“Weird Stuff,” by John Abernathy

Dec 20th, 2017 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

I told her, “I like weird stuff,” and she didn’t immediately leave.

In fact she said, “Mmmmmm,” because her mouth was full of calamari rigatoni, and then, “I like weird stuff, too.”

I leaned toward her and kept my voice down so the other diners wouldn’t hear. “Yeah? Like what?”

“Well,” she matched my whisper, “My favorite movie is Xanadu. Have you seen it?”

I said, “Mm,” even though there was nothing in my mouth. She was one of those. Couldn’t tell weird and interesting from merely quirky and banal.

“And yarn bombing. You know what that is?”


“And coloring books.”

The waiter drifted by. I considered cutting my losses, thought about asking him for a doggy bag. She went on whispering. I sat back and surveyed the rest of the room. All these other couples. Candlelit. Holding hands over the table. Smirking at their secrets. They had so much in common with each other, they shared interests. It was so easy for them.

I didn’t notice when my date went silent. I turned back to her and said, “What? Sorry.”

She spoke to her noodles. “I like other people’s refrigerators. I like going through them.”

“Um, like, at parties?”

“No.” She wasn’t eating her calamari, just stabbing it. She said, “Imagine you come home from work, or school, or vacation, and your fridge has been rearranged. Not so much you really notice, but you’re almost positive those leftovers were stacked differently. And you never put the milk on the left side of the shelf. And so maybe you fix it or leave it alone but sometime over the next couple of days it’s reversed again, and this time you notice the peanut butter’s been left open. Imagine you look inside and see some marks and think, When did I use a fork to scoop peanut butter? but you can’t remember even once using anything but a knife or spoon.

“You’d just brush it off though, right? No big deal. You’d just think you were getting a little forgetful. How long do you think it would take a person to notice? Weeks? Months?”

I had trouble deciding which of my many questions was most important. Finally I settled on, “Who refrigerates peanut butter?”

She might have laughed, though it was really more of a honk. “You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things people put in their fridges. It’s like they’re paying no attention at all. You can even put stuff in there yourself, almost anything, and they’ll just assume they did it themselves. Put their car keys or a TV remote in the butter tray, they’ll just slap their foreheads and laugh. You can put your own things in, too. Brands of condiments they never buy. Drinks they don’t drink. Leftovers from restaurants they’ve never been to.” She pushed calamari around her plate.

“And you can do stuff to the food, too.” She made eye contact. “Weird stuff.”

The waiter came again. Our water was refilled. When he and enough silence had passed, my date asked, “What about you? What’s your weirdness?”

I shrugged and mumbled, and she had to say, “Huh?”

I spoke to my own noodles. I said, “I like butt stuff.”

She said, “Mm,” even though there was nothing in her mouth. After a few more minutes of silence, she stopped the waiter and asked for a to-go box.


This summer John Abernathy visited the Crystal Palace dinosaurs. They were sculpted in the mid 1850’s just after the first World’s Fair. Back then we weren’t completely sure what dinosaurs looked like, I guess we still aren’t, but we were ESPECIALLY wrong 168 years ago. John first saw these dinosaur sculptures in the late 1980s on a VHS called “Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs! Dinosaurs!” with Gary Owens. At that point John was scared of them. Today John works at a college or something.

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