A one-stop shop

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 last few chapters, Shep and Lyle were attending a party hosted by mutual friends Tom and Irene. Irene told Lyle that she found the perfect woman to set Lyle up with. Her name is Karen, and like Lyle, she’s self-deprecating and involved in the communications industry. The only problem? Karen recently became roommates with Annabelle, Lyle’s ex-girlfriend. 

Thursday afternoon, four-thirty. Shep opened the apartment door to find Lyle slumped on the living-room couch, watching a talk show. A dozen or so empty beer cans lined the coffee table. A few had dropped to the floor.

“Hi honey — I’m home,” Shep said, closing the door.

Lyle moaned, shuffling. His eyes were half-closed.

“And I thought I had a rough day.” Shep kicked at one of the cans. “Any chance you’ve started dinner?”

Lyle opened an eye. He sighed audibly, licking his dry lips.

“Well?” Shep asked.

“Well, what?” Lyle’s voice was soft, and hoarse.

“Do you care to explain yourself?”

“I don’t care — period.” Lyle rolled his head back.

“You’re drunk, aren’t you?”

“Those twelve empty cans paint an incriminating picture.”

“Is that my beer you’re drinking?”

Was your beer. Drank it. Both past tense.”

“Did you save one for me, at least?”

“I meant to get more before you came home.”

“Why didn’t you? Were you in the middle of Oprah?”

“No — I was too drunk to drive.”

“The store’s a five-minute walk.”

“I’d much rather drive. Who wants to lug a case of beer all the way from the store?”

“Uh-huh.” Shep settled into his recliner. His gaze moved from Lyle to the TV, then back to Lyle. “I didn’t know you were a fan of daytime TV.”

“It grows on you.”

“So does Athlete’s foot. That doesn’t mean it’s good for you.”

“Of course it’s not good for me. That’s why I’m drinking.”

“Drinking’s not good for you, either.”

“Then why did you buy all this beer?”

“I bought it for me! I enjoy a beer after work and a beer with dinner. You drank a whole week’s worth in one afternoon.”

“I’ve had a lifetime’s worth of misery in the last three months. That makes us even.”

“No — it makes you odd. Anyway, I thought you quit drinking.”

“I’m not a quitter.”

“You weren’t going to drink anymore till you found a job. Isn’t that what you said?”

“When I said that, jobs were easier to come by.”

“Lyle, what’s wrong with you? You’ve been acting weird all week.”

“Acting?”

“It’s not like you to watch Oprah and drink in the middle of the day.”

Lyle shrugged. “The Oprah part I’ll give you.”

“Are you depressed about being unemployed? Is that it?”

“Not necessarily. Maybe this is how I express my joy.”

“Is now a good time to ask how the job search is going?”

“I think you can glean how well the job search is going. Just count the cans.”

“Are there openings?”

“If you know where to look.”

“Where are you supposed to look?”

“Hell if I know.”

“Have you tried the job-search sites?”

“Give me some credit, man. I didn’t spend all my time in journalism school sharpening pencils.”

“Well, it’s a fair question. Knowing you, you’d limit your job search to Craigslist.”

“Don’t go knocking Craigslist. That’s where I found my last job.”

“People don’t use Craigslist to find jobs. They use it to buy secondhand mattresses and discuss kinky sex.”

“It’s a one-stop shop. You can get a job, a bed and a gimp mask — all in the same place.”

“What kinds of jobs are out there right now?”

“Not many I’m qualified for.”

“What exactly are you qualified for? Scrubbing toilets and mopping floors?”

“I’d have to work my way up to mopping floors.”

“So is there anything out there you can do?”

“Not unless I land a gig sharpening pencils.”

Shep sighed, leaning back. “I feel for you, man. I really do. I wish I knew how to help.”

“If you want to help, you could drive me to the store.”

“Apart from supporting your alcohol habit, I mean.”

“You’re the one who needs beer every day. My alcoholism comes in spurts.”

“It comes when you’re depressed — and you’re depressed because you’re unemployed.”

Lyle nodded. “I tend to lose my spark when I’m adrift with no future.”

“I wish there were jobs where I’m at. I’d try to hook you up.”

“What do you do, by the way?”

“You don’t know?”

“It never came up.”

“That doesn’t matter. You could have asked. You live in my apartment; you should at least know what I do.”

“Based on the condition of this place, I’m guessing it’s nothing well-paying.”

“Up yours. And bear in mind, I can always kick you out and ask a girl to move in.”

“You might want to ask her to marry you, first. In a dump like this, it’ll take nuptial vows to get a woman to stay.”

“What will it take to get you to leave?”

“A well-paying job in a thriving economy, for starters. I’m not so needy when I’m self-sufficient.”

“Uh-huh.” Shep glared.

“What’s that look for?” Lyle asked.

“What look?”

“That cold, icy stare you’re giving me. That’s the same face Annabelle made when I suggested we move in together.”

“You don’t say?”

“Actually,” Lyle added, “now that I think about it, it’s also the same face you made when I suggested we move in together.”

“So you’re detecting a pattern.”

“What’s the face for? Did I say something wrong?”

“I’m insulted.”

“Why?”

“You seriously don’t know what I do with myself each day?”

“I suspect I do … and I imagine it’s because you can’t get a girl to move in.”

“I’m talking about my job, dude! You have no clue what I do for a living.”

“It never came up in conversation.”

“That’s because we’re always talking about you. The whole world revolves around you and your problems.”

“My problems are so large, they have a gravitational pull.”

“No — it’s because you’re too self-absorbed. Everyone has problems, Lyle. You’re too focused on yours to see anyone else’s.”

“Mine take priority. Let me solve my own problems before tackling everyone else’s.”

“I have problems too, you know,” Shep said. “Cassie and I broke up, and I’m stuck in a job that I hate.”

“Why do you hate your job? What do you do?”

“Forget it. You never cared before, so I’m not telling you now.”

“Fine. That’s your problem.”

“Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. Everyone has problems, and mine are as valid as yours.”

“You know what would help with your problems?” Lyle asked. “A beer.”

“That’s an excellent idea. Trouble is, some idiot drank it all.”

“What can I say? My problems don’t seem so bad when they’re watered down with alcohol.”

“All right — that’s it.” Shep reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys, twirling them on his finger.

“You’re leaving? You just got home.”

“I’m running to the store. I’ll grab us some beer and a couple of microwave dinners.”

“Actually, that’s a great idea— the best I’ve heard all day, in fact.”

“Well,” Shep said, “not to brag, but my problem-solving skills are the reason I got my job.”

“What do you do? Now I have to know, or else it’ll drive me crazy.”

Shep grinned. “That’s your problem. See you.”

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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