Take Me Seriously

The sshss sshss of papers on papers, slightly above room temperature, hot off the HP Photosmart 3416. Already a crease on the back, a branching spine like a peace symbol with a few lines missing.

“Ok, so this one’s the breakthrough, then?”

“Yea—I mean, I thought—”

A slice of mind, passed off. The safety of a blind-drawn living room. Slats of light on the ceiling, casting shadows on textured plaster. The order of legs propped on the coffee table: his left, her left, his right, under her left; her right. Upper bodies diverging at the hips, his vertical, hers diagonal, across the armrest.

“Well, go on then.”

“It was a dull, autumn day, and Jill Pole was crying—”

“Chronicles of Narnia.”

“What?”

“That’s The Silver Chair.”

A narrowing of eyes. A head quickly shaken. Palms facing the ceiling. Arms out. “You’ve memorized The Silver Chair?”

“I’ve memorized the name of its central character, yeah,” with air quotes at “memorized.”

Eyes raise, fingers tracing a circle in the air—‘go on,’ in charades. “And you were just scanning your brain to check… to see if I was plagiarizing?”

A quick inhale, held. Brow furrowed. “I guess—” A false start. Thumb and forefinger rubbed along lips’ edges. “I mean, after last time, it’s just where my brain goes, you know?”

But she’s made green tea: no arguments over green tea.

One nostril up. “That was an homage. He’d appreciate it.”

“He’s dead.” Emphasis. Mouth opened slightly more than strictly necessary. Brows raised above the nose. “And just swapping out tennis for competitive dog grooming and updating the pop culture—”

“The themes aren’t new, what am I supposed to do? All I can do is expand on them. Add my own voice.”

“I’m not sure expanding is really necessary, in this case.” More air quotes. One brow down, one up, now.

A finger in an eye corner, rubbing. Crusties inspected. “It was going meta.”

A slow swell of breath through nostrils. “Of course it was.”

The certain silence. But you can’t just ask to be taken seriously. A clicked tongue. “‘s work?”

“Alright, Amber’s Amber, but what’s new, right?”

“More department-wide memos?”

“You know it. To all six people in our department.” Eyes wide, lips contorted, a different, idiotic voice. “Just talk to my employees like a normal person?

“Nope?”

Face, voice settled down. “Big time doubts about that ever happening. How about you?” Light flicking across her iris almost unbearably green.

“You sure you want to know?” Eyes forced into a pained expression. Lips tightening outward anyway. An unwilling smile.

Head tilted. Teeth. “What happened?”

“OK.” Repositioning. A more forward-leaning stance. “No repercussions? You have to promise no repercussions.”

Stillness.

“Like, if we were going to have sex tonight—no pressure, we don’t have to, I know, I know how it is—but if we were going to, before this… alright?” A variety of hand motions.

Legs untangled from legs, crossed. “Not exactly how it works.”

“How what works?”

“I don’t want to get into the… you know… physiology right now, but—”

“Well, just do your best.”

Pupils raised in their sockets, for a moment. “Alright, will do, now what happened?”

“OK, so you know the deal with the garbage truck—”

“The deal?”

“Like how we have a truck to put garbage in.”

“Right, deal.” Fore- and middle fingers getting another workout.

“Right, so and you know there’s old chicken bones and pastries and stuff in the garbage sometimes, and the animals love that, right?”

“Understandably.”

“Yeah, of course, delicious. So sometimes seagulls and crows will try to get at it, which miffs me up, but then the real problem lately is the coons—”

“Raccoons?”

“No, nigg—of course raccoons. So they climb in the back and the fuckers’ll tear 200 pounds of garbage to shreds trying to get at like a single crumb of lemon cake.”

“Oh my god, lemon cake. This weekend, we’re having lemon cake.”

“What’s happening this weekend?”

“Lemon cake.”

“Right, but when are we eating this? Is there an event?”

“It’s delicious.”

“Sure, OK, but anyways, the little fuckers’ll do just that: fuck things up. Loose bits of shit all over the back of the truck, and I’m the guy that has to load this all into the compactor, right? So obviously this miffs me up big time—”

“Conflict established, good.”

“—and so I’m—yeah, exactly—so but I’m looking to get rid of these shitheads any way I can. I’ve tried putting bits of bread out laced with bleach, and spraying degreaser over all the bags so they smell awful, but they don’t even care. They just go right in, and seem fine, considering they keep coming back”

“Some sort of immunity.”

“Must be. And so but lately it’s gotten really, just unimaginably bad, and last week a bag full of pulled pork split right open, right down my leg—seeped through my shoe and everything. So really, just an incredible amount of anger going on right now.”

Laughter.

“So I’ve decided maybe it’s just a matter of fear. Maybe I just need to put the fear of man into them. So I found a broom with a nice long handle, and started running at them, rapping the handle on the ground and jingling my keys, and shouting.”

“You chase them around with a broom?”

“Well I’m not going to take on a rabid beast unarmed, shit.”

“And this happened today?”

“No, no. This has been going on for a few days now. This is all just preamble. Just wait for the climax.”

“Oh god.”

“Yeah, prepare yourself. So today—”

“I held back on a joke about waiting for a climax, by the way.”

“Oh thanks. So good of you to let me forget about that for a few nanoseconds.”

“Any time.”

“You are a saint. So but today, I had to go down to the back end to talk to one of the guys in maintenance about getting new wheels on one of the… well anyways I was down by maintenance, which you don’t know the layout but is sort of behind the loading bay where the truck is, filled with garbage.”

“Got it.”

“So I’m down there, and it all goes well—Dave’s a good guy—and I’m coming up behind the truck and I see these raccoons in the bed, just going to town on some bags like they were just the knees on a bee, and I’m of course I’m pissed off, but then what do I see leaning against the back wall of the loading bay?”

“A broom?”

“Points to the young lady. A goddamn long-handle 100% corn bristle masterpiece, just asking to be used as a weapon.”

“Just asking for it.”

“So I take it, and get it in my head like I’m going to rap on the ground and jingle my keys and shout and all that, but then I realized—”

“You need a new job?”

“—this was the perfect opportunity. The layout—they’ve got nowhere to go from where I’m standing. If I come at them from the right angle, they’ve got to run onto the loading bay, and that’s a dead end.”

“Foresh—”

“Let me, please. So I just switch like that into stealth mode, and sneak up behind a few other work vans to just the perfect angle where they’ve either got to run onto the loading bay or just go single-combat, which I have a broom and higher intellect, so…”

“You definitely have a broom.”

“So then I wait for the perfect time and I pounce. Real BBC nature doc shit. And I run at them, and they absolutely flip. They start running every way at once, and lemon cake just going everywhere—”

“Oh my god, lemon cake.”

“—and so they’re splitting up, but I think back to the aforementioned documentary series, and you see the wolves just destroying the caribou or whatever, and it’s all about staying focused on one, drawing him away from the pack. So I see one that’s like frozen on the tailgate and clearly having a pretty solid existential-type crisis like ‘do I run into the foreign land of the loading bay, or do I face my obvious superior, and die?’ You know? ‘And what is life anyways?’ He’s flipping out, so I pick him run right at him, and of course he’s a pussy and starts running up onto the loading bay.”

“To be fair, I’d run too.”

“So I jump up after him, and make sure to be right in the middle of what’s now his only exit, back out toward the truck. And I slowly walk toward him, rapping and jingling and monologuing, and he’s under this table at the back where the recycling gets sorted out, just scaring the shit out of himself knocking over bottles and stuff. So then he realizes after a few seconds there’s nowhere to go except straight at me, so I hear him like gather his emotional shit, and he makes this hckkkkk sound and just comes right at me, and so I wind up way over my head and just crack him right across the back, with the broom.”

A long time. “Are you fucking serious?”

“No shit, and he like shoots all his limbs straight out and lays there twitching for a while, legs just, just convulsing, and I realize this guy’s paralyzed, like can’t move at all, aside from the twitching. So I gather my emotional shit to do what I have to do, and I crack him again, on the head this time.”

“Jesus.”

“But their little tiny skulls are fucking hard, man. Like it hurt my hand, even through the broom. And he just took it and kept breathing. So I hit him a few more times, just right on the dome, but he wouldn’t even pass out.  There’s blood spurting out of his mouth now, at this point, onto the broom and the loading bay floor, but he just kept breathing like hckkkkk, hckkkkk. So I really don’t feel like sitting here beating a raccoon until he finally just gives up, like how long is this going to take, so I swept him into a bucket and threw him into the compactor.”

“You crushed him to death?”

“Well, I mean it was that or starving to death. There was no way that asshole was going to make it.”

“Still, though, that’s pretty brutal.”

“Well I mean he came right at me.”

“Have you read any George Saunders?”

“What? Why? No.”

“Just curious.”

“What’s going on here, with the body language?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re leaning like two degrees away from me more than before.”

“Not sure. Why don’t you write stuff like that? That’s original.”

“Nobody wants to read that. Seriously, what’s up here? You said no repercussions. You still going to try your best?”

“I said I would.”