Mostly rambles, few brambles
And They Thought I Was The Dumbest Guy At The Law Firm!
This piece originally ran for me on Slackjaw:
I was done with being the firm’s worst performing junior associate, done with the belittlement, and done with the Dunce Cap Shuffle: a jazzy number Mr. Finebaum had conceived at the crossroads of public shaming and showtunes.
“Mr. Finebaum,” I stopped him on his way out of the office. “I know I’m going to be your best associate — maybe even someday make partner!” He stopped and gave a full-body sigh: the thought of me, his resident oaf, ascending to partner was so beyond amusing it was outright pathetic. I figured I’d invoked another sermon about how, no matter what, he would always be more intelligent, more popular, and less prone to having food on his face than me. Instead, though, he just collected himself and asked if I’d be attending the firm dinner tonight at Bella Gianna’s.
I’d always known I could become great lawyer — ever since third grade when, during a field trip to the hands-on museum, the electrostatic generator had malfunctioned and I was technically dead for forty seconds. Doctors called it a miracle. None of them, though, gave any credence to my theories about the hands-on museum giving my senses a supernatural ability to better discern truth and righteousness, though, granted, none of those knaves’ minds had ever been heightened by temporary death.
Seated now in the backroom of Bella Gianna’s — no sign of Mr. Finebaum yet — the group perused the menus, but I, however, shrewdly sniffed and licked. Mostly it tasted like plastic and dead skin. The other associates and partners starred, their eyes rolling and coughing in ways that my hyper hearing could just make out the words “freak show.” After a few ignored pleas to “stop being gross” and one false alarm at what turned out to be a scented scrap of old Band-Aid, I found the menu’s sweet spot: a tasty, fruit-forward drop of dried-on dessert syrup. I had my verdict. “Meatloaf, obviously,” I told the waiter.
“Meatloaf?” one of the partners cried, “at the best Italian restaurant in the city?” His saliva outpaced his disdain and his bruschetta spittle speckled the white tablecloth. I couldn’t secrete my secret to everyone, and have them all vying for their own museum-near-fatality, so instead I lied and told him that I ran a small blog reviewing all matters on the subject called “I Would Do Anything For Loaf.”
After eating, each and every one of my colleagues found something critical to say about their meal: “insipid,” “not enough garlic,” or “too much errant spittle.” My thick palisades of bready meat, though, had been truly sublime, and part of me thought that maybe the world might deserve a blog dedicated to the nexus of meat and metal.
Walking out of dinner, I realized that Mr. Finebaum had never showed and, also, that the bus I had taken here had stopped running an hour ago. The busted route map didn’t help me — it had only tasted like shards of plastic and baked-on car exhaust. The stray dog, however, asleep under the bench, he harbored a rich puddle-water flavor, and petting his pestilent fur I could feel his warmth and his willingness to help. He licked the hardened meatloaf sauce off my cheeks; it seemed that we had an understanding, and that I tasted better than the pigeon cadaver. I stood up and he led the way, wandering in circles until, hours later, we found a main road, a bus, and a kindly driver who didn’t mind riders smelling of gutter fare.
Arriving home, I thought my wife would be asleep, but, flipping the bedroom lights on, I found her under the covers with Mr. Finebaum, both claiming a zany misunderstanding despite the sex feathers in their hands.
I cleansed my pallet, as all I was still tasting was dog tongue, and approached Mr. Finebaum. “I’ll have my answer soon enough,” I told him, my eyes narrowing. I slobbered, sniffed, and sampled him, trying to be thorough and sense any reason to trust his “mutual sleepwalking” explanations. Mostly it was just hair and what — at least tasted like — a few rashes.
My saliva was waning when the room went suddenly dark. I didn’t know right then who was licking me, or how my pants had come off, or when this had all become a game with points. These things sort of just happened and the three of us surrendered to the moment, creativity and feather play reigning supreme.
“About last night,” Mr. Finebaum said to me the next day at the office, “I have a family you know….” I smiled; blackmail was so easy when I didn’t have to chase anyone.
“No more Dunce Cap Shuffle,” I said and he agreed instantly. “And now that we’re sexual partners, how about you make me a full partner here?” His whole body tensed before he extended his hand, furious but maybe just a tad impressed.
“Congrats, Partner,” he said as I caught a telltale whiff of secondhand dog still clinging to his hot breath.