Help Me Bro
By Donald Deeley, FPA Storyteller.
When I was working at a gas station in suburban Houston one night in ’99, a kid my age set a case of lite beer on the counter, leaned forward, and told me in a fevered whisper, “Listen, I’m not 21 but my friends and I are trying to go to this party up the road and they won’t let us in unless we bring some beer.”
I loved every part of that. He opened by telling me I couldn’t sell him beer, asked me to break the law as a personal favor for complete strangers, and offered me nothing in return. That was key: I was supposed to help him because he wanted something. I was working in the service industry after all. I should have been happy to serve.
Have you ever told a suburbanite “no?” It’s delicious. I would recommend it to anyone. Their faces swell up, turn red, and you honestly wonder if they’re going to cry or explode and if that’s in fact what you’ve been spending your whole life waiting to see, the ever-missing evidence of a just and loving god. To be there in the moment when someone tells you, “but I want,” and you get to look them in the eye and say, “So what?” is transcendental.
He started pitching a fit, whining, asking me to be cool when the situation was already settled. He’d already told me I couldn’t sell him beer. He didn’t admit this after getting his ID turned down, after claiming he’d forgotten his ID, not even after being asked for ID. He set the beer on the counter and immediately said, “You can’t sell me this. So sell me this.” He kept trying to cajole me before finally giving up and leaving, ironically after I’d told him several ways to buy the beer all of which he ignored.
Looking back on it now, he never offered to invite me to the party even though that would have been the easiest bribe. Clearly, though, that wasn’t a price he was willing to pay.
Donald Deeley‘s writing has been published in 2600 Magazine, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and nowhere else. He currently teaches writing at Community College of Philadelphia, Temple University, and Philadelphia University. He’ll be running as a write-in candidate for President in 2016. http://d-contextualized.blogspot.com/