1. Danny Cater got home from another failed online date and hurried to complete his latest amazon.com review. If everything went according to plan, he would be the first person to post a review the Samyung EX 4200 Nose and Armpit Hair Trimmer Elite.
When he logged onto the site, he saw that his hated rival DoomBringer316 had beaten him to the punch.
“This Nose and Armpit Hair Trimmer works as advertised, sucking up the loose hair as it cuts, preventing the otherwise inevitable sneezing and nose blowing. And I guess it prevents cut hairs from falling into your inner ear too, although I don’t think this has ever posed a problem for me (‘what’s that you said?’ asked the little voice in my head). N.B.: If the mirror on the cap appears dull and unreflective, you need to peel off yet another layer of plastic coating. There is a shiny, reflective glass mirror underneath, I assure you. I also like the little cloth travel case included; my previous Panasonic nose trimmers lacked this feature. Do I miss the light on this model? No, because the light never pointed at the trimming area anyway — it was more show than go, as Coach Broadsides would say. Yes, this nose trimmer definitely sucks — and I mean that in the very best way! Highly recommended.”
Cater started to wail. Why had life dealt him such a shitty hand? Those movies where nerds one-up their bullies and haters—why hadn’t he gotten to experience this?
Upon concluding these ululations, he fish-bellied up to the PC and poured out his despair. “You think knowing me is depressing and exhausting? You should try being me,” he tweeted to his 739 followers.
“u r my fave! love ur work,” replied one of them, a young amazon.com groupie who lived with his parents in Grand Island, Nebraska.
2. Mold was starting to break out all over Big Cheese’s head. This had happened once before. “It’s like Two Days From Retirement all over again, Crow,” Big Cheese complained as he picked at an especially large patch of blue-and-white mold.
Crow smiled dumbly in response.
Big Cheese nodded. “Rance Hartley,” he hissed. “That ne’er-was football player — ”
“Hockey player,” Crow corrected his master.
Big Cheese waved Crow off with his unlit cigar. “Whatever!” he shouted. He then pointed the cigar at Crow and, following that, stabbed the tip of it into his desktop repeatedly. He was angry, you see. “The point is that he’s fragging this picture all to frig!”
“Frogging this picture all to — ”
“Don’t even say it!” Big Cheese snapped. He then sighed exasperatedly. “Can you believe it? That fregging goon’s trying to renege on the deal, Crow. He’s trying to renege!”
Crow shook his head and tsk-tsked like a good yes-man.
“And do you know why?” Big Cheese asked, clearly irate.
Crow shook his head again.
“The picture’s too violent!” Big Cheese said, now as bewildered as he had been irate. “Too violent! Ha!”
Crow smiled, though he wasn’t entirely sure that was the response Big Cheese was looking for.
Big Cheese tore off a chunk of mold and flicked it across the room. “That dumb brute’s never starred in a picture that wasn’t rated-R for Adult Language, Situations and Violence, and now he’s saying he’s not sure he can appear in this one on account of its, uh… uh… ‘gratuitous violence!'”
Crow shrugged. “He’s been like that ever since he started dating Boogie Crackerjack, sir. What can you do?”
“Sue his ass for breach of contract, that’s what I can do!” Big Cheese barked. “Stupid son of a — he thinks the script needs to be tweaked, Crow. He thinks Jack Chaser needs more, um… ‘human motivation’ to justify his violent rampage. What could be more human than taking down the mob because they sold your mother’s 1993 silver Chevy Impala to the highest bidder? What a crock of — there’s no… son of a bitch! He’s finished in this town, Crow! Do you hear me? Rance Hartley’ll be appearing in voraphilia snuff flicks when I’m through with him!”
3. “I was born to be anxious. Even when I’m by myself lying in bed or watching TV, my armpits sweat profusely. I feel there is no hope for me. I will die as I’ve lived: sweaty, miserable and alone,” Brian Powell told leading psychologist Dr. John Climacus, a man he now regarded as his only hope.
“But really, Brian, tell me how you really feel,” Climacus said in the most paternalistic and condescending tone imaginable. “Really,” he added, because his years of training and education and so forth had led him to believe that was the right thing to say. He stroked his little French imperial beard a few times for good measure.
4. “What seems to be the problem with the CD, sir?” the employee asked.
“Oh, nothing,” the customer practically whistled.
The employee responded with the sort of bland-faced silent stupidity inherent to the type.
“Just that it skips around like a fucking schoolgirl!” the customer snapped, hurling the CD and its jewel case at the frightened employee.
5. Camden Camden accepted dozens of fancy gifts from the sixtysomething man who always came in and tipped her too well and asked when she was going to marry him and so on, but was then shocked when he expected “something real sweet” in return. “How dare he think that because I accept ridiculously large tips and jewelry from him that it’s… that it’s… some kind of… sign of anything!” she was heard to shout angrily through clenched teeth. “I’m not a whore!”
6. “Guess what happened to me today?” the young man’s father invited—with more enthusiasm than he’d shown in ages—his indifferent son to guess.
“I met someone!”
“Roger Mudd!” the young man’s father exclaimed with childlike dementia. “Roger Mudd! I met Roger Mudd at the package store! Remember him? He used to be a big fucking deal!”
7. I remember when I first met Camden Camden. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. To be perfectly honest, she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen—even more beautiful than a summer sunset or a total eclipse of the heart. I knew then that I had no shot with her. What would a girl like Camden Camden want to do with me? A lot, apparently, because we were getting real sweet in no time. She got real sweet with everyone, though. That was the problem.
8. “So what are you saying, Lenny?” Donny asked, not yet offended but preparing to get that way real quick-like.
“What I’m sayin’,” Lenny, speaking in a slightly more belligerent Yankee accent than usual, slammed his hand on the bar and stood up, “Is Abbey Road — hell, the Beatles… The Beatles are overrated! Decent pop — ” he said “pop” like “pahhhhp” — “Band — ” he said “band” like “beyaaaaand” — “And that’s it!”
Donny, who was wearing a Ringo Starr tour T-shirt, decked Lenny. Lenny staggered backward and into another bar patron, who responded by disgustedly shoving Lenny back toward Donny. Donny punched Lenny in the stomach, then drove his knee into his drinking buddy’s nose. Donny fell to the floor, but when Donny attempted to help him up, Lenny punched him in the groin, then leapt to his feet with drunken stupidity and head-butted Donny in the face repeatedly until Donny’s head cracked open like the shell of a nigger toe.
9. “Nigger toe,” Dr. Jonas Ruggleteapot, Distinguished Professor of Knowledge, smirked. “There’s an archaic term I’ve not heard in years,” he said to a framed picture of his wife, who had a cleft palate and was clad in an unflattering bathing suit. He gripped his hands behind his back and continued to smirk while now incorporating a series of slow nods into the mix. With a smarmier tone than before and no shortage of hubris, he expatiated on the subject of nigger toes, “You see, until the dawn of political correctness toward the end of the twentieth century, the macadamia nut was referred to, especially in the woebegone and backward Deep South, as a ‘nigger toe,'” he chuckled. “You won’t be hearing that one too much these days,” he smiled wetly and then kissed the picture of his wife.
10. The defendant banged his face on the wall repeatedly and then rubbed the blood all over the police officer’s face and head and neck and screamed the most maniacal scream anyone’s ever screamed in the history of mankind. His exact words were, “I have AIDS! I have AIDS and I hope you die! I hope you die!” He was then heard to laugh (“Ha ha ha!”) uproariously. You might be wondering why the armed police officer in question allowed a one-hundred-and-twenty-pound man — who was handcuffed behind his back for the entire time he was in police custody — to rub HIV-positive blood all over his person, unless of course you’re an employee of our state’s judicial system, in which case the scenario described above sounds perfectly “sensical.” What’s that? Yes, sensical.
Is it really any wonder people who get “pinched” at some point in their lives turn into career criminals? Take me, for example. I was arrested for public drunkenness and possession of marijuana. While in police custody, I was unruly and hurling obscenities as if I were prime-period Kevin Tapani throwing split-finger fastball after split-finger fastball, only my obscenities weren’t received by the expert mitt of Scott Servais, but rather by the ears of hypersensitive policemen eager to stomp on someone who was not only loathsome, but, more importantly, unable to defend himself. Is it any wonder so many people become embittered toward “the system” after a run-in with the law? I don’t have any “priors.” Before April of this year I never had so much as a speeding ticket to my name. Now, on August 9th, I’m an enemy of the state — a lunatic with “a history of intoxication and intoxicated violence” who “presents a threat to anyone with whom he might come into contact.”
Nothing matters to these people, you understand. Character witnesses? Well, they’re just your friends and they’re probably degenerates or criminals themselves. A clean record? There’s a first time for everything and a crime the first time is still a crime. You have plans to go to school or visit friends? School will still be here in five-to-ten and visitation hours last from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. All of which basically amounts to the following: Your life is now fucked. “There are options,” they’ll tell you, but there aren’t. Even if prison doesn’t make you an entirely different person (which it does, and not for the better), what employer is going to hire someone with a felony on his record, especially when the felony in question is — oh, I don’t know — assaulting a police officer? No, you’ve seen your fate, and its name is Ken Ploughshares and it’s fortysomething, working at a grocery store, and living in a broken-down school bus parked in front of an Armenian church just past the Henrico County line. At least you can look forward to a lifetime of free produce.