John Smistad writes, lives and loves his fabulous family in the stunningly beautiful paradise of The Puget Sound.

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story

“So you up for it, big guy?”

“Yeah. I’m up for it. Hell YEAH I’m up for it, man!”

Striving for forceful, my delivery is forced.

These are "The Chosen Ones". "The Ruling Class". For membership among them a guy like me

would sacrifice a mere kidney. Turns out that's not the asking price.

I'm a “Blender”, my high school’s quaint label for those who merge obligingly into the

background. Scarcely registering in the teenage kingdom. Irrelevant.

Years of social inconsequence is about to change.

“Awesome. We’ll see you Saturday night. 10 o'clock. Beacon Point Park. 'Make Out Grove'."

confirms the group's leader.

The handsome soccer team captain steps toward me. Leaning in close enough that I can smell

the brandy on his breath, he adds, "And you better not keep us waiting. Got that, stud?”

“Yeah. I got it.” Gazing down, I stare at the gap between the hem of khaki slacks and

brown leather loafers. He isn't wearing socks. That's how you roll when you're among the


Done deal.

I first met Darlene last fall in my Earth Sciences class. She's quiet. Keeps to herself. Just like

me. And super smart. Unlike me.

We sat next to each other and teamed up for our mid-term project, “What’s so Hard about

Rocks?”. We got along great. And an A-. A week ago in the hall after class I asked Darlene if

she might want to go downtown with me to catch a speech by conservative political

pundit Sarah Palin. Although she told me she tended to “lean left”, she thought it would be an

interesting experience. I took this as a semi-indication that she may find me remotely tolerable.

I didn't know that we had been overheard talking. Later that day I was offered the proposal.

I pick Darlene up at her house. She introduces me to her folks. Nice people. Reserved.

Bookish. The apple certainly didn't fall far from the trees.

As we pull out of the driveway I steal a glance at Darlene. Her short brunette hair is pulled back

in a pony tail secured by a tie-dye scrunchie. She's wearing her customary burgundy horn-

rimmed glasses. I always imagine her even prettier without them.

We don’t say much on the drive to the Civic Arena. “I can’t stand that teacher.”,

“I love this song.”, “Cold outside, huh?”. Innocuous first date stuff.

Darlene has no idea what the coming night holds.

The speech is actually pretty cool. While Palin is definitely preaching to the choir, there is still

something inspiring about the whole thing. Darlene agrees, though not emphatically.

My excuse for going off-route back to Darlene's house is lame.

"We'll get a way better view of the sky and all those killer stars. And it’s only about an extra ten


Beacon Point Park is a mile ahead. My palms are gushing with sweat. Butterflies dive-bomb my

stomach. I can't swallow. Talking is impossible.

Half a mile. My eyes dart toward Darlene. She looks so......content.

My mind is on autopilot. Time stops. Everything's gone silent.

A gentle voice pierces the stillness.

“I had a good time tonight.”

I choke on my reply.

“So did I.”

They are waiting. Crouched behind bushes and trees. Wearing Halloween masks. Fortified by

cases of imported beer. With an arsenal of the latest devices to record high-res pics and vids.

Bursting to blast FB, IG and "The Twittosphere" with devastating images that will change two

lives forever.

The park entrance is on the right now. I'm shaking my head. Darlene must be wondering why.

I keep on driving.

I point at the windshield toward a flash in the darkness. "Check it out. Shooting stars."

Darlene takes off her horn-rims, perching them atop her head. She peers through the glass. "Oh,

wow. Cool."

She smiles. "You're right. These stars are amazing. Thanks so much for taking the 'long way'


Tonight was about a bargain. To be accepted.

Done deal.