You Can’t Fire Me

by T. Sean Steele

The Meatheads had kicked me out of the apartment. In a fright I went to Los Angeles to stay on Kim and Jeannette’s couch.

“Why did they kick you out?” Kim said.

“I don’t know. I think I represented an alternate reality where Cody had a sister and it was causing him great mental strife, not something he was used to. Or else it was that I hadn’t paid rent in a while.”

I was horizontal on the pull-out couch. It hurt to do anything because my mouth rippled with big white canker sores. Also my fingernails were coming loose. Eyelashes? Gone. But then you could make scary lists about anyone. For instance, Kim. I hadn’t seen her in six months. She was a television writer. Her hair had turned white. She was in tremendous tax debt.

“God dammit!” She was distracted because she was making a cake for a party happening at their place that night and it wasn’t going well. “Does this even look like cake batter to you?”

To feel better I sent a quick text to Devon. I’m a pink little piggy and I’m in hell.

*

I was at the party. Jeannette stood next to me in the backyard and explained the people to me. “That guy over there, he’s madly in love with his wife. Yes, they’re married. They’re in what they call turbo-love.”

“That’s beautiful,” I said.

“OK and here’s something else. I want to go by Moon now. My name is Moon and you need to call me that. There is an easy way to make this switch. I’ll demonstrate. Say my name a lot. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette. Jeannette Moon. Jeannette Moon. Jeannette Moon. Jeannette Moon. Jeannette Moon. Jeannette Moon. Jeannette Moon. Jeannette Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon. Moon.”

“You are now Moon,” I said.

“Also,” Moon said, “keep your eye out for this little hairless kid. He likes to sneak over and eat our vegetable garden. Sometimes I get a glimpse of him but I’ve never caught him.”

I was drunk.

“Will do, Moon!”

*

Later and the party was still happening. I was standing against the fence which backed up against the rest of the neighborhood. You could hear voices through the fence. Someone was walking down street, saying something on repeat, “So-and-so lives in your hood and abuses women! So-and-so lives in your hood and abuses women!”

“Hey. Come on,” said another person. “Please stop it with that stuff. Stop.”

Devon had texted me back. They also had a canker sore. They also were losing eyelashes and fingernails. I need to go buy a bucket for everything that’s falling off. Once there’s more of me in the bucket than out of the bucket I’ll need you to carry me around.

I can’t be that person for you, I typed. The same thing is happening to me. But I didn’t send it.

*

Still against the fence. Kim hustled over to me. She had a fistful of paper in one hand and the bowl of cake batter in the other. She wanted me to throw out the cake batter for her because she was too busy collecting little notes someone had left on surfaces all over the party.

“Notes?”

“Yeah, look at these.” She uncrumpled a few of them. They were written on gas station receipts and dollar bills, and said things like, I LOVE YOU ALL PLEASE HELP or THIS IS A GREAT PARTY PLEASE HELP or IT’S SO NICE TO SEE EVERYONE PLEASE HELP.

“These look like cries for help,” I said.

“Agreed. They say, ‘please help,'” Kim said. “They’re everywhere. I haven’t found them all yet. And multi-tasking in a situation like this is risky. That’s why I’ll take care of the notes, and you will take care of the cake batter.” She shoved the cake batter bowl into my arms.

*

I brought the cake batter bowl to the garbage can at the front of the house. Despite what I had heard on the other side of the fence earlier, the street now appeared empty. But that was how these things worked. I had heard a passing conversation. It was far away now. No, wait. The street wasn’t empty. There was a guy walking down the sidewalk, up the driveway, right next to me. He walked oddly. He was crouched low to the ground.

“Hi, buddy,” I said.

“Hi!” he said, in the voice of a young boy. I realized now he was completely hairless, with pink eyes, wearing nothing but a purple cloth diaper. He wasn’t crouched at all; he was just short.

He tried to juke past me to get into the party but I jumped in his way. He collided with my legs, bounced backwards, and fell. “Ow ow ow.” He rolled over onto his knees and tried to clutch at his back, which had been torn up by the concrete. I helped him to his feet.

“Buddy, this is why people wear clothes.” I felt like a jerk. I couldn’t stop saying buddy.

His eyes grew more pink.

“Let me through. I need to eat! I need to eat my vegetables!”

“Vegetables aren’t everything.”

He tried to juke me again. He was pretty good at it. One more and he was going to get past me.

“I want vegetables!”

“Why, dude?” All right, I wasn’t a jerk anymore.

“I want them!”

“No.”

His eyes got even more pink. “I have evil in me.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I have evil in me.”

“That’s nothing. Don’t worry about that. That just means you’re a person.”

This was too abstract/untrue for a young boy. His pupils disappeared as his eyes went full pink.

I handed him the bowl of cake batter. “No vegetables for you. This is the best I can do. Now get out of here.”

*

I regrouped with Kim at the party, by the fence. Had she found out who was writing the cries for help? No, but she had collected all the notes. That was a good start, right? At the very least it was something, right?

By now it was completely dark outside. Pitch black. You couldn’t see anything. It was like the power had gone out. People grumbled.

“Where’d the stars go? Where’s the moon?” they said.

“I see her. There she is.”

“Here I am,” she said.

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