This is the first complete, revised, and revised again short story I ever wrote. It was more than two years ago. It’s long and ridiculous.
“Never cross the fence. Never, ever cross the fence.” I can’t get these two sentences out of my mind right now. I heard them growing up too many times. It’s not a common thing, you know, for a Lauratain to cross over into Gandwanaland. Lauratia is where I live. It’s technically called Tangea. That is, until it was divided into the two sides about thirty years ago. Tangea is a small Island located a few thousand miles south of Hawaii.
I was born and raised in Lauratia where my parents say, “Everyone knows right from wrong.” I’ve learned recently that there’s a difference between “knowing right from wrong” and “doing right from wrong.” I don’t believe that the Lauratians always follow this, which is why I’m crossing the fence; to see if Gandwanaland is any different.
I’ve heard plenty of stories about how terrible Gandwanaland is. Outrageous stories. Stories that may or may not be true. Either way, I’m convinced that the people over there can’t be as evil as everyone here makes them out to be. No one can be that bad, can they? Just because they’re nudists can’t mean that they are all evil. Yeah, they’re all nudists. They just let it all hang out. No pants, no shirts, no anything.
Before Tangea was divided, there was no such thing as Gandwanans or Lauratians. Everyone was just a Tangean. They lived together, nudists and non-nudists, often times as neighbors. It’s kind of a weird thought having a nudist living next door, but that’s how it was until all of the male nudists started slapping the non-nudists with their penises. Yep, they suddenly thought that it would be funny to start penis-slapping the people with clothes on. Well, the non-nudists, as you might guess, took offense to this, so they started avoiding the nudists as best they could. They didn’t fight back or anything, just kept clear of them. However, this didn’t work, because the nudists started sneaking up to the non-nudists’ windows giving them the twirly-bird. In case you don’t know what the twirly-bird is, it’s where you just stand their twirling your penis at somebody. The females would do it too, only with their breasts. It’s strange, I know, but apparently, it happened.
The female nudists may not have been able to penis slap, but that didn’t stop them from causing problems of their own. They were all determined to seduce any non-nudist they could, male or female. They didn’t care as long as they got their sex. Eventually, it got to the point to where they would follow the non-nudists around, rubbing up against them, touching them, and begging them to get intimate. The non-nudists just couldn’t avoid them. Nudists are very persistent when it comes to having sex.
This continued for a while until finally the non-nudists and the nudists started fighting. The nudists wouldn’t let the non-nudists leave their houses without penis-slapping them, giving them the twirly-bird, or trying to have sex with them. Non-nudists began yelling at them to stop, but it never worked. The nudists would just make it worse. They even started having sex with each other in the streets. Right out in the open, in the middle of the street so cars couldn’t pass. They also did it in the non-nudists’ driveways and they would time it to where the non-nudists couldn’t back their car out to go to work or school or anything.
As a result, the buses became a popular mode of transportation. That is, until the nudists started having sex inside of them as well. You could be sitting there reading the paper on your way to work and there would be a pair of nudists doing it in the seat next to you, just humping away with no regard for the rest of the passengers.
The female nudists began to get their way with the non-nudists and the problem began to escalate as the nudists began to develop certain tricks to get the non-nudists in the sack with them. They would do things like sneak into their homes and have sex with them while they were sleeping, or they would drug the spouse and switch places with them.
Well, all of this resulted in more fighting until all of the non-nudists started building houses west of town to escape. Between the female nudists’ sex tricks and the males’ absurd gestures of violence, the non-nudists just couldn’t take it anymore. Eventually, all of them ended up on what is now Lauratia. Soon after, a fence was built to keep the nudists from coming over and penis-slapping anyone.
At least that’s the story I was told at school and by my parents and grandparents and neighbors and friends and Mr. Davenport, the mayor of Lauratia. He once told the story at a city barbeque.
Well, I’m crossing the border. I’m going to climb over the fence and see the nudists for myself. I know what you’re saying, why would you want to cross the border when you’re just going to get penis-slapped by a bunch of nudists? Things just kind of built up through time. It all just began to get too outrageous for me. I decided to drop out of college and things really began to reach a breaking point for me.
Yesterday, I was walking down Main Street and I saw a crowd gathered around a light post. As I got close, I realized that everyone in the crowd was yelling and waving their arms out of anger. Someone had taped up a picture of a nudist. The nudist had shaggy red hair, freckles and bright blue eyes. He was a rather odd looking, naked guy. I couldn’t help but laugh when I first saw this. That turned out to be a mistake. Mr. Davenport’s assistant, Mr. Rite happened to be standing in the crowd next to me.
“Young man, this is no laughing matter!” Mr. Rite said to me as if we were standing over a dead body.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “But it’s a little funny. It’s just a picture.”
“Just a picture!” He yelled and then looked around and nudged the people around him. “This boy thinks that this is just a picture!” He then turned to me with a look of concern. “What’s your name boy?”
“Farren,” I said. “And I’m twenty. I’m not a boy.”
“Farren, this is not just a picture. It is a sign of things to come. The nudists are going to start coming across the fence and penis-slapping us like before. It’s a warning and we must do something about it or else they’ll tear down the fence. They’ll destroy Lauratia.” The other people nodded their heads and began to talk amongst themselves. Mr. Rite said something else to me but between the murmur of the crowd and my fear of what he had explained, I didn’t really hear him. He continued to talk about something concerning the doom of Lauratia when I walked away.
“What’s going to happen to us? I don’t want to be penis-slapped,” I thought to myself. If there’s one thing that we Westerners are most afraid of, it’s getting penis-slapped. It’s how we were raised. Show us an enormous spider or snake, or ghost and it’s nothing compared to a nudist getting ready for a good dick-slap. Someone once said that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Well, we all grew up hearing that “we have nothing to fear but penis-slaps from nudists.”
As the day went on, I thought about the picture on the lamppost and a few things struck me about it. First of all, this is not the first time something like this has happened and it has never resulted in anything more, despite everyone’s panic. They always panic. Every time.
A few years ago, a nudist was discovered urinating into Tailer’s Fountain in front of City Hall. He was able to run away and somehow escape, but everyone in Lauratia freaked out. They took it in a similar way they seem to be taking the picture on the lamppost. Everyone was convinced that the nudists were planning an attack, so they sent an army of Lauratians to protect and reinforce the fence between Lauratia and Gandwanaland. Well, obviously nothing else came out of it..
That’s just one example of many like it and the result has always been the same: a freak out by Lauratia and nothing more from the nudists.
That evening, I went to my parents’ house for our weekly family dinner. The first thing my dad said to me when I walked in the door was, “Hey son, you hear about the terrorist attack?” Wow, that was quick. They actually did attack? And so soon?
“No,” I said. “What happened?”
“A group of nudists have crossed the border and posted a threatening picture of one of their own on a lamppost downtown.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “I saw that. I wouldn’t really call it a terrorist attack though.” He looked at me as if I had just stripped my clothes off. We got into an argument about it and it ended with him calling me a nudist-lover, which seemed a little rash if you ask me.
In the past, I’ve always been rather close-mouthed. I haven’t really been one to contribute to a lot of the conversations I’ve been involved in. I think that this is because I’ve never really found my hatred for the nudists. I usually just stay quiet and listen. For some reason, maybe it was instilled in my DNA, but I’ve always struggled to care about the nudists. I’ve never loved them, but I’ve also never hated them. This has made it difficult for me to interact with people, my family included. I try my best to fake it, but everyone always seems to see through me.
I was rather upset after the argument, though. I would have stormed out of the house, but I was hungry and broke, so I figured I’d stay put for dinner. My dad wouldn’t even acknowledge me for the entire meal.
About half-way through dinner, my mom brought up church. My mom is about the sweetest lady you’ll ever meet and she’s all about going to church every week. No excuses. I don’t think she’s missed a church service since she was in the womb. I also don’t think she’s ever bad mouthed anyone aside from the nudists since her time in the womb. Everyone here bad mouths the nudists, no matter how sweet and kind he or she is.
“Are you going to come to church with us on Sunday, Farren?” My mom asked. I was still mad at my dad, so I blurted out, “Not with you guys. I’m going to go to a nudist church this week.” My whole family dropped their utensils and stared at me like I had just vomited all over the table.
“How dare you say such a thing?” My mother screeched. “Besides, you couldn’t if you wanted to. Nudists don’t practice any kind of religion, you should know that. They never have and they never will.”
“You apologize, right now Farren. I don’t ever want to hear anything like that come out of your mouth again,” my dad said.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “It won’t happen again.” The rest of the family picked their utensils back up and started quietly eating. I had killed the conversation like I always seem to do at these family dinners. I don’t even know why I try to interact with my family anymore. I always end up saying something stupid that just gets everyone mad at me. When everyone’s plates were almost cleared, my dad finally broke the silence.
“I was talking to Barry at work today and he said that he heard that the nudists enslaved some Lauratians a while back and now they make them do all their work,” my dad said. “I’ve been wondering how any of them make a living over there since they all refuse to do any work themselves. I guess that explains it.”
My mom raised her eyebrows in concern. “Poor people! I can’t imagine what that would be like!”
“Yeah, well that’s why I bought that gun,” my dad said. “There’s no telling when the nudists are coming to cause trouble, and judging by last night it’ll be sooner rather than later. I think we ought to go kill ‘em all before they have the chance to do anything.”
His words hit like a cinderblock slamming on the table. I began understood the absurdity of everything. I knew it was there, but I could never put my finger on it quite like this before. I realized that I don’t ever remember a single family dinner where we talked about ourselves. We only talked about how terrible the nudists were and how they ought to be taught a lesson. It was like that at school and with my friends too. I seriously did not remember one other topic of conversation that didn’t, in some way or another, circle back around to it. I felt something unsettling in my stomach. I was frustrated.
“I dropped out of college,” I blurted out. I don’t know why I did it. I guess I just had to get it off my chest, or maybe it was my form of rebellion in response to my newfound understanding.
“Dang it, Farren!” my dad roared. “I’ve tried to be patient with you. I’ve tried everything I could to lead you in the right direction and somehow it’s led you on the path to nudism. Get out of my house! I can’t even look at you anymore!”
“Nudism? Look dad, let me just explain first,” I said.
“No!” my dad shouted and stood up from the table, causing his chair to fall backward. “There is no explanation for this! It’s the last straw! I’ve had it with you! Get out of my house right now!”
“Wait, Jerry,” my mom said quietly. “Let’s talk about this.” My dad stared at me, the muscles in his jaw bulging. I could almost literally feel the burning of his eyes on my face.
“What happened Farren. When and why did this happen?” my mom said, her voice getting quieter with each word.
“About two weeks ago…”
“Two weeks!” my dad said. “I just gave you money for school last week!”
“And I set it aside for later” I said. “I just didn’t want to tell you guys because I was afraid. I should have told you.”
“Like hell you set it aside! You probably spent it all on drugs or something!” my dad said. “How are we supposed to believe you? I’ve had enough. Get out.” His voice had quieted but the anger and disappointment in his tone was still strong as ever.
“Look, I can show you my bank account balance,” I said trying to stay calm.
“I’m sorry, I – “
“Get out. Now.”
“Fine,” I said. I gave up. I didn’t know how to talk to my family anymore. My words just passed by them like they were part of the wind. I looked at my mom, hoping that she would say something positive like she always seemed to do in rough situations. She looked down at the table.
“Don’t expect any more money to come your way either,” my dad said as I walked toward the door. “And don’t ever expect to be welcome back here. Not until you start acting like a Lauratian.”
Sometimes, when something happens to someone, they suddenly see the world in a different way. This is one of those times. As I walked to my apartment, I seemed to be walking in a completely new world. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. I couldn’t help but view every step, every smile, and every hand gesture, made by the passing Laurations as hypocritical and filled with hate and judgment. The grass seemed less green, the wind seemed more biting, and the buildings seemed more desolate. I couldn’t help but feel two feet tall and everyone else seemed to be about eight feet. I needed someone to talk to, someone that I could trust, someone who would listen to me and support me. I needed my best friend Larry.
If there was one person in the world who I could turn to in a situation like this, it was him. We had been best friends since as long as I can remember. He was always someone that I felt like I could open up to.
Turns out I was wrong. As soon as I told him what I had realized at dinner, he said the following:
“I knew you’d started to change, Farrren. Ever since before you dropped out of college, you’ve been changing. I don’t think it will be long until you become a nudist yourself.” I was astounded, flabbergasted, outraged, and shocked all at once. I didn’t know what to say to him. I had dropped out of college because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, not because I was lazy and didn’t want to work and become a nudist. I couldn’t get that across to him though.
There was no arguing with Larry. Once he got something in his head, it stuck like a Siamese twin. He had always been like that and probably always will be. If he didn’t like someone, he didn’t like them for good. I thought that it was the same for if he liked someone, but I guess I was wrong about that. He was more bullheaded than a worked up bull. Now that he was against me, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went to my room and lied down in my bed.
That night, I spent some time thinking and had come to the conclusion that I was going to cross the border. I woke up the next morning, what is now today, having second thoughts about it. There was frost on the windows and it looked cold. I hate the cold.
Crossing the border seemed rather risky. What if the nudists really are as bad as everyone makes them out to be? Then I guess I’ll get penis-slapped to death, which, I came to the conclusion, could be better than living here under these circumstances.
When I emerged from my room, Larry was there with his girlfriend sitting at the kitchen table. They stopped what they were doing and glared at me.
“I heard you’re becoming a nudist,” Alice said. “I think you should just commit suicide now.” They laughed. I was pissed. It was cold outside. Sometimes I say things that I regret when I’m pissed and its cold outside.
“Yep, you better watch it or I’ll give you both a good penis-slap,” I said. Whoops.
Larry stood up from the table and walked toward me clenching his fists. He is much bigger than me. “You better take that back, Farren, or I’ll knock your lights out.” I laughed. I don’t usually laugh when someone’s about to beat me up, but I was confused, pissed, it was cold out, and he actually dropped the line, “I’ll knock your lights out.” So I laughed and he did just that.
When I woke up, I realized that not only does everyone blow every little thing out of proportion here in Lauratia, but they are also extremely touchy and can turn on you in an instant. This just intensified my desire to get away.
As I was trying to gather my senses and my get rid of the pounding headache that Larry had left, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find my landlord Mr. Erickson.
“Farren, I’m glad it was you that answered. Look kid, I just talked to your parents and they told me everything that happened. I’m sorry to say, but you can’t stay here any longer. I’ll give you until Tuesday, but you have to move out.”
“Seriously?” I said. “Why?”
“Because I can’t have a nudist-lover living in my apartments. It makes me look bad.”
Unbelievable. I tried to reason with him, but it was no use. He wouldn’t have any of it.
Once Mr. Erickson left, I had nothing else, and nowhere else to go, so I decided to leave for Gandwanaland. I mean, what else was I going to do? I’ve thought about going before, but I never had a good enough reason, or the desperation. Now I had plenty of both.
Without thinking about it any longer, I walked out the door and was gone. I had nothing but the clothes on my back, which is possibly the one thing that was going to cause me problems where I was going, but I didn’t care at that point.
And so here I am now, on my way to cross the border and see the nudists for myself. I never told anyone what I was doing. They would probably throw me in jail, and as outrageous as that sounds, after the last two days, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was what they actually did. So I kept it to myself.
I took an old jogging path that led to the outskirts of town. From there, I found a little path that led through the trees that headed east.
This led me to where I am now, standing in the brush, staring at the concrete fence. There is a guard standing about fifty yards away, pacing back and forth. Crap, I didn’t take this into consideration. How the heck am I going to get across here? Should I talk to the guard? I could make an excuse about why I need to cross the fence. That’ll never work though. No one has a good enough excuse in Lauratia for that. There are other guards set sporadically throughout the rest of the fence, so I can’t really try another area.
The guard looks bored, so maybe I can sneak by before he realizes anything. Being a guard has to be the most boring job in the world. I’ve never heard of any guard catching, or even seeing a nudist. Every time someone has made across, they made it undetected. But how?
I look both ways along the fence, which is more like a wall than a fence really. There’s a guard off in the distance to the right and the other one to the left. I can barely even make out the guard to the right, he’s so far away. They’re marching in unison though, as one walks one way, having his back turned the other, the other guard walks the opposite way. I think I’m going to just try jump and climb over while the guard to the left has his back turned. I’ll take my chances with the other guard.
As soon as the guards change directions I go for it rather surprising myself for my lack of hesitation. My adrenaline rushes through my veins, like nothing I’ve ever felt before as I jump and grab the top of the fence. The guard to the left shouts something out at me, but I can’t make it out. As I pull myself up I hear the guard to the right shout “Hey! Stop what you’re doing!” As I swing my feet on top of the fence, I hear the crack of a gun and a bullet ricochet off the front of the wall. Holy Crap! He actually shot at me! They would rather kill a fellow Lauration then let him or her jump the fence to Gandwanaland.
I’m quickly able to jump down to the other side before he can get another shot off. As soon as my feet touch the ground, I take off running away from the fence with my adrenaline still pumping. I’m not taking any chances. I’ve got to get away from the wall.
I finally stop in some trees. I can’t see the wall from here, so hopefully I’m safe. As I gather myself and catch my breath, my adrenaline starts to fade.
Now what? I’m not exactly sure what to do here. Where do I go? What do I say when I run into someone? How are they going to react to me? I really do not want to get penis-slapped.
It is late afternoon, and the fall breeze stings. I’m wearing a sweatshirt, but it’s pretty light and not very warm, so I start speed-walking. As I make my way through the trees, I emerge at the back of someone’s house. It has a normal looking backyard, with green grass, a few lawn ornaments, a swing set, and a trampoline.
Just as I am about to walk out of the trees and into the yard, the back door slides open and someone walks out. I crouch down back behind the nearest tree and watch as a guy, who looks around my age, walks across the lawn and starts jumping on the trampoline. His demeanor seems pretty normal to me. He has a rather straight look on his face as he bounces, genitalia flapping and everything. Somehow, he looks familiar as his shaggy, red hair flops up and down with every jump. As he bounces, he slowly turns toward me and stares out into the trees.
Holy crap! It’s the guy from the picture! He’s the one whose picture was taped up on the light post in Lauratia. I’m not exactly sure what to do about this. Should I try and approach him? I should have brought a white flag with me. I sit, thinking for a moment and then take my shirt and sweatshirt off. Maybe if I’m half naked, I won’t appear as threatening.
With my shirt off, I emerge from the behind the tree. The man stops jumping and stares at me like I’m a ghost or something. I don’t know what to do.
“Hi there,” I say trying to sound as friendly as possible. He doesn’t say anything, but just stands there and stares at me. Finally, after an awkward silence he says, “Who the hell are you?”
“My name’s Farren,” I say trying, but failing to sound confident. He stands there studying me up and down for about a minute and then says, “Why the hell are you wearing pants?”
“Eh, I’m not exactly from here…” I say sheepishly.
“Where the hell are you from?’ he says.
“Eh… Lauratia,” I say.
He looks at me curiously and then says, “Where are you really from, and why the hell are you wearing pants?”
I take a step forward and say, “I’m serious. I’m really from Lauratia.” Awkward pause.
“What the hell are you doing here then?”
“Eh, it’s a long story. I just wanted to see Gandwanaland for myself I guess.” I can tell he doesn’t really know what to say. I mean, what do you say to someone like me when you’re someone like him?
“You’re not going to penis-slap me, are you?” I say to break the silence. He looks at me for a second and then gives out a squeaky laugh. Then the back door slides open again and a guy around the same age walks out.
“What the shit is this?” he says staring at me.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” the red-head on the trampoline says. “He just walked out of the trees a second ago. Says he’s from the Lauratia.”
“Why the shit is he wearing pants?” the new guy said.
“I told you bro, he’s from Lauratia.”
“Well, why the shit isn’t he wearing a shirt?”
“Beats me. Hey, Ferret. That’s your name right? Ferret?”
“It’s Farren,” I say.
“Right. Why aren’t you wearing a shirt, man?”
“I’m not exactly sure,” I say. “I didn’t know how you would react if I was completely clothed, I guess.”
They look at each other and then look back at me. “You high?” the red-head says.
“So, what are you doing here,” the other guy says.
“I just wanted to see Gandwanaland for myself,” I say.
“Well, you see it, now you can leave,” the new guy says and then starts laughing.
“Wait man, don’t listen to him,” the red-head says appearing to be in deep thought. Yep, he’s a nudist and he’s in deep thought. Take that mom and dad. “It takes guts coming over here. I’ve never even seen a Lauratian before. What are you like?” the red-head says.
“Uh, I don’t know,” I say. “What are you like?”
He looks at me for a second and then shrugs.
“Fair enough. Are clothes uncomfortable as hell or what?”
“No. They’re actually pretty comfortable. And they’re warm. Don’t you get cold without clothes?” I say.
“Sometimes. We spend most of our time indoors when it’s cold out though.”
“Hey, Sammie,” the other guy says. “Are we just going to sit here and talk to the guy all day, or what? Let’s go inside man, it’s cold.”
“You want to come, Ferret?”
“Yeah, sure,” I say, trying to gather myself. These guys are actually inviting me into their own house, and they seem nice. My mind is blown. I follow them inside. Their house is a complete mess. It looks like they haven’t done any cleaning in years. There were piles of junk; dirty dishes, old toys, books, trash, you name it.
“You want to get high with us?” the other guy says as we walk down a narrow hallway.
“No, I better not,” I say. I guess we got one thing right.
“Suit yourself,” he says and then leads us into a small room with brightly-colored posters on the walls. “You can just hang out while we smoke, I guess.”
“So what really brought you over here, man?” Sammie says. “I thought you Lauratians were too afraid to go within a mile of the fence, let alone cross over it.”
“We are,” I say. “Well, I was until recently. I guess I just started to realize how absurd all the rumors about you guys were.”
“Like what? What kind of rumors?” the other guy says.
“Well, that you guys just sit around and do drugs all the time for one,” I say and then they stop what they are doing, look at each other, and laugh.
“I guess we’re not making the best impression now then,” the Sammie says as he pulls out some kind of green stuff and packs it into an oddly-shaped pipe. “What else?” he says.
“You guys don’t practice religion.”
“That’s bullshit,” Sammie says. “We do that. My folks are actually pretty religious. They go to church service every couple of weeks.”
“Really?” I say.
“Yeah, man. You surprised by that?” he says, rather surprised himself.
“I mean, kind of. Your house looks so disorganized, and you guys do drugs and all that.”
“I don’t see how that has anything to do with religion,” he says in a high voice as he blows out some smoke. The room starts to smell something like burnt hair. “What else?”
“Well,” I say. “You guys are planning a terrorist attack.” That really riled them up.
“Why the hell do they think that?”
“Because they found a picture of you taped to a lamppost the other day,” I say pointing to Sammie.
“Oh shit, dude!” the slapper says. “That’s awesome! I knew they’d freak!”
“Did you guys do that?” I ask.
“Yeah man,” Sammie through his laughter. “We got wasted the other night and Joe here thought that it would be funny. We had the idea a long time ago but never followed through with it. We were surprised we didn’t run into anyone when we went over other than the guards, but they weren’t hard to sneak by. It was all deserted in town, as if you all were abducted by aliens or something. It made it easier though, I guess. It wasn’t even midnight when we did it.”
“Yeah, we all go to bed around ten over there,” I say. “How often do you do that kind of stuff?”
“What kind of stuff?” Sammie says. “Get drunk?” I nod. “Not that often. Once or twice a week probably.” A little less than every night. Take that Mr. Rite.
“They think that we’re planning a terrorist attack? Because of that? Man, you guys really are a bunch of shitheads,” Joe says.
“Hey, can I ask you guys a weird question?” I say.
Sammie raises his right eyebrow and tilts his head and says, “Yeah. Sure. What?”
“Can you promise me that you won’t penis-slap me?”
They both stare at me. Joe blows out a puff of smoke and hands the pipe back to Sammie.
“Where are you getting that from?” Sammie finally says. His sentences are beginning to get more and more lethargic sounding.
“Sorry, but I don’t want to get penis-slapped. That’s why the Lauratians moved away from the nudists and built a fence. Because you wouldn’t stop penis-slapping them.”
“That is bullshit!” Joe blurts. “You guys moved away because you tried to make us wear clothes and wouldn’t give it a rest. You started getting offended by the sight of our naked bodies and tried to make us pay for our health care.”
“What?” I say. “No way. That’s not what I was taught.”
“Well, that’s because you guys are all just a bunch pansy-ass liars with no sense of humor!” Joe says, his tone getting rather heated.
“No sense of humor? What’s that supposed to mean?” I say.
Joe shakes his head in frustration and says, “There’s something you need to know about us nudists, Ferret. We like to make jokes. Practical jokes, sex jokes, knock-knock jokes, whatever. We like our jokes over here. You Lauratians just got pissed off with every joke we made and started confronting us about them. If any of us even went near you children, you all would freak out and tell us to get away. We didn’t have to talk to ‘em, just got near ‘em. Any time we tried to communicate with you, you would just get offended. So, yeah, there was one single instance where someone slapped a non-nudist with his penis to try and get you to lighten up, but you all are wound up so tight, everyone freaked and treated it like the end of the world. Like we were killing your beloved pets or something.” He then takes the pipe back and inhales. I look at Sammie and he’s just sitting there chuckling to himself. I don’t know what to say. Could all this be true? Could this be what really happened? It’s definitely believable. I don’t know what to think anymore. I just sit there in silence, staring at the carpet in front of me.
“By the way, you guys go way too overboard with your pets. They’re pets, not humans,” Joe says.
“Speaking of pets,” he says after blowing out more smoke. “Is it true that you guys are afraid of black cats?”
“No, not really,” I say, keeping my attention on the carpet. “I mean, we have our superstitions about them, but my neighbors have a black cat.”
“Is it true that you guys do everything at the same time of day right down to the minute?” Sammie says, still smiling.
“And that you work and go to school seven days a week, ten hours a day?” Joe adds.
“And that you can get a ticket from the police for being late to public events?” Sammie says.
This is stupid. They’re just doing what every Lauratian does. Exactly, what I was trying to escape from.
“My dad said that you collectively have to wear the same exact clothes and even if you’re allergic to the material you have to wear it or else you get put in jail,” Joe says.
“Look guys –“
“No, my brother told me that they test all the newborn babies for stuff like that and if they test positive, then they just leave ‘em out in the woods to die,” Joe interrupted.
“Hey, I better go,” I say. I had to get out of there. I had already had enough. I was hoping for a difference, but I guess when you live like we live in Tangea, all separate from each other, than you’re bound to do what we’ve done. They don’t pay any attention to me as I get up and walk out of the room.
As I walk back through the trees, toward the fence, still shirtless, I realize that I’m screwed. Each side is just the same and there is no way to be apart from both. There’s nothing in between a nudist and a non-nudist. You’re either one, or you’re the other; so I either have to wear clothes or live in the nude and neither one seems very appealing.
As I get to the bushes where I first saw Sammie from, I see my shirt lying there. It reminds me of Lauratia. I turn around, looking back at the house that I just left. I’m not giving up this easy. I can’t just base everything off two people. My shirt is still lying in the bushes where I was before I came out to talk to Sammie, so I grab and put it back on.
This isn’t over yet. I’m going to go back and see what else Gandwanaland has to offer. I walk back, around the house where Sammie and Joe are. There is a road in front of the house that leads further east. It looks like there are some houses further down. With my shirt still on, I follow the road. My fear has surprisingly left me. After everything that has happened to me, I don’t think I have anything to fear. At the very least, I have nothing to lose.
As I continue down the road, the houses start getting closer and closer together. There doesn’t seem to be anyone outside. It must be too cold or something. I keep walking and then spot a small child running around with a ball in the front yards of one of the houses. He looks like he’s about seven or eight. When I get right across the street from me, he notices me and stops what he’s doing and runs back into the house. Hmm.
I walk down a few more blocks and only see a few more people, each one reacting the same way. They stop whatever they’re doing, and stare at me. It’s like I’m some kind of monster or something. The further into town I get, the more buildings there are and the taller the buildings get. I must be getting close to the downtown area.
As I get closer and closer, I can hear the echo of what sounds like someone talking through a megaphone. With every pause from the megaphone I can hear the roaring of a crowd.
I turn the corner around a building with a bunch of graffiti on the side. There are a few nudists here and there in the shops and on the street. There is the crowd gathered around a platform a couple blocks further down. It looks like that’s where most of them are.
This could be bad. My fear creeps back into my system. It’s easy to be brave when there is no one around. Now that I’m in the lion’s den, it’s not so easy. A couple of the nudists see me and stop and stare. Pretty soon, about everyone on the block is standing there, staring at me. I should have left my shirt off.
“Is that a Lauratian?” I hear someone say.
“What is he doing here?” someone across the street says.
“Don’t talk to him,” someone else says. “He’ll get offended and leave. Just let him wander around.”
“He’s going to get offended regardless,” a girl not too far in front of me says. “Who are you?” she yells to me.
“Uhhh…Fa-Farren,” I answer. I don’t remember ever being so scared in my life.
“You don’t have a gun, do you?” someone next to the girl says.
“No. I’m unarmed,” I say.
“Hey, follow me,” the girl in front of me says. She’s gotten closer to me.
What the heck. I don’t know what else to do, so I do as she says. When I get up to her, she tries to grab my hand but I pull away. Everyone’s still staring at me like I’m an alien.
“Woah, don’t be so uptight. I know it’s hard for you people,” she says to me.
Why the frick is she acting so friendly to me? She’s acting as if she already knows me. She goes for my hand again. This time I don’t resist.
“I’m going to take you to see Avery. You can talk to him about why you’re here,” she says as she leads me toward the crowd. As we walk down the street, everyone we pass by stops and stares at me. I can hear a bunch of them crack jokes about me. I’ve never felt more uncomfortable in my life.
“As your mayor, I have taken it upon myself to issue a new set of curse words!” I can hear the guy with the megaphone says as we get closer. There is someone sitting at a drum set on the platform behind him. With everything he says the drummer plays a riff and people cheer and dance around.
“’Shit’ is no longer a curse word. It will now become ‘shirt!’ ‘Damn’ will be replaced with ‘belt!’” The people in the crowd are loving it. They laugh and cheer with every word he says. I don’t understand. Why would “belt” replace “damn?” It makes no sense.
The girl leads me right up to the platform. We stand there, right to the side of the stage. I look over at the girl. Her attention is fixed on the megaphone guy like he’s some kind of God or something.
The megaphone guy continues on with his list of new swear words for another few minutes, until he finally looks to his right and sees me standing there with the girl. He stops talking and stares at me.
“What is this?” he says outside the megaphone to the girl. The crowd starts to notice me and a murmuring starts, getting louder and louder.
“He just showed up down the street,” the girl answered. “He’s wearing clothes!”
“I can see that. Come up here boy!” he says, now talking back into the megaphone. Dang it! I thought that getting penis-slapped was my nightmare. I would much rather have that happen to me than be here right now, in this situation.
The girl lets go of my hand and pushes me up onto the platform. The drummer goes crazy on his set. “Who are you?” the megaphone man says into the megaphone and then puts the megaphone in front of my mouth.
“Eh, Farren,” I say quietly. The megaphone, though, amplifies it so everyone can hear.
“Who are you?” I say. The drummer plays a roll. The megaphone man laughs and then puts the megaphone back in front of his mouth.
“I’m Avery Donbagler!” he yells and the crowd cheers.
“Tell me boy. What are you doing with clothes on? Where did you get them? You know it’s a felony to be wearing them here, don’t you?”
“What? No. I got them from home. I’ve always had them. I’m from Lauratia,” I say, this time confidently. For some reason, my confidence is growing again. I’m starting to feel comfortable in these situations. The crowd starts murmuring again and Avery pulls the megaphone down to his side and leans back, staring at me.
“Bullshirt,” he says into the megaphone, the crowd laughs at his use of the new curse word. Apparently they love their curse words over here. “I don’t believe you.”
“I’m serious. I’m a Lauratian, born and raised,” I say before he can get the megaphone in front of my mouth.
“He says he’s a Lauration, born and raised,” Avery says to the crowd. “Get this kid a megaphone,” he turns and says to the drummer. The drummer grabs a megaphone sitting at his feet and brings it to me.
“There,” Avery says. “Now I don’t have to share.” He laughs. The crowd laughs. “So what the Nike are you doing here?”
I still don’t know why, but I now feel completely comfortable. I think something has changed in me. Something that I can’t explain. I’m tired of answering questions and I’m tired of being afraid.
“Doesn’t matter,” I say with confidence into the megaphone. “What’s all this about?” Avery appears to be taken aback by my response. The crowd is silent. Then, he laughs. The crowd laughs and dances around.
“I’m just doin’ my thing! Doin’ what I do! I’m a nudist, baby! And I’m the newly elected mayor of Gandwanaland!” This guy is strange. “What the Abercrombie and Fitch are you doing here, in Gandwanaland?”
“I just got tired of Lauratia. Wanted to check out Gandwanaland for myself. See what it’s all about,” I say casually.
“Bullshirt. There has to be a better reason.”
“Fine. I came over to see if you guys were planning an attack on Lauratia,” I say. What the frick? Why did I say that? That’s not even true. What is wrong with me? The crowd and Avery start laughing.
“What makes you think that we’re planning an attack?” Avery says.
“Because you guys are nudists,” I answer quickly. What is wrong with me? Why am I saying this stuff? The expression on Avery’s face changes drastically. The drummer doesn’t play a riff. The crowd is silent. Did I really just offend them that easily? I thought it was the Lauratians that were supposed to be easily offended.
“Where’s everyone else?” Avery says in a serious tone of voice.
“What? There is no one else. I’m alone.”
“Bullshit.” He forgot to use his new curse word. I smile. What is wrong with me? Who am I?
“So the rumor was true. I didn’t believe it,” Avery says to the crowd. “I was convinced that it was a joke. I’m sorry everyone. I misled you.”
“What rumor?” I say, forgetting to speak into the megaphone.
“What rumor?” Avery blurts. “The rumor that Lauratia was planning an attack on us.” The crowd is silent. “I was convinced that someone started it as a joke, but it looks like I was wrong.” Suddenly, someone from the crowd jumps up on the platform and tries to swing his penis at me. I’m able to dodge it rather easily. Turns out most penises aren’t the proper size to be swinging around and hitting people with.
“Stop that!” Avery yells at the penis-slapper.
“Look,” I say. I’ve given up on the megaphone. It seems a little ridiculous to me. Like we’re putting on some kind of performance or something. “I don’t know anything about an attack. I honestly came over because I couldn’t take everyone constantly bad mouthing you over there. I had to see Gandwanaland for myself, to see if all the rumors over there were true.”
“Rumors!” Avery announced, still speaking through his megaphone. “So, they’re spreading rumors about us over there! Bunch of Nike-heads!” He remembered the new curse that time. “I’m not going to stand for this any longer! Something has to be done about you people!” He turns and looks over the crowd and smiles.
“It’s time to assemble the army!” he shouts. The crowd cheers and dances crazier than ever before. The penis-slapper from before tries to slap me again, but I’m able to dodge him just as easily as before.
“Stop that!” Avery says to the penis-slapper. “You’re pathetic. Get off my platform!” Then, a large group of male nudists separate themselves from the crowd and stand off to the side. They all have extremely large penises. “What’s the one thing that all Laurations are afraid of most? Getting slapped by dick. Well, now we’re finally going to make that happen. It’s time to attack!” Avery announces. “To Lauratia!” he yells and everyone starts running west, down the street with the “army” leading the way.
I’m left there, standing on the platform. There is no one else left in sight. That escalated quickly. I think I just started a war.