Friday, January 18, 2013

Clarity Is For Suckers

The thing about comic protagonists is that they have to mean well. Even when they're accidentally destroying everyone around them's lives, they mean well. That's why we like them; zany schemes are always for a good cause. Watching them mean well and get kicked around is amusing for us. Especially when they're treated in such horrific ways that we'd never stand for in real life. People like Dr. Cox can get away with treating people like crap because it is funny when it is fictional.

On the bright side, we also know that, ultimately, in the end, the nice ones tend to win and comeuppances are paid forward. With a passive character like Lucy, that comeuppance usually has to come from an outside source, but the point is that despite her flaws, we don't like bad things happening to our narrator. At least, I hope we sympathize with her. Or I've been doing this all wrong.

As always, fiction below the fold. Click the links to see past sections. On a side note: People seem to be Googling to find their way to this piece. I don't know why, but I don't see anything like that getting posted for awhile. We've got a long way to go to get to the end of this story.

1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues with an unfortunate evening
5. Our two main characters interact as Sam gets shot down.
6. We're back with Lucy as she reflects on her new boyfriend
7. Lucy has a little crush; isn't it adorable?
8. Lucy never gets any peace.
9. Sam gets a phone call.
10. Sam meets "Rusty."
11. Sam ponders important questions.
12. Lucy is a wreck.

* * *

Cabs are the worst. My dad would talk about some of the “greatest cabbies I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving with” when he would get home from some trip. My mom would just sort of nod along and say “That’s nice dear.” Cabbies are not nice. They are not a pleasure. It’s an extremely weird relationship to have with another person. This person who is doing you a service holds your life in their hand. I guess I could kill any of my customers at the Olive Garden if I wanted to, but I don’t.

I don’t know what the cab man wants. Except a tip. And to tell me stories about how when you drive for 12 hours a day, you obtain excellent bladder control. Everyone should have excellent bladder control, I want to tell him. But I don’t. I sit in the back staring down at my phone sliding things around on the screen to look busy.

It was 7:45 by the time we pulled in front of Jon’s building. It was an amazing complex, with marble and a fine little system set up at the doorway. The cab drove off; I gave him the money the mechanic had given me and pocketed the return fare. The front door opened into a spacious entryway; there was a man in one of those old hotelier uniforms, red and gold, very classy. I let the doors close behind me and felt the warm air against my face and hands. I pulled Jon’s card from my purse and approached the desk.

“Hello,” I said. “I’m here to see Jon.” I glanced at his card. “Jon Westmore.”

“One moment miss.” I liked desk people more than cab people. They didn’t hold your life in their hand and when they called you miss it felt nice.

“This is a lovely building.”

“The owners put a lot of effort into maintaining it,” The man with the name tag George said. I don’t know if his name really was George. Sometimes, Fiona and I would switch name tags for fun. One time, Fiona wore Sam’s name tag and insisted people call her Samantha. The point is you can’t believe everything that you see.

“It must be wonderful to live here,” I said to George, if that is even his real name, as he dialed a number on the desk phone.

“I wouldn’t know. If you work here, you can’t afford to live here.” I always imagined concierges to be the American Jeeves. Then again, I imagine Jeeves to be something of a British Dear Abby, who I sort of see as a magic eight ball for soccer moms.

“I doubt that’s the official motto,” I said.

“Who may I ask is calling?”

“Lucy,” I said. “I’m running a bit late, I had an accident.”

He relayed this information into the phone. He turned the desk phone out to me, and I picked it up, gingerly. “I’m so sorry I’m late.”

“Do you know what time it is?” Jon didn’t sound as pleasant as he normally did. I looked at the man I presumed to be George, and his big, sympathetic brown eyes stared back at me.

“It’s 7:50, sir, and I said I’d be here at seven.”

“It’s 7:50 in the morning. Do you know what I’m doing at 7:50 in the morning?”

“Eating your breakfast?”

“No. I’m sleeping. Do you know why that is Lucy? Could you venture a guess as to why I might be sleeping in the morning?”

I winced. “You said—”

“I asked a question.”

“I’m sorry; I meant to be here earlier,” I said. I was already starting to twirl the phone cord in my fingers.

“Do you know what I would have been doing then?”

“Sleeping?”

“Yes. Now, let’s get back to why I would be sleeping. It’s very simple,” Jon said. His voice was a bit heavy, drunk, even. “It’s because I have a night job. It keeps me up till a God awful time in the morning.”

“You said to be here at seven.”

“You’re a pretty smart girl,” Jon said. “Let’s see if you can figure out what I meant.”

Then he hung up. Even the dial tone seemed angry. I decided this wasn’t a very nice building after all. I handed the receiver back to George, who just took it from me with a shrug. I picked my purse up off the counter, left my dignity there, and marched back out onto the street. On the bright side, I wasn’t late. On the dark side, my boss is a jerk. No wonder they never let him be on the puppet show.

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