Pettiness by Craig J. Clark

The party was getting stifling. Lou had to duck out, if just for a couple minutes. He made an excuse that he needed to use the bathroom, which is not the sort of thing one generally has to make up, but he did so anyway.

He blamed Peter, his host, for his discomfort. Peter had paired him up with a woman who quickly proved to be an insufferable bore. He didn’t know if there was such a thing as a sufferable bore, but she most definitely was not one of them.

Bypassing the bathroom, which was already occupied by another escapee, Lou found himself in his host’s bedroom. If this were a winter party, there would probably be coats piled high on the bed, but it was not. Lou sat down on the corner of the bed, relieved to take the load off his aching feet.

That was the other reason he was annoyed with his host. Peter had invited so many people that there was nowhere to sit – and the few people who did have seats were holding onto them tenaciously, sending others to the kitchen for food and drinks.

Lou looked up and did a double take when he saw the wall of CDs in front of him. He knew Peter liked music, but he had no idea he had such a vast collection. He went to take a closer look and noticed that it was all in alphabetical order, every single artist. That meant Billy Joel was face to face with Elton John, which kind of made sense, but having the Beastie Boys rubbing shoulders with the Beach Boys and the Beatles didn’t seem right. Lou decided to do something about that.

After he was finished, 40 minutes later, Lou slipped unobtrusively back into the main party. With any luck, the full scope of his work wouldn’t be known until well after the party was over and the guests had dispersed. That was not going to be the case, though.

Peter was holding court in the living room. It was much later in the evening, so enough people had left that there were plenty of chairs to go around. The subject of music had come up and Peter was showing off his near-encyclopedic knowledge.

“Well, in a sense, the Traveling Wilburys extended far beyond the two official albums that the supergroup released in 1988 and 1990, respectively. Between Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl, Jeff Lynne’s Armchair Theater and Tom Petty’s first solo album, they--”

“Wait a minute. Tom Petty had a solo album?” The voice sounded incredulous. No one turned to see who had spoken. All eyes were fixed on Peter.

“He had several, in fact. The first was 1989’s Full Moon Fever, which Jeff Lynne co-produced. In fact, Lynne was chiefly responsible for the flowering of the Wilbury sound--”

“Are you sure he didn’t do that with the Heartbreakers?”

Peter’s composure didn’t break. “Positive. Some of the Heartbreakers may have performed on the record, but it went out under Petty’s name alone.”

“Get out of here!”

“No, I’ll show you. Cindy!”

Cindy looked up from the bar, where she was in the process of refilling her drink. Cindy was the insufferable woman Lou had been paired up with. It didn’t occur to him until this moment that she was also Peter’s latest girlfriend.

“Yes, Petey?” Yes, she called him Petey.

“Be a dear and fetch the Tom Petty, please.”

“Which CD?”

“All of them.”

While they waited, the incredulous one continued expressing his incredulity.

“So ‘Free Falling’? ‘I Won’t Back Down’? Those were just Tom Petty?”

“That’s what I’m telling you.”


There was a lengthy pause. All other party activity seemed to be on hold until this issue was resolved one way or the other. Finally, Cindy returned with a handful of CDs, which she gave to Peter.

“There you are, Petey.”

Peter flipped through the stack as Cindy headed back to the makeshift bar.

“Wait, this isn’t all of them. Where’s Full Moon Fever?”

“I couldn’t find that one.”

“What do you mean you couldn’t find it? They’re all together! Go look again.”

Cindy looked again.

“‘Running Down a Dream’?”

Peter did not respond, his gaze fixed upon the hall to the bedroom. Finally Cindy returned with two more CDs. Neither of them were Full Moon Fever.

“Okay, I found these two. I’m not looking again.”

“This is ridiculous! How hard is it to find one CD?”

“Well, they’re all mixed up.”

“What?” Peter abruptly stood up, spilling the CDs that were in his lap onto the floor. Pushing past Cindy, he made a beeline for the bedroom. No one followed, but they all heard the anguished bellow that emanated from the room moments later.

Without exchanging a word, everybody who was left rose as one and quickly exited, thankful that this wasn’t a winter party. Cindy finished fixing her drink, downed it in one gulp and fixed another one. She was accustomed to drinking alone.

As he filed out with the others, Lou paused at the hall leading to the bedroom. Inside, he saw Peter running this way and that, pulling CDs off the shelves like a man possessed. He felt a slight twinge of guilt about bringing this on, but not enough to offer to help Peter put it right.

He did have to wonder, though, when Peter was going to discover that he had also switched the CDs in a lot of the cases. If Lou knew anything, it was how to be petty.


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Good stuff, I could, for some reason, totally imagine the carpet in the room with the CDs. It was orange and brown and kind of ... thick. I'm not sure why. It's possible your story awakened some memory of one or more similarly bland parties I attended in my youth, back when carpet like that was devastatingly common.

Good one, Craig. Toying with someone's OCD issues is always entertaining.

Being the owner of a similar wall of CDs, I've officially blacklisted Lou from all future engagements at my home. Peter and Cindy aren't allowed either -- just because.

If they were out of their boxes, I would have a wall of CDs right now as well. And this story is definitely playing on my fears of letting somebody loose on them.

It's nice to be reminded of "Full Moon Fever" every now and again, isn't it?

"Well, I... want that gown / Plus a... sash and crown / You can stay all night at this clearance sale / But I... want that gown."

I'm afraid to say that after (laboriously)converting my music collection to MP3's, my once-immaculate alphabetized CD collection has fallen into disarray. Ten or even five years ago, that would have been unthinkable.

i LOVED this story!
write on, craig.. write on.

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