I. (Oh Well)
They played the game often. Not a game really, for there never was a score. Never much in the way of winners and losers. More an ongoing conversation. But unlike a conversation, where one subject begets the next and onward. The way tides wash ashore but no two waves contain the same water. Unlike a true conversation, the topic never changed. Stagnant.
“How about this one,” Dan led. “Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe.”
“Excellent,” Tommy now. “Both creepy middle-aged dudes.”
“Emphasis on the creepy.”
“Totally. Also, bonus points since each has played a whacked-out Vietnam soldier.” Of course, there never were any points.
It went like this: name two actors who are exactly the same. That’s all. Where one makes the other redundant. Unnecessary.
“Okay, my turn,” Tommy says. “Brad Pit and Matthew McConaughey?”
Dan squints like he’s reading the fine print, then “Naw. I can’t give you that. Certainly you have the beefcake, eye candy thing going…” (At this point, it should be noted, Tommy squints right back at Dan). “But really they play completely different roles. Brad Pit has some chops. McConaughey, he’s a bum.”
“Okay, Matthew McConaughey and Keanu Reeves?”
And the two sit for a while, mull it over. Neither comes up with a new pair. Maybe because both are out of ideas. Maybe this. Or maybe sometimes, giving up makes you less a failure than continuing on. Sometimes.
It was a total chicken-shit thing to do. Ronny figured this much. Anyway he sliced it, they had fucked him so hard he couldn’t even walk right. Metaphorically of course. Literally, they had fired him at a completely inopportune time: the Friday before Thanksgiving. For them, a good move saving some paid holidays. For Ronny, a majorly shitty Turkey Day on the horizon.
So after stewing for the whole of the weekend. For the whole of the weekend plus Monday. Plus Tuesday. After stewing, Ronny boards a downtown bus heading toward his office. His ex-office.
What he meant to do was this: let his former boss know exactly how heartless Ronny’s termination was. Because really, even if he was a horrible employee. Lazy or rude or smelly. Even if he were all these things, to fire him on the eve of Thanksgiving was just plain fucked. And Ronny would let the boss know and Ronny wasn't about to mince words. It was not like he had been counting on the reference.
But when he enters the tall building’s lobby, the grizzled security guard greets Ronny same as always. Ditto the young (and Ronny always thought cute if it weren’t for the buzz cut) receptionist on the eighteenth floor. In fact, on his march to the corner office, no less than four of his ex-coworkers smile and welcome Ronny like nothing happened.
And then the realization: whether or not he was around, these people noticed no difference.
So Ronny turns and moves in the direction of the elevator. Maybe he lost his nerve. Maybe this. Or maybe sometimes giving up makes you less a failure than continuing on. Sometimes.