Serial – Episode 6 of “20th”

Lynn hung back from him, letting her arm be carried along in his hand, but keeping her feet planted. It struck Tim as an odd time to be reticent. As far as Lynn should have been concerned, she is dealing with a boyfriend who is mourning the loss of two parents who wants to discuss something important.

“I’m not trying to be funny or anything. We have things we need to talk about.”

“Oh, I know. And I want to talk to you about whatever it is. But I don’t want to keep them waiting too long.”


Tim was taking enough of a risk bringing Lynn into things. He couldn’t think of anyone else that he would consider wanting to have around. But he could think of someonewho would jump at the chance to be around and not have it be his fault.

“Dave,” he said. He shook his head. Dave had been asking for years if he could accompany Tim around on one of his birthdays, as if it was a road trip he was going to be taking and he was leaving Dave out of the fun. He had never attempted to crash before, presumably because it would be difficult to follow Tim around if he didn’t want to have a shadow. But today would be different. Dave was invited, and by Lynn. Which meant that he could play innocent and invite as many people as he could, making it harder and harder for Tim to just ditch him and take off on his own.

And he knew it wouldn’t just be Dave.

Lynn turned back to the door and pulled it open. From outside, Tim heard Dave call out. “Is it now? Are we yelling surprise now? Did I screw it up?” A smattering of confused yells of “Surprise!” followed. As Tim had suspected, Dave had brought the Crew.

Dave was a far more active individual than Tim had ever been. He exercised. He ran. He hiked and climbed and played after-work sports. He karted and paintballed and bungeed. In the pursuit of these myriad activities, he picked up a fairly odd assortment of companions. Tim never had much cause to be exposed to them. They were mostly present for activities that he had no interest in taking part of. The few times he was surrounded by them at parties he found them both enthusiastic and abrasive. Features he expected frequently went hand-in-hand.

Dave peeked his head around the door jamb a few seconds later, looking impish, though clearly of the mind that this was his sheepish face. Tim wanted to slap him.

“Surprise,” Lynn said, distracting Tim from his anger with Dave. She was of course picking up the vibe that he was not pleased.

“Did you bring the Crew?”

“Just a couple people, it’s cool,” Dave said, hands already out and placating.

“A couple?”

“Like five.”

From outside: “Did we say it loud enough?” “Say it louder this time.” “Surprise!”

“Will you give us a second?” Tim asked to Lynn. He grabbed Dave’s arm and pulled him inside the house, still wearing the grin he was convinced said that he was sorry, and towards his bedroom. Tim gave the door a bit of a slam and regretted it immediately, but just for a moment.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Happy birthday.”

“Why would you think being cute would suddenly make the slightest bit of difference to me?”

“Just take it easy, everything will be cool.”

Tim pointed to the sheet of paper on the back of his door. Dave groaned.

“Man, you bust that thing out every year before your birthday. It’s so morbid. Why do you bother? You’ve got all that shit memorized anyway. Like you should want to remember it anyway.”

“That shit on there is my life. It’s my family and friends dead and gone.”

“Yeah and it’s winning the lottery and picking up a chick and getting cash and prizes. You only talk about the sad stuff.”

“The sad stuff?”

Dave nodded at his sage wisdom, eyeballing Tim meaningfully.

“You brought the Adventure Crew.”

“I did.”

“So which one of them would you be comfortable having die today? Anyone you’re not fond of? Or maybe you’ve decided you’ve had enough running around, is that it? Would this make you an accessory to manslaughter?”

Dave waved his hand in dismissal. “That’s all melodrama, man. You never know what will happen each year, you just expect it to be death. Sometimes it’s amazing stuff.”

“Why did you bring them here? Why did you come?”

“Amazing stuff, man. I ask every year and I got tired of hearing no. And the Crew came because they’re kind of your groupies now.”

“What did you tell them Dave? Did you tell them? I swear to you—“

“Relax. I didn’t tell them shit. I told them you were struck by lightning once and you won the lottery and then made up a bunch of stories about cool shit you’d done before. They ate it up. I convinced them that adventure follows you and, being the Adventure Crew, they demanded to ride on your coattails.”

“This is so stupid.”

“We’ll talk tomorrow about how stupid it all is.”

Tim sat on his bed and ran his hands through his hair. He was heaping stress on top of his stress and was already beginning to feel the fatigue from his lack of sleep.

“I saw Janet this morning.”

Dave made the universal hands-in-the-air gesture for “so what”, and then followed Tim’s eyes as he stared at the list on the back of the door.

“Oh! Oh. Heavy.” He sat down next to the bed with Tim. “We all go a little crazy sometimes, man. You’ve had to put up with more shit than most, and you’ve got this weird curse going. Look, I’m sorry I crashed your day and I’m sorry I brought the Crew. I just figured you shouldn’t always be alone all the time. It’s not good for you and I thought if I showed you a good time today maybe things would change.”

Crazy. Dave had kept talking, but that word hovered around Tim’s ears and kept him from absorbing much else. He hadn’t really stopped to consider that possibility. He’d finally snapped. Visions. Paranoia. Maybe today would be the day that he would be committed to the asylum.

“It was so real, though. She told me that I could find her.”

Dave clapped him on the shoulder and leaned in close.

“Well then let’s find her, man.”

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