T-shirt Junction

T-shirt Junction

A Story by Joℏn / Jack / Turtle / Kurmasana

Story about two strangers who bond over their unusual t-shirts. Written for SDMB contest and won, 10/5/2011


SDMB short story contest rules included maximum length, and mandatory inclusion of an image and three words:


A hammer of light pierced the blinds at just the right angle to breach the hopeful fortresses that were Donald’s resting eyelids. His eyes flew open and he struggled to remember the hazy night before. He recalled enough to surmise there had been drinking, in amounts large enough to warrant the preemptive bottle of Gatorade on the nightstand next to his bed. He swallowed the whole thing in just a few gulps, and felt the effects of dehydration begin to wash away. But his memories of the night
before were still a bit fuzzy, and there were still the pounding drums of blood pulsing and throbbing in his head.

After his shower, Don felt his headache fade to a distant whisper, but he was still groggy from the early hour. Some neuron tasked with the sole purpose of reminding him that there was no coffee left sent a ping to the forefront of his thoughts. Hunting and gathering time, then. He would stalk the fearsome caffeine bean downtown, and make it his b***h. Dressing was a bigger obstacle than he anticipated. Best to throw on the nearest pair of jeans and a plain black tee, and head to the nearest coffee shop with the least amount of mental effort possible.

His heart fell as he rounded the corner to the shop entrance. There was a line out the door of Javatronic. But the least mental effort principle demanded he simply stay and wait it out. It wasn’t long before Ned, a guy he knew from yoga class, showed up and called him out.

“Ballsy move, Don.”

“What?” Don wasn’t sure what Ned was getting at. Had he embarrassed himself during the previous night’s drunken adventures?

“Wearing a Cuppa Josephine shirt to Javatronic. Some of these caffeine addicts are as religious about their coffee places as football fans.”

Don looked down. His shirt did, indeed say “Cuppa Josephine” on it, along with the silhouette of a coffee cup with a handle shaped like a curvy woman contorting her body into a C shape, three sideways tildes steaming over the brim. Wear had that some from? He might not have noticed when he put the shirt on, but he didn’t recall owning a CJ t-shirt. Some forgotten relic from last night?

“Crap,” admitted Don, “I didn’t even notice. But come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea. This line is outrageous, and CJ’s is only a few blocks away. Want to come with?”

“Nah,” said Ned, “I actually come here more to flirt with the barista girl than for the coffee buzz.”

Don smiled. “Suit yourself. Later.”


Don squinted as he walked south. The sun sure seemed bright for 10:30am. The street traffic was light but still felt noisier than he was used to. The odors from the public garbage bins seemed to reach out and impale themselves in his sinuses. He imagined his Sim satisfaction meter dipping perilously close to zero bars. But then he turned another corner and the sharpness of reality was suddenly cushioned as he walked into a blanket of sweet tangles of the scents of brewing coffee blends. CJ’s at last!

He didn’t even need to start drinking. Just the warm smells and whatever breezy album was playing over the speakers reinvigorated him. And there were only two people on line. The woman in front of him had on a white t-shirt. The logo appeared to be a stylized street sign version of Princess Leia bending down to record her famous plea with R2D2. Cool! From what he could tell from behind, she was pretty attractive, and now it seemed she was a Star Wars fan too.

He went fishing. “Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.”

The girl spun around, looking at first expectant, and then confused. The front of her shirt had a little drawing of a bow tie near the neck, which on closer inspection turned out to be a Tie fighter. “Have we met? How did you know my name?”

“Your parents named you Obi Wan Kenobi?”

“No I’m Tobie. I thought you said Tobie. Sometimes my friends will joke around and call me Tobie Wan Kenobi.”

“Oh no, I was just commenting on your shirt.”

“Hmm…” Tobie looked deep in thought. Her mouth opened to say something but she thought better of it. Finally she decided on, “Of course.”

“So, Tobie, is that your real name?”

“My real name?”

“I mean, is it short for anything? Like…I don’t know. Tobitha?”

“Tobie is just my slave name. My real name is Kuntakinte.”

“Kunta..?” Then it dawned on him as he saw her smirk. “Oh! Roots.”

Tobie giggled. “You’re an easy mark. Yes my name is Tobie and no it’s not short for anything. And no, it’s not a boy’s name. I think that covers it. So….” Tobie raised an expectant eyebrow.

“Oh!” said Donald again. “Sorry. I’m Donald. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He held out his hand.

Tobie shook his hand. “The pleasure is mine. I’m up.” She turned to place her order.

Donald squeezed next to her and told the cashier “make that two, my treat.”

They sat down on the bench to wait for their coffees, both trying to think of what to say next, when a little blond boy wandered away from his Mom, walked right up to Donald and asked him, “are you really Green Lantern?” He seemed to be staring at his shirt. Donald looked down. His shirt was emblazoned with the big green logo of the superhero.

“Um…” Donald tried to simultaneously think of a reply for the boy, and also figure out how his CJ’s shirt had turned into a Green Lantern shirt.

Tobie stepped in. “My friend here is just a sidekick. The real Green Lantern is in Coast City.”

“Can you really fly? Do you have superpowers?”

Don finally managed to play along. “I… left my ring at home.”

“And who are you?” He asked Tobie. Don looked over and noticed that her shirt was different too. Things just kept getting more and more bizarre. Now it had the same purple logo as Lantern’s Girlfriend.

“Star Sapphire,” answered Don. “She’s like Green Lantern but purple. She left her ring at home too.” Satisfied, the boy returned to his parents. Don went to retrieve the now ready coffees, and handing one to Tobie.

“So, it’s been happening to you, too.”

Tobie’s face brightened. “Thank you! I thought I was going crazy there for a minute. How long has it been happening?”

“Since this morning. I don’t even remember putting the shirt where I found it. I thought maybe… I don’t know what I thought,” he said, not wanting to bring up his overindulgence last night.

“Me too. I haven’t seen it happening to anyone else besides you and me.”

“Me neither.”

“I suppose we should stick together until we figure this out.” Tobie grinned. She enjoyed potential adventure. Don could tell that this was also partly just an excuse to spend time with him. The events were out of the ordinary, but even behind that, it was clear they had chemistry and the desire to keep flirting.

They decided to wander aimlessly around town, sharing each other’s company, and learning more about each other. Whenever there was an awkward moment of silence or inactivity, one of them would notice a new design on the other’s shirt, which would lead into a new path of conversation, or remind them of something fun to do or a cool place to visit.

Having spent most of the day together, they had settled into each other’s company and felt content to walk together in silence, holding hands, and enjoying the slowly passing scenery. They spotted a beggar ahead. He was an old man, known for his frequently changing cardboard signs and red felt hat upturned for donations. Today’s sign said “The beginning is near.”

“Well that’s a refreshing change from the usual,” said Tobie, referring to the cliché of “The end is near” Placards.

“Quite optimistic really,” agreed Don.

“What’s the opposite of apocalypse?” Tobie wondered.

“I’m not sure. What’s the antonym of doom?”

“We’ll have to chew on that.” Tobie tilted her head. “Be the change you want to see.”

“That’s prosaic.”

“No” Tobie laughed. “I’m reading your shirt”

Don smiled. “Maybe we should help out this guy with our ‘change’. Got any spare coins?”

Tobie reached in her pockets and fished out a few. “Here we go.”

Don saw that her shirt had changed too. “Complete the circuit.” A dim memory surfaced and an idea suddenly flashed into his brain. Tobie was about to toss her coins into the hat when Don stopped her. “No! Don’t. We’ll need those. I figured it out!” He got out his wallet and tossed a few singles into the hat instead.

“Figure out what?” Tobie put her coins back in her pocket.

“What’s going on! Come on, we have to hurry!” Don took her hand and pulled her as he started to run. Together, they ran several blocks until they got to the park. Out of breath and perspiring, they stopped to rest for a minute but then Don urged her on again. “Come on, we’re almost there.” He pointed into the woods.

“The woods?” Tobie raised an eyebrow and a barely contained smirk. “What if you are some kind of Killer?”

Don started towards the trees without her. “I can’t be the killer if you’re chasing me!” He accelerated and Tobie ran after him. After a few minutes they reached a clearing. Unlike the rest of the woods, this clearing was edged by a few feet of bamboo plants all the way around. In the center of the clearing was a lone tree. Tobie squinted. Was the tree sparkling?

Don took her over to the tree. “I just remembered. I was here last night for a party. This is a wishing Tree.”

“A wishing tree?” asked Tobie.

Don brought her closer and put her hand on the tree. It was bumpy, and shiny. Embedded into the tree were hundreds, maybe thousands of coins. “Each one is a wish.” He moved her hand to one in particular. “This is the wish I made last night.”

“What did you wish for?”

“I can’t tell you that!” Don said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Haven’t you ever had a birthday cake?”


“Only in this case, like the t-shirt said, I think I have to complete the circuit.”

“What does that mean?”

“Let’s just say, my wish doesn’t come true, unless somebody else has the same wish too,”

Tobie was catching on. “So, let’s say I take one of my coins, and put it next to yours. If we both have the same wish, then it comes true?” Don nodded. Tobie found a rock and pounded her coin in next to his. “Shouldn’t something be happening?”

“Like what?”

"Er… magic?”

He came closer. “I think it’s probably up to us to make our own magic.” They kissed. They both looked own to see if their t-shirts had changed. They both had emoticons with tongues sticking out. “That’s a bit rude” said Don.

Tobie agreed. “I think they are getting bored with us. Maybe it’s time to get rid of them.”

They both smiled as they helped each other get rid of the shirts. And a few other things. 🐢

© 2017 Joℏn / Jack / Turtle / Kurmasana

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Clever idea! I enjoyed it. Your story kept my interest. Thanks for sharing.

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Added on August 24, 2017
Last Updated on August 24, 2017
Tags: short story, magical realism, t-shirts, romance


Joℏn / Jack / Turtle / Kurmasana
Joℏn / Jack / Turtle / Kurmasana

Port Jefferson Station, NY

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