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Friendship Romance Teens & Young Adult

Moving down the student union cafeteria queue, Kermit couldn’t help but notice her. They slid their trays mechanically along the stainless-steel counter. Slide. Stop. Repeat. He watched her careful choices and precise manner of organizing food on the tray, so nothing touched. Being a journalism major, spotting telling details was his mind-set.

When he accidentally bumped his tray into hers, she shot him a warning look. Her mane of tight blond curls took a moment to settle. He couldn’t place her despite her distinctive look.

Kermit apologized. “Sorry. Take your time. Didn’t mean to tail gate.”

She turned and slid her tray further down the line.

Kermit recognized her. The poster promoting Selene’s upcoming concert could not be missed. She was the local singing star who’d recently gained traction. Several of her songs were getting national air play. She was on the charts.

“Excuse me? Miss?”

She turned impatiently and nudged her tray away.

“Hi… aren’t you Selene? The singer? You go to school here?”

She tried to assess his character. After brief hesitation, she nodded.

“Goddess of the moon,” he said, as if that explained anything.

“The unapproachable one,” she said, as if that finalized everything. Selene turned away, followed by her curls.

Kermit persisted. “Would you like to have a coffee with me some time?”

Over her shoulder she said, “I don’t drink coffee.” She slid her tray.

“Or anything, someplace else.” He felt like he was shouting. He scanned the cafeteria teaming with food wolfing students. “Someplace nice.”

“Are you a paparazzi who forgot his camera? Who are you?”

Embarrassed, he offered his hand. “Of course. Sorry. I’m Kermit.”

Selene’s left hand covered her laugh as she touched his hand with her right.

She said, “Oh… pleased to meet you…”

Used to people laughing at his name, he said, “Maybe use my pen name…” Her eyebrows questioned. “…Raul Saul.”

She blinked.

He said, “I write for the university news… Have you seen my column? ‘The Golden Raul.’”

Connection made, she pointed. “You’re the snarky guy!”

“Mainly humor…”

“Yeah, right… Oh, look at the time. Have to go.” She flashed her ID to the checkout guy.

“But wait…”

“Sorry. Prepping a show. Couldn’t date the critic.”

“What? Because…?”

“I want an honest review…”

“We’re students. No one would think you…”

“Sold out for a glowing review? You don’t get it, Kermit. Uhm, Raul… Whatever. No scandals… I can’t. I have to go…”

She placed her food laden tray on a table and walked out. Heads turned as she left.

~

Some days later, Selene borrowed a dress from her friend, Deirdre.

When Deirdre and Selene entered the family room, two guys stood to greet them. The sound of cheers from the TV indicated a basketball game in progress behind them.

Holding up a beer, Liam said, “Hi… ”

Deirdre said, “That’s my nerd brother, Liam and his friend, Kermit. They edit the school paper.”

Selene and Kermit nodded, “We’ve met.”

Kermit squirted cheese-whiz onto a chip and popped it into his mouth. He offered the bowl to the women.

“Want some? Come join us.” He crunched.

Liam said, “Plenty of beer…”

They declined.

Selene touched Deirdre’s arm. “I’m gonna take off, Dee.” She held up the dress. “Thanks!”

“Of course! You look great in it. Have fun.” She escorted Selene out.

Liam looked at Kermit. “What was that about?”

“What…”

“You know her? Talk about cold. What’d you do to her?”

“Nothing. Asked her out for coffee, which she doesn’t drink.”

“And that’s the look you got? Must have done something to deserve that burn.”

“Cafeteria line encounter. That was it.”

“She dissed you majorly man.” Kermit shrugged. “I get it… Lips that touch cheese-whiz…”

Laughing, Kermit slugged him. “It’s nothing. She doesn’t drink coffee. Big deal.”

“And what’s with her hair? I think you need a license for curls that wild.”

“Or a leash…”

They laughed at each other’s jokes.

Liam said, “Review her concert. That’ll teach her.”

Kermit did a fist pump. “Right… the pen is mightier than… Oh yeah, she’s concerned about the scandal of dating a critic.”

“Ooh! Stop the presses!” Liam held his hands as if framing a Times Square headline. “Critic reviews girlfriend for university’s rag!” Kermit laughed. “She think we’re the New York Times?”

“Exactly! But trust me, no way she’s my girlfriend.”

Liam pointed at the TV. “Hey, the game’s back on.”

He swigged his beer and sat. Kermit ate another cheesy chip.

~

Arriving early for Selene’s show, Kermit sat in the back of the auditorium. He wanted to stay objective and remain unseen.

The sold-out crowd loved Selene. Expectations were high. The energy was contagious. She didn’t disappoint.

The lights came up and she walked onto the bare stage, just her and a guitar. She smiled at the cheers, made a joke and waved to some friends. Her opening chords brought the crowd to their feet. They sang along and moved in time to the rhythm. Her lyrics sparkled.

He never saw a solo performer trigger such enthusiasm. Kermit was embarrassed at how little of her music he knew. He promised himself to fix that.

Wanting to write while his impressions were fresh, Kermit worked late. He intended to add his signature spin to the review. His readers expected sarcasm. They knew Kermit wrote only using the raw source material as a starting point. He didn’t feel compelled to adhere to those boring little things known as facts. His editor, Liam, gave Kermit wide latitude.

His purpose was to get laughs. He would not, could not accomplish that by telling the unembellished, tedious truth. Many had heard Kermit say, ‘I’m expressing my opinion, damn it.’ That said, he’d built a sizeable following of readers who enjoyed his off-rail rants.

He felt that if people wanted to know how the show went, they should have sprung for a ticket and sat through the dreary event themselves.

Working until dawn, his writing usually flowed but this night he struggled. It felt like work. He was tired.

‘The songstress known as Selene played a solo concert Thursday evening. Nice that she brought her dog on stage with her. Has anyone else ever performed while balancing a poodle on their head? Nice harmonies.

The glow of cell phone screens lit the place as the crowd caught up with urgent Instagram posts.

The seats were so comfortable, the sound of snoring drowned the applause. After the show, ushers shook slumbering audience members awake so they could vacate the premises.

A flying insect came on stage, mid-way through the show. It meandered about but did not join in singing back-up. The buzz is, it’s a longtime groupie. Pretty fly.

Throughout the show, people congregated near the exits. Apparently, they could hear better with their backs to the speakers and in the lobby.

After the brief intermission (which is always good), Selene thrilled the audience by singing some early compositions. Most of them had not noticeably decomposed.

Selene plays acoustic guitar – all six strings! (I counted.) She played her full repertoire and debuted several songs. Dividing the ticket price by the number of notes played the audience scored a bargain on Thursday night with Selene.’

Asleep at his desk, Kermit awoke when Liam shut his office door. The sun was shining. He checked his review to ensure it was ready to submit. Still steaming, it was just as he’d left it. It felt off. It stunk.

He rinsed his face, grabbed a coffee and started over.

As he hit ‘save’ on his punched-up review, Liam came to Kermit’s door and held up a page.

“Your review? Ready for the printer?”

Kermit paused. ‘How did he get it?

“Let me look... Make sure…”

Liam handed him the printout.

“No. No… This is the rough draft. I finished the final this minute. I’ll send it to you.”

Kermit forwarded his final draft to Liam and also printed a hard copy. Liam came back holding both.

“It’s good, but the original has more laughs. We’ll go with that.”

Kermit shook his head. “The first… I wrote late. It doesn’t reflect the concert. Go with the new one. It may not be funny but it’s honest. Were you there?”

“Girly rock’s not my taste. You sure? This reads more like a high school love note than ripped from Raul Saul’s edgy pen. You have a thing for Ms. Selene after all?”

“How did you get my first draft? I didn’t send it.”

Liam did his version of a German accent. “Vee haf our veys…” Kermit didn’t laugh. “Okay. Final draft, it is.” Pretending to juggle, Liam alternated holding up one and the other in quick succession. “Which is it?”

Kermit grabbed one of the sheets, examined it and handed it back.

“This one.”

Liam took it and smiled. He tossed the other in the trash. Kermit retrieved it to confirm it hadn’t been switched.

For the first time in his life, Kermit wanted to write the truth. He knew about the truth. They were long time acquaintances, though not dear friends.

But for this review, the truth called out. It wasn’t easy, but once started, it flowed.

Kermit’s review of Selene’s show read:

‘Selene’s exquisite solo performance transported her devoted audience to another realm Thursday night.

I must say, her angelic voice and masterful guitar playing are hardly the result of luck. One doesn’t rise to her level of artistry by happenstance. Even great talent doesn’t shine until refined by countless hours of focused dedication.

Song after song brought the sold-out crowd to their feet singing and swaying to the music. Selene’s multitude of fans cherished every minute of her performance.

I must add, Selene’s technical prowess is not all that brings the fans to their feet. Those skills enhance her ability to reach them. But her soulful delivery of personal lyrics connects to the audience on a level rarely achieved in pop music. Even those who never heard Selene’s music left the concert feeling they’d spent the evening with a friend who knew them well.

This concert will be celebrated for years.’

~

Days later, Kermit once again moved through the cafeteria line at the student union. Done with classes that day, he had an interview lined up to kick off a planned series.

His cell phone rang. The number was unfamiliar but local. He picked up.

“Yeah?”

“Hi, uhm, Kermit?”

“Who’s this?”

“Selene.”

He stepped out of the line. “Selene? Hi… what’s up?”

“I must express a complaint about your review.”

Kermit felt a chill. ‘Liam didn’t… He couldn’t… He wouldn’t…’

“You do? What happened? I thought… wait… what didn’t you like?”

“It was too good. You flatter me. I’ve never… You make me sound…”

“You said you wanted ‘honest…’”

“Yes, but… Look, this is difficult over the phone. Might you have time? Can we talk in person? Say over coffee ice cream?”

Kermit couldn’t believe what he heard.

“Uh, sure. When would be convenient?”

“Are you free now? I’m in the cafeteria by the check out.”

Kermit looked up and saw her smiling and waving.

“Sure, why not? Coffee ice cream, you say?” She nodded. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

Kermit re-entered the line. He added coffee ice cream and an iced coffee to his tray.

November 09, 2023 22:10

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3 comments

Amanda Lieser
01:23 Nov 30, 2023

Hey John! Oh, the power of love! I absolutely found the first review, wonderfully hilarious and then of course you incorporated the second one which was much more glowing. I sincerely hope that they find that first review 50 years down the line after an entire marriage, and that everyone can laugh about it. The first review had some wonderful phrases like the bit about Instagram posts. I also loved that you incorporated some cafeteria scenes that certainly took me back. Nice work!!

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John K Adams
03:21 Nov 30, 2023

Amanda, your comments always make my day. You really, really like my writing! I'm glad it speaks to you. I actually wrote a review similar to the first one in my college days. It got published and I received death threats. It took me a while to find my own true love. But that's another story.

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00:02 Dec 01, 2023

Hey John. I would like to make one of your short stories into a short film for my youtube channel, but I want to make sure I have your consent. If you could email me, I would appreciate it. tsunami89869 at gmail dot com. thanks

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