Imagine, if you will, that you are in a car. You are in the backseat. Somebody is besides you named ALEX. The car is being driven to an unknown destination. But the driver is an older man, CHUCK. Last but not least, in shotgun, is CAMERON. This is what you hear:
ALEX: Uh, Chuck?
ALEX: Where, uh—where are we going?
CHUCK turns around, smirking.
CHUCK: Wouldn’t you like to know. You know those HISHE videos? With the animated—
ALEX: Yeah. What about them?
CHUCK: Remember when Loki says “I’ll never tell?”
ALEX: Uh, sure.
CHUCK: Well, there you go (laughs). That’s a hip new joke, right? I know these things, man. I keep my ear to the proverbial ground. I know all hippety-hop about what the hip hipsters like.
ALEX: If you say so—
CHUCK: Sike! That was a joke too! That was a parody of hip people that want to like hipsters! That’s not me at all. I’m wayyyy cooler.
ALEX: OK? But you didn’t really answer my question.
CHUCK: Gosh, you are annoying, aren’t you? Why can’t you just enjoy the—hold on.
CHUCK reaches down. His hand slides across the sticky, muddy, wrapper covered, crumb-dusted floor of the car. He grabs a magazine and tosses it back to ALEX.
ALEX: What is—oh, gross! Why the hell would you—that’s perverted, Chuck.
ALEX: But, uh, where are we going again?
CHUCK: Darn! I thought I’d put you off that.
CHUCK pulls over the car.
ALEX: No need to be so abrupt, Chuck. It’s just that—we were going along fine at first. It seemed like a fun new road trip. I mean, God knows the last one was pretty wild and a little too self-aware at times, but I almost feel like the very gimmick of it existing helped it along. But now that we’re used to your, uh, shenanigans in this vehicle…you keep trying to top yourself instead of staying whatever course you set out for. Does that—am I making any sense?
CHUCK: Hmm. Maybe you’re right.
CHUCK: You’ve got a point there. I have been getting too sidetracked. Time to get back to what (sniffs)…what’s really important.
ALEX: It’s OK, man. Just bring us home, you know?
CHECK: Do you want to know Marla Singer’s backstory?
ALEX: Wuh—wait, what?
CHUCK grabs another magazine and tosses it back.
ALEX: What the—
CHUCK: See, Marla’s parents were killed because they were roleplaying in the woods. Her mom was like, totally naked. Right, Cameron?
CAMERON: Ohhhh yeahhhhh.
ALEX: I think you’re enjoying this a bit too much, Cameron.
CAMERON: Hey, I’m getting paid to be on this trip. I’m his…you could call me a navigator.
ALEX: Then what’s that in you hand? Hey, that’s not a map!
CHUCK: You sound upset.
ALEX: I’m frustrated.
CHUCK: Another magazine?
ALEX: (sighs) It was kind-of funny the first twelve times. Now it’s just pointless. How many of those do you have up there?
CHUCK: How every many I ask for—Cameron’s my man.
CAMERON: Ohhhh yeahhhh.
ALEX: Chuck, I appreciate getting more into Marla’s story. And this whole baby sub-sub-subplot is starting to, er, come to a head. But what about Die Off? Whatever happened to exploring and showing its global implications? For being such a massive story, your focus is awfully small and menial. That might be OK if this had tension—but it doesn’t. We keep getting sidetracked! You’ve turned this world into a series of smaller and smaller rooms—
CHUCK puts a CD in the player. A voice comes out—ALEX’s voice.
ALEX’S VOICE: What ever happened to getting into the Narrator’s POV? His complicated feelings? Things are moving at such a fast, surreally goofy pace, there’s no time for introspection. But now that you have introspection with Marla—it’s out of nowhere!
ALEX: Hey! That-that’s my voice!
CHUCK: Uh, duh.
ALEX: But why—
CHUCK: Because you won’t shut up! It’s the same thing over and over again! Every time you get in the car!
ALEX: I could say the same thing about you and your—your shenanigans!
CHUCK: Oh yeah?
CHUCK: Well, if you don’t like it, then just leave!
ALEX: Maybe I will!
Silence. ALEX and CHUCK hunch over and look out their respective windows.
ALEX: I…I’m sorry. I’m probably being a little…too harsh.
CHUCK: What a big surprise, coming from you.
ALEX: Hold on, OK? Just let me…listen, Chuck. You’ve given a lot of people great rides and given them a lot of happiness. You can surprise people now and again with a lot of…
CHUCK: Personality? Verve? Edginess?
ALEX: Uh…sure. Yeah. But I think the problem is that you’re having such fun with this vehicle, trying to push it to its edge so much, you’ve lost sight of where we’re going. And at this point…I’m frustrated, but it’s hard to care about the destination anymore. I just…I just want a good, solid ride. And you’re clearly doing your own thing. But I—we (puts hand on your shoulder) express our opinions because we care. We’re invested. We wouldn’t be here if you weren’t talented.
CHUCK: Interesting. Very interesting. Especially that part about—what word did you use—you said you were frustrated?
ALEX: Yes, Chuck. I’m—
CHUCK: F*CK YEAH!
ALEX: Wh-what are you—
CHUCK: I GOT YOU! I PUNKED YOU SO HARD, DUDE!
ALEX: (Sighs) Why do I even bother…
CHUCK: Were you gonna cry? What a p*ssy! What you need is a mentor! Like Tyler Durden! Joe Rogan totally agrees with me on that.
CHUCK sharply spins the steering wheel. The car wheels around in circles.
ALEX: Hey—what are you doing? We’re not getting anywhere when you do this! Is this out of spite?
CHUCK: Show him our newest picture collection.
ALEX: Uh, no thanks, I don’t really want to—
CHUCK: It’s now or never, dude! Here, I’ll unlock the doors. Go on! You don’t like it? Jump out, p*ssy!
ALEX: You’re going, like, 100 miles—
CHUCK: Now or never! You want the pics—or, uh—the kicks! And by kicks, I mean getting out of my dope ride because you can’t take the heat!
ALEX: I…but I—Chuck, please, I—I don’t know! I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ANYMORE!
Uh-oh! Looks like our intrepid hero has pulled a muscle in his pull-list! Will he Lady Bird himself and leap out of the car? Or will he stick it out? Be sure to read our next article, “Chuck Full O’ Love” or “Eleven of Clubs!”