Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Five
Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Four
Yesterday, at work, my bald coworker told me about the worst haircut of his life. How he had known it was going to get fucked it up before it happened. As he walked towards the barbershop, he saw through the plate glass window. A lone blue-dressed woman, slumped over asleep. The barber. He opened the door and jangled the bell real loud, still she slept. So he went back outside, came back in, and really jangled the bell aggressively, shook the door. That didn’t work either. He stood in the center of the shop, between piles of other people’s hair. A yellow pile. A red pile. Two black piles. Where was the broom? He tried to will her awake. She began to snore. He thought to leave but had to get the haircut and there was no other place to go. He was in a wedding party that evening. He reached out and gently touched her blue shoulder. She gasped. “Oh my God. How did that happen?” She wiped drool from her mouth. She stood up, pointed to the chair. He sat down. She asked what kind of haircut he wanted. He told her number twos on the side, fade the top. She stood over him with the buzzer. “Honey, you need Rogaine.” He realized she was drunk. He said, “It’s not bad.” She said, “If you start now maybe you can save a little.” Then she put the buzzer into his head, cut a crooked ditch all the way to the scalp. There was nothing he could do but sit there through the worst haircut of his life. And he’d known it was coming. He’d known to turn back. He even tipped her. When his wife came home, she said, “What the hell happened to you?” She sat him down on the toilet lid, shaved his head clean.
So I’m sitting here. Doing nothing. Waiting for the worst to happen. Actually, I’m lying on my back on my bed. Most comfortable position for me when I’m lying down. Though it’s not easy getting up from the bed when I’m on my back. Sitting up from that position, I mean, and then standing up beside the bed. Anyway, I don’t want to read anything. I don’t want to listen to anything. I just want to continue lying on my back and think about what happened to me today. About a half hour ago. What could have been the worst thing that ever happened to me. I surely thought I was lost. That’s why I went to my bed so soon after I got home and cleaned myself and changed my undershorts and sweatpants. To think about what happened to me before. And also, no doubt, to calm myself down after the experience. I had just mailed a couple of packages at the post office near my house. I’ve been giving away a lot of things lately and these were two of them: an ice bucket that was given to my wife and me for our wedding thirty-three years ago. To my niece in Connecticut, who entertains a lot and I thought would like having a silver ice bucket from Tiffany’s. It’s badly tarnished–hasn’t been cleaned for years–but that would be easy to remedy with silver polish. I even thought of buying some silver polish and putting it in the package with the bucket. But then I thought she might take some sort of offense at that–I don’t know what. And she also might think when she opens the package: Doesn’t he think I have an ice bucket, though I doubt she has one as good as this one and from Tiffany’s, and that she probably has silver polish at home? The other package was to my sister in California: a set of six VCR tapes of Sid Caesar television shows of the Fifties. My wife had ordered them online about ten years ago. Or maybe she got the phone number of the company that sold them and ordered them that way. She would, about once a month, when she felt she needed a good laugh, as she said, watch one or two of the tapes, and usually I’d join her, mostly to keep her company. When I told my sister I had these tapes and was going to give them to Purple Heart or MS Society or some organization like that when they called to say their truck was going to be in my neighborhood and did I have anything for them to pick up?–somehow this came up in our phone conversation–she said she was a big Sid Caesar fan and she also still had a working VCR player and would love to have the tapes. But about what happened to me less than an hour ago. I was in my car.
Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Two
The man didn’t know. He didn’t know who he was. He didn’t know where he was. Or when it was. The room was dark. Someone was snoring on the other side of it. He lay there. Blankets covered him, but he had no words for what the blankets were, or the feelings they gave him, warmth, comfort. He couldn’t count that there were two blankets, or know they were made of a synthetic material. His mind was blank, his pillow thin.
The sun began to light the earth and the dark room took shape. He heard the click of footsteps outside the door, passing voices. A white curtain appeared around him. On the bedside table was a telephone with a blinking amber light. He had a message but he didn’t know what a telephone was or what a message was. He couldn’t receive the message.
A cloud passed in front of the low hanging sun and the room was momentarily shaded. He closed his eyes. He had already learned two things, darkness and light. He choose darkness. In darkness he wouldn’t have to try to name things.
The curtain moved. The nurse had come with an IV. She touched his arm, he jumped. She yipped in surprise, fell backwards. The IV tipped over. She hurried out of the room, came back with two more nurses. “Do you know who you are?” “Do you know who the president is?” “How many fingers am I holding up?” It didn’t matter what they asked, he didn’t know how to speak. He was like a baby. Drooling. They wiped his chin. The doctor ran in, bewildered and panting. The doctor told him the bad news, he had awoken in the worst hospital in America.
Good Luck: Episode Fifty-One
My psychiatrist was dressed as a sad clown.
Rainbow wig. Greasepaint.
Bells on his shoes. He answered the door and asked me what I was supposed to be. “Stanley Kowalski. But I don’t have my costume on.” I told him my real name, I wasn’t a trick ‘r treater.
He removed his silk glove. I shook his hand. The appointment had not been written in the log. His office was full of green fog.
A record was spinning, Now That’s What I Call Halloween Vol. 666. He lifted the needle. The moaning and chain rattle calmed.
The couch was covered in artificial cobwebs. He motioned to it.
I could see out the window: werewolf children walked by, witch children, Star Wars children, grim reaper children, a laughing mother dressed as a mother, a father with a flashlight.
It was just after dusk. I sat down.
“How are you feeling?”
I looked at his red rubber nose. Behind him I could see his certificate on the wall. He’d graduated from Johns Hopkins University.
“I’m not feeling good,” I said.
“I can’t remember.”
Good Luck: Episode Fifty
A day before the end, I forget. It’s warm and the sky is deep red and the clouds roll slowly by. My coworker climbs up on a flatbed truck and lies down and looks up at that red sky and those clouds rolling by. “Hey Bud, you know what my dream is? I forget.”
I don’t suppose I’m blessed. And I hear someone singing, “Red skies smilin’ at me. Nothin’ but red skies do I see. Redbirds singin’ a song. Nothin’ but red skies from now on.”
I woke up hungover and put on the radio. Someone was singing about red skies. Rae opened her eyes, said it was such a nice song. Could I play it again? I reached over and the radio was gone and so was the music. A year goes so fast.
Here is a part I forgot.
Good Luck: Episode Forty-Eight
The postman nailed a note on my front door. The box out by the road was frozen shut. He couldn’t deliver. I had to do something about it. I didn’t do nothing about it.
I saw envelopes had been tossed on the ground outside where I’d thrown rock salt and a slush puddle had formed. Then it was the coldest night of the year, froze it all. Then what?
What I shouldn’t have done was what I did, chop the mailbox off its post, drag it into the kitchen, but that’s what I did. Thawed it out in the sink while I drank my drink in the same clothes as yesterday as yesterday as yesterday as yesterday.
Inside the mailbox, I found a surprise. The Hawaiian shirt I’d given Sadie, returned to sender. Little glowing volcanos. The get well card was in the pocket, with a personal message, You’re good man, don’t ever doubt it.
Of course I’m going to doubt it, Sadie. I was born to doubt it.
i wrote a book called Killing Donald Barthelme. i didn’t mean to. i didn’t really mean to write a book. what I wanted was to reveal my darkest secrets and in turn receive applause. i wanted to write about one thing while actually writing about something else. i thought writing about how donald barthelme was bad would somehow set me free. but it turns out that when i told publishers i had a book about donald barthelme, they actually wanted a book about donald barthelme. and in the editing process they got rid of my winks and nudges to the reader: they reduced the book to what it said it was. and it came out. it was advertised though not reviewed in the new york review of books. my mom called and said dad was sick. i said, “what kind of sick?” mom said, “i don’t know, sick. the doctor wants to see him for another test. it’s probably nothing…” i said, “should i call him?” she said, “no, no. he doesn’t know i’m calling you. i don’t think he wants you to know, he doesn’t want you to worry.” i said, “do you want me to worry, mom?” then she cried and said, “shit. lorenzo. no. i don’t want you to worry. what are you even trying to say? you think i like this? you think i’m happy?” i said sorry but was thinking, “none of this is supposed to happen.” i published a book. after you publish a book, you’re an author, not a person and you don’t have to handle people problems anymore. after i published my book my mom wasn’t supposed to call me at all. my dad was supposed to send me hand-written notes saying, “congratulations, son. i’m proud of you.”
Good Luck: Episode Forty-Seven
On the rush to the hospital we detoured for cigarettes and I locked the keys to the Chrysler in the ignition while the Chrysler was running.
You can’t go anywhere without cigarettes. You can’t. I don’t care. If somebody had shot me in the head and not Margaret, I’d have asked the EMTs to pitstop at the 7-Eleven to get me smokes. Okay?
Okay. I was drunker than I’d ever been coming out of the store. Sadie and I had been trying to set a personal best/worst/best. And I was high too. I could have been anybody. I tried the door handle and realized my error. Everything has always been an error with me. Well, whoever I was, I’ve been a lot of people since my mother died. Whoever I was, all I’ve ever done is fuck up.
Good Luck: Episode Forty-Six
The editor rushed into the mold-reeking business center, up the stairs, past the massage therapist, past the office full of young people making cold calls, selling extended vehicle warranties.
His shiny shoes sunk into the filthy carpet. He wore new dress pants and a dress shirt. His hair was slicked back. He carried an Armani briefcase in his left hand.
He was late for an editorial meeting.
Out of the two thousand submissions, some lucky winner would receive $10,000 and receive publication in the novel you’re reading right here.
Cum hitting the psoriasis on my elbow made my elbow sting. His ex had psoriasis too, maybe that was his type. I found out she had psoriasis from her blog and I’d scrolled through the entire blog all the way back to the beginning. I asked him to say goodbye to me before he went to work but he didn’t, he left the room quickly when his alarm went off and didn’t return. I had work later in the day at my new job. I hated it but also I’ve hated every job I’ve ever had. I never managed to find one I didn’t hate, I just fantasized about getting into a car accident and being able to sue someone or else starting a petting zoo with my ex-boyfriend as a way to make money instead.
Good Luck: Episode Forty-Four
Why do people write stories? Because they’ll die soon, that’s why. Why do people read stories? Because they’re alive, for now, that’s why.
The editor was overwhelmed. Submissions poured in. Another 2000 words about someone’s grandma dying, $20 deposited into the account. By the end of the first week, a hundred stories a day.
The editor called me on the phone, “I don’t know what to do, man. I can’t keep up.” It was the middle of the day, I was in bed. The sun shined through the Venetian blinds.
“How many stories do we have now?”
“Over a thousand.”
“Well, it’ll get worse, just before we close.”
“I need help.”
“I’d love to help you pick a winner, Joey, but I’m on night shift. I’m in no condition.”
“Yeah. Okay. No worries.”
“Just batch select and reject them all. Send that form letter I sent you.”
The form letter said this:
Yo, thanks for sending your story about your grandma dying to the Good Luck novel. We got a lot of stories about a lot of people’s grandmas dying, and regret that there is no place in the larger work for the death of your specific grandma. Much Respect, The Editor.