But it is good. In fact, it’s great.
“Andy, dude, come in and have a seat.” Mr. Elevator says things like dude to make himself sound younger. He also does things like flash me the hang loose sign when we pass each other. No one does that anymore. It’s either refreshing or terrifying.
I inspect the expensive leather chair for droppings before sitting down and crossing my legs. I try not to stare at the piles of shit on the floor or the half-empty bottle of scotch resting on the corner of his desk which explains both the looseness of his stool and the especially cloying vapors filling the office. He sits on his desk in front of me. He has a lot of pubic hair. He stares at me with his mouth open.
“What’s up?” I ask.
“In the world of elevators, everything is up... And then down.”
He takes a slug from his bottle of scotch, misses the desk on the return, and it shatters on the floor. He waves a dismissive hand.
“You ever heard of Dubai?” he says.
“Yes.” I think I have.
“Well we’ve got really good news.” He’s practically shouting. “They’re building a hotel that goes up into space and they want us to provide the elevator. They’re paying us in gold. That means a raise for everybody!”
I smile and say, “That’s great news, sir.”
“As you can see I’ve been shitting in my office.” He motions to the nearest pile of shit. “And... I think that has something to do with you but... why are you here?”
“Candy said you wanted to see me.”
“To tell you about the raise, my man!”
“I’m very appreciative. My wife left me. This will help with the mortgage or rent or, well, I haven’t got that figured out yet. She handled everything—”
He’s just staring at me and nodding and I decide to quit talking. I stand up and leave thinking eventually he’ll remember why he called me in there and that it probably has something to do with the piles of shit and I don’t really feel like dealing with it.
Back in the office I take a phone call because I see Candy staring at me from her desk and know she’s probably going to want me to do something horrible and answering the phone, even though it means talking to someone who probably has a really stupid problem, seems like the lesser of two evils. It’s a person calling from somewhere overseas. I can’t really understand them. I get the gist of it. Someone is stuck in one of their elevators. One of our elevators. And apparently has been for a couple of days. I tell him we just build and install them and ask if they’ve notified any sort of emergency services. He tells me that it’s our name on the elevator and therefore we must deal with it. I tell him we will and hang up. I’m not going to do anything. I breathe deeply, trying to center myself, and stand up to go outside and take a break. Candy is standing right behind me. She’s stealthy even though she looks like someone who should squeak when she walks.
“What’d Mr. El want?”
“Oh, you know, he just wanted to chat.”
“You’re full of shit.”
“Bowels.” I don’t know what else to say.
“Speaking of shit... Have you visited the restrooms lately?”
“Of course. I clean them like every day.”
“The ladies’ restroom is awash in menstrual blood. I don’t even want to know what the guys’ restroom looks like.”
“Spotless.” This is probably a lie. Thirty guys use the same restroom. It has one toilet, one urinal, and one sink. I stopped going in there roughly a week after I stopped cleaning it. That was about three weeks ago. I imagine what it must look like. Pubic hair and man splatter everywhere.
“I can smell it all the way out here.”
“That’s something else.”
“It’s your job. It’s like the only thing you do.”
“I was getting ready to go on break. I’ll take care of it.”
She trundles back to her desk. I go outside. One of the guys from the back is squatting down in the grassy area behind the parking lot. He’s holding a newspaper and there’s a roll of toilet paper to his right. I get in my car and drive home. I’ll tell them I got sick if they ask. Eventually someone else will clean the restroom. On the way home I notice a billboard that usually carries an advertisement for The Super Slutty Teen Show now bears only one word:
The rest of the drive home, I wonder what I’m going to do about Buddy. I decide I’m going to act like we’re best friends.
I’m so excited by this revelation I don’t even bother shutting the front door. Buddy isn’t downstairs so I rush up to the bedroom. He’s still in bed. The towels are all thrown off him and he’s wearing only his white briefs. I don’t want to make him feel weird so I strip down to my boxer briefs and jump beside him on the bed, playfully prodding him.
“Hey, bro, wake up!” I say.
He rolls over. He’s really groggy. I notice he has a mustache for perhaps the first time. I grab a pillow and hit him with it, not too hard.
“Yeah, bro, it’s time to get up. Wanna go downstairs and watch Man vs. Food?” I hit him with the pillow again.
“Yeah, man, we’ll brush our fucking teeth together.”
I rush off to the bathroom, grab all the toothbrushes and toothpaste and a glass of water, and for the next few minutes we are putting toothpaste on toothbrushes and some of it is spilling on the bed and we’re both smiling and brushing the holy fuck out of our teeth and there’s water everywhere and I feel like we’ve established some kind of bond that will make our coexistence something peaceful and long lasting.
Even though the house is freezing, neither one of us bothers putting on any clothes. Buddy takes a bunch of pills that are in the nightstand and I go around the house opening all the blinds, letting the sunlight in. It’s early afternoon and school must be letting out because there are yellow school buses everywhere and dog faced children running down the sidewalks, laughing and tackling each other, throwing cell phones like footballs, texting wildly, clothes either so tight they might as well not be wearing any or so large they’re flapping in the breeze and encumbering movement. And they’re all saying “fuck” and “shit” and “pussy” as loudly as they possibly can. I think to myself that civilization has ten years, tops. But I still feel good. I got a raise. I have a new best friend. The sun is out.
I turn on the TV and the closing frame of what I’m pretty sure is a snuff film flickers across it before the word “DANGER” appears in red block letters on a yellow background. I click the TV off. I’m covered in goose bumps and remember that I forgot to close the door. I notice a folded piece of paper lying on the floor just in front of the frame. I unfold it. It says, in palsied handwriting: “I had a really great time last night.” And it’s signed “Estelle” with a phone number under it and at the bottom is either a lipstick kiss or a dirty anus mark.
I’m not sure I want to pursue this thing with Estelle. She seems aggressive. I wish Buddy would come downstairs so we could eat bagels, drink beer, and give each other fist bumps.
I go to the bottom of the stairs and shout “Buddy!” repeatedly. Then I feel stupid. He probably thinks I’m retarded. Then I remember something Agatha said about retarded people only being here for people to laugh at. She was very cruel. I wonder where she is now with all those coats. Probably Alaska. I wish I lived inside of a bear.
Buddy comes downstairs. He’s wearing his underwear and a t-shirt that says: PROGRESSIVELY DUMBER.
“Hey, cool shirt. Is that a band or something?”
He stares at me. Buddy really rocks the mustache. I think about growing one but I think my mouth is too small. My father always had a mustache. I never saw him without one. It made me distrust him. He eventually drowned himself in protest of children.
“What took you so long? I’m afraid Man vs. Food isn’t on anymore. I would have DVRed it but I couldn’t find the remote control.”
“Aw, man, did we brush our teeth too hard?”
He points into his mouth. I get up close and look in, stick the tip of my index finger against his mustache. He has a giant sore on his tongue. It’s bloody.
“That looks bad,” I say. “It almost looks like cancer. Do you want to go to the doctor?”
“I will just sit down.” He moves over to the couch and sits down. I fight the urge to sit on his lap.
“Yeah, just sit down there on that comfortable old couch.”
I move to sit down next to him but he quickly sprawls out, taking up the whole couch. He stares at the ceiling.
“I know it’s rough as fuck being terminally ill and shit. I’ll go to the store and get some beer. I’ll buy a six pack and make them put each can in a paper bag. That way we’ll have six paper bags. And then I’ll come back and we’ll drink the fuck out of that beer. But first I need to put on some clothes because it’s cold outside and I’m only wearing my underwear.” I’m talking really loud now. Holding my hands away from my hips, palms out. Possibly just talking to hear myself talk but it feels like my ears are clogged up and there is a ringing somewhere deep inside my head and I imagine my brain lined with the same kind of sores as the one on Buddy’s tongue but I feel really energized and I just want to go outside and run around the block in my underwear until I can’t run anymore. I put on my clothes and try to fist bump Buddy on my way out but he’s already asleep so I just bump my other fist and then do that thing where you open up your hand and waggle your fingers to simulate an explosion.
I can’t buy beer from the first place I go into because there are like fifty people inside and I think they’re having a tea party convention because they all have camouflage faces and are wearing Sarah Palin t-shirts and brandishing Bibles and talking about why no one should buy anything from terrorists and that Mexicans are taking all of our jobs and everything they say seems really nasty and self-interested and the Indian clerk looks afraid and it all just seems too heavy.
The next place I go to is better. The woman cashier gives me bags for all the cans and when I ask if I can have bags for my hands, she gives me those too and even calls me “Hon.”
I rush home to Buddy, surprised to find him awake. He’s watching a documentary about the Grand Canyon and looks terrified. I tell him maybe we should change the channel. He changes it to static, which was something I hadn’t seen in a while.
“I got some brewskies!” I shout because the static is up very loud. I take all the beers out of the bags and throw the bags around the room. I crack open a can and hand it to Buddy. “Let’s pound the shit out of these!”
He’s trying to choke down the first one but it’s probably really hurting that sore in his mouth. I’m on my third one before he’s even half-finished with his. He says, “Agatha,” and looks sad and I realize I don’t know how to respond to that. After all, she’s my wife. Maybe. Then he says, “Bed,” and I tell him it’s not even dark out but he’s going up the stairs and I pound two more beers and think about finishing his but I imagine that it’s full of gross tongue sore germs and I just leave it because I don’t want to catch his cancer but now the static on the TV is really loud and I feel like doing something, I feel like exploding, so I pick up the phone and call Estelle and just as I’m saying, “I really want to see you,” the static on the TV fades and is replaced by a commercial for guilt.
Estelle tells me we’ll burn down the world and I wonder if that’s what I want and ten minutes later when she rips through the front yard in a Jeep with vanity plates that say “2DEEP” I realize I might not have a choice.