Hair like an electrocuted clown (Part 1)

"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: When we last saw Lyle, he and his cousin, Shep, were out clubbing on Friday night, to meet women. Lyle, who had been drinking heavily, started to reminisce about his ex-girlfriend, Annabelle. Encouraging Shep to go into the nightclub without him, Lyle remained in the parking lot to call Annabelle and beg her to come back. Annabelle told Lyle that she couldn’t bear to be with him again — not only because she regrets cheating on him, but also because of his cynical outlook on life. Lyle tries to convince her that he’s willing to overlook her cheating, but Annabelle asks him not to contact her and hangs up. Drunk and disappointed, Lyle lobs his cell phone across the parking lot.

As Lyle slowly came awake, he groaned in agony. His head felt like it was locked in a vice, and his mouth, throat and eyeballs were dry and sticky.

He was lying sprawled on a lawn chair on Shep’s apartment patio, his shoes kicked off and shirt half-unbuttoned. A series of empty beer bottles lined the railing. Others were overturned and lying on the patio.

The morning sun was rising over the distant mountains, casting a grayish, murky glow on the darkened landscape. Lyle sat up and massaged his temples, his eyes squeezed tightly shut.

It took him awhile to regain his senses. He tried to remember what had happened the previous night, but the images were fragmented and blurry. He had no idea how he had gotten home, or why he’d been sleeping on the patio and not in his own bed.

Lyle tried to stand, but he wavered and plopped back down on the lawn chair, nearly tipping it. A wave of nausea overcame him, and he had to look down. A sour belch escaped his lips … which helped relieve the bloated pressure in his stomach.

Minutes passed before Lyle could move or even raise his head. By then the sun had risen higher, clearing the mountain peaks and invigorating everything it touched with a renewed sense of purpose.

Everything, that is, except for Lyle. He licked his chapped lips and ran a hand through his hair, which was all tangled and ratty like an electrocuted clown.

Lyle heard movement inside the apartment. He turned and saw Shep rummaging around in the kitchen, wearing a bathrobe and making coffee. The sliding door was wide open, but the screen remained shut.

Shep spotted him. “Hey, morning!” he called though the screen. “Want some coffee?”

Lyle nodded. “Please,” he croaked.

Shep stepped outside, handing Lyle a steaming mug and keeping one for himself. “Man, if you feel even half as bad you look, then you’ve got to be miserable.”

“Misery’s more or less a permanent condition these days,” Lyle said, sipping his coffee. It left a sick, bitter flavor on his sandpapery tongue, and he winced. “What even happened last night?”

“Exactly what I was afraid would happen if I left you alone. You never came into the nightclub, so I walked outside and found you sitting on the sidewalk with your head in your hands, crying.”

“I was crying?”

“Not overtly. You tried to hide it, but I could tell. Your eyes were all tear-filled and bloodshot.”

“My eyes always look like that now that I’m unemployed and my life has no meaning.”

“Well, they seemed puffier than usual. You were really upset about something.”

“Did I say anything that might have given a clue?”

“You were babbling about something, but it wasn’t coherent.”

“You couldn’t make out anything I was saying?”

“Well, I stopped listening after a while. It’s like those times when you’re whining about losing your job – I just lost interest and tuned you out.”

“I appreciate the support.”

“Hey, who do you think dragged you home and set you up out here?”

“So I got you to blame for the spasm in my back and the blood clot in my legs. Why would you set me out here and not in my own bed?”

“Why else? You were gagging like a cat yakking on a hairball. I don’t need any more stains on the carpet to explain to the landlord.”

Lyle shook his head, taking another sip of coffee. “Last night’s a complete blur. I don’t remember anything after the Silver Tavern.”

“So you have no way to explain this?” Shep took something off the patio table and handed it to Lyle.

Lyle stared. “Is this my phone?”

“You tell me. You were holding it when I found you.”

Lyle turned the battered phone over in his palm. It had a cracked screen and busted case. “Well, this might explain why I was crying. I’ve only had this thing for six months. I saved for weeks to get it.”

“Do you remember dropping it – or maybe breaking it on purpose?”

“Why would I break my own phone?”

“Who knows? Maybe you asked Siri if you could buy her a drink, and she shot you down. She does come across as conceited.”

A flicker of a memory shot through Lyle’s head, and his eyes widened. “Oh, no.”

Shep sat down on the lawn chair across from him. “What?”

“I remember now. I think I might have called Annabelle.”

“You serious?”

“I’m almost positive.”

“The conversation couldn’t have ended well if you broke your own phone.”

“I don’t remember what we said, but knowing me, I begged her to come back. And knowing her, she probably said no.”

“I should have been monitoring you. Friends don’t like friends dial drunk.”

Lyle sighed, resting his head on his knees. “I hope I didn’t make a complete fool of myself.”

“Well,” Shep said, “when it comes to making a fool of yourself, you’re pretty thorough.”

To be continued….