The Wandering Mind

By Casper Allen All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Drama

Blurb

Ralph is on a mission to find a job, the most important part of college according to his parents, before he graduates. This simple goal that plagues most students dances between the foreground and background as other issues common to his age group rise and fall. With two semesters to go, the book follows Ralph as he stumbles through the relatable college problems of relationships, interviews, sports teams, fraternities, and the kid who sits up front in class kissing the teachers ass.

Chapter 1

This is where I should start my book:

Despite having to wait two weeks to get an appointment she was still so busy that she was eating lunch while I spoke. With every bite her mouth shot back open like her upper and lower jaw were connected with springs. Each time it happened it made a loud disgusting slopping noise. She looked like a cow chewing its cud with the eyes of a deer staring into head lights. If the law would have permitted it, I would have slapped her across the face.

“I know I’m supposed to be an adult, but when did it happen? When was the moment where I was meant to have a profound realization? The only way I ever learned about growing up was from coming of age stories in high school. Who actually comes of age when they are 16? I’m 21 and I still don’t think it’s happened. When am I going to overcome adversity and beat all odds and finally be a man? Where is the girl or best friend to help me on the journey? We don’t get it that easy do we? Some people have to grow up the real way. We don’t get to just end up in a situation where we get to prove our worth and be a hero. We have to do it all the time till people slowly think, ‘that sure was mature of that young man’. Who has time to wait around for that though? Who would even want that to happen at all, besides of course the students here who have been adults since they were seven? I suppose all I want is a job… So where do I start?”

The career counselor stared blankly at me. I considered it wasn’t every day that people came in as ill-prepared as I had. I was a senior in college working toward a degree in the humanities and had no idea where I wanted to go. I heard that the career counselor in the computer science department had it a lot easier. Everyone wanted a computer scientist from our school. I picked up a minor just to see what it was all about but was slowly taught to hate it by peers, the occasional hopelessly uninteresting professor, and the high difficulty. Now I was hoping for a magic answer from a plain looking woman in an ugly flower print dress. I realized I should say something to break the trance my short rant had lulled her into.

“I was hoping for something that would not involve paying for more schooling.” Like the snap of a hypnotist on his victims she was awakened. She shook her head a bit as if it would solve the problem that she had little to no idea what she was doing. I still tried to give her my undivided attention despite the beautiful day that was winking at me from just outside the window. A job is the most important thing to get out of college, I repeated to myself what had been drilled into me by my parents since I was ten.

“Let me see what I can do,” She said as she turned to the computer on her desk. “Hmmmm cognitive science huh?” Her fingers typed loudly on the old standard issued keyboard. I knew immediately this wouldn’t be helpful. She was checking the phrase “Jobs + cognitive science” on Google. It would probably be rude to just walk out. I’d stay till she turned around and told me what I already knew.

While she began clicking on ads instead of links, my eyes drifted to a picture hanging on her wall. There was a poorly drawn picture of a child and two adult women. The words ‘For Nan’ were written on it. This woman was a grandmother. A photo to the left of her computer revealed her family. A quick glance across the screen on the way let me know she had just become the 1,000,000th visitor to a site. Congratulations to her. Her family looked rather small. There was an old man next to her along with a young woman and a child. There were people who relied on this woman. Maybe she didn’t let them down. Everyone has to be good at something. Still, I bet she wished she could be my age again knowing what she does now.

It was her turn to snap me out of a trance like state.

“It seems like most people end up doing software work or go to graduate school.”

Thanks Mrs. Jeevz, question answered.

“Oh really? I’ll look into that. Thank you.”

It was warm outside for a fall afternoon; slightly cloudy of course but still bright and pleasant. The advantage to being a senior in the humanities was the lack of long hours. I was only taking one more course than the minimum to be a full time student. This led to me sliding back into my high school ways of skating by with minimal effort. There was a part time job I was doing for spending money and a resume booster. That’s what college was all about for me: Finding a job when I got out that would pay more then if I hadn’t gone. That started me on the search for an engineering degree but I didn’t get into any good programs. I thought about physics, but physics was the most boring and unnecessarily early class I ever took. That’s not to say that physics itself is a boring subject. I loved it in high school.

Someone was waving to me from across the cut, a grassy area in the middle of campus. Many campuses have a cut and think their cut is THE cut. I suppose it’s the same way everyone says THE house as if everyone else would know what they meant. As usual I didn’t have my glasses on and had no idea of the blur’s identity. My eyes weren’t bad enough that glasses were always necessary and I felt better about myself knowing I didn’t really need them. I did actually need them. Once I was about twenty feet away I realized it was my friend Keith Swertzer.

“Ello, ello, ello then,” Keith said in his absolutely worst British accent. I was sure if anyone saw this they would have immediately told him they thought he was ‘special’. I proceeded to tell him this in my own way.

“Oy, fuck? Ave you gone and lost yee ed. You sound like ya took one too many in the yabbles.” My British accent was of course spot on. I could tell Keith was now embarrassed at how superior my accent had been and changed the subject.

“How are you?” his voice had returned to normal; a somewhat deep sound, with a tinge of the south.

“I’ve been better, I’ve been worse. Can’t really complain.”

“Did the Career Counselor help at all?”

“About as much as a fire place in hell.”

Keith smirked. We first met during orientation week, and he seemed cool enough so we started hanging out a lot. Through him I met my current roommate Frank as well as many other freshmen in our dorm. For a couple months Keith and I really made a pretty good team as wingmen for each other. Then of course I had “thrown it all away” when I started dating my current girlfriend, Sarah. I still tried to help him at parties but taking one for the team doesn’t really work when you can’t take one. We spent plenty of time together still but Keith seemed to be changing.

Everybody seemed to be changing. I supposed I wasn’t as sprightly and optimistic as I was freshman year either. I felt myself becoming more cynical but there wasn’t a way for me to stop myself. It probably started about the time I decided to start questioning my religious and philosophical beliefs, but something else probably started my decision to do that. It’s not easy finding the true start of something. If to make an apple pie from scratch you need to first create the universe, then to find the absolute start of an event you need to trace it back to the start of the universe as well.

It didn’t help that when I looked into my past I found myself thinking why I wasn’t as good at things as I used to be. Rarely did I realize I wasn’t that great back then either. We glorify or damn what we can’t have and to everyone that is the past. We all say we will work for a better tomorrow but it takes more time. Time that we could spend on things that make us feel better about the past. Nothing ever changes.

“So off to McDonalds with you then?” asked Keith.

“Don’t down play it. There’s a lot of room to move up there,” I said with a smile on my face. I was good at hiding my emotions. If only there was a job for that. “Worst come to worst I’ll just write a book. I have plenty of ideas and people will read all sorts of crap now a days.”

I heard a gurgling sound and could guess where it came from.

“Did you eat yet?” I asked rubbing my belly. It was just that too. I had started to develop a belly from too much beer and not enough exercise.

“Not yet. GCYH?”

GCYH was short for Golden Chinese Yummy Happy. No one knew why the local Chinese food restaurant had such a long and nonsensical name or why the menu was full of clearly mistranslated Chinese but the food was good so no one cared.

This is the plot of my book:

A man named Harold gets a job in China checking translations. He makes a fortune correcting all businesses’ translations to English. The irony comes when a man can’t afford the work Harold has done and through a faulty translation, Harold ends up marrying the man’s daughter. There is a happy ending in that it turns out they end up loving each other…That’s pretty corny actually. Maybe it’s a tragedy and she ends up running out on him just when he starts to care. Na, that’s too serious. I’ll figure it out later.

“RALPH!” shouted Keith. Now would probably be a good time to mention that my name is Ralph; Ralph Turner. It might be best to also mention my mind tends to wander. It especially did when I was younger. I used to get so many good ideas back then.

“Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s eat there.”

I noticed on the walk to GCYH Keith was acting a bit strange. His usual, over ambitious drive to keep up a conversation had sputtered to a blank stare and murmurs. I could tell he was itching to blurt something out and just needed the right kick start. Typical any sort of acknowledgement would do it.

“Something on your mind Keith?”

Immediately he was back to his old self; the words exploding out of his mouth like a bomb went off in a book store. Similarly to that, the words seemed to be coming from many different places.

“Oh, Yeah. See…well…remember that girl. She…well…I guess you weren’t there for that. But still! What a BITCH!” Keith said angrily.

“That had the consistency of a person vomiting after eating all the free samples at Costco. Care to try again?” I responded.

“That girl Kira who I was supposed to go out with last night blew me off again. Then I saw her later at John’s house and she was pretending like nothing happened. It’s just like when she told me she was too busy to go see that new Spiderman movie and I saw her on the bus on the way there. She was going shopping or something. At the bar last week she was all over me though. Fuck it, I’m done with her dude. She’s probably fucking John anyway even though she has a boyfriend--”

“Woah, hold up. You are mad at this girl because she won’t fool around with you and she has a boyfriend?” I don’t know why I was surprised. Keith seemed to attract these type of girls a lot. Many of my friends did.

“We already have hooked up but now she’s blowing me off. You are acting like you don’t know Kira. You met her a couple months ago.”

“Was I drunk when I met her? What would I remember about her?” I asked.

“You told her to dump them out. When she refused angrily you turned to her friend. Her friend laughed and asked your name. You just said ‘Ralph’ and did a bow then walked off.”

“I do remember the friend. She was pretty.”

When we got to GCYH there was no line as usual. We sat down at our favorite table, the one next to the aquarium, and began talking about which fish we were going to select to eat today. We both had a good laugh when a cat appeared on the other side of the tank. He became our top pick. A waiter came over shortly and dropped off some menus and water. We asked for tea and looked for something new to try.

“I think I’ll try the ‘so good noodles’ today,” Keith said to the waiter when he came back with the tea.

“The lovely steak plate for me please,” I added.

As soon as the waiter walked away Keith and I each poured a cup and proceeded to drive out most of its natural flavor with four packets of sugar. GCYH took pride in their tea. We took sugar in ours. The fish I had first decided would be in my meal was darting back and forth along the blue stones that covered the bottom of the tank. I wondered how a creature could live its life in such a small environment and not hate everything. I guessed fish didn’t really have an advanced enough brain to notice. The larger the brain the bigger the environment, I asked myself. What would that say about prisoners though? It will all make sense when I’m older, I thought. You can always tell when you’re lying to yourself.

“You think we’ll grow up someday Keith. I don’t mean have fancy job and wear suits, I mean truly grow up,” I asked.

“Yup” said Keith. “All it takes is a kid.”

I looked at the table for a second. It was such a simple answer but I felt like there was some truth to it. Nothing makes you need to control your actions more than being in charge of someone else’s. Still, there were plenty of horribly irresponsible parents out there. Debating yourself takes far too long when you are an indecisive person. I raised my cup.

“To not growing up anytime soon.”

The waiter brought out our meals. My lovely steak plate was lovely.

When we stepped outside the temperature had dropped and a light rain was misting us like a badly behaved house pet. We were just as displeased. The bus was supposed to have come three minutes ago so we probably had a seven minute wait. There wasn’t much to say. We had gotten to the point where we were comfortable enough that silence wasn’t awkward. Soon, a bus came shining from a distance. It looked like a beacon in the dreary weather. We stood up just in time to watch it drive past without slowing down.

“Well FUCK you too!” shouted Keith. “Did that asshole not see us standing right here?”

“The bus was full,” I said, though it didn’t make me any less annoyed. When the bus was full they would skip stopping all together unless someone on the bus requested it. “There are too many damn people in the world. Sometimes I wish only half as many people existed.”

“Sure, but how would you feel if you didn’t exist?” responded Keith, raising one eyebrow. I could tell he thought this was clever of him and so I wanted my response to shoot him down. People say I can be pretty competitive. After a few seconds I had an idea.

“That’s a dumb question. If I didn’t exist then I wouldn’t feel anything anyway.”

The next bus wasn’t quite so clogged. It was a short ride home and I said my goodbyes before going to my room. We both lived in a dorm for upperclassmen but he lived on a different floor. When I opened the door, Frank was in his usual position lying on his bed watching something. I couldn’t tell you what it was; only that it wasn’t work.

“Don’t you have a test tomorrow morning?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I got an adderall from Jenny. I need something to do while it kicks in.”

“I thought you become engrossed in whatever you are doing when it kicks in? Won’t you just end up watching a bunch of whatever this crap is?”

Frank gave me the look of a frustrated teen to their parents. “It’s not like this is the first time I’ve taken it. I know what I’m doing.”

“Do whatever you want. Are you going to be sleeping all day again tomorrow?” I already knew the answer but just wanted to check.

“Probably. Just wake me up for dinner. Oh and Sarah came by. She said to text her when you want to hang out.”

“Okay. I’ll be back around one most likely. That gives you plenty of time to jerk off.”

“Maybe that’s enough time for you, but not for me,” said Frank with a smile.

“That’s because you’re on adderall and you get too into it,” I responded as I was leaving.

When Sarah answered her door I could tell something was off. She looked like she had something on her mind and I would have to waste half an hour prying before she would admit what was going on. Let the dance begin.

“Hey, is something wrong?” I enquired.

“You didn’t text,” She answered. “I’m in the middle of something. Why do you never listen to me?”

“I live two minutes away. If you need two minutes to finish what you are working on just do it now.”

“That’s not the point!” She blurted. After sighing and rolling her eyes she turned around and walked back to her desk. Sarah was a Mechanical Engineering major and was usually stressing about her work. Her long auburn hair hung in wisps over her face. She was wearing dirty, paint covered sweatpants with her old high school logo on them. Back in high school she had been an artist, but her grades were high so she got pushed into doing engineering.

I walked over to her slightly lofted bed and jumped up onto it.

“Is something else bothering you?”

“No,” she said angrily.

“Okay, I’ll just let you finish then,” I responded.

We sat in silence for a couple minutes. I stared at the poster of ZZ Top on her roommate’s wall.

This is my idea for a beard competition:

Separate the beard into 8 thick groups. Near the top they are together in a globe with two holes but spread apart on the bottom. It would be an octopus.

It was another minutes before I heard her pencil drop and I looked over to see she was glaring at me.

“Is that it? You don’t have anything else you want to say?”

“Sorry I didn’t text?” I said inquisitively.

“You don’t even mean it!”

Break up with her right now! I thought. Just say ‘bye’ and walk away. Life would be so simple if you were single. You would have so much time. Do you remember single life though? You had moments you were just as unhappy. You have been together too long to end it that quickly over something so small.

My heart started pounding in my chest. I sighed and looked into her eyes. Her pupils dilated slightly. I heard that means they care.

“What is really the matter? Are you actually this mad because I didn’t text?”

It was the wrong question.

“It’s not about that! You never listen to me! Why can’t you just listen when I ask you to do things?” She shouted.

“I’m sorry. I’ll try to be more attentive. Did you finish what you were working on?”

“Yeah, I don’t want to look at this anymore.”

She pulled up some television show on her computer and turned the screen toward the bed. After climbing up she leaned back against me. This was her way of saying she was done arguing. In about twenty minutes she would probably apologize for being crazy and admit to just being over stressed from work. That was the way things had been going. I often wondered if apologies were really worth anything if the person didn’t stop what they were apologizing for doing. To me it was like the word ‘love’. Everyone had their own definition of the word and what reactions it should draw. Personally, I thought it could cause an enormous amount of problems.

I looked down at the end of the show and Sarah was asleep. I guessed I wasn’t getting an apology after all. Flicking off the light switch behind my head, I slid Sarah off my side and onto the bed before lying down next to her. Sleep was not coming though. There was too much on my mind.

What am I doing with my life? I thought. I’m going to graduate in less than a year and I have no job prospects. Hell, I don’t even know what I am looking for. I always seem to do this to myself right as I try to fall asleep. Then there is Sarah. Chances are when we graduate we won’t be in the same city and long distance seems to never work. All my friends will be moving on with their lives. I’m supposed to be moving on with my life.

I couldn’t clear my head so I did what I always did; made up a story.

Here’s how it starts:

The professor is lecturing about something boring. I am sitting in the third row looking at my notebook and doodling. A person kicks open the doors to the lecture hall with a gun in hand. I stand up and throw my cell phone at him as he aims at the front row. It strikes him in the head. As he stammers backwards he draws the weapon up. I am already running toward him. I hear a deafening roar as I place a foot on the front row armrest and leap toward him. For a second we hold eye contact. He is looking into my eyes and sees the future. He sees what will happen to him for his actions. He sees justice and retribution. I see fear. I smack the gun away and knock him unconscious. The adrenaline starts to slow and I feel an intense pain in my side. I wake up in the ER two days later surrounded by family and friends. There are news cameras outside. I am a hero.

I always fall asleep before I get to the part where I will need to go through years of physical therapy.

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