Five times a jackass

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: It’s Friday night, and Shep and Lyle are eating in a local restaurant. In the last chapter, they discussed how so many people are having to take low-paying jobs outside of their chosen professions — if they can even get jobs at all — because of the recession and frustratingly high unemployment among Millennials. Lyle calls the people stuck in these kinds of jobs “misallocated resources,” because they’re not where they want to be in life. 

“I’ve been doing some thinking lately,” Shep said, setting down his fork.

“Yeah?” Lyle asked. “Why the sudden break in precedent?”

“Keep up that tone with me, dude, and mi casa will no longer be your casa. Comprende?”

“You like to dangle that threat over my head, don’t you?”

“Like a carrot in front of a donkey. I’m hoping it’ll lead you to a job.”

“You know what they say about leading a horse to water.”

“Forget the horse. Right now, I’m dealing with a jackass.”

Lyle rolled his eyes. “So what is it you’ve been thinking about?”

“Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot about you and what you’re going through.”

“Really? It’s a wonder you haven’t committed suicide.”

“Well,” Shep said, “the thing is, when I see what you’re dealing with, it gets me to thinking about my own life.”

“All paths lead to you. You’re truly selfless.”

“You want me to dangle that moving-out carrot over your head again, jackass?”

Lyle gestured. “Continue.”

“Thank you. Anyway, I’ve been thinking, and I’ve come to a realization.”

“You had an epiphany?”

“What?”

“You had a sudden burst of understanding.”

“I don’t understand. What are you talking about?”

“Never mind.” Lyle gestured. “Once again, continue.”

Shep shook his head. “Jackass. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, lately I’ve been feeling stuck.”

Lyle scraped some rice and beans with his fork. “Stuck how?”

“Like … I don’t know. Like I’m stuck in a life I didn’t plan on — you know?”

“I don’t think anybody really plans their lives. I think most people just fall into a path and stick with it, because it’s all they know.”

“Well, I think that’s exactly what I’m doing, and I don’t like it. I don’t want to be on the path I’m on.”

“What’s wrong with the path you’re on? I mean, specifically. If there was something in your life you could change, what would it be?”

Shep shrugged. “Pretty much everything.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. I’m stagnating in my job, I hate living in my crummy apartment, and I feel like I’m not living life to its fullest. I just want everything to be … I don’t know – different.”

“It sounds like you’re having a mid-life crisis at age 30.”

“Dude, that’s you. Besides, I’m only 28. You’re older than I am.”

“Yeah, I’ve got so much more life experience than you, what with the 24-month head-start.”

“Technically, I’m still in my twenties, and you’re not.”

“Age loses its relevance as you get older.”

“Says the aging 30-year-old whose twenties are over.”

“Give me twenty-four months,” Lyle said, “and I’ll throw you a party with black balloons and a plastic tombstone on your cake, just to rub it in.”

“If you’re still living with me in twenty-four months, then forget the plastic tombstone. You can get me a real one.”

“C’mon, admit it: you like having a roommate.”

“Yeah — the attractive, unrelated female variety. Not the self-loathing, out-of-work cousin who can’t even cook.”

“At least I don’t leave dishes in the sink.”

“That’s because you use paper plates.”

“You’ll notice there’s no dishes in the sink.”

“True,” Shep said, “but there’s no women in my life, either.”

“What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?”

Shep frowned. “The price of tea in China? What does that have to do with anything?”

“That’s my point.”

“What’s your point?”

“The price of tea in China.”

“I wasn’t talking about the price of tea in China. I was talking about being alone.”

“And I was talking about paper plates. What does one have to do with the other?”

“One has nothing to do with the other.”

“That’s my point.”

“What’s your point?”

“The price of tea in China.”

Shep sighed. “How many times now have I called you a jackass?”

“I think we’re going on four.”

“And yet it still hasn’t sunk in.”

“What can I say?” Lyle said. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

“Actually, I suspect drinking’s the problem. You’re starting to feel the margarita, aren’t you?”

“Not really,” Lyle said. “What I’m feeling is depressed.”

“Well, that’s why we’re going out tonight — to get it out of your system.”

“Then I need to get more alcohol into my system. Speaking of which, where’s the waitress?”

“Play it cool,” Shep said, leaning back. “We got a long night ahead of us.”

“Yeah, and it’s stretching out like a long, dark, endless tunnel — sort of like my life.”

“Dude, you are depressed. You got to start making the most of your life, because it’s the only one you got.”

“You were complaining about yours a few minutes ago.”

“Yeah, but at least I’m aware that my life is my own. I’m responsible for my own happiness, and if I’m not happy, I’ve got only myself to blame.”

“Then why do you blame me for the lack of women in your life?”

“Because there’s no other explanation.” Shep motioned to himself. “I mean, c’mon. What woman wouldn’t want a piece of this?”

“I guess we’ll find out tonight when we start racking up rejections.”

“Dude, speak for yourself. If you go into situations expecting the worst, then that’s exactly what you’re going to get.”

“Coincidentally, that’s what I get when I’m expecting the best, too.”

“You really are in a dark place,” Shep said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this bad.”

“This is nothing. Wait till tonight, when I’ve been rejected a few times.”

“If that’s what you expect, then that’s what’s going to happen.”

“I’m not expecting the worst for the sake of being negative. I’m just going by past experience.”

“And what’s your past experience taught you?”

“To expect the worst.”

Shep snorted. “Like I said, you’re responsible for your own happiness. If there’s something you don’t like about your life, then it’s up to you to change it.”

“What about you?” Lyle asked. “You just said you weren’t happy with your life.”

“Right — and it’s up to me to change it. I’m not sitting here whining and blaming other people.”

“So what are you going to do? You said you hate your job. Are you going to quit?”

Shep shrugged. “Doesn’t seem like a good idea right now.”

“Why? Because of the economy?”

“Of course. Look at you. You’ve got a degree, and you can’t find work. I’ve only got a high-school diploma.”

“So in a way,” Lyle said, “you’re powerless over the situation.”

“I’m powerless?”

“Yeah. You hate your job, but you can’t leave because there’s nowhere else you can go.”

“The situation isn’t unbearable. It just isn’t ideal. If I really, really wanted to, I could quit.”

“And do what?”

“I don’t know. I’d find something.”

“What would you find? Take it from me: there’s nothing out there.”

“You don’t know that. If I were to quit, maybe the right opportunity would come along at the right time.”

“But maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe you’d find yourself stuck with nowhere to go — like me.”

“Is that really how you feel?” Shep asked. “Like you’re stuck with nowhere to go?”

“Of course that’s how I feel,” Lyle said. “It’s how I’ve felt for a long time, since losing my job at the newspaper. I feel like life is pushing me down a path that I’m not supposed to be on, but there’s no way to turn around and go back.”

“Maybe this is the path you’re supposed to be on, but the reason isn’t clear yet.”

“Or, maybe life just plain sucks. Maybe that’s the reason.”

“Quit whining — it could be worse. You could be living on the street, instead of in my apartment.”

Lyle sighed. “You really enjoy threatening me with that, don’t you?”

“I really do,” Shep said. “It cheers me up when I’m in a dark place.”

“I’m glad to be of service. Maybe that’s why I’m on this path in life: so my misery can amuse you.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Shep said, grinning. “You jackass.”

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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