Liquid Lunch Payday

“I want him out of here.”

There’s a perfect way to start my day. Getting nagged by my best friend Jeff’s wife, while I’m asleep on this living room couch with my pants off.

I can hear Jeff whisper yelling. “We’re going. Knock it off.” Atta boy, Jeff. I know he’s only doing it because he knows I’m listening. She knows that I’m listening too, but we all keep up the Kabuki theater where everybody pretends I’m still sound asleep and can’t speak for myself. I’m not going to be the one to break the chain by opening my eyes. Not until Elaine walks away.

“Kyle wants to watch his show before he goes to school. Wake up and leave.”

She walks into the hallway and I sit up. For Kyle’s sake. Kyle’s a good kid. My uncle Fred used to crash on my parent’s couch when I was a kid, and I remember waking up and getting pissed off that my routine was being janked up. I get it. But that doesn’t excuse for Elaine being such a bitch first thing in the morning.

I’m wearing yesterday’s shirt and tie, and my suit is off to the side somewhere, but I didn’t wear any of it to work yesterday. Our friend Hector had a bachelor party last night and we suited up for steaks and strippers. I should be fine to go into work like this. even if I smell like cigars and crotch. I pull Jeff’s dusty Ohio State fleece blanket off and make sure my dick isn’t hanging out of the fly in my boxers, before putting on the suit pants and belt. I feel like of ridiculous. 42 years old and crashing on your friend’s couch isn’t anybody’s life plan, but here we are.

Jeff smiles as he walks up to me. “Hey maniac. You get any sleep?”

“Your shitty couch is fucking my back up.”

“You could take the subway back into Brooklyn.”

“Better idea. Why don’t we go family style on Elaine next time?”

He’s laughing. “Fuck off.”

“I’m sure we’ve both got moves. We could teach each other. I’ve been watching a lot of strange porno.”

“Can’t believe you haven’t found a wife yet.”

We both take the 4 train down a few stops. It’s a quiet moment on a noisy train where we don’t feel like we have to say anything to each other. We’re just struggling to find a spot in the crowd where we can hold onto a hand rail without being pushed into the middle of the pack. We get to my stop first and I leave without saying goodbye. I should transfer to the 6, but don’t feel like standing on the hot platform in this suit for one second more than was absolutely necessary. I pull out my phone and check the time. 8:51. I’ll probably make it to work in ten minutes, but I stop for a bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel and tack on another five.

I’m the last one in the office. I’ll be the first one out as well, leaving right at 5:30 or a few minutes earlier if nobody is watching. Anne and Victoria will stay until six or six thirty. My ass-kissing boss Garrison will stay until seven. Fucking try-hards. I eat my sandwich and nod hello, hoping that nobody will bother me. They don’t. A few stare, because I am wearing a suit while they’re in jeans, but nobody says anything. I pull out my phone and start surfing the same three sites I’ll check all day. A lot of people have starred some comment I made last night while I was blind drunk.

It’s New Year’s Eve, not New Year’s Steve.

That was sarcasm. I’m just telling you because it’s hard enough to tell in the correct context. I don’t even remember what the article is about. Either way, I’m not a dick about what gay people do.

After I finish the egg sandwich, I open the receivables screen and pretend to do a few collections calls. This mostly involves me scowling at the screen as if I’m making a rough calculation about what needs to be done in order to get through to one of the clients. Sometimes I open a spreadsheet and type things into the different cells.

NOW THIS IS A STORY

ALL ABOUT HOW

MY LIFE GOT TWISTED

UPSIDE DOWN

I’D LIKE TO TAKE A MINUTE SO SIT RIGHT THERE

I’LL TELL YOU ALL ABOUT HOW I BECAME THE PRINCE OF BEL AIR

I could send an email, but then somebody might respond, and I’ve already got 65 messages to sort through.

Anne leans over and asks me if I’m responding to Reggie’s message.

“No, I’m still going through the inbox.”

“Okay. Just letting you now. I know the partners are stressed about getting the project signed off by this afternoon.”

“For sure.”

It’s 9:45 and I get up to take a shit. It’s not so bad on this separate floor. Most of the company works 5 stories up, but if you’ve ever worked in accounting or collections, you know that they always stick you in one of the shittier offices. No point in spending money when you don’t typically deal with the clients. Most people see this as a bad thing. Most people are stupid. Nobody comes down here so I can take a shit in peace, fucking around on my phone, and scorching fools online with my savage truths in the comments section.

I’ve been dueling with somebody after I quoted Blazing Saddles as a joke and they didn’t get the reference.

Oh, we’re morons, huh? Fuck you. Way to generalize an entire people.

I consider going to imdb to check all the quotes to see if I’ve missed anything, but have two in the chamber.

What a Heady response.

I will now spend the rest of the day arguing with this guy using nothing but movie references.

I get back to my desk and manage to send a few emails out before Garrison starts following up on the old requests.

Where are we on this?

           He’s like a fucking five-year-old. Each thing in a separate email when I’m already drowning in bullshit mass messages that don’t apply to my work. Believe it or not, I’ve actually done most of these things already. Granted they’re usually a week old and didn’t require much work, so theoretically they all should have been completed, but I can usually pull up a corresponding email that I’d sent to cover my ass. Of course this is just a test, and when he finds one thing he’ll be sure to give a great lecture on how I need to be more careful about catching tasks before they fall into the cracks.

There’s a request for a meeting. Just me, Garrison and the new ugly HR lady that seems to have a crush on the prick. No doubt about it, they’re going to give me a big raise. I ignore the invite until it’s time to go in, to which Garrison asks me if I’m ready.

“Sure thing. Do I need to bring anything with me?”

“No.”

The truth is I should quit this job. They hate me and I hate them. But the reality is I hate looking for work. The worst job in the world is looking for a job. I’ve got no problem putting on a suit and lying to somebody, but the looking at what’s out there is so depressing. Though in all honesty, I wouldn’t care if they’d laid me off. I’d get a few months of unemployment, and the summer heat was finally letting up. I could have cheap afternoons in the park with a bottle of $8 wine three days a week, skipping out on lunch, and only barely paying my rent.

I go in and the ugly HR woman asks me how I feel things have been.

“Fine.”

She raises her eyebrows, as if she honestly couldn’t have expected me saying that. “Are you having any personal problems at home?”

“No. You?”

“Well I just wanted to have a meeting because I’ve heard a few things about your job performance, and I just want to get everything out in the air.”

Garrison is doing his concerned face, where he almost looks embarrassed to be in the room.

“Well that’s news to me.”

Garrison is cutting in. “Is it? Because we’re having the same conversations over and over. It just seems like you’re distracted. Things aren’t getting done.”

“I’m focusing on collections. If I’m not freelancing on the invoicing details, that’s why.”

“Okay, well invoicing is part of your job.”

“Sure. But I’m bringing in the money, and that’s the bigger part.”

He goes on, laying out scenario after scenario. He’s actually reading them out of a book. The funny thing is that there are mitigating circumstances for every scenario he names, and most of the time I can explain the problem to where he would say, “Well I don’t want to get bogged down in that one specific thing.” I know what he’s doing. Even if I have a rock solid defense for every accusation, if he mentions enough problems, after a while it just sounds like I’m just making excuses.

“And another thing. You have been abusing your ten-minute grace time.”

“My what?”

“You come in the office at 9:09, or 9:07 every day. We’re supposed to be here at nine. The workday starts at nine.”

“The employee handbook says you aren’t counted as late until 9:10.”

“That’s supposed to be for the random subway problems. Not an every day thing.”

“Is there any language in the employee handbook that stipulates how many times you are allowed to come in to work between nine and 9:10?”

“No, but that’s not what it’s for.”

“So it’s an unwritten rule?”

“Essentially.”

The HR woman looks at me. “These are very serious issues.”

Fuck you.

“Are you upset?”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because we’re having a meeting for your benefit and you seem like you want to lash out.”

Oh shut the fuck up. You’re having a meeting to say you had a meeting. Makes it easier to fire me later.

“Nope. That’s just my face. I have resting angry face.”

“He does look like that most of the time.”

“Do you have anything that you want to say in your defense?”

“Nope.”

“Okay. You can go.”

I take a lunch break around the corner at a bar. I’m drinking an IPA and eating a chicken parm in an Irish Pub. They’re showing the highlights from the Yankees game last night. I watch as my team swings at pitches that might have been ghosts.

“Choking bag of shit.”

There’s a group of three old men in suits huddled over their scotches, bobbing up and down with laughter. I look over and see the oldest one, just to my left look at me. He’s got a nose that just looks like it just kept on growing all his life, all red and speckled with black pores.

“We were at that game last night?”

“Yeah. What inning did you leave?”

That got a laugh out of the three guys. “What was it, the eighth inning? Who the fuck knows? All I know is they stop selling beer at the seventh inning stretch, and I wasn’t going to sober up to that. Did you watch the game?”

“Actually I was at a strip club.”

“Even better.”

“Sure. Why watch somebody strike out when you can do it yourself?”

The loud man’s face scrunches up like a beaver while he slaps the palm of his hand against the bar. “Ain’t that right. The other day I’m in Jersey at this club. Real shithole. And there’s this one Asian with a flat face but a smoking body, and I figure what the hay? I go upstairs for a handie. She’s got her hand on my dick and all of a sudden I hear ‘I need more mah-nee.’ Well I go, Jesus, here you go, so I give her another $200. An I keep upgrading, and one thing leads to another and we start fucking. Then when I’m this close to finishing up she just starts saying ‘Teep. Teep. Teep.’ Oh my God. I’m like, listen, I’ll pay you whatever you want, but stop asking for money while I’m inside you.”

“That’s a real mood killer.”

“Such a turnoff. Let me buy you a shot.”

“You doing one too?”

“Guys? One before the meeting?”

They shrug, he orders, and we shoot. After that they settle up the tab and leave me to my own, so that I can return to my phone. I’m just the right level of drunk when I leave the bar. Slightly numb, but I don’t have to pee every five minutes. I can sit at my desk, maybe make a few calls, have a little fun with some of the clients, and get out at 5:30. I’ve got 10 minutes before I have to be at work, so I take a walk to the video game store and kill 25 minutes playing the demo first person shooter that I suck at, while kids watch from behind.

I walk around to the sports apparel store and try on fitted hats. I’m not going to buy anything. The hats don’t look right on my head when they’re fitted. I look like an NBA draft pick wearing a suit with one. Eventually I look at my watch and see that I’ve just done a two-hour lunch.

I get back to my computer and see that I’ve got a series of increasingly panicky emails from Garrison.

Just want to make sure you’re ready.

            Have the open items report for McKinney Associates ready.

            Where are you? I want to go over things.

            Come upstairs as soon as you get this.

            WHERE ARE YOU????

“Fuck.”

Anne leans over. “Garrison’s been looking for you.”

I bet he has. We’d been flirting with McKinney, doing bullshit nothing projects for the past year, in the hopes that we’d finally get their $10M construction project downtown. Normally, getting them to commit would have been a huge deal. Unfortunately, they hadn’t made a payment and it’s my job to see if they’re actually deadbeats. But the thing is, this is a massive client, and Garrison had specifically told me he was going to handle things. I look at his notes. All emails sent to a Candice Wetzler. I had the report ready, but decide to give a call. Maybe if I have some inside information on where they are, I can save my butt.

“Hello, I’m looking for a Candice Wetzler.”

“Sorry, but Candice isn’t here any longer. She’d the company nine months ago. Would you like me to forward you to Beverly’s voice mail?”

“Sure.”

I leave a message and take the elevator up to the main floor. Garrison’s eyes track me through the semi opaque glass wall. His lips are thin and he’s trying to hold onto this smile that he must think passes for a normal human pleasant face. I open the door and get halfway in until I look over at the men seated at the far end of the table. It’s the three guys from the bar, sitting with their arms crossed, their mouths slowly dropping open as they watch me enter the room.

I sit down and listen to Garrison go on about how far we can leverage ourselves, while the partners talk about what they can offer. I take a look at the proposal. We are asking for a retainer of 50%, which is way higher than usual, but we’re charging less for the actual work. Garrison’s idea.

The big one, who I now know is Hank leans in and starts humming. Garrison panics and thinks he’s backing out, but I know Hank’s just getting the day drunk headaches. And he might be fighting off the urge to take a piss. “It’s a good rate, but I’m not big on half up front, if you catch my drift.”

Garrison presses. “It’s half up front, but given our previous difficulties, we really need to have something in place to cover our assets.”

The partners are getting nervous. And the men across the table are squirming.

I lean forward. “Come on. You know what’s going on here.”

Hank cocks his head and I hold my hand out like I’m handling onto the biggest banana you’ve ever seen.

“I need more mah-ney.”

The grin escapes his face before he can even think about a reaction, and laughter follows quickly. All three of them laugh like kids who have just heard a dirty joke.

Hank leans in. “Do you want me to give you a teep?”

I laugh and look over at Garrison who smiles despite not being able to understand the joke, which makes me laugh even harder. Garrison sips his water and tries to interject.

“I know this sounds like we’re being sticklers but we do have the matter of the outstanding $60,000, and my messages have not been returned.”

I raise my hand not caring if anybody calls on me to speak, and butt in, “I know that you’ve said you’re working the account, but I looked at your notes and saw that you’ve been emailing somebody named Candice over there.”

The men across the table sit up.

“Candice isn’t there anymore.”

Garrison looks back to me. “How do you know that?”

“I called them.”

Hank leans back in his chair. “Jesus Christ. What is it with you goddamn millennials? Can’t ever pick up the phone.”

I do my best not to look smug and watch the partners begin to glower at Garrison who sits up straight in his crisp, starched shirt.

Hank leans over to the partners. “Can you guys do us a favor?” He points at Garrison. “I don’t want him anywhere near this project. I want…” he wags his finger at me. “That guy.”

I smile. “You buying the drinks?”

“Yeah. Carl, hand me the checkbook.”

We got the project. Of course I don’t see a dime, but the maneuver probably saves my getting fired for another day. The partners aren’t as thrilled with me as they are disgusted at Garrison, who can’t brown nose his way out of this. They all know that whatever happened, I’d gotten lucky, and still might blow it with these guys. But Garrison had made the partners look bad. And for today, that is good enough for me.

I manufacture a cough and go home early. Must have been something that I ate. There’s nowhere to go from here but downhill.

One thought on “Liquid Lunch Payday

  1. Nice writing, the story was engaging and the flow was good until the central character’s complaining got repetitive. That may be a plot device but take pity on your readers and toss in a few vivid details here and there to give our psyche’s a treasure hunt while we’re tolerating the rantings of a grey-life corporate ne’er do well.

    Maybe reveal more of his character by pointing out stuff he notices like how Anne has a new perfume every week but keeps wearing the same old ill-fitting bras that make her tits look like traffic cones. Or how the more agitated Garrison gets, the more shaving nicks he has on his neck and how he pulls out a gold Cross pen and fiddles with it in front of people in meetings like a penis extension when he needs an ego boost. Or how one of the old men smells exactly like the Ohio State blanket if you added loneliness and scotch farts. Stuff like that.

    Like

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