Short Story: “Frat House Blues ’95” By C. A. Brown

Told you it was oregano.‘ Roy suppressed a laugh and stared up at the silhouette of his fraternity house. Beside him, Lucy let out a hacking cough and crushed the embers under her boot. With a grimace, she brushed a strand of blue hair out of her eyes and grumbled: ‘I suppose you want your ten bucks back or something. I mean, we went halves and you didn’t..

It could have been because of the three crushed cans lying on the ground next to him, but Roy just smiled and said: ‘Nah. Keep it.‘ He was still just about sober enough not to point out that the entertainment of the past ten seconds had been more than worth the ticket price. A faint smile crossed Lucy’s face, before she frowned at him. He shrugged and chuckled quietly.

Well, this evening sucks.‘ Lucy said. ‘Aren’t your frat brothers throwing some wild party or something? I mean..‘ She gestured towards the oddly silent house ‘… It looks more like a haunted house or something.’

They’re on spring break. Lucky bastards.‘ Roy grunted. ‘No doubt, they’ll tell me all about it when they get back.

So, why didn’t you go?‘ Lucy sighed, as she reached down and plucked a shiny can from the six pack between them. Opening it with a quiet hiss, she chugged like a partygoer. Her mouth still tasted like burnt oregano. She grimaced again.

Roy flashed her a cheesy grin: ‘Tell you the truth, I prefer the stories. No doubt, in real life, it’s just a depressing mess of free clinics, police cells, sand in all the wrong places and exactly the same parties we have here. But, the way they tell it is really something else. Like a movie.

Lucy raised an eyebrow and said: ‘That’s… unusually profound. Don’t tell me you’ve actually got a brain in that pickled head of yours.

Roy shrugged his broad shoulders: ‘Ok, you caught me out. My brothers needed someone to stay back and look after the house. It’s a sacred responsibility. Plus, coach Watson also wants me in fighting form for the game next week. I’ve also spent too much money at that damn mall we keep going to. The….

Tell me your life story, why don’t you?‘ Lucy laughed, as she crushed the can and dropped it onto the small pile.

A frown crossed Roy’s face for a second, before it was replaced by another cheesy grin. Lowering his voice to a serious baritone, he said: ‘You know, we’ve got the whole house to ourselves. If we were together…

Both of them almost collapsed with laughter. Catching her breath, Lucy waved her arm at the silent house and said: ‘Now THAT would be a horror movie worthy of a haunted house like that.

Tell me about it! I’d have nightmares for weeks! That trendy new university shrink would resign from stress.‘ Roy picked up the fifth can and drained it quickly, shuddering at the thought.

Oh, please. I’d have got there first. The poor guy would already be a gibbering wreck by the time you showed up. Maybe you’d have better luck with his shrink.‘ Lucy collapsed with laughter. Roy opened his mouth, placed his hands on his cheeks and opened his eyes wide. In a deadpan voice, he said ‘Aaaaarrgh!’

Lucy laughed: ‘I didn’t know you were an art lover. If only old Edvard was around to appreciate the joke.

Old Edvard?‘ Roy raised an eyebrow ‘Is he like your grandpa or something?‘ He pulled a Dracula face, before creasing up with laughter again.

No, Edvard Munch. He made this famous painting of a guy screaming. Ok, I only know about it because some guy at an Offspring concert I went to a couple of months back had it printed on his T-shirt. But, hey, that’s actual culture. Where did you learn about it, the ads in the back of Playboy?‘ Lucy looked genuinely curious.

In Paris, many years ago..‘ Roy started in a serious voice, before laughing again ‘Nah. There was a preview trailer for a horror movie on TV last night. Doesn’t come out ’til next year though. Literally just an… Edvard face… or whatever you call it.

No way!‘ Lucy said ‘Well, I know what we’re going to see next year.

Both of their eyes met, then drifted down the final solitary can. It sat there in the dark grass like a monolith from some lost civilisation. Like a piece of forbidden pirate bounty, hard won through Roy’s well-honed physique and Lucy’s expertise with the campus copy room. Both of them reached out instinctively, before pulling their hands back.

Their eyes narrowed. Roy’s voice lowered itself to a Texan sheriff’s drawl: ‘Looks like we got ourselves a little stand-off here.

You’re damn right, pardner.‘ Lucy replied.

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