By Tom Glassey
Upon Stanley Winterbottom’s birth, his parents decided to call him Stanley. Stanley Winterbottom had a lovely sound to it, they discussed at length with each other. And they thought, this child would have life handed to him. Not by them, but by the world. Mr and Mrs Winterbottom (Formerly Smith) were both 90’s beat poets. They had met in a shitty café somewhere, probably Brooklyn. Soon they married (almost exclusively to please their parents, who at the time were paying for their rent and bond paper) and had a child (almost exclusively by accident). Despite Mrs Winterbottom’s (formerly Mrs Smith’s) affinity for white wine, she gave birth a very healthy boy, who we already know as Stanley. Upon seeing his child for the first time Mr Winterbottom (Who at the time was Mr Smith) heart swelled to unbelievable sizes, as if he had lived his entire life a Grinch. He decided he would do everything he could for his child, so he decided to change his name, for the sake of this child. Mr Smith predicted that in ten, maybe twenty years time, there would be no more 90s beat poets, as it would no longer be the 90s. He predicted the future would be full of people who wore all natural fibre sweaters, and did folk art, and probably wouldn’t even eat meat. It would be a world where people called ‘Harvie Krumpet’ were all the rage, and where everyone would wear glasses. In this world, a name like Winterbottom would take you places.
By the time Stanley was eighteen, only people who were jerks had heard of the Dandy Warhols, and no-one had heard of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. His parents had tragically passed away from complications following a liver transfer. When it was discovered that both Mr and Mrs Winterbottom were simultaneously afflicted by imminent liver failure, the doctor informed them both that if they could not find transplant livers they would die in six months. Mr Winterbottom had the brilliant idea of having each other’s livers. They both tragically passed away six months later. Stanley was by no means popular in school, but fortunately the nature of school is that not everyone can be popular, so Stanley formed a tight comradeship with everyone who was victim of anxiety and pimples. Stanley didn’t listen to much music. While he enjoyed how catchy pop music was, Stanley had no desire to own an mp3 player, and his ringtone was the Mexican hat dance. The copious records Stanley’s parents had given him were still in excellent condition, and someone thought they might be worth something some day. Stanley decided to become an accountant. He found numbers soothing. He found words quite complex. In fact, he often just refused to talk. Sadly, Stanley was in fact quite weird, but tragically not in the way his parents wished.
Traditionally, stories develop. Stanley Winterbottom did not. He was as boring the day he was born, as the day he died. Quite simply, nothing happened to Stanley. Except, maybe one little thing. His entire life had been white and bright. The hospital room where he squinted as his parents looked down at him for the first time. The classroom whiteboards, the computer screens, and calculators and ledgers. All clean and precise. His parents were not like this at all. Besides the cigarettes they smoked, and the subsequent smoke that filled the dark and shady cafes they sulked in, there was nothing bright in their world. They wore black turtlenecks, black berets, and black glasses. They listened to black vinyls, and sat on black stools. Their entire existence always seemed somewhat foggy to Stanley. Ironically, stage lights do not tan beat poets, so Mr and Mrs Winterbottom were very fair.
You may recall it was mentioned that there was possibly one little remotely exciting thing that happened in Stanley’s life. Throughout school, Stanley was only lightly bullied. In twelve years he had lost $14.75 in lunch money. Throughout university he generally received marks within the range of B+ in all his subjects, which left him more than sufficiently qualified to get a job doing other people’s tax returns at his local accounting firm. Every year, his co-workers would pool together and buy Stanley an interesting tie for his birthday, and one year for Christmas. This meant that every morning, Stanley would get to choose from eleven ties to wear to work. Four cubicles diagonally across from Stanley sat a lovely girl called Bridget. And in her, our story forms a goose bump on the xy graph of interest. Bridget occasionally talked to Stanley in his lunch break. Bridget had a boyfriend, who Stanley had seen talking to the secretary three times, while waiting to pick up Bridget. He wore an array of sweaters; Grey, Black and Dark Green. He was naturally charismatic and funny, and Stanley noticed his bright smile and way with words drew people towards him. His way with words overwhelmed Stanley sometimes, and made him want to be sick just a little bit. This mysterious character once playfully slapped Stanley on the back as Stanley returned to his cubicle from the water cooler. This was the time he was wearing the dark green sweater. He said “What’s up, champ?”. This mysterious character smelt of soup.
One day while walking home from work, Stanley started thinking about the meaning of life. Mainly, the meaning of his life. Stanley knew that his parents had wanted him to wear sweaters, and make folk art. He knew he wanted to do tax returns. But he couldn’t work out what the purpose of doing either of these things was. He wondered if anyway else had ever thought about this too. He remembered his father. Even though his father was the product of a movement which shunned happiness, Stanley thought of him as a happy man. Stanley was not happy. He was by no great means sad, but he was not happy. Mr Winterbottom (Sr) did not know the meaning of life. But he was happy, so he did not need it. He was happy because he loved Mrs Winterbottom, very dearly.
After his walk home from work, Stanley arrived home, as so often happened.
Upon arriving home, Stanley had an epiphany and left again. He decided that what made father happy, was mother. And mother made father happy because he was cool. And his parents wanted him to be cool, so he was happy. So, he bought a Walkman, he bought a cool CD, he bought a notebook to write shitty poems in, and he bought a ticket to someplace two hours away. He sat on the train, listening to his cool music, writing his shitty poems, and being an artist. When he got the place two hours away, he got on another train which took him home. When he got home, he had filled his notebook, but still didn’t feel cool enough. So he bought a sweater, another notebook, and repeated the process. Then he did this again. And again. Until it was morning, so he carried his notebooks all the way home, chose a tie to go with his new sweater and went to work, to see Bridget.
At lunch Bridget complimented Stanley on his sweater. Stanley read her a poem, and talked about the grunge scene, and Bridget seemed to enjoy herself very much. Then Bridget showed Stanley her engagement ring, and words started confusing Stanley again.
He walked home and briefly considered suicide. A trickle of sweat ran down the goose bump of the xy graph of Stanley’s life. Over the years Stanley got many more ties, but no more sweaters. And filled out lots and lots of ledgers.