They should have locked it up forever. Gotten one of those state ward penitentiaries and thrown away the key. One of those huge buildings you really only see in action movies that are surrounded by thousands of guards who probably got so buff because they spent some time in the slammer as well. All strapped with huge machine guns and secret pockets for shiny pistols to fight off prisoners who thought themselves clever when they sharpened a cafeteria fork in an attempt to shiv a security guard. This shirt should have been locked up with the rest of the stuff that should have never have made it out of the 1950s. When the people of this great nation locked up hydrogen bombs, ‘the twist’, and bouffant hairdos, this shirt should have gotten its own room: a pristine, white, padded room never to be seen again. Henderson sketched the shirt waiting on death row with its last meal: Tide Detergent with Ultra Color Enhancer. And, God, did this shirt need it, the color enhancer. This shirt should have been trapped forever in the 1950s. Henderson’s Gen X eyes were having a hard time adjusting to so many neon colors crammed together vertically on one man’s shirt. It’s like some dude on acid watched as the stripes were painted on the shirt, with colors like tangerine, cherry, and the freshest lime you’ve ever tasted, rabidly screaming “More! More! More!” as layers of color were added.

Henderson’s professor must have hopped into his DeLorean and wrestled it back here. Literally taking down every buff security guard that stood in his way. Guns ablazing, but even the security guard’s machine guns were no match to Henderson’s professor’s crazed desire to have this shirt, they even whipped the pistols out of their hidden location but this professor must have taken them out, too. Only telekinesis, Henderson thought, the lucky bastard. Henderson could probably wear this shirt while featuring in one of those Axe Body Spray commercials; the ones where the guys are running for their lives while a group of chicks chase him around. In short, Henderson could make it look cool while his professor looked like he walked out of a “What Not to Wear” TV episode, pre-makeover, obviously. The DeLorean probably didn’t even want to start up, even after what must have been a herculean effort to get this shirt out of its ward. “2009?” it questioned, “with that thing? No, no, this can not be right” produced the machine. But somehow this damn professor ripped this shirt right from its high security vault and into this century. The only way he could keep it from fleeing back to where it belonged was by tightening his belt—Henderson could see the leather fibers hanging on for dear life, expecting the worse but hoping for the best—to the very last notch right above the professor’s, which Henderson imagined as curiously bald, navel.

Henderson doodled a picture of a casket, labeled as his great grandfather, because ‘great great’ seemed gratuitous and most likely periodically inaccurate. But he quickly sketched the gravestone with his great grandfather’s name and inside the casket is his great grandfather wearing the very shirt that stood in front of him trying to befriend the class.

He actually, the professor, in just two sentences asked how the weather was, suggesting it was a tad hot, and then mentioned that his humor is a little different than most people’s. He smiled wryly as he said this as if he almost expected the class to stand up and applaud his honesty and coy sense of humor. Henderson imagined what kind of sick bastard thought that small talk was a different brand of humor[1]. Bravo. And Sarah Palin’s intelligence was just a different kind of intelligence. If you let it simmer, like a good stew, you would get acclimated to this unique stand-up session the professor probably imaged he was on. “Comedy Central Presents: The Doofus in the Ugly-Ass Shirt.”

Henderson sketched his professor covered in tomatoes still with his big goofy smile, the kind of smile that hides almost all his teeth. His top lip flapping in front of teeth so that Henderson didn’t know if they were actually even there. Henderson wondered if the professor was ashamed of his chompers as the professor spread chapstick onto his lips, surely trying to keep it elastic enough to continue to provide a cover for his, Henderson had to believe, mangled teeth. He gripped the light blue chapstick container right at the base, enjoying the challenge of not missing his lips due to the decreased accuracy of holding it in such a loose fashion. Oh, God, he missed. He fucked up. Henderson could not take his eyes off the small shiny smudge on the right corner of his professor’s lip. And the professor’s absurd method of smiling dictated that it was never going away. Because the professor had made a conscious choice to use his lips as teeth blinds meant that the lips would never curl up and clean up the mess on aisle upper-old-man lip. The sound coming out of this distorted mouth was the most garbled shit Henderson had ever heard.

Henderson turned to the person next to him, “What is going on here?” he muttered.


“This dude’s voice is out of control.”

“Yeah,” he muttered back, the short word already trailing off.

Henderson turned back to attention, hearing the professor’s voice fall down from his esophagus. Falling from a very tall building and hitting ledges, wires, balconies, passing a couple: two men having sweet, sweet, asshole-tearing sex, very visibly in one of the apartment windows, and even taking out a few birds in the process. The voice whammed through all the debris and came out layered, in a million different textures and tonalities, like a clarinet and a saxophone and a piccolo all playing completely different notes simultaneously. Henderson imagined his professor’s tongue flailing about in there trying to articulate a particularly funny joke about the weather, “Cumulus cloud today, huh, ladies and gentleman?”

Knee slapper. Keep up the good work, whispers the comedy central executive.

Harold’s butt was starting to get wet from the sweat accumulating at the bottom of the seat aka the endgame, or the finish line for the sweat. Hardold cursed[2] as he sneezed again, expelling bits from that afternoon’s lunch—a slightly warm tuna sandwich with lite mayo that Harold had haphazardly tossed together that morning—onto his steering wheel. He wiped the particles off and slowly released the break of his car, inching forward just barely before coming back to a complete stop.

“Who has these silly Hawaiian luau girls anymore?” Harold said to the empty passenger seat of his car.

Harold has been behind the same red car that reflected a glare right onto his thick-rimmed glasses for the past 2 miles. Which, in Los Angeles during rush hour, takes at least 20 minutes to cover. And every time the tomato-soup[3] colored car came to a stop, which in this mess was every 3 to 4 seconds, or as Harold calculated, every .7216 sneeze. But as Harold told his class earlier, he wasn’t a math guy. No, not at all, he was much more fascinated with the Latin roots of words like enormous[4] puffing out his chest and smiling thinly while he professed, “That’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night.”

But every time the car halted the slim Hawaiian babe mounted in the car’s rear window would suggestively wag its hip at Harold. “Welcome to Paradise.”

The enormous sun was out of sight by the time Harold made it to his modest townhouse in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Harold’s eyes glazed over as the sun distorted the fumes and pollutants into different reds, oranges, and yellows before they were sent up further into the atmosphere, gaining an appetite for ozone. The door to Harold’s apartment creaked, had for years, but Harold refused to do anything about it – it was the only thing that welcomed Harold home at night.

That and an immense collection of graduated measuring cup, stirrers, glasses, tubes, pH papers, paper coffee filters, and boxes of Nyquil, all around a Bunsen burner and large set of needles and syringes. The lab set-up took up all the real estate on Harold’s kitchen’s island. It didn’t matter, Harold hadn’t cooked anything but heroin[5] in a long time. Heroin was produced, in its most natural form, by boiling down poppies. Harold found it romantic that one of the roots of the word poppy was from the Sumerian word ‘Hul Gil,’ literally translating to the flower of joy. Harold made a note of this in his mind late one night while he was high on heroin researching heroin. And this was fitting because there was not much that Harold found more joy in than reading a good book on heroin, with his massive dictionary; so big that when sitting on the couch next to him almost pushed him upwards in a see-saw type effect. The cushion-crushing dictionary had to be there for Harold to learn the entomology of a word. Harold was currently reading a very fascinating book on the processes by which turtles laid and hatched their eggs. He imagined the book being read to him in a voice much like Cynthia’s, it was that sweet, authoritative figure that made Harold want to do more heroin at night. A drug he got addicted to after his run in with mouth cancer. Heroin, the primarily opioid containing drug, was the only substitute left after his doctor’s prescription of a whole barrel of monkey sized[6] morning regiment of painkillers, similarly opioid infused, ran out.

Harold placed his briefcase on the same spot on the chair in his bedroom he did every day, and marched back into the kitchen. He clicked the glass vial a couple times, watching the ripples in the water. However, Harold didn’t stay to watch them dissipate completely, he was already in the drawer pinching the Ziploc-bag, the same type he put his tuna sandwich in earlier that day, filled with grade-A quality heroin. Literally the best stuff that money could buy, Harold could afford it, he had been teaching at the University for long enough that when his only real purchase was heroin, it was a splurge he could afford.

Harold sifted through the bag of heroin, he grabbed coagulated diacetylmorphine and placed it into a bowl. Any bits of powder that would float astray he swept with a cupped hand into the small metallic dish. Harold could still see Cynthia smiling as she held a miniature blowtorch to the small dish. She was crusting over her first homemade crème brulee when she looked over at Harold and started giggling, really the only appropriate response for the surprisingly powerful torch she was handling. Harold was whistling a song he heard on the radio on the way home, an old Frank Sinatra song that he could not remember the name of and his head was pretending to be a gymnast showing off to its friends how intricately he or she could pretzel his body and giving Harold a headache that may or may not have a lot more to do with his lack of diamorphine consumption in the last 24 hours than his inability to place a song name.

“Naked fish are always ruining my day.” This is the text Henderson had sent his ex. 45 minutes ago. 45 mother fuckin’ minutes ago.

Henderson had put up some posters in the beginning of the semester, but they sat crumpled on the floor now. Henderson was too lazy to do anything about it. He was extremely high on marijuana and watching what was, in his current condition, the most fascinating National Geographic documentary on reptiles. There was the sweetest voice coming out of the television. Not like the voice of his second grade teacher who Henderson did like very much, but, and this gave Henderson the chills, it reminded him of the time his Mom told him that babies are made when a mommy and a daddy love each other which confused Henderson as a kid since his parents had been divorced.

Now, Harold was using the blunt end of one of the syringes to push in the small clumps so that they reverted back into a powder, covering over the silver of the dish with the faded yellow of the heroin. Harold was happy to get the shine out of his eyes, though. Harold lifted up the now evenly-covered-with-heroin dish and lifted it over the Bunsen burner which had a mostly blue flame going. Henderson liked it to be cool enough so that the flame was tipped with orange, not because it was better for heroin cooking or anything like that, just because he liked how it looked. Henderson lifted the dish and held it over the flame. He flipped through that week’s edition of the TV guide that had an image of Paula Abdul smiling zombie-like on the front. Harold took note of a National Geographic documentary on chameleons and other reptiles that night that might be worth checking out if his eyes started to hurt from reading his book. He shifted his eyes between the TV guide and the cooking heroin until the heroin was completely done. The gooey substance looked almost like the bottom scrapings of a crème brulee.

The familiar sound of Henderson’s phone receiving a text, a strum of a rock guitar that would have fit right in in any White Snake or Scorpion or

any of those shitty 70s rock bands songs.


Henderson looked down at his phone like an iceberg had just hit him. A nice, fat glacial sock to the face pushed towards him by his ex-girlfriend’s shoulder. A shoulder Henderson once woke up on after a nap only to endure his at-the-time-girlfriend’s quips about the puddle of drool he had decided during his nap was a necessary addition to her shirt.

“I guess I’m opening up a kiddie pool. What do you think, diving or no diving allowed?”

Henderson gripped his phone so that the veins in the back of his hand popped out and lifted it back, images of Randy Johnson’s towering frame winding up for a fastball made a visit in Henderson’s brain, and he looked in the direction of his defeated pants sitting in the corner before dropping his hand back to the bed as quickly as he had threatened.

Harold raised his hand with the syringe and needle in it and extracted some of the gooey substance from the metallic dish. He flicked the now filled with injectable heroin syringe several times with a yellowed nail on his right index finger. He shifted the syringe into his right hand and held it up to the inside part of his elbow. He looked at the mark right above the indent left by years of having to tighten a belt around his arm to make a vein to inject heroin into pop out. Harold, due to experience, no longer had to use this trick to inject heroin. Instead he eyed the vein and punctured the skin right above it. Harold could hear the tick tick tick of his watch as he drove the needle deeper into his skin. He pressed down on the stopper, eyes glued to his left hand and injected more heroin that evening than he ever had before.

Henderson racked his brain for something else he could do that night. No one had responded to his texts and the mom-like voice on the National Geographic documentary had already thoroughly creeped him out. So Henderson lifted up the corner of the comforter on his bed and slithered in, being as careful as possible not to wrinkle sheets. He kept his arms outside the sheets as cool air rushed in from outside the window and then he smoothed the covers on his bed before lifting the blanket up towards his neck. Henderson laid there, teeth completely unbrushed, he could practically feel the bacteria setting up shop on his gums, but he was in far too deep to do anything about it now. He stared up before falling asleep and outlined in the popcorn ceiling a chameleon sitting there, successfully transformed into the vapid white of Henderson’s ceiling. Henderson’s eyes then fell just like one of those cartoons that Henderson loved as a kid where the cartoon character would run off a ledge completely ignorant that he was no longer standing on solid ground, but then the unfortunate reality of their situation became clear and they dropped to their fate.

The next day Henderson showed up to class after doing a mock native American ritual in his head praying that his professor grabbed something out of his closet that was from this century, he wondered if an animal sacrifice would be necessary, but in the end decided to spare the sheep, or goat, or cow. There was a small group of guys he recognized from his class standing around outside the door, their necks were craned and they were looking into the classroom.

“Doesn’t look like he’s going to show today.”

Henderson waited around a couple more minutes, surfing on his phone, but there was no sign of a walking modern day atrocity coming down the hallway so Henderson left. What a dork, he thought to himself as he walked down the stairs remembering the documentary on chameleons he had watched high last night:

“…Known to change colors to avoid its prey. While the Chameleon is not a very agile or strong creature, it’s cunning and ability to blend into its environment allows it to dupe most of its predators,” the motherly voice on the documentary imparted.

The documentary showed a quick clip of a Chameleon darting up a tree as a large bird, Henderson speculated a falcon, tears down at the chameleon looking for dinner, or maybe just a snack Henderson reevaluated after processing how small Chameleon really was.

“However, the primary purpose of changing colors is to signal intentions to other chameleons. A chameleon will use its ability to socially indicate to other chameleon if they are interested in mating, or male chameleons will use color change as a threat or to intimidate other chameleon males.”

Henderson imagines a chameleon slowly trying to morph into the colors of his professor’s shirt: the chameleon lying there trying to match the big green, blue, and red stripes. The chameleon looks exhausted and desperate, twisting its huge tongue about in frustration as he flashes from one bright tone to the next. The chameleon gets more and more desperate, flailing about, little chameleon vomit has now added to the hideousness of the shirt, but then no movement. The chameleon has completely stopped and resumed its earthy brown tone. It lies there silently as the professor, still toothlessly smiling, prods at it with his left hand ring finger that’s adorned with a cheap gold band.

[1] Apparently, professors with psychic abilities and an obsession with eye-gouge-causing shirts.

[2] Drats!

[3] Perfect with a tuna fish sandwich

[4] Latin for monstrous

[5] Harold knew it was also called diacetylmorphine and morphine diacetate and diamorphine

[6] And just as fun, if not more than a barrel of monkeys

This entry was posted in short story by cameronwolf. Bookmark the permalink.

About cameronwolf

Hello, Communication student. Advertising, music, hiking and books are things that I like. Things I don't really like are airplanes and spiders. Maybe we can be friends one day. People tell me I'm Hufflepuff. Really, I'm a Ravenclaw, though. I used to introduce myself to people as "Cameron, the big bad wolf."

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