Gabe loves fan fiction. You Can Make It Up features his own personal alternate adventures starring some of our favorite characters.
Sad Keanu parked his car in front of the small house with the bundle of balloons tied to the mailbox and walked up the three cement steps to the screen door. The interior was dark and cool in that particularly comforting way that houses can have on a bright warm day when they take on a ghostly air of calm, and as Sad Keanu stepped across the threshold into the foyer, he paused for a moment. Down the hallway and through the kitchen, he could hear the shrieks of children laughing, elicited no doubt by the sprinkler he could hear chugging in the background. Out in the backyard, where cake still waited, and colorful elastic-banded party hats to be worn, Sad Keanu knew that the tiny bliss and untarnished excitement of a life entirely waiting and ready to be unfurled and discovered would wash over him like a warm wave of pure human joy. That was precisely why Sad Keanu had brought an extra sandwich with him.
Gary, the birthday girl’s father, let the barbecue tongs go limp in his hand as the backdoor creaked open. He turned to Stanley, his next door neighbor, who had brought his sons Ryan and Philip. “Oh, fuck me,” Gary said, “Sad Keanu is here.”
Without saying a word to anyone, Sad Keanu picked up a Thomas the Tank Engine party hat from the table and stared at it a moment before pulling the elastic under his chin and placing the cone atop his unwashed hair. He carried a present under his arm, which he added to the tall, bright pile of ribbon-tied boxes. At least, everyone assumed it was a gift. It was shapeless and wrapped in newspaper and appeared to be covered in grease stains. Sad Keanu walked slowly, hands in his pockets, to the swingset that Gary had purchased from Sears and installed himself. Sad Keanu sat on one of the swings, the plastic bowing deeply beneath his weight, and pulled out his sandwich.
“Get him out of here,” Barb hissed. “Gary, you get him out of here.”
“What do you want me to do?” Gary asked. “I didn’t invite him. God, look at him. It’s like the sadness is seeping through his skin.”
Sad Keanu took a bite of his sandwich and looked at his feet. Next to him, a group of children played some kind of complicated game that involved cowboys and indians, but also a princess, and there was lava? They wore swimsuits and carried squirtguns. They glowed. Their laughter was music. Mustard dripped from Sad Keanu’s sandwich and hit the dirt right next to his shoe. He looked at the mustard and drew the back of his wrist across his mouth. He looked at his wrist.
“How them dogs comin’?” a voice boomed from the back of the house. A thick-set man in a polo shirt tucked into madras shorts with a braided leather belt and Tevas sucking on a cigarillo pushed his way into the backyard, trailed by his beaming, pert wife in a pink sun dress and floppy straw hat. They each carried overstuffed bags spilling over with gifts, white wine, and the accoutrements of middle-class parenthood. Their faces were tanned and creased and satisfied. The children who followed after them a moment later were already shouting. They were rambunctious and selfish and arrogant, but they were children. Gary’s brother slapped him on the back and pulled another cigarillo from his breast pocket and handed it to Gary. Then he stuck his face way too close to the grill. “Looks good,” he said. He smelled like leather, and money. “These are done,” he motioned to some hot dogs that had withered and turned black. When he straightened up he realized that Gary had barely heard a word he’d said. And then he saw Sad Keanu.
“Oh,” Frank said. He turned to his wife, and tried to force happiness into his voice. “Look, Sandy, it’s Sad Keanu.” Sandy replied with a sharp intake of breath and gripped his hand tightly. “Ow,” Frank said, shaking free. “Your rings hurt when you squeeze that tight.” Sandy glared at him. Frank never liked what Sad Keanu brought out in her.
They served cake and opened presents. The children loved every second of it, obviously, but by now the parents were uneasy. The white wine was disappearing rather quickly, and the cooler full of Heineken and Amstel Light had very few Heineken and Amstel Lights left in it. Sad Keanu never moved from his seat on the swings. Was it possible, Peter Halloran, Melissa’s father, asked in a hushed voice, for someone’s face to actually slide off of their head?
When the wrapping paper had been cleared and the toys quickly discarded into the grass after two minutes of perfunctory play, the adults stood in a cluster near the grill as the food burned, watching Sad Keanu sit motionlessly, his hand wrapped around his second sandwich now, and his eyes completely fixed on the ground. A smell had begun to emanate from the present he had brought with him. Meanwhile, the children, beacons of unfettered, uninhibited, perfect human happiness ran in circles around Sad Keanu now. Just round and round, with no visible purpose, their faces illuminated with pleasure. It would have been a delight to see.