Matt Ferner’s fiction has been published by Housefire, decomP magazinE, The Dr. T.J. Eckleburg Review, and Smalldoggies Magazine. His work was included in the Nouns of Assemblage anthology, a collection of short stories and poems from "sixty-three of the strongest voices in small press fiction." As a screenwriter he's written for various studios and webseries including the Ashton Kutcher produced The Blah Girls as well as Gag Films' produced The Annoying Orange. He is currently the Denver Editor at The Huffington Post.

Choose Your Own Adventure

posted Jun 5, 2012

1. You get in another fight with your wife about getting a cat. She tells you that you are too closed minded for not wanting a cat. She wants to have children and you don’t want that. She wants a cat to have some life to care for besides her own and you don’t want her to have that either. You know she’s right, but hate her for it. You tell her that she ’always“ does this. She "never" does that. She doesn’t want you to be happy. She wants to control you. That’s why you don’t have any guy friends anymore. She says to you, "fuck you!" But means in it a way that kind of scares you, does she really hate you? Probably. At least, right now, she does. You are restless and decide to go to for a drive. Maybe you’ll go to the mountains for the weekend. Maybe you’ll go to a bar and get drunk. Maybe you’ll go to see that band that you know you want to like or actually like, who even knows. You’re not going to even tell her. You’re going to just storm out of this house like you’ve seen on television. The great outdoors has always cleared your head or it did for people on television. You pack your bags with jeans and bug spray and head out to your car. You start your car (go to paragraph 7)? You realize you forgot your tent (go to paragraph 2)?

2. As you shut the door you realize you forgot the tent. You go back inside and sigh. You slam the door shut. The windows and walls rattle. You slam them to make a point. You sigh again to make a point. You sigh again louder and stomp your feet as you walk to make sure your wife understands how angry you are, how much she’s "hurt" you. You think about if you died, how much she’d miss you. You think that you are 35 years old and should not be thinking things that a fucking child thinks about and become angry at yourself. You walk by a wall mirror and catch a glimpse of yourself from the side. You have a noticeable hunch. You have a hunch in your upper back, lower neck area. Like a hunch back? Yes. You try to stand up straighter, but it’s too late for that. You find your wife crying at the kitchen table. She’s flush-faced and pained, not angry, pained, disappointed, in you. When her eyes look into yours there is a vague look of disgust at your presence. She half-laughs at you. You want to just say you are sorry to end this stupid fight. You say you are sorry (go to paragraph 3)? You shake your head and scoff at her show of genuine emotion, you with your manipulative acting (go to paragraph 5)?

3. You say you are sorry. It’s too late. She doesn’t care, not anymore. You’ve lost her, possibly for good this time. This was just about a cat, but you always make it into something bigger. You always try to make her into the "bad guy." You always try to just win the argument, rather than actually communicate with her, even in anger or passion. She is so much more of a decent human being than you are. She is filled with so much more actual life and honesty than you. You know this. You always know this, yet you can’t stop yourself from wanting to just win. You cry, but you cry because you are scared, not because you are pained like her. She’s crying because she loves you dearly and you are disappointing. You cry because you are still a disgusting little boy and don’t know how to do anything. You cry because losing her would be embarrassing. You are pathetic. You calmly tell her that you are sorry again and that you know you screwed up (go to paragraph 4)? You tell her to stop "always being such a fucking bitch." (go to paragraph 5)?

4. You calmly and with what seems like real feeling to you, to your simple and vague understanding of real feelings, tell her you are sorry, you "always" do this. You "never" do that. She is right. You are wrong. You tell her you "love her." She is calm and she knows you are just stupid, bad at being a human being, bad in comparison to her. You are a good husband compared to other assholes, but you are still a shitty person in that you have such a limited scope of feelings and vision of life whereas she is so much more full in every possible way. She gives life to people around her, makes them feel good, makes them better people and could literally give life to a child if you ever stopped being so scared about that. You take life, you mock life, you are a hollow shell of what it means to be alive. Look at yourself. Your skinny jeans. Your flannel shirt. Your leaving of paint on your hands so that someone might think for a second you are some sort of artist or someone actually interesting, you don’t even care if they say anything to you, although you fantasize what that conversation would be like where they look at you with awe for being an artist and you own that lie and fake your way through that conversation in your head, soaking in the fantasy admiration for a moment. She pets your head and gives you a kiss. She needs to go take a bath. You have a beer and sit on the couch feeling relief that the tension is gone, but not really knowing what you did, why you did it, but that things just feel better when they aren’t tense. You open your laptop (go to paragraph 6)? You go for a run (go to paragraph 8)?

5. You scoff at her. You tell her she is "always such a fucking bitch!" and you say with a conviction and a kind of eloquence that makes you feel good about your ability to speak clearly and with conviction, as if that matters right now. She says that when you guys fight like this, she honestly doesn’t know why you are together. You tell her that you don’t know why. You tell her that you never had feelings for her the way she did for you. You don’t even know what that means. You just say it because it sounds like what you should say at this point. She is hurt so badly by this immediately. Really, deeply, profoundly hurt. You feel an ache in your chest and stomach that is exactly the same as when you got walked in on by your brother while you were masturbating as a teenager. A feeling of being in trouble long ago, not a feeling that matters now. But it’s what you feel. You want to take it back. But you can’t. You want her to stop crying. But she can’t and you certainly can’t help her. You will probably never feel as loved by another human being as this good woman loved you, you can already sense that. THE END.

6. You open your laptop and immediately go to Facebook. You copy and paste an article about some intellectual topic that makes you look like you are so incredibly bright and progressive and witty and live your life with purpose and thought, cool thoughts, thoughts that people wish they could have, but cannot have. None of this is true, of course, you know that. You Facebook Like a funny video. You go to your "friends" Facebook pages and pore over them, every single pixel, pored over hatefully. You hate these people. You look at their Facebook posts and they seem interesting and funny and you hate that. You see that they are doing things with other "friends" and didn’t invite you and you hate that. You close your laptop and wait to watch something on television with your wife, probably "The Bachelor." THE END.

7. You start your car and drive away from your house. You talk to yourself about that shitty fight. How wrong she is. You have all the answers and really stinging comebacks down now, in the car, alone. You are right and she is wrong, in the car, alone. You drive down the road and go to your single friend’s house. He has some young twenty-something, citrus-smelling, skin-made-of-living-perfect-smooth-clay girl there from last night, for this night. She’s bright, playful, charming and beautiful. Mostly though, you think she’s amazing because she flirts with you. She makes you feel like you are still attractive and young. You are not. You have not been for years. You may never have been. Your wife saw something in you that no one ever saw. You wouldn’t even know what to do with this girl if you could do anything with her. Your friend and her are on their way to a bar, they invite you. You go to the bar (go to paragraph 10)? You stay at your friend’s house alone (go to paragraph 9)?

8. You run and run around your neighborhood. You listen to some music that you think is cool. You change it to something you think is cooler when you see a guy wearing cooler clothes than you wear across the street. As if he can hear that music. As if he cares what you are listening to or who you are. You turn up the music and run and run. You run. You run and run and run. But you are still awful and pointless. THE END.

9. You stay at your friend’s house while he and his young, vibrant, still-flirting-with-you-maybe girlfriend leave for a bar. You go into his bathroom. You see a stack of wrinkled and moisture warped pornography magazines. You masturbate to those magazines that your friend has surely masturbated to, probably today, probably multiple times today. You finish. You feel hazy and disgusting for masturbating in your friend’s bathroom. What is wrong with you? Why can’t you be a person of value? Why can’t you care about someone other than yourself? You drive home. THE END.

10. You go to a bar with your friend and his new girlfriend. They drink and laugh and seem like they really enjoy each other. You awkwardly look around and make a face like you are concentrating or thinking about something really serious and important. You look at some girls, no, you stare at some girls. You try not to make eye contact with some guys that are really drunk and look like they could beat you to death. You don’t even know how to be comfortable in a situation like this anymore. It’s so foreign to you. The loud music. The smell of old spilled drinks. You drink a beer and walk back home. You smell like beer when you get home. Your wife has left you a note that says she’s staying at her mother’s house for a while. THE END.