A powerful stench hit Keeley the minute she opened the doors of The Shack. Her nose wrinkled in disgust. It smelled like a fast food garbage can. She almost expected Oscar the Grouch to pop out and order a meal— one thick slab of moldy cardboard with heap of rotten seaweed and a big side of stale alcohol. Not exactly what she was expecting at six-thirty in the morning. She turned on the lights and opened all the windows hoping the morning breeze would air out the store.

As she walked around she noticed the place looked how it smelled—a pigsty. Sand and debris coated the floor, boxes were scattered about and a pile of beer cans were haphazardly stacked on the counter. Keeley gritted her teeth. She only needed one guess to know who was responsible. With measured movements, she pulled out her phone and dialed his number. She was intent on giving Van a piece of her mind. She'd managed to endure a load of crap from him, but this was one crap too far. 

A faint sound came from the back room. Startled, she walked towards it. As she moved closer, she recognized the noise. It was a ringtone to a phone. That no-good jerk was here! Rushing to the back, she threw the door open with one angry shove. Her upper lip curled as she marched through the doorway, ready to rip him a new one.

"You lazy, no good, piece of—" The words died in her throat as she took in the scene before her.

Huddled in the corner of the room sat a sleeping Van. He was pressed against the wall with his legs curled to one side. His arms were sprawled in front of him, one hand clutching a beer, the other a piece of paper. A grey beanie hid most of his hair but a few wisps escaped. Dark stubble covered the lower half of his face, framing the wide-open mouth that had a string of drool hanging down. He looked like the poster boy for the homeless.

Looking around the room she noticed a stack of letters on the table. She knew it was wrong to read his personal mail, but curiosity got the best of her. After sending Van a quick glance to make sure he was sleeping, she picked one up. It was from the Fillstrum Surfing Company. They made top of the line surfboards.

Dear Mr. Donovan Hastings,

We regret to inform you that we must decline your request to join the Fillstrum Surf Team. At this point in time we feel you would not be a suitable candidate. We are very sorry and wish you the best of luck on future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Ryan Fillstrum, CEO of Fillstrum Inc.

She opened a second letter. Then another. And another. All from surf companies. All saying the exact same thing.

We regret to inform you that we must decline...

The irritation and anger she felt suddenly dissipated. This had to be heartbreaking for him. From what she gathered, surfing was everything to Van. He lived for it. What could have happened to make him so undesirable? The constant ticking of the clock on the wall reminded Keeley of the time. She had to stop dilly-dallying and wake him up.

Like a hunter sneaking up on a feral bear, she carefully approached. She pinched her nose when she got a good whiff of him. He smelled like a can of overripe beans that'd been sitting out in the sun too long.

"Van?" she whispered, not wanting to startle him.

He moaned but didn't move.

"Van?" she whispered again, this time a little louder.

Hesitantly, she poked his arm and then quickly recoiled. When he still didn't move, she began to worry. She needed to clean up and open the store for business. She looked at the huge mess and then at the slob. Knowing what she needed to do, she took a deep breath in through her nostrils and—

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