Best of Job: For Mr. Slevenzinkin…

August 11, 2008, 10:00 am; posted by
Filed under Articles, Featured, Humor, Job  | No Comments

Originally published here on March 27, 2007.

She and I had this game we’d play, you see. We called it “Tumult,” where we’d talk for lengthy periods of time about two different topics. It was a give-and-take conversation with pauses and eye contact as normal; you just weren’t allowed to engage the other person’s line of conversation at all. This included laughter, eye rolling, and — if I was “on” — even blushing. If you did engage the other person, you lost the game, and the $2.85 for the banana split. Banana

“So Ernie, from Sesame Street, died of AIDS,” she’d begin, turning her coffee mug in a slow circle. “Bert’s sad and all, but he likes the extra closet space.”

“It was like no other town I’ve been to,” I’d respond, flashing my eyes for emphasis and picking at imaginary lint on my sleeve. “The ’57 Chevys looked, for once, like they actually were from 1957. Rusted through, door hinges re-welded countless times, but still dutifully making their daily trips to the Circle K for cigarettes. The 15-year-old girls ever plotting their escape while unwittingly taking the steps that would inexorably keep them there forever. 40 ounces. 40 ounces can change a life, they say in Banning, California. Or, rather, can keep it exactly the same.”

“Gum?,” she offered, sliding the silver-wrapped piece out at me in a fluid motion. I was no fool.

“The President has his own movie theater in the basement of the White House, ya know? I bet he’s watching something right now, too; I know I would be. Newsies — the director’s cut.”

She paused, but not enough for me to claim. She always defended Newsies.

“Radiohead’s new album? I hear it’s just going to be 12 tracks of straight static. But angry, artistic static.”

I was the one that paused this time, but only because I contemplated claiming victory. I always defended Radiohead, and she was returning my volley, a plausible bungle. Not now, I cautioned myself. You can get a sure victory.

“See this?,” I asked, pointing to my forearm. “That’s where it bit me. Latched right on and started to roll, carrying me down into the dark depths of the swamp. I screamed and screamed, but still we sank, leaving my world for his — wanna know how I got out?”

“If something ever happens to me,” she responded, thoroughly unimpressed, “I want you to take this to a Mr. Slevenzinkin in Prague. Hotel of the Revolution, room 214.” She slid me a butter knife. “He’ll know what to do. Then head to Haiti and never look back.”

“Job? Never look back.”

She peeled the bananas by saying my name like that, looking me in the eyes. I knew I had to strike before she regrouped.

“That’s a nice shirt you’re wearing . . . does it come in your size?”



Laughing, eye-rolling, blushing and kicking me suddenly in the shins — all ice cream where I come from…


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