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C.T. Ballentine

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7

This is the first installment in a serialized novella of which THE2NDHAND will publish an installment a month. Keep reading. Ballentine is the man behind the Aftercrossword Special zine and a frequent contributor to THE2NDHAND. For more of his work, see the THE2NDHAND archive.


From a third story office window Friedrich Nietzsche stared into a tri-sectioned parking lot. Freshly bloomed trees, leaves whose green was downright violent. Dusted, airtight windows could scarcely contain their hue.

I have stumbled into the Promised Land. Lost in the woods, meandering blindly without compass or map, deposited finally to the Garden of Eden, for no reason but luck. Surely life springs fresh and anew, does it not?

It did.

Fried spun his office chair around. He lifted his legs. Momentum sent the surroundings of his office spin, spin, spinning around him, engulfing him in a rapid swirl of all there ever was. He slapped the chair's lever.

And dropped.

At the spin's denouement he found himself staring down the clock.

Just you and me, clock, and this town ain't big enough for the both of us.

High noon. 12:02. Just past high noon. Except that it was dark out. Just past midnight. Fried fidgeted. Perhaps he could turn on his computer. That would kill some time.

Why not?

Down the hall, its plush blue carpeting absolutely unreal in terms of comfort, there was a company kitchenette equipped with coffee, tea, a microwave, and various baked goods. Vice President DuBois had hinted at the future inclusion of a salad bar.

In his socked feet, Fried plodded towards the kitchenette.

Only this late at night was Brownstone Advertising Ltd. so very empty. Over 350 of the Chicagoland area's top admen found employ within its whitewashed walls, each of them juggling at least seven clients at a time but for Fried, whose sole responsibility was the number-crunching end of the Hanna-Barbara account, the Flintstones specifically, which in terms of number crunching was an absolute bunny.

In the blue hallway Fried daydreamed of a playground where she sat with him in the swings, feet swirling in a sea of wood chips. In her lap she held his hand.

Here we are, princess. Us two, joined like crashing stars in the stratosphere. A supernova. Our blinding white light, a monument to love. Let me kiss your salty-sweet lips and I will die a thousand deaths, happily, a smile on my face, your face on my mind. Kiss me.

Usually, 54 year olds do not find their hormones raging poetically in elementary school playgrounds. But Fried was driven 100 percent wild when she whispered warmly, with her teeth at the lobe of his ear, one simple word: "Friedrich."

No one else used his full name.

Fried was a philosophy man. Back in his gallivanting, sweater-clad college days, he'd taken adequate notes, drank beer well, and made time with the prettier girls, all under the tiring glare of one Professor Jake Crabtree, the department head, a profoundly balding, bitter old dog.

Fried assumed that, were all cards to be laid on the table, Crabtree was nothing more than jealous of Fried's way with the women.

I wonder what old Crabby would think, hmm, of this exotic blond nymph, the sultry little specimen who gave herself to me as the moonlight seeped between the slits of the swinging drawbridge. How his old man lips would froth in lust and moldy envy. Resigned, he would retire to the solitude of his office and write a theorem on loneliness.

In the kitchenette Fried made green tea. He ate toast with strawberry preserves. By the time he finished his toast, his tea was a little cold.

Fried reflected upon the difficulties of this mortal life.

Merely an example of the revolving doors glued shut by cruel fate. Imagine the possibilities had my tea stayed warm. Warmed by its embrace, my soul warm, an altogether different character, a new disposition, all the things I could do, the wonders I could create.

Fried checked his email. In his inbox: a note. From Crabtree.

"It sounds to me like you are still the same Friedrich Nietzsche who flouted the conventions of the classicists for no reason beyond some sort of pseudo-hip irreverence. Your views were and remain base and adolescent. I denounce your title, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ad Executive, and argue that it should be instead Friedrich Nietzsche, Nincompoop Extraordinaire.

Prof. Crabtree
Dept. Chair
Loyola University"

Fried shot back a reply.

"You have grown stagnant, old man. The signature in your exit greeting overplays your hand. Only in stale academic title does your life find itself in possession of any true merit. Stripped of title you are a shell of a man. Whether as nincompoop, ad exec or philosopher, I am a man of more substance than you shall ever be. Take this as a reason for your continuing to remain hopelessly alone.

Without the need for title,
Friedrich Nietzsche"

Mayhaps, Crabtree will finger my quips with regards to his academic title as little more than terribly sour grapes. Not to worry. Let him. Fuel for his fire. Truth be told, I enjoy our internet feuds. Kills time.

Speaking of, Fried looked up at the clock.

At that moment Fried's door flew inward and slammed shut before a moment. All that remained: her, breath lost, huddled against the wall, burrowing into the plaster: the starlight beauty of the playground, The Love of Fried's Life. Her blond hair leaked in waves from beneath a man's hat, her supple figure draped over by a bulky, khaki overcoat, only a hint of royal blue evening dress peaking through, one of her white heels broken along a jagged line.

"You must help me, Friedrich," she gasped. "They're trying to kill me."

Fried realized he had yet to learn this lovely woman's name.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7

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