking lot where Mitch’s car is. Justin begrudgingly helps Mitch place his wheelchair into the trunk.

“Got a place to stay, Justin?” Mitch asks.

“Not…really,” Justin responds, instantly regretting it. “I was just going to do what I wanted to do before I met you, walk over to Rosie’s. Its some 24 hour diner about two miles from here.”

“So you’re homeless? Look, you can crash at my place for the night. Its a packed joint, four people in a two bedroom apartment, but hey. It beats the streets, right?” Mitch responds. “I’ve been homeless, bud. It hits ya bad after a few months. Let me help you.”

“Just take me to the diner,” Justin responds. Mitch may as well be Bryce to him now.

“Alright,” Mitch says. “Whatever you want.”

They drive to Rosie’s. Mitch is tempted to spend more time with Justin, but Justin tells Mitch that he wants nothing to do with him. Mitch drops Justin off and heads to his apartment. He knows what everyone will say. Grant will tell him how long it will be before he gets banned. His sister, Dana, will be stark raving mad. And as for his real nephew, Garrett, he won’t care. Mitch likes Garrett; uncaring and overly nihilistic, just like himself, but too much so. Garrett’s indifference is unsettling even for Mitch.

Mitch eyeballs the $825 sitting on his passenger seat. At least $800 will be used for the next blackjack session. What can I get for $25? He thinks to himself. Aww, to hell with it, I know what I’ll do.

Mitch enters his apartment complex, parks his car, spends 20 minutes getting his wheelchair, and rolls to his door. He enters the apartment and turns the light on. In the living room, two empty beer cans and an empty bottle of pills lay on the coffee table in front of the couch. The TV, usually on, is off. Mitch rolls over to the table and inspects the pills, labeled “seroquel.” Dana’s pills, he thinks. Who drank my beers?

His next stop is Grant and Garrett’s room. They are both sleeping, to Mitch’s surprise. Usually one of them is playing video games at this time of night. He takes four $5 bills out of his pocket. He places the bills on the desk and leaves their room, hoping the two will split it accordingly.

The final stop is the kitchen. Mitch looks into the refrigerator and grabs the last can of beer. He rolls out to the couch, lifts himself onto the couch, turns on the TV, and pops the can open. He grins. “Fantastic night. Way to go, Crill.” he says to himself as he lifts his legs to lie onto the couch and into sleep.

*************************************************************************************

Justin opens the door to Rosie’s. There are not too many people inside of the diner save for a few solitary men sitting at booths. He is surprised that Bryce’s crew is not here, as that is why he wanted to go here. He clutches the handgun in his jacket. His attention is drawn to the bar, where he spots two girls. From the casino, maybe? He thinks.

He’ll head back to the casino tomorrow. He wants to see Taylor again. Less than a year ago, he would be competing with Bryce to see how many girls like Taylor he could get. Justin closes his eyes, begging for those days again, but paradoxically, is grateful that they are gone.

He recognizes one of the girls, or at least he thinks he does. He recognizes the dirty blonde hair that always appeared unwashed. She is sitting next to a girl wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He heads to the bar, $100 bill in hand. At least he gets to eat tonight, then buy another bottle of vodka tomorrow.

“How ya doin’, brother!” The man across the counter greets. He hands Justin a menu. “Here ya go buddy, lemme finish with these two ladies first.”

The dirty blonde haired girl places a $5 bill on the bar, then leaves her seat. The other girl follows behind. Feigning curiosity, Justin turns around.

The dirty blonde haired girl leaves the diner, but the other girl stays behind.

The other girl faces Justin, grins, and removes her hood.

Hannah Baker’s eyes meet Justin’s, and Justin’s world stops.

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