Chapter Three



            “Do you know that seventy-seven percent of the people out there believe in the presence of a secret society called the Illuminati but only 65 percent believe in God?”

His thumb kept moving and his eyes stayed focused on the screen of his iPhone even as he tossed the random thought over to Brooke. Danny Chord usually had about fifty to choose from any given moment but this one seemed fascinating and worth sharing to the young woman sitting next to him.

“So you’re going to visit the Illuminati?” Brooke asked.

This made him stop and look at her. He wasn’t sure if she was joking—she didn’t sound like she was—and her face didn’t seem to be in the teasing mood either. One reason he really liked Brooke was because she couldn’t be sarcastic. He had enough of that for both of them.

She’s just angry that I’m leaving right after I came back in town.

            “No, I’m not visiting any Illuminati even though that would be terribly amusing,” he told the restless beauty in front of him. “I’m just trying to prove my point.”

Her lips tightened for a moment. “I thought your point was to make people look stupid?”

She was trying to get his attention. Trying to get into a fight. He knew it and realized she was simply trying hard to lasso him back around.

“Well, no, I’m not trying to make people look stupid,” Danny said. “I’m trying to make stupid people look even more stupid.”

“So you’re going to find some random strangers in some little town to mock? Aren’t there enough politicians and famous people to go after?”

Danny wanted to scratch at his ears. Sometimes he hated the sound of her voice. It had a pinching-the-nose shut sort of tone, an only-child-syndrome sort of attitude. Sometimes Danny wanted to tell her just how awful she could sound, but a woman who looked like Brooke had surely never heard that sort of truth. Danny didn’t want to be the one who told her. At least not now.

“My goal as always is to shine a little light on the stupidity—and hypocrisy—of our world,” Danny told her as he still typed away at the text he was sending.

She shuffled on the couch trying to get his attention. He had work to do and didn’t want to be pulled away by neediness. He could see her playing with her long blonde locks from the corner of his eye.

“Isn’t the world a dark enough place without mocking those who actually believe in something?”

The text finally left his phone and he set it down to fully engage with her.

“I’ve said this before. The thing I hate are these people everywhere who see something bad and then suddenly act like there’s this visible breathing thing called evil that’s like some kind of cold front. Whether they think God’s judging us or that evil is inciting this. That kind of moronic discourse only serves to make the general public look more asinine and ignorant.”

“And that’s why you’re leaving?” she asked.

Now Brooke was giving him the wounded puppy look. It was probably her last ditch effort to make him stay. It wasn’t like she was suddenly so interested in having him around so she could pick his brain and hear his thoughts and laugh at his jokes. Most things, like this, went over her head. When they had started dating and then even when he moved in with her, Danny could tolerate this. But it was get tiring.

“I have a job to do,” he said, picking back up his phone because it had been about ten seconds since he checked it.

“You blog,” Brooke said with that contemptuous attitude he had fallen in love with but could sometimes really hate. “You type free thoughts and free form and free crap all day.”

“Advertisers like that free crap, thank you very much.”

She stretched out those never-ending long legs and it felt like she was trying to make a point.

Yeah, fine, you’re taller than me and better-looking but you’re still with me so there.

 “I’m going to be so bored back here,” Brooke said.

“Read my last five blogs. Those won’t make you bored.”

Brooke looked like she’d rather put her pretty little head in a toilet. She just wrinkled her nose. “I’m getting lonely. Don’t go.”

He couldn’t think with her whining like this. That’s all it was, too. Whining. She did this when she was bored and not being attended to. He had his moments—he could attend with the best of them—but sometimes he simply wanted to share his thoughts on idiots barfing up the same old garbage every time some kind of natural disaster struck. There was a reason they were called natural. Natural people. Just like the natural tornado that struck the town in South Carolina.

“If you’re going to be so lonely you could come with me,” Danny said.

“To a place called Solitary? Uh, no thanks. Sounds like it’s in the middle of nowhere.”

“It’s western North Carolina.”

“The place where that tornado just hit.”

He shook his head and looked at her. He wondered if every blonde strand pulled out a brain cell. Such a thick head of hair on top of that pretty little face and body. But inside . . .

“There’s a reason one is called north and the other south. I’m going to the former.”

“Do you think people are more stupid in places they have accents?”

Danny just laughed. “Everybody had accents. They say we have them in Denver. So no, I don’t think that. But if you have a southern accent and think your town is possessed by the devil, then yeah, I think you’re pretty stupid.”

Brooke shot him her disgusted glance. “Do you even realize how smug you sound?”

“It’s like a warm blanket people love to carry around with them. Usually I save my so-called smugness for my so-unappreciated blog.

She shakes her head and looks away. “Four-year-olds carry blankets around with them.”

“I’m not judging my audience. I can learn from everybody, even those closest to me.”

Her body cocked and looked ready to fire at him. Her lips tightened in unison with the glare.

“Since when did I become part of the punch line?” Brooke asked.

“I never said you were.”

“But this right here is obviously part of the joke. Part of your ongoing narrative to the world to show them how much more witty you happen to be.”

“I’m sorry I have a little more to offer.”

“But do you? Really?”

Brooke no longer sounded wounded or wanting. Now she was simply pissed.

“The very question makes you wonder and stay tuned,” he said without any hint of extra emotion.

“I’m not ‘staying tuned’ Danny. I’m not a listener or a follower or a fan. Do you understand that? I’m not a photo in a box ready to ‘like’ every single, stupid comment you say. I’m right here. In front of you. A human being, breathing. Trying to talk instead of commenting or retweeting or sharing or quoting.”

For the first time in a long time, Danny was impressed by the words he was listening to.

“That is the tragedy of real life,” he told Brooke with all sincerity. “That we can’t capture this moment and share it with others. Those were actually some profound thoughts.”

She shook her head. “Life is there to share, Danny. With each other. Not with the rest of the world.”

“Obviously I said something to irritate you.”

“Yes. You haven’t stopped saying irritating things since the day I met you.”

He laughed. “I thought you liked that.”

“I used to. Until I realized there was something wrong with all those endless amount of words.”


“They’re missing something at the core,” Brooke said.

“Is this editorial advice now?”

“No. It’s therapy. You don’t need a thesaurus, Danny. You need a heart.”