A Man of Questionable Utility by Joe Blevins

By Joe Blevins

Editor's note: according to the author, this story is meant to be read aloud. -CL

My day: Thursday, March 15, 2007

6 a.m.
Wake up to the sound of a malfunctioning car alarm... or is that my head ringing? Can't tell anymore. What's the difference? I decide to survey the room, then immediately regret that decision. Good god, what did I do last night? The credenza's overturned. The knick-knacks have been paddy-whacked. There are underpants scattered everywhere, not all of them mine. I notice large purplish-yellow bruises on both forearms. How the hell'd they get there? One of the dogs might be dead. Dunno. Anyway, he's not moving. Note to self: have cleaning lady check to see if dog's dead. P.S. Where am I?

7:45 a.m.
Jose Curevo and burnt toast: breakfast of champ-ee-owns. Still not one-hundred percent on my location. I "shower" with the spray nozzle on the kitchen sink, lathering myself with Dawn dishwashing liquid. The ads don't lie: after toweling off, I no longer feel greasy. Not quite as greasy, anyway. On with the day!

8 a.m.
I get on the first vehicle which looks like it might be public transportation. This turns out to be a school bus. The driver raises a big stink, particularly over the fact that I'm not wearing pants. Well, excuuuuuuuse me, Your Majesty! I tell her we're all God's creatures and to stop being such a bitch. This doesn't go over any too well. She kicks me out, but not before I bum a Fruit Roll-Up off a 10-year-old, who sees my beard and mistakes me for Jesus. I guess I'm smarter than at least one fifth-grader, huh?

8:20 a.m.
Luckily, I get kicked out right in front of our building. Talk about your fickle finger of fate. Onward, Ye Captains of Industry! Forward, Ye Princes of Commerce! Note to self: what's my job again? I'll make a point to ask someone without making it too obvious. Like I'll pretend that some underling has pissed me off and then I'll say, "Do you have any idea who you're dealing with?" And when he says yes, I'll come back with, "Oh really? Then just who do you think I am?" I'll make a big challenge out of it. Then he'll get all nervous like he's on a quiz show and hopefully stammer out the correct answer. "W-why, y-you're the E-executive V-v-ice Director of P-p-p-promotional Administration." Or something to that effect, one of those job names with lots of words in it. Then I'll say something cryptic and vaguely threatening like, "Well, you just try to remember that for the future," and walk away all cool and dignified. See, it's ideas like that which have allowed me to rise up to whatever job I've risen up to.

8:25 a.m.
My girl, Trixie, brings me a pantsload of shit to sign. Some skirt's divorcing me in Mexico, I'm being sued by the Kiwanis, and the city wants to know when I plan on removing my car from the Mayor's swimming pool. I affix my John Hancock to anything and everything she puts in front of me. Jeezy looweezy, do I need a smoke. The pounding in my head now takes on the tempo and volume of a John Bonham drum solo. (Ah, Bonzo, you were too pure for this world.) The phone rings. I answer. No one's there. Spooky. Side note: is it "baloney" or "bologna"? I know there's an answer. But where to find it?

10 a.m.
I'm sure I heard the phone ring this time. I pick it up - again no answer! Just to make sure this doesn't happen again, I take the phone out behind the building, shoot it, and bury it in a shallow grave.

11:50 a.m.
Where the hell is my phone? I can't find it anywhere! I suspect treason.

12 p.m.
Time to start working. I turn on the computer. It hums. I'm afraid. "Trixie, get in here!" I yell. Trixie, she's none too swift but I keep her on the payroll because she once saved my life in a Cambodian whorehouse. But that's a whole other story. Anyway, Trixie manages to talk me down, but neither of us can remember my password. Just to make sure this doesn't happen again, I take the computer out behind the building, shoot it, and bury it in a shallow grave. Why does this feel so familiar, so oddly natural?

12:30 p.m.
Good thing I had an extra pair of pants in my desk, because some dipshit client, Mr. Somebody of Amalgamated Something or Other, is visiting from out of town... and guess whose job it is to entertain him. I take him to the Alley Cat, correctly figuring that, like most middle-aged married men, this guy is only a few plastic tits and a highball away from signing over his life savings to me. My plan works like a charm. Do I know people or do I know people? Afterwards, back in the office, we strip to the waist and arm wrestle. I let him win, of course. But he starts acting the swellhead, and I end up stabbing him in the neck with a fork. Well, this really starts him blubbering. Ah-OOOO-ga! Just to make sure this doesn't happen again, I take the client out behind the building, shoot him, and bury him in a shallow grave. I feel something should be done to mark the occasion, so I sing a song, the only one I know: "All Out of Love" by Air Supply. Hell of a band, Air Supply. Wonder if they're available for the next corporate retreat. Note to self: start stalking Air Supply.

3 p.m.
Seems like everyone is looking at me hungrily, like bums eyeballing a steak dinner. I don't cotton to mutiny, so I pick some jerk at random, point at him, and say, "YOU! You're fired! I'm giving you 'til the count of 10 before I cram my foot up your funhole!" After this Oscar-caliber performance, I'm as spent as a nickel in a penny arcade, so I drag my sorry carcass back to my own office, hoping to flop down on the couch and catch a quick 40 winks. I miss the couch by a good three feet end up face down on the floor. Eh, a nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat. Secreast out.

7 p.m.
I wake up crying and wet, having dreamt of nothing but elephants. Always hated elephants, even as a kid. Trixie talks me down again. I ask her to call me a cab. She says, "Okay, you're a cab!" Just to make sure this doesn't happen again, I take Trixie out behind the building, shoot her, and bury her in a shallow grave. I give my .45 a tender kiss before returning it to my hand-tooled leather holster. "Oh, Blue, you're a true friend," I say out loud, "Maybe the only friend I've got." I start to get all weepy about this, but just then my cab arrives.

8 p.m.
Home again, home again, jiggity-jig. Looks like the cleaning lady quit. Again. She wrote "FUCK YOU" in ketchup on the linoleum in the kitchen. The dog's definitely dead. I settle down to my usual supper: a carton of Pall Malls and two Alka-Seltzer. Breakfast of champ-ee-owns.

9 p.m.
That sitcom about the gay robot dog is on again. This triggers some deep, Jungian response in me and I bawl uncontrollably. Hope no one can see me. Note to self: cover all windows with aluminum foil. And it's definitely "baloney." I'm as sure of this as I've ever been sure of anything.

11:35 p.m.
I find myself deeply immersed in an infomercial for a juicer. I find myself calling the 800 number, but when the operator answers, I shout, "SIT ON IT, POTSIE!" and hang up. How come no one's around when I do hilarious stuff like this?

12:30 a.m.
Sleepytime. The unpleasant memories of the day start to recede into the past as I plunge once more into that great, grey inevitable. Look out, Jumbo, I brought my elephant gun this time!


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Oh, this is very good; much better than the story I've been unsuccessfully trying to finish these past several timespans. My jealously is leavened with admiration, though, so no shallow grave for you. Not one dug by me, anyway.

My pleasure in reading this began almost immediately; with the lyrical line: "The knick-knacks have been paddy-whacked." This was great by itself, but then you followed it with a sentence that included the word "underpants." Smooth move, that.

The "Your majesty" bit I dug -- it's also one my favourite things to say or to wish I had said; the smarter than a fifth grader bit was good, too, and made me feel some satisfaction in recognising it, having only learned about the show in the last few weeks.

Trixie, being sued by Kiwanis, a discouraging phrase writ in catsup... You have hit so many of my hot buttons this afternoon that if I did whack you out of jealousy, I would totally take out a loan and drop your body into a regulation grave marked by a lavish and showy obelisk no less than sixty feet high.

I wonder if the gay robot dog was a snarky reference to the possibility of the character of "K-9" returning in a "Doctor Who" spin-off..? Regardless, I would watch such a show. I doubt it would affect me like it would you, so if it becomes all real and stuff, we could maybe watch it together and I could tell you about all the bits you bawled through.

As it sounds like you have plenty of catsup in your home, we could both emerge from the experience as winners or champions or whatever.

As Wizard Mifflin would say: "Goode stuffe."


Thanks for the kind comments, Alex. This story was the easiest and most fun to write of anything I've done for Unloosen. It could have easily gone on for pages and pages. It's based on an article I read very recently in which a corporate big-shot was giving an account of his typical day. The article included virtually nothing business-y and instead was filled with mundane details of what the guy ate for lunch and watched on TV. He seemed to do very little actual "work" on a typical workday. After reading the article, my first thought was, "This is a man of questionable utility." I knew I had the title and premise for a story and got to work writing as quickly as possible. The events I describe, of course, are totally absurd, but the rambling tone -- all those "note to self" asides -- is taken from the original article.

I could imagine this story plunked into the middle of an episode of Kids in the Hall. Bruce McCulloch would make a great Trixie.

What is it about businessmen in general that makes them such an easy target for comedy? My theory is that stereotypically, businessmen seek a certain standard of what is considered "normal" and in approaching this standard with vicious zeal they become "proactively-normal" or "hyper-normal." This is, of course, a paradigm and they must leverage their intense ambition and drive in order to avoid crossing the cubicled realm's event horizon: the line between "normal" and "weird."

That and they always wear suits.

Anyway, great story. It fits well within the Joe Blevins canon.

*In case you're worried, proactive, paradigm, and leverage were employed with the most intense irony imaginable.

Good stuff. I can see this guy always sweating, drinking shots in mid-sentence while going on and on with nonsensical rants. If he were to say, "Hey! I have an idea!", I'd really want to hear it.


Just noticed the date. The Ides of March. Any reason?


The Ides of March thing was just to give the sense of an upcoming violent power struggle. This guy is so paranoid he treats *every* day like a potential Ides, i.e. goes to work packing a gun which he uses frequently. He's an incredibly unreliable narrator (a coprorate Colonel Kurtz), so who knows if his dates and times are even accurate?

I don't know where to begin with this, so I think I'll just begin with "I don't know where to begin with this." I also don't know how to continue, so I'll continue with "I also don't know how to continue." To draw any sort of conclusion would be a folly beyond compare.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Blevins published on June 21, 2007 11:36 AM.

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