When I began crying at my desk and explained why I was so upset to Kenneth Murphy (or “Kenny” as he begged me to call him from now on), he surprised me by springing into action almost immediately.
“This is a moral and sexual outrage!” he fumed, striking the desk with his fist. “That Kate Winslet’s birthday isn’t a national or international holiday is a gross oversight of the global community.”
“I know–right?” I sobbed. “I shouldn’t even be here today!”
I had actually inquired about whether or not missing a day to stay at home and celebrate Kate Winslet’s birthday would go against my attendance record. The person in charge of requests for time off asked if I could describe my celebratory plans. Thinking I’d been asked for this information in order to support the case for my request, I enthusiastically obliged.
I found that I was mistaken. She merely wanted to ridicule then refuse me.
“You’re seriously asking to go home with pay and no attendance penalty for that?” she asked, obviously incredulous and disgusted in equal measure.
I had and still have no idea why, though. I felt sure then as now that many other people in the world would be taking off the fifth of October to watch YouTube compilations of the sex scenes and nude shots from every Kate Winslet movie, from Heavenly Creatures and Holy Smoke to Hideous Kinky and Revolutionary Road. Granted, they might not all be eating cake with their hands and live-blogging their celebrations in the nude like I wanted to – I’m well aware that everybody who loves Kate Winslet loves Kate Winslet in his or her own special and personal and very, very private way.
“I can’t just stand by and let you be oppressed,” said Kenny Murphy. “Come on, Chicken Sheets!”
He grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet, then scooped me up into his arms, running toward the building’s front exit doors. I held tightly to his neck and squeezed my eyes shut as he melted the metal and glass of the doors with the laser beams that shot out of his eyes. Once outside, he gently placed me feet-first on the sidewalk.
“What now?” I asked as Kenny Murphy’s red and gray plaid cape fluttered behind him in the breeze.
He stared into the distance, hand shielding his eyes from the autumn sun. He appeared to be studying a complex and fool-proof plan. But when he finally looked back at me, he just shrugged. “You’re on your own from here,” he told me, walking quickly toward the lobby doors. “I only have a few minutes left on my break. Good luck!”
His cape got caught in the door when it closed, yanking him backward as he attempted to stride away. He coughed a few times as he loosened the cape from around his throat then gave it a good yank and ran off out of sight.
But I had finally managed to escape work on Friday only with the help of my former nemesis, Kenneth Murphy. And now I was safely outside and my supervisor, Mrs. Chaingang, wasn’t chasing after me or trying to pull me back inside by my hair.
I made it home in record time, cutting my fifteen-minute commute down to six minutes by running red lights, passing cars around curves and completely ignoring yield signs. I still had on my hazard lights and was leaning on the car horn when I pulled into our subdivision.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t even park my car in the driveway, as it was blocked by two huge Mayflower trucks, as well as five or six men carrying furniture, appliances and cat toys out of the house.
I jumped out of my car and ran toward a man carrying a carpet-covered scratching post and a toy mouse attached to a plastic fishing pole. “What the hell’s going on here?” I asked him.
“Talk to the boss,” the man said, aiming the end of the fishing pole toward the back of one of the moving trucks.
I almost blacked out when I saw what was happening there. A chain of people I recognized from the neighborhood was snaking out of the basement toward the gaping maw of the truck trailer. Like 19th-century firefighters passing wooden buckets of water toward a blazing tenement, each person passed along to the next a single book. I was frantic to see these yahoos manhandling my personal library.
At the end of the line stood Citizen Jim, chucking each book onto a monstrous pile in one corner of the truck trailer.
My mouth hung open, for it sought but could find no purchase in an appropriate or inappropriate word or phrase.
“You take over while I go get a beer,” he said, handing me a copy of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century. He glanced at the cover and laughed. “Ha! Lookit, Stimpy! It’s that yellow book you hate!”
Before he was out of reach, I brought the substantial spine of said hateful book down upon the skull of Citizen Jim. A groan escaped him not unlike the groans elicited from me by that loathsome show-off, Greil Marcus. Jim’s knees buckled and he crumpled into a heap on the grass.
I felt horrible for doing such an ugly thing to my best friend in all the world, but if he was the “boss” of the movers, I felt a coup d’état was completely righteous and justified. “Everybody start moving everything back to where it was,” I yelled. I pointed at Citizen Jim’s unconscious body. “And someone drag this thing inside.”
When he finally came to his senses–under a blanket, a pillow cushioning his neck: it was the least I could do–Citizen Jim moaned, “Oh, God! That stripper really put the hurt on me! Why’d she hafta take off her fake leg and beat me over the head with it?”
“Jim, you haven’t been attacked by a one-legged stripper again,” I said. “I caught you trying to steal everything out of my house.”
He sat up, his eyes completely open, now. “What? Trying to steal? Your–what? I was only trying to help you move, you ungrateful little beast!”
“Which would make perfect sense,” I said, moving my face to within half a foot of his, “if I were supposed to be moving anywhere!”
“Didn’t you get my messages? I Tweeted at you, I Facebooked you, I Google-plussed you,” he said, ticking each communication attempt off on his fingers. “I would have called you but you won’t give me your phone number.”
“I haven’t even looked at my computer or been online since last night,” I said.
“Oh!” he said, flipping the blanket off to the side and sitting up on the couch. “Well, you’re moving to Birmingham. Let’s go.”
“I can’t move to Birmingham,” I said. “Are you crazy?”
Citizen Jim stood up quickly. “I must be crazy if I ever thought you loved me! After all I’ve done for you, you can’t do this one little thing for me?”
“I don’t think moving 700 miles away against the will of my family is ‘one little thing’,” I said.
“Listen, I’d do it for you if you found out your next-door neighbor was as nutty as a plate of cashew chicken,” he said. “You gotta help me force old Dr. Wolff out of the neighborhood. Then you can move back here.”
“What’s wrong with him?” I asked.
“For one thing, he’s not American. He speaks some gobbledygook that sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball and gargling peanut butter at the same time.”
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “Jim, is he German?”
“Ja, ja–I think he is! And he’s always accosting my wife on her way out the door every morning–he actually asked her when we were going to have some children running around the yard.”
“Yikes!” I said. Citizen Jim’s wife hates children worse than a Republican hates a panhandler outside church of a Sunday morning.
“Yeah–I got in big trouble for that,” he said. “She swears I put him up to it. He’s just a troublemaker. And he’s as old as a prescription for heroin and smells like a dirty sock full of spoiled wiener schnitzel.”
“Precious Lamb, I feel bad for you, but I can’t move,” I said. “Just try to avoid this Dr. Wolff.”
“I have tried–and nothing’s worked,” he said. “And besides, you and I had a lot of fun when we were neighbors! Didn’t we? Come on, now.”
“I suppose,” I said.
“Just think! We could grocery shop together at Winn-Dixie and hang out at Doctor Music and prank call boutiques and put a yarn-noose around the neck of Donald’s Rush Limbaugh doll and–”
He was starting to make me sad, and I wanted to be happy because it was Kate Winslet’s birthday and once he left I was going to start my special celebrations. “Oh, Jim! Don’t you know? We could never do all those things again.”
“The hell you say!” he shouted, grabbing me in a headlock and smacking the top of my head a few times. “I’m pretty sure that mad scientist next door invented a goddamn time machine! And I aim to steal it before we run his ass out of town! Now, are you with me or are you with a guy who probably voted for Hitler in 1932?”
I sighed. “You know I love you more than Thatcher loved Reagan, but I can’t really say I’m 100-percent with you on this,” I admitted.
He drew back his fist and pressed his lips together, ready to punch my lights out. I pretended to flinch. He laughed and said, “Oh yeah. That bitch knows she’s scared of me.”
“Scared to death,” I lied. “Terrified. Too scared to even piss myself.”
“Just remember–revenge is mine! If you’re against me, now, just think how you’ll feel when I go back in time and steal all your girlfriends!” he said as he started out the door.
Oh, how I hoped he could do that!