Saturday, November 24, 2012

A JOE VAMPIRE Bonus Post: The Fax of Life

JOEVEMBER was a big ol' smash-up, folks. The days flew, the weather got cooler and we had a boatload of fun. And now, JOECEMBER is upon us. Sure, it's not as catchy as JOEVEMBER. 

Sometimes, you just run with what you've got in your hand. 

Even if it happens to be scissors.

Anyway. Progress is being made on JOE VAMPIRE:THE AFTERLIFE. Making the final adjustments to the manuscript before it's ready for formatting for electronic and paper. The background image for the cover will be photographed in a week or so, and then it's off to the awesome cover artist Patty Wallace (MonkeyPAWCreative.com...check her bad self out, yo) to be turned into magic. Can't say for sure, but rumor has it there'll be a cover reveal on this very blog.

Soon.

So, so soon.

In advance of that, I thought it might be fun to share a little extra something that I wrote for the blog of a great friend, Cara Michaels. Cara runs a feature called Character Matters, in which an author takes one of their characters and speaks directly to the audience, almost like a interview, to give a little more insight into their make-up (psychological make-up, not KISS or Honey Boo Boo's mom's make-up). She was gracious enough to allow me a chance to do it a few months back. Considering that Joe's blog and story are pretty much face-forward as it is, I thought it would be fun to explore a pivotal moment in his history that hadn't been touched on in the book. I liked the results so much that I'm trying to figure a way to work it into JOE VAMPIRE 3, which is currently in the note-taking phase. But way before that, I wanna share it with the JoeFolk. Kind of a "thank you" for helping my dude vampire do so well throughout JOEVEMBER.

You guys rock like no one else can, and I appreciate it very much.

So here it is, in all its glory. The story of how Joe and Chloe met.

I call it The Fax of Life.

Enjoy. 

*****


Funny how many significant things in life you can take for granted throughout the day without stopping to appreciate how they came to be. I guess that’s mostly a good thing. Sixteen waking hours of “Remember that one time when I accidentally dropped my Snickers in my cocktail glass and totally invented the Candy Bargarita?” and the like would probably get old really quickly.

I know it just did for me, and that only took twelve seconds to type.

Plus: Candy Bargarita tasted like shit, so I’d hardly want to reminisce about it.

It’s probably best to leave the Big Life Appreciation moments to a quiet few, if only to keep from irritating the cynical souls around you. The last thing those people need is more reason to pop everyone’s balloon.

Dicks. 

There are, however, certain defining episodes in life that require exaltation, if not on an everyday basis then at least on a recurring schedule. For me, becoming a vampire is there for sure - not that I’d genuinely love to celebrate that fucker, but it has led to some high-end consequences that wouldn’t have come about had I stayed ass-planted in my house waiting for new episodes of Quantum Leap to come streaming magically through my router.

Shit like that only happens in fairy tales.

But before that moment (which defined every moment afterward) there were definitely occurrences that caused me to reexamine my circumstances. Some of them resulted in gross public humiliation on my part, and on the part of anyone in a four-mile radius who was unfortunate enough to know me. Several of those pertained to my excessive sugar consumption and led to my being banned from riding public transportation. 

Ever again.

The most significant of the significant involved a warm piece of machinery that completely changed the direction of my hopscotching existence. It also involved the office electronics she was using at the time.

Yeah. I’m talking about Chloe and the copier.

It wasn’t all hearts and toner from the get-go, though.

Took a minute for that part to kick in.

In a decision deemed “fucktacular” by nearly everyone affected by it, the big brains who run our office decided one sunny morning that the marketing department should share floor space with the finance department, and that it should happen in a week’s time. This sort of interspecies co-mingling is similar to gently releasing a shoebox full of confused white rats into a cage loaded with jaded alligators and burned-out tax accountants and expecting a house party to ensue. Something like that might turn out wonderfully well in a ninth-grade biology lab or as a fun reality show set-up, but in the nearly-airless corporate biosphere, it just doesn’t work.

Those fucking rodents will eat the alligators and tax accountants alive every damn time.

But nobody ever gives a shit what the alligators think.

It’s all about the rats.

And I’m not the only one who sees this. The whole finance team shares the belief that, in spite of being mostly well-behaved, nicely-dressed people, marketing folk are kind of loose cannons. Every interaction is an advertising opportunity, every interpersonal exchange a slogan-filled sales pitch – expense and organized structure be damned. Their underhanded sleaziness in trying to get you to buy some vague non-thing that probably doesn’t even exist yet can slough away your fortitude until you finally hand them a twenty and say, “I have no idea what you’re selling, but you should just go now.” So when we saw them unloading their staplers and their mouse pads, we were less than enthusiastic to help them. 

Mostly, we didn’t.

Nobody said finance folk were any better than marketing folk. 

We’re just much more up-front about what we don’t like.

My pal Hube saw things a little differently. He usually does. “Dude, there’s all kinds of new blood here…it’s a great opportunity to meet people.”

I usually resist change.  I’m a No-Go with the Flow kind of Joe. “I don’t want to meet new people,” I told him. “I liked the old people.”

“That part of the floor has been empty for three years.” Hube and his damn adherence to undeniable truths.

“But before that there were people…I liked them.” I couldn’t see my own face, but it’s highly likely I was pouting.

“Newsbomb: they’re not here anymore. Time to move on.”

That made my chest hurt. “After only three years? Don’t you think that’s a little soon? They might be coming back.” 

“Riiiight. Coming back three years later…after being first-round layoffs.” Oh. Yeah. “Just go see if you can make some friends.” 

What, I’m in kindergarten now? “Easy for you to say; you work in the mailroom. You don’t have to sit next to stinky, yucky marketing people.” Oh yeah…I guess I kind of am.

He gave me your too old for shit like that eyes. “Joseph: go make nice.”

“You can’t make me.” Holy crap.  

No wonder he was shaking his head when he rolled his mail cart back to the elevator.

On the morning “they” arrived, I hit the coffee station to freshen my cup and found one – a female, though only marginally - standing in front of the brewer. Just standing. Not pouring, not putting new grounds in the filter. 

Just. Standing. 

Against my childish nature, I tried to make nice. “Hey there,” I offered. She answered by yawning in my direction. “Rough morning, huh?” I know it was for me.  She just stood there glaring a hole in the tureen. I shook my mug. “Hoping I could just get in here real quick and maybe spill a little for my homies.”

“You certainly can…as soon as I’m finished.” That came with zero eye contact.  She wasn’t doing the reputation of her fast-hyping advertising brethren any favors with the crappy attitude.

I might have gotten a little snippy. “When you’re finished what – exuding contempt? Staring down a coffee maker? Or slouching?” 

Suddenly there was eye contact. “All of the above, dickface.”

Wow. “Caffeine must be pretty critical in balancing out your behavioral health issues…you just take as much time as you need.” As I walked away, she made some sort of Italian hand gesture that I’m pretty sure cursed my ability to digest cheese.

Oh, those marketing folk.

I just shuffled away, cranky and coffee-less, not realizing as I meandered back to my desk that this would be the last moment of my life untouched by magic. 

Didn’t take long to figure it out, though.

I rounded the corner and heard, “Really? Three copies?  I only wanted one, you stupid robot – one!” It was another female, though by comparison this one exemplified the finer elements of her marketing species, as opposed to the one in the coffee nook who set their evolution back by a dozen chromosomes or so. I stood and watched her for a minute, captivated by how her sweetness practically made a halo around her, even as she peppered the office machinery with half-whispered f-bombs. “Finally,” she proclaimed, and she fed her document into the fax tray…only to have the machine launch a tirade of beeps in her general direction as it ate her paper. “What?  What?” 

I swooped in. “You have to kind of jiggle the tray…massage the stupid robot a bit. Like this.” I gave the gadget a little shakey-shake. Then I took copy number two from her hands and glided it gently into the feeder.

She looked me straight on, and smiled. “Wow…thank you.” 

I know it took me too long to answer, what with my breath having gone missing for a few seconds from her overwhelming chestnut-haired loveliness and all. Eventually, I dialed down the creepy staring. “You…uh, you bet.” Suddenly Hube’s advice sounded entirely sensible. “I’m Joe. From finance.”

“I’m Chloe. Nice to meet you, Joe.” More smiling. “Fromfinance is an exotic last name. Is that French?” 

“Oh, that’s not my name; it’s…” Goddess on the mountain top - she’d just flirted with me! I realized it in the nick of time, too. “…it’s more of a philosophy of life, really. A code by which I live.”

Her eyes crinkled. “Everybody should have a code.” She started absently pushing the keypad on the fax machine. 

“Speaking of which…you kinda need one to make that thing work properly. I bet they haven’t given you one yet. Am I right?”

“You are,” she confirmed. “One hundred percent.”

“Allow me, then.” 

I punched in my PIN, noticing her watching my fingers as I went. “You have musician hands,” she told me. 

Oh, my heart.

“Funny that you’d notice that; I actually am a musician.”

“That’s…really amazing.”

I didn’t tell her I played synthesizer.  I figured it was too early for deep truths like that. 

She entered the fax number as I watched her and tried so hard not to say something ridiculous to screw it up. The machined sputtered and beeped again, some sort of dial-up failure tone in robo-speak. The screen read:  Fax Misrouted. “I think that one just went to Narnia,” I said.

“Narnia? They still get faxes? I thought they’d gone paperless.” Not only had she gotten my geekery reference, she’d thrown back in kind without missing a beat.

Goodness gracious.

“Nah. Their servers weren’t ready…Mr. Tumnus is working on an upgrade.” 

“Good ol’ Tumnus to the rescue.”

I wanted this to go on forever.  She dialed again. Again, the fax failed. “Aaaaaand that one just went to Beijing.” 

“I needed it to go upstairs.” She was even cute when she whined. 

“It went a little further than that.”  

“Well, how do we get it back?”  

Ordinarily, I would have seized the opportunity to bag on a noob who didn’t realize that faxes are irretrievable once they’ve been sent. Who doesn’t know how these things work by now? But with her, it was just too damn sweet, and we were on a roll here. “You don’t get it back; you just let go, and let God…and be happy it wasn’t a scan of your ass accidentally making its way to the VP luxury suite on the eighth floor.” Her eyes opened wide…her glorious, illuminated eyes. “Although, unless your ass bears universally-known identifying markings or a tattoo of your name, you’re probably okay to let God handle that one, too.” She wasn’t smiling anymore.

She was full-on laughing. 

“Are you this helpful to all the new girls around the office?” she asked me.

“Not at all, actually.” I smiled. “This is a first for me.”

She gathered up her forms, though I could tell she was hesitant to leave. “Well, Joe Fromfinance…I sincerely hope it’s not the last.”

It won’t be, I thought. Before I could say anything else, Bitchzilla from the coffee nook was standing by us. “Are you ready, Chloe?” she growled. “The meeting started three minutes ago.” She glared at me. “Coffee maker’s all yours, asswipe.”

I didn’t need coffee anymore.

I had been totally energized.

I held up my empty mug to Chloe Wonderful as she left. “See you around the copy machine.”

“Absolutely.” Her friend was dragging her away, but her eyes lingered in my direction.  She never did get her fax sent to the right place, either. She just moved down the hall, and was gone.

And thus, it began.

And thus, it stayed – I was already in a relationship, unfulfilling though it was, and as I later learned, she was too. So our bond was left at flirtation around office machinery. Sure, over time the subject matter expanded beyond Where Faxes Go and Why is Your Friend Such a Grumpy Shit All The Time?, but the sweetness that was there from the beginning remained. Even through all the weird personal bullshit on both of our parts, break-ups and near-misses and my disastrous date with the In crowd that changed my life permanently and put the “Vampire” in Joe, those sweet, stolen moments with Chloe were always the best part of my day.

Still are, too.

*****

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