Man: Hello. I’m Peter. You are a lovely lady.
The lovely lady seated across from Peter: Well, thank you, Peter. I’m Georgia.
Peter: You are too pretty to be a state.
A courtesy smile.
Peter: You have perfect teeth.
Georgia: I brush between meals.
Peter: Good concept.
Georgia: You should try it.
Peter: I believe I will.
Georgia: Tell me, Peter, why are you here?
Peter (after a brief moment of reflection): I believe religion to be an archaic concept that caters to the insecurities of fragile, ignorant people. And you?
Georgia: Goodbye Peter.
Peter: Goodbye Georgia.
Peter: Hello. I’m Peter.
The new lady seated across from Peter: Sam.
Peter: You are too pretty to have a man’s name.
Sam: You’re named after a penis.
Peter: Hello. I’m Peter.
The newest lady seated across from Peter: Hello, Peter. I’m Crystal.
Peter: You are too pretty to be named after a water glass.
Crystal: Have you always been a Christian?
Peter: Why on earth would you ask me that?
Crystal: Uh, because, this is a Christian dating seminar?
Peter: Really? I thought this was an Atheist dating seminar. I must have come in the wrong door.
Crystal: That’s not even funny.
Peter: Not meant to be. I’ve always thought religion to be such folly. I mean, people actually believing that Jesus motored off to Heaven and is expected back here any day now. I mean, in all seriousness, do you really see God as anything more than a mythical creature?
Crystal: You’re sick.
Peter: And don’t get me started on that book of fiction you all read.
Crystal: Go away, creep.
Peter: May your God bless you.
When Security arrives, Peter offers no resistance.
He finds the nearest bar and orders a Cosmopolitan.
Peter: Barkeep, is there nothing better on the tube?
Barkeep: Call me barkeep again and I’ll rip your face off.
Peter: I’m so sorry to have offended you, my good man. Would you prefer the term Bartender?
Barkeep: I’d prefer you take your sissy drink and shoving it where the sun don’t shine.
Peter: My, you are the roughneck. Tell me, were you ever spanked as a child?
Peter Dowd has had numerous black eyes throughout his life as a blathering idiot, but this was the first time he recalls looking in the mirror and sporting twins.
Peter (to himself): I must remember to not frequent that establishment again. That barkeep throws rights and lefts. Good God Almighty, what a tough little monkey.
Peter works at Beaumont’s Hardware. He hates his job, as well as his manager, Bob.
Peter: Bob, what should I do with all these rakes?
Bob: What the hell happened to your face?
Peter: I asked you first.
Bob: And I’m asking you, what the hell happened to your face?
Peter: It had something to do with being spanked.
Bob: Well, you can’t be helping customers looking like that. Go on home and don’t come back until you look like a human being.
Peter: I’m not so sure you have the authority to make such a decision.
Bob: Oh yeah, smart guy? How ‘bout I give you a permanent leave of absence?
Peter: You’re a buffoon. You wouldn’t dare.
Peter has never been in an Employment Office before and is struck by the diversity of those in attendance. He waits for his name to be called, skimming over the latest issue of The Job Market. After a brief two and a half hour wait, Peter’s number is called.
Employment Office Worker: I see here you were recently let go from your previous line of employment.
Peter: Can we fight the bastards?
EOW: I’m sorry?
Peter: Do I have a leg to stand on? Do I have any recourse?
EOW: Mr. Dowd. We are not mediators. Nor do we interfere with employer-employee issues. We are here to help you find new employment. To see what fields may be best suited to your talents. To see what special skills you possess.
Peter (sighs): I’ve never felt so low.
EOW: Look around Mr. Dowd. You’re not alone.
Landlady: Peter, I’m still waiting for the rent.
Peter: It appears as though I’ve found myself in a sinking boat.
Landlady: Peter, I need the rent by tomorrow.
Peter: That will be impossible.
Landlady: Make it happen.
Peter: I’ve lost my job.
Landlady: Not my problem. I need a check no later than tomorrow.
Peter: I can write you a check this very moment, but I assure you, it will bounce like a baby on a trampoline.
Landlady: There’s a fifty-dollar charge for bad checks, Peter. A fact, I’m sure, you know all-too-well by now.
Peter: Indeed I do.
Landlady: What happened to your face?
Peter: Life. I’m afraid life happened to my face.
Landlady: Peter, it’s time for you to shape up or ship out.
Peter: I’ve already told you my boat is sinking.
Landlady: Tomorrow, Peter. Rent is due tomorrow. Understood?
Landlady: Goodnight Peter.
Peter: Goodnight Mother.
Peter begins the arduous task of setting up interviews for potential employment.
1st Interviewer: Well, Mr. Dowd, what special qualities do you feel you can bring to this position?
Peter: I’m punctual. I’m honest. I don’t have a criminal record.
1st Interviewer: Those are fine qualities, Mr. Dowd. But we have many other applicants who possess those very same traits. What we are looking for is someone who stands out from the crowd. Someone who is a leader and not a follower. Someone who shows them self to be a go-getter. Someone who isn’t afraid to take the bull by the horns. Someone who encompasses the right mix of experience and personality, as well as a drive towards excellence. Do you see yourself fitting these descriptions, Mr. Dowd?
Peter: For eight-dollars an hour?
1st Interviewer: Mr. Dowd, I can assure you that there are dozens of well-qualified candidates who would take this position in a heartbeat.
Peter: Is it true that you are not even able to ask customers if they want their meal supersized anymore?
1st Interviewer (standing and extending her hand): Well then, best of luck to you, Mr. Dowd.
Peter: And to you, Madam.
2nd Interviewer: From all you’ve said, Mr. Dowd, I am highly suspicious that you have ever even been on a fishing boat before.
9th Interviewer: We have kiosks set up in major malls throughout the country. We stock well over one hundred colognes for men and each one smells as genuine as the real McCoy.
Peter: It all sounds enticing. I guess my one concern is when does one ever get a bathroom break? My bladder has seen better days, if you know what I mean.
9th Interviewer (standing and extending his hand): Alright then.
Peter: Well, do I get the position?
9th Interviewer: Not a chance, Mr. Dowd. But thank you for coming in.
24th Interviewer: On the contrary, Mr. Dowd, let me explain to you, once again, that there is a huge difference between our company and the AMC movie theater chain. We are ANC, Mr. Dowd. The American Nature Channel. Can I make myself any clearer?
Peter: I suppose not.
24th Interviewer: Well then, this concludes our interview.
Peter: You both make movies.
24th Interviewer: Good day, Mr. Dowd.
And so it goes, interview after interview always ending the same.
Peter, to himself, while looking through the fogged bathroom mirror: What is the matter with everyone? Don’t they see my potential, my joie de vivre? Am I really so hard to understand?
Mother: It’s because you are fooling yourself, dear.
Peter, unaware of his mother’s presence: Holy shoot, Mother. What are you doing in here?
Mother: Put some clothes on, Peter. We need to talk.
Talking means Peter listening. Nodding. Agreeing. Pretending the two of them are on the same page.
Mother: Aren’t you sick of your life? Don’t you want to better yourself? You are going to be forty years old this Friday, Peter. Are you just going to just let your life slip away? I won’t have it. I won’t let my son be a nothing. Do you hear me, Peter? I want the best for you.
(Reaching into her handbag)
Here’s some Kleenex, dear. Sobbing does not show strength. You’re a good boy, Peter, but it’s time to get your ducks in a row.
Peter: I understand, Mother. You are right, of course.
Mother: I’m going to be visiting my brother for a few days. Here’s a little something for you, dear (handing him an envelope). I hope you have a pleasant birthday.
With his birthday money in hand, Peter heads to his favorite bistro, two blocks from his apartment. It appears as though he will be celebrating his fortieth year on Planet Earth solo. Peter hoists himself onto a barstool, exchanges pleasantries with Francine, the crossed-eyed bartender, and orders a Cosmopolitan, along with a Croque Madame.
Peter: You know, Francine, today is my birthday.
Francine: Well, happy, happy to you, Peter. How old are ya?
Peter: Forty, I’m afraid.
Francine: It could be worse.
Peter: I don’t see how.
Peter downs his drink in two gulps as a second one is planted in front of him.
Francine: This one’s on me, birthday boy.
Peter: You’re a good girl, Francine.
Francine: It’s been a long time since anyone’s called me a girl, Peter.
Peter: And it’s been even longer since I’ve been called a boy.
Francine: All men are just grown boys, Peter.
Peter: Touché (raising his glass in a toast).
The third and fourth drinks are a perfect accompaniment to his meal, although the last few bites are a bit out of focus. The restaurant was now becoming filled with those who feel the need to talk over one another. The banal conversations and high-pitched laughter surrounding him have caused Peter to feel uneasy. He climbs off his barstool and makes his way through the boisterous crowd and into the men’s room, where he relieves himself while looking at yesterday’s sports page framed above the urinal. Peter forgets to flush but does remember to wash his hands, along with splashing some cool water on his sorrowful face.
Peter (to the man in the mirror): A little more sober would be nice.
He takes a deep breath before making his way back to the bar.
Peter: Excuse me, young lady. I believe you are in my seat.
Young Lady: I beg your pardon?
Peter: Francine, is this not my seat?
Francine: No Peter (pointing), that is your seat.
Peter: (to the young lady) I humbly beg your pardon, my dear.
Peter crawls up onto his bar stool and takes a few deep breaths.
Young Lady: It’s quite alright.
Peter looks over to the young lady.
Peter: Today is my birthday.
Young Lady: Let the celebration begin.
The young lady lifts her wine glass in a toast to Peter’s special day.
Young Lady: That’s a lot of birthdays
Peter: So I’ve been told.
Peter appreciates the banter. He tries to think of something clever to say but is at a loss. Forty birthdays are indeed a lot. For the life of him, Peter cannot remember a single birthday past. Surely this special occasion would elicit a fond memory or two, but not at this moment. Where was he last year on his birthday? Or the year before? How about his twenty-first birthday? He hasn’t a clue.
Young Lady: May I buy you a drink?
Peter: Excusez moi?
Young Lady: May I buy you a birthday drink?
Peter: That would be memorable.
Young Lady: I’m Danielle.
Peter: Peter Dowd, at your service
Danielle: And what do you do, Peter Dowd?
Peter: I’m afraid as little as humanly possible. You could say I am between careers at this time.
Danielle: Well, here’s to doing as little as possible between careers.
They clink glasses and continue to converse.
How Peter and Danielle got back to Peter’s apartment remains a mystery, as many drunken moments are wont to do. Peter vaguely remembers the foreplay; the long, satisfying kisses; the awkward transition from the couch to the bedroom; the clumsiness of it all; the spinning in his head; the haphazard removal of clothes; the thought that he wished he had kept himself in better shape for these rare moments; the neighbor’s TV blaring from the other side of the thin walls; the penis.
In the shower, as an all-too-sober Peter applies the third soaping of Irish Spring to his genitals, he hears the vibrating shutter of the front door slamming.
Peter: Goodbye Danielle…or Daniel…whatever the name.
Then Peter muses: Fantastic kisser.
Once again, Peter finds himself peering through the fogged mirror, naked as a child, and tries to stare into his soul for answers, but the one staring back has no answers. He climbs into bed and turns on the radio. Five minutes later, with eyes closed, Peter is serenaded to sleep by Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.
30th Interviewer: Mr. Dowd, do you not remember my interviewing you a while back?
Peter: Your face does look a bit familiar. How did I do the first go around?
30th Interviewer: Not very well. I believe you were questioning our hourly rate.
Peter: Did my protest do any good?
30th Interviewer: I’m afraid not, Mr. Dowd. The company has managed to survive just fine without you.
Peter: Impressive. How much is the rate you are offering today?
30th Interviewer: For you, Mr. Dowd, nothing.
Peter: Is there any room for negotiation?
30th Interviewer: I’m afraid not. Good day, Mr. Dowd.
30th Interviewer (as Peter stands up to leave): Are you O.K, Mr. Dowd?
Peter: However do you mean?
30th Interviewer: You seem a bit…off.
Peter: I assure you I am as on as on can be. But I do appreciate your benign concern.
47th Interviewer: Where exactly on your resume does it show any previous experience as a lifeguard?
63rd Interviewer: Let me get this straight, Mr. Dowd. You believe our products to be inferior to other products on the marketplace. You would never use any of our products. And you cannot understand why anyone else would. Am I correct?
Peter: To a T, sir. But let me explain.
63rd Interviewer: Not interested, Mr. Dowd. You really should be more prepared when coming in for an interview. Why would we ever consider you for a position?
Peter: Understandable. Please let me explain.
63rd Interviewer: Still not interested.
Peter: But you asked the question.
63rd Interviewer: My mistake. There is absolutely nothing you can say to support your case for employment.
Peter: Perhaps if you offered better products….
89th Interviewer: Welcome aboard, Mr. Dowd. I trust this will be a long and fruitful relationship. You seem to have the needed energy and drive that we always look for in our staff. Now go give ‘em hell.
Peter: Thank you, sir. I appreciate the opportunity and will do my very best to make the company proud.
Although he will make a feeble attempt, Peter Dowd will be fired one week into his new position as a roadside sign spinner. Costumed as a brown and white cow, representing a going-out-of-business mattress company, Peter will be unable to tolerate the comments and honking horns from passing motorists and will not be shy about flashing them his middle hoof.