By Willie Smith.
I’m a computer coach. When I come home I wanna unwind. Decide to cook some ham. Call the misc screen. Control. Tab. Enter Y.
Why I can’t find anything in the kitchen little wonder. Exhausted from eight hours of procedural exactitude. Call done. Still fails to recalculate eligibility. Can’t find knife need to pare onion. Ham should be in fridge. Bought a fresh quart of ketchup just last week. Pimento olives only other secret. Plus kirsch asperge ham slices with.
F-one over the 203. Scroll down to the 200’s… there… “not ssi eligible.” OK: call uner. Enter ss, tab to next field, type ssn. Control. Tab. Enter am. Tab. Enter mo. Tab. Enter 0. Tab. Enter ot. Home. Call done. Override the auto letter override if…
Here’s the knife. Stuck it in the wall last night, that’s right. Why did I get so drunk?
…“entry makes no eligibility change.” OK, we can’t get her off her husband’s Gee-oh-two. And on the Gee-oh-two she’s closing with a 203 code. So he gets a coupon and she doesn’t. She’s the diabetic who needs her medicine this afternoon, of course; and the pharmacist is sick and tired of cuffing it for elderly obese diabetics with one leg and half a brain. We have less than half an hour to save a life.
Because Sue just dumped me for my best friend Ken, that’s right. Great, now I’m hashing that over again. Frozen hash browns. Get them out first. Knife be OK in the wall for now. Thaw hash browns in micro. Visualize Sue’s pink satin panties now upstairs in Ken’s closet. She liked to keep her panties in her man’s closet; I’d noticed that, living with her these past three years, other things, too. Visualize Ken going down on Sue. Sue going down on Ken. Getting up to stand together beside the bed soul kissing to shame sixty-nine devils.
Check fridge. OK, yeah, ketchup. Haul out ham. Call stat. Recode recipient status sp for the husband, se for the wife. Call done. See if you can get ‘em to flip and that 203 populate along beside the sp. Is it gonna let you send a letter? If it sends a letter, then we can get over into the other program and create a coupon. Horseradish? Slice in half onion. Halve halves. Have no horseradish. Whinny the poop hurts too much day after. Whole idea of onion: more spinchter friendly. Hard to pare onion. Blade slips. Juice squirts. Eye stings. Tears pee down cheek.
A WAIT means stuck in cue. Gonna take a minute here before we see did our idea work. Can’t think of what else. Recalc elig should’ve triggered a change. At least entering zero income on the uner should kick out… oh, just took us on the way to done to the mafi screen… damn! Still no damn letter!
Bed of lettuce of paramount importance. That’s where we mount the ham. Of course you knew I was going to screw this thing, right? I already had dinner at Starbucks on the way home.
FINGER POP! Light bulb! IDEA! – we’ll add ess-oh-one!
Light the gas. No mean feat on this antique. Strike a kitchen match. Click dial to low. Travel match down to jet; not so fast as to blow out flame, fast enough to kiss fire to hissing before too much gas escapes. Already detect fart odor: Sylvia Plath eau de toilette.
X WAIT. Just be a sec. No, not reinstate. Only thing to reinstate is the Gee-oh-two, and we’ve now spent all morning proving Gee-oh-two won’t work.
When I was a kid knew this punk useta kick dogs; called him Mean Feet. Behind his back. He was also not above kicking human behind. Temper short as a sawed-off pissant. Think he got his ass shot off in Nam; some whore he forgot to pay; zipperhead pimp dropped by with an uzi. When the pimp got through feet was about all left intact on Mean. You mean to say ess-oh-won’ll kick out a coupon in time to cover the insulin?
POOF! Click dial to high. Swivel skillet with ham over sudden eager blue flame. Dump capful of kirsch in palm. Clench fist. Sprinkle over slices, as if jacking off a baby angel. Use wrist action to flip slices so as to asperge both sides of pink iridescence of dead pig muscle.
Bring up online program. Click SPADES access. Type address, birthday, ssn, sex, marital status, citizenship into appropriate boxes. Click next. Click medical. Click ssi elig. Click next. Click esso-won. Type in today’s date. Click commit. Copy ay-ewe number. Click exit screening. Bring mainframe SPADES back up. Enter option q to access AMEN. Choose option r at A Menu. Paste in ay-you number.
Think pink satin neatly folded atop likewise folded aqua thong. Ken fondles tags attached to elastic seams in back of each pair of panties. Ken smiles, thinking of me drunk alone in a kitchen somewhere home from being a troubleshooter in a cubicle several hundred thousand feet north of where he stoops in his closet, leisurely acquiring the erection he will soon apply to my former common law wife. Glad to have a job to hate, alcohol to curse, tough tasteless cheap ham to wrestle into skillet.
Hit print… hear the printer. Click! Wump. Grind, grind, grind… I think we got it. OK – fax the coupon, when it’s through printing, to the pharmacy. Should be in time to get her the insulin on schedule.
Kill flame. Spatula out skillet.
Hot ham, sweet see-through onions, ketchup blobs, drab and scarlet olives on guard, kirsch sprinkles – all on an iceberg bed on a platter. I’ll just unzip. Let pants fall. Roll down underpants. Slide unit across dead meat seeing Sue’s face while Ken takes her from behind.
Almost ten years since Sue left. Short walk two floors upstairs. Since I folded and left on a lower shelf those panties. Then entered the kitchen. Found the note. An hour later – stomach acid flowing, drowning in tears of sorrow, horror, confusion, hate, heart pounding – decided to split.
Packed worldlies. Boarded a bus. Came up here. Settled in. Took a test. Started a career with the state. Celibate ever since.
Became top troubleshooter and computer coach. Guy in agency who can best navigate SPADES – antediluvian interface allowing office to issue benefits; all the benefits that fit.
Seems only yesterday sniffed those fabric-softened panties – making it here with the pink. Hit on ham idea less than a month ago. Tension self-help. Effective release; but tends to bring back that morning in another town, another time, another tense.
Home. Call misc. Control. Tab. Enter Y.
Worked perfect! Issued benefits clear across cutting board. Catch breath. Wipe up. Roll up boxers. Pull back up pants. Zip. Buckle.
Why not now knot fist around neck of fifth?
Open freezer. Extract vodka. Uncap. Fill a drinking glass. Go to town. Another day, another dollar, another holler in the valley echoing.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, February 8th, 2009.