All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Caster Cook is Completely Fine by Matt Stevenson

I’m thinking about shaving my beard but leaving the mustache and listening to a break-up album in bed. My friend Glenn says I should sleep with the first five girls I see and if I still miss her after that, then maybe I’m in love and that’s not so bad. But he has a girlfriend and his dad’s a surgeon.

If the dorm showers weren’t used by thirty guys every day and covered in urine, I think I’d turn on the hot water and lay on the floor for a couple of hours. We had a floor meeting recently. Someone has been going into the handicapped shower, lifting up the grate, and taking a shit. This, my RA pointed out, is a problem.

We’ve got eight sinks in there for everyone to wash their hands with. I’m not even sure why I’m supposed to wash my hands after I use the bathroom. It’s my penis. I know what I’m about. Really, it’s the man who does wash his hands after touching his penis that we should be worried about. That man is afraid of his penis and no man should be afraid of his penis.

I used to travel and live in the back of my truck after High School. An old gallon jug with sharpie scribbled all over it served as my bathroom. For pee only of course, the logistics of taking a shit into a gallon jug is better solved by an engineer with a propensity for shitting in strange places. On many nights in Walmart parking lots spread across the country, one may have seen me through the window of my Ford Explorer, unzip my sleeping bag, retrieve my jug, urinate into it, and depending on the temperature that night, cuddle it. This, my mother pointed out, is a problem.

So, I’m in college now.

John Steinbeck had a mustache. Some say his best piece of writing was really a letter he wrote to his son after hearing that he was in love. He said there’s two types of love. One is selfish and the other brings out everything good in oneself. I’d like to add a third love. In this type of love, you roll yourself into a blanket after drinking too much scotch and sulk around the house thinking of the person you love. And then you go outside to the side of the pool and slowly teeter over the edge and smack into the water. You let yourself stay underwater for a bit, but eventually come up. But who am I to add another to Steinbeck’s list? That man was genius and no man should argue with a genius.

I’ve coined a new term called “Nosely Disabled” and have self-diagnosed myself as such. I can’t smell and have never been able to smell. The government won’t pay me a monthly allowance for it, but I just have to find a job where smelling is a very important part of the job. Perhaps I will fraudulently become a respect reviewer of scotch, sustain a serious head injury, and tell the government I can no longer work.

In all honesty, I blame my parents. My mother is a midget and my father is so tall that he walks like a German Shepherd with hip dysplasia. They’re both descendants of poor Appalachian turd miners and should have never had children in the first place. My birth is similar to what happens when native brook trout interact with the introduced, non-native rainbow trout in the Smoky Mountains. The rainbow trout steals the brook trout’s home, rapes them, eats their food, and leaves a genetically crippled bastard child in their wake.

But I had a good childhood. We had a sandbox and 300 acres of woods to run around in. In the evenings I used to sit out on the porch and watch the bats glide above the lawn and eat the mosquitoes. Sometimes I’d run down to the outbuilding, turn on the sprinklers and try to shoot them out of the sky. It never worked.

Occasionally, I’d see a coyote trotting alongside the back-property line or a group of does breaking out of the woods and into the field. One morning, I woke up and there was a sea-plane in our pond. The man had stalled above our property and scudded the thing across our lawn and into the pond. Later he returned with a trailer to retrieve his airplane and gave us a frozen bag of shrimp.

Nothing will compare to the time I got home after dental surgery and saw three fairies scrambling through the snow. They looked like old garden gnomes but with tiny little shriveled wings. I think they grow larger when it’s warmer out, but I could never confirm that, and nobody will believe me. I suppose it all comes with being a Cook. We’re messed up more than most families.

There’s a family curse and I’ve got it. I don’t remember who first told me—it was something I’ve always known, like how to tie my shoes, or use a fork. Who had told me? Was it my uncle Willie, the retired detective, who, during many family gatherings exuberantly explained to me and my brother the benefits of a sawed-off shotgun as a home defense weapon? It wasn’t uncle Jeff, that man looks like a disabled Bert Reynolds. I never held a private conversation with him until I was in my late teen’s. It wasn’t my mother, who never spoke on anything taboo. It was only in my twenties when I heard her openly talk about sex. The words spoken over the dinner table never broached any subjects beyond work, school, or turds. Certainly, it had to have been my grandfather, who had explained to all his grandchildren that his wife, our grandmother, had ran him down in the middle of the street and asked him to marry her.

There’s a picture in the old photo albums of me sitting on his lap. We’re both, presumably, listening to the Lion’s game on the radio. He looks incredibly tan and happy sitting on his favorite crème colored chair (until my father bought him a reclining one), from the picture you can see the wide scar that splits his eyebrow in half. I can imagine myself in the picture thinking about the other scar that splits his hand that’s squeezing my side. Somewhere off to the left my grandmother is sitting next to an ashtray in her usual seat, chain smoking cigarettes and reminding us all that we’re related to the man that invented the chain link fence and that she is in fact, one-percent Cherokee. He’s also the one who taught me how to make a bomb out of a waterproof match container, gauze, and gunpowder.

My grandfather called it “The Cook Curse”, anyone with Cook blood was found irresistibly attractive by the opposite sex. He was adamant about it being the opposite sex.

I’ve had many girls throw themselves at me over the years. In Elementary School, there was Sam who would try and hug me while we changed for recess. Our mother’s both knew each other, and Sam would come over on many Summer days to “hang out”. I’d be rolling in the grass screaming bloody murder, repeatedly getting hit in the face by Sam’s blows. My Mother would be gently mounding a pile of mulch around a tree nearby, smiling to herself, thinking it was so cute. Then one day while we were lining up for class, Sam popped up behind me. I threw my hands up expecting the worst. The worst is what I got, and she managed to land a kiss on my mouth. I went home and cried.

When we moved across the state, there was a girl named Sky who would show up to my house every weekend and pedal up and down our drive way until one of my parents asked her if she wanted to come inside. Then, there was the ginger Sam, who insisted on sitting on my lap during every bus ride home. Then Paige who gave me her fruit snacks every day during lunch and expected my love in return. I was particularly fond of this arrangement.

In Middle School the Cook Curse took a break. Its return curiously coincided with my taking of a shower and decision to wear something other than my one pair of jeans and orange sweatshirt.

Anna happened during the start of High School. She was the girl’s cross-country JV team captain and upon spotting me and boys cross country team on a run, would immediately change the direction of her group towards me. It took a group effort on our part, with even the slightest smell of sweaty perfume in the air, we would change directions and hope not to have a run-in. When the best nose in the group failed us and the girls group locked on to me, a protective circle was formed, and the running pace increased.

And then there’s Emily. It took three years of begging and persistence for the curse to finally kick in with her. She’s responsible for my moustached self being in bed, listening to a break-up album. My friends ask me why I spend my day in bed. I tell them it’s the same reason why birds choose to be on the ground when they can fly. After all, Einstein got bad grades in school and I’m quick to remind them that my grades are much worse than his.

Steinbeck says I should glory in my love, really try to live it up. I do believe I can pull myself out of bed. The dorm doesn’t have a pool, but I’m sure I can make something work. I’ve got some scotch, a bottle of Lagavulin my brother gifted me. It’s the good stuff and apparently love calls for the good stuff. I’ve got a nice blanket, it doesn’t drag on the ground if I drape it over my shoulders. So, in celebration I’m thinking about heading over to the bathroom, blanket around my shoulders, and scotch in hand. After relieving myself I think I’ll let the water in one of the sinks fill up and stick my face into it. And I’ll probably let it sit there for a while. I’ll be fine.


Matt Stevenson

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3 thoughts on “Caster Cook is Completely Fine by Matt Stevenson”

  1. Things are looking up, in a way. He was pissing into a jar in his van home, now he’s in a college dorm mourning lost love. One thing, if he doesn’t take a shower he’ll have another girl in no time. Emily was kind of an anomaly. Maybe the longer the curse takes to kick in, the more he loves the girl. I should have such a curse. Funny story, eccentric characters. I like the manic pace of the story.


  2. Hi Matt,
    The tone of this is excellent.
    You are just happy to go along with his story.
    I loved the line: ‘It took three years of begging and persistence for the curse to finally kick in with her.’
    I enjoyed this!


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