Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Michael C. Keith


Things are never as scary when you’ve got a best friend.
–– Bill Watterson

I’ve had this voice in my head since I was an adolescent . . . 16 years old, to be exact. At first I was frightened by it. I thought someone must be in my bedroom. But after a close search, I found no one, which led me to think that my room might be occupied by a ghost or spirit of some kind. The first thing the voice said to me took the form of a question: “Why are you afraid to ask Kara to go on a date?” Without thinking, I answered. “She’d never say yes.” As soon as I spoke, I realized something amazing had happened.

I’m 24 now, and the voice has been with me ever since, and I’m thankful for it. By that I mean it has always given me good advice. In the beginning, I thought I was going crazy and wondered if I should tell someone about what was going on. But then I realized everything the voice told me to do turned out fine . . . great, in fact.

At the advice of the voice––which I named Brett, because I always liked that name––I did ask Kara out. She said yes after I spread the rumor that the guy she liked was seeing another girl. Brett gave me that idea, and it worked out better than I ever thought. We went out a few more times until Kara got back together with her old boyfriend. By then I didn’t care, because I liked another girl better. The voice helped me get her, too.

On senior prom night, Brett suggested that I put a laxative in the punch bowl as a joke. I was kind of pissed at my fellow seniors for treating me like I wasn’t as good as them. So I got a strong one and slipped it in the bowl when nobody was watching. Later in the evening, it seemed that everyone was lining up at the bathrooms. Some kids didn’t make it and you can imagine what happened to them. It was hysterical, especially because Kara and her boyfriend ran outside and crapped in the parking lot. They didn’t see me, but I followed them. While they were relieving themselves, they were groaning like sick cows. I almost pissed my pants laughing.

College wasn’t easy for me, especially the math and science courses. I was on the path to failing my first year, but Brett came to the rescue. He told me where to sit so I could see the tests of the smartest kids in the classes that were giving me the most trouble. I copied their answers and ended up with a B in geometry and an A- in natural sciences. That actually put me on the honor roll. Brett helped me throughout college, and when I graduated, my parents couldn’t have been more proud.

My first job was also thanks to Brett’s assistance. He suggested I beef up my resume a little by adding a few things––nothing huge, really. Put myself down as an assistant manager at the burger joint I worked for two summers. Say I was coordinator of the debate team, even though I was only on it for one semester. Beef up my college GPA a bit, despite the fact that I already had a 3.2. Just a few minor embellishments, but they must have made a difference because I got the first job I applied for. Brett, you’re the man!

Three years later, when I got promoted to regional sales director, I was given my own secretary. She was just out of Katherine Gibbs and very nervous. She wasn’t the strongest candidate for the job, but I hired her because she was a hot little babe. I treated her with patience and understanding as she got settled in and gained her confidence. She was sweet and very naïve, and things quickly got to the point that I wanted to have sex with her more than anything. So I began to make some moves.

At first, she seemed confused by my advances, but Brett gave me some great pointers to keep her from getting scared or upset. Eventually, it became clear that she was becoming attracted to me. Then I went for it, and kissed her, moving my hands over her taut body. Soon I had her on my office couch, and we were having passionate sex. We did this many more times, and then she got serious, wanting to know where it was leading. Brett told me to dump her at that point––and I did.

As time went on, I continued on my path to business success. Gaining clients was easy with Brett’s direction. He told me to promise anything that would get them to sign the bottom line, and that’s what I did. Once I put the close on them, I could deal from a position of strength, said Brett. His rule was simple and on the mark, I thought: “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bushes, because you can squeeze the one in your hand until it goes along with what you want.” I did a lot of squeezing and made heaps of money as a result. Not long after, I was promoted to national director of sales. Thanks, Brett. Love you, guy.

When Melinda came into my life, I was blown away by her beauty and intelligence, not to mention the fact that she came from a wealthy family. It took me a while to woo her, but she eventually said yes to my marriage proposal. Brett had vetted me carefully during the courtship process. He knew I had to have her as my wife, so he constantly told me how to act and what to say.

It was obvious from the start that she wanted children, although I had no interest in that whatsoever. Brett told me to pretend that I was in order to consummate the deal, so I did. Before we tied the knot, I got a vasectomy and the kid thing was off the table, unbeknownst to Melinda. We stayed together until I refused to have a fertility test, and then she asked for a divorce. By then, I was tired of our relationship anyway, so once again moving on seemed the right thing to do.

Coming home late at night from my 45th birthday party––where I had over-imbibed, as usual––I hit a cyclist. I pulled over with the purpose of checking on the person, but Brett told me to keep going. His advice had always been right, but for some reason I couldn’t leave the victim alone. “Drive on . . . drive on!” demanded the voice, as I got out of my car. “Why aren’t you listening to me? What are you doing?”

The person I had struck appeared to have no pulse, and I dialed 911. Within minutes after the police arrived and determined the person was dead, I was charged with driving under the influence resulting in vehicular homicide. Five weeks later, I was sentenced to 6 years at a medium-security prison. In my dreary cell, I pleaded for Brett to come back. I had not heard from him since the accident. It was the first time in nearly 30 years that he hadn’t spoken to me on a daily basis. He had been my closest friend, and without his companionship, I felt abandoned and despondent.

After four-and-a-half years, I was released due to good behavior, and that’s when Brett returned. I had mixed feelings about him by that time. Why had he left me in my greatest time of need, I asked?

“Because you disobeyed me, you stupid bastard, and look what that got you,” he answered, adding, “I’m more than just some damn voice in your head.”

“I know that, Brett. You’re so much more than just that.”

He was right, of course. By not listening to him I had suffered dearly.

“Please stay!” I pleaded.

“And if I do, you’ll always do as I say?”

“Yes.” I said. “Always.”S


Michael C. Keith writes fiction and teaches college.


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