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Stupid Stuff



Terrence, this is stupid stuff…,” Jake said, and he went on to read the rest of the poem with Jen nestled next to him on the couch. I sat in the chair across from them and listened and laughed at all the right moments. Jake lifted his glass as he said, “Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink….”

It was the A.E. Housman poem. If you don’t know it, I’d suggest giving it a read. People don’t read much Housman anymore, but I think that one still goes around Victorian lit classrooms most years.

When he finished reading, Jake set the book down and took a long drink of beer. We all drank. It was just the three of us in his cramped little apartment.

“Just like old times,” he said and glanced at me.

“Are you OK?” Jen asked.

“I’m fine,” I said. “I will be.”

It hadn’t been just the three of us for almost a year. Since before I’d met Anna. She was always with us, and it almost felt like I’d forgotten how to be single.

“It’s just going to be hard getting over her,” I said.

“Yeah,” Jake said. He stood and went across the apartment and grabbed a little rubber ball. “Just forget about her, man.” He threw the ball to me and sat next to Jen again. They kissed and Jen looked at me, apologetically, like she was worried she was making it worse.

“Do you need to talk about it?” she asked.

“No, he doesn’t,” Jake said.

“Jake,” she said.

“It’s fine,” I said.

“What you need to do is find a good girl,” Jake said. “Like Jen. How long have we been together? Feels like forever. You could tell from the start Anna might ditch you.”

“I couldn’t.”

“Well, anyway,” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe I don’t want something like that.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jake said.

“It’s like in the poem.”

“What about it?”

“Like the Housman poem. Maybe being in such a long-term relationship isn’t such a good thing.”

“What, you’re saying it’s boring? That Jen and I are boring like poetry?”

“Jake,” she said.

“And you’d rather go have a bunch of beer, or one-night-stands or whatever?”

“No,” I said. “I mean, train for ill and not for good. Like maybe it’s better to be able to depend on yourself when the going gets tough, instead of only knowing how to get help from your girlfriend.”

Jake looked pissed. I wasn’t feeling that drunk, but it felt like the words came out accusatorily or something like that. Like maybe he thought I was talking down on his relationship. And that wasn’t what I meant, I didn’t think. He looked at Jen and she was looking at me, nodding, and then he looked pissed at her.

“What,” she said. “Oh, so I’m the bad guy? He’s right, you know?” She stood from the couch and stepped over the piles of clothes on her way to the door.

“Babe,” he said.

She left.

We sat quietly.

I tell the tale that I heard told,” I said. “Mithridates, he died old.”

This story was written by William Morris, an MFA candidate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is an editor at Natural Bridge Literary Magazine. His work has been published or is forthcoming online and in print at Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Aji Magazine, Fiction Southeast, Oblong Magazine, drafthorse, Magnolia Review, 5x5, Red Earth Review, and Sediments Literary-Arts Journal. He is the recipient of the 2015 Besse Patterson Gephardt Award for Fiction. William lives in St. Louis, where he devotes his time to cats, coffee, and creative writing. Click here to check out his writing >>

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