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Fools and Fiends – By Jack

Steven just didn’t get people and it was painful for me to watch. He was raised by and still lived with his Christian grandparents. There is something about the ultra-religious that just doesn’t get how people relate. It didn’t help that his weight gave him a double chin and belly that draped over his belt.

I tried to be respectful and mature when he came talking to me about the latest movie trailers. But his inability to recognize my lack of interest forced me to often cut him off mid-sentence. The only thing worse than his movie rants were his awkward situational jokes. Jokes so cliché and predictable I felt like I was in a Garfield comic strip. Something akin to “Monday’s are just the worst” or “I’m dead without my coffee.” Feeble attempts to start conversation, that instead left you wanting to run away.

So despite my best efforts, I ended up bullying him from time to time. Nothing too terrible. Just a slight relapse into the middle school persona I was less than proud of. Sometimes I would send him on a coffee run to the far away Coffee Bean for the office (opposed to the across the street Starbucks) or pretend I was on a conference call, mouthing conversations into my speaker phone when I’d see him approaching (one of the advantages of a clear sliding glass door of my office.)

Today Kelly and I were getting drinks after work. Kelly was the production coordinator for Monster Car Concoctions.  I had had my eye on her since she was hired two months ago. Some girls are beautiful and some girls are cute. Kelly was the perfect mix, desirable yet sweet and approachable.  The way Belle from Beauty and the Beast was quirky, but sensitive and down-to-earth. Slowly, we had started to build a rapport.

See what I mean?

But I hadn’t had the directness to officially call our drinks a “date”, so before I knew it, half the office was joining us. I tried to make the best of my dashed expectations. What would Mack do? As Happy Hour turned to regular bar hours, I had managed to enjoy myself with other coworkers while at the same time joking and comfortably engaging with Kelly. But every time I started to achieve that level of undivided attention from her, Steven would pop in, “Hey guys, they serve California rolls, but it’s not real crab. Why are they charging 9 bucks for them?”

“I don’t know…I think it’s something you’ll have to ask them.” Kelly responded, more sincerely then I would have expected. To which Steven then proceeded to actually do. “Sometimes that guy just makes my spine crawl.” I finally came out with it.

“Steven? I think he’s cute and endearing.”

“Really? You want me to set you up with him? I bet he’s free this Saturday.”

“Stop it. He means well. And nicer than most of the people we work with. ”

“There’s just something that really puts me off about him.”

“Well you know what they say? When ever something annoys you in someone else, it’s usually because it reflects something in yourself that you don’t like.”

“Is that so? You get that from a cookie at Pei Wei?”

“I’m serious, we see what we don’t like in ourselves in others.”

Just as I was about to reply, Steven cut in with “They claim that even though their crab is made from white fish, they can ‘attest that their sushi chef’s expert craftsmanship’ is not only worthy of the price but ‘is actually priced at a discount.’ Coooome on!”

“That’s a tough one Steven, but it’s too rich for my blood. I had better settle up.” At that Kelly took her coat draped on her chair, sliding her slim and tender forearm into the first sleeve.

“Where are you going? The night’s still young.” I pleaded (trying to sound relaxed.)

“I’ve got that conference call at 6 am. Why does the network have to be on the east coast? But give me a call sometime, maybe we can finish that conversation.” She winked then went up to the bar to pay and left. I sunk into my chair and took a defeated gulp of my pilsner.

“Hey, hey, hey! I can see what’s happening there, you like Kelly!” Steven chimed in like he had finally seen the 3D image in one of those Magic Eye pictures. I rolled my eyes. I was starting to be too drunk to censor myself. “But Jack. You’re going about it all wrong.”

“And what should I be doing to go about it all right?” This should be good.

“You should treat her with respect…”

“Oh yeah?”

“…listen, make sure she knows you care for her…”

“My God, you’re sooo right Steven!”

“…and do you want to know the most important thing?”

“Please…hold on. Can I record this? I may need to review the more complicated points.” I pulled out my phone, it may be a good thing to send out in a mass email.

“By all means! You should subscribe to my Youtube page.”

I started laughing so hard it was hard for me to keep my phone steady. Steven felt like my monkey. Running to do anything I wanted. I couldn’t help but indulge in the power from time to time. I took a deep breath to record the upcoming monologue.

“I’ve been watching you for a while Jack. I see how you talk to Kelly. Trying to be her friend but at the same time trying to get close so you can make your move. And I have got to say that is wrong.”

“Wrong?”

“Yes. Wrong. She is a sweet girl, Jack. She deserves better than you. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re after.”

I put down my phone.

“Look, Steven.  I know your grandparents have given you some crazy values–”

“Jack, I see what you do–”

“Seriously Steven, that Christian stuff can rub people the wrong way–”

“I see everything, Jack.”

“You see, that’s what I’m talking about. It kinda comes of as creepy.”

“I see the filth you look at online.”

“Excuse me?”

“The pornography and the fornication. You view some unholy material, Jack.”

“Woah. What are you talking about?”

“I check up on you. It’s important. Micah 7:5, ‘Trust you not in a friend, put you not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of your mouth from–”

“What do you mean, you check up on me, Steven? What are you talking about specifically?”

“I am aware of your internet browsing history. And I have to say I was mortified–”

“How? Did you go on to my computer? It’s password protected.”

“Jack. Your name spelled backwards with your birthday isn’t a very original password.”

Suddenly everything went fast and slow at the same time. I struggled to fully acknowledge that this…buffoon…had had access to everything in my digital life.

“And Jack, you should also probably have different passwords for all your other websites and email…and banking.”

“Banking?”

“Oh yeah. And you should be much more diligent about filling out the security questions, otherwise someone else might do it for you. You’ll never guess what Chase thinks your mother’s maiden name is now.”

It suddenly became hard to breath…

 

To be continued…

 

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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in By Jack

 

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Marty’s Half Dozen Chapter 4: Part 1 — By Jill

Think I'm getting the hang of it.

Think I’m getting the hang of it.

The crash, as it turned out, was ruled the woman’s fault. Time had passed and I was starting to feel like myself for the first time since moving back to Seattle.  At Wild Child Wings, I could now handle the main bar on a Saturday night by myself without writing a single order down. And if anyone gave me shit, I had a line of regulars ready to throw the bum out.

There was Eddie a lanky Irish banquet server from up the street. Carolyn, an actress who was in the “inner circle” of Seattle Equity actors. She had the cutest Hello Kitty backpack even though she must have been 34. Thomas and Stanley, two newly weds. I always thought it was funny that they came all the way down to drink at Wild Child in Pioneer Square rather than staying in the much more gay-centric Capital Hill. And Solomon. Solomon had a sheepish quality. He didn’t like to come when the place was busy and he often stuttered when it was.  Someone told me that he took care of his mother, but others said that he lived with her because he had had a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know which and I didn’t care. He also used to tip me in half dollars. And I love half dollars. They’re the perfect size.

The only one I didn’t see often was Marty. Something was different now. He had been there for me in the bleakest of moments and instead of that making us closer, I had started to avoid him. Marty always used to come in on Tuesdays and I had told Gus I couldn’t work them anymore. When Marty did come in, I put up a wall.

When he came in on a Friday, I did my best to play it cool.

“And how is the night treating you?”

“Good.” I replied as I turned away to restock the lowboy.

When I came back a few moments later, I dryly asked “So what’ll it be? The usual?”

He looked at me, maybe deciphering, maybe interpreting, and maybe just thinking. Then he answered, “Sure. Sounds good,” Giving me a smile as if to say, ‘It’s okay, do what you’ve got to do.’

He ate his wings with a contented smile as he turned to Solomon.

Meanwhile, Carolyn argued Stanley about Pride week.

“How can you say that?” Carolyn exclaimed.

“I’m sorry, I’m just over it.” Stanley matter-of-factly retorted.

Thomas, with his arms hugging Stanley’s waist silently mouthed “He’s not.”

Stanley instantly responded with a playful slap to Thomas’s face. “I am, it’s become too commercial. I mean, there’s corporate sponsorship.”

Carolyn interjected, “Jill! Tell Stanley he’s full of it, then cut him off!”

“What makes you think I give two shits about Stanley’s Pride participation? All I care about is if he wants another Goose on the rocks.”

“As it should be! And I do!”

On the other side of the bar, Solomon looked deep into his Strongbow. “Are…yo–you sure?” Marty wiped his hands and took cash out of his wallet placing it on the counter. “Solomon, I’m not 100% sure of anything. But you have needs too and there comes a point when you’ve done all you can for someone.”

“You’re going? B–but what if–“

“Solomon, if it does…there’s nothing I can say to stop it from happening. And I would hate to think that your anticipation of it stopped you from living the life I know you deserve.” With that Solomon gazed back into his Strongbow. Marty put his hand on his shoulder. “Have a good night, Sol.

Marty put on his coat and headed towards the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched to see if Marty would look back and give me some sort glance or wave goodbye.  

“But it’s not. It’s about expression, right Eddie!”

“Carolyn, are you talking about football?”

“No, we’re talking abo–“

“Then I don’t give a flying fauck!”

With that the entire group erupted with laughter. The clamor obstructed my view of the door.  When the group died down, Marty was long gone.

The night died down and one by one Wild Child Wings emptied out and I started to get ready to close. The only one at the bar top was Solomon, still staring into his Strongbow Cider.

“Hey Jill, I have one table left. Just one guy over in booth 3. Can I transfer him to you and get out of here?” On weekend nights we have a server or two to take some of the tables. Lindsey was always antsy about making the last bus.

“Yea, just let him know, it’s last call in 15 minutes.”

“Thanks, Jill.”

I went over to Solomon. “You’ve been nursing that cider for like 2 hours now. You okay?”

“Yeah. I think so. But…” Solomon lingered with his thought, as if he was about to ask a question that would ruin his whole outlook on life. Like a kid asking this parents if Santa Claus is real or a wife asking her husband why his office didn’t know he was going on his “business trip.”

“But what?”

“You and Marty used to be really close right?” I was afraid that I was going to have to confront Marty and my estrangement sooner or later. I just didn’t expect it to be with Solomon.

“Yes. Yes we were.”

“Then you were in that accident. And then…nothing. What happened?”

That very question I had spent dozens of 3 am mornings trying to figure out. Notions of my own sense of vulnerability that Marty had managed to penetrate deeper than anyone before. He was there when I was my weakest and most desperate and I couldn’t stand that. There were questions I was afraid to ask. What was he doing there the night I had crashed? Had he been watching me? Had I simply out grown him? Too many feelings and I just found it easier not to address.

“Nothing happened, Solomon. We just grew apart.”  

“Hmm…” He took another moment. “Do you trust him?”

Now it was my turn to take a moment.  I wanted to say yes. To say no would call into question all the wonderful things he had done for me, and all the other people I’ve seen him help night after night. Sorting though their problems with an uncanny sage-like wisdom. His ability to pierce though a person’s exterior and almost instantly know their inner thoughts and fears…helping these people see what they’ve been running from. A gift like that, it must come from an altruistic and giving person. Because otherwise…it would mean that…well that was something I simply couldn’t think about. And so, in avoidance of that possibility I started to answer.

“The thing you have to understand about Marty–“

“She doesn’t.” A voice from booth 3 interrupted.

“Excuse me?” I inquired.

“She doesn’t trust him.” The voice continued.

Then the patron stood up from the booth. It was Ralph. “And I’ll tell you why…how about a Negroni?”

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2013 in By Jill, Marty's Half Dozen

 

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