In response to my question about how things were going since his passing—if he’d acquired adequate distance to make any generalizations, Jerry, who didn’t look so hot, said, “Look, Kiddo, people live linear lives, one-foot-after-the-other kind of lives and, from my experience, no one, that is no one who isn’t a big fat liar, is willing to go that far.” “Ehh-,” I said. “I mean, look,” Jerry went on, “sure, in regard to interpersonal relationships a lot of guys acknowledge they could have handled themselves with greater aplomb” (a new word for Jerry, which got me thinking about the crowd he was hanging with), “but panoramic vistas and ontological realizations” (more new words), “no, no one claims one of those. I sure don’t.” “No?” “No. You want to know the biggest complaints about the here-and-now in the hereafter.” I did. “Underutilization and an overabundance of unstructured time, and you know,” he said, “I died that way, underutilized.” Though Jerry wore no watch, he glanced repeatedly at his wrist. “And by the way,” he said, “what’s the deal with this elevator, how long now, fifteen minutes?”
I knew Jerry from the Laundromat. He was often short on quarters. We’d get to talking, mostly guy stuff. Then there was that laugh of his. He could clear a Laundromat in seconds. Jerry looked again at his invisible wristwatch, fidgeted, weight shifting from foot to foot and I got to wondering about him. I imagined him in his apartment, beating a path across the carpet and creating a worn triangle between the refrigerator, couch, and bathroom, and told him so. “Kiddo,” he said “if I’d ever gotten the notion to go out to the porch and drag the stepladder into the living room, if I’d been too fat to even think about doing that, climbing to the top, I might have seen the triangle to which you ascribe, you know, the big picture business, but...” Ding. The elevator arrived, the doors opened. Seeing Jerry, three suits and a dress made horror movie faces and flattened themselves against the elevator’s back wall. Jerry let go with one of his barking laughs. By the time he gathered himself the elevator had gone. Jerry shot me one of his hangdog can-I-borrow-a-quarter looks, and, sucker that I am, immediately I started fishing around for change, which set him off again, a full blown explosion of mirth. In the Laundromat he’d roll on the floor, but not now. He remained upright, feet firmly planted, and sprayed spittle.
At the Laundromat, slumped down next to Maurice, the both of us perusing the folding ladies, I mention meeting up with Jerry and about him laughing. I thought it might have something to do with the new crowd Jerry was hanging with and the energy required to build a new rep, and tell that to Maurice. He sucks saliva, adjusts his Cub’s cap bill-back and launches into his, “This-is-what-it-all-boils-down-to” piece, which I’d heard maybe a million times. “Mickey Boy,” Maurice begins, “life is hard to masticate.” I nod in concurrence. “And it’s harder still to get the bolus down.” Maurice said bolus loud enough to garner a glance-over from the folding ladies. “It boggles,” I say, “the amount of stuff we’re expected to swallow as if...” Maurice, solemn, sighs and nods. “And Mickey,” he continues, “even if you do manage to crank open your esophageal sphincter, life’s impossible to digest. But, I ask you, what can be done about that?” I knew the answer, but shrugged.
Stories in The New Yorker, Quick Fiction, Work Riot, SmokeLong, Alice Blue, Eclectica, NANO, Spork, Bound Off, 2River, The 2nd Hand Journal, Chicago Noir, Chelsea, Fiction, Requited Journal and Word Riot’s 10th Anniversary Anthology. Audio in Fringe deClassified, 2River, Mad Hatter’s Review, Drunken Boat, sound/text & Bound Off. Videos in Ninth Letter, apt, Studio Literary Journal and his website; michaelkmeyers.com.