"" bshawise: Paul & Ryan

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Paul & Ryan

I was digging thru old stuff and found this short story I wrote a few years ago. I still liked it which is rare for me. Anyways, it's wicked long for a blog post but maybe you can pace yourself. Read a few pages a day. I promise you won't cramp up. You may even like it.

With his crotch burning wet Paul quickly looks to his rear view. An oblong mass of fur rolls to a stop. Paul parks and watches it try to get up. He puts the half-spilled coffee on the dash and opens his door. Dabbing his crotch dry with his shirtsleeve he softly yells, "Kitty?" Honking cars fly by. One yells, "Pervert!" Paul takes his hands off his crotch to kneel down and poke the soon-to-be-dead cat in the stomach. "Kitty?" he nervously asks. The blackish blood surprises Paul. Kitty doesn't answer. A car slowly passes with a little girl watching, bawling. Paul almost cries.

Back at his car Paul grabs a plastic folder from the passenger seat. He uses it to push/roll the cat into the gravel. Just then he remembers why he was speeding. Hurriedly, he pushes the gravel coated cat and folder off the road. Could the cops dust the folder for prints? Did the bawling girl get a good look at his face? Paul adjusts his tie and asks his rear view if they're going to make it.

* * * * * * * * * *

With half the apartment left Ryan realizes he may not have enough tape. He stands to get a bowl of cereal. No cereal. He sits back down and continues cleaning his floor with masking tape. He's amazed by the amount of dirt. Since when is dirt invisible, he wonders. Cereal still sounds really good. Why fight such a wholesome craving?

Crossing the street on the way to the deli, Ryan sees a thin brunette walking a fat dachshund. They both stop, as Ryan gets close. He adjusts his glasses ready for potential small talk. The fat dachshund is pooping. Ryan aborts and pretends not to see the brunette. He has to step over the dachshund and its poop, nearly tripping on the leash. The brunette pulls on Ryan's coat sleeve. "Do you have a plastic bag?" I used my last one two blocks ago."

"I don't. I'm sorry." Ryan manages.

"It's OK."

"I'm running down to the deli. I could bring you one in like two minutes."

"That would be great. Oscar and I will be hiding behind this tree."

She's thin and witty. Ryan has to stop himself from sprinting. Girls still like cool restraint right? At the counter Ryan pays for his Lucky Charms and asks for three extra bags. Walking back he plans a joke.

* * * * * * * * * *

Paul walks into the conference room out of breath, his sweaty shirt reminding him how late he is. When three human relations people walk in with their dry shirts and hot coffee Paul feels like a mountain climber being rescued by a whiskey-toting St. Bernard. Unfortunately, they don't share their liquid warmth with Paul who is visibly cold in the air conditioning.

" I apologize for being late. I had a crazy morning." Paul stares at the coffee steam.

"Define crazy for us Paul." One asks, obviously frustrated by Paul's tardiness.

Uncomfortably Paul answers, "I killed, I mean, I ran over a cat and it was crazy."

"Yes. We got the crazy part." One states.

"Why was it crazy Paul?" Two asks.

Annoyed Paul snaps, "It just was. I'd rather stop talking about the cat. It's dead. The end."

"Indeed." All three stand in unison and grab their coffees. "Kathy will validate your parking at the front desk. Hope you have a not-so-crazy rest of the day." They stomp back to work.

Paul finds himself humming "That did not go wellllllllllllllll," to the buzz of the florescent lights. Standing, Paul takes a dramatic last look at what could have been, and slinks to the elevator.

Pulling up to the gate Paul looks for his parking stub. "Mother Hubbard!" he screams at his windshield.

"Excuse me?" the parking attendant snaps back.

"Not you. I forgot to get this validated after my interview."

"Four dollars sir." Mother Hubbard says, unhappy with her new name.

Paul feels like biting his steering wheel. Feverishly he digs through his glove box. "It's highly unlikely I have any money ma'am." She patiently stares while Paul throws papers everywhere. He wrenches his body halfway into the back seat trying to get his wallet. "Can I write you a check?"

"Cash or credit sir."

Last month Paul cut up his cards after taking a "Get Out Of Debt For Good" class. Lousy teachers clapping at graduation when they knew this type of thing would happen. Paul opens his door. Mother Hubbard grabs her pepper spray. He moves to the trunk and pulls out a vinyl bag. "I don't have four dollars ma'am." Paul wonders if they'll make him wash dishes.

"Who was your interview with sir?"

"Patented Printing!" he shouts from inside the trunk.

"One moment." She walks out of her booth to the main parking office. Paul puts his bag back in the trunk. He looks for cameras to see if his license plate has been seen. He closes the trunk and devises an escape plan. Just then Mother comes back. She opens the gate and says, "Have a nice day," without looking at Paul.

Paul pulls out into the sunshine and turns his radio up. He hides the morning's major defeat down with all the others, and celebrates his escape. If Paul were a super hero he'd be Denial Man. Drumming his steering wheel, Paul sings, "Slow ride. Do do do. Take it eeeeeeasy!"

* * * * * * * * * *

The brunette stands on the first step of her stoop with her key in hand. "Thanks again for the bag. You saved the day."

Dusting his shirtsleeve Ryan says, "I do what I can."

Laughing the brunette says, "We should hang out sometime. Is that weird to ask?"

"It's not weird." Is it weird? Is she weird? She's not weird he quickly decides.

"Wonderful. Should I give you my number? Or..."

"We could meet in the dog park again?" Ryan needs Oscar as a wingman.

"Sounds good. My name's Lauren, by the way. I apologize, Oscar is horrible with introductions."

"Ryan." he says extending his hand.

It's been months since Ryan's had a date. The last girl was (and certainly still is) Asian. A crazy Asian who asked questions like, "Do you know why black men like Asian women?" She wore galoshes when it wasn't raining and sweaters when it wasn't cold. Their relationship ended the night she told Ryan she would've killed herself by now if it weren’t for the color pink. She was like one of those rubber Super Bouncy Balls. The frustrating unpredictability outweighed the fun after awhile.

But, Lauren seems promising. She takes good care of a dog so she can't be completely insane. She seems to wear weather-appropriate clothing, and she laughs at his jokes. She's Poppins. Meaning, she's practically perfect in every way. "Like Mary Poppins. Get it?" Ryan would ask if he were telling this story.

Back in the apartment, Ryan stares at his desk lamp. He doesn’t know or care that he doesn’t have milk for his cereal. "Lauren," he pronounces. What a pleasant name.

* * * * * * * * * *

From his office Paul has 24 monitors of the 38 cameras keeping watch on every square foot of steal-able merchandise on Sears' three floors. Eight hours a day Paul pretends to prevent loss. Really he's watching the MAC make-up girl. She's wearing a skirt today. If the cashiers only knew Paul was their eye in the sky. He's like a castle-wall lined with trampolines. And it’s not that he doesn't care. It’s quite the opposite actually. Paul is very serious about his power to send people to jail. He has a badge not unlike the ones you see on television. He just has the attention span of a sea otter.

When he isn't watching the MAC girl or any girl for that matter, Paul is on the Internet. Last week he was devoted to debunking Scientology. This week he's into finding true love. And after a few emails and personal surveys he's 175% sure he's found it. He met a girl a few days ago. They've already talked about where they'd live if they got married. There's a connection. Skeptics would call it desperation-drenched loneliness. Believers say it's love-magic.

Here are the facts:
1. She's almost divorced. Her husband cheated on her while she cleaned floors and emptied trash cans at the hospital. She found this out a month ago when her best friend could no longer live with the guilt.
2. She has a kid. He's two and unaware of his mom's enticing photos on the Internet.
3. She's Jewish. Paul doesn't hate Jews. He just blames them for killing Christ. Paul likes Christ.
4. In her two years of marriage she's had 14 men profess their love for her. "Men fall for me easily for some reason."
5. The reason they fall easily is that her Internet photos do not do her justice.

Based on these facts a third grader could write a five-page report on this girl's red flags. Unfortunately, Paul has the same sense of urgency for a companion that a transplant candidate does for a new liver. Every morning he can taste the acidic tinge of loneliness in his bloodstream. Coffee and toothpaste fail to get rid of the taste.

* * * * * * * * * *

"So with you being religious and all...is it going to be a problem that I think religion is for lazy people?" Ryan tosses that out there hoping to offend. Humorous offense is a large part of Ryan's game.

"Ha! Lazy people? I go to Temple once a week. How is that lazy?"

"I just think religion is a lazy way for lonely people to have a friend. Instead of putting the time into making friends and meeting real people, religious folk cop-out and talk to an invisible god. It's like the fast food version of companionship."

"Should I be snapping my fingers right now? Are you a poet?" Lauren uses sarcasm better than anyone Ryan's ever met. Better than Ryan even. "Mormons aren't lazy. They ride bikes in their dress clothes."

"I'm speaking in generalities. And I'm not saying laziness is a bad thing. I'm just saying you have to choose your outlets of laziness wisely."

"And you think religion is an 'unwise' outlet."

"I'd rather spend a day watching Cosby, yes."

"Well, I hope they let you watch Cosby in hell, you heathen." Lauren grabs Ryan's hand and bumps him with her shoulder. The smooth, smallness of her hands sends a bolt of numbness down Ryan's legs.

* * * * * * * * * *

Paul finishes his email to Ellen and clicks send while whistling his I'm-so-proud-of-this-do-do-do whistle. The message is well over 5,000 words. Ellen will read it once she finishes War and Peace. So unfortunately for Paul, Ellen will never read about Paul's love/hate relationship with Sea World, why Paul hates campfire songs that are too repetitive and the reason Paul will never lie to his kids about Santa Claus.

Yesterday Ellen told Paul that he'd make a wonderful father for her son. She complimented Paul for being sensitive, sweet and the nicest guy she's ever dated. It's accepted and ignored that her current husband is the opposite of Paul in every way, especially the 6'4" broad shoulders way. Ellen wants to meet in person. "I want to give my soul mate a real hug," she emailed. Paul's brain about melted when he read that message. That meltdown triggered the novel-email.

After waiting two hours for a reply Paul gives up and calls her cell phone. While dialing his runaway-motor of a brain is buzzing, "Did you get it? Did you get it? Did you get it?" They talk. A first date is set. Birds chirp, blossoms bloom, and rainbows blind birds as Paul gets his Prince CDs to celebrate.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ryan waits in line with 17 other soon-to-be-fat people for a burrito the size of a preemie. Tuesday nights Ryan gets a burrito and goes to a movie. By himself. And even though he'd now have a companion to quietly eat burritos in the dark he still chooses to go alone. Little activities with steps and processes are his passion. They're his children and he's not the type to abandon his children.

Walking out to the street, burrito and receipt in hand, Ryan considers a cab. It's drizzling and the theater is eleven blocks. Pedestrians are hustling to awnings and destinations. Their petty fear of getting wet breeds courage in Ryan. He'll walk.

The rain picks up. Ryan doesn't. He has a hot burrito and the determination to maintain his apathy. He wants all the running-people to wonder how he can be so calm. Walking a block and realizing nobody cares, Ryan opts for a cab.

After seven blocks the cabbie pulls over in front of the theater and waits for Ryan to pay. As Ryan digs for his wallet he sees a girl who looks like Lauren. She's underneath the awning of the market across the street. She's without Oscar. Ryan uses his elbow to wipe the steam off the window. It is her. He gets excited. He's confused because she was supposed to be working, but the sense of fate overpowers the confusion. Ryan rolls his window down and is about to shout when a man walks out of the market and grabs Lauren's hand. He has wine. They're smiling. Ryan watches Lauren flip the man's collar. She's dressing him for the rain. The rain is pouring through Ryan's window. The cabbie yells, "Come on man, you're getting everything wet!" Ryan rolls the window up and slouches into the seat. "Take me to 2nd and 10th." With his hand full of damp bills, Ryan wipes his face; suddenly sad that he has to eat his burrito alone.

* * * * * * * * * *

"All they had was White Zin." Paul shouts over the loud pattering of rain on the vinyl awning.

"My favorite!" Ellen smiles. "Can you believe this rain?" she says as she flips his collar up.

Paul squints into the downpour. "So, should we cross the street and catch a movie, or go home? Or...what are you thinking?" Paul can't believe that he's finally meeting Ellen. He'd be happy standing under the awning and talking about produce all night.

"We could go to your place?" Ellen asks.

"Alright. Did you get a babysitter for Oscar tonight?"

"No. Well, kind of. He's at his dad's this week."

"When do I get to meet him? I have this Oscar the Grouch joke I found on the Internet. Does he watch Sesame Street? Are kids still into that?"

"Yes. And you'll meet him soon. I promise." Ellen grabs Paul's hand and bumps him with her shoulder. Paul pulls the paper bag to his chest, nervous he'll drop the wine as they run into the rain.


dave workman said...

I totally love it. I kept waiting to see how the two stories intersect. What a great spin on things. Desperate people call for drastic actions...

tyler said...

FINISHED!!... waa..ter. i need water. well done. you should be the force behind a "short story blog" on cincinnati.com. it would be considerably better than the literally millions of photos they post of people at bars.

Joe said...

Really good. Really.

If you had Final Draft software you could easily adapt this into a great short film script...if you wanted to, just saying. Then, if you had 4-7 friends who are into filmmaking you could ask them to make the short film for free over some lazy hot weekend this summer...just because they are your friends and friends have to do what their freinds ask them to, they'd probably say yes.