I've been employed in the comic book industry since the mid-90s and worked for DC Comics/WildStorm, Marvel, and Dark Horse Comics, primarily as an editor. I'm now the Editorial Director for Madefire and I'm trying my hand at a little bit of writing.
And I love to drink beer and I occasionally write about it here www.thebrewsite.com.
Nick Miller was a man known more for his anxieties and superstitions than his intelligence and forethought. It was 2:23 am and he lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Jess, the love of his life, was fast asleep next to him, exhausted from a long day at work and a short, fevered bout of lovemaking--his specialty.
Nick Miller was a bartender at a seedy dive in an up-and-coming neighborhood who gave away more drinks to his friends--drank himself--than any reasonable employee should. In his mid-30s but looking 40, he lived with his gorgeous lady Jess and two buddies--the exuberant Coach and the sad-sack Winston. Down the hall lived his best friend, the high-energy and well-groomed Schmidt.
Nick Miller’s life was on an upswing--he had the aforementioned girlfriend, he was working a full 22 hours a week, his car’s heater was working again--yeah, life was good. Which terrified him. When life was good, his anxieties tended to go into overdrive and his superstitions became manifest. For instance, when he was 13 years old and in a single day experienced two firsts--getting an A on a history pop quiz and touching a girl’s breast--his parents told him his beloved aunt passed away unexpectedly.
Yeah, life was good.
Nick Miller rolled onto his side and stared at his large pile of dirty laundry and thought about what that day held. A joyous day lay ahead as it was Winston’s 34th birthday and that inevitably meant things would go wrong in some zany way, probably in embarrassing fashion for the birthday boy. [He made a mental note that he still had to get him a gift.] But maybe this year would be different? He felt that, despite the earlier bad omen, things might finally go right because life WAS good. Inspired, he rolled over toward Jess.
“Hey Jess. Are you still awake?” Nick whispered.
“Whaaaa…Nick? What time is it?” Jess muttered without opening her eyes.
“In the interests of full disclosure in this relationship I wanted to tell you…” Nick took a deep breath. “I…uhm…love you.”
“Hhhh…ooohhh. I love you, too.” She snuggled closer.
Nick Miller figured he had 23 hours to discuss the mishap with Jess before it qualified as a bad omen. She was so cute and sleepy he decided he’d tell her about the condom breaking during their fevered lovemaking later. After all, it was Winston’s birthday and he didn’t want anything to spoil it.
“Winston, I made you breakfast for your birthday--WAKE UP!” Jess huskily called from the kitchen. She piled the pans in the sink and carried a plate loaded with eggs, bacon, an English muffin and some sliced cantaloupe to the kitchen table. Walking to Winston’s bedroom door, she pounded on it with her diminutive fist.
“Winston, the cornerstone of any successful day begins with breakfast.”
She poured him a glass of orange juice and sat down at the table to nurse her coffee.
Finally, the door opened to reveal Winston’s sleep-drenched face.
“Jess, do you know what time is?” he asked painfully as he sat down.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!” she called joyfully. “I’m sorry, but I have a department meeting at 7:00 so I had to get up early to make you a birthday breakfast. But I made your favorite--bacon!”
“Thanks, Jess. I don’t remember the last time someone made me breakfast for my birth--”
“Whoop, sorry, big man, I have to skedaddle,” Jess said, looking at her watch as she got up. “I’ll see you at 5:00 for cocktail hour before the big night begins! Byyyyye!”
With the front door clicking shut, Winston sat alone in the dining room as his birthday breakfast grew cold. It was 6:58 am.
At 8:14 Coach came into the living room to find Winston still sitting at the kitchen table with an empty plate in front of him, his birthday breakfast now being digested.
“Whaaaaat up, baby birthday boy?” They awkwardly slapped a high five. “You feeling old yet? ’Cuz you are!”
“Haha, thanks, man. Always nice to hear from one’s elders on such a joyous occasion,” Winston fired back. He frowned, though, realizing he looked at least five years older than Coach who was nearly 36.
“Yeah? At least I don’t look a day over 30, though!” laughed Coach in his douche-bag giggle.
Of course he zeroed in on this particular insecurity like a tracksuit-clad mind reader. Winston stared daggers at Coach’s back while he helped himself to coffee and couldn’t help but again loathe the fact they were roommates.
“So what’s the plan today, muchacho?” Coach drawled as he joined him at the table. “You only turn 35 once!”
“34…and I’m not really sure. Beyond drinks tonight I think Nick’s got something planned. I don’t--”
“Don’t think for a second Nicholas has anything planned, dear Winston!” chirped Schmidt from their leather sofa. “If he can think beyond his morning constitutional it would be a miracle.”
“Schmidt, how did you get--?” a perplexed Winston began.
“Speak of the Devil…” called a grinning Nick, emerging from the bathroom holding a Chinese food menu. “And Nick Miller appears!”
Nick sauntered into the kitchen and poured himself the remaining coffee. “So how’s the birthday boy? Did my girlfriend make you a perfect breakfast or what? And technically that was my idea so that counts as part of my gift, she’ll have to get you something else…”
“Oh, it was great--minus the pre-dawn delivery. Jess sure is something.”
“That she is, Winston…but you need to find your own lady as that sweet piece of sunlight is property of Miller Inc.!” Nick crowed proudly.
Coach frowned. “Property--really, Nick? Slavery jokes on Winston’s birthday? And you do realize I’m black, too, right?”
“Hahaha, oh you guys.” Nick sipped his coffee.
“So, ladies, I’m afraid I have some unfortunate news--I won’t be joining you immediately for cocktail hour as my boss decided a 6 pm conference call with Japan was a good idea. Seriously, why do I have to be punished because of the time diff--”
Schmidt’s lament was broken by the “meow” of Winston’s phone getting a text--a custom ringtone featuring the voice of his beloved Ferguson no less!
“Finally, let the birthday well wishes BEGIN!” grinned Winston as he unlocked his iPhone. “Wait. No…NO! NOT TODAY!”
“That’s so rude, Winston, I was just complaining about the Japanese.”
“Could you have a more lame ringtone, dude? Amirite!?” Coach cracked himself up and Nick smirked.
Winston frowned for the second time on his birthday. Schmidt was a self-absorbed a-hole and grated on his nerves more than any human alive but he was still a more considerate roommate--nay, human being--than Coach OR Nick.
“I’m sorry my birthday is an inconvenience. Maybe if you’d spend more time at YOUR apartment it would bother you less.”
“Oh dayaaaamn! Birthday boy comes out swinging!” Coach warbled.
“Seriously, what’s wrong, Winston? Everything okay?” Nick asked around a smile. He was too easily amused by Coach.
“No, it’s not okay--it’s far from okay. My parents are coming. TODAY. As a surprise birthday gift.”
A heavy, sobering silence fell upon the room. Winston’s parents were coming--Nick choked down the rest of his coffee. A second bad omen had emerged. And when two bad omens were presented in one day--it meant someone was going to die.
Winston spoke first. “Well, on that note, I’m out--I have a lot of ground to cover.”
“Where are you off to, my Nubian brother?” asked Schmidt with a roguish smile.
“A birthday is the year’s only day where one can legitimately ask for something for free. I’ve got several frozen yogurt places and coffee shops to hit before swinging by a few bars before cocktail hour begins.”
“That sounds like a journey of self-validation I wish I could join you for…but alas, unlike the rest of you gentiles, I have a job.” Schmidt noted as he sprang from the couch. “I’ll walk you out, Winston. Later, bitches.”
The door shut. Coach and Nick stared for a moment and then turned to the other and said simultaneously “What are you getting Winston?”
“You, too? Phew, glad it’s not just me,” said Nick, visibly relieved.
“Don’t lump me in with you, Miller, I just was waiting until he left to go shopping,” Coach began. “But, well…I’m not sure what to get him. You guys have lived together a few years--what does he like?”
“Oh, Winston?” Nick chuckled. “He likes…well…like, stuff. I know he’s into cats. Maybe get him another cat?”
Coach glared at Nick in outrage. “Seriously? A cat? That’s all you’ve got? Isn’t Winston one of your best friends? That’s weak, even by Miller standards. What were you thinking about getting him?”
Nick starred silently into his now empty coffee cup. A minute passed. Two.
“You’re going to stare into that cup until I leave, aren’t you?” Coach grumbled. He rose from the table and put his coffee cup in the sink. “Whatever you’re thinking about getting I’m going to do you one better.”
Nick tried harder to break the coffee cup with his mind.
“In fact, I’m not even going to get him a gift, I’m going to get him an EXPERIENCE. A feeling that he’ll never forget and he’ll always remember his 35th birthday and think ‘damn, that Coach gets me better than my best friend Nick.’”
Nick’s face immediately brightened as a dim light bulb clicked on. “You’re a genius, Coach, I know what we can get him--get your outside tracksuit on!”
The pair stood at the front door of their building in the cool morning air. Nick was karate chopping the air in excitement.
“This is such a great idea, Coach, it’s like the hand of fate reached down and blessed me. Could I be some type of prophet?” Nick punctuated the last word with a perfect monkey fist strike to the morning air.
Coach’s nostrils flared in rage. “I can’t believe you, man. You’re a piece of work, Miller. But I am the bigger man, literally and figuratively, and for the sake of maintaining your sweet martial arts moves what did you have in mind?”
“We’re going to make Winston something he’s never been--a hero!” Nick gushed maniacally.
“Hmmm…interesting, definitely has potential. Tell me more.”
Nick began doing jumping jacks. “I’m thinking we stage a break-in as Winston’s returning from his birthday swag hunt and the perpetrator is still in the apartment, right? And maybe you’re lying on the floor, like you’ve been struck down--”
Coach cut him off. “Wait, why do I have to be the victim?”
“Because it’s MY idea. Now listen.” Nick was positively glowing now. “Winston walks in, immediately notices the curtains are closed…in the shadows, he notices our perpetrator looming over your prone body, as though you’ve just been struck down in a heroic attempt to thwart his evil deed. Should he be wearing a ski mask? Hmmm, so many details to consider.”
“So if I’m unconscious on the floor…what are you doing?” Coach asked, warming to the idea.
Nick started to run in place and began to sweat immediately. “I’m going to be hiding in the bedroom and watching on a closed circuit camera. Oh my GOD this is such an amazing idea. Winston will stop the man from molesting your unconscious body--”
“Whoa, say whaaaat?”
“--and grabbing the nearest weapon will drive the rapist from the apartment and save your virginity. And I’ll be filming all of it so he can always remember the greatest single moment of his life!”
“You know, Nick, this might just be the only good idea you’ve ever come up with. Beyond its disturbing sexual nature, I think it might just be the greatest birthday gift one man could give another.”
Nick beamed at the compliment. “Thanks, man, I appreciate that. Now, I need a shower and a nap and then we’ll need to figure out a suitable perpetrator.”
“Can you guys spare any change? Or maybe a sandwich?” asked Outside Dave, shambling toward the pair.
Nick and Coach grinned.