DS4HWC: “Mediocrity” by Matthew Overstreet

“My pockets are full of shit.”
‘I know, I know, never start a story with a quote. I’m sure I’ve
heard that somewhere.’
Danny and John, who had previously been having their own
conversation, of which I was not a part, turn to stare at me.
“What?” Asks Danny after a moment of silence.
‘Asked after a moment of silence? I don’t know, sounds too wordy.’
“I mean, I’ve just got, like, so much stuff in these pockets. I
just… I mean. I’ve got… guitar picks, too many keys, iPod, pen
and pencil – why would I need both?”
“I don’t know, sounds like it could be useful,” says John.
‘Yes, I have a friend named John. And a friend named Danny. I guess I
shouldn’t base characters on people I actually know. They always
seem… fuller to me than to others. Written out, they’re
practically indistinguishable from each other. These two are not
really based on the Danny and John I know, though.’
“Who gives a fuck?” Says Danny, throwing his arms up in a
dismissive gesture.
‘The Danny I know isn’t that mean, really.’
“I just… I don’t, it doesn’t make sense to me.”
“What doesn’t make sense?” John asks.
“That I would voluntarily carry this shit around with me. Its not
just objects. Its ideas. I write down thoughts… things that come
into my head, I write them down in my cell phone. I don’t know, it
sounds kind of stupid saying it out loud.”
‘I actually do this. It does sound stupid, written down.’
“This is fucking stupid,” Danny again, “if you’re going to
sit here and have a little mental breakdown or whatever, go ahead, but
we don’t have to sit around and join you.”
‘To be honest, most of my characters are really just different
aspects of myself.’
With that, John and Danny walk away, leaving me alone.
“I just have these stupid things written down. No theme, no real
purpose.” I say to myself, and sit down on one of those parking
bricks that they put at the end of parking spaces. Behind me is a
chain link fence.
‘Right, I had the whole parking lot pictured in my head and never
even mentioned it.’
To my left is a series of basketball courts. Further past them is a
football field, encircled by a track where I used to run miles. I’m
sitting in a section of the parking lot of my old high school. I
haven’t been here in years.
‘Why my old high school? I don’t know, I suppose it’s just the
first thing that came to mind. Why years? Sounds more dramatic I
I slowly start pulling objects out of my pockets, lining them up on
the ground in front of me. Eventually I’m holding my phone and I
start scrolling through the notes I’ve written myself:
1. “The Church of the Dollar Bill”
‘Ha, that sounds so “Rage Against the Machine,” now. Nowhere near
as clever as when it first popped into my head.’
2. “So then stuff happened, and then things happened, and now here
I am”
‘Overheard at a funeral.’
3. “Dismissive City”
‘I remember waking up in the middle of the night with this idea of an
entire town overtaken by apathy. No one could even be bothered to care
that everyone didn’t care.’
4. “I am a vestigial organ. I am an appendix.”
‘Sometimes I just feel unnecessary. Like I don’t really matter that
much, like you could just cut me out and the big body that is the
human race could continue functioning just fine, if not better,
without me.’
5. “Back home it’s birds in the trees”
‘Out here it’s sirens on the streets.’
6: “This overwhelming burden”
‘Well, there it is.’
I stare down at my phone. “This overwhelming burden.” This
overwhelming burden. Like a heavy weight on my shoulders, I always
feel this “overwhelming burden.” This overwhelming burden to be
great, to be remembered, to do something of substance with my life. I
hold myself up to only the highest standards, never satisfied, and at
the end of the day, ask if I have created anything worthwhile.
‘No. I merely dabble in mediocrity.’
Does it really matter, though?
‘Of course it matters.’
I wonder if those great artists who I compare myself to ever compared
themselves to others. Did Joyce have his own Joyce whom he felt he had
to live up to?
‘No, but Joyce did throw his first draft of Dubliners into a
Besides. So I’m not Joyce. That’s fine, I don’t have to say
what he had to say. I have my own messages, my own ways of delivering
them. I mean, isn’t that what I should really be striving for?
‘Just because something is original doesn’t mean it’s good.’
I have a voice, I have a reason to be writing. Do I need more?
‘I know how to end my story now. No, Adaptation reference. People
won’t understand that.’
I don’t need to listen to this voice in my head telling me I’m
not good enough. I don’t need to try to live up to some imagined
standard. I just need to be honest, and put forth the best that I can.
Maybe that sounds a little cheesy, maybe that sounds too simplistic,
too naïve. It’s what I think, though. It’s what I feel.
I look down at my phone. I press the button on the right and scroll
down until the word “delete” is highlighted. Then I click the big
“OK” button. My overwhelming burden is gone.
“Hey!” John calls excitedly. I turn to face him, as he comes
running up to me.
“What’s up?” I say, putting my phone back in my pocket, along
with some of the other things I’d pulled out. Not all of them,
“We found a basketball that’s in pretty good shape. You want to
play a game of horse?” Behind him I see now that Danny is already
shooting baskets.
“Sure, why not,” I say, as I stand up.
“What was that all about anyway?” Asks John after a moment of
“Oh nothing. I just had too much stuff in my pockets and not enough
room. Had to get rid of some things, you know?”
‘Of course, it’s never really that easy, is it?’