Protest.20 by Elvert Barnes / Flickr
I walk into his office, after hours. No one in the building, guards downstairs didn’t see me.
His office is as plain as he is, as dully average as the man himself, aside from the golf trophies, all won at company events, so they’re meaningless to anyone other than him or the people who come in his office on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. His life is broken up into meaningless chapters of time.
His name is Rory and he’s every bit the asshole you would imagine with a name like that. Rory Mavers. Mavers. (I laugh.) It takes the edge off his first name and gives him a feminine quality which I’m sure he abhors but convinces himself otherwise. He’s that way. About everything. Everything.
I look at his plain, black name plaque, “Rory M. Mavers” carved in white, with just enough wood around the edges to know that it’s imitation oak. It suits him.
Next to his name is his ashtray, his personal ashtray, filled with butts and ashes. Of course, we’re not allowed to smoke in the building—neither is he—so he takes his smoke breaks on the loading dock with the other cancer wannabes. Castaways. But whereas they see the world as their personal ashtrays, flipping butts out into the street or the loading ramp, stomping them out on the dock so that someone else has to pick them up, Rory Mavers brings his little black ashtray (which he apparently stole from an IHOP before they went smoke-free), crushes his butts into it, and returns it to his office where he can savor the stench of old butts and used smoke every minute of every day, every day, until he can get back down to the loading dock for another inhalation of death on the approach.
We can’t wait. Because:
Rory likes to talk about his foreskin. Loves to talk about his foreskin. He’s got one, and he’s proud of it. So he says. All the time. All the fucking time. He doesn’t mention it to women in the office, anymore. After the sexual harassment suit by, as he put it, “that whore in receivables,” he has limited his joyful exhortations about being “whole” to us men. In the office. All the time.
Here’s how it happened to me.
My first day. My first day! HR sent up my application, which Rory reviewed prior to him telling me to, “Sit down, Richard.” He pointed at the black Naugahyde cushioned chair on his left, my right. It had quasi-modern wood-laminate curved-arms that screamed Costco rather than Ikea. The original Costco, as in the first one. Seattle, 1983. How the chair made it here to Boston, I haven’t a clue.
I said, “My name’s Dick.”
“Well,” my new manager said smugly, “we’re a little more formal here than that. You’ll be calling me Mr. Mavers and I’ll be calling you by your proper first name.”
“That would be Dick,” I said.
He stared, certain that he had another belligerent boneheaded moh-ronn in his department. That’s what he called all of us to all the others when we weren’t present. Moh-ronns. All.
I had to explain again, as I had to the falsely cheery HR hoverer downstairs. She hovered over me while I filled out my application, checking back every few lines to make sure I was staying within the boxes, I assumed. “We prefer you enter your full name, Mr. Carvins.”
Yes. Okay. I know. It’s bad enough my first name is Dick. You don’t have to tell me.
I told her, “My name is Dick. My mother named us all that way. She figured it would be easier on us. We wouldn’t have to write a longer name then tell everyone that we went by a shortened form of that name our whole lives.” Our whole lives. “So, on our birth certificates, my brother is Dave, not David; my older sister is Beth, not Elizabeth; my younger sister is Liz, not Elizabeth, so that we could have two Elizabeths, a name my mother loved since her grandmother was an Elizabeth to whom people referred, alternately, as Beth or Liz; something her grandmother hated, so Mom hated it. Mom got revenge on all of those “sad, silly little people” by having two Elizabeths, one named Beth and one named Liz to avoid confusion. My youngest brother is Bob, not Robert. And I am Dick, not Richard. Dick Carvins. And If you think I hate my mother for that, you are wrong. She’s a sweet lady with bad instincts—at least when it comes to her children’s lives.”
At that point, I had probably given a version of this speech some three thousand times. At least. Ms. “I Hate You Because You Are Applying for a Job, Here, Thereby Wasting My Valuable Time,” HR gatekeeper stared as if just finding out that I was the guy who killed all the starfish on the Great Barrier Reef, then went back behind her desk to sulk and stamp paper wildly—like an angry orangutan given a replacement orange that wouldn’t smoosh or break or come apart in any way no matter how hard she banged.
Rory Mavers later looked at me as if I had materialized from a spaceship or a mental institution—or in his case, probably a bowl of Maryland clam chowder, his favorite, his favorite. He said, “Dick,” as if tasting a turd.
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “Well, let me tell you about mine.” And he did. He really did. “Are you complete, Dick? Do you have a foreskin? Or were you chopped?”
This was my first day, my first two minutes. I said, with due caution, “I suppose you could say I was ‘chopped.’”
Mavers appeared thoroughly revulsed, shook his head and said, “Well, I’ve got all of mine. Every bit of me is there. Right here.”
He took the handful. Right there. He said: “You know they’re passing a law in San Francisco that you can’t get your kid chopped. No more circumcisions allowed by law. By law.”
I said, “I think that’s just in the Castro district,” because that’s what I remembered reading, right before I thought, Man am I glad my parents didn’t live there.
He said, he actually said: “Cuba? I thought it was in San Francisco.”
So began one of the longest running disconnected conversations I’ve ever had with anyone, anywhere, anytime, regarding genitalia. Rory would discuss his “complete” member every third time I had to come in his office, which made it about once a week. If I ran into him in the men’s room, he would show me. He was able to do this because our men’s room services an entire floor and has a row of ten ribcage-high urinals in a line with no privacy flanges between them. So he felt “within the law, Dick. Company-fucking policy.”
So, more important: “You see this, Carvins? This is real man, here. I am sheathed. I am protected. I am whole. I have not been butchered by those barbarians out there. When a girl sees this, a woman, she knows I’m the real deal. I got all the equipment the good Lord intended. She knows that when I get this bad boy caught in my zipper, I only catch skin. This beautiful, perfect head in here…”
Yes, he showed me that too.
“…is forever complete and unharmed.”
I had some contrary ideas about that.
I’d also like to point out that I did not find the head of his pointily-covered penis to be “perfect” in any way. It was red, not the usual pleasing purple of un-chapped men, so it looked more like a dog’s penis than a man’s. It was flat and wide, tucked under and cockled like an apricot. I thought, When girls see that, they probably run screaming for their mothers with thousands of questions. None of them flattering.
Rory Mavers was not married.
“That little thing you got, with no hat? Embarrassing, Carvins. Embarrassing.” With that he would tuck the flapping thing back in his WalMart trousers and strut back to his office where he would sit behind his industrial-strength desk and gloat. And admire his in-house golf trophies. And, I suppose, mentally thumb through countless mental images of his completeness.
Tonight, I stand in his office remembering those delightful moments we shared around his hooded manhood. The gay times we celebrated the retention of an inch and a half of his wrinkled derma—the joy I felt knowing that he was complete and the sadness I carried that I was not.
I wish there was a way to rig his desk so that the next time he takes that thing out to admire it—because you and I both know that he did, he had to, it was a personal imperative, it had to be; so he would again—that the drawer would slap shut on a big spring and catch his drippy folds in a death grip, never letting go until firemen arrived to free him with the Jaws of Life.
Probably the only jaws that would ever go near it.
The only thing better would be if I could rig the ceiling to cave in on him and permanently silence his running penile commentary so that everyone in the office and everyone who would ever be in the office would never have to hear what I had to endure. His death would be sweet for sure. For sure.
Mine wasn’t so great. It was fast, thankfully. The semi-driver who lost control on the inside of the curve and, horrified, dropped his 45-foot trailer loaded with frozen Purdue chickens on my VW Beetle, walked away without a scratch; whereas I floated, unaware that I was even dead, it happened so fast. Instantaneous! Thank his good lord.
I try to pull out his drawer, but my hand passes through the black metal and plastic walnut. I focus and try again. Focus and try again. Nothing. Nothing.
Maybe I’m aiming too high. How about a pencil. No. A pen. No. The phone. No. No action. None at all. As if I wasn’t even here. Ha!
Then I see the cigarette butts. I focus and I focus andI focus and I try and try and try; but with all of my otherworldly powers, I cannot move one of them.
BUT! (Ha, again.)
I look closer, my face inside his little black plastic stolen abomination, filled with yellowed cotton filters and try again, focusing on one lone, tiny piece of spent tobacco, and…YES! It moves. An ash moved! Glory-hanna, praise his lord!
I might even start believing. Sure, it’s late—and I promise you there are no more clues here than where you are right now, in life—but better later than eternity, eh?
I am happy.
I look at the stapler. I think of his appendage, and the appendage on his appendage. Yes. If it takes me the rest of his life, here. I will come here every night, stay all night, and be damned if I can’t lift that stapler and make it smack.
Then I will return in the day.
Glenn A. Bruce, MFA, was associate fiction editor for The Lindenwood Review and taught Screenwriting at ASU for 12.5 years. He has published eight novels and two collections of short stories. He wrote Kickboxer, episodes of Walker: Texas Ranger and Baywatch, and was a sketch-writer for Cinemax’s Assaulted Nuts. His stories, poems, and essays have been published internationally. He won About That’s “Down and Dirty” short story contest and was a two-time finalist in the Defenstrationism annual short story contest. He has judged shorts film contests, art shows, was the final judge for Brilliant Flash Fiction and Defenstrationism 2016-2019.