Suggested Audio Candy:
 R.E.M. “Finest Worksong”
 Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”
 Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone”
A nervous breakdown is no laughing matter. For Gerry Perlman it had been the worst year of his life. Twelve months ago he was happily married, looking forward to the Christmas festivities, and preparing to set himself the usual unrealistic new year’s resolutions as he did at the close of every calendar year. Last year he had promised himself that he would give up smoking. He now smoked forty a day as opposed to twenty. He also swore blind that he would escape his dead-end job and find one which paid better. Halfway there but he hadn’t worked a single day since February. In addition, he promised himself that he would be a better person but had failed miserably on that count also. Instead he had pushed away the few people in his life that were precious and was left with nobody other than his long-haired cat Kendall. By all accounts, the whole year had been an absolute wash-out.
It started promisingly enough for Gerry. His wife found herself a second job as a waitress at the local tavern and this provided them with some much-needed financial breathing space. His job was faltering; he’d spent the past six months waiting for a hearing at work after being repeatedly signed off for stress. They wanted rid of him now; the annual budget was tight and didn’t take into consideration payment of somebody who never looked likely of doing a job for them. His wife Barbara had supported him through the rough patch but it was beginning to take its toll on their relationship. To make matters worse, Gerry despised his mother-in-law; he wasn’t exactly sure what he had done to deserve such a wretched hag but apparently during his last life he had been culpable of some fairly heinous crimes. Things were moving swiftly towards breaking point in the Perlman household.
When he went off he did so in some style. His ordinarily long fuse began to fray and, on a number of occasions, he lost control and turned into someone he didn’t particularly care for. He wasn’t ever any danger to anybody else other than himself and maybe his mother-in-law. Who was he kidding? He fantasized about leaning over her death-bed and reminding her that she was destined to spend the remainder of infinity simmering in a cauldron for her meddling ways. That wasn’t the kind of behavior that Gerry had prided himself on over the years; but she managed to eek out his worst qualities and press every last button like an excitable child in an elevator. She deserved the eternal bonfire coming to her and Gerry took consolation in the fact that, should karma miss a trick, then final judgement would save the day and she would be condemned to the fiery pits of hell. She’d probably fit in there.
One day it all got a little much for Gerry. He packed up his belongings and left the family home; leaving no forwarding address or indication that he had flown the nest. He had a little money saved and this afforded him a bedsit; the location of which nobody knew other than his best friend Claude and his own mother Elspeth. She pleaded ignorance to knowing his whereabouts despite not having the vaguest idea what to do for the best and decided it only right to stick by her flesh and blood, despite the fact that she felt he was heading for a further fall. Their communications had drastically reduced over the past few months as she just couldn’t fathom how he had gotten himself into such an almighty mess and their relationship had become somewhat strained. Claude showed his face monthly and neither he nor Gerry felt like utilizing their time together talking about hardship so they spent their evenings reminiscing about old times. While this was all well and good; Gerry couldn’t help but feel that life was passing him by.
Through all the uncertainty of the previous six months; one thing had remained an ever-present. His writing; Gerry had rediscovered his childhood passion for prose and, from the moment he woke and filled Kendall’s bowl with premium range biscuits, he settled down in his study and commenced his daily word-count pilgrimage. Some days he didn’t feel like scribing but he invariably pushed through it and some of his best work came from those seemingly uninspired moments. It wasn’t as though he had lost sight of his goals but they had altered considerably from the ones he strived for as a married man. He was his own boss and that brought him no end of comfort but, despite his work winning him admiration from his readership, he hadn’t the faintest clue how to translate that into a tangible career path. Kendall was beginning to look increasingly disheveled and Gerry’s government benefits were due to expire in a matter of weeks. Straits were growing increasingly dire.
He didn’t wish for much out of life. Money management had always been an alien concept to Gerry and he had learned to live on a miniscule budget. As long as he had money for smokes and energy drinks as well as a few extra cents to offer Kendall the lifestyle he had become accustomed to, then he was incredibly self-sufficient and things looked vaguely promising. Once his bi-weekly paycheck reached bare bones he would begin to fret and the weight of the world would rest on his over-encumbered shoulders. It was then that the enormity of his woe became painfully apparent and depression reared its ugly head. It had been months since he last took his meds and Gerry had been warned against the dangers of stopping without his physician’s knowledge but it had gotten to the point where he was no longer in control of his scruples and that worried him more than anything. By and large, crying off the serotonin replacement had worked to his advantage. At least now he didn’t feel numb to the world; just disconnected and there was something he could do about that.
Social networking provided a persuasive sermon and Gerry praised the lord for the weak internet signal, jacked from his neighbor’s router, which enabled him to remain connected. Here he found something which had become irreplaceable in his darkest hours. When feeling particularly dejected; there was always someone on hand to pick his scrawny ass up from the gutter and offer him a warm meal. This was vital for Gerry as he no longer found himself surrounded by people as had been the case unerringly since he achieved adulthood. He could pass away right now and there would be no headlines. Just a frail feline and a foul stench which wouldn’t be pinpointed for weeks. Online he could be somebody; not just your average Joe but someone of actual significance. He wrote under the pseudonym Watchman of The Emerald Isle and his site, Bay of Souls, had amassed a more than respectable following. Without this he was a dead man lounging; a heart attack waiting to strike and a cut-price plaque waiting to be engraved. Through even the most diminutive daily interaction he convinced himself that his existence counted for something.
Today was the day he had been praying would come and, by the same token, dreading more than any other. While it was great that he had landed himself this interview; it signified the end of his free-wheeling antics. Kendall only had enough rusks to see him through until next Tuesday and that wasn’t taking into account the fast diminishing duty-free cigarette carton or lack of wholesome cuisine in his depleted refrigerator. It had reached crunch time; Gerry was only too aware of how critical this interview was at this juncture and knew he would be required to bring his A-game or else a grim future beckoned, one without broadband or a roof above his head. It had been years since he last attempted to sell himself and historically he had found such situations excruciating. The difference then was that he wasn’t a month behind on rent. Failure to resonate with potential employers before now would take its toll on his confidence; but never on his lifestyle. Now it had finally wound up as make or break.
Bizarrely enough, considering how much was at stake, Gerry felt largely at ease. Sure, there were faint butterflies in his stomach, but nothing like what he had expected. His appointment was at 3.30pm and he was in good time. There seemed ample leeway to duck into Ralph’s and grab a tray of fried chicken just to pep up his protein levels before the proposed interview and he decided to use this time making any last-minute preparation and going over any questions he would be requested to pose as things wound down. He had purposely retired early last night and researched the company’s mission statement meticulously before bedtime just to retain as much of its mindless drivel as possible overnight. It was as dry as a camel’s stool on a sun lounger; policy, procedure, equal opportunity, health, safety, risk assessment, holiday entitlement, disciplinary procedure, blah, blah, blah. He would rather have been watching bad movies but needs must. Failure simply wasn’t an option.
As he entered the clinical, almost sterile, white waiting room and took a seat; he took the opportunity to clear his throat and attempt to evade the sentinel-like gaze of the somewhat patronizing receptionist Betty. Last minute nerves were kicking in but he considered any nervous energy to be a distinct positive. It wasn’t as though the role wasn’t suited to his skill-set; the advertisement read “potential candidates will be required to think out of the box” and he’d barely had a thought inside it since leaving his family home. He watched the previous hopeful leave and consoled himself with the fact that he appeared almost drone-like. There was nothing whatsoever behind the eyes other than the hollow sockets they came in and Gerry found this more than encouraging. There was plenty behind Gerry’s peepers; granted most of it was misery and angst but he’d been perfecting his game face all morning. They wouldn’t suspect a thing.
After a few moments, Betty scrolled down her list and her finger stopped at Gerry Perlman. He was already out of his seat and heading for the door before she had chance to deliver her monotone reminder. Before he reached the door, he stopped for a second and exhaled a quick breath just to ready himself. This was it; Kendall’s well-being depended on the next fifteen to thirty minutes and he had absolutely no desire to leave this place without a signed contract. With that, he stepped inside half-expecting a panel of executives and instead being presented with a solitary chief to suck up to. Moreover, she wasn’t anything like he had envisaged. For a start, Ally Grainger suggested some balding nondescript middle-aged man with combed-over hair and mildly threatening mustache. Alison was the polar opposite; flaxen locks which hung in ringlets around her neck line, breasts like two plumpened puddings, and legs which appeared too long and slender to cease at her hips. She was even wearing open-toed footwear and Gerry had a thing about well-pedicured toes. She had ten of them, regimented beautifully and painted crimson, Gerry’s favorite color.
“Take a seat Gerry”
He did as she asked, mindful not to leer too much at her stockings as he got comfortable.
“Have you decided yet?”
“Which seat you would like to take”
“I’m already seated. I don’t understand the question”
“One of these chairs is for you to take away regardless of what transpires over the next few minutes. It’s a gift”
Gerry waited for a punchline but none were forthcoming.
“Thank you. Yes, I’ll take the wicker one in the corner”
“Excellent choice. I couldn’t have selected better myself”
“It’s beautifully woven”
“I know right? I often sit over there for a change of pace”
“Aren’t you going to miss it?”
“Yes. Terribly. But there will be other wicker chairs”
Gerry was beginning to feel more than a little perplexed. Playing along seemed to please Ally no end but curiosity got the better of him.
“Why didn’t the last guy leave with a seat?”
“He didn’t deserve one”
He decided against arguing with her logic as the fact was that he had gained furniture.
“Now then Gerry. I’ve read your résumé and I have to say you seem ideally suited to a role within our organization”
“Really! So without further ado could you be a darling and run this through the shredder by the door”
She handed him his own document.
“You want me to…”
“Destroy it yes. We won’t be needing that anymore”
“Does that mean you’re offering me the job?”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself Gerry”
“Sorry. I misunderstood”
“I’m just so painfully bored with the same old rigmarole. You know how it is. Interviews are so laborious”
“Will I be penalized for agreeing with you there?”
“Not at all. I’m not looking for a corporate robot Gerry. If I was then I would never have agreed for you to take my finest wicker chair now would I?”
“So am I. Isn’t it marvelous? You just lay your cards on the table and I will endeavor to do the same. I will ask you a few menial questions and you answer to the best of your ability. You ready?”
“Yes. Yes I am”
“Okay then. Let’s get down to business. My first poser is this Gerry. Do you dress to the left or right?”
“I’m sorry what?”
“Your penis silly. You do own a penis don’t you?”
“Erm…yes. Last thing I checked”
“You see, you’re off to a stellar start. So…left…or right? I’m guessing right”
“Your right, my left”
“Great answer. Even though I guessed incorrectly, you didn’t feel necessary to rub my nose in it. That’s an admirable quality you have there Gerry”
“Thank you Miss Grainger”
“Call me Ally please. Next question”
Gerry’s eyes almost fell into his lap as Ally parted her legs in a manner that made Sharon Stone appear prudish.
“Do you think I have a pretty vagina Gerry?”
Gerry reached into his pocket for his reading glasses.
“Yes. It’s wonderful. Intricate. Complex yet sparse. Your outer lips have a hint of cherry, I like the way it all ties together”
“Flattery will get you a monthly pay check Gerry. You’re so wonderfully descriptive. Again, an admirable quality”
This was potentially the best interview Gerry had ever been invited to. It had been almost twelve months since he last got up close and personal with a vulva; a dry spell even for his lowly standards.
“Do you mind if I keep these open? It gets ever so warm in here, I keep meaning to get our thermostat checked but never seem to have time”
“Please feel free”
“Okay then Gerry, question number three. I have to say that so far you are looking like a real find. From hereon in the questions will start getting a little more challenging. But I’m sure you will do just fine”
“Do you have pubic hair around your anus?”
“Wow…okay. A little. I’m not what you would call particularly hairy but I get the odd one there from time to time”
“Show me please”
“Would you prefer to stand by the window?”
“No. Here’s fine”
That nervous energy had returned. Gerry wasn’t often afforded vantage of his own sphincter but was fairly confident she wouldn’t be put off by any lack of bleaching. He dropped his trousers and turned around to face her, then lowered his jockeys and touched his toes.
“Can you spread a little wider for me please Gerry? That’s it. Now hold it there”
He felt dreadfully exposed. This was nothing like what he was expecting whatsoever. Admittedly he would likely have found wank bullets for the next six months but what good would ammunition be without financial stability? Masturbation was both fun and rewarding in equal measures but wouldn’t put food in Kendall’s bowl. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help but feel liberated.
“I have to say Gerry, your pruning skills are exemplary. What a delightful little asshole you have”
“Shall I put it away now?”
“Heavens no. Let’s conclude our interview like this shall we?”
Gerry glanced between his legs and Ally gave him a warm, reassuring smile with legs still akimbo.
“I’m sorry. I’m getting a bit of a head-rush here. Do you mind?”
“Not at all. Tell you what, sit on the wicker chair if you like and hold both legs in the air. That will suffice. It’s your seat now after all”
He did as she requested and she fired off her next question.
“How many M&M’s can you cram down your urethra?”
“You’re kidding right?”
“Not peanut ones Gerry. Just regular”
She tossed him an unopened packet of crispy candies.
“You want me to feed these into my penis?”
“Did I stutter?”
Gerry wasn’t entirely sure where this was headed and wasn’t overly enticed by the notion of filling his member like a Pez dispenser but this job was just too vital to run the risk of failure.
“One. Two. Three. Four. Gerry I have to say that five is better than any of your competitors. I really couldn’t be more impressed right now”
“Can I take them out now?”
“Just fire them into the corner. I’ll get Betty to clear them up later. As a green-aware organization we are very big on recycling”
He popped the painful pellets out as she requested.
“You’re almost there Gerry. Just one more question and then I shall ask you to pose one of your own. You couldn’t be doing any better”
Something told Gerry that the questions he had prepared were no longer applicable.
“Right then Gerry. Last question. You’re not nervous are you?”
“Actually I’m feeling alarmingly relaxed”
“Another good answer. Okay. This is the big one. I’d like to know how many farmyard animals you can impersonate”
“Animals you say?”
“Yes. But to raise the stakes I would like you to do this wearing just your tie”
“You want me to strip naked?”
“No time to get coy my boy. I’ve already seen what you had for supper last night. Yes…naked as the day you were born, all but the tie of course”
Falling at the final hurdle was an inexplicable prospect for him. He’d jumped through every one of her hoops, compromised his dignity, fed his schlong confectionary, and could almost smell a contract.
“My my. You are a fine specimen Gerry”
“I do stomach crunches every morning before breakfast”
“I see. Your testicles look friendly too. If there’s one thing I can’t stand then it’s unapproachable balls. Yours appear to be wearing a smile”
“Thank you. They came with the penis”
“Quite the joker too I see. I have to say that the ability to make one smile is beyond desirable to me as your potential employer. Now…how about those farmyard sounds?”
Gerry began at first to cluck like a battery hen, then moved onto his very best impression of a pony. Ally began clapping like an appreciative seal, thrilled by his faithful reenactments.
“Now give me some pig”
“Marvelous. Simply sublime. Ooh ooh…lamb next”
“One more and I’d say you’ve passed with flying colors”
“I know…how about this? Woof”
“Simply perfection. I’m all but sold. Now, is there anything you would like to ask me Gerry? Anything your heart requires”
“Yes actually there is. I’m curious as to how intense your orgasm is. May I test it out?”
She had to love his parting question; it felt as though they had gotten to know one another rather well up to now so it seemed like the logical progression.
“I’m sorry. Me?”
“Yes you. Get the hell out of my office and never come back. Have you not read our mission statement?”
“Yes. Last night. From cover to cover”
“Then you should be only too aware of Section 4.2. The one which states how we frown upon any inappropriate workplace contact. Was it okay in your last job to fuck your boss Gerry?”
“His name was Gideon and he was nearly sixty”
“Ageism doesn’t bode well here either. Section 3.7. Gerry, you really didn’t do your homework did you?”
“But I thought things were going well Ally”
“That’s Ms Grainger to you. It’s not over til it’s over Gerry. And now it’s over. Please remove yourself before I call security”
Gerry walked to the door utterly dejected.
“Excuse me. Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Ally gestured to the wicker chair in the corner.
“It’s yours now. I don’t welch on a promise”
He left with his new acquisition under his arm and the next guy in queue watched intently, observing that there was nothing behind his eyes. This should be a cinch – thought Maxwell as he scoffed another handful of complimentary M&M’s from the dish on the table. Meanwhile, Gerry returned home with head in his hands to break the bad news to Kendall.