Best Available Human
“You’ve been looking for a way in for so long. And here it is.”
“But this isn’t really how I operate,” I say.
My mother had arranged a meeting with my fake uncle. He’s someone my parents knew in college.
“You have a lot of potential and nothing else to go with it,” my mother argues.
“What is he doing with himself these days anyway?” I ask.
“I’ve heard several versions and only one of them seems trustworthy.”
She doesn’t elaborate.
“Listen, he is capable,” she says. “Instead of ‘no,’ he says things like, ‘It doesn’t work out that way conceptually.’”
One or both of us loses interest in the conversation.
I manipulate myself into a chair up against a corner of the restaurant and await my companion.
He is a wallet with a man attached. We embark on this encounter as if we thought of it ourselves.
He insists on administering a presentation but keeps calling it an instructional video. His laptop wheezes beside our cutlery.
The first slide reads: MAKING THE BIG SALE.
“Are you thinking about nachos?” I ask.
He ignores me, foraging for the right key to press.
“Recently, I sent my diaries over to a foundation that requested them, so this doesn’t reflect my entire legacy,” he says.
He maneuvers the next slide in place. Its text whooses in from the left-hand side, which reads: MEDICAL MARVEL.
“An accomplished yodeler spent years studying my larynx.”
A server surfaces at that moment and he accidentally says this while staring right into her eyes. She collects some crumbs and keeps moving.
Our tablecloth matches the texture of his pride––knotted and bulbous linen lying flush against particleboard.
“Let’s talk about assets,” he continues. “I once dated a movie star who owned three Bengal tigers. When she ultimately overdosed and died, I found out she had bequeathed said tigers to me.”
I slice more roast beef and think it tastes like the hot pink light they place it under.
Then my fake uncle kills the screen and says, “I once made a troublesome pizza delivery guy disappear.”
He takes a call yet still musters a reply, pointing at me and walking away, saying, “Good luck trying to pin me on that one.”
When he returns I say, “I’m one of those troublesome pizza delivery guys you hear about.”
I articulate the point by strangling my own neck, my tongue a pendulum for emphasis.
“Kidding. I’m really the town guru.”
I fling a fry off my plate, lean in, and pretend to whisper, “I’ve seen more spectacles than a YMCA locker. You name it.”
Not wanting to leave any room for oneupmanship, I add while getting up to find the bathroom, “I convinced a nudist colony to start wearing socks. They’re still totally naked otherwise. You should see them now.”
I rap on the adjacent stall and receive the corresponding knocks back.
“I came in as soon as I got your French fry,” the stall says.
“You have to admit, the guy has some gumption.”
“Then why are we here if you’re so impressed?” asks the stall.
“No more for me,” I reply.
The night is over, a sham.
I hear my best friend’s boots squawk away and out the door. They have lots of tread which can sound like the opposite of intimidation on certain floors. We have a secret oath, and covering for each other like this is part of it. She is the best available human.
I flush and wash vigorously while staring at the “Employees must wash hands” sign.
We assemble back at the table.
“This is my associate,” I say. “Something came up.”
Dara takes my seat.
I watch the scene through the restaurant window. When I put my hands in my pockets, I pull out a deranged fork.
Did I steal this? I’m trying not to think things anymore. It’s my fork now.
The two of them are laughing. They have their palms clutching their respective chests as a sign of overwhelming amusement.
But my fake uncle presses his hand against his chest a little too long. He starts smacking with it and slumping over. He’s choking or having a heart attack, I’m sure.
I abandon my post before I can gather more details.
Am I on the run?
I jaywalk while chainsaws harmonize in the distance.
Claire Hopple is the author of four books. Her fiction has appeared in Wigleaf, Peach Mag, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Hobart, The Rupture, and others.