I put up a zombie story last week that I called Cooties, and that was fun. This week, you get a hard luck tale I called Fundo. And I already know that next week’s story will be called Swelter (the posting is already locked and loaded). Each of the main characters in Fundo and Swelter go through a little personal hell. I’m not sure which has it worse and anything I say will only ruin the fun.
So without further adieu…
Matthew Fundo wanted to die. His internal thought processes had become external mutterings and people were giving him space as he walked away from his burning car.
Fundo’s life had come to a halt conspiratorially. He was laid off from Dagnell’s Tire Barn as soon as he showed up for work in the morning. Ray Dagnell met him at the time-clock with his last check.
When he told his live-in girlfriend about the lay off on the phone a few minutes later, an argument ensued and she told him they were done. She called him a loser and said she was moving out.
He snapped his cell phone shut and pulled his car into a parking lot as rage burned in his eyes; tear ducts tried in vain to squelch the fury. The parking lot he pulled into was for a convenience store, and with that realization decided to take up smoking again. Paying for the cigarettes, a large coffee, a chocolate bar, and a lottery ticket he left his wallet on the counter, forgotten. He went down to the beach to watch the surf while another man emptied his bank account and worked on the credit line of his two credit cards.
A while later he drove through the center of town. His 1995 Subaru Legacy developed a fuel line leak which sprayed fuel onto the exhaust manifold and caught fire. Fundo squealed like a child and neglected to put the vehicle in park before bailing out into oncoming traffic that, thankfully, was moving slowly. While he waited for Emergency Services to answer, someone bumped the cellphone from his grasp and it clattered to the pavement where it was run over by a passing car. Meanwhile, his engulfed Subaru had come to rest against another car. The gas tank overheated and they both erupted in a roaring ball of flames that mushroomed to the heavens.
Fundo couldn’t believe the way his day had been going and muttered about it in expletory detail as he walked away from the burning wreckage, the gathering gawkers, and the distant but approaching sirens. He directed himself toward home.
The life Fundo had lived to date hadn’t been one which history would remember, but it had been comfortable. His girlfriend was wrong, he wasn’t a loser. Losers had nothing; were nothing. They were the meek. Losers were trod upon by others and did nothing to prevent it. That did not describe Fundo’s life.
Of course, he was not a winner either. He wasn’t well educated. He didn’t have a McMansion, a great car, or a huge bank account. So what was left? Commoner, perhaps? He nodded with the acceptance of that. Because he didn’t fall to one extreme or the other, no one would be looking to mess with him. He was just a common man flying under the radar.
So why did fate have it out for him today?
Bells tolled the hour high up in the tower of Our Blessed Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. Fundo turned to the sound and an idea struck him. He could hurl himself from the tower and end his life. It would presumably add a measure of notoriety to an otherwise ho-hum existence. The idea of going out with a flair appealed to him. He set off for the church.
In the narthex he pulled open a side door and began a long ascent. Once in the tower he was surprised to find large horn shaped speakers in lieu of bells. The bell tower was a fake and the realization shook Fundo to his very core.
Louvered shutters were hung with hinges on all sides of the tower. He unlatched one and stepped up onto the sill. Looking down made him waver some, but then he marveled at the view. He was high above everything and everyone. Birds flew about the tree-tops below.
Suddenly the bells began to ring, so loud that Fundo lost his grip and fell away from the noise. He had a full second of time to think that the fall would be thrilling even as he was doing so and he would die only upon landing. He slid down the extremely angled roof to the barrier which was meant to break up sliding snow before it plummeted to the ground below.
The snow barrier ripped his pants and cut him in several places and his fall ended when his belt caught on the final barrier rail. His legs dangled high above a group of field-tripping Girl Scouts on the sidewalk below. They had all turned to look at the source of the voice screaming like a drunken cowboy. The sudden halt, caught by his belt from behind, had given Fundo the worst wedgie imaginable. Adding insult to injury, the painful wedgie did not subside. He was caught in a vice-like grip courtesy of Levi-Strauss.
In his hospital room, Fundo watched the local news coverage for the day, which turned out to be mostly about him. The fire-ball at the center of town and the ladder truck rescue made top billing. It gave him the sense of notoriety he had craved earlier and no longer desired. A few dozen stitches and an ice bag for his family jewels had changed his mind on that score. He was ready to get back to being a commoner.
Curiosity had him going through his belongings which were deposited in a plastic bag upon his arrival at the hospital. He wondered where his wallet had gone.
At the end of the newscast, they announced the winning lottery number and Fundo read the ticket he had picked up earlier. The girl on the newscast articulated the numbers clearly and then repeated the set of numbers again.
His matched precisely.
He was elated.
He again hooted and hollered like a drunken cowboy.
He wouldn’t find out till later that his ticket was for the drawing the following day.