He just sat in his desk, wicked smile plastered on his face, silently laughing at the rest of the people in his class. They'd realized they'd been had. His grade would surely suffer for this, but he kept right on smiling.

Man, These Stories Write Themselves.

Ideas pop into Steven's head and he never knows why or how or when they will come. This time, he was at home. He does not visit Tacoma very often anymore; most of his friends now live in Seattle. It had been three weeks since he last went home to visit his family. As usual, his mother was out of town for the weekend, visiting her boyfriend in Kennewick. In the last month, he had seen her a total of five times. Once on Christmas, twice the week before, twice the week after. It would probably be another two or three weeks before he would see her again. His father was asleep. Never much for the night, his father always went to bed early, even on nights before his days off. His brother was downstairs, techno music blazing on the stereo. His dad didn't seem to mind, even though thumping bass could be heard from every room in the house. Alone, in his room, with nothing but boxers, a tank top, and five days' worth of fingernail growth, Steven sat in his broken leather chair watching his favorite television show on a videocassette that his father had taped for him. That's what he does at home, whenever he's not at his computer writing. That's where he was when he got his brilliant idea.

He couldn't wait to get this idea onto paper. Problem: "when the shit goes down, you better be ready." He quickly fled into the bathroom, grabbing a copy of a student's story that he had to read. Pen in mouth, he sat and let loose. In moments, he had written the first three lines seen at the beginning of this story, on the back of this poor student's paper. This made him as giddy as a car-crash survivor. He couldn't wait to wipe, finish his television show, play a game of minesweeper, and start typing what you see here.

Suddenly, a knock at his door swept Steven away from the story.

"What?" Irritated, loud, heard over the thumping bass.

"Open up, it's me." Steven's friend Chris at the door.

"What are you doing here? It's like 2:30 in the morning!"

"Come on, we have to go."

Steven opened the door to find his friend breathing erratically. His rather large friend from high school had just ran from his car, up two flights of stairs to Steven's room on the third floor. Chris stood rotundly at 5 feet 10 inches, 320 pounds, brown shaggy hair dripping wet from perspiration. His Adidas windbreaker sat open, exposing the Metallica shirt he wore on a weekly basis. This could mean only one thing: Drinking and Gambling.

"Did you drive over here drunk again?"

"Yeah, well no. I mean, I've been drinking, but not that much. You see, I only had, well I had about six or seven shots a couple of hours ago, but I'm fine now." The words were spitting out faster than the saliva that was spraying Steven in the face. He took a step back and tried to keep up with what Chris had to say. "I saw something, you wouldn't God-damn believe it if I told you, but I've GOT to show you. It's outside. Come on, we've got a drive ahead of us."

"Wait, hold on, I'm kind of in the middle of something here. I've got to write something and - "

"Fuck that! You're not writing shit now! Come on, we've got to go now or you're going to miss it!"

Steven knew he couldn't argue with his best friend once he got going. Not anticipating anything important, Steven began to slip into his Incredible Hulk pajama bottoms when Chris said, "Uh, you might want to wear something thicker than that. We're gonna have to experience some outside action, if you catch my drift. It's colder than a buttfucker out there."

Once properly bundled, Steven saddled himself into Chris' Blazer and prepared himself for the worst. This was the same friend who had once dragged him 30 miles out of town to sit in a gas station parking lot. Evidently, there was supposed to be about two-dozen or more racing cars there, where they meet to go street racing. On that night, no one showed up, and they ended up listening to the radio for three hours in a darkened lot, watching people sell drugs across the street.

"So, are you going to tell me what I'm going to see tonight?"

"Oh no. It can't fucking be explained. I could try, but it would just blow your fucking mind!"

"All right. Then, what are we gonna talk about on this boat ride?" Steven sat and thought about it for a minute. "How much did you lose tonight?"

"Oh man! You wouldn't believe it." Chris started to get excited. Steven knew that when he got excited, he didn't pay attention to the road. "I was at the Black Jack - "

"Hey hey hey! Keep the eyes on the road, bud! I'm not trying to die for this story, ya dig?"

"Sorry, sorry man. Like I was saying, I was at the Black Jack table and I was - "

"Now, where were you at again? Muckleshoot?"

"No, no, no. I was at the Queen. Anyway, like I was about to say. I was playing Black Jack and I fucking soaked the dealer for - "

"Isn't this like the third or fourth time this week that you've gone gambling?" Steven loved interrupting Chris in the middle of his stories. Frequently, he would lose his place and forget what he was saying. After he asked this last question, he saw Chris' pissed-off look and cracked up.

"Shut the fuck up! I'm trying to tell you a story. Why the fuck do you always do that?"

Coming down from the fit, Steven sprouted between chuckles, "Because. Because you always make everything sound so damn life shattering. Everything's one big event to you. You can sit here and tell a story like a human being, but no. You've got to be Mr. Motivational Speaker on me, trying to be all . . . inspiring. Just pretend this here CD case is a water cooler. We're in the office. Over there," he pointed out the driver's side door, "there are people working in cubicles. If you're too loud and boistrous, you'll surely disrupt their important data-entry work. Now, tell me how black jack was, and I remind you, the boss's office is just down the hall."

"You know what? Forget it. Let's just sit here and listen to music. I ain't telling you shit! You can fucking suck it for all I care." With that, Chris put in Eminem's latest offering, cranked the stereo to 25, turned the bass up to 8, and practically blew out Steven's ear drums.

After 40 minutes of driving, Steven started getting impatient with the lack of verbal communication in the automobile. He turned down the Eminem and said, "OK. Where the hell are we going? The Queen is long behind us now. What could you have possibly seen that takes us this far north?"

"Well, I was going to tell you, but you kept cutting me off. There we were, me and Benson. Well, he was off playing five-card draw in the other room. The room where all those 'high rollers' go and hang out." Chris started looking over at his passenger, and Steven silently pointed a finger to the windshield in front of them, with a look of mock-seriousness. Chris looked back and continued, "And I was in the Black Jack room, cleaning house. I mean, I was up a good two hundred dollars."

"Yeah, you've always been kick-ass at that game. I can never understand why I always go in with fifty bucks and come out with nothing. I'm fucking pathetic at that game."

"Well, I don't think I've ever done this well. I mean, I was up 200 bucks, and I was only there for like 30 minutes or so. I mean, I was taking chances! I won my double downs. I got ace fucking splits. I had two Black Jacks in the first three hands. I tell you, I was on a roll.

"So, I kept it up. I would have taken the fucking table, but Benson comes by. He says he needs to borrow some money. I say, 'sure, how much you need?' He tells me he needs two thousand dollars. I'm sitting there thinking, 'what the fuck could he possibly need that much cash for?' Anyway, he tells me that he's in a game right that minute. He's got someone holding his cards for him while he finds the cash to compete in the market.

"Evidently, he was losing his shirt. His family's fucking loaded, but they don't give him shit to gamble with. He's used up all his allowance, and he gets a good 500 bucks a week. Now he needs a loan from me, but fuck me! I need that money. You remember, I'm trying to save up to move out of the house. I want to be out of my parents' basement by the summer, man! I want to be out on my own. That way, maybe I can start losing this weight and get my life back in order.

"I told you how Crystal won't return my calls anymore, right? The last time we talked was like, three weeks ago and - "

"Hey!" Steven jumped back into the conversation. "Get back to the poker; don't start losing focus now!"

"Right, sorry. Anyway . . . what was I saying?"

"You were talking about how he used his allowance and you don't have that kind of dough to supply."

"Right, yeah. So, I ask him what he has, and he's telling me he's got a straight flush. A three through seven of spades. Man, that like never happens! And so, I ask him, I say 'you're not bullshitting me, right? You're being straight with me? Because, if I can get this money, and you soak me - if you're actually bluffing with a pair of jacks or something - I'm gonna go apeshit on you. You hear me?' And he's being totally serious. I mean, this look of sincerity is like nothing you've ever seen. And, so I believe him. Who am I not to trust my friends, you know?"

"OK, let me guess, he had the cards, but someone else beat him with a royal flush or something, right?"

"Oh, no. He lied. He's the biggest fucking liar I know, and I knew that when he told me. But, stupid-assed me, I fucking believed him. I don't know why! It was a moment of weakness. He had such . . . excitement in his eyes! Like a little kid or something. I tell you, he has become some kind of actor lately. He lied about a ton of shit, right to my face, but I kept hanging out with him."

"Lied? What else did he lie about? He's always seemed like an honest guy to me."

Chris sat there, face growing sincere, sorrowful. "Would an honest guy steal my woman from me?"

"You're kidding! Crystal? When was this?"

"Oh, about a month ago. Like, right before we broke up. Evidently, they hooked up while I was out with the soccer team. Me and the team were over in Beaverton for a tournament, and you know I'm the goalies coach. Well, we were gone for a weekend, and they hooked up. He didn't tell me until tonight, though. That fucking prick."

"So, he lost your money, and then he told you about fucking Crystal? What, is he fucking nuts? Why would he do that? I'm lost here."

"Hold on. Let me get back to the poker game." Chris sat for a moment, trying to remember his place. "I pulled some strings. I got some of the money out of my account, then took the rest off of the credit cards. He lost all that, and I was feeling really pissed, but he took me out to dinner afterwards. He promised to pay the money back, but I still wouldn't talk to him. We were sitting there, in that dump of an I-HOP over on 6th Ave and Pacific, and he was trying to cheer me up. I told him to go to hell. That's when he started getting pissed off.

"I told him, after he pays me back, that's it. He's never allowed into my house again. I won't speak to him ever again. You know, shit like that. I was fucking wasted; I had little control over what I was saying, or yelling as it were. The waiter had to come by twice to tell me to keep it down, but I would have none of it. After I called him a 'fucking loser' and a 'dickless wonder,' that's when I saw his face turn red. The girls in the booth across from us were giggling, and I was starting to feel better about myself.

"He looks straight into my eyes, cold as an arrow, and tells me, 'That's not what Crystal said.' Right there, all smiles ceased. My eyes narrowed, my mouth turned sour, lemon fucking sour, and I said, 'What did you say?' You know, really slow and dramatic-like. He repeats it and I say, 'Fuck you, you fucking liar. Don't try to lie and tell me that shit. There's no way she'd ever fuck your sorry ass!'

"That's when he goes off on his story. I'm gone, and she's all alone. She calls him up. Evidently, she called him up a lot when our relationship was near its end. She was bitching about how I still live at home, and how I'm such a 'fat loser,' with a dead-end job. You know, all this shit, and Benson's just being Mr. Consoling. Mr. Fucking Joe-on-the-Spot. He asks if she wants any company and she says yes. He goes over there, and after they talk and drink a couple of bottles of wine, they get at it. God-damn! Picturing it makes me want to fucking - "

"Chris! Eyes on the road!" Steven composed himself, then returned, more sympathetic, "Was it just that one time?"

"Oh no! They lasted about two weeks after we officially broke up. Isn't it nice she had someone to console herself with? I had my mom's shoulder to cry on. Crystal had a cock in her mouth. Fucking bitch."

"Hey, man. Fuck them. You don't need either of them. You've got plenty of friends, especially here in Tacoma. I pretty much only hang out with you. I've got no one here! You know people. People can hook you up with tons of ladies. You've got one of those personalities that attracts the women. I wish I had that. Shit, man. I'm the 'strike-out king.' At least you've had a girlfriend. I've got nobody right now."

"Yeah, well tell me how it feels when you get one and she fucks you over. You'd be gambling and drinking too."

"It's got to be nice for a while, though. Right?"

"Oh, it's totally fucking amazing! I mean, you've got to have confidence. I've been in relationships where I was totally fucking nervous about the girl leaving me. Those are just no fun, because you're always expecting the worst. You can't get emotionally attached, so you don't actually receive the love in return. But, if you get that emotional attachment, and you get screwed, then you feel like I do right now."

Chris took the very next exit after saying this.

"Why are we getting off here?" Steven asked. "This is the middle of no where."

"I know. We're going to Anderson Field."

"Hey, I remember that place! That's where we went as kids to fly our remote control airplanes! What the hell are we doing here now, it's like 3:20 in the morning."

"You'll see."

Chris parked behind a row of pine trees, sheltering the car from the road, although no one was driving at this time of night. "Grab that shovel from the backseat. I have to open up the back."

Steven's heart began to pound. This didn't sound too good. Whenever someone drags you out to an empty field in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, and tells you to grab a shovel, that's just bad news all around. He looked over at his friend as Chris walked around to the rear of the Blazer.

"Why do you need the shovel, Chris?" Steven tentatively grasped the wooden handle with his hand, then thought better, and put his sleeve over his hand, covering the fingerprints.

Chris unlocked the back, popped open the hatch, and walked over to the passenger side door, which was wide open.

"You can probably gather by now that we're not going to be flying any remote control airplanes." Chris smiled weakly, wiping his forehead with the back of his right hand. "I'm telling you, Steven. I snapped. You know that thing I had to show you? Well, it's a body. And it's in the rear of the car, and it's dead. I used Benson's handgun. The fucker lent it to me like two months ago to use at the range. Well, I hope he won't be needing that baby for a while."

"Oh, God-damn it, Chris! Why the fuck did you drag me into this? I don't need this right now! I'm gonna fucking graduate this year, I'm looking to get a job and start up my writing career. Man, you're really screwing me! Why the fuck - "

"Listen. Are you my friend? Will you please act like one for this one night? I have to do this. It's all me. I won't say you had anything to do with this. There's no way they could implicate you anyway! You have no relevance to this situation."

"All right. Fine. Let's just grab him and get this over with. I'm freezing my ass off already, and I'm fucking exhausted."

"Him? No no no. There's no 'him.'"

"Wait, isn't that Benson in the back there?"

"Hell no! Crystal's back there! I fried her fucking ass and wrapped her up. Benson? Hah, that's a good one! He owes me two thousand dollars, I'm not gonna let that go! You must be out yo' God-fo'saken min'!"

Steven couldn't help but smile uneasily at this dialect. He grabbed the shovel and plunged it into the grass. Within five minutes, he worked up a good enough sweat to preclude him from wearing his jacket. In an hour, they had finished the job.

Crystal was reported missing the next day, as Steven slept on his Futon at his father's house. The police questioned Chris that afternoon in his parents' living room. With proper lessons from his good buddy Benson, no one was the wiser.

Steven sat in front of his computer that evening, around 10pm, when everyone else in the house had scattered - bed, techno music - and tried to finish his first story of the week. "Damn, this isn't easy. What the hell am I going to write about?" Steven slumped into his chair, putting his feet up on the desk.