Sol Schmeckendorf dabbed at his work shirt with a wet napkin. The grease from the chicken and broccoli was going to leave a stain. The only solution was to ask for seltzer and even though it was his absolute favorite shirt—he just didn’t feel like it.
It’s not easy to consistently find new ways to fail.
Sol always seemed to manage to even surprise himself. It’s not easy not to know how to do stuff that everybody else seems to know how to do- but that was Sol all over. Schmeckendorf had been skating through life for close to five decades and he still hadn’t found a way to escape one step forward, two steps back. He was a classic underachiever who was not surprised when his fortune cookie told him the only thing to fear …is fear itself.
Sol was always afraid to read his fortune cookie.
He would call his misanthropic pal, Manfred Gogol, a frustrated cartoonist, almost daily, and they would rant at each other about life’s injustices.
“Dylan is still way overrated…and don’t kid yourself the Yankees are too old and don’t have enough pitching…yeah, I saw Godzilla- I snuck out of work and caught the last 45 minutes of the 3pm screening near me---booooring—liked Pacific Rim better…you bet Rory Mc’Illroy was tired of banging that cute Danish tennis girl—he has a chippie in every town…why in the world would he want to get married now…he’s young…Of course, De Blasio is looking like the worst mayor since Dinkins-- just like W was the worst president ever…saw tubby Wynonna Judd on TV this morning singing a song about soldiers in Afghanistan- just awful…”
The two old friends would rail at each other and laugh at the sheer madness of it all- stupid stuff to fill the space to ignore the real horrors that floated around the edges and through the arteries of everyday existence.
Life was not easy—it required a skin like an alligator and teeth like a piranha—just to cut through all the BS.
On the bus to work that morning there was a weird schmuck ripping his newspaper into strips. Sol didn’t really know why it annoyed him so much. It just did. Lots of stuff set Schmeckendorf off daily—silly shit, like people walking by him smoking cigarettes, loud talkers, slow walkers, fools who wore brown shoes, people who popped balloons and politicians, lawyers –they really disgusted him. Sol wondered if he was alone with his litany of pet peeves. He wondered if other people knew as little about U.S. geography and algebra as he did. He wondered how it was possible he had survived for so long without the ability to fix anything or if he would ever eventually be disowned by the scores of acquaintances he had “friended” on Linked-in and Facebook.
Sol wondered if when he died, if his total lack of tangible contributions to society and to humankind would be forgiven or simply ignored by the few people who actually really knew him. He wondered why he did what he did for a living (telemarketing/sales) and how many people he had actually ever really helped with the various dubious business services he was selling that he never fully understood or cared to understand.
He was deeply ensconced within his rut of a life and dead-end career. He was burnt out and not a bad guy, really—even though his ex-wife hated him and his family thought he was a total loser. Sol had few hobbies and even fewer friends. He didn’t read much or watch the news.
He kept to himself and didn’t like people, really. At least, not so much, anymore.
He thought organized religion was a scam and he was suspicious of most successful people.
He appreciated that New York City was an organized place to live in and he loved how easy NYC made it for him to survive and fit in without being noticed.
Sol could walk the streets anonymous to millions of strangers. He could look in their eyes and study their faces. Imagine having sex with the hundreds and hundreds of beautiful women he would see.
He was a living ghost.
He bit the dead skin off his finger and continued to type on his computer.
Something had just passed by his cubicle.
Sol had never seen her on his floor before. She was petite with short brown hair and a pretty face and big blue eyes. She was in the kitchen area making coffee. Sol didn’t know why but suddenly he wanted a cup of coffee too. More than he had ever wanted anything in his life.
“I’m Sol, I work in sales—I’ve never seen you around here before….are you the new exterminator?”
The woman blushed slightly and giggled, “Yes, that’s right...I heard there were some giant cockroaches in the sales department—wearing tweed jackets—I see I’ve come to the right place.”
“It’s actually Burberry, but that’s not important right now, Fred…your name is probably Fred isn’t it?”
As her eyes widened and mouth slowly curled into the cutest smile Sol had ever seen, the cruel and meaningless world that Sol had previously known for what seemed like forever suddenly ceased to exist completely.
The submissions also came with the artwork below, not particularly connected.