For a variety television show, Eat Your Lunch had a lot to say. Guests were chosen randomly from crowds gathered outside the shoot, and challenged to perform tasks they could not have known about in advance. A small child might be asked to perform quantum calculations. An old man might have to do as many jumping jacks as he could. A woman in a wheelchair might be sent to navigate a narrow staircase. Failure was always and often an option, and was rewarded with showers of confetti and celebratory music. No one had to be the best, or even any good at all. That was the whole point of the show. Ordinary people unable to do things. It drew a huge following, both live and streaming. Thousands showed up at an hour’s notice at previously undisclosed locations for selection. The show might be taped practically anywhere at any time. It was never regularly scheduled. The hosts, who were also picked from god knows where, were also volunteers who had no idea what they were supposed to do from moment to moment. The whole thing not only seemed amateurish, it really was. This was the anti-show demanded by a populace long sick to death of scripted perfections created by people who knew what they were doing and were damn good at it. Down with excellence! Down with competence! The hell with all of that. This was the hour of the jerk who blows smoke in your face just because. This was precisely the spirit of the age.
My best-liked book has some very nice reviews but my favorite is the one on Goodreads that says “it’s a pretty good read if you’re not too sleepy.”
Ricky was trying hard to think of more stereotyped characters to add to the scene, but he was running out of ideas. He already had two Russian mobsters, a sassy black woman, an ignorant trailer park housewife, three truck drivers with those hats, one amoral businessman, and a president of the United States who couldn’t find his ass with both hands tied behind his back. They were tied behind his back because he was tied to a stake awaiting execution by firing squad. The boys in the firing squad were nervous and shaking little white kids commanded by a bald tattooed white supremacist yeller of a sergeant. The Russian mobsters had paid for this ordeal as part of a money laundering scheme involving trailer parks and trucks full of cocaine and crocodile skins. Naturally, the sassy black woman was gumming up the works by talking too much and too loudly but her little sideshow ultimately saved the day because it gave the good guy (in this case a slender brunette weighing about seventy five pounds) just enough time to swoop in on wings of gold steel and swipe away the squad with one giant sweep and carry the president, wooden stake and all, up into the sky along with swells of violins and occasional oboe accompanying the credits which hinted at part three coming two summers from now.
There was soup simmering in the kitchen, crickets chirping away in the night, and Hunter hadn’t come home yet. His mother was waiting up for him, again. Chicken with dumplings was his favorite and how long had it been? It didn’t matter. One day was the same as another, and when he did come home, then that would be the day that counted. Until then, rituals, and why not? She’d paid the bills, answered the email enquiries, sorted the mail, kept everything nice and neat. Hunter had a thing about order. Since the time he was a baby he kept everything organized; action toys in this corner, stuffed animals in another. Contact between unlike things was never allowed. Which did not explain that girlfriend, or the messy apartment, or the noise and grime in that part of town. Every other situation had resolved itself in time. No reason to think the present was any different from the past. Wasn’t it Einstein who said something about history repeating itself? It’s okay, she reminded herself. Everything is always ok. She didn’t need to look out the window, or check the clock on the wall. She could feel his return in her soul.
There, in the woods, behind a scraggly bush, it was a cave of sorts. Not too deep you thought, but didn’t know for sure. It was dark in there. Kids said there was a guy camped out sometimes. Weirdo with habits. You’d never go near it at night, but even during the day when there was nobody around for sure, you might peek in, but cautiously, and with a stick in your hand, just in case. One time a rabbit hopped out and Jamie screamed so loud. Years go by. You’re eight and ten and suddenly nineteen, and the weirdo must have moved on you thought, but didn’t know for sure. There was litter there sometimes, bag of chips, old soda can. Somebody must have been there that’s for sure. Jamie wouldn’t go near it and not because of rabbits. No, it was the story Laura told, the one about cancer and how your hair falls out, and Jamie said she just knew it in her head that there was hair on the ground all around that place. She could hear it growing at night. Kept her awake. That and the screaming that would never stop. She’s still in that place, is Jamie, now already twenty two. They have to keep her in a room all by herself. That cave, she says. He’s in there, I just know it.
“What’s it to ya?” asked the man at the bar, to which I politely replied,
“I’ll kick your fucking head in.”
The man at the bar got up off his stool and staggered towards me. I pulled my Glock out of my waistband and waved it around for a sec. He staggered back, plopped himself down again.
“That’s what’s it to me,” I growled.
At least that’s how my “shower fight” went. You know, when you play it over again in your head the next day.
“I’d have to say no. It wasn’t worth waiting for. And after all that!”
Cherryl looked at the pile of wrappings spread all over the living room floor and felt like kicking the box it all came in. Her feet were itching to kick something. It was her go-to move.
“After all that,” she repeated, shaking her head. Devon wasn’t sure how he was supposed to react. It was nothing to him. What did he care, except that when she was disappointed like this, and itching to kick something, he’d learned it didn’t bode well for the rest of the weekend. He might as well be calling Martin and making plans for poker or something. Maybe a wine tasting would turn it around. He thought about suggesting it, but then remembered how awful she could be after just a bottle or two. He was already reconsidering everything in his life.
“Oh well,” Cherryl suddenly announced. “I probably should have known better. Next time I’ll think twice, and then twice again.”
Cheerful now, she hopped up and started collecting all the papers strewn about, and before Devon had time to re-factor the changes she’d already grabbed a trash bag, stuffed all the waste into it and was even bouncing down the stairs to take it all outside. Now it was his turn to be a little disappointed.