Thursday, August 30, 2007

Derek is Missing, Part 4

Dear Diary,

It was 1:00pm in the small accounting firm I work at and Derek, the person I hate the most in our office, still hadn’t come in to work. As everyone walked out of the lunch room, we were all greeted by a short, squat man and a towering, thin woman with a long face. Both were wearing cheap blazers and standing by our cubicles with Sheila, our boss. Sheila looked very miffed.

SHEILA: Everyone, this is Detective Mallory and Detective Vuotto. They were called in here today by Eric.

ME: You guys sure took your time getting here. Sheesh.

The squat, round-ish male detective spoke first.

MALLORY: What’s this about a missing person?

ME: Forget about it. You’re too late. His trail is long gone by now.

The tall, skinny female detective spoke next.

VUOTTO: We take calls regarding missing persons very seriously.

ME: Well, don’t worry about this one, because he’s probably dead by now.

Vuotto squinted a little, appraising me.

VUOTTO: Why would you say that?

ME: Because everybody hated that jerk. For sure someone did him in.

MALLORY: Really? Everybody hated him?

ME: Listen, you can trust me on that being a fact ‘cause I’m probably the one who hated him the most. I have dreams at night about how much I hate him, and what I want to do to him.

Don from our office interjected then.

DON: It’s true. He wore a T-shirt last week that he made himself and it said I hate Derek.

I turned, smiling and nodding proudly at the cops.

ME: That's right. And see these two gold medals?

I clutched the two gold medals around my neck.

ME: I stole one from him the other week. And this one just this morning from his desk. I hated that bastard. So, so much. You can’t even begin to imagine. So take it from me, that guy’s a corpse.

MALLORY: We’ve been informed that this morning, you contacted several members of Derek’s family and informed them of his supposed death.

I glanced guiltily at Sheila, my boss.

ME: Not during work hours, but yeah, I did let them know not to keep their hopes up too much. Being as I’m certain someone rubbed out my all-time worst enemy ever. If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to assist you on this case.

VUOTTO: And how would you help us exactly?

ME: Well, you see, I’m kind of an expert on wanting this guy off the planet. I could provide you with some insight into the killer’s mind. I most likely have the same wants, same needs, same murderous instincts. What do you say?

Mallory nodded his head briefly then.

MALLORY: I’d like to continue this conversation downtown. Why don’t we give you a ride?

An alarm went off distantly inside my head. I almost didn’t pay attention to it. My grandma Gertie once told me that if a cop ever asks you to “continue this conversation downtown” then you should always turn the other way and run for your life. Which is what I did, just at that moment. I flew out of our office, bursting through the doors to the main hallway. My grandma Gertie died in prison. I wasn’t about to let that happen to me. Even though I still didn’t know what those two detectives thought I was guilty of.

When I finally figured it out, I ran even harder. I wasn't about to give up my two gold medals to anyone, or for anything.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Derek is Missing, Part 3

Dear Diary,

It was 11:00am in our small accounting firm, and Derek, my all-time worst enemy in the office, still hadn't shown for work. My boss Sheila was so nonchalant about the whole thing (maybe she likes him more than an employee. Gross. Sheila might be pretty but now she disgusts me). I was incensed. Was Derek playing hooky, while I had to work? Or maybe something terrible had befallen him. I left the office for half an hour and when I came back, I dimmed the lights as I headed toward my cubicle.

HOWARD: What the hell?

Howard is a sixty-ish ex-army Sargent-turned-accountant.

ME: Everyone! Gather around!

SHEILA: Where have you been? You're supposed to be working.

I quickly unwrapped a game board and its pieces and placed everything on my desk.

ME: It's a Ouija board. We're going to have a séance. Maybe talk to Derek's spirit. Find out what really happened.

SHEILA: This is ridiculous. Someone turn the lights back up.

The lights went back to full.

ME: Fine.

I gathered up the board and pieces.

ME: I'm doing this in the lunch room. Come on everyone!

SHEILA: Oh no, you’re not. You’re getting back to work.

ME: Fine!

I slammed everything back down on my desk and sat down.

SHEILA: That goes for everyone. Back to work.

I dialed up a number on my phone.

ME (quietly into the phone): Hi. Yes, it's me again. I still haven't heard anything. Have you?

Charisse walked by my cubicle then.

ME (into the phone): I know. I really feel for you at this time. My prayers are with you and your family.

CHARISSE: Who are you on the phone with?

I covered the mouth piece with the palm of my hand.

ME (whispering): Derek's mother.


ME (back into the phone): Don't cry. Don't cry. I think the smart thing to do would be to brace yourself for the worst. Do you know of a funeral home?

CHARISSE: What are you doing?

I spent the next half hour talking with Derek's parents, consoling them, offering hope, and then asking for the telephone numbers of any siblings and immediately calling up his sister, and offering a shoulder.

At noon, while everyone in the office was enjoying their lunch in the lunch room, I walked in and turned off the lights.

HOWARD: What the?

I lit a candle and everyone turned and saw me seated alone at one table, conducting a séance before my Ouija board. I closed my eyes and placed the tips of my fingers on the movable Ouija board pointer which is called a planchette.

HOWARD: Could someone please turn the lights back on? I can’t see what I’m goddamn eating.

The lights went back on.

ME (in a deep, ominous voice): Derek. Derek. Can you hear me, Derek?

HOWARD: Could you keep your hooey down? We're trying to have our lunch here.

ME (ominous voice): Derek. Where are you right now, Derek?

The planchette moved, spelling out a word.

ME: H…E… L… L… Hell? You're in hell?

I looked around at everyone, eyes wide with shock.

ME: Derek is in hell.

Everyone stared back at me, blankly.

ME: Well, I suppose he did deserve it.

Sheila was now just outside the lunch room, staring in at me through the small window in the door. She shook her head to herself as I looked back down at the planchette.

ME: But I feel bad for his girlfriend though. And for Sheila. Now, they'll both have to find new boyfriends.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Derek is Missing, Part 2

Dear Diary,

It was 10:30am at our small accounting firm and Derek, the person I hate the most in our office, still hadn't shown for work. Meanwhile, our boss Sheila could not care less (I'm starting to think there's something going on between them). Meanwhile meanwhile, a million scenarios were running through my head. Where's Derek? Did something happen to him? Is he playing us all for fools and having a great time eating cotton candy on a Ferris wheel somewhere? I'd like to be on a Ferris wheel somewhere, perfecting an evil laugh. In my cubicle, I took matters into my own hands and called up his condo. A woman's voice picked up at the other end.

WOMAN: Hello?

ME: Who's this? What have you done to Derek?

WOMAN: Who is this?

ME: It's his work calling. Why? Did I interrupt something? Were you just chopping him up?

WOMAN: What?

ME: This is serious. This is his work calling. He could lose his job over this, and then be homeless and have no money to buy you presents and take you out to stuff your face. That's how serious this is, young lady. Now you tell me where he is.

WOMAN: Listen, he drove to work about two hours ago.

ME: Funny, 'cause he ain't here? How the hell are you, anyway?

WOMAN: What?

ME: And who the hell are you?

WOMAN: I'm his girlfriend. You're being rude.

ME: Girlfriend? What are you doing in his condo? Don't you have your own place? What are you? Some kind of girlfriend-slash-squatter hybrid?

WOMAN: We live together.

ME: Live together? But you're not married.

WOMAN: That's none of your business.

ME: Does your mother know about this? I have Derek's mother's number. I have a mind to call her up right now.

WOMAN: I'm hanging up.

ME: Just between you and me, I don't think Derek's been on the up and up with you. He's sleeping with our boss, Sheila. Keep that on the down low.

WOMAN: Sheila?

ME: Yep. Looks like you're not the only trollop in town.

WOMAN: What's your name?

ME: Uh... Edwardo.

WOMAN: Eduardo who?

ME: Mongooba. Eduardo Mongooba.

WOMAN: Eduardo, you are a despicable human being.

ME: I'm not really Eduardo Mongooba so I don't really care what you think.


ME: Wait... About Derek... Has he ever said anything about this guy he works with? This guy named Eric.

WOMAN: What?

ME: Like what he thinks of him?

WOMAN: Eric who?

ME: Eric the photocopy guy.

WOMAN: Never heard of him.

And with that, Derek's girlfriend hung up.

Sheila walked by my cubicle then, and I stared at my computer screen, pretending to work.

ME (chanting under my breath): Derek has a girlfriend... Derek has a girlfriend...

SHEILA: Did someone just say something?

I didn't acknowledge her.

ME (still chanting under my breath): And it's not Sheila... it's not Sheila... even though they're totally doing it... even though they love to do it... in all of our cubicles... wash your cubicles...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Derek is Missing, Part 1

Dear Diary,

I can barely breathe. First, let me start at the beginning. This morning... Sorry, I just puked into my trash can. All right, this morning, at around 9:01am, I noticed that Derek, the guy I hate the most at work, but whom everybody else absolutely adores because he's a jazz musician, works out and volunteers helping old people (whom I also hate) wasn't in his cubicle yet. It was empty. Everyone has to be here at 9:00am on the dot. I rushed over to my boss' office. Her name is Sheila and she runs the small accounting firm where I work as the photocopy guy.

ME: Derek's late.

Sheila glanced up at the clock on the wall.

SHEILA: One minute late.

ME: What are you going to do about it?

SHEILA: He's on time every day. I'm sure he'll be here any second. Do you have two of his gold medals now?

I clutched the two gold medals around my neck.

ME: These are mine. I trained really hard for these.

SHEILA: I already told you to give him back the one you took from him. How did you get the second one?

ME: You were at the Office Olympics. Didn't you see me win them?

SHEILA: No one did, because you didn't win them. I don't know how you stole this second one, but you are to leave both of those on his desk.

ME: Are you sleeping with him?

SHEILA: What did you just say?

ME: You like him more than everyone. That's why you're so easy on him.

SHEILA: He's one minute late. Get over it.

ME: If I was one minute late, you'd slit my throat, gouge out my eyes and then throw me out on the highway and run me over back and forth, and then for a week I'd never hear the end of it from you.

SHEILA: You wouldn't need to be one minute late for that.

ME: Open your eyes. This place is imploding with all your loose morals and your corrupted, decaying soul.

I went back to my cubicle, but was back in her office within the half hour.

ME: Derek's still not here.

SHEILA (annoyed): Jeez...

ME: Maybe you should call his home. See what's holding him up.

SHEILA: Whether Derek comes in late today is none of your concern. Now get back to work. And take off those gold medals.

ME: Then why do I have to be here, if Derek doesn't? I'm going home!

SHEILA: You get back to your cubicle now.

ME: This place is going to hell in a hand basket! And I'm the only one who seems to care!

I left her office then, but was back ten minutes later.

ME: I've just called the police to let them know about Derek.

SHEILA: Are you insane?

ME: He's been missing for quite some time. They should know.

SHEILA: But the police? And why do you care? He's your mortal enemy. You told me so.

ME: He should be at work! This is unacceptable! What's wrong with you?

SHEILA: Eric, if you do not stop obsessing about this, I will take action. And give me those gold medals.

ME: I found his parents' number on the Internet and gave them a shout, just to give them a heads up. They're looking for him too.

SHEILA: He's barely an hour late for work.

ME: We don't have much time, Sheila. Not if we want to find him alive.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Grandma Gertie and her best friend Marilla

Dear Diary,

I was ten years old when my grandmother Gertrude was eighty and she ran my school bus off the road by repeatedly smashing her Ford Pinto into our crowded, moving, yellow vehicle. She then burst from her car in her apron and flowered smock, sporting a short, white, old lady perm and a hand gun and forced the bus door open. She gave the frightened, shocked bus driver a dirty, hard look through her coke-bottle eyeglasses which magnified her eyes three times their regular size and which were fastened to a thin chain around her neck. All the children were petrified, frozen in their seats as she grabbed my hand and yanked me away.

Once we were both inside her car, she roared back onto the road, straight to her house. I didn't ask any questions. With Grandma Gertie, it was always best not to know too much.

"A bank was just robbed down the street from my house," she volunteered. "And I need you to be our alibi. The police have been hounding me for years regarding several hold-ups in the area."

"Where were you when the bank was robbed, Grandma?"

"Where do you think? You think banks rob themselves?"

"Was Marilla with you?"

Marilla was Grandma Gertie's best friend.

"Why do you think the police suspect us?" Grandma Gertie responded. "During the robbery, she was using her damn walker."

At her house, we quickly set up a game of bridge with Marilla, and my grandmother cheated. When the police finally showed, I told them we had been playing for hours. When the police detective asked if I was Eric, the little boy who had just been abducted by an armed elderly woman off a school bus, we all made a run for it, but didn't make it very far as Grandma and I had to wait for Marilla to find her glasses.

In the police station, as we waited to be interrogated, Grandma fell to the floor, in convulsions. I screamed for help. My grandmother was dying right before my young, innocent eyes. Marilla was soon on the floor as well, also in convulsions. When they both lay motionless, they were loaded onto an ambulance. I bawled as I waited for my parents. My two best friends in the world were dead.

That's when I heard an ambulance siren approaching. I ran outside as the ambulance from before barrelled onto the police station parking lot, colliding with police cruisers. The back door flew open, as Grandma Gertie reached out to me from inside. I latched onto her hand and she pulled me in. Marilla was at the wheel, scraping past electrical polls, trees and more vehicles. At the hospital, once the paramedics had exited the ambulance, the two had commandeered the vehicle and rushed back to scoop me. We were now heading to where the money was hidden.

We parked the ambulance at the mall and my grandmother and Marilla spent their newfound booty on things such as hard candy, salted black licorice, Bengay, denture cream, lottery scratch cards and both signed up for a Readers Digest subscription. They bought me things as well, mostly socks, before speeding back to Grandma Gertie's house where both ladies baked me some rock hard bran muffins and then torched the place, to get rid of all the evidence they said. They left me on the front lawn for my parents to pick up as they both drove away in the ambulance, the siren still blaring. I miss my Grandma Gertie every day.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Grandma Gertie

Dear Diary,

When I was a little boy, my parents used to drop me off some afternoons at my grandmother Gertrude's. Before they would leave, my father would always eye my mother's mother suspiciously, even though Grandma Gertie was just a diminutive eighty-year-old woman wearing an apron over a faded flowered smock and sporting a short, white-gray, old lady perm. Supposedly back in the 1920s, my Grandma Gertie had been a notoriously wild flapper, dancing in all the big nightclubs of the time. But in front of my father, she now moved very slowly, and smiled, offering half-baked, salted, black licorice cookies which tasted oddly like sweat-soaked running shoes.

As soon as my parents were gone, my grandmother would quickly throw on some satin number while downing shots of gin, and then would invite the mail man in. Soon her street would be clogged with two dozen postal trucks, the stereo in her house would be blaring disco music and my Grandma Gertie would be dirty dancing with all the city postal workers. I'd cry then, scared out of my mind, as my grandmother would throw herself from the chandelier into the waiting arms of her mail men, screaming, "Special Delivery!" She'd usually try to kiss someone on the mouth then, before kicking everyone out, and consoling me with one of her stinky black licorice cookies as she made sure her dress was still covering her in all the right places. I miss her.

When my parents would pick me up at the end of the day, my grandmother would always be back in her flowered smock and apron, moving about the house ever so slowly. As we would leave, my father would never stop eyeing her suspiciously, especially if a pair of panties suddenly fell from the chandelier. Grandma Gertie would usually offer a small laugh then, adding, "I haven't seen these in years."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Under-Appreciated at Work

Dear Diary,

I am steaming right now in my cubicle. You see, I am the photocopy guy in a small accounting firm and I have an extremely unique problem: I am under-appreciated. No one here works like I do, or provides the office with all that I offer. I’m terrified to think what would happen if ever I were to leave. This place would crumble. Seriously. Let’s just say, I wouldn’t want to be here if I left here.

I’ve made a list of at least 5 things no one appreciates about me at work:

5. I make a lot of promises

Most people are afraid of making a commitment to a project. Or announcing that they will take full responsibility for a major undertaking in the office, such as building an addition or a sun deck. Not me. I make grandiose statements about what I’ll do with wild abandon. And if I don’t completely forget about them later, I’ll cancel entire projects if they no longer excite me or I feel like they’re weighing me down. That way, I save everyone the trouble of a grumpy Eric who’s prone to vandalism.

4. I give bad people the silent treatment

No one doles out office justice quite like me. Out of the twenty-four employees in our office, I’m now only speaking to two, and that’s including myself. Last month it was zero. I was like Helen Keller without the sign language.

3. Every day, starting at 3:45pm, I cook my dinner on a hot plate in my cubicle

Leaving the office with my dinner for the evening already prepared keeps me from rushing to get out of the office right at 5pm or attempting to leave early. This week alone, I’ve made jambalaya, curried goat and trout risotto.

2. I re-decorate the office with recycled garbage

Abandoned mattresses make great couches if you can bend them. Just this morning, at 6am, I picked out twenty-four tires from the junk yard, filled them with dirt and planted one daisy in each, and then placed one “tire flower” on every desk.

1. I build and maintain office morale with a show every Friday

Every Friday, right after lunch, I set up my ghetto blaster and wireless microphone and walk around the office, making jokes, Don Rickles-style, ridiculing everyone in the office while pointing out their shortcomings. The jokes just write themselves, really.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Inappropriately Dressed for Work

Dear Diary,

Yesterday, at 4:31pm, I got called into my boss Sheila's office. I sat across from her as she stared at me from behind her desk.

SHEILA: What you're wearing today might be considered inappropriate.

ME: Really? What's wrong with it?

SHEILA: Well, for starters, you're wearing a T-shirt. You should be wearing a shirt and tie.

ME: My bad.

SHEILA: And what's written on your T-shirt... it's upsetting people.

ME: Oh. I wasn't aware. This T-shirt was given to me as a Christmas present.

SHEILA: It says I hate Derek. Derek... doesn't really know what to make of it.

ME: Must be a popular T-shirt. Big seller, I guess.

SHEILA: It's handwritten in black marker. And Derek is spelled wrong. You have two K's and three R's.

ME: It was given to me that way. Probably an import.

SHEILA: Who gave it to you?

ME: Secret Santa. We pick names from a hat every year in my wife's family. So really, I have no way of knowing who wanted to upset Derek.

SHEILA: Eric... do you hate Derek?

I paused then, as Sheila stared straight into my eyes. I felt stuck. Cornered.

SHEILA: Do you?

ME: How I feel about Derek and what's written on my T-shirt are two completely different things. Really, I don't know why Derek is making such a big stink. I really don't like that guy.

SHEILA: I'll say a word. And then you tell me the first word that comes to mind.

ME: Shoot.

SHEILA: Derek.

ME: Scumbag.

SHEILA: I want you to go home now. And I never want to see that T-shirt again.

ME: What? You don't like the color? Too much maroon?

SHEILA: And that gold medal you're wearing. Derek won that at the Company Olympics. I want you to return it to him.

I clutched my gold medal.

ME: This is the only thing I've ever won in my life.

SHEILA: You return it, and then go home.

ME: Can I ask you a question? Do you hate me?


ME: Be honest. Who would you marry? Me or Derek?

SHEILA: Get out.

ME: Would you have Derek's baby?

SHEILA: Get...

ME: Are you and Derek having dinner tonight, and then laughing behind my back?

SHEILA: I'm married. Get out. Now.

ME: Fine. Say hi to Derek for me, when you see him tonight.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How to Get Love

Dear Diary,

I have been married for almost two years now and that makes me a bit of an expert with women. I sometimes like to dispense my knowledge to other males who are still single because they don't truly understand the feminine mystique and can't get any ladies to ask them to marry them. The following are my top five tips on how to land yourself a lady and make her want to stay with you. At least for two years.

5. Be fancy

Women love fancy things, like fancy jewellery and fancy skirts. Buy yourself fancy jeans, or fancy gym shorts, and have your mom sew frilly things and lace onto them.

4. Open doors

When I first dated my wife, I'd open the door for her, and for those behind her as well. At concerts and busy restaurants, she'd sometimes have to wait while I held the door open for the groups of people behind us. Sometimes, I'd be holding the door a good few hours, our date long over. When she'd finally drive me home, I'd be exhausted just from smiling for everyone, and saying hello, and then later, saying goodnight.

3. Be charming

On the first date, don't yell at her. As well, don't swear at people she introduces you to, or try to give them open mouth kisses. Had I known this, I would have been married ten years ago, and many times.

2. Give

Give her something once in a while. There are lots of things women like. If you're not using that garden hose with the massive hole in it anymore, somebody else might like it. And a cracked drinking glass isn't garbage until your floors are so sticky with juice, small objects get stuck for weeks.

1. Be yourself

On the first date, if you're cheap, rifle through her purse in front of her and grab a few bills for yourself while shouting, "Jackpot!" If you're a workaholic, bring your entire office with you and pull an intense all-nighter putting a deal together, shushing her whenever she tries to talk to you. If you have trouble expressing your emotions, when she tries to be funny, cry uncontrollably, or when she confesses to you a tragic part of her life, laugh hysterically. Or face her with the back of your head the entire night and never acknowledge her. If she's the one, she'll love you for it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Late For Work

Dear Diary,

At the bus stop, the other morning, on my way to work, I remembered that I had forgotten my lunch, so I walked all the way back to my apartment building, but then remembered that I had left my briefcase with my keys inside it at the bus stop, so I walked all the way back to the bus stop. As I finally walked to my apartment with my briefcase and keys, I remembered that I had left my umbrella at the bus stop, and the sky was overcast so I walked again to the bus stop.

When I finally got on the bus with everything I needed for the day, I rang the bell to get off at the next stop, remembering that I had left the tea kettle boiling at home. Then, one after the other, and during more back-and-forths between my apartment and the bus stop, more things came to mind that I had forgotten, including leaving the blender running with blueberries inside and no lid. Long story short, I was late for work.

When I finally entered the small accounting office I work at, on my tippy toes, and hoping no one would notice, I bumped into Sheila, my boss.

SHEILA: Are you just getting in?

ME: Yeah. I missed my bus this morning, and then left the tea kettle on.

SHEILA: It’s four forty-five in the afternoon. Everyone is packing up for the day.

ME: Oh good, I won’t need to open up my briefcase. I can just turn around and walk right on out. I tell you, I’m glad this day’s finally over.

SHEILA: Whoa, whoa, hold on a minute. This is unacceptable. You missed an entire day of work.

ME: Haven’t you ever missed the bus before?

SHEILA: You’re seven and a half hours late.

ME: While I’d love to chat more about this, I’ve got to head back home. During my many visits to my apartment today, I ran a garden hose from the back deck to our bathtub and I think I may have left the water running.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Booklet Titled Life

Dear Diary,

I am sitting in my cubicle this morning, thinking about what makes this world so wondrous. It really is. This world is wondrous. So wondrous. Does wondrous mean ‘a lot of wonder’? Or that something is ‘chock of full of wonder’? What does that mean exactly? Does that mean everyone is always wondering about everything and they’re not sure of anything? If so, then I truly believe that this world is wondrous, because I have no clue what is going on in my life, nor do I understand what anything is anymore, or what people actually mean when they say, “You need to calm down, turn around and get out of my life.”

I guess I began to lose my bearings at around age ten when I fell in love with Marie McBarrel. I sent her a note in class asking, “If you like me, as much as I like you, please draw a circle around your desk with white chalk. That way, I will get the hint and will take things to the next level.” She wrote me back, writing, “Chalk around my desk? Are you preparing for a crime scene? Believe it or not, you’re creeping me out way more now than the time you sent flowers to my mother at her work with a note saying, ‘Soon, I’ll be calling you mommy too.’ Please, never attempt any contact with myself, or anyone in my family ever again. Ever. Do you hear me? Do you get the hint? I could not hate you more. And hate is the opposite of like. Do you get it? I DON’T LIKE you. Is that clear? I DON’T LIKE you. If you’re still confused, then this is what I actually mean: YOU are the person that I DON’T LIKE.”

The fact of the matter is, I was really more into Marie’s mother than Marie herself. But still, talk about mixed messages. I wish that when you were born, your parents would hand you an instruction manual that you could read at your own leisure to know how to live life right. Kind of like when you get a new electronic gadget and you get this little booklet in five different languages with diagrams about how to use your new piece of equipment. I don’t necessarily read it right away, preferring to play with my new toy for a bit to ‘figure it out’, and usually end up doing something wrong and causing irreparable damage to it, but still, with the booklet, you can then go back and see where you went wrong. When I look back on my life, I have no idea: where did I go wrong?

I know where I went right. I once saw a man drop a picture on the sidewalk ahead of me, and chased after him as he hopped into a taxi cab. I jumped into the next cab, and when he got out of his cab, I ran after him some more, and then we both got back into cabs, and then I sprinted after him as he entered a building, and I had to grab the next elevator after his because the line was so long, and then raced after him through hallways, and then back out of the building, past a demonstration by striking workers, through a restaurant, through a parade in Chinatown, through a police interrogation line-up, across the stage of some TV talk show, and then right into his house as he was sitting down with his family for dinner. As I handed him his long-lost photograph, panting, with sweat dripping from my forehead right into his salad, he looked up at me (as his wife was dialling the police) and told me that this wasn’t his photograph. It was just some useless flyer that he had thrown to the ground. I blushed, then exploded at him for polluting, and then yelled at his family, calling them all a bunch of polluters. That was the right thing to do.

Friday, August 10, 2007

My Favorite Collections

Dear Diary,

I'm so into collecting. I love collecting stamps, but haven't for years. The stamp glue got all over my fingertips, and then my clothes and my face. Stamps suck. Anybody I meet that has a stamp collection, I tell them they're stupid.

I've also collected pictures of animals. If a friend had a picture of their pet, I'd ask if I could keep it. If they said no, I'd asked to borrow it and then never return it. If a friend refused to lend me their picture, I'd ask to borrow their pet, just until I was able to take a picture of it.

One night, I woke up from a nightmare where hundreds of dogs were barking and hundreds of cats were meowing and hundreds of hamsters were running on hundreds of hamster wheels. I screamed at the top of my lungs, and proceeded to throw all my pictures out into the backyard and then set fire to the hill of photos, still screaming and screeching. I was still half-asleep when the fire department showed up. When they accidentally hosed me down, I fully woke up, and cried and screamed and screeched all over again as I realized that all my pictures were gone.

I've collected other people's chipped dishes, blades of grass, string and left-over Chinese take-out. One common theme has run throughout my every collection: I have no clue what to do with all the junk once it blocks every exit of my house. I've just gotten rid of my hot water tank collection and want to try something new. I'm thinking apartment building incinerators.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Company Barbecue, Part 2

Dear Diary,

So the company barbecue was in full swing in our building parking lot. All the companies in the building were invited, and starved and sweaty after participating in the Office Olympics. Three long lines of famished office workers waited on me, as I was manning all three barbecues wearing my gold medal. They waited a full hour before the first burger was served. And that's when I got my first complaint.

"This meat is all red and mushy."

I stared down at this fellow and his half eaten burger. "It's a Sloppy Joe-style burger. It's supposed to be mushy. It keeps it sloppy."

"I'm not going to eat this," he replied, as everyone behind him kept shouting their orders.

"Fine," I said, and I clutched the half eaten burger and handed it to someone else who had just ordered a burger.

"This burger's half eaten," this new person said.

"Fine," I responded angrily, snatching the burger back. "Waste food!" I threw it on the ground. "And pollute! See if I care."

Another complaint. This time from a woman. "This chicken burger is still pink and frozen in the middle."

I was now frantically scrambling from one barbecue to the next, trying to keep up with all the orders. "Chew on it harder. I'm just grilling here. I'm not here to eat the stuff for you."

Then another. "This wiener still has ice covering it."

I rolled my eyes. "They're like corn dogs on a stick. Like a corn dog Popsicle. But without the breading or the stick. They're diet corn dog Popsicles."

People started throwing up, from salmonella, which made me puke uncontrollably on all three barbecues. I think I vomited for a whole five minutes, just retching. I leaned down, opening the soda cooler, and puked some more in there.

I stood back up, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. "Who's next?"

Everyone quietly dispersed, the barbecue officially over, and only two people served.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Company Barbecue, Part 1

Dear Diary,

Today was our company barbecue. It was held at lunchtime in our parking lot with all the combined companies from our building invited. For days now, I've begged Sheila, our boss, to let me man all three propane barbecues. I need to show to all the accountants in this office that I am way more than just the guy they hired to photocopy and collate. I am a man, not a boy, but no one seems to notice. Now they will. Another thing no one knows: I am a modified vegetarian and have not eaten red meat since 1993, and I've never prepared it.

The barbecue kicked off at 10am with office Olympics held between all the companies. The games included track and field, shot put and the javelin throw. I sat out the two-hour games, telling Sheila I needed to prepare for the barbecue. I got out a big jar of ketchup, then mustard and lastly relish and placed all three on the condiment table. I then sat in my lawn chair and took a breather as everyone continued their stupid games and Derek, the guy I hate the most in our office, won everything. Everyone was cheering, "Derek! Derek! Derek!" My eyes squinted in anger, increasing in squint as the Olympics wore on. When the games were finally over, my squint was pretty much just two opened slits that you could barely squeeze a dime through.

Everyone then gathered before a stage as Derek and his jazz quartet performed. Derek was all sweaty and gross, strumming a large bass and singing all the vocals while sporting all six of his office Olympic gold medals. All the women rushed up close and swooned over him. I grabbed three canned colas from one of the coolers, popping them open and downing them one after the other. I hate Derek. My squint came back.

In the middle of a song, Derek set up a hat and sign at the front of the stage. He was collecting donations for his favorite charity, "Old People Are People Too." I shoved my way through all the women, right up to the stage and booed through the entire next song. Charisse and her friends told me to shut it. I then yelled out to everyone, trying to get a chant going, "Old people are old and that's why we hate them! Old people are old and that's why we hate them! They smell like moth balls, and some like sardines! Old people are old..." That's when Sheila pulled me away.

"You should be barbecuing the burgers," she hissed. "Everyone's hungry."

"I'm on it," I replied, but on my way over to the three barbecues, I couldn't help but jump on stage and join Derek. I pulled one gold medal over his head and wore it myself, throwing my hands up high, running in circles and shouting, "Yeah! I'm number one!"

After one of Derek's quartet members pinned me down, I got up to my knees and begged Derek to let me wear the one medal for the rest of the day. "You have five others, for Pete's sake..." When he quickly nodded, I ran off stage, raising my arms again and hollering, "I'm the best! I'm the best!"

When everyone began to form three long lines toward the barbecues, I looked down intently at the three contraptions.

"What's wrong?" Sheila asked.

"How do you turn these things on?" I questioned her.

Shaking her head, Sheila turned on all three for me.

I pushed her out of the way then. This was now my show. And I looked awesome with my gold medal.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I am here, somewhere in the past...

Dear Diary,

My eyes are closed and I am far away into the limitless, mountainous horizons of my mind. I hear wind blowing against branches and leaves, with the liquidity and substance of water moving underneath the surface of the ocean, and the winds breathing the most beautiful music my soul has ever heard. I feel a strange intimacy to this music, going back thousands of years. I am lost and fulfilled. I am home. Somewhere ahead, past many mountains, and intertwined within the wind, I hear a flute.

Who is playing this flute? Perhaps it is my grandmother who has finally come back to me. And she’s just made fresh pudding, with peanuts in the middle. Our little secret. But she never played the flute. She hated that racket. She once rushed at the TV with a baseball bat as Zamphir played the pan flute on PBS. That week, in church, she launched a campaign to stop everyone from donating to PBS. The campaign turned violent. My grandmother was run out of town, taking me with her across North America, living a life in constant disguise. Our most dependable costumes was my grandmother as a young Russian ballerina defector, and myself as the world’s first ten-year-old Hasidic rabbi.

We gave shows across the nation as Tatiyana and Shlomo the Lil’ Rabbi. We mostly did Cheap Trick covers and selections from The Starlight Express, but roller-skating is a tough gig in a long black robe. When we were finally discovered, it wasn’t because my grandmother was in her eighties, still dancing on the tips of her toes to Tchaikovsky in an attempt to fool tourists who thought they recognized her as the woman who once attempted to take Yanni hostage in an effort to snuff out PBS forever. It was because I froze as I was about to perform a Bris.

As the police pulled us apart, my grandmother in mid-twirl, a consummate pro 'till the very end, I cried to her, "I'm sorry, grandma. I'm so sorry." She reached for me then, trying to wrap her arms around me. "I'm the one," she said. "I'm the one who did this. Not you."

I open my eyes, as I wipe them. Those peanuts inside the pudding were never shelled. I miss that crunchy pudding.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Conflict Resolution with Derek

Dear Diary,

Derek, the guy I can't stand the most at work, cornered me this morning, sitting across from me in the lunch room as I was pouring chocolate syrup into my sippy cup filled with milk. I love my sippy cup. I once had to pry it from my mother as she was about to throw it out. The convenience of a covered cup cannot be overstated, plus I love sucking on it as I rock to and fro in my cubicle chair, humming Mary Had a Little Lamb.

DEREK: Is there something maybe we should talk about?

ME: What's your problem?

DEREK: You just seem to be short with me, a lot of the times. And you never say anything when I ask you how you are. You just mumble what sounds like threats mixed with multi-syllable swear words.

ME: You have a problem with me, just be man enough to come right out and say what it is exactly. I don't have time for this beating around the bush, and all this mumbling.

DEREK: I just wanted to know if I had done something to offend you.

ME: Well, if offending me is what you're trying to do, you're on the right track. Keep it up buddy, you're on a roll.

DEREK: I'm confused.

ME: Big surprise. Playing dumb and being dumb: same difference in my book.

DEREK: What are you talking about?

ME: Some people are just really smart. You're going to have to accept that. You're on the outside looking in, at all the people who are a lot smarter than you - people who think thoughts that are huge about the world and how to resolve things like peace, and make bridges and chairs. Some people might like you, Derek. But these are small, petty people of no consequence. And we'd all be better off if they didn't exist.

DEREK: I don't know what's happening.

ME: Derek, I'm probably the only one in the office who doesn't hold it against you that you probably don't tie your own shoes. I'm okay with people who aren't as intelligent as me. Honestly. As long as they don't talk to me and they act invisible when I'm around.

DEREK: Are we okay?

ME: Stop stalking me and I won't call the cops. Is that "okay" enough for you?

DEREK: All right.

He got up from the table then.

DEREK: I'll leave you alone.

ME: I'm just telling you this as a friend... but why don't you call in sick next week? Do us all a favor.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Derek is my all-time worst enemy

Dear Diary,

I'm just so angry and worked up about this guy in our office. His name is Derek.

I hate Derek because...

5. Everybody loves Derek

Women in this office are always talking about all the volunteering he does for people who are old and stuff, and probably have leprosy. If he brings leprosy in here, I swear...

4. Derek might have leprosy

Leprosy is contagious. My arm feels tingly. I think Derek brushed up against it this morning.

3. People love Derek

Derek lends a hand to anyone who needs help in the office. He's all so familiar with everyone, and friendly. It's creepy. I Google his name a dozen times a day, just in case something suspicious pops up. I once found an article about a drug dealer/multiple murderer named Derek(!!!) (Hello! Did no one run a check on this guy before he was hired?). I made several copies and anonymously posted this article all over our office, and the post office, and Craig's List, but no one made the connection between Derek and the vicious druggie killer. I gather this killer (from the article) went by a different last name, looked a little different (racially), and died in prison ten years ago.

2. Derek acts like he knows me

I have my own friends, thank you. I don't need you. In my entire life, I'm proud to say that I've only ever lost two friends, and made three (if I'm allowed to count cats).

1. Everyone is crazy about Derek

Don't know why. Derek is disgusting.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Celebrity Celebration

Dear Diary,

I wonder what it would be like to be a celebrity. Do you get up in the morning? Or do you stay in bed and sleep until you're ready to go spend all that money? I wonder if you start drinking as soon as you're awake? Do you get wasted right away, and call people up for an all-day/all-night party? Sometimes I get mad that I have to go to work while there are people out there having an all-day/all-night party.

When I woke up yesterday morning, I waited for my wife to leave for work, and then proceeded to knock back a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream. I called everyone I knew and told them I was having a party all day until 6pm when I expected my wife home. I would have invited her as well, but when I made a suggestion the night before that I'd be staying home to drink and party, she told me to at least hold on to my job until they found a reason to fire me that has more to do with what I can't change about myself than just being stupid. I nodded my head, pretending to understand the difference.

At 10am, the party was hoppin' and boppin', and the music was blarin'. Everyone I called was at work and couldn't come. I called an exterminator in the yellow pages and when he arrived, I slurred and stumbled through some made-up story about some frogs near the stereo. I turned up the music real loud then and tried to make him dance, and partake in a little creme de menthe. He raised one eyebrow at me, like I was some crazy person, but still snatched the bottle and downed the entire thing in one gulp. We got really crazy then as he showed me some break dancing moves. The last thing I remember, I was spinning on my head, projectile-vomiting. When my wife arrived at six, she found us passed out in a bundle of arms and legs, the soundtrack to Beat Street on repeat.

I've been apologizing for the past twelve hours, assuring my wife that she only married some bozo who can barely hold down a job. By no means did she marry a celebrity.