Jason Garden's News, Blogs, Articles and Short Stories

Learning Something New

30th November 2019
(Short Story)

No sun blaring through the windows this time, Graham slept until the late morning. He felt very rested, and was almost excited to face the day. He still had one more day until he was due to check in at work.

He proceeded to do the adult morning routine that he had created for himself. Coffee. Breakfast, which consisted of a bagel and even more coffee. Stretching. More coffee. It felt good. 

A knock at the door disturbed the peace of the morning. It was Gus.

“Mornin’ dude! Wanna meet the missus?” He was almost frantic with excitement. “Her name’s Suzy!” 

“It’s Suzanne, you moron!” A harsh and tough female voice radiates from behind Gus before Graham could respond. “You’ve known me forever! How’s you still gettin' it wrong after alls this time?”

A short, thin woman was standing just to the left of Gus. Her hair was long, blonde and pulled back into a pony tail about a week ago. Her face was freckled and the makeup she had put on yesterday just made the dark marks under her eyes more apparent. She was roughly Gus’ age. Ice-blue eyes and a scowl, she was clearly dragged to Graham’s door.

“Suzanne. Sorry. Now, lovey-love, no need to be raggin’ on me. I jus’ wanted you guys to meet!” Gus coward from Suzanne but stood his ground as well as he could. “Graham! We’re goin’ to get ‘taters. Wanna join?” Gus asked while keeping his eyes pointed towards ground under Suzanne’s feet. 

Graham did not have time to respond before Suzanne punched Gus for the insensitive response and started to walk towards the road. 

“I’ll meet you ****ers there. Blowin’ off steam.” Suzanne announced and started marching towards the road.

Graham felt like he was a voyeur. Gus and Suzanne clearly did not mind him seeing their bickering, but it was so carnal — so personal — that Graham wished he was wearing a hooded-sweater. Then, he could hide his face. He was sure that his cheeks were several shades of red from watching the lovers tiff at this point.

“‘Taters’? I’m very down. I could use a break from setting everything up. Where are we going?” Graham was excited. He would finally get to see some people around the town. He finally had “friends” to converse with!

He hopes Suzanne is a friend.

The two start down the road the same direction Suzanne had marched off only a few seconds before. It was a warm, yet still cloudy, day.

“Looks like it may rain…” Graham said with no intent for a response. He was just breaking a silence.

“Dude, it ain’t gonna do ****! Y’all don’ know ‘bout the ways of this here place goes.” Gus’ retort is almost harsh. “I is not gonna say what she gonna do, but no rain.” 

“Okay. I’m sorry.” responded a mildly offended Graham.

It was just an observation, not an attempt at fact. Graham thought to himself as he tried, very hard, to keep his face from showing his displeasure in the retort. He felt it was extremely unnecessary.

“That’s fine, dude. Just don’ pull that ****.” Gus replied without pulling his eyes off the road ahead. Suzanne’s explosive reaction had clearly gotten to him. 

The two fell into silence as they walked. The only noise was the wind rustling leaves in trees and the roar of the highway a bit away.


Graham thought the walk seemed to take forever. They had been walking for the last ten minutes in relative silence, and they still had a bit more to go. At least they caught up with Suzanne.

“Why didn’t I just drive?” Graham said to himself. Very loudly, looking for some sort of vindication. Suzanne and Gus just laughed. 

“Y’all wanna miss this fabulous walkin’ weather?” responded Gus.  

Feeling stupid, Graham kept his head tilted down towards the road and continued his march. He wasn’t expecting that response, let alone to be out-snarked by that kid, but he knew Gus was right. It was an amazing day: temperatures in the low-twenties’s and the wind was nothing more than a gentle zephyr. This was a perfect day for Graham. The beauty of the day, however, did not detract from the uncomfortable slog. Graham was out of shape.

“So: how long have you guys been together?” Graham asked, hoping to break the silence and trying to distract himself from his burning legs.

“Ah dunno.” Gus sighed and looked at his hands as if they would give him the answers. “A couple of months?”

Suzanne’s reaction came out of seemingly nowhere as she hit Gus hard in the head. 

“You ****in’ moron.” She scowled at Gus for a fleeting moment. “Sorry for his incompetence..” Her face softened as she redirected her expression towards Graham. “It’s been fer 6 months. He don’t do time real good.”

Gus looked embarrassed and morose. It was clear that he never intended to offend Suzanne, but he also clearly felt like being called a “moron” was uncalled for.

Graham was worried that he began a feud that he did not want to be part of. They seemed too comfortable with each other, but he knew that the smallest fight can create an issue too large for even the most secure of couples. He could not decide if they were perfect for each other, or toxic.

“Okay: let’s change topics.” Graham said to try to divert the frustration that was building. “What do you think happens when you die?” 

It was a harsh transition, Graham realized, but he hoped the intensity would defuse the situation that was boiling.

“Yer dead.” barked Suzanne. She contorted her face into a scowl, then turned suddenly and started to walk a bit faster. 

Gus turned his head to the sky and ran his fingers through his hair. 

“Borin’ ****, I guess. Ah don’ think ‘bout it, but the Bible seems to good a good job of summin’ it up.” Gus said, but seemed to be asking the other two if he was right. “What ‘bout you, Graham?”

“I have spent way too long thinking about this.” stated Graham, staring off into the horizon, but keeping his pace. “Life is a straight line. The beginning is your birth, and every year is another bit of distance. The end is death. Or is it? What if it’s just a switch to another continuous line? What if we never actually die, just leave this timeline - this world - and join another. Everything leading up to that point is the same.” His speaking pace was rushed, as if he was trying to convince himself.

“So, what happens when we die?” Suzanne asked, sounding mildly disbelieving. “That’s just… how we live.”

“No: you don’t get it. People. Never. Die.” Graham was trying to hide his smile behind his perpetual gaze. His speaking pace became slower: mythical. He wanted his point understood. “Of course, it’s all theoretical. My honest answer is that I don’t care. I don’t think we will ever find out what really happens, so I really wonder why we keep trying to create an answer?”

“Stupid.” Gus responded. 

“Lazy and cowardly.” Suzanne barked.

Graham looked hurt. “At least I have come up with an original idea that tries to explain things!” 

“The best way to deal with uncertainty- or anything, really- is just to accept it and admit that you might be horribly wrong!” Suzanne retorted. “That’s why I say that you die! I haven’ the foggiest clue wha’ happens, but I’m not gonna’ make **** up to placate the masses!”

Graham was thoroughly impressed by her use of the word “placate” but decided to remain silent at the time being for fear of frustrating everyone more.

“Ah find you both pathetic! Why not jus’ look at wha’ makes sense! Th’ Bible is clear, fool-proof, and answers everythin’!” Gus raised his voice to overshadow everyone else.

“Tha’s jus’ sheep talk!” Suzanne jumped in and attacked Gus’ opinion. “You knows tha’ there are too many holes in tha’ story!”

Gus was fuming at this point. “‘Holes’? It’s perfect! Everythin’ in a bindin’. There be no loose ends or nutten’! You jus’ see us as meat!” 

Suzanne did not like this accusation. “Jus’ meat!?” She threw her head back. “Yer so arrogant! How can you even pretend that…”

This fight carried on for far too long. Gus would combat Suzanne, quite elegantly, for a kid who can barely carry on a full sentence. Suzanne would retort with a bleak, but convincing, argument. She would throw an insult in Gus’ face, he would call her immature for demeaning their “discussion” to a juvenile place. There was no compassion or sympathy in the argument. 

Last time I try to help break an uncomfortable silence. Graham thinks to himself as the three of them venture down the road, Gus and Suzanne still bickering back and forth on the small aspects of spirituality. They were just moments from threatening physical violence towards each other.


The whole walk only took 30 minutes, and Suzanne and Gus fought for a large portion of it. They arrived at the most cliché country restaurant ever conceived. It had vines almost consuming the building as a whole, and white lattice covered a deck that stretched the whole front of the building.

Gus and Suzanne stopped their bickering as they came up to the building. Graham was left wondering if they found the whole thing like an exercise, or a game. Something to cement their relationship. He wondered if this was a common event.

Graham found it cute only because no blood was shed. 

The parking lot was almost empty except for two vehicles facing one-another. Graham wondered which person parked first and why the other person had such an undying need to be across from them.

“Well,” Gus said suddenly, startling Graham from the daze he was in. “Thur she is! The best breakfast you’ll find in alls the country!” 

He sounded confident, so Graham was skeptical. He had a hard time believing anyone when they said that something was “the best” at anything.

The restaurant looked right out of a movie: Peaked roof. Square windows with thick frames. Large double wooden door. Long, well groomed hedges that connected from the door to the edge of the building.

It’s just missing the guy on a lawn chair yelling at ‘yougin’s git off ma lawn!’  thought Graham, stifling laughter. He had hoped that no one had payed attention to his shaking shoulders.

Graham ran his hand through his hair while he diverted his eyes to the ground. If he looked at the quaint building for much longer, he would not be able to keep his composure.

“We’ll see.” Graham kept his response short. He was getting very hungry and he did not want to waste time arguing and discussing what he wants in his stomach.

“Then git in here and see!” Suzanne perked up, seeming rather excited for the food she was about to put in her mouth.

She took the front of Graham’s shirt and tugged him in. She tugged strong enough that he was worried she was going to pull the buttons from his favourite flannel. She was surprisingly strong for being so little. Or, Graham was weak from hunger.

Let’s go with weakness! He though to himself, trying to maintain a kind of pride.

They got a seat in a booth on the outside of the restaurant proper. The lighting was ****, the seats were old and were burdened by deep butt-grooves, the table had seen better days (and many pens), but the room smelled incredible. Graham was getting excited.

“I’ve never had the best of anything before!” Graham lied. Everyone who claimed to know of the best something were all wrong.

Graham knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that he made the best coffee. He honestly wished it was not true: he would love to be excited to go somewhere on a date, or something, and be blown away.

One day, maybe. Graham thinks to himself.

One day.

“Hello hello hows you all doin’ get ya a drink to git started?” The waitress came out of nowhere. Her introduction sentence was clear even if it was more of a practiced ramble than a statement. 

“Yuh, I’ll has a coffee. Same with Suzanne. Graham?” Gus answered. Suzanne looked especially frustrated that Gus ordered for her, but refrained from making a scene. 

“Coffee, please.” Graham was curious. Backwater coffee? It could be amazing, but he refused to get too excited. 

“Tina! How've things been?” Gus said suddenly. It was almost as if he had not noticed that she was the waitress. He immediately turned her way and straightened up.

Tina the Waitress glanced Graham’s way and replied “I’ve been good, Gus. I’ll come back with yer bean.” She then walked away, almost as suddenly as she appeared. 

Graham felt as if he should not have noticed that she glanced his way. He could not decide if it was because she did not know who he was, or something else. What is going on? He thought to himself.

I’m just being paranoid. Calm down.

He must have looked disheveled or upset. “Is er’ythin’ ok der, Graham? You look like you seen a ghost ‘er somethin’.” Gus asked and looked very concerned. 

“Don’t worry about it.” Graham said, trying to dismiss the situation. “I guess I was just caught off guard.”

Gus accepted the response. He then turned to Suzanne and kissed her very hard on the cheek as if he was trying to pin it to her face before it ran away. She began to blush.

She was nowhere near as tough as she portrayed herself to be. 

This was the first time he had seen the two act anyway like a couple since he met her. Graham felt very lonely at this moment. Their love made him realize that he was alone, forty-five minutes from home, and single. 

Graham buried his face into the menu. He figured it solved two issues: gave the two some semblance of privacy, and got him one step closer to ordering

“Waffles. Waffles. Waffles.” Graham was on a mission. He was determined to find them. So fluffy. So sweet. So much good. This is what he craved.

Page three, forth from the top: Success! They were simply listed as Belgium Waffles with Syrup and homemade Whip-cream. The mission was half way complete.

Graham closed the menu and put it back on the table to show that he had made up his mind.

“So. How long have you guys lived here?” He asked. 

“My whole life. Suzanne for ‘bout 15 years.” Gus replied. “We know this place like you know the back of yer hand! Prolly er’ybody, to.”

Just then, coffee had arrived. Graham just kept his black. It was easy to prepare for the people who bring it and nothing hid the flavour. Gus and Suzanne grabbed at the sugar. Gus won the race. Suzanne looked annoyed, but did nothing to feud with him. Maybe she knew that it was going to become another argument over nothing in a public area. Not that many people would have witnessed, however. Graham was aware that, for the time of day, the restaurant was very empty. 

All three of them went quiet for a bit while the two tended to their coffee. Graham was unimpressed by the flavour, but he had worse. It was a cliche Cup of Joe: any small restaurant would have tasted the same. Regardless of its taste, the cup was warm.

Gus and Suzanne were still putting cream and sugar into theirs. Graham estimated that it would be the equivalent of five sugar packets each. He was upset by this, but chose to say nothing. Last thing he wanted to do was rock the boat over something so trivial so soon after his horrible attempt of being a distraction earlier. He had to put all his might into making sure he did not wince with disgust.

“So, the best breakfast, eh? Do you want to put money down on that?” Graham poked fun at Gus. “I am ready to have my mind blown.” He said this statement while motioning his hands in a brain-blowing fashion.

“Oh, Newbie: how I envy yous. If Tina is here, that means Billy is in the kitchen. He makes the best food of anyone ever! The coffee is proof of that!” Gus said between sips of his off-white fluid.

Graham was doing everything in his power not to retch. The not-really-coffee that was in Gus’ cup did not look in anyway appealing to him, and Suzanne’s cup was an even brighter white. The consistency of the fluid was no longer correct: it may as well have just been coffee-flavoured cream. 

“What do you guys do for fun around here?” Graham asked. He was trying to distract himself from the paint that his friends were passing off as coffee. It seemed like the cliché question when someone moves to a new town, but Graham had seen nothing of interest for the people who live here. One main street with a small downtown. A bar, a restaurant, and a few niche stores take up all the space. It was far from exciting.

“Well, we gots lots of swimming holes. Well, one, but it’s nice. Small group of early-twenties who like to hang out, and we’s all gots a good vibe.” said Gus, after thinking about it a moment.

Suzanne looked a bit more grim. “There is dick-all to do around here, to be honest. One major plus is a lot to adventure. Abandoned buildin’s, caves, forests. If you ain’t for doin’ walkin’, you is gunna be bored.”

Graham was appreciative for her honesty. To be fair, he was not looking for strobe lights and fanfare. The idea of a slower existence was a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of the city, and he was close enough to civilization that nothing is too far.

The big point of excitement was the idea of abandoned buildings. There were things like that in an urban centre, but one would always be looking over their shoulder to make sure the police were not being extra curious. It would ruin any hope for the perpetrator’s peace or fun. 

After few minutes more, the food finally arrived. The aroma of potatoes and waffles seemed to permeate through every bit of Graham’s body. Graham cut into his waffles before Tina had even left the table. He was not impatient, but he was very hungry. 

The best? No, but it was very passable. The waffle itself was nice and fluffy, the potatoes were crispy, but the syrup was generic.

Content, Graham kept shoving food in his face with little regard for decency. He looked up at Gus every once in a while who was almost begging for a look of approval. He tossed Gus a wink as if to approve. It might not be the best, but it was exactly what he wanted at that time.


Gus and Suzanne shared a double serving of pancakes and bacon with hash browns. If it was two friendlier people, Graham might have seen the event as cute. Instead, they fought to make sure they grabbed bits before the other. 

“Why didn’t you guys just each get your own?” asked Graham.

“**** OFF. MINE.” Suzanne shouts as she fails at stealing the plate away from Gus.

“It’s cheaper this way.” Gus muttered towards Graham’s direction between his attempted stabs at potato. That battle was not to be won. He gives up then sinks low into his chair and hoards the plate towards his section of table. 

“Yuh. We’re cheap.” Suzanne repeated the idea and looked as if she was proud. “Cheap, and honest!”

Graham had to laugh. He had his coffee cup poised to be consumed from, but immediately had to set it on the table for fear of shaking the contents everywhere as his shoulders leaped and twitched with amusement.

Overall, Graham was happy with the meal. Was it the best? No. It was good, however. Better than most restaurants, but he was still convinced that he could do better in the city.

“Well, Gus: you lied to me. Seven out of ten, at most. Best? No. Good? Yes. They lost major points on the coffee…” Graham teased Gus. “I am impressed by those potatoes, though. The right amount of spice. Good soft-to-crunch ratio.”

“Y’all just spoiled by all the options down in the city ‘er something.” Gus responds sharply. “It’s the best ‘round! Er’ry one agrees!” Gus was getting louder and louder with every word that he spoke.

“Calm down, dude! It was good: I was teasing!” Graham was laughing as he tried his hardest to placate the situation. “You brought me to a good one!” 

“****in’ city-boy…” Gus was muttering under his breath. Graham realized, very quickly, that he was not intended to hear that remark. He decided to move on and ignore it.

Tina came back over with their bill. Graham had to fight with Gus to give up and let him pay for the meals. Suzanne just sat back and continued to drink the last bits of her now-room-temperature not-milk.

In the end, Graham won the battle. Gus muttered a bunch of things about pride and “rich-blood” while he sank low into his chair. Graham decided not to get into it. 

The truth is that, yes: Graham had a good job. He was a review writer at a technology company and was paid handsomely for his ability to scroll words down. The unfortunate thing was that he was afraid to look at his bank statements. He had not been back to work since the move, and the move was not cheep.  

“Have a good day, y’all. Gus: you still owe me.” Tina said as she came to collect the money. She put the loose change into a pocket on her uniform and walked swiftly away muttering “…****in’ busy today…” as she sped off.

Graham reverted back to being very confused. There were a few people in the place, for sure. He counted four other tables and three of them had already ordered and their food was already brought out to them. Maybe this is busy for them? Graham thought to himself, feeling mildly smug.

Maybe he was the “city-boy” that Gus accused him of being. Was that so bad? He felt it made him deal with high stress situations better, he thought.

“Owe her for what?” Graham finally thought to ask Gus.

“Don’t worry ‘bout it.” Gus said defiantly. Graham decided to drop it, for now.

The three of them made sure there was nothing left on the tables and started out the building. Graham could not help but notice he was getting wary looks from people as he walked by tables and families. He assumed because he was new in town and chose to ignore the glares.

When they got outside, Graham reached for his keys. Gus and Suzanne noticed this and laughed. He had clearly forgotten that they walked from his place.

“****in’ idiot. Did a few stares from people make y’all forget everything?” Suzanne attacked him. Graham found himself at a loss for words and just looked at the ground. He could feel his face turn red.

“****, dude! You okay?” Gus said, suddenly very concerned.

Graham started to feel liquid on his face. His nose had erupted with blood. He started to feel light-headed and faint.

“yeep ah jus need ta…”

With that very slurred sentence, Graham was on the ground. Blood pouring from his nose. Everything went black.

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Jason Garden

Drummer for many years, changed focus from music to writing after a coma left him in a wheelchair