Heckler (part one)
One of the people I know told me about these guys. Like if you wanted a loser property you owned out of the way, it’s ashes, no one finds a trace wrong…cause they use some military kind of laser. You get a little free money from the insurance. Free money is what it’s all about.
All my life it’s been, you know what your problem is? You just don’t want to work, that’s your problem.
So one day I thought…well, yeah, I don’t.
But who’s got a problem? Nobody’s business, if I can make the rent doing Delaney’s stuff, whenever. I work a certain amount. My point is, now I have to worry technology’ll kill the goose.
Like most of my paychecks are for being a body in a room…not bad, but those jobs got nothing to do with union scale. Anyhow, my point. There’s face recognition nowdays, you can search out a picture that matches another picture… So when I do crowd, being at a show or a rally, who’s to say I don’t get snitched? An actor! That’s what you call irony. I get no benefit from people thinking I’m an actor.
This is where I’m at before Delaney sets me up with Chez…not pronounced French. Stupid name? You’d think…but maybe his mother gave it to him. A comedian…I don’t mean her, not so far as I know… Chez, the one-name psychopath. I say that with real, firsthand knowledge.
“Chez’ll stand you lunch,” Delaney said. “And he’ll explain.”
So I’m walking off with the address… “Hey! You slow in the head? Take the book!”
The book was what I got called in for. I had to ask the guy for an autograph, put it across for anyone in line (unlikely) I knew who he was, thrilled to meet him… Downtown at the arena, some fan con. But Delaney gives service, so also I was supposed to carry the book around, make like I was absorbed, but showing the cover, anyplace I happened to be.
I checked my phone twice, was about to scan the block, saw some runty punk bobbing up and down. He was looking, how Delaney must have told him to recognize me, for the book…that was in my armpit.
“Take it,” I said.
“What’s this ATM?”
“Place people get money.”
I rolled my eyes. It turned out we were not eating at a restaurant. The ATM was the meeting place, the hotdog cart in front of it, lunch. I ordered chili and cheese, large fries, stuck him for what I could. Cheap’s okay, though, when it’s gratis for me.
We walked eating to his place, and he told me he had a week, four nights, booked at Two Left Feet. Some club I never saw before. Monday-Thursday, five-minute sets. He talked while we were going up the stairs. For the special he’d be getting one day, he had worked out these themes—”why pieces”, he called them.
Why I don’t vote.
Why I’m not marrying my girlfriend.
Why I don’t go to the beach.
Why I dropped out of college.
Why I don’t cook.
“Why,” I asked him, “are you hiring someone to…”
He wrenched my arm…and it was the second time he’d done it. First, when I’d started for the elevator. “What, out of order?”
“Waste of time. So I’m telling you about my technique. I gotta get these things organized…”
This second arm-twist was so I wouldn’t talk in front of his friends. I said, “Buenas!”; they gave me a don’t-care-about-you wave and talked to each other. Chez and me went into the one bedroom. He shut the door. “It’s my place, but I keep in here. They get the living room and kitchen.”
I started to have a little respect for him. Over the chairs, on the humped bedsheets, were these fancy stage clothes, ensembled, leather jackets, cargo joggers, tapered tee shirts, snakeskin Chelseas…
A bunch of sunglasses. “Isn’t it dark in the clubs?”
“I wear those coming and going.”
Isn’t it dark at night? I could have said, but he was on to some other thing. “It’s not just heckling. I’ve got everything charted out.”
His computer desk was in the closet, why he didn’t have room for hanging things up. He dug around, backed out with a notebook, flipped it to what he had down and closed it instead of tearing out the page, like we were spies trading codes.
Yeah, I respect spending money on your career. Where’re you gonna get in life, spending it on rent and food? I told him, “You think I just memorized that, or what?”
“It’s the shoving we have to practice. That’s why I brought you here.”
(2021, Stephanie Foster)