The law offices of Abbott and Costello

The Ex-Executive Assistant, a story published on Tuesdays and Thursdays in a limited number of installments
"The Ex-Executive Assistant" is a comedic story about a young man who loses both his job and his girlfriend on the same day.

Recap: In the previous chapter, Lyle was talking to Chad, a fellow journalism major he knew years ago in college. Chad asks Lyle for a cigarette, but Lyle tells him that he quit smoking years ago. Chad claims that Lyle still owes him a cigarette, because Lyle bummed one from him when they were in college. Lyle argues that because he quit smoking, he should be absolved of the debt. 

Chad shook his head and turned around.

“Where are you going?” Lyle asked.

“To cash in one of my other insurance policies,” Chad said. “I know I’ve given cigarettes to several people here. Unlike you, maybe one of them will honor their agreement.”

“There was no agreement. We never shook hands.”

“We didn’t have to shake hands. The agreement was tacit.”

“Tacit? Give me a break. You should have said something.”

“You don’t have to say anything if it’s tacit. That’s what ‘tacit’ means — it means you don’t have to say anything.”

“How can two people reach an agreement if neither of them speaks?”

“They’re supposed to understand each other.”

“And what happens if they don’t?”

“Then they have a misunderstanding.”

“Well, then, that’s what happened,” Lyle said. “We had a misunderstanding.”

“When you accepted the cigarette I offered, you tacitly agreed to pay me back.”

“Says who?”

“Says no one — it was a tacit agreement.”

“I never agreed to a tacit agreement.”

“You didn’t say anything.”

“That’s what I’m saying. I never agreed to a tacit agreement.”

“By accepting the cigarette, you tacitly agreed to the terms.”

“Where do you get these rules from? The Law Offices of Abbott and Costello?”

“It’s an unwritten rule.”

“There’s an unwritten rule? We’re abiding by unwritten rules, now? I can’t even keep the written ones straight.”

“There’s an understanding that if someone offers you a cigarette, you’re supposed to pay them back.”

“I didn’t realize we had an understanding. You can’t hold it against me.”

“Sure I can.”

“How?”

“Because you misunderstood. Thanks to you, I’m starting to go through withdrawals. I need a cigarette — like, now.”

“It’s your own fault. You’re supposed to stock up for the weekend.”

“Says who?”

“It’s an unwritten rule.”

“Dude, don’t test me,” Chad said, pointing a finger. “I’m progressing from slightly irritable to manically homicidal.”

“I think that’s ‘regressing.’”

“What?”

“‘Regress.’ It’s the opposite of ‘progress.’”

“I thought ‘congress’ was the opposite of ‘progress’?”

“Only if you’re a comedian who steals jokes from the 1970s. But I digress.”

“I think we’re done here,” Chad said. “Good luck on the job search. I hope you find something in your field.”

“Anything open at Channel 4, where you’re at?”

“I resent you asking. You don’t know me well enough to use me as a resource.”

“That’s the definition of networking: you use people you barely know as a resource.”

“There’s nothing available for someone with your background.”

“Really? My background is in journalism.”

“No, your background is secretarial work — and we already have a receptionist.”

“How did you break into TV when you have a newspaper background?”

“It was a heck of a lot easier than if I had a secretary background.”

“You’re a prick, you know that? Do you have to work at it, or does it come naturally?”

“It comes with the nicotine withdrawals. I’m a lot more tolerable when I’m not in the throes of addiction.”

“At least you have an excuse.”

Chad grinned and held out his hand. “I’m going to run. See you in another ten years?”

“We’ll plan on it. I might even have a job by then.”

“Good. Then maybe you’ll be able to afford a carton of cigarettes.”

Lyle raised his eyebrows. “A carton?”

“Yeah — if inflation keeps at its current pace, that’ll be about what you owe me.” Chad laughed. “See you around, man.”

He slipped into the crowd, drenching his socks on the wet lawn.

“Lyle.” Irene approached from behind and touched him on the shoulder. “There you are. I’ve been looking for you.”

“I’ve been out here the whole time. This is where you told me to come.”

Irene frowned. “It is?”

“You don’t remember?”

“It feels like it’s been weeks since we spoke.”

Lyle looked at his watch. “It’s been fifteen minutes.”

“Oh.” Irene giggled. “Well, time’s a subjective thing — especially when you’re drinking wine.”

“You’ve had more since we’ve spoken, haven’t you?”

“A couple three classes — yeah.” Irene frowned. “Why are you standing out here all by yourself? Aren’t you talking to Tom?”

“No, I haven’t even said ‘hi.’ I was talking to Chad.”

“Chad?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t see anybody.”

“He just left. He needed a cigarette. All this fresh air was making him queasy.”

“Lyle, Chad’s dead.”

Lyle stared. “What?”

“Chad’s been dead for three years.”

“I was just talking to him!”

“Then it must have been through a Ouija board, because he’s occupying a plot up at Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery. Good place for him, too. The guy was a prick.”

“Is that a homemade wine you’re drinking? Maybe one contaminated with botulism?”

“I’m serious, Lyle. I don’t know who you thought you were talking to, but it wasn’t Chad.”

“It looked like Chad.”

“Spirits often look the way they did in life.”

“So you think I was talking to a spirit?”

“If anyone would, it’d be you. You’ll do anything to avoid meeting a woman.”

“The guy approached me! I want to meet women. Apparently, I’m so pathetic that even the dead are thwarting me.”

Irene grinned. “I see what you’re doing. You made up the whole thing, didn’t you? You’re trying to scare me, because you think I’m drunk enough to buy your spiel.”

“When I’m with a drunk woman, I’d rather talk her into bed than tell her a ghost story. I try to prioritize my creative energy.”

“You really believe you were out here talking to Chad? Someone who’s been dead for three years?”

“He was doing pretty good for a dead guy,” Lyle said. “He had a job and a profile on LinkedIn. That’s better than me. All I’ve got is a failed career and a MySpace account that I haven’t updated since 2007.”

“What else did he say?” Irene asked. “Did he talk to you about the Beyond?”

“We didn’t delve too much into particulars of the spiritual realm. He was too busy giving me career advice.”

“Jeez, Lyle — it’s a party! Can you forget about being unemployed for two freaking minutes?”

Lyle shrugged. “I thought he was flesh and blood. If I had known he was from the Beyond, I would have put my career problems aside and asked him more questions.”

“It can’t always be about you, Lyle.”

“He didn’t tell me he was dead. I don’t know why he didn’t. It’s an excellent conversation-starter.”

Irene snorted. “Every time something supernatural happens, I miss it. UFOs, Sasquatch, ghosts. I’m never there. I want to believe, but I’m never in the right place at the right time. It’s not fair.”

“Tell you what,” Lyle said. “I’ll give you dibs on meeting the next dead friend who comes along. Deal?”

“Deal. And unlike you, I’ll be sure to ask them the pertinent questions about life and death.”

“I don’t care so much about death at this point,” Lyle said. “Right now, it’s life that I really need some help with.”

Author: Allen

I’m a humorist and fiction writer, as well as the author of two books. One is a collection of humor, and one is a collection of short stories. Both books are available on Amazon. I always wanted to write a comic strip, but I can’t draw. Not even a stick-person. So that’s why “The Lawn-Cutting Crew” is a comic strip without drawings. I hope you enjoy!

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