The following is part two of the story “Joan of Arc,” concerning the temporal displacement and inebriated escapades of a womanizing retirement community activities director. You can read part one here.
Mon. April 23, 2012 — Enhancement and Propriety
The weekend passed predictably—Saturday night soaked in bourbon, Sunday morning gel-coated in aspirin—and then it was Monday and I was up at dawn, cursing my alarm clock, petting Mr. Mittens, driving my rusted Methuselah of a Honda Civic to Foxwood Prairies. I’d been the activities director at Foxwood for a few years. The old folks there were really something. There were two different communities of old folks at Foxwood—independent living for those still sound of body and mind, and assisted living for those whose bodies and/or minds had become less sound—and I scheduled and managed recreational activities and outings for them all. It was all standard stuff—bingo, canasta, Go Fish, cross-stitching, trips to the Piggly Wiggly and the flea market. The monthly schedules pretty much wrote themselves. The old folks didn’t want their activities director thinking outside the box. They wanted him making sure the canasta decks weren’t missing any cards and clearly enunciating B17, N27, O40, G33.
The old folks sure could be a pain in my ass, but I liked them all okay. They were old enough to not give a damn about anything anymore, and I appreciated that. People my own age still gave way too much of a damn. What was the point? Everyone was going to get old and not give a damn anymore anyway, so why not not give a damn now and save yourself a hell of a lot of trouble? But people my age didn’t think like that. And, to be fair, not everyone was going to get old. This 17-year-old kid in my town just got himself squashed to death by a vending machine, for instance. I never trusted those things. They were always stealing my money, and now apparently they were out to murder me, too.
Anyway, I got along with the old folks fine, outside of a few rough patches here and there. My coworkers hated my guts, though. I had slept with quite a few of them, and then had not called them, or returned their calls, or let them into my apartment to retrieve their left-behind earrings or cosmetics or underwear, and this had, through a terrible multiplier effect I had not anticipated, earned me the hatred of coworkers I had not even slept with, I had not even slighted or cheated or wronged, and thus I had become something of a pariah among Foxwood’s employees, the RNs always avoiding eye contact with me, the resident assistants always glaring at me, the cafeteria ladies always serving me depressingly miniscule portions of spaghetti and bean salad and mashed potatoes, the housekeepers always scrubbing and mopping extra agitatedly whenever I drew near. My boss liked me, though. He was a real son of a bitch. He named his first child Diablo Octane, after his favorite golf driver. Diablo was a boy, but that didn’t matter. My boss was going to name his kid Diablo Octane even if she were a girl. He didn’t give a damn. Who knows what the boss’s wife thought about the whole thing. You would have thought she’d have a say, what with old Diablo living in her uterus for nine months and all, but apparently not. Leasing out your uterus only got you so far with my boss. He did love that goddamn golf driver, though. What a son of a bitch.
Monday was pretty easy, in terms of activities. In the morning we had Walking Club for the independent living old folks, and in the afternoon we had bingo for the assisted living old folks, and in the early evening I slipped a VHS of “Titanic” into the old-as-hell VCR in the Foxwood common area and called it a day. I said goodbye to the RNs, who ignored me, and to the resident assistants, who glared at me, and to the receptionist, who gave me the finger when the Sister of Christian Charity whom she was helping wasn’t looking, and then drove home to my apartment where I found Mr. Mittens sprawled out on my front steps, waiting for me. “That’s a good kitty cat,” I said to Mr. Mittens as I picked him up and carried him inside. “That’s a real good kitty.”
I was goddamn hungry on account of the Foxwood cafeteria ladies scorning me with paltry portions of rotini and meat sauce and bean salad, but as my fridge and pantry hadn’t magically stocked themselves while I was at work I was going to stay goddamn hungry until I bought some food, so I called up old Domino’s and ordered a large pepperoni with olives and mushrooms and extra pepperoncini. Domino’s was number three on my speed dial. Comcast was number two. My goddamn internet was never working. My grandma, who raised me after my mom died when I was a little kid, was number one. She was dead now, too. Number four was still open for that special someone, but I’d never met that special someone. Not that it mattered. If I ever did meet that special someone, it’d probably be just a matter of time before that special someone hated my guts.
I had thirty minutes to kill before my large pepperoni came, so I opened up my laptop and looked up Joan of Arc on Facebook. I’d been thinking about her a lot since Saturday morning. She had all kinds of things named after her—rock bands, churches, high schools, catering companies, electrical contractors. The Joan of Arc I’d slept with didn’t seem to have a Facebook profile, though, unless she was blocking me from searching for her. She wouldn’t have been the first girl to do so. But she would have been the first saint. There was a Joan of Arc fan page but I bet she didn’t have anything to do with it. The whole thing was littered with spam posts about Prada handbags and male enhancement salves and Christian Louboutin heels. The real Joan of Arc wouldn’t have stood for all that nonsense. She kicked the English army’s ass all over Burgundy.
I rooted around Facebook for Joan of Arc a little more, but before I knew it I was just compulsively scanning through pictures of the hottest and sluttiest Joans and started feeling like a goddamn creep, like I was spying on the Joans from a front-yard sugar maple or through a hole in a fence or the wall of a ladies’ locker room or something, and so I closed my laptop and gave Mr. Mittens a good old petting. Mr. Mittens purred his little heart out. Who knows why my neighbors kept him outside all the time. I couldn’t get enough of the old furry scamp. I thought he was just about the best old kitty cat there ever was.
Thirty-five minutes later the doorbell rang and I made a big show about refusing to pay for late pizza, just to jerk the delivery guy’s chain, but halfway into my rant I realized the delivery guy looked like he was about twelve years old and probably had to sit on a goddamn phonebook just to see over his steering wheel and was scrunching his face up all funny like he was goddamn fixing to cry, so I cut my rant off early and with a little huffing and puffing handed him the money and told him he was lucky he wasn’t delivering pizzas in Germany because those Germans wouldn’t stand for this kind of thing on account of their ingrained adherence to the virtue of punctuality and then took the pizza and carried it inside. Boy I could be a real son of a bitch sometimes. Who knows why. The pizza was delicious though—I was sure glad I ordered those extra pepperoncinis. I gave Mr. Mittens some olives and mushrooms and dispatched piece after piece like a wild animal, melted cheese and tomato sauce smeared all over my chin, garlic dip covering my fingers, shreds of crust littered all over my lap. I’d lived alone ever since my grandma got sick and had to be moved to the hospice downtown where I’d visited her every day and watched her get sicker and sicker. The longer I lived alone, the more I reverted to a primal state of being. I no longer had a need for table etiquette. I was well beyond propriety.
I finished off the entire large pizza pretty quick and worked up a hell of a thirst, so I carried Mr. Mittens outside, said goodnight, and walked over to old Jimborooni’s, the nearest bar I was still allowed to patronize. I used to always go to The Antler Haus a block away from my place, a man could drink himself senseless there without breaking the bank, but I caused a ruckus a few months back and apparently damaged quite a few wall-mounted stag heads and now I had to walk an extra few blocks across the railroad tracks to Jimborooni’s, which had pricier drinks but no stag heads, no wall-mounted animals of any kind.
I crossed the tracks and passed the dark windows of closed machine shops and bait and tackle stores and astrologer’s offices, and reached the front entrance of Jimborooni’s, where a teenage girl was giving the bouncer the business. The bouncer had the girl’s ID raised high above his head and the girl was leaping and clawing and trying to snatch her ID back and cursing the bouncer in a foreign language, Dutch, I thought, maybe German. The girl sure looked familiar, like someone famous, an actress maybe, a character actress, she was kind of homely—I couldn’t quite place her face. She definitely wasn’t twenty-one. Fourteen, fifteen tops. Who knows what her ID said. It probably said she was twenty-eight and blue-eyed and five inches taller than she really was. Bouncers aren’t rocket scientists but they’re not lobotomy patients either. Where had I seen that girl before? What was she hollering about in German or Dutch? How the hell had I ripped all those stag heads off the wall at The Antler Haus? Why had I just eaten an entire large pizza in one sitting?
I waited for the girl to calm down so I could hand the bouncer my driver’s license and enter Jimborooni’s and drink myself into a stupor, but she kept leaping and cursing and grasping at her ID. It was a losing proposition. She was about five foot four and skinny as a flagpole and couldn’t jump for beans. The bouncer used to play power forward on my high school’s varsity basketball team and had a tattoo of a bear devouring a human fetus on his right forearm. He was a real sweetheart of a guy, though. But that didn’t mean he was going to jeopardize Jimborooni’s liquor license by letting in some crazy, foreign 14-year-old girl with a 9-inch vertical leap. I told the girl I’d help her get her ID back if she got a hold of herself and stopped bounding around like a goddamn antelope, but she didn’t pay me any attention. Who knows if she understood my American colloquialisms. Who knows if she understood a word of English. She kept harassing the bouncer and grasping futilely for her ID, and I stood on the sidewalk and looked through the windows at the Jimborooni’s patrons. Everyone looked like they were having a hell of a time. It was still early, though. Give them a couple of hours and a fair few would be looking goddamn pitiful and desperate and sad. I could hear motorcycle engines revving in the distance, their growls growing louder and louder until they drowned out the girl’s foreign cursing and the bikes came into view, big old hogs with flame and snake and skull decals and bearded, black jacketed drivers and leather-clad women riding on the back saddles. Except the last hog, which was driven by a teenage girl in a suit of armor. She zoomed by pretty quick, but I’d bet you dollars to donuts that it was Joan of Arc. How many other teenage girls in my town owned a suit of armor? How many other girls could so confidently and authentically brandish a sword? I waved my arms around and whistled and called Joan’s name, but she didn’t stop. She was really gunning that old hog. When I turned back toward Jimborooni’s the crazy bounding Dutch girl was gone. Big Bobby the bouncer was showing some of the other patrons her fake ID and was shaking his head and laughing. Where the hell had I seen her before? A TV show? A movie? The network news? Some goddamn YouTube video? Some goddamn billboard for hair gel or pet euthanasia or pimple medicine? And that’s when it hit me. The girl was famous. But she wasn’t an actress. And she wasn’t fourteen, she was like eighty. Except she was dead, or at least she was supposed to be. Geez Louise. I must have been losing it. I didn’t know up from down. I didn’t know what was what anymore. I shouldn’t have eaten all those pepperoncinis. Near as I could tell, the bouncer had just commandeered a fake ID from goddamn Anne Frank.
Matt Gajewski is the author and host of Pure Imagination, a radio show that aired on 90.5 WVUM and continues as a podcast, with all old episodes archived on Pure Imagination’s website. There will be live performances of the brand new story “Pecos Bill” at Miami’s Sweat Records on Saturday July 28th and Brooklyn’s The West on Saturday August 4th.