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Feb 152013
 

by Brian Conlon

fiction, short story, literary magazine

Jeff Jones was dismayed at the announcement of the newest movie by famed filmmaker Greg Tork, “The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of Jeff Jones.” Jones would not have taken the title of the new film so much to heart had he not had a sneaking suspicion, from the age of twelve onward, that his existence was destined to be unremarkable and wholly ordinary. It was not that Jeff was concerned that the brilliant Tork had somehow stolen his self-image and turned it into what was, according to several film critics and the gossip columnist at the Harrington County Bee, the best mainstream film with a quirky title in the last eight to ten years. Jeff had never met Greg Tork, had only seen three of his sixteen movies and only paid to watch one of them. He was certain that Greg Tork had no idea he existed. This was not palliative. In fact, it may even have exacerbated the problem. For Jeff, a chance encounter with Greg Tork would serve to add some remarkableness to his life, a touch of the extraordinary even. To have Tork make a movie specifically about him would quell Jeff’s deepest and most obviously true suspicion; namely, that he was nothing particularly special. Suddenly Jeff Jones’s existence would not be unremarkable and wholly ordinary and any movie title which claimed differently could only be read ironically. As it stood, however, Jeff Jones was quite convinced that his existence had hitherto been unremarkable and wholly ordinary and the thought of a movie memorializing the abyss of insignificance which Jeff had wandered through since his twelfth year shook his core so hard that he could have done an infomercial for it.

Jeff Jones’s suspicions were not based on irrational self-hatred. They were not based on the type of delusional self-centric thinking which leads most of us to the conclusion that we are something special and destined for greatness, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. No, Jeff’s suspicions were based on the overwhelming contrary evidence most of us ignore. Up until the age of twelve, Jeff’s parents had done their best to reassure their son that he was “special,” “different” and “could do anything he set his mind to.” In this sense Frank and Destiny Jones were unremarkable and wholly ordinary parents. Alongside Frank and Destiny, oftentimes, sat a dog, Cobalt, and stood an older sister, Mary. Cobalt was a golden retriever with cobalt blue eyes, who demonstrated his love for Frank, Destiny, Jeff and Mary on a daily basis through a series of licks. Mary was three years older than Jeff and, like many older sisters, was very fond of Jeff until she was twelve, hated him slightly until she was seventeen and then once again became very fond of him.

Frank and Destiny did not discontinue their praise and reassurance when Jeff turned twelve, it was only that Jeff started becoming aware that his life resembled those of his friends and acquaintances and there was nothing about him which made him better or worse than any of them. He was a straight B student, was never picked first or last for any sport, showed an ability to mimic the facial expressions of his classmates, which some praised and others were terribly disturbed by, was amongst the top seven water color painters in his class, but clearly not the best, demonstrated a propensity to be second to raise his hand when his teachers asked a question, was hated by no one, loved by no one (save for Cobalt) and slightly overweight. He was, however, terribly self-aware for a twelve-year-old, but somehow unaware of his self-awareness. This hyper awareness combined with his in-fact pedestrian existence caused him to believe that his existence was pedestrian.

Once this inkling entered Jeff’s mind it stuck like a horsefly having withdrawn enough blood to be satiated but having grown quickly accustomed to, and cozy in, the arm hair of its victim, hanging around indefinitely, itching slightly, but not enough for the victim to squash it. This perpetual itch did not stop Jeff from living a modestly successful, if unremarkable and wholly ordinary, existence. His wife loved him. That was something, though hardly remarkable. His cat, Marbles, cloistered herself in their sheets from time to time and most often favored his side of the bed. That was slightly less than something. His children were yet unborn, but had all the potential to be loving and a smidge more interesting than their old man. His wife, Janet, saw something in Jeff, something perhaps remarkable and extraordinary, but that was to be expected and thus made Jeff feel all the more unremarkable and wholly ordinary. Whenever Janet Jones would say to Jeff Jones, “You are the most special person in the world to me,” which was more often than one might think, Jeff would respond with, “To you,” or “Thank you,” and devolve into a momentary depression. For what it is worth, he thought the same of her, but his capacity to ascertain the specialness of others was in no way up to his acute sense of self-awareness, and in no case worse then when it came to those he loved. This is, of course, an unremarkable and wholly ordinary characteristic.

***

Jeff Jones conducted consumer research for Dense Thickets, a company dedicated to the proposition that there was no space so small that a wall could not be constructed to divide it. They made walls on demand; anywhere with any substance and for any reason. For instance, there was a produce department in Southern Mississippi that wanted to divide their New York state apples from their Washington state apples without a sign. Dense Thickets constructed a wall made of dried Maine Blueberries and crazy glue right in the middle of the produce department. Some in the grocery and architectural industries described this wall as asinine, but none described it as wholly ordinary. Another wall was constructed of burlap and original copies of void employment contracts in the unisex bathroom of a waffle house in North Dakota, to separate the portion of the bathroom that was employees’ only from that which was open to patrons. Customers did not complain too vehemently and both employees and customers became acutely aware of unenforceable non-compete agreements. A property-owner and borderline crazy person in Wisconsin ordered a wall be built between his pine tree and his oak because the two trees did not seem to be getting along. Dense Thickets built a wall, upon the property-owner’s request of Corinthian leather on one side to comfort the pine and the other of soothing aloe leaves to keep the oak company. It was sewn together by hand and stood twenty feet high. Not terribly ordinary.

Jeff’s research had once consisted of finding if, and why, people occasionally had a negative association with walls. Research showed that Americans were still ill at ease with the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China and the demilitarized zone in Korea which people only assumed contained a great many walls. In short, his research revealed an insidious, if not completely inaccurate, association between walls and Communism. There was also, amongst the older generations, and some musically inclined youngsters, an association with the album and movie “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, which incidentally, has an association with totalitarianism, which happens to have an association with Communism. The ad wizards took Jeff’s research seriously in focusing on the choice Dense Thickets provided its customers. The new ads strictly avoided the color red and any workmen with hammers or sickles, although sickles had rarely appeared previously.

Currently Jeff was working on whether or not people had similar aversions to doors. “A hinge and a handle,” the CEO of Dense Thickets had once said, “is what distinguishes a wall from a door.” This remarkable and extraordinary insight had the potential to boost the revenue of Dense Thickets to such an extent that the CEO could finally retire from the arduous task of having spontaneous insights and settle down somewhere in Canada where it was legal to hunt moose. Jeff’s research was on-going but thus far had indicated that people were not worried about doors, having vague recollections of the West’s Open Door Policy with China at the turn of the twentieth century from high school history, as well as corporate Open Door Policies which were supposed to be somehow reassuring, and the fact that doors saved them from embarrassing situations when closed. There was also, amongst the older generations, an association with the 1960s rock group “The Doors” who happened to have an association with free love, drugs and Southern California, which most people were not, no matter how much they protested otherwise, actually opposed to.

Dense Thickets’ Door Development Division was to be launched on the completion of Jeff’s research. The CEO was eagerly awaiting the full results, but only so that he had them, not to see what they were, having declared privately to his gunsmith, “Covering bases, like Brooks Robinson.” The gunsmith nodded and regaled the CEO with tales of his lost baseball card collection.

Jeff’s work was appreciated by most at Dense Thickets, but it was generally agreed that were he to drop dead tomorrow for some reason or other, the company would be no worse for wear.

***

Greg Tork was pleased with his newest release. It had been less ambitious than some of his other recent works. The point was, to Greg’s mind, to explore the heart-wrenching mediocrity he thought had come to define post-modernity. In other words, he wanted to make a movie about normal people that a normal person could relate to and then be somewhat saddened by how easily they could relate to it. He always thought it best not to share his intentions with anyone so that if others wished to exalt his work for some unintended theme or social commentary, they could do so freely without any cloud of authorial intent. This was sometimes troubling to the actors he directed who could not get any indication of their character’s true motivation from Greg. This idiosyncrasy occasionally had the unintended result of giving his actors far too much leeway in their interpretations of his characters. This in turn had the unintended consequence of taking the vision for the movie entirely out of Greg Tork’s hands and placing it in the hands of the people perhaps least qualified to have an artistic vision, the actors.

This was why “The Silo” was such an epic failure. Tork had intended “The Silo” to be the harrowing tale of a corn farmer in middle-America who one day wakes up and discovers a smart bomb has been placed in his corn silo, and the silo has been rigged to deliver the bomb on his neighbor and chief competitor’s barn. The role of Alton Stew, the corn farmer, was played by the famous, if hopelessly miscast, Duggen Glass, who interpreted the role as a type of maniacal corn enthusiast who would stop at nothing to be number one in the corn market. In point of fact, Tork wrote Glass to be a struggling corn farmer tormented by the existence of the bomb and at a loss as to what to do to stop it. As such, lines like, “This is the bomb!” “Corn, corn, all this for corn,” and “Once the whiskey fights the wine, all the cork and grease in the world won’t get the stain out!” came off not at all as he had intended. Instead of being the dark and mysterious tale of the capacity of humans to battle unknown evil and temptation, it became the incomprehensible story of a rogue farmer who is given a weapon of mass destruction for no apparent reason and relishes it for the whole movie until the end when he finds a way to destroy it (spoiler alert!). Universally thought to be Tork’s least successful and conceptually curious work, there were those in the film community who believed Tork must have been on no fewer than three different hallucinogenic drugs when he wrote the script.

Tork found no such problem in creating “The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of Jeff Jones.” He cast an actor appropriately suited to playing the lead role and the title was an obvious cue. Taylor Hord had been typecast as an “every man” since he first came to Hollywood from Duluth, Minnesota eleven years ago. He played the role of the slightly downtrodden and only moderately attractive man in his mid-thirties as well as anyone in Hollywood. He had played the domineered husband, the hopelessly unsuave nice guy, the best friend womanizer with a heart of gold, the dunce boyfriend with the super-hero girlfriend, the guard for the magical pet store and countless other forgettable but career advancing characters. “The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of Jeff Jones” was Hord’s first real chance to make a name for himself. Early critical praise came pouring in for Hord, who was described as “extremely unremarkable” and “as ordinary as one could possibly hope for.”

***

The early press for “The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of Jeff Jones” was really starting to get to Jeff Jones. Everywhere Jeff turned it seemed as though some critic or blogger felt it necessary to laud the unfortunately titled film. Google had even betrayed him. Jeff tried to google himself one night only to see the search box read, “Jeff Jones, The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of.” Janet Jones was even experiencing the run-off from her husband’s unusually noxious mood. At the breakfast table, Jeff would bury his head in some publication exhorting just how unremarkable and wholly ordinary his existence was and how such mundaneness was really a stroke of genius. Janet tried to get her husband’s attention.

“You wouldn’t believe what Marbles did last night,” she said.

“I think I would,” he said his head still down.

“She, well there was this dog walking by and I swear she stuck her tongue out at it, like a little kid.”

“Right, probably had a fly on her nose or something.”

“No, nothing like that, just at the dog, really, like this,” she stuck her tongue out, Jeff did not look up.

“So what?”

“I thought it was funny, that’s all.”

“Sounds like you did.”

“Maybe if you’d get your head out of that . . . what’s that? . . . The Hollywood International Observer? Where’d you even get that? . . . You’d realize there’s more to life than movie reviews that contain your name.”

“Newsstand, you don’t understand. You never, I’m sorry but you never, it’s just to have an unremarkable and wholly ordinary existence is one thing, to be constantly reminded of it, and by others, is something else.”

“It hasn’t even opened yet.”

“I know and already, already. . . . You’d think the Titanic floated back up.”

“That’s an unusual thing to say at least.”

“Being poorly spoken does not make someone extraordinary.”

“You think you’re the only one with self-doubt? What if they came out with ‘Janet Jones: A Waste of Space’?”

“I’d expect you to be quite upset. But, that title is false, whereas my title is true and objective. It’s not self-doubt; it’s self-knowledge.”

“Jeff, would I have married an ordinary and wholly unremarkable man?”

“No, you’ve married a man who has lived a wholly unremarkable and ordinary existence.”

Janet dropped her cereal spoon into the bowl. She had been using it to stir her Cheerios in slight agitation, the bits of cereal sticking to the spoon as if magnetized. She looked up at Jeff, his head still stuck in the paper, picked the bowl up and moved to the sink. She turned the cold water on, dumped the bowl into the sink and muttered to herself, “Some ordinary conversation would be nice.”

***

At work that same day Jeff Jones was accosted by co-workers of all levels from the mailroom assistant’s girlfriend to the CEO himself, each with something they thought witty to say about the upcoming work of cinematic achievement.

“Jeff, I have a wholly ordinary question for you.”

“Did you catch that unremarkable game last night? Wholly ordinary…”

“My boyfriend says there is no mail for you today. He also says the lack of mail is unremarkable for someone as wholly ordinary as you.”

None of these statements particularly bothered Jeff on their own, but the constant barrage of unremarkable and wholly ordinary jokes at his expense felt like an emotional hailstorm, each stone impacting the same bony part of his wrist until it made a visible dent.

Jeff coasted through the day with the emergency brake on. Every time he got into a rhythm in his research or paper work he would get interrupted by some co-worker trying to have fun at his expense.

It was not that his co-workers disliked Jeff particularly. To the contrary, they all liked him, at least slightly more than they disliked him. Jeff left a positive impression on all his co-workers, but did not overwhelm any of them. They all knew Jeff was non-violent. They all knew Jeff was non-confrontational. They all knew Jeff would sit and take his ribbing without actually holding it against them. Even his direct subordinates joined in on the barrage. The Franklin brothers, Calvin and Alex, who formed two-fifths of the team Jeff was directly responsible for, began cataloguing their survey results as “ordinary,” “wholly ordinary,” “unremarkable,” “wholly unremarkable,” “remarkable,” “extraordinary” and “Jeff Jones.” Jeff overheard them laughing about their new system, but did not say anything.

A game was being played in the advertising department to see who could use the word unremarkable the most in their power point presentations. Extra points were awarded for subliminal uses, uses in conjunction with “wholly ordinary” and uses that actually helped get the intended message across. Bonuses in the third category were, of course, hard to come by, as unremarkable is not generally thought to be a word that entices consumers to buy a product, let alone a custom wall. The supervisor who was to choose amongst the proposed presentations chose the one that scored the lowest, but praised all those involved for their wit and ingenuity.

Word even spread to one of the less remote building sites, where a mini-wall of dried lavender and daffodils was being tied together with lace and threads of silk in order to separate Mrs. Forn’s antique Laughing Duck® figurines from her devastatingly modern armada of miniature model cruise ships complete with pools of actual water and working cash bars. Mrs. Forn felt the culture clash was just too much for the fourth ledge of her third bookshelf and called for Dense Thickets’ most meticulous and small-handed construction workers to finally and absolutely divide the shelf. When Mrs. Forn complimented the crew on their precision, the foreman replied that it was nothing more than another unremarkable and wholly ordinary day of work. Mrs. Forn took some offense at the remark, but was awkwardly reassured that this was merely an inside joke and that her wall was truly one of a kind and could not be reproduced even by the foreman himself if he were given a thousand type writers. Mrs. Forn did not understand what he meant exactly, but was content in knowing that her one-of-a-kind Laughing Duck® and cruise ship collections were divided by a one-of-a-kind wall of pleasant smells and fine fabric.

The story of this mishap spread through the company when of the small-handed workers posted a transcript of the conversation on the bulletin board outside the office kitchen. Jeff read the transcript, moved his eyes from left to right, took the transcript down, ripped it in half and returned to work. Moments earlier, the CEO had seen the transcript, thought it hilarious and asked the CFO to come down to the kitchen to see it. By the time the CFO reached the kitchen the transcript lay in two almost symmetrical bits in the trash. The CEO guessed at what might have happened and immediately called Jeff into his office.

“Jeff, how’s every little thing?” asked the CEO.

“Been better, been worse,” said Jeff.

“I see. There’s a joke, a joke going around the office. . . . You know that new movie coming out? The Bored and Boring Ordinary Times of Jeff Jones.”

“No, I mean, yeah, but that’s not the title. The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of Jeff Jones.”

“Right, yes, right, of course. I hope you know we are just having a bit of fun. It’s not every day that an employee here gets a movie made about him.”

“No, I know. It’s not about me though, not really I think. More just my name.”

“All the same, we like to have fun around the office, you know that. And sometimes that means being the butt of the joke. You understand. It’s really, the whole situation, is just unremarkable and wholly ordinary if you think about it.”

“Right.”

“No hard feelings then? The movie will be out in a couple days and then we’ll all see it together maybe. Like a company outing, free cokes, discounted popcorn.”

“I’d, you know . . . I won’t be attending.”

“What if I were to make it mandatory, for you anyway?”

“Then I’d go I suspect.”

“An unremarkable and wholly ordinary response. We’re not doing that, just wanted to see. Anyways, nothing to be done, just wanted you to understand it’s nothing personal.”

“Right,” said Jeff and got up to shake the CEO’s hand.

“Jeff, just remember, take everything in stride, but not human strides, they’re too small, jokes may get stuck in there and trip you up. Take it in stride, like a horse, like Secretariat’s perfect red gallop. Take it in that type of stride.”

“I’ll try,” said Jeff as he finally gripped the CEO’s hand and shook it more limply than he would have otherwise.

A different day, an unusual day, at work for Jeff Jones.

***

Jeff Jones left work at 4:45, a full forty-five minutes before he usually left and fifteen minutes before he was authorized to leave. On his drive home, Jones turned up the volume of the local sports talk radio show, Volster and The Cannibal, to drown out the voices in his head. The plan backfired. The sound of the radio distracted him to such an extent that he missed a turn and prolonged his drive at least five minutes. The particular on-air conversation which Jeff found so distracting was as follows:

Volster: The struggles, the struggle of this team are just unforgivable.

Cannibal: Unforgivable, Volster!

Volster: To think of the millions Heraldo and Gubenez are paid and to hit .091 combined in the series. I mean .091.

Producer: That’s 1 for 11.

Cannibal: 1 for 11!

Volster: I mean these guys are making, you know, they’re paid for their playoff performance and to have one hit combined.

Cannibal: Just one hit, Vol!

Volster: One hit! How much, Cannibal, how much would you think Heraldo and Gubenez get for that one hit?

Cannibal: Millions.

Producer: Twenty-three million dollars!

Volster: Twenty-three million dollars! That’s what these two are making for one hit.

Cannibal: One hit!

Volster: This is just . . . I’m just reeling here. Let’s go to the phones.

Producer: We have Everret the Dentist.

Volster: Everett, you’re on with Volster and the Cannibal (flesh ripping noise).

Everett: Thanks, guys. You know these guys, Heraldo and Guvelez, these guys they’re just not as good as we thought. They’re playing like ordinary minor leaguers, like a Glan Supen or something.

Volster: That’s right, at best. Glan Supen, we’d take Glan Supen at this point.

Cannibal: The Soupster!

Everett: And another thing, I mean twenty-three million, I have to say they’re not making that for just the one hit, that’s unfair.

Volster: Unfair?

Cannibal: Unfair?

Volster: Is it unfair that these guys make twenty-three million for one hit? Of course.

Cannibal: No, of course.

Everett: No, I mean, they’re making that for the whole year, not just for one hit.

Volster: One hit.

Cannibal: One measly single.

Everett: It was a double, but, anyway, what I want to say is the mediocrity, the creeping mediocrity of this team is just, you know, it’s remarkable how ordinary they are at every position.

Volster: That’s a good point. Where are they good? Where are they good? We thought the corner infield was their strength but Heraldo and Gubenez, I mean these guys, twenty-three million. They make getting a hit look like pulling teeth, right Everett?

Everett: Like pulling teeth with a fly swatter.

Cannibal: A small European could hit as well.

Everett: How small?

Volster: Thanks for the call Everett. You’re listening to Sports Talk 1120, the Growl (Tiger growling noise)!

Cannibal: The Growl!

Jeff’s frustration grew as he was unexpectedly reminded of the mediocrity of even his favorite baseball team.

“Don’t they remember Heraldo’s three home runs in the playoff clinching victory last year? Or Gubenez’s six straight .300 seasons?” said Jeff to himself as the right exit flew past his car. He banged his hand on the dashboard, drawing it back quickly, but ultimately striking with little force. He took a deep breath, turned down the radio and made the next exit. He twisted and turned his way towards his house, back-tracking the best he knew how. His thoughts filled with definitional questions. Mediocre, unremarkable and wholly ordinary flashed through his brain on a loop. His definitions were imprecise, his thinking muddled, all designed to reach the conclusion, that yes, he was, in fact, all of these things. The miniaturized faces of his co-workers laughing in unison materialized on the dashboard. Like bobble-head dolls chuckling and guffawing, sticking in his mind’s eye like a stray sunflower seed spat upward from the mouth of a greasy third-baseman. He closed his actual eyes for a moment, his car veered to the left slightly and he dragged it back. The miniature co-workers silenced and faded into oblivion as they mumbled to themselves about how Jeff Jones’s carelessness had merely destroyed them all. “That’s something remarkable,” he said to himself as he pulled into the driveway noticing that his wife’s car was gone.

***

Jeff Jones entered his home still in a haze. He thought his wife was supposed to be home by now, but could not be certain, for his mind was not letting any cognitive certainty creep in. Marbles came out from behind a couch in their living room and strutted over to Jeff, grazing her tail and entire torso against his left leg before wandering back, this time, to the arm of the couch, where she remained perched for the foreseeable future.

Jeff turned his average-sized head and then shook it, as if this would somehow lead to clarity of thought. It did not. He walked over to the fridge, stopping momentarily to stroke Marbles. Marbles placed her head in Jeff’s open hand and petted herself with Jeff’s palm. If a hand is stationary and the head moves, is Jeff still petting Marbles, or is Marbles rubbing Jeff’s hand? The essence of the interaction is the same, it is only who is actively giving and receiving the, for lack of a better word, love. In the end, it was Jeff who moved on, as Marbles remained at her perch and refused to chase Jeff around the house in order to continue the hand-rubbing/face-petting.

Jeff nearly made it to the fridge, when he saw a conspicuous envelope on the kitchen counter. It was a white envelope, closed, but not sealed with his first name on the outside. It read as follows:

Dear Jeff,

I had to go for a bit. I went to my Mother’s. Don’t call. I won’t answer. I’ll be back soon.

Since the announcement of that awful movie with your name in the title, things have not been so good around here. You have been moody and constantly self-pitying. Don’t pity yourself. Stop pitying yourself!

You have been unable to have a decent conversation, just continually with your head in one obscure magazine or another. I didn’t even know they printed that many nowadays. And the internet, our search history is irreparably damaged. Google thinks we’re self-obsessed cinefiles. We’re not that, you and I, we’re not that.

There are worse things than being normal, like being self-pitying for instance. You are not normal anyway. You’re better than normal. In fact, you’re the best and you mean the world to me, but I guess that’s not enough. Why is that not enough? You’re enough for me, why am I not enough for you?

I’ve left Marbles. She won’t let anything too drastic happen. Just look at that face, like a wise baker, without all those muffins to lug around. You know like that one we saw in New York that time we visited when you proposed? The face, that face just one look and you knew she had five thousand recipes in that head that could make you believe in carbohydrates again. That was remarkable, at least not wholly ordinary, right?

Anyway, I got you something, or a series of things. You need them. I can tell. Resolve this now or forever hold your peace.

Love,

Janet

Jeff put down the letter he had found touching yet hopelessly obscure. He grimaced and looked over at Marbles who decided to come over and comfort her wayward companion, not owner, Marbles never saw their relationship in terms of master and slave, nor did Jeff. Marbles, again rubbed her head against Jeff’s open palm as Jeff’s other hand moved past the letter and revealed the remaining contents of the envelope. They were two tickets. The first ticket was a one-way flight to Los Angeles, the second ticket was to the exclusive premier of “The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of Jeff Jones,” for tomorrow night.

“How did she?” said Jeff aloud to Marbles, if anyone.

“Who does she know who would?” said Jeff, definitely to no one at all.

Jeff noticed the flight was for tomorrow morning. He decided to call into work to take off the next couple days.

“I’m not feeling well,” he said to the automated machine which took and granted or denied requests for sick days at Dense Thickets.

“You sound just fine,” said the machine.

“I’m not,” he said.

“Sleep it off,” said the machine.

“Insomnia too,” said Jeff.

“Work it off,” said the machine.

“No,” said Jeff.

“Alright then,” said the machine.

Marbles looked up at her friend, proudly rubbing her head back and forth against his palm until Jeff had mellowed to the point where he could start packing.

***

In Hollywood, California, there is a Hippo-themed restaurant, Potamus. They serve a tremendous amount of vegetables, mostly lettuce, in giant bowls and no silverware. They serve a generous portion of short grass and other assorted plants if you ask nicely and will serve you 150 pounds worth (or one daily feeding) if you pay them an unspeakable amount of money. There was talk of buying an actual hippo, but this was squashed by the celebrity investors who felt the liability and expense of feeding the hippo, not to mention the disgust those eating might feel if they were to view the hippo at an indelicate moment, were not worth the kitsch value. Plush faux Hippo heads and legs are displayed proudly over the bar, while an electronic version of Hungry Hungry Hippos is available at each table for $5.00 a chomp-fest. Waiters dress in hippo costumes and stomp around on a giant keyboard mat to the tune of happy birthday. If the waiters strike a wrong note, waitresses pretend to tame them with whips and chains and lion claw oven mitts. This is the best part according to some of the children from the broken homes of Hollywood’s power brokers.

This is where Greg Tork and his agent chose to meet Taylor Hord and his agent for lunch the day of the opening. Greg Tork had always had a passing interest in hippos, once considering making a documentary about Ava, the famous three-legged hippo, found prospering in the African wild and taken to Cleveland, Ohio to impress Midwestern salesmen and their children. Tork ultimately passed, not knowing whether the story was inspirational or tragic and believing that he had to make a definite choice in order to make an effective documentary. “Ava Three Legs” was ultimately released for cable television to little acclaim and some cultural confusion.

The meeting was self-congratulatory. There was no business to be discussed, no arrangements to be made, only expensive appetizers to be ordered and half-eaten.

“Tonight’s the night,” said Tork’s agent.

“Indeed, such a night, tonight will be,” said Hord’s agent.

“This place is like something out of one of those books,” said Tork’s agent.

“I’ve read absolutely all of them. The best,” said Hord’s agent.

The waiter approached, only half-hippoed, wearing the pants, but with a stylish black dress shirt meant to draw attention away from the slight tail that stuck out of the pants.

“Welcome to Potamus. My name is Ult, I’ll be your server. Can I start you off with a grass and vodka smoothie tub or a fresh cilantro and mixed water float?”

“Yes, we’ll all take one of each,” said Hord’s agent.

“The tub is meant to serve six or more,” said Ult.

“No matter. Today we dine at Potamus and drink like camels,” said Tork’s agent.

“That reminds me, can we, can we smoke in here?” asked Hord’s agent.

“Not legally,” said Ult.

“Of course not, but can we? You know, just the four of us? I could buy cigars” said Hord’s agent.

Ult pretended not to hear this and returned to the bar behind the plush head of a hippopotamus to prepare the drinks.

Tork asked his agent, “Why?”

“To celebrate, we’re celebrating all your hard work, you two. What a cinematic achievement we have on our hands. Genius if you ask me,” said Tork’s agent.

“Genius is not always recognized, but we recognize it now and it waits for us tonight,” said Hord’s agent.

“It’s a good movie I think,” said Hord. “People will like it. They’ll, the themes, they’ll recognize themselves and that’s the main thing.”

“It’s one of the things and not an altogether unimportant one, I agree,” said Tork.

“You know per dollar spent on production, this thing could be one of the top grossers ever,” said Hord’s agent.

“That’s got to be wrong,” said Tork.

“Perhaps, but it really could be,” said Hord’s agent.

Ult returned with two other servers. The smoothies shook and the vodka noticeably separated from the grassy froth as Ult took each of the four massive goblets with two hands and carefully placed them on the table, leaving barely any room at all, but enough to place the cilantro and mixed water floats next to each. The floats, dwarfed by their rotund and alcoholic cousins, settled harmlessly and went almost unnoticed.

“How does anyone drink this?” asked Hord.

“With a straw and friends,” said Ult, “clean friends.”

“That’s kind of how the eighties went for me,” said Hord to some amusement.

“To ‘The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of Jeff Jones,’” said Tork’s agent, raising his glass with two hand and inviting the others to do the same. They did and each gulped down a chunk of smoothie slightly larger than they had intended.

“The specials tonight, we have the Hippo Hummus and Leaf Platter as our featured appetizer. That can be coupled with a gourmet sticky bun plate, featuring African Raisin Rhubarb, Lemon Zest, and Danish Sweetened Carrot with a fermented grass icing, and Gordon’s Favorite, which is a fishy sticky bun with hardened fried wasabi dipping sauce. For entrees, we, of course, have the Real Hippo’s Short Grass Bowl, which is really too big for any human I’ve met. We also have the assorted vegan short ribs with stuffed and fried celery stalks, served in our traditional Hippo bowl. And our Chef’s Special today is a stroked and strangled gooseneck, quartered and stretched to perfection with a side of orange-glazed short grass.”

“That’s something to behold,” said Hord’s agent diving in to sip some more smoothie.

“Stretched to perfection,” said Tork.

Once again the agents ordered for the table, ordering two of each of the appetizer specials and two or three other appetizers to boot. Tork and Hord each ordered the smallest short grass salad on the menu, knowing how filling the appetizers might be. The agents ordered the specials, with Tork’s agent trying the short ribs and Hord’s agent going for the Chef’s Special.

The appetizers came, the smoothies were consumed slowly and incompletely, while the mixed water floats were not touched and all the cilantro settled to the bottom. Tork’s agent considered briefly dipping a long spoon in his float and rescuing the cilantro to help spice his vegan short ribs. Ten years ago he would have, sitting in a Friendly’s in Albany, tossing around movie ideas with his high school friends. Now, he thought he’d changed. The very thought of scooping the cilantro up and adding flavor to his otherwise hopeless short ribs brought him a mixture of horror, nostalgia and accomplishment. He displayed none of these emotions and instead, picked up his spoon, tapped it on the table twice and bit his lower lip.

The gooseneck was presented upright and sprinkled with fluorescent sauces that glowed and distracted everyone from everything else. Hord’s agent looked at it with awe and asked Ult, “What’s on this?”

“It’s our homemade line of Potagloss Sauces. They all taste the same, but they come in a variety of exciting colors.”

“What do they taste like?” asked Tork.

“Like a mix between a mild yellow mustard, Italian dressing and a very sweet bar-b-que sauce. No one dislikes it.”

“Not bad,” said Hord’s agent, poking his fork into the sauce and licking it carefully off his spoon.

“The purple one is our house dressing. It made honorable mention for Hollywood Critic’s Choice Best Purple Dressing last year,” said Ult.

“Stiff competition I’m sure,” said Hord.

Ult did not respond, but instead smiled, as the signal was being given for the staff to assemble on the keyboard to wish the six-year-old girl seated Indian-style with her stylish grandparents at a booth on the other side of the restaurant a happy birthday. Ult pranced around the keyboard with his fellow male hippos as the female hippos sang in unison while directing the males with their lion paw mitts, shaming as if they would strike them every time a wrong note was stepped upon. This amused the six-year-old to some extent, but after the first chorus, she wondered aloud, “What is going on?” and chose to follow one particularly blonde female hippo whose voice rose above the rest. “She’s beautiful,” she said to her grandfather, who nodded and put his arm around his granddaughter. “Happy Birthday Chelsea!” he said. She smiled and stared at the blonde hippo, her grandfather’s offensive breath buzzing over the top of her head.

“A commentary on something, no doubt,” said Tork’s agent.

“To be sure,” said Hord’s agent.

The vodka hit Tork in a whoosh and the following came out: “The criticism, if any, comes as a satire on a number of levels. First, there is the obvious critique of live middle-American family entertainment with the trope of the anthropomorphic animal exaggerated in this instance by the hippo-costumed servers. Second, there is the critique of the birthday ritual performed at any number of restaurants across the nation, again exaggerated here through the use of the giant piano carpet and the inclusion of the entire staff. Finally, there is a sadomasochism fetish commentary, here the female hippos are meant to keep the male servers in line in a pseudo-sexual domineering fashion. However, there is the distinct possibility, that this is not satire at all, but a mere sub-par and exaggerated performance of these three grotesque cultural phenomenona. Bad art is not reformed by labeling it satire.”

“I agree, yes of course,” said Tork’s agent.

“Genius,” said Hord’s agent.

Hord disagreed with Tork’s implicit suggestion that the birthday celebration was meant to be art of any kind, good or bad. He did not really want to discuss it and stopped drinking to prevent himself from having any type of confrontation with the famed director.

The two celebrities ate their salads quickly, each looking up only to catch an occasional glance at the agents eating their exotic foods or challenging each other to increasingly competitive games of Hungry-Hungry Hippos.

“Any desserts this afternoon?” asked Ult noticing that all four men’s plates were three quarters empty and no one had made any progress in five solid minutes. Tork and Hord motioned as if they had enough and made faces which conveyed to their respective agents that this lunch was over.

Tork’s agent took the check, refused to actually look at it and placed his company credit card on top of the silver hippo-shaped holster. Another lifetime ago in Albany the hippo-shaped holster would have made for a good thirty-minutes of fodder and a story you told every new single woman you wanted to impress. But here, now that Tork’s agent was something special, something extraordinary; a successful agent in Hollywood, to mention it or the $457.68 his company just spent on this lunch would perhaps ruin his career.

***

Marbles was left food and a clean litter box. It was all she could hope for. Jeff was out the door and on his way to the airport before she had even thought about waking. The house was her’s, but this was not unusual. Jeff and Janet often left Marbles in the morning before Marbles woke up. She slept in and even occasionally relished waking to an empty house. A house with four distinct plush chair arms to lie on, six windows that allowed in sunlight during different times of the day to sun herself by, and a toy electric mouse which was nearly as much fun to bat around as it was to watch spin. There were so many things to do around the Jones’ household that Marbles was occupied with or without Janet and Jeff. It was not that she was oblivious to Jeff and Janet, it was just that she was quite satisfied without them and their presence merely added to an otherwise exciting and extraordinary day. The Remarkable and Wholly Extraordinary Existence of Marbles Jones.

***

Jeff’s flight was on-time. Jeff was the only one on the plane with a row to himself and the stewardess complimented him on the knot of his tie. Jeff wore a suit on the plane and everyone around him had the impression that he was somehow more important than most of the families shipping off to visit their relatives or some theme park. Of course, the other men and women in suits, those on business, could tell looking at Jeff that he was not really one of them. He had not mastered how to move in a suit. He was noticeably constrained and even forgot to unbutton his top button when he sat in the airport lounge. His seat near the back of coach also left some business people to wonder if he had a funeral to attend or an interview for a middle management position at an insurance firm.

An outsider to everyone, Jeff had time to think about what he would do at the premier. How would he get to see Greg Tork? Would it be best to press his luck before the movie, or try to find him after? Could he stop the movie from going on somehow? Would he get arrested if he did? But first, first he would meet Tork, and Tork would say something, something that would make it all make sense. Something that would ease his mind and simultaneously reassure him of his own definite and substantial spot in the universe, one unencumbered by mediocrity and self-doubt, a unique cosmic space reserved only for the different and not easily understood.

Just before landing, the rough-skinned stewardess who appeared to have given up smoking about ten years too late, told Jeff that he “had the finest looking knot I’ve seen, really something, something special,” she said. Her son worked for Porf and Young’s, she explained, and even their most well-kept manikins did not have a knot that precise.

“How’d you do it?” she asked.

“Loops and through this and under that, you know how it is,” said Jeff with new-found fleeting confidence he only ever experienced in moments of unexpected praise.

“Really remarkable,” she said and passed an orange juice to her fellow attendant to hand to the woman across the aisle who had been coughing into her elbow most of the flight.

Jeff Jones’ shielded optimism carried him off the plane, through the airport and into a taxi which let him off right in front of the theater. “Tonight! The Premier of Greg Tork’s New Feature: The Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary Existence of Jeff Jones.”

***

Jeff Jones arrived approximately four hours too early for the premier. He walked slowly up to the theater gate, his optimism deflated by the neon sign which reminded him of why he was here and what he truly thought of himself.

He arrived at the ticket counter and flashed the ticket his wife had somehow obtained.

“The show is not for another six hours, gates open in four,” said the ticket collector, a rail thin man with a nose designed exclusively to have a mustache underneath it, and it did. A woman or child could not have that nose; it was meant for a grown man. His eyes were green and his teeth yellowed with years of fake butter and caramel-based chocolates. His black vest colored with purple stars and matching bow tie framed his body and kept it from being brushed clean by that mustache and inhaled by that nose.

“For Jeff Jones,” said Jeff Jones, “This is for the premier.”

“I see. I’m surprised, that you, I mean who do you know anyway?”

“Jeff Jones,” said Jeff Jones.

“Very funny. It looks like a legit ticket. I can’t scan it now anyway. But even if it’s real, like I said, not till six. Jeff Jones goes on at eight. The celebrities probably will get here around seven. Are you a friend of a producer or something?”

“No, I’m Jeff Jones.”

“Very well, whatever Jeff Jones. You’re film is not until eight, so please go. LA is a wonderful town for the average Joe like yourself. Just drive around in circles until you see something interesting. A guy like you, it could be exciting. And then later we’ll see if that ticket is real and that suit stays pressed.”

“It’s real,” said Jeff.

“We’ll see,” said the ticket attendant.

***

Jeff Jones walked up and down the wide sun-stroked boulevard, observing some attractive women, some well-dressed men, a good number of homeless in small tents with boxes of cereal stored under burlap blankets, and some small pets in sweaters and glittered collars. He stopped at a newsstand and started flipping through various entertainment magazines in search of his own name. Four stars seemed to be the consensus, with most reviewers praising Tork for his ingenious use of non-linear sequencing combined with straight forward story-telling and complex, yet discernible, imagery. None of this mattered or signified anything to Jeff Jones. Yet, he kept flipping through magazine after magazine, reading every word of every review until the Lebanese newsstand clerk said, “The next you read, you have bought.”

Jeff Jones circled back and sat in a café about halfway between the newsstand and the theater. It was promised that the coffee brewed at this particular café was made with real coffee beans and water.

Jeff Jones ordered his coffee black, the actress/barista asked him if he was sure and he said, “Of what?” She smiled, licked her gold-capped tooth and said, “Nothing.”

The coffee tasted true enough, as Jeff sat and thought about the coming premier and how to make sure he could speak to Greg Tork. He decided it was still a good idea to get there early, as a broad shouldered surfer in flip-flops and board shorts obscured his view of the street. He thought Tork would have an entourage of media people, various friends in the business and lawyers who had decided to become agents, as a young African-American family with Dodgers’ hats and dark-rimmed glasses walked up to the ordering station and confused the barista with an order of four drinks of various sizes, Italian names and flavor shots. He tortured his average intellect to find some way to ensure he could speak with the great director as an overweight red-headed mother of three and her slender young Spanish boyfriend bought a pair of muffins and groped each other four feet to his left. He grabbed the hair on the top of his head and crushed it with both hands, as an old man with a pair of tattoo sleeves stopped in, looked at the menu, could not read it, and then slowly walked out, squinting his eyes. He released his hair, adjusted his tie and felt his gut, while a sharply dressed thirty-something white man ordered “the usual” and waited while patiently tapping on his smartphone.

He looked vaguely familiar, a minor celebrity perhaps. But more familiar than that, like someone who Jeff Jones had recently and repeatedly seen. He was, wait, he is, “That’s Jeff Jones!” thought Jeff Jones. Well not Jeff Jones, but Jeff Jones from the articles, Jeff Jones from the posters, Jeff Jones from the internet!

Jeff Jones got up and walked towards the man, the famous, the extraordinary Jeff Jones who had his head down still looking at his smartphone. Jeff Jones wanted the famous Jeff Jones (what was his name again?) to look up so he would not have to poke him on the shoulder to get his attention. No luck. The poke ensued. If observed from afar from say a young African-American family or a broad-shouldered surfer, Jeff Jones would have appeared tentative to the point of outright insanity as his hand was put forth and withdrawn without the famous Jeff Jones noticing no fewer than four times before he finally placed it on his shoulder.

The famous and important Jeff Jones turned, his face still half in his smartphone, the other half half-focused on our Jeff Jones.

“Yes,”

“I am Jeff Jones,” said our Jeff Jones.

“Funny, really,” said the famous Jeff Jones.

“No really, I am,” he reached into his pocket, grabbed his ID and momentarily covered his famous counter-part’s smartphone with it.

“So you are. Going to see your, or maybe our, movie soon. You want an autograph or something? Picture? Where’s your wife?”

“She’s with her parents. No, I mean, me too, I’m going to see the movie.”

“Well, it’s good to meet the true Jeff Jones, could have done some character study if I only knew.”

“Taylor Hord, that’s it, Taylor Hord,” said Jeff Jones aloud.

“Yes, that’s me and Jeff Jones and Col. Reginald Waterbottom and Turf Toe Ted Tolls and Steve with the nose and Dr. Torrence Albright and Finnegan Lawrence, Esq. and a hundred other names. You’re the only one I’ve met in person. An honor,” said Taylor Hord.

“My honor, instead,” threw in Jeff Jones.

Just then the barista handed Hord his usual.

“Yes, sure, well I should go.”

“Of course,” said Jeff Jones, who was about to return to his black coffee when he decided, against all past inclinations and tendencies, to make someone else slightly uncomfortable momentarily for the sake of trying to achieve something that meant quite a lot, and at this moment, almost everything, to him.

“Wait,” said Jeff Jones, “Can . . . will you let me meet him?”

“What?” said Taylor Hord, who turned around briefly.

“I’m going tonight, I have a ticket,” he held up the ticket, “Can you arrange it for me, can I meet Greg Tork?”

“Why? I mean we had lunch today and . . .”

“You had lunch? Please, can I meet him? Five minutes, less, two minutes.”

“He might, well, you are Jeff Jones after all. . . . He might enjoy that. Give your name to the attendant; tell him you’re The Jeff Jones, say The Jeff Jones. You’re not a crazy, right?”

“Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary.”

***

Jeff Jones, his tie still in place and his pants only slightly chaffing his thighs, strode up to the ticket counter he had been shooed away from four hours earlier. There was, this time, a modest crowd gathered outside the theater. They were buzzing, but not in the way he expected. As far as Jeff Jones could tell people were talking about their personal lives or the lives of celebrities who would almost certainly not be in attendance. A few men talked about sports. Some of the women talked about dresses. Some couples whispered at each other, some faces evidenced reprimand, others invitations, some blank disinterest. At this moment Jeff Jones acutely felt his insignificance, his true unimportance. No one, not a soul, took note of The Jeff Jones as he waited patiently for his chance to meet The Greg Tork and find out the true meaning of his life.

He finally reached the mustachioed ticket attendant.

“Ah, Jeff Jones, The Jeff Jones,” he said.

“Right, you remember,” said Jeff Jones as he handed him the ticket.

“I, no, barely . . . it is real, but the star, the star reminded me. And who can forget when a star reminds you?”

“Thanks.”

“And the star, he said to give you this. Show this to, outside the VIP area, to the guy who stands out there, he’ll let you through and so what? That’s it, enjoy. The Jeff Jones.”

“Thank you,” said Jeff Jones as he took the pass, alongside the ticket his wife had somehow obtained for him. “How did she get it?” he thought for a minute as he worked his way through the crowd, with their glasses of wine and finger foods, mini-corn dogs he noticed and almost stopped for. A barrel chest with a Scandinavian face attached stood at the entrance of the VIP area. A bar with three devastatingly beautiful women was barely visible over his left shoulder. Jeff waited behind a guy who spent more money on his hair every day than Jeff spent on groceries in an average week.

The barrel chest went in and out and the Scandinavian face remained blank as he handed it the ticket and his ID. The blank face, turned slightly indignant as he realized that The Jeff Jones was actually on the list.

“So it is,” he said, looking past Jeff into the crowd of more beautiful people. Jeff acknowledged his meaninglessness to the barrel chest by nodding his head, taking his documentation back and walking into the VIP area. There, awaited a number of people considered by most to be remarkable and extraordinary in one way or another. They sat or stood drinking colorful drinks in spotted or twisted glasses, no one’s face recoiling at the taste. They all seemed to look through him, not elsewhere, but directly through him at nothing in particular. Jeff took notice of this, but not to the extent he usually would, as he was still focused on finding Greg Tork.

He knew what Tork’s headshot looked like. He had seen it countless times in the various reviews. He did not smile in it. Instead there was a sort of glare that indicated the import of his body of work without crushing the viewer. It said, “What I do, what I’ve done, really means something. You may acknowledge it or you may choose to ignore it, but its meaning is without question.”

A face like that was not present in the VIP lounge. Instead, there was a body secluded on a black velvet couch in the far corner, a body covered in a fine tight-fitting tailored dark gray suit and topped with a head salted and peppered throughout and brushed from the chin to the sideburns with a simple rub of the same. Jeff Jones saw the head and the body; they did not strike him as particularly interesting or unusual. He looked again, noticing the entourage of people surrounding this head and body, each smiling face extending their hand, offering a drink and a kind word. The head nodded, his hand was thrown out and then withdrawn and his head nodded some more. “Compliments, compliments,” thought Jeff Jones and looked closer. The face, the face on the head, he could glean the face and it bore a sufficient similarity to the headshot, yet held none of its gravity.

Jeff Jones felt the sideways glances of the ingénues, asking not what he was doing here, but what he was doing anywhere. What was he? They had no point of reference. He felt this and kept a steady course, until, at last, he landed beside the face, the head and the body, all one, all certainly Greg Tork.

“Excuse me,” said Jeff Jones.

“My agent, are you looking for him? He just left, the shrimp, he left for the shrimp over there,” said Greg Tork, turning back to face another supporter.

“No,” said Jeff Jones loudly, regaining Tork’s attention. “I mean you; I want to talk to you.”

“Yes, of course, and who should I make it out to,” said Greg Tork, pulling a Sharpie from his breast pocket.

“No,” said Jeff Jones, flipping his hands over to indicate that he had nothing for the great director to sign.

“Do I know you? Are you the sound editor? I knew I forgot to thank someone in that email. Listen, you know I’m terribly sorry. There’s just so many of you and one can never be entirely . . .”

“No,” said Jeff Jones. “I’m Jeff Jones.”

“Very funny, aren’t we all, aren’t we all,” said Greg Tork.

“No, I’m Jeff Jones, I’m a Jeff Jones and The Jeff Jones,” he reached into his wallet and showed Greg Tork his ID.

Greg Tork took the ID, squinted, nodded his head, smirked, and handed it back. “I see you are Jeff Jones,” said Greg Tork.

“Yes, I wanted to talk to you about that,” said Jeff Jones.

“No, why? It’s funny I guess. Jeff, you seem like a normal guy, like a real Jeff Jones even. I’ve got a theory for you,” said Greg Tork.

“A theory about me?” asked Jeff Jones.

“No, I don’t know you. How could I have a theory about you? No, I want your take on something. You’re not in the industry right?”

“No, not this industry,” said Jeff Jones.

“No, no of course not. You’re productive, I can tell.”

“I try.”

“The point is, I haven’t told anyone. Let’s get away here for a second Jeff Jones,” said Greg Tork as he ushered Jeff Jones away from Tork’s adoring throng and toward the rest rooms just outside of the VIP area.

“You ever notice, case in point over here,” he said as three women walked past and into the ladies room. “Have you ever noticed how women, they go to the bathroom in packs in public, like two at a minimum and sometimes eight or more?”

“I guess so, I mean I’ve seen that happen more than men I guess,” said Jeff Jones uncertain and feeling somewhat awkward about the subject matter.

“Right, more than men. We go alone. Don’t we?” said the famous director Greg Tork.

“I try to,” said Jeff Jones, breaking the slightest smile.

“Right you are, for observations must start at home after all.”

“We all go alone at home,” said Jeff Jones, his smile widening.

“Most, most do,” said Greg Tork, patting Jeff Jones on the back. “Right, anyways, so women go in packs and men go alone. Ever wonder why?”

“Not really, that’s just how it is,” said Jeff Jones.

“I’ve wondered. Wondered if the difference were in the biological act, wondered if it had to do with checking make-up, wondered if it had to do with the male fear of male homosexuality and male fetishization of female homosexuality, wondered if it had to do with women’s fear of being attacked and men’s fear of having their masculinity challenged, wondered if it was cultural, wondered if it was Biblical,” said Greg Tork.

“Biblical?” asked Jeff Jones.

“Perhaps not, no I never wondered that.”

“Right.”

“No, but you know none of it is true. None. I’ve found the cause, the reason. You want to know?”

“Now I do.”

“Doors, it’s all about doors.”

“Doors?”

“Women have doors, men don’t, it’s that simple. If every urinal were a stall, complete with its own walls and doors . . . for what else is a door, than a wall with a hinge and a handle? If every women’s stall were separated by flimsy dividers or not separated at all, would they go together in droves? No, I submit modesty would not allow them. And men, who wouldn’t go with his buddy at the bar if he knew for an absolute fact that there would be a door and walls separating them in the act. Doors and walls, doors and walls that’s what shapes us sometimes,” said Greg Tork.

“A hinge and a handle?”

“That’s right, that’s right,” said the extraordinary director Greg Tork.

“The movie, what’s the movie about? Why did you make it?” asked Jeff Jones, compelled by what was left of his original interest in the great director.

“No, no and we were having such a good time. I don’t answer questions like that, no. It is what you make of it.”

“I see,” said Jeff Jones, reeling.

“So what did you think of my theory, Jeff Jones?”

“Unremarkable and Wholly Ordinary.”

***

Jeff held on to his flight bag with one hand and reached across his body into his opposite pocket with the other. What he found were his keys which slipped from his index finger once and were then corralled by the middle and index finger working together.

The keys were in the door, it opened, the hinges creaking to reveal Janet Jones, sitting on the couch, her back to Jeff Jones, Marbles on her lap. She turned and looked over her shoulder.

“Well?” she said.

“Yes, I’m back,” said Jeff Jones.

“It’s late. You’re early. The movie was… It must have just ended.”

“I don’t know,” said Jeff Jones.

“You didn’t see it? But, the tickets . . . you had to see it.”

“There’s no movie I have to see,” said Jeff Jones.

“The ticket, was there something wrong with the ticket?”

“No,” said Jeff Jones. “I got in, saw the star, the director, all of it.”

“You met them?” asked Janet Jones, easing Marbles onto another section of the sofa and rising to face Jeff.

“I did. They were nice,” said Jeff Jones.

“Nice? What did they say about the movie?”

“About the movie? Nothing.”

“You didn’t ask. After all that, you didn’t ask?”

“I asked the director, he refused to say. He had other interests,” said Jeff Jones finally dropping his bag and reaching over the couch to scratch Marbles on the head.

“But that’s all you wanted, that’s why I . . . the ticket.”

“I know and it was . . . I’m so grateful, and I was going to go, I went and asked,” said Jeff and hugged his wife. They held onto each other at half an arm’s length.

“Are you okay now?”

“I’m just fine Janet.”

“You’re, you’re over it? We can go back to normal. Our unremarkable and wholly ordinary life is enough for you?”

“I’m . . . yes, you’re enough.”

“That’s sweet,” she said and they kissed as Marbles rolled over on to her belly, rolled back, and then strolled over to the corner of the couch and purred.

Jeff and Janet noticed her, withdrew from each other and rubbed Marbles head. Janet stroked Marbles away from her body, while Jeff scratched and petted the cat towards him against the grain. For Marbles this was a moment to be cherished, an unprecedented feeling of docility and appreciation flowed over her as the back and forth of her two favorite people made her purr with delight. Janet and Jeff smiled.

“Cats purr,” said Jeff.

“It’s ordinary,” said Janet.

“Unremarkable,” said Jeff.