"Gentleman Caller" by Gunner Basquette.
© Please do not reproduce without artist's permission.
THE CARELESS FUCKERY
OF TIM INGERSSON
by Mike Sauve
Tim Ingersson had that rarest of male hairstyles. The non-douchebag ponytail. His hair was bleached blonde and the ponytail was pulled back tight. Samaya couldn’t even get her own ponytails that tight without hair leaking out at the sides. She wondered if he used gel to get it so perfect. He reminded her of the wrestler Dolph Ziggler. When the supervisor asked her to show Tim the ropes, her face turned red.
“We’re leaving pre-recorded voicemails for people. Today it’s an ad for a cruise. A ship’s horn blares. They say, ‘All aboard,’ really lame. You want to get straight to the voicemail. The best way is usually by pressing 0 like crazy. If you get a receptionist, ask to be put through to the person’s voicemail. You see the name at the top? Sometimes they say, ‘Don’t you just want to talk to him?’ In that case say no. If they get suspicious, hang up and move on to the next call.”
“Got it,” he said.
They worked side-by-side for an hour. Whenever one of them reached an increment of ten successfully-left voicemails, a little bell rang on the supervisor’s desktop. There was some downtime after the first batch of the day was finished.
“Get some coffee people,” said Bill the supervisor, who also had a ponytail, but the totally wrong kind of ponytail, because of the oval shape of Bill’s face and Bill’s general ugliness.
“How long have you been doing this?” Tim asked.
“A year now, part-time. I’m a writer actually, but yeah.”
“Ya. Actor and musician here.”
They chuckled a woeful little chuckle.
“Time to list the resumes I guess,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“You know, say the things we’ve done to prove we’re better than this place.”
“Oh,” said Samaya, “I haven’t done much. I had an internship at The Hamilton Spectator. I write movie reviews for Excelsior sometimes.”
“Wow, that’s exciting.”
“Not really. It’s pretty much impossible to get paid work as a movie critic because everyone is happy to do it for free. Plus the editors take out all my best lines, and put in fifty parentheses per thousand words on average.”
“Yeah. Same with music, really. I mean about getting paid work. Not parentheses. Parentheses—I’d never heard the plural before.”
“Yeah,” she said.
They went back to work.
When the batches ran out at 2 pm, they found themselves walking in the same direction.
“You headed to College Station?” he asked her.
“I was going to get some groceries.”
“I’ll come with you. I need a few things.”
In Metro, the grocery store, Samaya was surprised to feel Tim’s elbow brush against hers. She was further surprised when he made playful conversation about his addiction to Perrier. How long since a guy this handsome had flirted with her? University, she knew, was the answer. She’d put on 32 pounds. She hadn’t been Kate Moss during school, but the distribution of her girth had been fortuitous, and ideal for dark bars, where her large brown eyes and cleavage could entice. They joked a little more, and he added her to Facebook on his phone.
Employees had to call in to the Quattro voicemail each day to see if there was work. Not much was available the next day. The only people in the office were Samaya and Objectivist Derrick. The more she looked at her dingy surroundings, and the more Derrick droned on about the NSA, the less likely it seemed Tim would ever brighten her life with his presence again. A lot of transients like Tim came through, happy for a single day’s pay.
At lunch, she opened a message from Tim on Facebook.
“Cool meeting you yesterday. Want to grab beers sometime?”
“Sure, how about this weekend,” she typed back, and then worried she’d answered too quickly.
He didn’t respond until the next day. “Friday at 11?”
Samaya’s energy level was not conducive to evenings that started at 11 pm. She would have preferred to meet at 6 pm. She could always take a nap after work, she figured. It’s not like tight-ponytailed Zigglers were knocking down her door.
At 9 pm, he messaged her, “Hey, my friend’s having a party tonight. Want to meet there instead? It’s at Bathhurst and Lakeshore.”
Not only was the location difficult to reach by transit, but Samaya hated the idea of meeting a bunch of new, presumably cool and beautiful people. What would she say to them, “So, how do you know Tim?” She barely knew him herself.
“No, it’s okay. You go. We can hang out some other time.”
“No, man,” he wrote back, “I mean after we get drinks at the bar.”
It hadn’t seemed like he’d meant that, but she was glad he still wanted to meet.
It was a fine spring night. Toronto actually smelled like southern Ontario was supposed to smell. Samaya felt an enthusiasm she hadn’t felt since her early 20s. They’d decided to meet at the Village Idiot Pub, which she’d frequented in those heady times. The dates with the three best-looking men she’d ever dated had all occurred at the Village Idiot Pub. She’d sat by the window laughing and knowing that the waitresses and other female patrons were jealous. She didn’t like to think about the gap between her current life and her college days, but on this night it was okay. The date with Tim guarded her against the potential encroachment of nostalgic ache.
Tim was ten minutes late, and apologized. She’d already finished half a pint. They ordered nachos and garlic bread, which struck Samaya as an abundance of carbs, but what the heck?
Their conversation got off to a decent start. They discussed Seinfeld, and how depressing Seinfeld himself seemed now, i.e. the dark sense of futility that seeped from him. They joked about an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee they’d both seen in which Howard Stern called him out on this. Tim mentioned a YouTube video where Seinfeld extolled the virtues of transcendtal meditation at an assembly of the David Lynch Foundation. Samaya wasn’t sure what transcendental meditation was, but nodded-along with vigour.
They shared the common ground of being conspiracy buffs. Tim thought it likely that the Batman shooting was a false flag CIA MKUltra mind-control deal, and slightly less-likely that the Sandy Hook shooting was a false flag. Both took caution to clarify that they weren’t “true believers” and weren’t “out on the streets wearing placards” and treated conspiracies, in Samaya’s words, like she “treated professional wrestling.”
It struck Samaya as sad. Because some conspiracies seemed probable, and if true, were indicative of a grand and significant evil. If they could only joke of that evil, and were afraid of placards, well, it didn’t bode well for the whole human experiment.
She ordered a second beer. He still had half of his remaining, and told the waitress he’d be fine.
“You’re going to think I’m crazy,” he said, “But you know what show I can’t stop watching?”
“Eww,” she said.
“I know. I know. I used to think those Teen Mom shows were so tacky, and when I heard of this one I was like, ‘Good God! How low is television going to sink?’ But I watched it once and now I can’t stop. I mean it’s really riveting. Really well-produced. You’d be surprised.”
“Hmm,” she said. “I don’t watch much contemporary TV. Tennis sometimes, and wrestling, that’s about it.”
“Oh wow,” he said, “I’m totally sending you a link to Teen Abortion. It will change you.”
“I see,” she said.
“You should review it for Excelsior. I bet you could say some really interesting things about it.”
“It doesn’t work like that there, I don’t pitch the reviews. They send out a list and we pick what we do.”
After a brief silence, Samaya resumed the conspiracy chat. A reference to the evils of big pharma combined with her second beer led Samaya to overshare about an anti-anxiety medicine she was once prescribed that counterproductively led to a series of hospitalizing anxiety-attacks. Tim responded blankly to this. When the bill came, he left for a bank machine. He came back and said the bank machine was broken.
“I have this,” he said, and handed her $8. The bill was $52. “I’ll have to get you back next time.”
“Okay,” she said.
“Did you want to go to this party?” he asked.
“Not really. I can walk with you to the subway though,” she said, envisioning a potential goodbye kiss or at least some hearty embrace.
“It’s okay. I have my bike,” he said.
She restricted the urge to furrow her brow. It furrowed about halfway before she stopped it. If he had his bike, how would she have accompanied him to the party?
“Bye,” he said, giving her a half-hug.
“Yeah,” she said.
She walked home slightly depressed, believing it unlikely she’d see him again. Still, the night was moist and cool, and she’d been out on a date with an attractive and interesting guy. You can’t win them all, but maybe this was the first step towards getting her game back.
On her way back to the apartment she shared with her mother, she passed through the Ryerson University quad. The smell of cedar from the daycare’s playground hit her in a complex way. Though this swell of emotion wasn’t strictly positive, she didn’t want it to end because at least she was feeling something. She stopped in Allan Gardens, which it wasn’t particularly advisable for a young woman to do past a certain hour. It too smelled lovely. Two punks in matching black accoutrements passed. A big fluffy dog ran by, owner nowhere in sight. A minute later, an old man trudged around a corner and called the dog.
The world is full of sadness and beauty, she thought, and sometimes the sadness and the beauty are the same thing. Then she castigated herself for being drunk and mawkish on only two beers, when in college she could put back ten. A wobbly man stopped in front of her bench, bent over with the intention of vomiting, failed to vomit, and moved on.
A few days passed and Samaya did not hear from Tim. Against her better judgment, she sent him an email. Her choice of salutation was written in such a rush of girlish hormonal fever that she could hardly believe it was her who sent it.
To Tim Ingersson
Monday, September 28
Hey, had a great time the other night. You planning to work at Quattro again anytime soon? There are a couple big batches coming in, so lots of work. See you soon!
From Alex Williams
To Tim Ingersson
Thursday, October 2
Hey Tim, wow, reviews just aren’t happening for T.A. I mean, dismal. I mean, not one. Unless you can get something out there in the next week or two we’re going to have to cut you from the freelance budget. You did a good job getting Drunken Sluts some play, but as you know, it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. And you have done not much for our abortive teen friends, who have had a tough go and need every break they can get hahahahahha. Sell the emotion of the story, Tim. If that doesn’t work. Sell the sensationalism. Fuck, sell how shitty it is. We’d be thrilled with a few bad reviews at this point to entice the cynical ironist market. Seriously. ;)
PS: That press release you wrote was pretty weird. Try to keep it simple next time.
PS: Let’s grab beers sometime.
From Tim Ingersson
Friday, October 3
Ya, good times. Not sure when I’ll be back at Quattro if ever. Man, I am so obsessed with this Teen Abortion show. I know! I’m crazy! You should definitely do a review. The episodes are all online or I actually know one of the producers and can have it sent it to you on DVD. Address? I think you can probably use the review as a jumping off point to say something important about the decline of society or something. Listen to me go on…haha…lel…you’re the writer!
Attachment: Teen Abortion Press Release
For Immediate Release
From the producers who brought you Drunken Sluts, Rekt, and The Dudes of Grand Bend, comes a heart-wrenching yet hilarious new reality show that looks at young women facing the toughest decision of their lives. This emotion-fuelled, 12-episode series goes right inside the Orangeville homes of teen girls who’ve become impregnated and now face the crucial decision: “Abort or Have the Baby!” At the end of each episode the prospective mother makes the big reveal in front of friends and family, which sometimes leads to tears of joy, and other times leads to tears that come from a place of bitter rebuke.
Meet some of the girls:
Allie: As tender on the inside as she is tough on the outside, she faces the ultimate decision after her boyfriend is sentenced to eight years in prison for fracturing his brother’s skull with a cinder block. Allie’s mother, an alcoholic and crystal meth addict, who lost several babies via both conscious abortion and drug-related miscarriage, vows to help raise the child to make up for her past mistakes. But can Allie trust her mother to get sober? Or will the meth-mad mom go on a reckless binge and seal both the fate of Allie and concomitantly seal the fate of Allie’s fetus?
Dalia: After being impregnated at a party, 14-year-old Dalia comes to believe she may be a bisexual. Complications ensue as to whether she should abort the baby, have the baby and raise it with her new girlfriend, or have the baby and raise it with the dude from the party.
Ocean: A reporter for the local TV station with an IQ of 73 faces pressure from her academician parents as to whether or not Ocean is mentally-sound to raise the baby. Although in their early 40s, the parents don’t want to raise the baby for her because of their own self-centred pursuits and time-consuming real estate concerns around the Orangeville area.
Mike Sauve has written non-fiction for The National Post, Variety, and HTML Giant. His online fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Monkeybicycle, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and university journals of moderate renown. Stories have appeared in print in M-Brane, Feathertale, Filling Station, and elsewhere. He lives in Toronto, Canada.