I have become somewhat obsessed with this story. I hadn’t thought about it much in the last couple of decades, but it’s pretty much consuming all of my waking moments of late.
I kind of need to get this sucker out of my system, though I couldn’t tell you why. My first attempt at being a rich and famous author was focused on telling this story. All of it. I’m not going into anywhere near that much detail with this telling, and it’s still taking forever.
I know I told my brother, Bruce, the whole story once. We drank an entire case of beer by the time I had finished. And Bruce probably slept through the last two hours of my narration. It has always been a long story, and I’m trying like hell to make this very long and convoluted story shorter. But the worst is yet to come…
* * * *
Michael and Hillary came home from work Monday afternoon. Shorty and I hailed them from the pool. They smiled and waved, and we decided that was as good a time as any to inform our hosts they were hosting our Big Epic Party on Friday, seeing how they were in a good mood.
Who were we inviting? Just the people from work. And maybe some of the bikini babes Shorty and I had met by the pool. And anyone they wanted to invite. I mean, it was their place…
Drinks? Um, we’re getting a keg of beer. Some sodas. Maybe a bottle of whiskey… And we still had weed!
Food? Sure. We could get a party tray. Or something. Somewhere. Probably. And chips. We had to have chips, and dip, probably. And we still had weed!
And when Hillary was satisfied, everything was cool. 😎 We had Michael at party.
The apartment complex even had a spacious entertainment room more than ample enough to hold all the people were planning on inviting to our epic shindig. This just kept getting better and better, except the being broke part, and not having any idea how we were going to pay for it part.
Michael and Hillary were in better spirits than they had been when I returned from Fort Sill. But that didn’t mean all, or anything for that matter, had been forgiven.
George, evil George, mean and icky George had won custody of the glass topped coffee table with the black wrought iron frame, and Hillary’s improved mood vanished the moment she saw it.
That table became the object of her hatred for George. That table had to die. And if it couldn’t be killed, it had to be severely damaged at the very least. Hillary changed clothes. We smoked a joint, and gathered around the table with dark intent, armed with one instrument of mass destruction.
A ridiculously small hammer.
We all took turns trying to break the glass top, but that plane of glass was almost an half an inch thick, and it was able to withstand our initial half-hearted blows. Neither Shorty nor I held any animosity toward the table, and we felt more foolish than anything when we took our turns smacking the table top with the hammer. Even Michael’s attempts at breaking the table top were pretty lame, and he certainly didn’t like George.
We tried breaking the glass table for at least half an hour without success. We were all giggling like schoolgirls. Michael, Shorty and I were ready to call it quits. We had hit it with our best shots, but the table took them all and laughed at us. That, was an insult Hillary could not ignore.
We had all been sitting on the floor around the table as we enacted our dark ritual, but then Hillary rose to her feet. She uttered a string of curses that would’ve rivalled anything Rose could have come up with, and smote the the table with the hammer full force, and a small section of the corner of the glass top flew free.
We were all surprised, even Hillary. She might have been more than surprised, but whatever it was she started feeling, she converted it back into anger. And satisfaction.
George might be getting the table back, but it wasn’t going to be pristine.
* * * *
We all got up early on Tuesday. We were all going to work. Shorty and I had flipped a coin. He would go with Michael. I would go with Hillary. And we would trade off the next day. Neither of us really wanted to work with Michael, and not because we didn’t like him. We did. But Michael didn’t work with Martha, and Martha made the world go ’round.
Shorty and Michael went to Bernie’s House of Carpets. Hillary and I went to Jerry’s Emporium of Telemarketing and Stuff. We were making the big bucks in Big D.
My life as Jerry’s bitch was okay, I guess. I’ve certainly had worse jobs. The sales team didn’t drop everything to talk to me. They waved and said hi, and kept on working. I invited everyone to our party, and everyone said they would be there. But that’s about as far as our interactions went.
It clearly wasn’t me that disrupted productivity at the office, so it had to be Shorty. That was my take. I think it was the way he talked. That Minnesota accent was as foreign as a British accent in Texas, and people couldn’t get enough of it. And, he could spin a fairly funny tale. We both had a lots of funny stories about our lives and the characters we knew.
However, I did have one work related perk that Shorty wouldn’t have that day. I got to see 💕Martha. 💕 Angelic Martha. 😇 Beautiful Martha. 😍 I love you, Martha!❣And she looked marvelous!
We exchanged greetings, and I especially made sure she was still coming to our Big Epic Amazing Party. On Friday. At Michael and Hillary’s.
Yes! She was!!
However, we both had jobs to do, and that was just about the extent of our interactions. Martha had to sell stuff, and she had been in a slump. She was fueled up on caffeine and Quaaludes, and she was hitting it hard. She just needed some good leads.
I had been tasked with mastering the Supply Room. It was a big closet at the end of the hallway past Jerry’s office, ten by twenty, maybe. It was full of boxes, bags, stuff and junk. It looked like a bomb had gone off it in. A big bomb.
I took everything out of the room, and swept and mopped the floor. I found some pallets in the underground parking garage, and put them on the floor, then organized the hell out of everything I put back in supply room.
I was done by eleven o’clock. Jerry just about had an heart attack.
“What do you mean, you’re done already!” Jerry shouted as he walked over to the Supply Room to appraise my work. “I told you to–”
Jerry was speechless. I smiled a very satisfied smile.
“Je-sus Christ! I can’t believe this! This. Is. Beautiful!”
“Thanks. Anything else you want me to do?”
“Yeah…” Jerry’s voice trailed off. He looked at me in an entirely different way. He rattled off a list of things, then started pulling random people over to look at the Supply Room. “Do you see this? Do you see this! This, is a goddamn masterpiece, that’s what it is! I will fire the first person that fucks this up! Do you hear me! Fire!!”
I spent the rest of the day impressing the hell out of Jerry. And Jerry spent the rest of the day annoying the hell out of everyone by telling them how fucking awesome I was. By the time the day ended, I was sure no one was coming to our party. Not even me.
Shorty had a good day with Michael. There was a building boom in Dallas, and Bernie had a lots of carpeting that needed to be installed. Michael was happy to have the help, and the company. He usually worked alone.
Our first work day in Dallas had been a success. We had made forty bucks, and we didn’t spend it on beer. It couldn’t have gone much better.
“I think Jerry’s gonna ask you to marry him!” Hillary teased me when we were all together at the apartment. Except for that part. Her teasing was good-natured, thankfully. But Hillary’s good mood would vanish quickly. George was coming over to pick up his furniture.
* * * *
I have to confess, I was a complete dick to George when he showed up. I taunted him like I was one of the Brownies in Willow. I taunted him like I was a French soldier in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
To his credit, George kept his head down, and did not respond to me. He was a much better man than I. He picked up his stuff, he had gained custody of more than just the maimed coffee table, but I couldn’t tell you what. George said something about the broken glass top of the coffee table, but he was in enemy territory and he had no back up. He collected his stuff as quickly as he could, and got the hell out of Dodge.
* * * *
I called my mom on Wednesday on my lunch break. Michael and I had flown through our first job, then drove back to the office to meet Hillary, Randi and Shorty outside her office. I had laid carpet for a couple months during the summer when I was in high school, so I knew what Michael needed without being told. We made a good team.
I went inside the office while everyone else waited outside, and used Hillary’s phone to call Mom so I didn’t have to call her collect. I think that probably surprised her.
Apparently, a wire money transfer wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but Mom came through. She told me which bank to go. One hundred dollars was waiting there for me. Michael knew where the bank was, we went there after lunch. I gave fifty bucks to Shorty. We were in this together.
💖 Thanks, Mom. You were the best. 💖
The rest of the week was uneventful. Shorty and I were working stiffs. I think the only problem was I had been so efficient as Jerry’s bitch on Tuesday that Shorty didn’t have much of anything to do at the office on Wednesday. So Jerry spent half the day showing Shorty all the stuff I had done.
“Do you see that?” Jerry showed Shorty the Supply Room. “That, is a goddamn masterpiece! A masterpiece! I should have taken before and after pictures! No one fucks this up, and lives!”
Shorty spent the rest of the day disrupting the productivity of the sales zombies in the bullpen. They had a great day. They didn’t sell much, but they had the best day, ever. Hillary said her sides hurt from laughing so much.
The only person happy to see me in the office on Thursday was Jerry. I think I actually begged him to stop shouting my praises. Not even my parents loved me as loudly as Jerry did.
I didn’t ask if he had anything for me to do, I just did stuff. I cleaned the windows. Almost everyone in the office smoked, and there were no prohibitions against smoking indoors back then. When I finished, sunlight flooded the bullpen. Some of the sales zombies actually donned sunglasses.
Jerry simply nodded this time. I was sooo thankful.
I was able to spend some quality time with Martha on Thursday. Her sales slump had become a drought, and she was freaking out. She was crying and disheveled once more. Hillary and Randi tried to stop me as I headed for Martha’s desk, but I was immune to their black magicks that day.
I took Martha outside, and smoked a cigarette with her. I told her jokes and funny stories, and got her laughing. I gave her a little pep talk to get her focused. She even found the strength to flash a look of determination.
“You can do this. You’ve done it a thousand times. I believe in you. Now, get in there and make a sale!” And I gave her a little pat on the ass, for good luck.
I stood there alone in the underground garage, watching her cute little butt as she strode back inside. And I promised myself I would never wash that hand again.
Half an hour later, a shriek of exuberance reverberated out of the bullpen. Martha had made a sale! Her fellow sales zombies swarmed her to congratulate her. I stood just outside the bullpen, watching, and I made no movement to join them. Through the crowd of people that surrounded her, I could see Martha’s elated face. She had her eyes locked on me. Through the tears of joy that rolled down her angel face, she silently said, Thank you!
That memory is also filed in my Happy Box. I haven’t accessed that file in at least twenty years, probably longer. Good to know it’s still there.
* * * *
By Thursday afternoon, Shorty and I had almost two hundred seventy-fifty dollars between us. We could throw a big, epic, amazing party with that kind of coin. And we had almost an ounce of pot, too! We decided we’d work only half a day on Friday, if that was okay with our new employers and co-workers. We had a party to plan.
Yeah, that’s fine. We completely understand, our bosses said when we asked them on Friday morning. I invited Jerry and Bernie to the party. They said they’d think about it.
Michael and I were the A Team once more, and we finished the first job in record time. It was Friday. Shorty and I would be gone on Monday. Michael decided we deserved a treat. We went to a bar and had a couple of beers.
I didn’t spend as much time talking to Michael as Shorty did. They were both motorcycle guys, so they could talk for hours about bikes. I was not a bike guy. I knew they were the things with two wheels, right? And that was about the extent of my knowledge.
“Hey, it’s been surprisingly great having you and Shorty here. I wasn’t too wild about it at first, but you guys have been a real pleasure to have around.”
“I know what you mean. I had some serious doubts about this too, but hanging out with you and Hillary has been pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had. In fact, I’m not sure I want to go back to Minnesota.”
“No shit! Wow, it’d be cool if you stayed. Not with us…” Michael laughed. “No offense.”
“None taken.” We clinked beer bottles. I was going to miss this place, if I left. I had a pretty big decision to make, but first, I had an epic party to prepare.
Michael and I drove to Hillary’s office. We were meeting Shorty, Hillary and Randi for lunch. We walked to a nearby deli. I think we ate there frequently that week. I didn’t think anything about it at the time, but when we returned to the office, Michael walked in with us.
Hillary’s office had the atmosphere of a carnival that day. Shorty had been in his glory, and no one did a fucking thing that morning. Not even Jerry, and he didn’t seem to care that no one in his office was doing what they were getting paid to do. He had been laughing his ass off. Shorty picked up where he left off when we returned.
Now, I’m a comedian. Okay, I’ve always wanted to be a comedian, much like I’ve almost always wanted to be a prophet. It was one of the things I wanted back in my Dallas Daze. And I’m sure I was more than a little jealous of Shorty, who was killing it at the office.
“Oh, God! Stop it, Girtz! You’re killing me, man!” Jerry said. He had rejoined the audience after lunch, and was laughing so hard he actually had tears running down his cheeks. “Oh, hey, Marco! Come with me. I want to talk to you.” He clapped me on the shoulder, pushing me toward his office, and closed the door once we were inside. He offered me a glass of bourbon. I actually declined.
Jerry couldn’t believe it either.
“Man, I am gonna be so glad when you guys leave. I can start making some money again!”
“I might stay in Dallas.”
“I’m seriously considering staying here.” I repeated.
“No kidding? What are your plans?”
“There’s a lot of stuff up in the air. I need a job, and a place to live. I can’t stay with Michael and Hillary.”
“You–you’re serious! What happened? Did you fall in love or something?” Jerry chuckled at the thought, then he became serious. “Martha! You fell in love with Martha, didn’t you!”
Was it that obvious?
“No! Nonononono! Not Martha! You need a good girl, like Randi. Fall in love with Randi, she’s fucking crazy about you!”
“What?!?” It was my turn to be confused.
“What? You didn’t know that? What are you, blind?”
I didn’t know what to say. I had no idea. Maybe I was so infatuated with Martha that I couldn’t see anything else. Plus, there was Shelly. I had been thinking about her a lots, even if it was because I was trying to put together the pieces of what really happened between us that night. Maybe she felt something similar to what I did, a sort of sacredness… I like to think of Shelly as a virgin, and in a way, she was. Or maybe we actually had thrown water condoms at the Marines…
“I…don’t know what to say.” I finally said, for many reasons.
“Never mind. That’s not why I called you in here. I don’t care who you fall in love with. I called you in here because–because I wanted to thank you– to thank you for what you did, you cleaned up that closet, my supply…room…”
You know, I don’t think Jerry spent a lots of time thanking anyone for anything. This was the worst thank you speech I had ever heard, and Jerry looked so uncomfortable…
“Hey, Jerry. It’s okay.”
“No, it’s not! Sheila tells me I’ve gotta work at this, goddammit! Can you believe this shit? I’m a grown man! I’m successful, right? And I can’t even tell someone thank you without fucking it up!”
If there was something I could’ve said then, I had no idea what it was. I said nothing, and even now, I think that was the best answer.
“Look, the work you did around here, it was great. You need a job, you got one. And that’s a promise! But that other thing you did, that thing you did with Martha the other day. That, was beautiful. I was wrong about you, hippie. I thought you were a killer when I met you. But you’re no killer. You’re a good man, and I…I just wanted you to know that.”
Years later, when I had become a legendary psych nurse, I would understand the therapeutic value of silence. Back then, standing in Jerry’s office, I had no idea what I was doing, but I sensed what I wasn’t saying was my best course of action. And then I knew what to say.
“There! You see that! How do you do that!” Jerry was practically screaming! “I should hire you to teach me how to be, you know, fuckin’ gracious and shit! You want to be my teacher, hippie? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t call you that! Whaddya think? You wanna work for me?” Jerry was on a roll. “Listen! The other reason I called you in here for was this.” Jerry reached in his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. He flipped through them until he found a Benjamin. “I wanted you to have this, too. You earned it, and I know you could use it. Go ahead, take it. But don’t tell Girtz I did this! Hell, I should make him pay me for fucking up my office! Naw, I’m just kidding. But you listen to me. Find yourself a good girl. You’ll save yourself a fortune…”
I took the C-note and silently put it in my wallet. Jerry was quite a guy. I liked him a lot, and I can tell you this in all seriousness. That guy didn’t miss a trick. He saw everything, and everything he told me was true.
* * * *
By the time I left Jerry’s office, I wasn’t sure my hearing would ever be the same, but I was positive of one thing. My powers of observation were nowhere near as acute as I thought they were.
I took a long, hard look at Randi, and my eyes locked onto her tits. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t noticed the whole her being head over heels in love with me thing. Well, at least that explanation made sense to me. I got Shorty away from his crowd of admirers so we could get moving on setting up Party Central. I think the sales zombies were actually cheering us onward. I made sure to make eye contact with Martha.
Promise me you’ll come. I said, silently
I promise! she replied
And Randi saw that. I know she did.
It would have to do. The only way I could insure that Martha would actually show up was to kidnap her… I’m kidding. No, I’m not. I totally would have kidnapped her if that’s what I had to do.
Shorty and I headed for the garage and Hillary’s car. We were going shopping for the epic party! Michael was still in the office, and he disengaged himself from the crowd to join us. As we started walking down the hallway, I vaguely saw a human form walking up the hallway toward us. And then I saw who that someone was.
It was George.
* * * *
Shorty and I said goodbye to Michael in the garage. If he was bothered by the fact that he had just violated the restraining order George had filed against him, he hid it well.
He was a little bummed out that he wouldn’t have a partner for the afternoon, but other than that…
Neither Shorty nor I gave the seemingly innocuous event that had just happened so much as a second thought. I mean, George didn’t even acknowledge our existence. Nor did he even speak to Michael, so even if we had thought about it, we wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal.
We were focused on the party. Well, okay. I did have a few other random thoughts bouncing around in my head, but all I wanted them to do was stop!
A shopping we did go. First stop, a liquor store, for a keg. We had to have a whole bunch of beer. Everything else was optional. We got a thirty gallon keg. And a couple sleeves of plastic cups. And then some sodas. And a bottle of whiskey. Or vodka. Or something like unto that.
Then we stopped at a grocery store, probably, and bought chips and dips and snacks and stuff. And napkins. And whatever else struck our fancy as something we could afford. Money was no longer our overriding concern.
All I know for sure about our out of pocket expenses for the party was both Shorty and I still had money in our pockets when we were through. And I still had Benjamin safely tucked away in my wallet. Just in cases…
Hillary had procured the key to the entertainment suite at the apartment, and I had it in my pocket. The liquor store had given us an enormous plastic container to put the keg in. We set the keg up in the party room. There was an ice machine in the party room, so we wouldn’t need to buy any ice to keep the keg cold, or for drinks.
We tossed anything that needed to be refrigerated in the fridge in the party room, and we were pretty much set. We showered and changed clothes. All we had to do after that was wait for Martha, I mean, our guests to arrive.
Michael and Hillary came home. They were quieter than usual, maybe, but I only say this in retrospect. I’m sure I didn’t give much thought to how Michael and Hillary were acting at the time. Shorty and I spent the majority of our time tending to the keg, getting it to produce a stream of beer at the perfect rate of flow.
There was even a stereo system in the party room. Shorty dialed through the stations, looking for one that played good old rock and roll while I rolled a bunch of joints. Shorty was a gifted mechanic, but there were two things he couldn’t do with his hands. He couldn’t snap his fingers, and he couldn’t roll a joint to save his life. This was something only I could do.
* * * *
Our guests started arriving around 7:00 PM. The guys in the sales force were the first ones to show up. Free booze. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Shorty’s cousin, Leroy, came. I have purposely kept him out of this story up to this point, or I’d be on Part X right now. Leroy was also an interesting guy. He had been in Texas for so long his Minnesota accent had been replaced by a smooth Texas drawl. He was a true urban cowboy.
Leroy was married to a cute Texas blonde. She was six months pregnant or so, and she didn’t come to the party. I know Leroy and she had visited Hillary’s office at least once and everyone at the office knew them, and all of them had fallen in love with her.
A couple of the bikini babes we had met at the pool dropped in, but they weren’t wearing bikinis, which was disappointing.
The redheaded hippie chick and her hippie dude boyfriend came. They looked like the King and Queen of all the Hippies. They thought the party was groovy. They were totally grooving to the music. And they loved the fact that I had pre-rolled a bunch of joints.
Bernie actually came to the party, but he took Michael into the bedroom and they stayed there for a long time. They eventually rejoined the party, but Michael pulled Hillary into the bedroom and then they stayed there for a long time. I figured they were having sex, and left it at that.
Bernie was tense, a little too agitated, maybe. I’d be able to pick up on little things like that that once I became a psych nurse, but at that time I didn’t think much about it. Bernie relaxed after drinking a couple beers. He even told a couple jokes. I have them filed in my Joke Box, but that’s so cluttered it’d take me the rest of my life if I ever tried to reorganize it, so…
Bernie didn’t stay long. He left before the party really got started
A bunch of people I had never met walked in. They were Hillary’s friends from Detroit. She never told us she had invited anyone. But they were probably the people I enjoyed meeting the most at our epic party. I can’t remember any of their names, but they were a blast!
I lit up a few joints when they arrived and passed them around. This party was starting to become a party!
There were maybe thirty people at the party by this time. Almost everyone brought something to eat. Before long, we had a smorgasbord. And everyone brought more booze, and Quaaludes.
We wandered back and forth from the party room to the apartment and back to the party room. My memory of this isn’t completely clear, but I think the party room was on the second floor, so you had to be prepared to handle at least four flights of stairs.
That in and of itself limited the migration for most of our guests, but Shorty and I probably ran into ourselves coming and going. We were here, then there, shuttling pitchers of beer, snacks and ice from Point A to Point B.
This was our party, and we made sure there was plenty of everything available for our guests, no matter which room they were in. I probably needed to take another shower by 8:30, which happened to be when Randi arrived.
“Hi.” a voice whispered in my ear. My heart skipped a beat. Her voice sounded exactly like Shelly’s. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised I hadn’t noticed that sooner. Maybe it was the whisper… If Randi had been able to mimic Shelly’s cute little giggle, I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted. I turned to the sound of the voice and saw…tits.
Well, they were wearing a tight red blouse, but I knew those tits, and thanks to Jerry’s repeated warnings, I knew they were in love with me.
“Hi there! I replied, seeing Randi, maybe for the first time. She. Looked. Radiant!
Randi was seriously smoking hot that night. I poured her a beer. I asked if she needed anything. She said she wanted some fresh air, and asked if I would join her on the balcony. Why certainly! I’d love to! And I meant it. I asked her about her day, her son, her parents. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, and that is a testament to just how gorgeous she looked.
As busy as I had been busing beer and food and ice. As much as I had been enjoying meeting all of Hillary’s friends from Detroit, there was something always in the back of mind, something that made my head reflexively turn every time I heard someone enter the party room, or the apartment.
That something was a someone, and that someone was Martha.
As keyed up as I was about this, as much as I had been anticipating this, and let me tell you something, I didn’t look forward to Santa with as much anticipation as I did to Martha’s arrival. I had even tried to position myself to be near the door at all times to give myself an edge over Shorty. I was not going to let him beat me to the finish line this time. Despite all that, I was totally caught off guard when I heard a chorus of angels burst into song, and that could mean only one thing.
💕Martha💕 had arrived!
And that’s when I realized where I was, and a crowd of about fifteen people were standing between me and the door where the angelic object of my desire was about to make her grand entrance.
And standing right there, mere feet from the doorway–just stupidly standing there like a goddamn idiot, was Shorty.