Jan. 27th, 2012

Coprolite

Jan. 27th, 2012 08:34 am
i_17bingo: (Default)

previously...


When her alarm went off at six a.m., her first impulse was to smash it to death with the table lamp. Instead, she held the urge back, picked up the phone, moaned, and shut it off. She rolled out of bed and rested her heels on the hardwood, cold-as-fuck floor and came close to crying out the dirtiest word that came to mind that day, just like she wanted to every morning. And, just like every morning, she swallowed it. This was her own fault for moving to goddamned Canada after growing up in a goddamn desert.

New Mexico. Shit. What did she have to go thinking about that for?

She closed her eyes, took a breath, and restrained the thoughts that wanted desperately to run there, steering them in the direction of the day ahead.

Shit. That didn't help.

She focused on the next ninety minutes.

That did it.

As she shuffled into the bathroom, her hand instinctively swept up a bottle of mood stabilizers and fumbled fruitlessly with the childproof lid. She barely kept herself from hurling it at the wall. After a great deal of concentration, she finally got the pills down her throat, leaving her free to speculate on the person watching her on the other side of the sink. Five years ago, that person would have been hung over. Ten years ago, she would have been crying. Twenty years ago, she would have been whining. This morning, she was calm, naked, and Zen with the events of yesterday.

She shook her head before wrapping her hair in a ponytail, slipping into a pair of track pants, pulling a sports bra over her head, making the necessary adjustments, zipping up a thick hoodie, and lacing up a pair of sneakers. On her way out the door, she leaned over to kiss the boy in her bed on the cheek. She wanted to tear off her clothes and fuck him, but she told herself she couldn't.

"Pete," she whispered, "I need to go to work."

"Why?" he mumbled.

"It's work."

"Oh." He rolled over. "Call me later?"

"If I feel like it."

Poor Pete--her perpetual rebound. She could tell he had been falling for her for a while now. She should probably stop calling him after days like yesterday, but she hated sleeping in a cold bed. Maybe she should just get a goddamn cat, like every other librarian.

It didn't take long to get to the gym, where she wrapped her hands and stretched. Here, in front of the heavy bag, her weight on the balls of her feet, her gloves up to keep from getting hit in the face again, it was okay to give in.

Five years ago, someone who maybe understood her more than anybody in the world--the person she hated most--walked out of her life.

One, two, one, two, one, six. Jab, straight right, jab, straight, right, jab, right uppercut. One, two, one, two, one, Sean.

Ten years ago, the closest friend she ever had up and quit on her.

One, two, three, two, five. Jab, straight right, left hook, straight right, left uppercut. One, two, three, two, Fuentes.

Twenty-five years ago, her mother was gone before they ever had a chance to get to know each other.

One, four, three, four, three, four, three, four, three, six. Jab, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right hook, left hook, right uppercut. One, Mom, Mom, Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! DAD!

Yesterday, her boyfriend said something she could only think of as a deal-breaker, leading to a pretty dramatic public breakup.

One, one, four, three, two, seven. Jab, jab, right hook, left hook, straight right, nut-punch. One, one four, three, two, Brody. Okay, so she made up seven.

She bounced back for a second and had to admit that she and love just didn't get along.

Over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of some person bouncing around in the reflection of the room. Teeth clenched, sweat and tears stinging her eyes, muscles tight, lightning searing her bones, she looked like someone she used to know.

One more round to go: Six. Right uppercut. Me.

After a long shower, she didn't have to worry about holding anything back anymore--the medication had kicked in, taking care of most of it; the rest had been rinsed away. It had taken a long time for her to stop hating herself so much that the world wanted her gone; simultaneously, it had taken a long time for her to stop loving herself so much that the world wanted only to do her bidding. Now, with her collar straight, her hair swept back, and her makeup alluring-but-subtle, she was just another twenty-seven-year-old on her way to work.

A long day beckoned. She needed to have a talk with her more-likely-than-not-ex-boyfriend, she needed to figure out whether or not to keep stringing Pete along, and she needed to pick up her phone and call the man who'd told her specifically never to "ever fucking dare" ask him for anything ever again and ask him for something. In other words, she needed to clean up a series of messes she'd made. In other words, it was business as usual.

She studied the woman in front of her, through the rouge, the eye-shadow, lipstick, and brushed-out hair. "Yeah," Lisa Green said. "I'm still in there."

i_17bingo: (Default)

Something I couldn't quite put my finger on told me that the editor of the newspaper I wanted to employ me wasn't yet convinced I was the person he was looking for.

So that editor put his finger on it. "I'm still not convinced you're the person I'm looking for."

"Tell me, Myron," I started.

"You just met me," he replied. "You're not allowed to call me by my first name."

"Can I call you chief?"

"No."

"Name one celebrity who won't talk to your paper," I told him, "and I can have an exclusive piece in your inbox by deadline tomorrow evening."

"Okay, Mister..." He peered skeptically at my resume. "... Max Fuentes. If you can blow my mind with a story about Gerald Davies, you're hired."

"You won't regret it, chief."

I know that I regretted it, because there was no way a twenty-four-year-old, wannabe journalist could get access to a mega-super-blockbuster-action star like Gerald Davies. Still, my favorite things to do were things I couldn't do, so I spent the night and the rest of the next day looking for inspiration in a bottle of cheap scotch and a plastic bag full of weed.

It wasn't there.

Oh well, there was always blackmail. I opened my laptop, consulted a few search engines, and picked up my cell.

"This is Cheryl," said the voice on the other end of the phone.

"Hi, Cheryl," I replied with an exaggerated twang, "this is Maxwell Fox from the Internal Revenue Service; I was hoping to ask you a favor." Yes, I was aware that impersonating a federal agent is a serious crime.

"You want a favor from me?" Cheryl asked with hesitation.

"Yep!" I whispered conspiratorially, "I wouldn't ask, but I am in such deep doo-doo." I laughed, "Sorry about that. I've got two little boys, and I think I've forgotten how to swear."

"Tell me about it. My girls have kids of their own, and I still say fudge when I'm really mad. How old are they?"

"Two and four." I plucked from my memory the names of my nephew and his best friend: "Luke and Cody."

Cheryl cooed.

"Can you tell me something?" I asked. "When do they stop putting everything in their mouths? There's always slobber on everything!"

She laughed. "Slobber's the least of your problems. Wait until they start driving."

"They grow up too fast."

"Yes, they do." She sighed. "What can I do for you today, Mr. Fox?"

"Please," I insisted, "call me Maxwell."

"Sure, Maxwell."

"As I said earlier, I'm in a bit of a pickle. It says here your firm handles the account of a Mr. Gerald Davies? The big movie star?"

"That's right."

"Well," I told her, "we're looking over some returns--routine government brick-a-brack; you know government."

"Tell me about it …"

"Well, I was supposed to draw up a little report, and I had all of my information on my little laptop, and it busted. You know computers."

"Tell me about it."

"Well, they told me over and over. They said, 'Maxwell, you better back that file up!' And I said I would, but I plum forgot! And if I go to my meeting this afternoon and I don't have that data, well, I don't have to tell you how much trouble I'd be in."

"What can I do to help?" she asked, genuine concern in her voice.

"The information I need is in Mr. Davies's expense accounts for the last fiscal year."

"Oh, I don't know."

"Cheryl," I pleaded, "they're going to boil my potatoes. I wouldn't ask if I wasn't in such a jam!"

She sighed, "Only if you don't tell anyone about this."

"Oh, God bless you!" I gave her a private e-mail account I'd set up for such an occasion, and she promised she'd send the information right away.

"Anytime, sweetheart!" Just before she hung up, she added, "You just be sure to give little Cody and little Luke a hug for me!"

"Sure thing!" I settled back in my desk, gulping down a mouthful of cold coffee to wash out the taste of Midwestern colloquialisms. A few minutes later, Cheryl came through, and I had in my hands every cent that passed through Gerald Davies's hands last year.

More importantly, I had in my hands my new job.

I made a couple of similarly dishonest phone calls and found the number of his publicist.

"Mark Ryan," the publicist answered.

"My name is Max Fuentes," I told him. "I'm an unemployed journalist, and I'm trying to exploit your client, Gerald Davies, to get a job. If you don't mind, I'd like to ask him a few questions."

I could almost hear him blink in surprise from the other end of the line. "What?"

"Hold on," I said, "I'm nervous. That came out totally wrong. What I meant to say, Mark, was, what can you tell me about the Loving Spoonful, located on 103rd Street and Amsterdam?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," he replied after a long pause that indicating that he knew exactly what I was talking about.

"Not ringing any bells?" I insisted. "How about the one on Franklin? Or the one on Avenue C? How about Forty-ninth and Ninth?"

"What do you want?"

"What I want is to understand why a multi-millionaire would spend 35 percent of his net income to open up a chain of soup kitchens and then cover his tracks so thoroughly."

He sighed. "His pastor told him that charity doesn't count if he brags about it. It's that simple."

"How does this sound?" I asked. "Banner headline: 'Action star fights homelessness!' Subhead: 'Davies defeats …' Oh, hell, what's another word for poverty that starts with D?"

"I don't know," he replied.

"Never mind," I told him. "The copyeditors write the headlines anyway. They're really good at that alliteration bullshit."

"Your point, Mr. Fuentes?"

"Let me break this down for you, Mark," I said. "I am going to write an expose of your boss's extracurricular activities, and there's nothing you can do to stop me. In fact, you guys come across better if you give my staff a 'no comment.' Hell, I'll save you the trouble and take that down right now."

"Then why the song and dance?"

"Simple," I replied. "In exchange for all this free character-building publicity I'm about to rain down on Mr. Davies, all I ask is that you reconsider your relationship with me and the paper that's about to hire me."

After a moment of silence, he grunted, "Fine."

I grinned. "Pleasure working with you, Mark."

Forty-five minutes later, my phone went off. Before I could even speak into it, Myron Fogle's voice barked at me. "This e-mail you sent me; is this for real?"

"Have I ever lied to you?"

"I just met you."

"Give it time, then."

"I want to see you in my office tomorrow," he said. "Bring a passport or two forms of ID."

"Thanks, chief!"

Just before I hung up, he added, "And don't call me chief ever again," he said.

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Jeremiah

January 2013

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