One of these was for a public-school teaching job, so he called his current love interest Tally Dolcet over to make sure he didn't say the wrong thing or describe his abduction work in the wrong light, i.e., in a way that acknowledged its feloniousness.
|Artist's rendering of Howard Desseray|
Tally had been a substitute bus driver in a former life, so she knew how to paint oneself as the "cream duh lah cream," as she called it.
"This isn't like any of your other jobs, Howard," she said. "Things are a little different in the world of education, the Halls of Academe, as it were, the Pavilion of Pedagogy, if you will, the Hallowed Halls of . . . "
"Goddangit, Tally, I get it! Sorry to yell, but this whole process makes me anxious. What's so different about applying for teaching jobs?"
"First, you need to be aware of politically correct issues."
"I never understood that term," Howard said. "From what I know of politics, there is nothing correct about it, ever, so that makes 'politically correct' a, uh, something moron."
"Oh, yeah. So help me out here, and step on it."
"Being politically correct is, like, articulating your hatred of people unlike yourself, such as calling Cambodians 'orientals,' for example, when that term should be reserved for rugs and shit like that. Plus, just using names, terms, tags, monikers, handles, appellations, sobriquets, epithets, etc., that are now considered offensive to their receivers."
"Nuther words, being a racist. Bringing prejudice (a future word, hence the 'pre'fix) into the present. Imposing or projecting things you previously thought onto the here and now."
"Well, that's not gonna be a problem for me. I admit I once had a flirtation with prejudice and bigotry, and I will tell you that story now, but then we gotta get back to these apps."
"Go ahead on and purge that parable, big guy, regurgitate that retched reminiscence! But in the name of all that is holy, be succinct! I abhor verbosity!"
"Years ago, I had a neighbor, a woman, right across the street, who was from Parturh which I'm using Parturh instead of her actual country of origin in order to protect said country's anonymity."
"Reign in your sin tax!"*
"Sorry. There was something creepy about her from the get go. For one thing, she never said a word, didn't seem to know anything about our amenities or rituals, nuther words when she moved in, she didn't bring us a casserole as a way of introducing herself and letting us know that should anything happen, like a hurricane, for example, she'd be there for us."
"Howard, if she never said a word, how did you know she was Parturhian?"
"Because one afternoon after The Steve Harvey Show --"
"God, that man makes me hot. Those teeth!"
"As I was saying, after The Steve Harvey Show, I got a little bored so I looked her up on the Internet, like, you know, to see if it was up to date about who was living over there. Not much there really, but it did say she was from Parturh and that she was an economics professor who gained instant fame in the academic world upon publishing a monograph in which she argued that John Maynard Keynes's intense sibling rivalry with his brother Geoffrey, a surgeon and Blake scholar, a rivalry precipitated by their father's decision to grant the latter a generous weekly allowance while withholding any such gift from the former, was directly responsible for a shift in Great Britain's economy for decades.
"Plus I found out her name was Srezno, she's a registered Democrat, she's 5'4'' and tips the scales at 122 pounds, and gets the majority of her income by making gutsy wagers in local Old Maid and Go Fish tournaments.
"Then one night I look out the window and damn if she's not peeping out her window at me. Just like a Parturhian to be a voyeuristic peeping Tom! Parturhians are notorious for getting their rocks off via snooping, at least that's what my dad told me.
|Not actually Howard|
"So I walk to my fridge for a swig of buttermilk, then back to the window to see if she's still staring. Yes, there she was, her face, partially hidden by the curtain, vanishing as soon as she saw mine. That was the last straw. I decided to pay her a little visit and teach her that in this country we don't spy on our neighbors or 'git all up in their bidness,' as they say on the streets.
"In the interest of time, let me cut to the climax: I used a Phillips-head screwdriver and a soldering iron to break in through her back door, then tip-toed into the living room, and there she was! Lying on the floor bleeding profusely from a blow to the head! At the window was a man wearing delicate female hosiery over his head, holding an aluminum baseball bat in his hand, and he's staring out the window toward our house!"
"I've never been so relieved! I could hardly contain my glee as I virtually floated back out of Srezno's house, then sprinted back to mine. My anagnorisis had arrived! It wasn't Srezno! Parturhians aren't voyeurs! It was just a burglar or some other violent felon staring out the window. I had learned my lesson! Prejudice is wrong because it is almost always ill-founded! And I've not sullied myself with that sin once since that revelatory evening!
"As soon I got back home, I jumped into the arms of my wife at the time and shared the good news and we both vowed to get to know Srezno better should she survive and to always base our opinions on empirical data and not on gossip and the ironically termed received wisdom."
"Wait. Your what at the time? You've been married?"
Upon this loving couple settled a palpable silence like a comforter, or, better yet, a blanket of gloom, broken eventually by an anxiety-prompted gurgle emanating from Howard's abdominal cavity.
The applications for the teaching position lay on the floor like so many fallen sycamore leaves.
*Readers of previous chapters will know that Tally has a speech impediment known as phoneticalism in which she occasionally pronounces words the way they sound but not always adhering to conventional spelling.
For readers who allow their emotions to be jangled by the fate of peripheral characters, we offer the following: Srezno did survive her attack, her recovery hastened by daily visits from her attacker himself, one Fred Pepitone, forgiven by Srezno on a daytime talk show, eventually becoming her lover and plumber. The two have been happily married for the past two years, Srezno's alloy skull segment always reminding her of approaching low-pressure systems.