Phthursday Musings: Jimmy
or, The Human Resource
Here are some things I considered or even started to write about this week:
How chess grandmasters burn so many calories
The air machine at the gas station only accepting credit cards and not quarters
Screaming squirrels, for real real
How I spent 15 minutes laughing at a newsletter from our corporate HR
But none of these things actually seemed to go anywhere when I tried.
I mean, I could have mocked the HR newsletter for a while.
A long while.
I went fishing around in folders for weird ideas, half-finished rants. I found something I don’t remember at all. I don’t know when I wrote this, I don’t know what for. It was in a file called Jimmy.txt.
I’ll share it here in a bit.
The folder I found this in, there’s a lot of weird essays. A lot about local politics. A few years ago when Gapers Block shut down, I had a few different ideas about starting something up to focus just on politics, especially the politics of Chicago and Illinois. But I could never figure out how I wanted to do it. And as it turns out, years later now, reading some of these things… I just don’t know. I’m turned off by it. I understand the fascination but I don’t know that I want to grasp for that ever again? Maybe I’ll change my tune in another year?
One especially weird thing is that there are no timestamps. They’re all dated 9/6/19, but some of them are clearly much older. There’s a file called neoliberalism but more.txt and there’s a file called Prisons.txt and there’s a file called El Coche De Mierda - Original Long.txt which looks like I wrote to try and get put on the addendum pages of Beyond Yacht Rock.
I suppose I’ve been writing for years, haven’t I? All sorts of things. And the debris is in weird places and takes weird forms.
Some of the handful of things I’ve read quickly here, it’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but… I don’t like the voice quite so much. A lot of it is too… heavy? Not that the subject matter is too heavy but rather the tone. And most of it is just not timely at this point.
I actually had the thought the last couple of days to go looking at old papers, like grad school era stuff, but then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it all or if I wanted to evaluate whether to throw it all away.
Anyway. I’m at a loss for much more to say this week. So I, to my surprise as well as yours, present to you this fragment of a short story.
This is “Jimmy”.
Sorry about the language.
Well, Jimmy thought, at least I didn't get punched in the face.
Jimmy turned, slightly to the left. And proceeded to get punched in the face.
"Ahhhhggg, my fucking hand!" yelled Rhonda. "You and your fucking face!"
Jimmy's hands were fumbling around the right side of his face. Rhonda's fist had landed square in the cheek. One set of knuckles cracked his cheekbone, the other set cracked his jaw. But even though it hurt, Jimmy suspected he hadn't gotten the worst of it. She'd yelled too loudly.
"I think I broke my knuckle! Goddamnit, Jimmy!"
He finally recomposed himself and looked. She was slightly bent forward, holding her right hand in her left. He wasn't sure what to do, so he waited until he got yelled at for doing nothing.
"Jimmy! Get me some fucking ice! Goddamnit!"
Jimmy shuffled off to the kitchen and went to the freezer. He looked for some kind of ice pack but didn't see one. He didn't see any ice either. He stared at a couple of boxes for a minute. He was still staring in the freezer when he heard her coming.
"Jimmy, what the fuck are you doing? Get the fuck away!"
Rhonda went to the counter, opened a drawer, grabbed some kind of cloth. Jimmy had closed the freezer but was still standing in front of it. She pushed him aside and pressed one of the levers on the door. There was a rumble and then three ice cubes came out, shaped a bit like moons. She caught them in the cloth, made a fast motion he didn't process, and then the cloth was on top of her hand. She went and leaned against the counter, wincing.
"Get the fuck away from me."
Jimmy had been slouching, but now he straightened up. He paused for a second, then looked her in the eyes. She didn't look angry anymore. He saw a single tear fall from the corner of her right eye. He went to obey, but instead he froze again. He didn't know where exactly he should go. He also knew that this was an idiotic reason not to move, but for lack of understanding how to go without going somewhere, he wound up just staring Rhonda down for eight helpless seconds - long enough for the rage to return to her eyes.
But now she didn't yell. She didn't move. She very slightly adjusted the cloth and the ice. She took an exaggerated deep breath, her face slowly contorting. She was too angry at him to get angry at herself about being angry. But the depth of her anger was matched by a newfound cool control. She felt her thoughts slowing down, reorganizing themselves. An epiphany was imminent - an epiphany which would have had irreparable consequences. But then he opened his mouth again.
"Should I take you to the emergency room?"
The ensuing scream was the loudest he'd ever heard from her. He finally found himself moving slowly toward the living room, but backwards. He hadn't really made a decision. Her fury had simply pushed him away. He turned around only to avoid crashing into a end table and managed to sit down on the couch, just out of her eyesight.
After a couple of minutes of sitting and staring into space, the idea came to him that he might be sitting for quite a while longer. He took out his phone. Somebody had retweeted something. There were some sports scores. Did they really come back from that far down? he wondered. He became so engrossed that he didn't hear her enter the room and wasn't even fully aware of her presence until he realized she was standing slightly over him, looking at his phone.
He didn't even watch hockey. She knew that.
Jimmy looked up at her. Rhonda looked back. His eyes were lost. Her eyes were contemptuous, but tempered by something he couldn't place.
She shook her head slightly, as if only to release the glare.
"No, I don't want to go to the emergency room." She took a breath. "I can't afford..."
He interrupted. "But if it's broken..."
She interrupted back, though in actuality, those were the only words he had available anyway. Her voice was low, even slightly quivering. "I can't afford the emergency room. I will just go to an urgent care. By myself. I can still drive."
As though completely forgetting everything up to this point, he made a series of sounds that seemed to convey something between exasperation and pouting, with a dollop of misplaced gallantry. "Well, I can't let you drive with a broken finger!"
He lost track of time now. Rhonda was no longer in front of him. Something shuffled. Something jangled, a bit like keys. There was much scuffing of feet. Then, a faint creaking, and then, a big whump. It was another three full minutes before he processed that she'd driven off.
I said I was sorry, he thought to himself. What else can I do now anyway?
He leaned back into the corner of the couch more deeply. He moved on from sports scores to looking at news headlines. Ten minutes later, he got up, got a glass, pushed the glass against the lever on the front of the freezer door, collected three ice cubes, pushed the other lever, filled the glass with water. He looked closely at the ice cubes. He'd never realized how much they looked like moons before.
He sat back down on the couch. He wondered if she really had broken her finger. He wondered when she'd be home. He thought a little about what he might do or say about the broken bell, but he didn't really have any ideas anyway, so he moved on from that.
He finally remembered that his face still hurt.