Publication date: August 14th 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
The myth, the man, the legend.
Yeah. I’m none of that crap.
Okay. I’m a man. There’s that much.
Almost everyone calls me Rod, whether I like it or not. I’m the guy others look to for a laugh, a dirty joke, a distraction—the office clown. Even my best friend, Hadley, laughs.
It’s just that, I’m not always laughing. Not even on the inside. Nobody knows the real Greg or the agony I hide with humor. My recently dead sister had a clue, but she’s in no position to blab. I screwed up big time—then and now—but it’s all my undoing. Through everything, Hadley’s been my cure and my curse. And I fell in love with my married best friend. But she wasn’t always married, and I wasn’t always broken.
I had a millisecond of a chance, but I blew it, siding with morality. What guy does that? And sailing that sinking ship all the way down, I sacrificed my wants for her needs. Doing that, I fathered a kid with the office trouser troll. Stupid? Hell to the yes. Because now, regardless of the grand total, I want something I can’t have. Integrity and my sanity be damned.
But nobody, especially Hadley, can know the real Greg Rodwell, my tortured soul, my unashamed love, or my darkest truth, because it wouldn’t just blow her mind.
It would rock our damn world.
Do Jewish vampires avoid the Star of David?
Does killing time damage eternity?
Do you need a silencer if you shoot a mime?
Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?
If a person dies and then rises from the dead, do they get a refund for the coffin?
“Did you fall in?”
Widening my eyes at the piss-colored wall tile, I restlessly sigh, dramatizing my annoyance. Can I not get a moment of fucking peace around here? It’s the only place I’m able to ponder life.
“Just taking a piss break, Amos.”
“Could you at least give a courtesy flush?” The fucker laughs, and it echoes midstream while I throw him a middle finger from behind the door. Without seeing him, I know he’s checking out his bald reflection in the mirror, blinding the room.
“I’ll get right on top of that,” I reply like a dial tone as I near the finish line, imagining I’m pissing on his face. He’d probably like that shit, though.
“You know, there are urinals in here.” His pompous voice reverbs, giving me a double dose of his assholery.
“Oh. I thought they were snooty sinks.” I yawn as my actions also echo within the stall. Jackwad.
“Don’t be playing around in there. I need a face-to-face after lunch, so make sure I don’t see more than your face and zip your pants.” He just wants to think of me holding my dick. Perv.
On the third shake, I qualify for playing with myself as I check my watch at the same time. I don’t want to see him when I leave this stall. I guess it’s time for the big guns, so to speak.
Rolling my eyes, I moan—not my greatest moment—and noisily suck air between my teeth, praying to God nobody else walks in right now. With a loud, stuttered sigh, I give the fourth shake, grinning to myself. I hear his jaw, and his disbelief hit the sink. Don’t fuck with me, comrade. You’re no match for me.
Amos mutters, “Okay. Okay. Just stop. I was only kidding. I’m leaving. My office in 30.”
Because Amos Vaughn is so transparent, I know he’s squinting his eyes at me from the other side of the door, unsure of how to respond. Lacking comeback skills, he heaves his brawny body into the door, at the mercy of my patience. “It’s 29 minutes now, Rod.”
Rod. Yeah. That’s me. I used to be just Greg Rodwell. A nickname given to me by a former coworker troll has transcended even her tenure here. Now, most of my coworkers and my godforsaken boss call me it. Though, that’s the tamest version of names the bitchtress used to call me, giving that my middle name is Richard. Draw your own conclusions. Sometimes I’m still Greg at work, but not often and only by a select few. I’ll never escape Rod while working here. I’ve accepted it. I just hate the source.
I’ve also accepted that I’m the office clown, making everyone laugh. In reality, I should be a goddamn marvel for the services I provide since most of my coworkers are garbage humans. I’ve crafted my distance, deflecting with my carefully sculpted wit, aged to perfection in oak barrels for nearly 29 years—an undiluted, rye wit, you could say. That’s my superpower. Fuck me. I need a job at a distillery.
Tucking myself and my shirt back into my pants, I kick at the handle. Emerging from the stall as I buckle my belt, the sound of the flushing toilet swirls the Amos-free room just as Crick Scanlon enters. I instantly grin. With his Caesar haircut, circa George Clooney 1996, this particular coworker is a favorite of mine. Maybe it’s because he’s the Arctic opposite and doesn’t outwit, allowing me to polish my skills. To those who don’t know him, he has a wallpaper-paste personality. That’s their loss. Because of his eerie quietness and formalness, his rare laughter is a goldmine. He takes anything I lob at him. Crick is the coloring book to my bucket of crayons. I aim to shock the hell out of him, making him laugh or gape in horror, which, coincidentally, is how my mother often looks at me on any given day. “Hey, Crock. Get fucked last night?”
His face reddens faster than a novice ass at a BDSM club. He looks at the wall with an expression like I just kicked him in the liver. “Uh, no. Um…you?”
My grin doesn’t falter even as I go for a depressing lie. “You know it. All night. Every night.” He’s a decent-looking guy. He could probably find a date if he tried. I’m pretty sure he’s gay like Amos, not that they’re dating each other. That would be fucking disturbing. Crick deserves way better. Not Amos Vaughn. He’s a sick fuck.
Crick makes an effort to not look at me. I dig his awkwardness, so I grab a bigger shovel. “If you’re like me, I bet you’re a beast in the sack.” When he looks at my hands working my buckle, I tease, “I’m not doing no replay of last night for you.” He swallows loud, gaping at me. Bingo. “Just yanking your chain, Crack. Calm down.” I laugh when he looks at the ceiling, still quiet. “Maybe I can help you find a date. What’s your type?”
“I’m not really into dating right now.”
Finished with my belt, I go for the sink. While washing my hands, I watch Crick scratching his arm through an unnecessary sweater for the early October weather. “Come on now. I know a sex fiend is hiding beneath that submissive exterior.” Images of him being collared at one of those clubs make me flinch at my own reflection.
He shrugs as I catch a surprising quirk of his lip in the mirror. “I’m boring, Greg. I don’t have much luck as you do, especially with a certain coworker.” Goddamn it. Don’t say her name.
The sudsy water swirling in the sink temporarily enthralls me, so I don’t have to see either of our expressions. “Uh… She’s… We’re—”
Looking up at the mirror, I glare at both of us. Shit. Joke’s on me.
Shasta. Enough said.
Actually, no. I have plenty I want to say about that meat sock. I wish I could blame Shasta for what we did, but I was the one who went to her. It was a last-ditch effort to forget my life for the night. And shit did I do things with Shasta I’m not proud of, not that I wouldn’t do them again. Just not with her. And thanks to a busted condom, I’m glued to her. Enjoy that mental image.
Grabbing a paper towel, my smile shrinks faster than my dick earlier, feigning jerking off for Amos. “Never.”
“Well, Greg, I mean, you do have a daughter with her.”
Shooting my wad—not that kind—into the trash, I try to laugh, but I’m still caught off guard by his unusual commentary. “No. Yeah. I meant, never again, not even if hell froze over, melted, caught fire, and then froze again. Damn, Crick. You know how to destroy a guy’s day.”
He clears his throat as he inches toward a urinal. “I didn’t intend to. I’m sorry. I thought since you were joking around, I needed to engage.”
“Jesus Christ. What a day for you to grow a vagina.”
I return to the mirror, adjusting the Windsor knot of my Storm Trooper tie while he says, “Um, right. Well…” Through the mirror I see him staring at the urinal, and I’m half expecting him to start singing In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. I never said he wasn’t peculiar.
I snort. “You need a bathroom pass or an engraved invitation?”
He slightly smiles. I’ll take that as a win. “No. I was just…”
“I’m just busting your balls.” Crick looks away from me, and I feel super awkward now for saying that. “Uh, right. Anyway, enjoy. Not too much. There’re some sick bastards working here.” Why can’t I just shut the fuck up? As I leave, I hear his quiet laugh. There’s that, at least.
When I reach the hallway, I’m ticked for now thinking of Shasta. I guess talking to Crick does have its drawbacks.
Taking a left, I steer clear of my office since it’s attached to Amos’. I’m not ready for that follicle-challenged psycho again yet.
Approaching the open door, I hear a familiar voice. Stopping in the doorway and leaning against the frame, I straighten my tie and cross my arms.
She looks my way with a bright smile as she talks. I don’t know how she does it, but I grin back at her. It’s a requirement.
My favorite person.
Well, I guess next to my infant daughter and my older sister, Eden, but to be fair, my daughter is new in town, and my sister is dead.
I watch Hadley move as she talks. I’m always watching her.
Hadley and I have been BFFs since I started working as a paralegal at the law offices of Rhodes, Dryden, Charleton & Associates over three years ago. Only that long? It feels like I’ve been rotting here for a century and a half.
Hadley turns her attention back to her computer screen as she nods. Her honey-brown ponytail dances along while I stare, and I can’t help but do that, even though I have no right. When she laughs, my gaze drops to her bouncing tits, larger than they used to be only months ago. Her left hand goes to her chest, and her sapphire and diamond rings catch the overhead light, blinding me while reminding me. I didn’t give her those rings, but I may as well have with the lengths I went to get them on her finger.
Ren Alexander was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. She graduated from West Liberty University, where she received a B.S. in criminal justice. Although interested in that field, her true passion was reading and writing. She currently lives in Detroit, Michigan with her husband, two daughters, and two cats.
Ren’s novel, “The Keys to Jericho,” was chosen as an “Official Selection” in the Romance category of Apple Literary’s 2017 Annual Book Awards.