A Box Full of Favors

by Mason Alexander

Geoffrey knew that he was not well respected by his co-workers and cohorts. Neither was he well liked. He knew this because they called him Jeff. Geoffrey's name was not Jeff and he did not want to be called Jeff. But people did not ask what Geoffrey wanted and this was because they did not care.

Geoffrey knew that as well and it made him angry. He became angry easily and often. This was because Geoffrey had little black veins in his brain that would pulse and rise and burst with bad feelings like toxin. They might wiggle up and breach the surface at any moment. When people looked at him with furtive surprise or when they couldn't stop their nervous banter or for no reason at all. At times like these Geoffrey saw red and fingernails and shaking hatred. All poisons speeding through the blood that swirls and halos around the brain.

Geoffrey's mother was passive aggressive. People, however, never seemed to notice this and after meeting her would often say,

Jeff, your mother is absolutely wonderful. Truly the sweetest woman.

And Geoffrey would look at them with bored or angry eyes and say,

No she's not. She's a bitch.

People sometimes didn't talk to him much after that. But they did talk to his mother.

Katherine was truly the sweetest woman. She smiled and laughed, she said things like Oh hunny! And You poor dear. But Katherine was a liar and a manipulator with a smile and a floral dress. In her little house painted yellow with bright accents she kept many rooms and many things in her rooms. In one she kept kittens and kitten paraphernalia, on the walls and the shelves and the creaking iron beds. In another she kept pigs, in another cows. She made quilts and knitted sweaters and plotted subconscious revenges through the distribution of guilt and guilty love. She had candies in her pockets and teeth--candies as bright as her smiles. She kept cavities in the back of her tongue where no one spotted them.

Geoffrey had, for a short time, lived with his mother. In fact, he had only recently moved out, having replaced the job he had lost. He lost a lot of jobs due to those little black veins, little pockets of anger. Usually he quit, sometimes he was fired. Geoffrey had a new job now and was paying most of the bills on time. Unfortunately he had not yet had the opportunity to pay back his debt to Katherine who was a collector of debts the way she was a collector of kittens and pigs and cows.

Katherine had a woman she called friend and also Catriona. Catriona had a daughter and no son which was wonderful because Katherine had a son and no daughter. Katherine was, as always, on the hunt for favors to be owed and already had several stacked from Catriona which she kept in a box in the kitchen drawer. Catriona's daughter was Alicia. Alicia was smart and joyful, if shy and a little awkward. She had many friends and they were all just like her. She had had a boyfriend once who had kissed her and then touched her which she didn't like very much. But that was a long time ago now.

Catriona wanted grandchildren.

Katherine sidled over to Catriona's house one clever afternoon with quite the smile and the Hello and the How are you dearie? Tea and cookies and all that. So very sweet, Katherine wondered how Alicia was doing out in the big city.

How old now?

Oh my! And still not married? Well not to worry, not to worry. The right one will come along, let's just hope she's still fertile!

With laughs and cackles of the very best kind.

And you know my son, my Geoffrey?

Oh, sweet as could be.

Living in the city now too, yes.

And with many quaint and murmured hint.

Why not the two of them, Alicia and Jeffrey?

They'd have so much fun.

Wouldn't it be wonderful?

Oh the toothsome cracklings, guffaws and hacking spit. Like setting play dates. Katherine and Catriona had such a charming time.

Not long after, Katherine went to see her son and there she told all about Catriona,

You know the one. She has the most beautiful rose bushes you've ever seen! And she simply won't give up their secret. It's quite a shame.

Oh and she had a daughter as well, a very cute young thing whom Geoffrey had the privilege of taking out.

But Geoffrey had no interest in Alicia. Katherine secretly wondered if he might be--

You know, a homosexual?

But he wasn't.

Katherine said with a teary tongue that it was too bad he didn't want to do this for poor Catriona. She said she wished there was more genealogy between them. After all she was always willing to do favors when people needed her.

Like providing a place of residence when my poor son was out of work.


Fine, Geoffrey would take her out.

That's my dear.

* * *

The night of the date Geoffrey almost certainly had better things to do. He buzzed Alicia's apartment and she came down quick and nervous. She was very cute. Really very ordinary but still quite attractive. She had full, bright cheeks and fun little eyes and a friendly grace. But she had a giggle that convulsed and this Geoffrey knew. Her face was red and a little blotched and he knew this as well. She called him Jeff and Geoffrey decided that he did not like her. He decided that she was silly and trite.

Geoffrey took Alicia to a little diner. The kind that keeps its bleary and red eyes open all night. The kind of diner that isn't really good or bad. The worst kind because you go and you eat and it isn't good but as soon as you've left you convince yourself that it wasn't so bad in the end. Always come back. Here the food is always bland, no matter what it is. Like everything is of the same substance and cells, formed and carved and shaped into original foods and under-flavored. Meat-shaped, meat-like objects on bread-shaped, bread-like beds with hot au jus flavored water. Here oil leaks from the ketchup, the coffee has no bitter thrill, the fries ooze, the sour kraut is but wet cabbage. Here photos lie and menu promises are broken.

They ate with thickness and silence. Alicia ate too little because men made her nervous and she had been taught to shame her hunger. Geoffrey ate ravenously because he simply didn't care. Alicia could feel the silence on her teeth, in the static air on her palette and in her throat. She shifted and hummed. She started sentences and coughed excusal.

Geoffrey saved the half dill pickle that came with his sandwich for last. As he gummed it slow Alicia tried not to watch, tried to speak.

I wonder, she spoke eyeing the pickle slightly, I wonder what kind of fruit would go in a pickle pie.


You know, if you had a pickle pie, what kind of fruit would go in it?

Geoffrey didn't answer.

Maybe strawberries, she said.


Or cherries.

Why would you make a pickle pie?

Well I don't know, it might be good.

It would be disgusting.

You're the one eating the pickle.


How do you know it would be bad?

For God's sake it's a pickle pie.

So what? They make carrot cake.

These little veins.

Just what the hell does that have to do with anything?

They're both vegetables.

So what? They're completely different and besides that's cake.

You're just close-minded. Who are you to say a pickle pie wouldn't be good?

Black veins bursting in his eyes, in his brain. Little polluting angry toxins.

You know what? Fuck it. You make your pickle pie and I hope you enjoy it.

Geoffrey stood up and began to walk. After a moment, after he's gone,

Yeah, I will make it and it'll be Goddamn delicious.

She whispers.

Geoffrey left Alicia alone to pay the bill and walk herself home.

* * *

While Geoffrey and Alicia were dating, Katherine went to see her friend Catriona. They laughed and doddered and admired Catriona's beautiful roses. They reminisced and planned and had a charming evening. A little sweetened ice tea to go with her casserole and microwavable chicken nuggets?

Well how can I refuse dear?

Before Katherine left she had a quick request. The roses were so pretty, so wonderful. How did Catriona get them that way--luscious, incredible, unnatural?

Since we're practically family now.

What was her secret?

Oh but I couldn't, simply couldn't.

No no, old family secrets. From her grandmother's grandmother or some such… she couldn't just go giving those away. No no, she was very sorry.

Katherine saw daggers and maggots, salivated acids and ill-wishes and betrayal.

No matter, no matter.

* * *

When Geoffrey next saw his mother he expected her to be less than happy. He had treated Alicia badly, he knew this. Black veins in his arteries, he knew this. But all the same, what the hell had she been talking about? He was angry to think of it. Still, he had handled it badly and she would be angry. Only, not angry exactly because Katherine was never angry--only disappointed. With her let-down voice and her hitched-up grimace and her slow averted eyes. Shaking head like a pendulum. But Katherine was not disappointed.

When Geoffrey told her that it had not worked out she smiled a little wide and then pursed her lips to retain.

Too bad dear, too bad. But oh well.

She didn't think that that Alicia girl was quite right for her boy after all. That whole family seemed a bit of a selfish lot to her, in fact.

No hunny, it's for the best.

Her friend Kathleen on the other hand was a lovely woman, just lovely.

You know Kathleen dear? The one who makes those delicious pies, the very best pies. I've heard everyone wants the secret to those pies but she just won't give it up. Such a shame.

That last bit she said a little more to herself from out those lips again retaining. Oh, and did Geoffrey know that Kathleen had a daughter too? Named Melissa. Quite beautiful, all the boys wanted to date her. And Katherine had arranged a little get together, just the two of them. Just Geoffrey and Melissa.

Geoffrey wasn't particularly interested in another date which was another shame.

Some people just aren't as giving as others Geoffrey. I mean there are some people who would give up their time and their money--even their home--if someone they cared about needed some help. And then there are others, Geoffrey, who wouldn't even do the slightest favor for anyone. No, no not even their own mother.

It was a shame Geoffrey wasn't a little more selfless.


That's my boy.

BIO: Mason Alexander is a student living in the Pacific Northwest. He has only recently graduated high school and will be attending an undergraduate university to receive a higher education in subjects as yet unknown. He has no credit to his name and has never before been published.