DEFEAT. 022 – Wednesday Morning Wisdom

[DEFEAT. is Rendar Frankenstein’s truest attempt at fiction.   Presented in weekly episodes, the novella tells the tale of Daryl Millar – a hero who dies at the intersection of pop culture, science-fiction, war epic, and fantasy]

Wednesday morning.

Daryl woke up dizzy and thirsty, but he wasn’t convinced that he could blame it on the Colt 45. No, Daryl remembered that by the time he had come home and gotten into bed he had been sober. Practically. But trying to stand up, he couldn’t shake off his light head and tight chest.

“Why’re my damn lungs on fire?”

And then the recollection. Cigarettes and incense and smoke. He had been totally absorbed. Yes, Daryl now saw images of the mystic who had shown him…well, he knew what she had shown him, but it was too early to start trying to figure out what it meant.

“Hiya there, kiddo!” interjected Gramps, just in time to prevent the dangerous heavy thinking that sometimes follows an evening of heavy drinking. Easing his way through the threshold, Clark moved towards his favorite grandchild. “From the looks of it, I’d guess that someone had a good time last night!” The elder statesman of the Millar tribe slapped his grandson on the shoulder, laughing and remembering his own youthful indiscretions. “I hope she was worth it — and if I know you, I’m sure she was!”

“Nah, Gramps, nothing like that — it was a night out with the boys.” Sitting back down on the edge of his bed, Daryl shot a hand through his hair.

“Oh, I thought I had heard something about you taking out a lady?”

Remembering his plans for the evening, Daryl reassured himself. “Oh yeah! I’m taking Vanessa out tonight!”

Gramps inquired, with a glimmer in his eyes of a man who knows, “And what is it that you’re planning on doing with this Vanessa?”

“Well, I think we’re going to head to the movies.”

“Good idea — nice and dark, you can really make your move in a theater!”


“What?! I’m just trying to give it to you on the level, `cause God knows my son won’t tell you anything straight. Anyways, even if you don’t try your luck in the theater — which you should — make sure you see a movie with a stud in it. That way, she’ll spend an hour and a half mesmerized by him, and then when you get out she’ll project those feelings onto you. Even if you’re a bumbling asshole — which you aren’t — you become the leading man for the night. So, Daryl my boy, tell me you’re seeing something with a damn stud.”

“Don’t worry, I’m taking her to see that flick that came out last Friday, The Color of Money.”

“The sequel to The Hustler? Well, he’s getting older, but I guess Newman’ll still be able to get the juices flowing for you.”

“Newman? Paul Newman!? Gramps, I’m taking Vanessa to The Color of Money because of Tom Cruise.”

“Tom who?”

“Tom Cruise — you know him, Gramps! He was in The Outsiders and Risky Business and Top Gun —”

“Bah! That Tom Cruise? The one in the movie you lied to me about and said —”

“I didn’t lie!”

“Daryl, you lied! You said, ‘Gramps, go see Top Gun. It’s about the fighter jets and things blow up and it’s good.’ And now all I remember seeing in that movie was that Tom Cruise and a couple of other dingbats playing volleyball without their damn shirts! You somehow neglected to tell me that Top Gun was a documentary about Air Force homosexuality.

“Let me tell you something, Daryl. You go right ahead and take Vanessa to the movies tonight. In fact, it’s on me,” Gramps handed Daryl a twenty-dollar bill. “But during the movie I want you to watch this girl. If her face lights up and her eyes widen more when Tom Cruise is on screen than when Newman is, well, you thank her for her time and you bring her home like a gentleman. But if she never looks more eager than when Newman’s on screen, then you go ahead and go for it.”

“Gramps, what the fuck are you talking about?”

“Daryl, you have the opportunity to conduct a bit of a personality test. Now, it’s not their fault, but a lot of dames are always looking for that guy who embodies the newest, the latest and greatest – whatever it is that’s been deemed in vogue. And that’s fine, I guess. But if one allows the search for style to take precedence over the search for substance, then that person isn’t worth your time.”


The same Wednesday morning, on the other side of town.

Lieutenant Buckley rolled into consciousness and stumbled off the couch. The sofa was now the momentary bane of his existence, as it served as the vehicle from which he watched the New York Mets beat the Boston Red Sox. In the process, Larry bit the wrong end of a $500 bet. Also, he now realized that he had been lying in a pool of puke deposited during the seventh-inning stretch.

Perhaps only now realizing the height of his inebriation, Larry made his way for the staircase. Using both hands to steady himself, the lieutenant ascended with the caution usually reserved for those summits that surpass the second-story. Once the last step became a memory, Larry stood in place and stared at the door at the end of the hallway. Lieutenant Buckley remembered his superstitions and then cocked his entire body like a bullet in a chamber.

The trigger was pulled and the man-bullet shot towards the bedroom door. Larry Buckley smashed his way through the threshold, knocking over a stack of records and waking up Riff in the process. No longer surprised by such rude awakenings, the teen took his time in spinning around in his sheets to face the intruder. But when he finally saw that his father had fallen flat on his ass, all Riff could do was laugh off his own.

“Help me the fuck up, you worthless piece of shit!”

Passing out on a couch, laying in vomit and even slipping on a pile of vinyls were tolerable, but Larry Buckley would not stand to be laughed at by his child. Simply by being born, this child had taken his wife away from him. And although he hadn’t appreciated his wife at any point during the course of their marriage, losing her was a crushing blow. To Larry, it was a matter of pride. And convenience. And while he couldn’t change the fact that his son’s birth had meant his wife’s death, he promised himself to never allow the boy a single chance to feel superior.

“Do I need to repeat myself? Help. Me. The. FUCK. UP!

Still a bit hungover himself, Riff got out of bed to make the screaming stop. He pulled his father up by the back of the arms. Once he felt that his father was stable on his feet, Riff hopped back into bed and pulled the covers over his head.

The tyrannical smile spread across the lower half of Lieutenant Buckley’s face as he once again thought of those superstitions that had propelled him into his son’s room in the first place. He realized that he had an excuse. A reason to vent. A self-appointed duty to oppress.

“You made me lose $500.”

From under his comforter, “What are you talking about?”

“The Mets won last night. I put $500 on Boston. You made me lose, you fucking ingrate.”

“I don’t see what one has to do with the other…”

“I was sitting on the couch, like I’m supposed to during games! You weren’t sitting on the recliner like you’re supposed to and that’s why the Mets won! No, you decided to go out to the circus instead! You know that everybody has a seat — there’s a specific place for every person. And if you move out that place, well, then we fucking lose!”

Riff just wanted to return to sleep, so he remained quiet. But this only further provoked his father. Burping and nodding his head, Larry Buckley believed that he had no other options.

“Well, that’s how it is, eh? Fine then.” Larry rolled up his sleeves and approached his son’s bed. With his left hand he bunched up the top of the comforter, pressing it down into the mattress and sealing his son within.

The right arm swung.
Wildly. Furiously. Without hesitation. Without recess.
Like a hammer.
Like a weapon.

And when the cries for reprieve turned into whimpers accepting the punishment, the lieutenant pulled out his knife. He flicked it open, stood above Riff’s cowering body, and then turned his back. He realized that there was a better punishment.

Riff heard a *SNAP!* and then another. And another. In total — six. And he screamed each time.

It’s not that he didn’t have another set of guitar strings, because he did. But each time he heard his father’s knife cut through a string he could have sworn that he heard the childlike voice of possibility turning into the deathly gurgling of a slit throat.


The same Wednesday morning, returning from across the tracks.

Despite hearing his mother knocking at his door, 8-Bit refused to wake up for the day. He figured that if he waited it out his mother would assume that he was sick. She might walk away and let him decide for himself when it was time to get up. He was right — she assumed that had taken ill and continued on, leaving him to decide for himself.

For a moment, 8-Bit rejoiced. While he was feeling slightly under the weather, it was only because his enthusiasm for beer-drinking was now catching up to him. Unlike Daryl, it was the alcohol, not the gazing into the future, which left him disoriented and aching. And although this ailing seemed to subside at the thought of sleeping in and waking only to play Nintendo, 8-Bit would not rely on such a panacea.

As he lay on his back, residual sensations from the experience with the Woman in Gray Robes swept over his entire body. These feelings, murmuring visions and commands, reminded him that he could very well embark upon a journey of unprecedented discovery. Genuine wonder But in order to find beauty, he would have to take it upon himself to construct the means, which were going to be unconventional and dangerous.

“Nothing dangerous about lying in bed all day,” 8-Bit muttered as he forced himself up. It may have seemed like a small, insignificant action at the time — after all, on any given day any high school is bound to have students reeling from the sweaty foreheads and shaking hands of a solid hangover. But for 8-Bit, the decision to do that which is not comfortable was the first step of many that would change his life.

Although feeling terrible, 8-Bit was able to begin his day with a satisfaction most could never appreciate. He pulled on his clothes, covered his face with his glasses, and prepared to seize the day. 8-Bit crossed the threshold and became a different person.


That same Wednesday morning, returning once again to the wrong side of the tracks.

A few blocks away from Larry Buckley’s rebuking, Vanessa peered into the mirror and ran a comb through her hair. Not that she had to, really. Even in its bedhead state, Vanessa’s hair was the envy of other women.

Time and money and frustration would be invested by any woman who saw Vanessa’s hair and hoped to craft something similar.

Never one to settle for less, Vanessa stood in front of the bathroom mirror making sure her hair was just right. After all, she wouldn’t really get another chance to prepare for her date with Daryl Millar.

Yes, she’d be able to change into new clothes (which were packed into a bag the night before), but the day would find her going right from school to work, leaving no time before being picked up. Fortunately, Vanessa didn’t need time to prepare for her date, and getting the chance to do so even eleven hours beforehand only gave her a leg up.

“Vanessa, come on,” begged Margie from outside the door, “you gotta let me in! Every morning, the same thing — you doll yourself up for no good reason and I wait in agony to take a crap!” This of course, was accompanied with a rapping on the door.

Distracted by her squat, affable sister, Vanessa paused. Addressing the concerns at hand, it was retorted that, “While it is a waste of time for me to do my makeup most mornings, today it’s of the utmost importance. Once I leave the house, I won’t have any other opportunity to prepare myself for Daryl. And I really want it to go well, so hold it in!”

“Awh, come on! I swear, I’m going to pull my bung-bung muscles! I can’t hold it in!”

“Alright, alright, just wait one more second!” Vanessa put the brush aside, peered into the mirror, pursed her lips to blow an imaginary kiss to Daryl Millar, and walked out in full satisfaction.

The second that the bathroom door was open, Margie launched herself towards the toilet. Despite the primal urge to expel bowel contents and the societal pressure to do so in the appropriate receptacle, Margie couldn’t help but converse when prompted by her older sister.

“So, you really think I look good? I mean, I just want Daryl to like me. He seems like such an amazing, amazing guy.”

Befuddled that low confidence could exist in such an outstanding individual, Margie shook her head. “Seriously, Vanessa? You’re perfect. Our crummy parents obviously spent most of their genetic-aesthetic-cash on you. Stop being so ridiculous and just acknowledge the fact that you’re a trophy. Any guy would be lucky to win you.”

“You mean it?”

“Yes, of cours- oh, shit.”


“Vanessa, I’d love to keep chatting, but I just shit my pants. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to clean myself off and get ready for school.”

Even with her trousers full of excrement, Margie never played the pessimist. And so Vanessa realized she had no right to complain about feeling rushed. She was, despite her family’s lowered social standing, the most beautiful girl at the high school. And Daryl Millar was taking her out tonight.

Life was good. Maybe even the best.