How Not to Succeed in Business

My wife still believes anything can be accomplished with hard work and perseverance, poor naive soul. Many years my junior, she has not yet come face to face with age discrimination.   I on the other hand, have come to terms with some very harsh realities indeed.  But over time I realized I needed a different perspective.  Although achieving success is usually a product of determination, it occurred to me, advancement could also be accomplished through the process of elimination.  If there is only one horse in the race, it’s much easier to pick the winner.

office

At this point, I would like to disavow any implication of mental instability.  I have been tested several times with only inconclusive results. Sure there is a history of mass-murder on my mother’s side, but since the execution of the mentally disabled is a violation of the Geneva Convention, I can only assume a state of complete lucidity at the time of her demise. But, I digress.

Having been passed over for promotion several times by clearly inferior co-workers, I decided to thin the field of competition.  My sights first fell on my cube-mate Ron.  Ron named me Professor Evil since discovering my penchant for writing hate mail to the kids I support through Children International.  Who was he to judge?  He doesn’t know me!  But I knew him. Yes, I knew Ron alright.  I knew about his love for handguns and Bowie knives.  I had just finalized plans for an overly elaborate clown-suited home invasion and disemboweling when Ron accepted a position at a different company.  I wasn’t disappointed to see him go, one down. Two days later, I decided I had expended too much effort on my plan to simply let it go to waste, so I went ahead with it anyway.

Rex was the next to fall prey to my cunning machinations.  He was the office manager, an honorific title at best.  His position on the organization chart fell somewhere between supervisor and lackey.  In addition to a name common to Labradors, he also shared their fascination for tennis balls.  He kept a bright yellow one on his desk for strengthening his grip. He had the habit of bouncing it on the floor as he emerged from his office periodically throughout the day like a deranged cuckoo with his ludicrous announcements.  I dispatched him by taking his ball and throwing it out into the parking lot.  He immediately ran out to retrieve it and was promptly run over by a UPS truck.  It was almost too easy.

Bill I eliminated with African ear mites placed into his headphones.  The deadly parasites, purchased from a leather fetish nun (whom I know strictly on a professional level and recently returned from Botswana), burrowed deep into his brain and eviscerated his frontal lobe.  He went unnoticed for three days, sitting at his desk cursing at himself and asking, “Where the hell am I?”  It was only when he fell from his chair that anyone realized his pathetic condition.  The parasites went completely undetected during his autopsy and his death was ruled as stress related to a recent Volkswagen rebuild gone horribly awry.

Tom went with an arsenic laced Beef on Weck.  Jim starved himself to death as I methodically and subliminally convinced him, the only safe consumables were frozen prunes and water biscuits.  Mike, my final competitor, succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to add yet another cargo attachment to his already over-burdened motorcycle.  I swear I had nothing to do with this one.  The investigating officer could find no good reason as to why the engine was running with the garage door down.  Mike’s wife eventually informed him, in a suspiciously fake British accent, “He just liked the smell of it, Gov’ner”

At last, I was at the top of the promotion list.  At the peak of my potential, where my years of experience in employee relations and dedication to my craft marginally suggested I should be.  Unfortunately, the recent lack of manpower had resulted in the loss of several lucrative contracts resulting in a terrible third quarter revenue report.  The remainder of my group, namely me, was laid off.  Furthermore, I have recently been denied employment at several establishments due to lack of current references.

How to Find and Lose your First Love in 24 Hours or Less

At ten years old my social circle extended no further than my immediate family, a few classmates, and the small group of kids sharing the same path on the way to and from school. This tiny band of side-walk travelers included my younger brother John, my best friend Jamie Thompson, Beverly Watts (the tallest girl in the class) and Cathy O’Neil.  Cathy O’Neil was the most perfect combination of blonde curls, ribbons, ankle socks and black patent leather shoes.

dejectedI had met her the previous year in the fifth grade and we had hung out a few times during summer camp. By the time we were half way through the sixth grade, I was completely smitten.  Running to catch up with her on the way to school, lingering until she appeared at the top of the street, I had it bad.

I knew I liked her. I really, really liked her.  But the word love never occurred to me.  I loved Batman and Lost in Space, I mean who didn’t.  I loved my Mom, but that was different, using the same word to describe with my feelings towards Cathy would just be creepy.  No, I needed another word. I wanted to tell Cathy how I felt about her and I needed to express myself in such a way she would understand the depth of my passion. I was determined to let her know how I felt before the end of the school year.  Seventh grade meant changing schools and perhaps, well who could tell what might happen during the long months of summer vacation.

The days of spring were coming to a close. I was running out of time so I finally decided to tell Cathy just how I felt.  We were walking home as usual, and as we approached the corner where our paths diverged, she turned to raise her hand in a parting wave.  I gathered my courage and hurrying to her I leaned in and said in a quiet voice the words sure to send quivers through the spine of any female. She stood there looking at me.  Her eyes widened as my heart raced with anticipation.  Her face blushed. She turned quickly and ran away.

Well, clearly I had made an impression.  Of course she was embarrassed. She’d probably never experienced such a sophisticated suitor.  I was proud of myself. I walked the rest of the way home confident tomorrow she would be more composed and ready to share similar feelings towards me.

The next day Cathy O’Neil was not in school.  How disappointing.  I hoped she wasn’t ill.  But I’d see her tomorrow or the next day.  Class dragged on like the day before Christmas, but at last the final bell rang.  We all grabbed our books and stuffed them into our desks and tumbled out of our seats in the mad dash for the door.  Our teacher, Miss Richards, called me back.  “Robert, I need to have a word with you!” I was in such good spirits, being held after school couldn’t darken my mood.

She sat at her desk considering how to proceed. “Do you know what the word rape means?”

I don’t recall the exact circumstances as to when I first heard the term “statutory rape”, probably an over-heard adult conversation quickly terminated upon my entering the room.  Or maybe I heard a sound bite from a T.V. news broadcast. But regardless of the method of my exposure, the extent of my comprehension extended only to a vague idea that rape had something to do with sex, and all I knew about sex was first there was kissing, moaning possibly, and a few minutes later, a cigarette. What statues had to do with it all was clearly beyond me.  I certainly didn’t understand rape is to sex what strangulation is to having a sore throat.  All I really knew was I had stumbled upon a shiny new word to place in the treasure chest of my lexicon until there arose an inappropriate time to use it.

So to the amazement of us both, I had no satisfactory response to her straight forward question. She followed with another.

Did you tell Cathy O’Neil that you would like to rape her?” she insisted.  I felt my face begin to redden.  I was speechless and I stood there staring at her.  My look of shock and embarrassment at the revelation my affection toward Cathy O’Neil gave her all the answer she required.  She sighed; relieved to know she was dealing with a mere idiot and not a sexual deviant.

At her instruction, I read the definition of rape in the dictionary.  I mouthed the words slowly and in silence. I still didn’t quite understand it all, and it didn’t seem like the right time to be asking questions but, Oh my God.  Why hadn’t I thought to look up the word before?  I felt small and insignificant and horrified at what I had said to the prettiest girl in the world.

“But I really like Cathy.” I finally managed.

She gave me a “You poor dumb bastard?” kind of look.

My world was shattered.  The day before I had been a boy enthralled by an innocent affection towards a girl I truly cared for.  I had hopes of a great summer spent in each other’s company. I’d rape her, she’d rape me back. And, after a respectable period of time, perhaps a week or two, we may even hold hands and kiss.

I think you should probably stay away from Cathy for a while.” she said at last.  “I’ll let her know that it was a mistake and that you didn’t mean what you said.” 

I walked home under a cloud of shame and disappointment over my failed attempt to win the affection of the fairer sex.  Cathy O’Neil never spoke to me again.  Over the summer she moved away, her father transferred to New Brunswick with the Canadian Air-Force.  Though saddened, I was still aware of how lucky I had been. Miss Richards hadn’t mentioned talking to my parents or the Royal Canadian Mounties for that matter.

In the age before Title Nine, social and political correctness, such a grievous error committed by a clueless twit, could still be resolved without a court hearing or mandated sexual counseling.  Writing 300 times on five sheets of paper, front and back was sufficient.

I will not rape Cathy O’Neil.

I will not rape Cathy O’Neil.

I will not rape Cathy O’Neil.

Monkey Love

monkey-treeYungpin, of the Juju clan, clung to a thin branch at the top of the Home Tree. The young Macaque looked out over the tribe’s territory, running from the big water by the mangroves, to the rocky outcroppings where the hills began. On one side ran the wide river, swift and murky in the rainy season, and on the other, the territory of the Bobo tribe.  Yungpin was Muladee; three summers from his birthing.  Tonight he and all his siblings, those born in the same year, would stand still beneath the half-moon, in the clearing below, and become full members of the clan. All but two.

There were twelve in Yungpin’s season.  They had come to know each other, clinging each to their mother during grooming sessions, or jumping madly from branch to branch, playing tag in the dry billowy summer dirt, flinging mud and rain-soaked leaves in the fall, tumbling, chasing, and biting, in rituals of dominance and hierarchy. They were twelve, but there was only one of any real interest to Yungpin.  Her name was Juputin.

Yungpin longed to pair with her.  But union was forbidden for Muladee.  Pairing was a privilege reserved only for full members of the clan.  The bloodline must be protected.  Tonight, as he and the other initiates stood still in the clearing, two of them would be chosen, donated to the strengthening of the bloodline. The pair would be given to the Bobo tribe, taken from the home of the Juju, passing into the unknown.

Dewal, the dominant male, had conveyed the tradition. The bloodline grows weak without donation.  Each summer, beneath the half-moon, two Muladee are selected from each clan.  Before dawn they are exchanged at the boundary of our range.  The half-moon, the demi-light of the night sky, is the brightness of the bloodline and the darkness of the failure to honor the ways of the ancestors. Yungpin hoped he and Juputin would not be chosen.

The afternoon passed slowly. The clan lounged lazily in the shaded branches, seeking shelter from the hot summer sun beneath the broad leaves of their sanctuary.  Yungpin lay across a high limb, his long spidery legs dangling on either side, tail twitching nervously.  Juputin sat with her family unit, nimble fingers combing through her mother’s hair, searching the briefly visible skin beneath for unwelcome parasites. The two young Macaques exchanged occasional brief glances, but neither moved to engage the other.  The moment that would decide the future of their lives was fast approaching.

In the evening the clan crowded into the clearing beneath Home Tree. Through gaps in the canopy the cloudless sky was pierced with uncountable points of light outshone only by the semi-luminescence of the half-moon.  Bright future – faded past. Dewal stood in the center of the gathering and called the Muladee before him. Stand still.

Welcome, new blood of the Juju, strength of the clan.  Within you flows life or death for all the tribes. Tonight you will be Muladee no longer.  Beneath the half-moon you will join a clan and be allowed to pair and keep the bloodline strong.  But this night also, our bloodline is shared with that of the Bobo.  We both donate our strength so each of our tribes does not grow weak and die. Through donation we live forever.

Dewal rose to his full height and threw wide his arms, showing his face to the half-mooned sky. The clan waited without chatter, surrounded only by the sound of rustling leaves above, swaying gently in the warm breeze brushing the forest canopy

It was decided.

Dewal lowered his arms and extended one towards the line of Muladee before him.  A flick of his wrist indicated Juputin and a male, Jameet.

Come! Dewal turned from the gathering, away from Home Tree, toward the Bobo. The chosen two fell in behind.

Yungpin couldn’t breathe.  He had thought he had been prepared, and he had been.  But now the moment had come and he was unable to contain himself.  He couldn’t lose her.  He had waited four seasons. Without clear intention to protest, Yungpin began swaying from side to side.  Small chirps of alarm emanated from his mouth.  His lips pursed as his frustration grew and found voice.  Soon he was hopping in place and slapping the ground with open palms.

Dewal stopped, turning slowly to face Yungpin, astonished. What was this new thing? He was more amazed than annoyed.

Explain yourself.

Yungpin raised his arms to the night sky where the half-moon hung silently mocking him and his altered destiny.  He pointed to the chosen and back to himself.

Dewal frowned.  Juputin is not for you.  She has been chosen.  Jameet has been chosen.  They are for the Bobo.  They are chosen together, they are Bobo now.

Yungpin would not be consoled. He was still Muladee, still young, he didn’t care about tradition or blood lines or even the future, not a future without Juputin.  He didn’t care what they did with the other but he couldn’t lose the one he loved.  The only one he had ever loved.

Dewal made his way back into the center of the gathering and stood before the one who had challenged the way of the clan.

They are the chosen.  These are one. He gestured to the two timid and bewildered Muladee beside him. Together they are our donation, to the future of the clan, to the strength of the bloodline. It is our way. They are together for the Bobo, for the Bobo to decide…not you!

Yungpin was not cowered.   Juputin is for me.  She is mine.  Do what you will with Jameet.

Dewal flew into a rage. His hair bristled and the dominant male puffed his chest and raised himself threateningly over Yungpin, screaming, his yellow teeth bared.

Stand still Muladee. How can you have Juputin if you donate Jameet?

Yungpin fell to the ground in the face of Dewal’s onslaught, limp, numb, uncomfortably so.  Submissively, he turned away and stared up at the dark side of the moon.

Little Johnny Frankenstein

johnny-frankenstein

Little Johnny Frankenstein lived in the tool shed at the end of the subway line.  Most nights he sat in his shed and listened to the coming and going of the rail cars and the noises of the maintenance men as they went about their work.

On stormy nights, Johnny would take out his silver kite with the golden string and fly it high up through the hole in the roof of the subway station. Up and up his kite would fly, up past the tree lined street, up past the apartment buildings and tenements, up and up, higher than the tallest building in the heart of the city.

When the storm raged, Johnny’s kite would be tossed about in the wind.  But the silver kite was strong and the golden string unbreakable.The kite would dance in the blackened sky and bolts of lightening flash onto it’s shiny metallic surface and shoot down along the golden string and through the the bolts in Johnny’s neck.

After the storm was over Johnny would reel in his kite and walk out onto the tracks. Kneeling down, he would place his hands on the third rail and all the electricity stored in Johnny’s body would surge out of his hand, down the rail and into the reserve batteries at the end of the roadhouse.

This kept Johnny well grounded and riding the subway free of charge.

My Middle School Hell

misbehavior

I don’t think I could have been more terrified and confused if I had been dropped at the front gates of Hell.  Or perhaps it was Hell. No?  Well then Bussey Middle School in Garland Texas was as close to the doorstep of Hades as I had come. In the span of a few short months my family had moved from Trenton Ontario in Canada, to a rented house in a suburb of Dallas Texas, during the hottest summer in 25 years.  I had spent the next few months living in an old house in an old neighborhood attending a new middle-school.  Now here I was, six months later, living in a new, new house in a new old neighborhood. I’d been plucked out of one school mid-term and plopped into another after the Christmas holidays. Continue reading “My Middle School Hell”