Dedication

Another Exciting Adventure in … THE GRIND
(Act I: All Wounds)
(Act II: The Status Quo)

***

previously…

An infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters all picked up those typewriters and took turns beating me around the head with them. My throat had been forcibly removed and returned, inside-out and on fire, and my spine had been bent and twisted like a pipe cleaner in a kindergarten class. To make matters worse, my eyes were open, but all I could see was blackness.

Great. I should have known that gold-label tequila shots chased with cognac would make me go blind. Now I had to figure out where I was, how to get home, and why I was so cold.

In my hand, my cell phone buzzed. At least I had the foresight to keep it close. I put it to my ear and moaned.

Hey, man,” it replied, “what’s up?”

“You know,” I told it, “the usual.”

“Did you get the interview?”

“What do you think, Bill?”

“I think you got a good track record so far, but my money’s on your winning streak coming to an end sometime soon.”

“Today’s not the day for that, Bill.”

“So you got it, then.”

“Yes,” I said, “but at great personal cost.”

“Myron wants you to come in right away so he can take a look at it and I can double-check your sources.”

“Myron is always telling everyone what to do. Who does he think he is?”

“Your boss,” he said.

“Well I, for one, am sick of it.”

He sighed, “Look, are you going to get this typed up by deadline or not?”

“At the moment, I’m leaning towards not.”

“Why’s that?” he asked.

“Because I’ve gone blind, Bill.”

No doubt that dull thud in the background was the sound of his head hitting his desk. The loss of one sense really does sharpens the others. That might explain why I kept tasting sand and ketchup. Where the hell was I?

“How do you think you went blind?” he asked.

“Drank too much with the entourage.”

“Did you drink bathtub gin?”

“I can’t answer that question with any degree of certainty.”

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you haven’t.”

“How about moonshine?” I offered. “I hear that moonshine makes you go blind too.”

“You’ve been hanging out with Bedford-Stuyvesant’s most notorious rapper, not its most notorious jug band,” he said. “I doubt there was moonshine.”

“Then why can’t I see anything?”

“I’m a fact-checker,” he reminded me, “not tech support.”

“I believe in you, Bill.”

He sighed again. “All right. Are your eyes open?”

“Yes.”

“Is anything covering your face?”

I checked, and sure enough, my brown leather pea coat was draped across my head. “That seems to be the problem. I always said you could do it.”

“Don’t mention it.” He asked, “Are you going to be late again for work today?”

“I’ve got plenty of time,” I replied. “I don’t have to be there until nine thirty.”

“It’s eight forty-five.”

“Then I’m going to be late.”

“See ya, man.” He disconnected before I could say something else that might irritate him.

My vision restored, I set about determining my location. I could vaguely make out the smell of the ocean, meaning that I was either in Staten Island, New Jersey, or Coney Island. The fact that I was folded up in a rollercoaster car narrowed it down to the latter. Surrounding me, in various poses of unconsciousness, were rapper Chuck Weet, his three bodyguards, fifteen of his best friends, and about a dozen women of various ethnicities.

I love my job.

I reached Midtown Manhattan shortly before eleven, and, after purchasing some coffee and painkillers and finding a place to brush my teeth, I finally arrived at work, darting quietly past Myron’s office.

Just as I thought I’d made it into the clear, he shouted, “Max, get in here!”

I sighed and backed up. “Me?”

“Any other Maxes here?”

“There’s Ed Maxwell in sports.”

“Do I look like the kind of guy who gives out affectionate, frat-boy nicknames?”

He didn’t. In fact, with his balding, pasty head, rolled-up sleeves, loosely knotted tie, suspenders, a belly engorged by decades of cheap takeout, narrow glasses perched on his wide nose, and permanent scowl, he looked the opposite of an affectionate frat boy. If you ever saw him on the street, you’d say to yourself, “That guy’s a gruff-but-loveable newspaper editor.”

I replied, “Why do you keep asking me rhetorical questions?”

“Where’ve you been all morning?”

“There you go again with the rhetorical.”

“Answer the question.”

“Here, in the office,” I told him.

“How come I haven’t seen you before just now?”

“We must just keep missing each other.”

He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes; again, textbook editor. “Max, I don’t have the patience for this shit.”

“Coney Island,” I told him.

“And what, pray tell, were you doing at Coney Island?”

“Riding the Cyclone.”

“It’s the off season.”

“That explains why it wasn’t moving.”

He sighed. “Did you get the interview?”

“Yes, I did,” I replied. “It cost me a liver. I expect to be reimbursed.”

“Did you save the receipt?”

I shook my head.

“It’ll grow back, then,” he said. “So is it one of those beef interviews these guys like to give? Because we’re not going to print that shit.”

“Nope,” I said. “Family stuff.”

His jowls lifted, exposing his teeth. For Myron, that was a smile.

“Turns out there’s a Mrs. Weet,” I told him.

“Chuck Weet’s married?” he asked.

“Mother,” I replied. “You do know that’s not his real name.”

Myron rolled his eyes. “Rapper thing, I know. Mother got a name?”

“What kind of reporter do you think I am?”

“It’s my job to ask rhetorical questions. It’s your job to write it up. It’s Bill’s job to fact-check you.”

“Noted.”

“I have another assignment after that.”

“Another ninja interview?” I asked. “Because it’s going to take some time to heal from the last one.”

“Don’t call them ‘ninja interviews,'” he said, “it’s really obnoxious.”

“Right, Chief.”

“And stop calling me Chief.”

Biting my tongue, I shrugged.

“It’s a standard wank piece,” he continued, forgetting that this last part of the exchange had never happened.

I laughed. “Wank?”

“My boss is Welsh,” he muttered, “I pick shit up. And speaking of which—”

“Of shit?”

“Of wank,” he explained. “The paper is throwing a major birthday party tonight–publicity bullshit–the place is going to be crammed with celebrities. I need someone to take names, get some quotes, and provide some color.”

“Aren’t I a little overqualified to write photo captions?”

“First off, no,” he replied. “Second off, that reminds me, I’m assigning you a regular fotog, because I’m tired of all the ones in the pool playing ‘Paper, Rock, Scissors’ whenever your name comes up.”

“I’m assuming it’s the winner who gets to work with me.”

He didn’t answer.

“Whose birthday?”

“Mr. Lloyd’s.”

“So the owner of this newspaper is going to be using his own newspaper to throw a party to make himself look awesome?” I clarified.

“Wouldn’t you?”

I thought about it. “Yeah, all right, touché.”

to be continued…

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