We spent a lot of time yesterday trying to demonstrate that Jon was a bit of a jerk. Today, though, as we build out the last of the major misunderstandings for the plot, he gets to seal his jerkdom. The important thing is that by him entering into openly being such a loathsome character, he's acting as the spark for Lucy to grow up a little. Sure, it is in a little way here, but it is a start. Now that Peter and Jon have been set up as our main antagonists, and both our protagonists have received the revelation they need to better their lives (Sam's realization that his relentless woman-chasing is kind of creepy and his whole life is kind of empty, and Lucy realizing she needs to stand up for herself), we have set the stage for them to actually grow as people, not just characters. And, like all sitcom characters, the way to do this is through a zany plan, which will obviously backfire.
I particularly like that Lucy's film buff nature comes back into focus here. We've seen snippets of it here and there (most particularly in her talk with Christina about Amelie), but here she uses it as a defense mechanism (the line "We named the dog Rusty" is a direct take from when Jones Sr. tells Jones Jr. "We named the dog Indiana.") Though, she really does love that dog (as opposed to using dog as a general slur against Jon.)
Fiction below the fold, table of contents viewable here.
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The hostess that night was nice enough not to ask me any questions when she sat me. Fiona, on the other hand, gave me a very knowing glance as she took our orders. Jon talked aimlessly for the first ten or fifteen minutes about the different products he had tried selling. “Before I got into show business, I thought I’d be selling encyclopedias door to door like my old man,” He said. “My boss asked me one day what I valued the most. ‘Whatever that is Jonny boy,’ that old sly dog told me, ‘that’s what you go sell to mom and pop America.’”
“Oh, so that’s how you became a male prostitute?” I wanted to ask while breaking a breadstick. I never ate breadsticks. I just broke them. It was therapeutic, especially if you pretended it was someone you wanted to break. Detecting a lull, I decided to say something.
“How’d that lead you to show business?”
“In theater, you are your own product,” He said. “I’m not selling Shakespeare or Ibsen or Shaw or Miller or Kushner. I’m selling the experience of watching me.”
This is why I hated theater people. They think too much of themselves. Not that the Angelina Jolies of the world are any better. Sometimes, I hated actors. I hated ‘talent’ even more. That’s why I hated Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, even a little bit after he becomes the sweetest man ever.
Fiona came by with our salads, as she was serving us she said: “Thought you and your date would like a heads up, Annette’s coming by to say hello.”
Then she whisked herself off. Jon smiled at me and lifted a glass. “Who is Annette, dear?”
“We’re not on a date. She’s my boss,” I then explained that I worked here.
“I thought you quit your other job to work for me.”
“I’m not quitting my day job to write you a speech,” I said. “I can do this part time.”
“Well, I hope she doesn’t mind you having two other jobs,” He said. The thing is, Annette has a policy. The policy is very simple: If you have another job, then you don’t have this one. She believed that with unemployment the way it is, we should share the jobs and not hog them all for ourselves. And something about company loyalty.
Though, I doubted loyalty really mattered; I don’t think they’re even sending Heather a funeral wreath. She did only work here a day though. But, she had to put up with Sam.
“She might mind, a little,” I said. “Ok, a lot. Just don’t say anything.”
Jon leaned back in his chair and swirled his drink. He seemed to be weighing his options. He was still staring into my eyes with a bemused, devil-like look on his face when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I jumped, almost bowling Annette over.
“I hope everything is alright Lucy,” Annette said. “Why don’t you introduce us?”
“My name’s —”
“Rusty!” I said. “His name’s Rusty. I’m sure Fiona’s told you all about him. So, you know, nothing more to say.”
“She’s really cute when she’s flustered,” Jon said. “That’s why I try to embarrass her before I kiss her.”
“Shut up Rusty. This is Annette, my boss. My one and only boss; the onliest boss ever. Why, if I had to make a list of my bosses, in alphabetical order, her name would come first and only.”
“Talking about our love makes her ramble,” Jon said, sliding his chair next to me. “If you want to really see her stumble over her words, you should watch this.”
Then he gently took my chin and kissed me. The slap should have been automatic. I wanted to hear the stinging sound echoing in my ears for hours. I wanted that small, satisfying triumph to hold in my head. But I didn’t; he lingered there for a few seconds. The justified slapping window closed. Then he brushed some of my hair behind my ear and slid out of slapping distance.
“Is Rusty a nickname?” Annette said, trying to bridge the sudden awkward silence that had fallen over us.
“Oh, no,” He said. “My dad worked in a scrapyard, and my mom was a blacksmith’s daughter. They met during a metallurgy class.”
“Well, I don’t want to interrupt your night any longer,” Annette said. “We’ll see you tomorrow Lucy.”
As soon as she was out of earshot I looked Jon dead in the eyes. He raised a glass to me. “To us, dearest Lucy.”
“Let’s talk about something else,” I said. “Like your speech.”
“We can after our little toast. Lucy and Rusty, together forever.”
Then, I picked up my glass, imagined throwing it in his face and storming out, but then I just gently clinked our glasses together. “We named the dog Rusty,” This time, though, I really did say it out loud.
Jon’s smile flickered for a moment, he reasserted it as he laughed. “Yes, well, the dog probably kissed with tongue.”