Serial Installment Part Uno – Hired

Everything original and fresh in my process has been shooting out of a typewriter…so here’s some old shit to keep the hooves moving down the trot trail of destiny.

 It started on a rusted bar stool. My cousin Nels had offered to bring me out for a couple rounds and help him send off another fast retreating summer… nothing is ever free though and it became clear to me, by the second inning of the ballgame, that my cost would accrue to sitting in as an audience for his repository of post-collegiate knowledge… why you never prospect an older woman for too long, especially if she hadn’t had a C-section… why you always made a Sunday bar brunch but never hit the same establishment on consecutive weekends….why you always stayed away from ex-cheerleaders and pom-squad dancers if you had a girlfriend at the time… why you never deleted any sexually explicit picture that is texted your way until you had saved and transferred it to an encrypted back up hard drive…to him, hard earned life lessons and nuggets of the truest sort of wisdom… to me, self rationalizations peppered with a healthy dose of bedroom braggadocio… either way I washed down the Singapore Slings and excused myself intermittently to enjoy a cigarette or warm piss and soon enough it was the top of the eighth.

There was only one television streaming the game. The Fiddler’s Hearth was an old worn out neighborhood bit, far enough from all the pseudo-poverty stricken trendsetters and the Porsche driving boyfriend’d cocktail waitresses ricocheting off each other in the city’s center, mad pin balls without the second chance of a replay… far enough to be not be bothered directly, at least, and I very much enjoyed the graying Irish girls that posted as barmaids. They were waxing maternal (far more than my own mother) and served me with a smile and at a discount. It was one of the few cantinas I could stand to drink at more than once or twice a month…I didn’t like to be a regular anything, but if I had to claim a home base, The Hearth would be it. I could’ve staid on that stool politely talking up Martina and Margaret and Mary Ellen and drinking on Nels’ tab well into the next week, speaking sometimes but not really hearing anything…

Nels had propped his collar open wide and out and up but his brow remained furrowed and his cheeks were on fire. There was black Irish… he was red. His education had landed him an economically viable and country-club-circle desirable, 55hr a week rat-race-goose-chase gig with a staffing agency out by the airport. His phone hummed like a nervous old loon cranked up outside a library and he was forced to pick up every call. Calls were time and we all know what time is… he sweated continuously.

The bulk of his Assistant Managing Recruiter responsibilities involved calling and convincing his clients, whom he referred to as “drippings,” to keep attending a job that he had set up for them. The jobs he procured may or may not have been more or less menial labor and mindless office work and his own company may or may not have been just another profiteering conglomerate raking it in off of all the drippings’ misery, but the drippings needed the work nonetheless. Nels pampered and pep talked and ‘go get ‘em tiger’d his drippings all day in the name of low turnover rates and high monthly bonus numbers.

CorpoTech Staffing United, Ltd. loved low turnover rates… my cousin loved his monthly bonus… the drippings loved being coddled… I loved my Singapore Slings…what was not to love?

Between all the digital howling and trembling and constant tremolo Nels confided in me about one of his immigrant clients (not-particularly-fluent women loved to perfume themselves in the American Dream and buy into the pressed, platinum look that Nels shined on), a nice gal in particular who he was trying to get out for drinks and deal close with. “I know she wants it dude, her hips say it loud enough, but if anything goes wrong at this job she could throw me under the bus to try and save her position. It’s like the porno where the chick gives it up to the dude to get a job, that’s where I’m at.”

 He whacked my shoulder and stared smiling, and then stopped abruptly as if Moses’ black angel of death had crept out from the line of beer taps. He put his hand on his chin. “Is that illegal though? This is not my first casting call if you know what I mean.”

He wasn’t the most lustrous shard of sea-glass, but Nels played defensive back all through his grade school and high school and undergraduate years, a wild eye’d cannon man prone to guzzling pints of Whisky and wandering through busy urban intersections, fully equipped with cheetah speed and a hell of a left hook…so I had to set him down easy.

 “I’m not sure you’re quite encapsulating the complexity of your arrangement, but I still refuse to believe anything is illegal if the young lady’s over eighteen and gives a reasonable amount of consent. In English or not… a blowjob’s a blowjob.” I raised a glass and we laughed and I enjoyed his unabashed interpretation of reality’s blanket folding and unfolding around us. At the time my own interpretations had been losing their bite and growing stale…

School had discontinued, for good, four months prior, and I had secured a job, part-time and low paying, but a job, piddling away at myself through eight hour stretches for three days out of the week… re-filing file folders, rearranging cabinet arrangements, re-verifying verification notifications…a whole hell of a lot of piddling. Two hours from each shift was spent button humping a copy machine, reeling off pounds of documentation required by the State to house and care for the kids who lived in the foster community that signed my paychecks (the state, not the kids).

I rarely talked after checking in at the front desk, waving at the secretary Tamika and trying not to come off as red wine hung over as I certainly was. The staff probably thought I was some raving mad white boy, maybe they thought I was strung out, who the hell knows…I only worked part time and never with the kids, so the administrators I knew were up tight social work majors who believed in the cause and the residential staff members I wanted to know thought I was one of the up tight administrators.

After a beer lunch I would dissect the kids’ case histories and I clocked overtime hours paging through counselors’ notes on art therapy and group therapy and play therapy and massage therapy ad infinitum. If I was at all feeling like the world owed me something that day the resentment or pity evaporated from my mind just as soon as I opened up one of the overstuffed “client” binders. Molestation by teachers, rape by uncles, maternal abandonment, paternal abuse, neglect, degradation, torture … all done before the ripe old age of fifteen…hyperactivity, attention deficits, hallucinations, depression, schizophrenia, mood disorders, fights at school…the inability to trust.

I saw them (aka the clients) in the hallways and scrambling to lunch and selling lemonade outside the brick building raising money for amusement park trips; the administrators who got bored would sometimes walk down to my office and relay stories to me about the clients picking fights with the residential staff members and the vulgar comments they would make and various depths of insanity that seemed to be occurring all the time within these brick walls. I rarely listened, however, and relished in my oblivion. I never put a human face to one of those black cased binders and kept ample space between myself and the clients because that would’ve made things a little too real.

You always need a little space when examining the harsher truths of life.

The kids seemed fine to me though. I could appreciate the underdog’d and hopeless bastards; it was the unending demand for paper copies and facsimile print outs and fresh ink cartridges that was burying me deep into stupor, sick and twisted and covered in black like a drunken gopher.

I had tried for months before graduation to line up a gig in manual labor. I should have been pulling up the driveway each evening with color and new muscles and a pocket full of dough equivalent to what I was pulling in now. To boot I’d be able to smoke on the job… but I couldn’t find a damn thing in the Help Wanted sections and all my family connections were restricted to lifetime union gigs and tradesmen apprentice commitments, neither of which I was about to sign up for. Every subcontractor and general contractor and Joe Handyman seemed to be out of business and down on their luck and hardly in position to hire a worthless general laborer such as myself.

The only other viable opportunity was a minimum wage landscaping gig I found drinking red wine on a Sunday afternoon betting horses that were galloping a thousand miles away. I tore up the newspaper advertisement and opted out of another summer mumbling broken Spanish and eating hot sauce drenched Doritos out of a truck bed and wishing I hadn’t drank a case of beer on my way down to the south side the night before. I was getting too old for that sort of gastric assault…plus I’d probably kill one of those bastardos nowadays if they called me ‘blanco.’ I wasn’t fucking 17 anymore….

Nels looked around the bar again for a set of older women but saw nothing worth getting off the bar top. “So how much are you depositing a week Mac?” Once high school athletics are in the off season a man’s annual income seems to become the only stat people put any stock into. Two simple digits. Three if you were lucky… four and you were the enemy, without doubt…to me it seemed about as relevant as when you took your last shit but it was a necessary ego inflating conversation piece that’d stab you at any good dinner party…

I thought the pressing question should have been, “How much a week are you spending Mac? And on what?” That inquiry rendered a hell of a lot more information about an individual, and room for gossip…the incidental costs…California import sativa crystals, crates of Cutty Sark and diet ginger ale, end of the bed no condom motel room rompings, Fall Season sales on heels and pleats and low rise and denim denim denim, celebrity magazines and movies and insider scoops, NFL Monday Night underdog moneylines struggling to find even ground, Czechoslovakian bondage equipment, model airplanes and antique wicker furniture collections…the omega point of Western culture.

I locked eyes on my cocktail.”I mean with the hours, something like $250. It ain’t much but my loans haven’t kicked into full interest yet and I have only a little credit card debt left, so as long as the dope stays relatively inexpensive around here and my car insurance down…” I took another swig from the ruby elixir and pinched one of the pineapples from off the rim. I had set the two umbrellas next down on a napkin and I re-set my semi-drunken gaze over the lip of the cup and onto the backside of a waitress who had dropped a silverware napkin behind the bar.

“Yeah, but you need more than that. You’ll be stuck in that room of yours forever in your Ma’s house. Stuck. How are you ever gonna get any good pussy up in that room? You’re like a cloistered monk.” He was laughing. No one got more pussy than Nels.

 “No shit constable, but let’s face, it I’m running on fumes just finishing school, thank god my body made it. And my wallet…shit I barely have enough cash to maintain, for now… and having to work only three of seven days has made for a damn relaxing summer, so I don’t know. For now I try not to think about the money too much. We got our whole lives to run around and suffocate in shopping malls…eventually our hearts will explode over all that fucking nonsense anyways, so what’s the point?” I took another sip and felt convinced by my previous statement then I thought about the loans and the dinner table and the hearts of men and women who had gone before me and quickly took another sip, longer and with my eyes closed. “I don’t know anything man.”

Nels straightened up.”I know this, baby: the money is all you should be thinking about. It runs the world! You’ve got to step up your game old sport. If I see any leads come across my desk I’ll set up an interview for you. That way you can make more money, I can make more money, and we can both keep banging before anyone goes into cardiac arrest.” His simplicity was algebraic and long legged divorcee enticing so I let out a good laugh and was beginning to quickly see, again, that none of this mattered. “Seriously, these resumes that pour out onto my desk, these people out there are cretins man. You’re qualified, college educated from an Ivy League practically, and you’re family. You know how to do work like I know how to do work.”

We might as well have been smashing helmets on the gridiron.

 “Alright, do what you want. I suppose you can’t pick up the drink tabs forever.” I was still staring into the glass and finished off the foamy remains and bit off another wedge of juicy tropicalia not really considering what I had just agreed to. I was playing out my own death in my head… excited and youthful love with my tender sylph, me a dirty old man, dying instantly after climax, falling unctuous and wrinkled and soft into the arms of eternity…

He called for a round of tequila. “I can tonight though bud, and that’s the best part of the game. Lets go talk to that mother daughter pair that just walked in. You look like hell you take the seniority.”At least we both still had our dreams…

The game went to extras but one of the regulars called for the local news and that was that. Nels shook my hand and rattled off some more about his weekend plans and told me he’d be getting back to me soon…within eight hours he had matched my resume with a lead that could substantially boost my annual income …so I bought a suit jacket and rolled through the first round of interview questions… I bought a new pair of socks for the second post-pre-screening screening… within a week I had received a phone call back congratulating me for having been selected from the large pool of candidates and here are the details for work which starts next Friday at 8AM sharp…

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