I’m sure you’ll all be quite pleased to know that, after 7 back-to-back episodes of Law and Order yesterday (which really freaks a person out, now that you mention it; I’ve been scanning dumpsters for body parts all day), followed by 12 hours of sleep, I feel much, much better. I awoke this morning sans headache, sans throat ache, sans despair.
Ah, it feels good to be human again!
However, one among us was not so lucky.
The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event (except a taxi bursting into flames in midtown Manhattan, of course.)
Rick was in a foul mood. He was already late for his 9:30 meeting with the head of Gladstone & Sweaty Sweat Socks Inc., thanks to Jessica, who had picked her usual Thursday morning fight over him finishing off the Wheetabix and soy milk—and for God’s sake, she didn’t even like Wheetabix. When would she get that through her addled brain? Still, it was probably his fault. He knew she was trouble the day he met her.
[Flashback to smoky bar]
“Hi there, stranger,” she said, gazing at him from a monocle-magnified, hazy green eye. He’d never seen anything so beautiful, not since his days as a podiatrist back in Dubuque.
“Hello,” he managed. “Ahem.”
“Buy me a drink? Maker’s Mark Manhattan. With salt.”
“Suuuure.” It came out of him slow and oozy, like the first crap after a night of hard drinking. He stumbled to the bar, where he hit his chest (bad depth-perception) and went down. Already, he was weak-kneed. He’d never felt this sort of thing before. Pleasure and pain, all at the same time. When she put the drink to her lips, he noticed that it contained a special slushie straw, with a spoon tip. This was his kind of woman.
[Rick snaps back to present]
Yes, he should have known. Yet, would he have done it any different? Sure, he might be able to live without sharing his breakfast cereal, or the knock-down, drag-out fights over The Cosby Show (he was pro, she vehemently against), but in the end, Jessica made life exciting. Right? Opening that meth lab in his apartment had certainly kept him on his toes, for instance….
He checked his Manish Arora collection Swatch watch—shit—and made for the door. Despite his best intentions, the creaky doorjamb screwed him yet again. You couldn’t trust that thing. And even if you could, the Crime Scene Investigation tape insisted on rustling when you passed through it.
“Riiiiick!” he heard. “Don’t leave without taking Melvin on his walk!”
“Jessica,” he began, “I’m already …” and then, he stopped. It was no use. She was no good with Melvin, and they both knew it. So he grabbed the iguana, tucked him in with his washable silk pocket square, and exited, yellow tape clinging to the thighs of his gray flannel suit.
As luck would have it, there was a cab right outside his building, and he waved furiously at the driver, who saw him and seemed to understand that urgency was everything, yet at the last minute, turned off his “Available” light and feigned sleep.
“Damn it!” shouted Rick, covering Melvin’s tiny ear holes. Quickly, he scanned the street, and there was another cab, thank heavens, chugging right toward him. It stopped, and he got in.
“To 54th and 7th, my dear, fortuitous man,” Rick announced. “And please, step on it!”
The driver made no indication that he had heard or understood, yet took off speedily in what seemed to be the right direction. Rick sat back and looked at his BlackBerry. Nightmare of nightmares, it was now 9:23. There was no way he would get to this meeting on time. And Jessica knew well what was at stake! If he was to be fired, it would be her blame entirely!
Gladstone & Sweaty Sweat Socks Inc. might or might not be merging with Cookies For People Who Love Cookies LLP, and while Rick boasted no MBA from an accredited institution like his colleagues, he felt such a partnership might lack a certain “synergy.” Still, what was he to do? Jessica had urged him to keep quiet—”nobody likes a rabble-rouser,” she’d said. And these guys had all gone to Horton, and Warvard … They knew what was best. Jessica kept showing up unannounced at the office to remind him of that.
He sighed. Maybe it was for the best. Since he’d made her quit gambling everything had turned rotten. She did have a knack with the greyhounds, he had to admit. It sure would make things easier if he could just quit G&SSS, where he’d been pushing papers semi-productively for the last 18 months. He wasn’t even sure why they’d given him the job, except perhaps for his penchant for sweaty sweat socks, and Jessica had changed all that. There was no joy in it anymore.
Well, Jess could go back to what she did best, and their home life would surely improve. He patted Melvin. “Perhaps we could get that 42-inch plasma you’ve been after,” he murmured.
The driver shot a glance at him, looking strained. “Take it easy, fellow,” said Rick. “We’re already at Herald Square, my good man!” His mood was vastly improved given his recent decision to turn Jessica loose on the races, but the cab driver seemed a bit jittery. Probably too much coffee.
Rick looked at the taxi license, which boasted the rather enthralling name “Vinnie ‘the Hit Man’ Carbonara” and turned back to his watch. He really liked the way they’d captured Bollywood in the styling. Oh, and it was 9:27. But given the traffic in this city, wasn’t one entitled to a 15-minute window in either direction?
Melvin twitched in his pocket. “Oh, just a minute now, we’ll be there,” soothed Rick. And then he sniffed. “BBQ for lunch, my man?” he asked. “My, that does smell delicious.”
The cab driver said nothing, but, pedal-to-the-metal, sped through a yellow light on 6th Avenue. They were halfway down 53rd, en route to 7th, an approximate block from the Gladstone HQ, when Rick heard the strange, tinny boom.
And then it was more than barbecue, this was a real conflagration, with smoke worthy of the cedar-planked salmon he’d eaten at the company’s Christmas dinner! Rick covered Melvin’s mouth with his necktie and tugged at the doorknob. It was locked.
“Let me out, good man!” he said. “This cab is on fire!”
Passersby had gathered round outside the car, and the only thing Rick could parse from the jumble of thoughts that ran through his mind was that no one would be able to identify the bones of the iguana he was carrying in his pocket. Did reptiles even have bones? Hmmm…
With a superhuman strength, he pressed the “Down” button for the passenger window. The window complied, and he threw himself through it, landing flat on the pavement, chest down, Melvin clutched high above his head as if a well-caught football. A couple of the gawkers helped pick him up, brushed him off, and moved him away from the flames.
Across the way, the same thing was happening to the cabbie, who looked directly at Rick and mouthed “It’s her!” accompanied by a few odd gesticulations, including what seemed to be a mock slitting of the neck.
The cab burned, strangely quiet, between them.
Rick had a vision of Jessica smiling at him, her strange crooked smile. What had she told him back when they first met? Oh yes, “I’m a sociopath.” How they’d laughed! And those arson charges had been debunked post-haste; a body never found! But …
The BlackBerry in Rick’s hand beeped, and he looked at his incoming email. It was from his boss, time-stamped 9:32. “Rick, it’s just not working anymore. It hasn’t been good between us for a long time now. I’m sorry. It’s over. Email me to schedule a time to pick up your belongings. PS. You were never any good in bed. PPS. You’re late for the meeting.”
Rick shrugged, tossed his BlackBerry at the burning corpse of the taxi, and watched the tiny series of sparks it set off. “I guess it’s just you and me, kid,” he said, placing a smooch atop of Melvin’s head. He had heard you should never kiss an iguana, or any reptile, as you might catch salmonella, but gosh darn it, what did he have to lose? He was fired. And he was pretty sure his girlfriend had just broken up with him.
No one was injured in the making of this story, nor in the story that preceded the making of this story: aka, reality.
PS. Since I’m sure you’re wondering, my all-star cast for Law and Order has long been the following: Jerry Orbach (RIP) as Lennie Briscoe, Jesse L. Martin as Ed Green, S. Epatha Merkerson as the Chief, Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy, and Angie Harmon as Abbie Carmichael, with Dianne Wiest as D.A. Nora Lewin. But after yesterday, Jeremy Sisto is beginning to grow on me. I loved his work in Clueless. Discuss!
Jim Gaffigan fans, keep your eyes peeled, I hear he’s doing another cameo…