SECTION FOUR

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COLUMN THIRTEEN, SEPTEMBER 1, 1996
(Copyright 1996 The Blacklisted Journalist)

MEET SCOTT SHRUM


SCOTT SHRUM

Meet Scott Shrum, who joins the alliance of future Ernest Hemingways, F. Scott Fitzgeralds, Jack Kerouacs, Willa Cathers and Margaret Mitchells I hope to enlist so we can turn THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST column into a little literary cyberzine that gets so talked about, a market inevitably is created for us to publish these columns in book form or as CD-ROMS. That's how we can achieve some recompense for our writing efforts by giving our prose or poetry away free on the Internet.

Scott, 20, my first college-age recruit, is a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but I think his writing shows enormous promise and it is with great enthusiasm that I will link my web page with his. After learning something about him, you can read one of his stories and then you can click your mouse to be connected to his own home page, where you can read more of his writing. Like myself and like many other writers out there in cyberspace, Scott is a compulsive writer and a born stylist who sees the Internet as I do, a way of getting our work exposed, attracting readers and achieving self-fulfillment.

When Scott is not in Boston, attending M.I.T., he lives in exurbia, the rural New Jersey town of Annandale, off Interstate 78, about an hour's drive from New York.

"I know I look too much like a kid," he says, explaining why he didn't have a better collection of pictures of himself for me to choose one to show you.

"I was born in Rahway, New Jersey on Nov. 15, 1975. I grew up in Plainfield until I was eight years old, when I moved to Annandale. Growing up I was in the accelerated classes and was encouraged to go into the sciences. This continued on through high school, where I decided to pursue a career in engineering and chose to go to M.I.T. During this time (since grade school), I had always shown a talent for writing (both fiction and non-fiction), but never really enjoyed it.

"Since coming to M.I.T., I guess I've gotten sick of working with just numbers, and writing seems easy and relaxing by comparison. I especially like writing short fiction, although I want to become skilled in all areas of writing. I originally intended to major in electrical engineering, but before I ever declared my major I decided to major in marketing and minor in writing. I like the creative aspects of marketing, and I think the field needs more good guys.

"I'm also interested in the Internet and Web, and hope to be able to put my all of my skills and interests into a job I enjoy. And if I can't get some of my work published in print, at least I can publish it myself on the Web." ##

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

BY SCOTT SHRUM

(Copyright 1996 Scott Shrum)

Dan Jablonski got to his apartment at the usual time of 5:30 and leaned up against the door while he fished his keys out of his pocket. Considering it was his birthday, it had been a rotten day. Not only had no one at the office remembered his birthday, but he had also got chewed out by his boss and slipped on a patch of ice while leaving the office. "Just me and a Bud tonight. Happy birthday Dan," he mumbled to himself as his hand groped anxiously around in his pocket.

"Shit! My keys! Where the hell.. Aw, damnit!" He realized what had happened. When he slipped on that patch of ice, his keys must have flown out of his pocket. "What the hell am I gonna do?" he complained loudly to himself. Loud enough to stir Manny Rivera, a rather frighteningly large night watchman who lived across the hall.

"Hey man, what the hell's going on out here? You're not even talking to anyone. You're talking to yourself! What the hell's wrong with you?" Manny shouted in an angry tone which belied his normal jovial nature. "Jablonski, you know I need my beauty sleep. Any more noise and I'm gonna grab you by that cheap silk tie and toss you out the window."

"Oh, sorry Manny. Just lost my keys. I was talking to myself, actually," he said with a little laugh in a vain attempt to get Manny to calm down a few degrees. "I'll be okay."

"You'll be okay after I kick your ass," he heard Manny mumble to himself as he slammed his door. Dan knew better than to take it personally.

Now the only thing Dan could do was to hop in a cab and head back to the office to take a chance on finding those keys. Since he lived on the fourteenth floor, he elected to take the elevator instead of rushing down the stairs.

Dan paced back and forth in front of the elevator door, occasionally jabbing at the "down" button. Before he wore a hole in the carpet the elevator came, and he darted in so quickly that he almost hit the back wall. He turned himself around and was about to hit the "1" button when he saw every elevator passenger's nightmare: someone had pressed every single button. "Goddamnit!" he shouted as he bolted out the elevator and down the hall into the stairwell.

Dan took the stairs two at a time in an effort to make up lost time. Those keys probably were already gone, he thought, but he'd be damned if he gave up so easily. After tackling several flights in no time he figured he was as good as out the door. Just as this thought crossed his mind he looked down the stairwell and realized it wouldn't be so easy: two men in "Acme Furniture" jumpsuits were carrying a sofa up the stairwell. The same damn stairwell Dan Jablonski was determined to get down.

"Hey!" he shouted, hoping his volume would coerce them into compliance. "I need to get down! Get this out of my way!"

"Whoa, Mack," answered the one nearest him. "Where's the fire? You can take the elevator."

"No I can't. It's broken. Let me get by!" Dan must have looked like a madman.

"What the hell's your problem, pal? You're just gonna have to take the elevator or wait until we get by, all right? We're already late with this thing. It was supposed to be here three hours ago," the Acme guy grunted as he moved to improve his grip on the sofa.

"I'm sorry!" Dan shouted as he climbed down the couch and jumped off, heading for the landing below. He was unable to get a good push off of the couch, however, and landed awkwardly on the last few steps, twisting his ankle in the process. He ignored the obscenities the workers shouted at him, and limped down the remaining flights of stairs, eventually making it to the bottom floor.

Dan reached the street and started to hail a taxi. Despite his usual talent for getting a cab, Dan was outsmarted by several others who managed to hop into the few cabs that were available. Tired of missing his chances, he dashed to the next one he saw, inadvertently shoving aside an elderly woman who was about to get in. Feeling someone manhandling her and presumably going for her purse, she retaliated. "You bastard!" she shouted, at the same time unleashing a cloud of mace into his face.

Dan let out a yelp of pain and clutched his face as he let his body fall backward into the cab. "Get me to 541 7th Avenue!" he blurted before he managed to grab the door and shut it.

The cabby complied, and did in it the way for which New York cabbies are famous. Dan, still partially blinded and tearing profusely from the mace, couldn't take being thrown about in the back of the cab. Several minutes into the ride he had had enough: "Please, could you take it easy!" he shouted in an attempt to keep his stomach.

The driver ignored him, and instead devoted all of his attention to shouting insults at other drivers. Dan could barely see to look at the driver, but could hear him shouting in something other than English.

"Hey! Hey! Do you hear me?" Dan tried to reach the driver to tap him on the shoulder but his hand was met by the Plexiglass shield separating the two. "Listen, slow down, okay? I'm about to throw up back here. Hey, listen!" By now he was pounding on the shield. "Jesus Christ, slow down already! Don't you speak English? Slow down!"

They were almost at his office when he finally had the driver's attention. The man turned around, now ignoring the street. Dan managed to open his left eye enough to get a look at the driver, a dark-skinned man with a remarkably long beard and mustache. The driver's lips were clenched in a tight line and his eyes were wide open with anger. Dan could see enough to know that he was pissed.

"Yes, I know English," he barked in a thick accent, not once glancing back at the road. "Why do you act like this? I cannot drive if you..." As he said these last words he turned


'Dan heard the driver
shouting at him,
but didn't care'


around again, just in time to see the van in front of him that he was about to rear-end. He slammed on his brakes, but couldn't avoid the inevitable: the taxi hit the van, the driver hit the steering wheel, and Dan hit the Plexiglass.

"Look what you made me do! You son of a... Hey! Where are you going?! Get back here!"

As the driver clutched his head and shouted, Dan was getting out of the car and limping away from the scene, all the while nursing his own bloody nose and tearing eyes. Dan heard the driver shouting at him, but didn't care. He limped the remaining two blocks until he got to his office.

Dan found the icy spot where he had slipped and scoured the area a few times. Nothing. He refused to give up so easily and searched the same spot over and over, waiting for them to suddenly appear. He then broadened his search to include most of the block, limping to the corner and back, with his eyes glued to the ground and his hand on his face, still trying to stop the bleeding. He didn't even notice all the people into whom he kept running.

One of those people did notice him, however. "Hey man, what's your problem?" shouted an angry young man sporting a goatee and a leather jacket. Dan didn't even hear him. He just kept on walking, his head still down. "Hey, I'm talking to you. You gotta problem?" This time the man grabbed Dan and spun him around. Only then did Dan look up.

"What?" Dan snapped back into reality, ready to explode. "What do you want? I'm looking for my keys, okay? My goddamn keys! If you can't help me, then leave me the fuck alone!"

The young man released his grip and stared at Dan for a second, feeling shock, amusement, and pity all at once. He knew this pathetic suit couldn't hurt him, but he knew rage when he saw it, and kind of felt sorry for Dan. "Yo man, take it easy. I ain't got your keys, all right? Just lighten up." He took a few steps backwards, watching Dan to see if his words had any effect, and to make sure that Dan wouldn't explode and attack him. Satisfied that things were cool, he turned around and went on his way. Dan watched him for a second, trying to understand what had just happened, and then went back to his hunt.

After another few minutes of searching, Dan began to realize his efforts were futile. He leaned against his office building and tried to think of what to do, although his brain would still only concentrate on the ground in front of him. Finally, a thought occurred to him. Maybe someone had found his keys and had turned them in at the desk in the lobby of his office building. Although he didn't like the odds, he figured it was his last shot.

Dan hobbled into the lobby and bent himself over the lobby desk, waiting for the receptionist to notice his pitiable state and to magically produce his keys. He stared at her cream-colored silk blouse, and then down at his own shirt, bloody from his nose. He noticed the perfect light-brown hair streaming down from her head, and then ran a hand through the nest resting on top of his.

"Can I help you... oh, are you okay? Do you need to use the phone? Want me to call an ambulance?" asked the receptionist, wondering what had happened to the same guy who had left in a much better state just an hour before.

"Huh? Oh, no, that's okay. Listen, no one happened to bring a set of keys in here, did they? I left here about an..." as these words dribbled out of his mouth he saw the receptionist reach below the desk and open her hand to display his long-lost keys. "Oh, thank God! Thank you! Thank you!"

Dan practically floated out of the lobby down onto the street, looking to hail another cab. In his euphoric state he completely failed to see a bicycle messenger, who slammed right into him. The messenger flew off of his bike, landing about five feet from Dan, whose one good leg was now bleeding profusely. He was about to shout at the messenger, but was beat to the punch.

"What the hell is your problem. Didn't you see me? Jesus, look at my bike!" he exclaimed, ignoring his own badly scraped and bleeding body. "That's a thousand-dollar bike! This is how I make my living! You're paying for this!"

"Shut up." Dan wasn't going to deal with this idiot. "Just shut up. Look, I'm sorry, but you should've been more careful. You've completely ripped my pants and look at how I'm bleeding! I should be suing you!" With that he managed to get on his feet and start walking further into the street to grab the next taxi. Angry that Dan was just going to leave him there, the biker sprung up and ran towards Dan.

"You son of a bitch! You're paying for this!" and with that he sprung onto Dan's back, and they both went down, landing face-first on the asphalt. An embarrassing catfight ensued. Passersby must have been amused by the sight of a dork in a suit and a scrawny bicyclist wrestling in the middle of the street. After twenty seconds-worth of missed punches and hissed curses the biker managed to pin Dan down and unleash a barrage of blows. Dan could only pull his hands to his face in self-defense.

"Stop! Ach! Stop it!"

He managed to throw off the cyclist. They both sat there, still in the middle of the road, just starting to notice the honking and cursing around them. They looked at each other, looked at all the passersby, and both sheepishly got up and went on their way. The biker picked up his bike and surveyed it, and Dan managed to hail a cab. Neither wanted to speak of this moment ever again.

A short and bloody ride later, Dan was back at his apartment building. He made his way to the elevator, ignoring the stares of the few people in his vicinity. He entered the elevator and slouched against the back wall. On the way up he thought about his day. He looked at his shirt covered in blood, his bleeding leg, and his ripped pants. He then reached in his pocket and felt his keys. At least he had his keys back.

Dan Jablonski got to his apartment door and fished his keys out of his pocket. With a sigh of relief he plunged the key into the doorknob and gave it a turn. He opened the door to his pitch-black apartment and before he could reach the switch to turn on the lights they turned on by themselves.

"SURPRISE!"

Dan saw a bunch of faces. He heard noisemakers. He smelt burning candles. He then felt his head hit his hardwood floor. Dan Jablonski died of a heart attack on his 34th birthday.

"Dan? Are you all right?" a voice squeaked in the darkness.

"Hey Dan!" called out another, "Look at the couch we got you!" ##

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