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The Running Stoners A Short Story by Polypsyches Jan took a hit off his spliff all alone in his room and looked up at the clock. What he saw there was not what was there in fact. What he saw was a line going straight down from the top and in his mind’s eye, that line was bleeding all the way down to the bottom. He concluded from this that it was six o’clock and therefore time for his programs. He loved catching the late-afternoon re-runs of Dawson’s Creek, all the characters over-analyzing and jumping to wrong conclusions and basically just being Teens--stupid Americans. None of them even smoked, but Katie Holmes was hot. Then he would keep the TV on until that Glee show. Awesome trip. But it wasn’t six o’clock yet. It was noon. That line going down the clock-face stopped halfway down. When he switched on VT4, all he got was a test image showing a fish in a bowl. He watched that fish in a bowl for probably a good ten minutes before it occurred to him that the only thing wronger than an aquarium inside a TV set was the fact that he still wasn’t watching Dawson’s Creek. Maybe I got the wrong channel? He reached for the remote. It wasn’t there. Why wasn’t the remote on the left arm-rest of his Lazy Chair? He scootched over, felt into the cracks under the cushion, he wriggled around to make sure he wasn’t sitting on it. Finally, exasperated, he lifted himself up, groaning, to his feet, turned back and lifted up the cushion only to discover the remote control to the television in his right hand. How did it get there? he wondered. Let the record show the reason why his remote control was in his right hand instead of his left was because he had moved it there so that it could be safe and he could be in control in case he suddenly had to turn the volume up or the TV off and so that he could have his left hand free in case he caught a glimpse of Katie Holmes. He sat back down. He verified first that he was indeed on VT4 but then thought to himself Am I sure that it’s playing on VT4? Maybe it’s on KA2... So he switched the channel, then switched it again, and again, trying to find his show and seeing instead nothing but random test images. Flustrated, he rolled himself a joint, sat back and pondered. Oh, I remember! he thought. It’s showing on VT4! Of course! I’m such an idiot! But this time, when he turned the channel, what he saw was not a test image showing a fish in a fishbowl, or a radio pumping out music while people texted each other, or even a monkey humping a panda at the zoo. What he saw was far more disturbing than that, even. What he saw was STATIC INT JAN’S ROOM - DAY Jan puts down his remote control on the left arm-rest and lights up his joint again, then coughs. STATIC Jan contemplates the TV. STATIC


CUT TO EXT. BRUSSELS - AVENUE E. MESENSLAAN - DAY MUSIC: “Theme from Roy Rogers” by Janez Detd. The street is completely empty, deserted. A single tumbleweed tumbles from one side of the street to the other and gets stuck in a pile of dog-shit. The tumbleweed lets out a frustrated squeak. CUT TO: EXT. ANOTHER STREET - MERE SECONDS LATER ERIC and NATHAN TANNER, henceforth known collectively as THE RUNNING STONERS, turn around a corner, running and screaming, terrified for their lives. They run down several other streets, now and then looking behind them at something as yet unseen and at one point even stumble over the tumbleweed and moan over the same damn dogshit before looking back behind them, screaming again, and running for their hides. As the music turns into its chorus, we see what’s chasing them: first a pair of sunglasses, then a mouth, lips pulling back from teeth as though preparing to rend flesh from bone, a hand wearing one of those gloves with the fingers and knuckles bare (Why do they even wear those things?) twisting the handles of a bike. PIERRE DELACROIX, henceforth designated THE COP, glides down one street on his bicycle, cackling mechanically! The chase continues, the Running Stoners pulling ahead as often as the Cop catches up, without significant plot developments. Then suddenly, everythi STATIC CUT TO: INT JAN’S ROOM - DAY Jan sits in his chair, staring blank-faced at the TV. At length, he exhales a puff of smoke. JAN The fuck?


Suddenly, Jan coughs violently. When it subsides, he sucks once more on his joint. JAN Dude, that is some good shit. At length, the static subsides and VT4 is restored. Dawson’s Creek comes on, starring Katie Holmes after an advertisement for Glee. It was 6 in the evening. EXT. SCHOOL - COURTYARD - DAY Jan holds a ball-point pen in his hand, shaking as other high school kids pass him by. He raises the ball-point pen to his lips, holding it between his thumb and index finger, sucks on the end of it, holds his breath for a moment, then lets out a breath of cold air, like smoke. He coughs. Repeatedly. The doors to the school-building open and out walks DIDIER KHALED, who, it should be known, is far cooler than Jan. Although that isn’t really saying much. DIDIER Dude. You all right? JAN Dude, I just saw the sickest shit on TV last night. DIDIER Was it your mom humping Chuck Norris on CANAL + after midnight? JAN (confused) Uh... no? DIDIER Bummer. She’s really good. You woulda liked it. JAN Wait--what channel was that on? DIDIER What’s this fucked up shit you were talking about? JAN Hunh? DIDIER You said you saw some shit on TV.


JAN Oh! Right! Didier motions for Jan to speak up. So Jan describes to Didier the events of the night before, referring to them in the context of a “music video”. DIDIER: For “Theme from Roy Rogers”? Seriously? You know how old that damn song is? JAN: Yeah, like thirty years or something, right? DIDIER: So how did you know they were high? JAN: Who? DIDIER: Well, you said they were Stoners, right? JAN: Yeah? DIDIER: And they were high? JAN: Well, yeah, I mean, they were Stoners, right? Jan instinctively flicks the ash off of his ballpoint pen. Didier looks at him. DIDIER: How could you tell that they were high if they were running? JAN: Duh. They were wearing hoodies. Enter SYLVIE MEURANT, stage left, accompanied by her friends FIONNUELLA and ANKE. Jan is in love with Sylvie because she bears a remarkable resemblance in his mind to Katie Holmes from Dawson’s Creek, despite being tall, blonde, stately and otherwise looking absolutely not the least little bit like Katie Holmes from Dawson’s Creek. The three girls pass by Jan and Didier and do their best to ignore them. But Didier can’t let it go. Jan tunes out the exact comment that Didier makes that causes Fionnuella to turn around and engage in witty reparté with him, which no doubt would have been Oscar-nabbing had it born any relevance to the plot at hand, which it does, of course, because Didier and Fionnuella are famous for their witty banter and the fact that they absolutely hate each other because they live on different sides of the tracks and dwell in different social climates that hate each other and they both have that kind of personality, but right now, Jan isn’t aware or acare about any of that because Jan is currently in the presence of Sylvie Meurant, so no other subplots are necessary for him. He could gaze into those golden eyes--no that couldn’t be right, what color were they? Those... blue! They were blue! Yes, of course--those goldish-blue eyes of hers that he knew so well--and be permanently lost to oblivion. Or something totally cheesy and gay like that. SYLVIE, noticing Jan looking at her, comes and grabs Fionnuella to drag her away.


SYLVIE: Let’s go, Fionne! FIONNUELLA: Oh, yeah? Is that where your mother keeps her toothbrush? DIDIER: It’s not where your mom had it last night! Exeunt Sylvia and her train. DIDIER: (seeing Jan’s star-struck expression on his face and finding it über-lame) Dude, the fuck? JAN: So... hot... DIDIER: Dude, you’re getting drool on my Converse. Not cool, dude. JAN: I... can... haz... ? DIDIER: This better not be about some chick. This about a chick? JAN: (reaches out) Sylvie... DIDIER: Stoner-boy, stop. You’re embarrassing yourself. More importantly, you’re embarrassing me. And there aren’t even other people around. It takes skill and I applaud you. But you still gotta stop. JAN: But I wants it. DIDIER: Ew. Seriously? Dude, you should not be around women. Or children. Or old people. Or sheep--you’d gross them out. JAN: But I lo-DIDIER: Woah, woah, stop it right there. Now I can’t have you going around saying shit like that, now, can I? Seriously? Love her? She wouldn’t even let her friend insult me. And besides, if you like her? Dude, you gotta change your attitude, dog. Seriously. JAN: I do? DIDIER: Fuck, yeah, you do! You see me hanging there letting flies come at me all day long, dog? JAN: Uh... DIDIER: Shake your head. Jan shakes his head, but isn’t quite sure why. DIDIER: That’s right, now, you wanna get with the girls, boy, you gots to be smoothe, dog. You gotta treat her... You gotta treat her like a joint. You know? Rolling a splitff, you can’t be heaping it on. You can’t be drooling on that shit. It is a delicate operation. You do something wrong, you could drop your joint! That is some bad shit, y’all. You know what I’m saying?


Jan is still trying to remember the last time he rolled a joint without drooling or spilling it. He couldn’t. Later that day--or maybe the day before--or maybe several months before, no one is quite sure anymore--I found myself walking out of the Video Store on Boulevard George Henri with two fresh DVD rentals in my cargo pocket. It was a beautiful day and I was starry-eyed and young, so I decided to go for a walk in Parc Georges-Henri--The Graveyard Park--on my way back home. As I was walking between the trees on the path that was paved with tombstones, a young man about my own age halted in front of me, blocking my way. He was short--much shorter than I--but he had that ill-favored look that marked him as a scrapper and a crook. Yet he also had a smile on his face, so I smiled in turn and moved to pass him, but he moved to block me. I dodged the other way around him, but he blocked me at every turn. And all the while, he kept muttering to himself “ver-verklik-verklikker-verklikkerlicht-verklikkerlichtjes! KLIK!” At last, I smiled and bowed my head politely and turned back the way I’d come, only to find the young man’s associate, much taller and with a (mostly) shaved head, blocking my path from the other side and screaming “NOOOOOOTJEEEEEEEESSS!!!!!!!!” When I woke up, several hours later, I found the two films I had rented had been stolen out of my pockets. The night was almost over. And I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my life would never be the same. EXT. AVENUE E MESENSLAAN - DAY Jan walks down the street. There is a scream behind him, persistent, yet far away. He turns around, but doesn’t see anything. Soon, the sound dies out. He shrugs it off and continues on his way. Behind him, we see the Running Stoners come out from one side-street and run to the other side of it in a hurry, screaming all the way. But as they’re running, Jan has his eyes wide open in shock and doesn’t turn around until they’re out of sight. Then, having missed them, having convinced himself that they were never really there in the first place, he continues on his way. Behind him then, we see The Cop gliding by on his bicycle, dinging his bell and cackling mechanically! We see him--indeed, we yell at the screen, we fling our popcorn and stamp our feet, foaming at the mouth, but again, too blitzed to react with proper promptness, Jan turns too late and misses him. Frowning, he turns back around, lifting his empty hand to his mouth and sucking on his thumb and index-finger, then bringing them down and noticing he isn’t holding anything there. As he reaches into his inner coat pocket, though, the Running Stoners and the Cop alike come charging at him, the first knocking him down while the second savagely runs him over. Panting, groaning, clutching his belly in pain, Jan gets up, looks around, sees nothing there. So he continues on his way. INT. QUICK-FOOD RESTAURANT - DAY Jan slouches into the restaurant, looking around suspiciously at anyone who might be watching him. Didier sits waiting for him in a booth, rolls his eyes, motions him over. Jan, still leery of being watched, covers most of his face with his coat and scurries over to the booth.


DIDIER Dude. Don’t be a dork. Chastened, Jan drops his cover and proceeds to lounge across the bench. Didier rolls his eyes. JAN I saw them again. DIDIER Saw who? JAN The Running Stoners. DIDIER Oh, that music video? What, like on TV? JAN No, like I actually saw them. DIDIER Seriously? Where? JAN Just outside. They knocked me down. That fucking Cop ran over me with his bike. Still hurts. DIDIER Dude, what the fuck you been smoking? JAN Look, I’m telling you, man-DIDIER Whatever, look, that’s not what this is about, OK? JAN What do you mean? DIDIER I mean that’s not why I called you here! JAN You called me here?


Didier glares at him. JAN OH! Oh... wait, what? DIDIER I can help you get Sylvie. Didier tells Jan of his cunning plan. “I happen to know,” he says, “that tonight, thinking she’s meeting a friend of hers to go see a movie, she will in fact be meeting you--her friend will stand her up.” JAN I don’t get it. DIDIER (sighing): Do I have to spell it out for you, shithead? She’ll be waiting for her friend at the movies! When the friend doesn’t show up, you’ll be there to *wink wink nudge nudge saynomore* pick up the pieces. JAN (frowning) I still don’t get it. DIDIER: (annoyed, looks briefly at a point beyond Jan, near the door) Go get me a sandwich. JAN: Blah? DIDIER: Get me a sandwich, bitch! (kicks him under the table) JAN (acquiescing) Ow! Jan stands up, goes towards the counter to order, slams into Fionnuella. FIONNUELLA: Watch were you put your face, shit-for-brains! JAN: Sorry! Sorry! He has to be careful, after all, to be nice to any friends of Sylvie’s, even if they aren’t friendly to him. Chicks like that kind of turn-the-other-cheek thing, even outside the bedroom. Which is probably why he doesn’t notice Fionnuella sitting down in the booth next to Didier’s, their back to each other, but only a thin pane of see-through-plastic separating their heads... Jan feels immense anticipation, thinking ahead to the things that he will do to Sylvie once she is finally his. He thinks of all the nights they will spend together sitting on the couch in his room watching Dawson’s Creek or whatever it is that chicks watch instead of watching Dawson’s Creek. He thinks of all the joints he will roll her. He thinks of all the time they will spend out, just in front of the school, just sitting on the benches and hanging out. And by the time he gets the stuff ordered and turns to take it back to the


table, he sees Sylvie, fresh through the door, standing right in front of him, and he drops his tray on the floor. Behind him, Didier stands up out of the booth, turns towards Fionnuella, yells DIDIER (censored) Sylvie just stands there, staring open-mouthed and disgusted at Jan. Didier comes up behind him and draws him out the door. DIDIER Come on. Let’s blow this Quick-stop. Sylvie cringes and walks towards Fionnuella’s booth. All day long, Jan imagines with rapt anticipation how it will go, how he will ride into Sylvie’s life like a knight on a big white bicycle not at all unlike the one driven by The Cop, except that his is blue and nothing like a horse and also who would want anything to do with that stupid laugh to begin with? Besides, he was thinking about Sylvie now. Those other things on his mind... what were those other things on his mind? He took another hit to help himself remember, but then forgot what it was he’d forgotten. INT. BUS - DAY Jan sits on the bus. His phone rings. He looks up, looks around, looks on the floor next to him and in between the seats, then starts patting himself down, opens his hand and finds it. JAN Hello? DIDIER Jan? Hey, man, it’s Didier. What’s up? Just wanted to uh... you know, just wanted to make sure everything’s cool, you know? That you’re on your way. JAN On my way? Oh, right! Yeah, totally, yeah, sure, I’m on the bus right now. DIDIER Awesome. Listen, man, you’re gonna have a great time. JAN Yeah, totally. Pause.


DIDIER Hey, Jan? JAN Yeah? DIDIER We talk a lot of shit, you know? JAN Yeah. DIDIER Don’t listen to any of that crap. Just be yourself. Chicks--that’s what all they really want. Jan has absolutely no idea what the fuck Didier’s talking about. DIDIER Take care of yourself, man. Didier hangs up. Jan looks at the phone, puts it away in his pocket. EXT. BUS STOP - DAY Jan steps out of the bus, stretches. MUSIC: The instrumental conclusion to “Judgment” by Anathema, a melodic romp of guitar chords and drumline extravaganzas. Out of nowhere, the Running Stoners come up and launch themselves past Jan. He watches them go, gabberflasted, then slowly widens his eyes and turns his head to see The Cop, still some distance away, but headed straight towards him. He panics. He runs. Jan Runs with the Stoners through and past the great landmarks of downtown Brussels. They run through the Grand Place, they run past the Manneken Pis, they pass under the statue of Sean Connery that looks exactly like Don Quixote (or was it the other way ‘round?), they run past the Atomium, they run past the Eiffel Tower-Jan stops for a moment and turns back here, wondering how the fuck he’s run his way to the Eiffel Tower, but then The Cop dings his bell and he gets himself moving again. Running past Montgomery Circle to the Cinquantenaire, Jan slows his pace and clutches at his side, which hurts like being held under a microscope in Hawaii in August--unless August is the rain season; when is the rain season in Hawaii?--He slows, he stops, he all but collapses,


watching the Running Stoners outrun him, into the sunset. The Cop dings his bell and passes him by. He screams and jumps back. Then he looks up and sees that he’s arrived at-EXT. UGC DE BROUCKÈRE (MOVIE THEATRE) - NIGHT He pants in front of the theatre. It’s huge and impressive. It hurts his brain. His thoughts aren’t making any sense because he’s been running so long he’s outrun his faculties and now needs to wait for them to catch up. He turns around and sees Sylvie behind him, sitting alone on a bench. She looks up and sees him, too. She shifts uncomfortably. He walks towards her, remembering why he’s here, remembering what he plans to do to her, what he should have done a long time ago. He sits next to her, a huge grin on his face. She smiles uncomfortably. He inches closer to her. She inches further away. JAN Stood up? SYLVIE Just waiting for someone. JAN Yeah, she’s not coming. SYLVIE (defensive) How’d you know it was a she? JAN Well, it’s not like you have a boyfriend... (panicked) Do you? Sylvie looks away, embarrassed. JAN What are you seeing? SYLVIE Mulholland Drive. JAN Seriously? That still playing? SYLVIE Please get your hand off my shoulder. JAN


Oh, right. Sorry. And now for the killing blow--this is sure to get Sylvie’s attention, Jan is certain of it. He reaches into his pocket, and pulls out... A Joint! JAN You look like you need a smoke. SYLVIE Excuse me? JAN It’s okay--I got one. It’s on me. SYLVIE I don’t smoke. Devastation. JAN Come again? SYLVIE No, seriously. I don’t smoke. JAN Yeah, you do. SYLVIE Uh... no, I don’t. Sorry. JAN Bullshit. Everybody smokes. It’s fucking Brussels. Right? SYLVIE Actually, weed is illegal. Pause. JAN Since when? Sylvie rolls her eyes, takes out her phone.


JAN Who you calling? SYLVIE Fionnuella. See how long she’ll be. JAN Yeah, she’s not coming. SYLVIE You keep saying that, but how would you know? JAN I got ways. I got skills. Sylvie rolls her eyes. The other end of the line picks up. SYLVIE Hey, Fionne? Woah--what’s wrong? Well, are you on your way? SOUND: Indistinct sobbing on the other end of the line. Sylvie looks at Jan, then at the phone, which she closes, then back up at Jan. Jan grins, holds out the joint. SYLVIE I can’t do this anymore. JAN Do what? Hunh? SYLVIE This. Living this lie that I live. JAN You mean hiding your attraction for me? SYLVIE I mean the fact that I’m a lesbian! The minute the words are out of her mouth, she regrets them. Jan sits back, speechless. JAN That mean you’d be open to a threesome? She leaves him writhing on the ground, clutching himself.


It was around about that time that I started to become aware once more of my surroundings. I remembered coming home that morning, going straight to the phone. I’m not sure whom I dialed, but when they picked up, I screamed into it--and this was months ago--and then it all went black. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a chair in a bare room answering questions I didn’t understand, asked by people that I didn’t know, even though they looked familiar. But I managed to escape, confused my interrogator and beat the guard over the head with the teddy-bear--or maybe it was the teddy-bear, hitting him over the head with the feather, or the scissors--either way, I escaped form that little room where nothing made sense and I came back out to the Hereandnow--or at least it looked like my own zero-world of empirical experience. Cautiously, I walk on-screen from the right and observe my surroundings... EXT. AVENUE E. MESENSLAAN - DAY The first thing I notice is Jan sitting on the bench, outside school property. JAN Hey, man. Haven’t seen you in a while. Why is he here? I ask myself. I How have things been going here? He pauses--or perhaps hesitates--and then shrugs. JAN Same old, same old, I guess. I And what’s been going on with you, Jan? So I get him to tell me his story, as it’s progressed up to this point. Still wondering what it is that has brought me specifically here, to him, I am most intrigued by his account of the Running Stoners, and ask him to describe them in more detail, at which point a pattern starts to emerge. I address him urgently. I Listen to me, Jan. Those Running Stoners... they are dangerous people. You mustn’t let them near you. JAN What? They seem like cool enough guys. I Listen to me, Jan, if you value your skin.


Heed my words and let them be. And then I disappear and am never heard from again in this draft of the story. INT. SCHOOL: BOYS’ RESTROOM - DAY Jan stands at the urinal, spacing out. Didier walks in. DIDIER Hey, man. Jan looks at him, deadpan. DIDIER How’d it go last night? You get your stud on? Jan glares at him. DIDIER What? Jan zips up and heads for the door. DIDIER Aw, man, don’t tell me you croaked-JAN (turns, screams) SHE’S A LESBIAAAAN!!!!!! Jan walks out of the bathroom, leaving Didier feeling confused and betrayed. But it’s nothing compared to the hurt and betrayal that Jan feels himself after last night’s humiliation. Much of the day is spent on the down-side of a previous up-kick, his mind spiralling upwards into a fever-pitch of red rage while his heart plummets deep into his own digestive system, where it will be slowly disintegrated over the next thousand years. EXT. SCHOOL - COURTYARD - DAY Jan walks back towards the main building, carrying a waffle. It’s still half uneaten and he starts heading for the trashcan-SYLVIE YOU! The sound of her voice makes him stop dead, but not like it used to. He turns around, but not to look at her, only to confront her. She grabs him by the collar and lifts him up over her head, no doubt endowed with her new lesbian superpowers.


SYLVIE How could you do this to me? You had no right to reveal my secret! WHAT JAN IS PLANNING TO SAY You broke my heart, bitch! But he never gets the chance. Before he manages to get out the words, he catches a glimpse of the Running Stoners out of the corner of his eye, and looks up. They’re coming towards him. SYLVIE (shaking him) Well? What do you have to say for yourself? JAN They’re here! SYLVIE Who? JAN The Running Stoners! Sylvie lets Jan down and turns around to face them, but there is no one standing where he’s looking at. Annoyed, she looks back at him, only to find that he’s backing away from invisible forces. JAN Please! No! Don’t come any closer! I don’t want to have anything to do with you! Sylvie frowns, then finally rolls her eyes and stalks off. Jan, meanwhile, properly terrified by what I told him earlier, takes off running, with the Stoners following close behind. They run past the Horta House. They run past the EU stuff at Schumann no one can ever quite remember. They run past the National Basilica, some Windmills, some Bull fighters, the Coliseum. They run past the Kremlin and the Forbidden City and the Taj Mahal. And when they finally catch up to Jan, somewhere in an alley behind the Place de Monnaie, close to the bar A la Mort Subite, Jan truly thinks he is going to die. It’s not just my warning telling him this, it’s the pain in his screaming limbs and searing chest. The Running Stoners sit themselves down beside him, flanking him, one on each side. The ugly one, Nathan, addresses him, saying “Verklikkerlichtjes”. No explanation. Jan doesn’t get it. And neither do you. Then the pretty one, Eric, says, “Hey, you wanna hear a joke?” Jan really isn’t sure. I’d bet you aren’t, either. “What does a 400 pound bunny-rabbit ask for?”


Jan pauses, gulps. “I don’t know?” “PEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAANNUUUUUUUUUUTSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” STATIC Next thing Jan knows, he’s Running, Running with the Stoners, Running for his life from The mad-ass Cop on a bicycle, cackling mechanically! Running till his side splits open like a mellon when you throw it against a brick wall that has spikes in it. Running right up until the point when all three of them stop and Eric Tanner reaches into his pocket and extracts something long, black and blinking in certain places. On closer inspection, the object appears to have buttons on it. It’s a remote control for a DVD player. Why the hell would anyone be carrying that around? Eric presses a button-INT TANNER LIVING ROOM - DAY Static on the TV. Eric and Nathan lie back on the couch. Nathan takes a hit off the spliff, hands it to his brother. NATHAN Dude. ERIC Dude. Eric takes a hit, coughs. ERIC That is some good shit. The clock on the wall reads 6:30. STATIC

Profile for Gregory Roberts-Gassler

The Running Stoners  

Fonts EXPERIMENTAL-MENTAL No Such Thing as Normal, gentle Jan is a Belgian Stoner-boy in love with a girl who he doesn't realize is too good...

The Running Stoners  

Fonts EXPERIMENTAL-MENTAL No Such Thing as Normal, gentle Jan is a Belgian Stoner-boy in love with a girl who he doesn't realize is too good...