Self-help

Submitted by Miles Gatling to Contest #25 in response to: Write a short story about someone in the self-help aisle of a bookstore. What book do they pick up?... view prompt

What's this now? "The monkey in you. Discover your origin." Hm… He placed the book back. "Life secrets. Untold, never before heard of secrets." Pass. His eyes shifted towards a yellow cover with black writing. It looks like a labor safety manual. "Top ten lists of top ten things to improve about yourself. A guide to life, 100% results guaranteed." Do people actually buy this? He flipped the book over. Best selling author, over 1 billion sold. He glanced around and saw a whole section dedicated to yoga. Hm, that could be interesting. It's supposed to be good for your bones and stuff, right? Those Chinese seem pretty healthy and they wrote the book. I think…He saw a nice cover: a young, fit lady bending over. Wow, now that's something. I wouldn't be able to bend like that. Plus I'm not a fan of sniffing my own ass. Maybe something more European, like a book on jogging. Yeah, that's it. I can run and I have plenty of sweatpants. 

"How to motivate yourself to run." No, I need tips on how to run. What's this? "Get to it, move your lazy ass and start running." Nothing about proper technique. This one? "The monkey inside running -" Get fucked, book! 

He tossed the book on top of a discount pile. 

Wow, now that's cool. He walked over to the section on martial arts. Look at that guy, he's shredded. He totally can beat anybody up, just look at those abs. 

"Can I help you sir?"

He saw a young man, well built, probably in his twenties. He had a fresh scrape on his cheek. 

"Oh, no, I was just looking."

"You interested in fighting, sir?" 

"Do you work here?" 

"I do sir," he flicked his name tag. 

"Oh, hello Jason. Yes, actually I'm looking for a book that can improve my technique." 

The lad quickly sized up his customer. 

"What do you practice?" 

"Beg pardon, what was that?" 

"What fighting style? Karate, Krav Maga, Kempo?" 

"Well, um a bit of everything. Punching, kicking…" 

"Punching AND kicking you say? That's heavy stuff." The lad kept a straight face. 

"Yeah you know, the streets are dangerous."

"Amin to that."

"You fight?" 

"Yeah, a little bit."

"What style?" 

"Historical European Martial Arts systems." 

"Hey, that's what I was looking for. Well, first I wanted a book on jogging, but screw that. I wanna learn to fight like a European."

"Well sir, I'm sorry but we don't have a book on that." 

"So where do you read from?" 

"I practice it at a gym, sir." 

"Stop it with sir, my name's Melvin."

"Right. Well, Melvin, if you want to learn come to this address on weekdays, at 8 o'clock at night."

The lad handed Melvin a business card. 

"So what is it? Like a boxing gym?" 

"Yeah, something like that."

"So I should wear shorts then."

"What?"

"Shorts, like boxers have when they-" 

"A pair of sweatpants and a hoodie will do."

"I have a kimono too. I ordered it from eBay last year." 

"So you did do karate?" 

"Oh no, never in my life."

"Why buy it then?" 

"I tried nunchakus for a while, like that Bruce Lee guy. I bought the black version just like he used to wear in movies."

"Bruce Lee was the real deal. He fought in full contact tournaments and won." 

"Yeah man, Asians are the best at fighting."

"Well there are kung-fu masters located in Europe, America, you name it."

"Yeah man, but Bruce Lee was something, not like that Van Damme French phony."

"Despite the name, he's actually Belgian. And he too was the real deal." 

"That guy? Come on…" 

"Seriously, he's a black belt in karate and won several full-contact tournaments also. He even kicked Steven Segal once, after being challenged to a fight."

"Oh yeah, Segal is cool. He uses that open palm style, what's it called?" 

"Aikido."

"Yeah man, that's like such a powerful style. No way Van Damme won."

"Not only did he win, but after receiving the kick that sent him flying back, Segal stopped fighting. He had enough and left in a hurry." 

"Wow. What style you say Van Damme practiced?" 

"Shotokan karate. Oh, and ballet."

"What?"

"Ballet. That's how he can kick so high and do those splits. And that “Damme” to his name, that's a nickname he got for the damage he did to his opponents. A powerful fighter indeed."

Melvin studied the card for a moment then noticed the wound on the younger man's cheek. 

"You got that at the gym? "

"Yes, a few days back."

"Was it a punch or a kick?" 

"A longsword."

Melvin stood stupid for a moment and before he could ask he got his answer 

"We fight with swords at our gym. The blow managed to tear skin even through my mask."

"Like real swords?" 

"Blunt, practice blades."

"Is that legal?" 

"Totally. Are you interested in joining?" 

"Hell yeah, I always wanted to learn swordplay. I bet it's really fun." 

Jason smiled revealing big white teeth. 

"Easy, first-timers usually sit on the bench and watch. If you like it and are serious about joining we put you in the beginner class."

"Awesome, thanks, man. I'll see you there." 

He shook the lad's hand and watched him leave to help another customer. 

Swords, not words, am I right Minsc? Man, I used to play that so much in high-school. And I did like to dual wield swords. Celestial Fury and Equalizer, those were the days. I wonder where my copy is? Probably with Kevin. Haven't seen him in years, I should call him up. 

He dialed the number not expecting his friend to pick up. 

"Kevin? Hi, it's Melvin. What's up? Oh glad to hear it. Me, ah same old stuff. Actually, I just found this cool gym where they train with swords. Like real longswords, like in Baldur's Gate. Hey, you got time for coffee? Perfect; meet me at The Virgin Nerd cafe in an hour."



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19 likes 4 comments

19:48 Jan 29, 2020

Really funny. I love the character of Melvin. I really wanted to follow him to the cafe. A great character who you should totally use again!

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21:45 Jan 20, 2020

I like the story... I do. I so much wanted to read more.

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06:10 Jan 21, 2020

Thank you😀

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01:57 Mar 28, 2020

I like this story. I like the banter between the opponents.

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