Empathy

toy

 

 

 

Justin Schafman stirred his drink and looked across the table at Edgar, his prospective client. He was on the hook, but he was a little hesitant. Justin could tell that this guy really wanted to be a well-known author, but the guy knew he didn’t really have any talent. Justin could tell Edgar hated his job as a customer service manager, but he wasn’t really very smart and was lucky to have the job.

“Look, Edgar you’ve got a really great book here, but no one knows about it but you and I’m guessing a few friends and co-workers. Now, I know it seems a little expensive, but you’ve got a pretty good job you work hard, right?

“Yeah…”

“And I mean…you’ve gotta spend money to make money right, man?”

“Well, that’s true but …I just don’t know if I would be able to reach my intended audience this way. I mean I don’t really write the most main stream stuff…”

“Well, that’s our job. Trust me, we have experts in this sort of thing. They can target the exact people who would be interested in your book. We even have a computer program that can pinpoint your dream audience. We’re even trying to have it patented.”

“Really,” Edgar asked?

“I’m tellin ya man, this is gonna be much more expensive a year from now. This is your chance to get in on the ground floor.”

Justin was very careful not to touch his face. He knew that that was a way people could tell you were lying. He reminded himself not to over explain and to seem relaxed. He tried to make his voice deeper and not to cross his arms.  He could tell that Edgar didn’t trust him, but desperately wanted to be able to believe the lies he was being told.

He saw the way Edgar’s eyes always wandered around the room, like he was always looking for something better… a way out.

A pretty woman with dark hair and green eyes walked by. Justin caught Edgar looking at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Look, man, can I fuckin’ level with you for a minute? I used to work as a manager in customer service. It sucked. The people in the office were a bunch of fuckin’ freaks and the customers were really annoying and my boss was this dumb dick who was always riding my ass and all I could think about was how I went to college for this?”

“I think that every day,” Edgar said with a sad smile.

“Well, when my buddy offered me this job I had reservations too. I mean, I hated customer service, but I worked for a big company. This was a startup when I came onboard. But sometimes you just gotta say fuck it and go for it, ya know? “

The two men were silent for a moment. Edgar contemplatively sipped the IPA that Justin had suggested. A homely woman entered the bar. She was pale as a ghost with lopsided features. She was short and plump and dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans. She ordered a drink and sat down with two other dumpy women.

“See those three women over there? They work in my office.”

“Jesus Christ,” Justin sneered sensing a bonding opportunity.

“The white haied one’s really annoying. She’s always messing up and she tells these stupid jokes…Me and my friend Jason call the three of them the wanker blankers.”

Justin laughed. “Dude, come on. You’ve gotta get out of that office.”

Edgar took a deep breath and signed the papers that were in front of him. Justin ordered two shots of tequila to celebrate. They kept ordering rounds into the night. They got louder and louder and Edgar told a few stories about the white, wanker blanker. She appeared to overhear and she and the other ugos got up and left. Justin thought they looked like the witches, he tried to remember the name of the play he read that had three witches in it in college, but he couldn’t.

After a bit, two girls walked into the bar and sat down at a table near them. One was tall and blonde with symmetrical features and killer legs. The other was petite and slightly plump, with a cute face with shaggy dark hair.

Justin opened by telling the tall blonde one that she would look great on a book cover. He told her that the next big author was sitting right with them.

“What’s your book about,” the short one asked.

“It’s about a man who goes home to meet his girlfriend’s parents who are both coffin manufactures. It turns out they are smuggling drugs in the coffins and they want him to join the family business.”

“H’mmm, sounds dark.”

“Oh, it’s very dark,” he smiled.  “All of my stuff is pretty dark.”

The men proceeded to chat up their prospective conquests. Justin observed Edgar as he told the girls  more about his book. Edgar was strikingly ordinary. He was just below average height, with dark hair that was beginning to thin out. He weight about 160 with a good amount of that weight resting in his belly. He wore a white shirt and khaki pant that appeared to have been procured in a discount store.

As Edgar divulged details of the plot to the bored looking honeys, Justin wondered how bad the book actually was. He had told Edgar it was great. He’d skimmed the synopsis and the first and last chapter. He hated to read and hadn’t finished a book since junior high. He could never really tell the difference between good and bad.

After a while the girls asked for rides home saying they were too tipsy to drive. Justin drove the tall blonde girl to a small cottage on Ash Street. He was a bit nervous, he knew she told him her name, but he had forgotten it.

She invited him up for a drink. As soon as they got up he asked to use the bathroom. He checked himself out in the mirror. His five o’clock shadow was at exactly the perfect level of thickness. It lined his strong jaw pleasingly. His thick brown hair was tousled to perfection. He was relieved to see the shirt he’d splurged on at Barney’s gave just the most subtle glimpse of the six pack he had worked so hard to obtain. He’d managed to strike the perfect balance of GQ style and heterosexual apathy.

He walked back into the living-room where the girl handed him a mixed drink.

“It’s my own creation. It’s called a Foul and Fair.”

The two clinked glasses and slammed the drink. Justin kissed the girl. He felt himself getting suddenly dizzy.

…….

Justin saw light, then a celling. He felt tile beneath his head and realized he was lying on a bathroom floor. He tried to sit up, but he couldn’t move. That’s when he saw her; the ugly, pale woman from the night before. She was standing directly above him.

“Morning, Justin! Did you sleep well? My name is Cate, how are you this fine morning? Oh that’s right, you can’t talk.”

Justin tried once again to move, but he couldn’t.

“I guess I should explain. On Friday night you and my asshole boss Edgar were in the bar down the street and you started insulting me and my friends. We didn’t like that and so we decided to retaliate. Wanker blanker, I mean really that expression is in the urban dictionary. Come up with something original. In truth we are witches.

Justin tried to speak again, but nothing came out.

“We went over to my house and we discussed what to do. We thought about crippling you both, making you spontaneously combust, but nothing seemed right. Well then Essie; my friend with the grey hair? She suggested that we turn you into something. Well, that requires an incantation, which requires research so we figured it would take some time. So, we turned ourselves into pretty girls and lured you back to our apartments. I took you to my place and Essie went to Edgar’s house.

Well, at first we were going to turn you both into maggots or something, but then Edgar started telling us about his stupid book. We knew you were a scammer right away and we discussed the possibility of just letting you screw him, but then you would just take advantage of someone nice. So we decided we would just turn you into something and that I would watch him slowly melt down at work.”

Justin tried to scream, but nothing would come out. He thought he was able to move his finger a bit. He felt an enormous amount of saliva in his mouth, but he could not seem to swallow it.

“So, while Essie did research, my other friend Tulley and I set upon the business of making you disappear with Edgar’s $5000. We put his check in the bank and withdrew it over a period of four days. Then we closed the bank account and packed up all your stuff and put it in storage. Your car has been stripped down and sold for scrap.

When Essie was at Edgar’s she stole his laptop and the only print copy of his screenplay. The dumb dick never copyrighted it.

Now Edgar is on the phone all day at work. It’s sooo funny. He is sooo anxious.

His book is a piece of garbage of course It’s like a rip off of the Soprano’s, Orange is the New Black and Six Feet Under without any wit or insight. However, it had a few good lines. We gave them to a nice aspiring screenwriter that we are helping. I wish I could be there when he sees his dialog in a movie.”

The saliva in Justin’s mouth had become almost unbearable. He tried again to swallow but he couldn’t.

“But, I digress. I bet you’re wondering what it is we turned you into. We decided you could do the least harm if you were an inanimate object. Justin Schafman, you are a toilet. You are located in a dive bar right near downtown. It was no easy trick getting you in here believe me. We had to break into the place. Oh, you’re in the men’s room.

Then Cate turned around. Justin tried to close his eyes, but then remembered he didn’t have any. What he tasted next was indescribably horrible.  Cate wiggled his finger and he felt like he was drowning in shit.

Cate left and Justin wondered how many years it would be before the bar would close or he would be replaced with another toilet.

 

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