Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Eat, Drink and Be Merry - A Christmas Story

The scene at the buffet table could not have been more shocking or awful had it played-out before the assembled guests in multi-angled slow-motion. When Walter Q. Lemitz bit the head of the bald man, the moment of stunned horror elongated, and then came the wordless, repulsed cries that drowned out the party's Christmas music. As blood burst from the man's defenseless, baby's-bum pate, security pounced upon Lemitz.

"You were 'only doing your job?'" said Detective Charen -- bad cop -- standing hands-on-hips, chewing gum; his light brown mustache a caterpillar doing the polka above his thin upper lip. "What are you, a hitman-cannibal?"

Myopic, ectomorphic Detective Sneed -- good cop -- snickered.

"No," Lemitz grunted, head pounding with the first gong-blast of hangover.

With his disheveled hair -- coarse as Brillo, gray as a cemetery slab -- his shirt torn open revealing the frog-belly flesh of his chest and distended, herniated belly hanging over his belt, sweat-stains under his arms the size of dinner plates, a blood reddened oval around his mouth and chin, he looked like a defeated, surly clown.

Detective Charen put a foot on the empty chair, and leaned forward on his beige polyester knee. "So, what's your job?"

Lemitz's eyes were like two flies squashed against glass. He looked at Charen. Then, filling the air with mustard gas halitosis, he said, "I want my phone call."


Months before, a flyer appeared in his mailbox, which read: EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY FOR UP TO $300/NIGHT. Lemitz tossed it in the trash. Days later came a telephone call from a man introducing himself as Dale Randy. Lemitz hung up. Then came a knock on the door at the end of the week. Standing in the dim hallway was a bespectacled man no taller than a pre-adolescent boy. He had kinky red hair, and a leather folder under his arm. Lemitz slammed the door in his face.
"Five words," said Mr. Randy through the door. "'Eat, drink, and be merry.'"

Lemitz returned to watching Sandford and Son.

"I've come to offer you a job," Mr. Randy said.

"Fuck off!"

"I represent ZemhepCo Group."

"And I'm CEO of Who Gives a Shit."

"Mr. Lemitz, I'm asking for only two minutes of your time."

"Eat shit."

"I'll give you two hundred dollars to hear me out."

A moment later, Lemitz had four fifties in hand, and Dale Randy sat on the edge of the stained, lopsided sofa. The odor in the apartment was a complex interlacing of BO and garbage, an undercurrent of burnt hair, a tinge of urine, and a spark of mould -- a sensualist's equivalent to hell.

"Where'd you get my name and address?"

"Each month the Unemployment Office sends a list of unemployables," said Mr. Randy.


"People incapable of sustaining employment."

"What the hell -- ?"

"Have you ever wondered if those elements of your personality that get you fired from jobs -- "

"Fuck you, asshole! There's nothing wrong with my fucking personality?!"

" -- could actually be of value?" Mr. Randy opened his leather folder and consulted his notes. "Nine months ago, you lasted three hours as a meeter/greeter at Wal-Mart -- "

"Bunch of gimps -- I had to all but wipe customers' asses. "

"The year before you lasted a week as security guard -- "

"They had a rule against reading while on duty."

" -- after your supervisor found you drunk, asleep, and in possession of fetishistic pornography."

"Fucking nitpickers." He glared at Mr. Randy. "You came here to tell me I'm a lousy worker?"

"No, I've come to offer you a job."

Lemitz narrowed his fly-squashed gaze. "Doing what?"

"Have you ever thought about being Party Enhancer."


"How about some coffee?" said Detective Sneed, as Charen left for a smoke.

Lemitz rubbed his eyes. "Black, three sugars."

When Sneed returned with the coffee, he said, "Your story doesn't add up. Why don't you just admit you have a grudge against Bob Lelo?"

"Bob -- ?"

"The man you attacked."

Lemitz sipped his coffee; grimaced.

"Thing we can't figure is how you know him. You're not employed by Rechtham Associates, you don't reside near Mr. Lelo. We can't figure the connection." Sneed leaned forward. "If you were paid to attack him, the person who paid you is in more trouble than you are." He paused. "Help to help you."

Lemitz remained silent.

"You're only making it harder on yourself," Sneed said, irritated.

"I want my phone call."

Sneed eyed Lemitz for a moment, and then nodded. "Have it your way." He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. "Here, use mine."

Lemitz shook his head. "I don't feel like having you trace or record the call."

Sneed's face flushed; he narrowed his gaze. "We're going to take you down, Lemitz."


In the post-Lehman Brothers/AIG/$700 billion bail-out corporate world, wages and benefits were being run off a cliff like Walt Disney's lemmings, layoffs were on the rise, morale plummeted and productivity flagged everywhere. Workplace violence increased. And so, human resource managers were faced with the insurmountable challenge of retaining the few employees that companies actually needed to continue operating.

Into this noxious void stepped ZemhepCo Group with its Party Enhancers business.

The standard issue strippers, musicians, magicians and comedians were available, of course, but extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures. Hence the "industrial strength" sub-arm of Party Enhancers L.L.C., known as the Beraters, which operated like a secret society: whose employees were paid in cash, received instructions on cards with no letterhead, mailed with no return address; and who called into the Home Office via old-school pay phones. Lemitz was a rising star on this roster of most requested of hires.

His job? He attended corporate functions as just another faceless, unidentified minion. He ate free meals, drank free booze, and as managers or directors got up to "say a few words," Lemitz got to work. Preliminary heckling took many forms: ostentatious yawning, elaborate coughing fits, thunderous multi-noted flatulence, clattering silverware. When VPs, presidents or CEOs took the stage, the verbal onslaught began. Behind hands that looked to be covering a sneeze or a yawn, Lemitz sniper-bellowed, "Douche-bag!" or "Cocksnot!" or "Fuck you!" Heads turned; muttered disapproval rippled through audiences, but there was also muffled laughter and whispered encouragement.

Lemitz's true gifts flourished as a Guerrilla Berater, one of the the PE shock troops who confronted hated supervisors, managers, executives in front of crowds of attendees. Depending on the night's design, the GB positioned himself behind the target at the bar or buffet table. Lemitz often began his tirade in a manner that never disappointed, saying to an executive, "So, I was fucking your wife the other day…" From there he would accuse the target of being a closeted homosexual, pederast, or that he was the genetic result of a Nazi experiment. Few diatribes lasted more than thirty seconds, but they all ended the same way: with the red-faced, breathless, stunned supervisor-manager-executive shouting, "You're fired!" and security ushering Lemitz brusquely to the exit.

And for weeks -- even months -- afterward, the office Plebes whispered and laughed and relived the moment some guy nobody recognized told-off the boss as they could only dream of doing. Morale would be successfully jerry-rigged into a workable state in which the company could continue to function.


Within the hour of Lemitz making his one phone call, a ZemhepCo lawyer was at the police station threatening to immolate anyone who stood in the way of him taking his client home. No one was willing to risk immolation. Once home, Lemitz parked himself in front of his television and Alka Seltzed his way back to normality. This hadn't been his first arrest, but the experience was more tiresome each time it occurred.


This Christmas season was very busy for Party Enhancers L.L.C., and there was no lag in Lemitz's assignments. The day after his arrest, he worked a post office brunch, where he was loudly asked to leave during his verbal assault as they executives spoke. That evening, it was a tool and die shop party where drinks and drunken punches were thrown at him after berating a hated manager. Which left Lemitz, hungover, bruised, cantankerous and flush with cash.

The assignment for December 20th, however, appeared to be a non-starter. The Personnel admin of the police department in charge of the Christmas party made a last-minute call to the Party Enhancers with an emergency request. Morale around the department had crumbled in the wake of the forced-retirement of a beloved sergeant and the pending promotion of a hated staff sergeant.

"I'm very sorry, but we are booked solid through to Valentine's Day," the Party Enhancer phone rep said. "There's nothing I can do."

"We'll pay anything!" the secretary pleaded. "There's always some undocumented cash in the Evidence Room--" she cut herself off. "Maybe I shouldn't have said that." She began to cry. "We're all so stressed! We can't even do our jobs! We need your help!"

The Party Enhance phone rep sighed. "OK, I'll see what I can do."


Dale Randy was shaking his head even before his Beraters liaison finished speaking. "Absolutely not," Randy said. "I realize the company that hired Lemitz that evening has gone under, but he was just arrested. How could he infiltrate the police department Christmas party?"

"Leave that to me," said the liaison.

"He's the most valuable Berater we've got!" Randy said, voice rising, as he pointed at the liaison. "If anything happens to him--" his voice broke "I will hold you personally responsible!"


The fit of the Santa costume was abysmal, but the PE wardrobist assured Lemitz that he looked perfect. Lemitz shrugged, and continued eating his Angry Whopper.


There was a larger-than-expected turn-out for the police department Christmas party. A large banquet hall was lavishly appointed for the officers and their spouses' meal, and a smaller, adjacent room set up for their children. Admins and interns dressed as elves looked after the children, with the promise of Santa making a visit near the end of the night.

Lemitz looked at the gathering through the EMPLOYEES ONLY door. Of all his faculties that had atrophied, malfunctioned or simply given out on him over the years, his vision had somehow remained intact. He scanned the room and saw Detectives Charen and Sneed taking drink orders at the head table filled with the white-shirt administrators. The night's dossier said that Charen and Sneed had been suspended without pay after the ZemhepCo Group attorneys woke the mayor out of bed with complaints about Lemitz's treatment upon his most recent arrest.

Scanning the room further, Lemitz locked on soon-to-be Inspector Mullen, a hatchet faced woman in her forties who was hated by all, but on track for promotion into the inspector position. The unidentified HR admin who'd booked Lemitz for this evening had explained to the PE phone rep that the balance and uniformity of hate felt toward Mullen by the entire department made her the perfect candidate for the inspector position. The white shirts loved playing the Plebes off of one another.

Lemitz drank deeply from his tumbler of Wild Turkey, wiped his mouth on his sleeve and entered the banquet hall.

The first white shirt had already gotten up to say a few words. Lemitz-dressed-as-Santa approached the head table, relishing the gasps and whispers that accompanied his appearance. There was no ignoring him, so the white shirt with the mic ad-libbed, chuckling hatefully, "Well, look who it is! Jolly ole Saint Nick!" There was a smattering of bewildered applause.

Lemitz held out his hand, and as though he wielded the power of a wizard, the befuddled white shirt handed him the microphone.

"Ho, ho, ho," Lemitz sneered too loud into the mic. "How about some white hoods to go with those white shirts?"

There came more gasps, agitated whispers and some laughs.

The white shirt who had relinquished the mic leaned forward to snatch it back. Lemitz waited a moment, and then stepped away causing the white shirt to lean forward more than he had intended to, and falling into the head table, knocking it, upsetting everyone's drinks and place settings.

"Inspector Mullen," Lemitz intoned. Her dossier mentioned she was deeply religious. "As St. Paul wrote to the Fallopians, 'Eat, drink and be merry you ass-tobacco-cunt-headed-cock-snotted-fetus-feasting-bathtub-snorkler --'" He was interrupted by a dinner plate sailing past his head.

A primal, tarzan shriek emitted from the crowd, followed by the screeching of a chair shooting out from a table. Lemitz grimaced in the spotlights focused on the head table, wondering from which angle the attack was coming.

Mullen met him head on, slapping him in the side of the head so hard he dropped the microphone. Clutching his drink, reeling from the blow, Lemitz attempted to continue his tirade, but another blow boxed his left ear. He continued reeling, head ringing, and found himself crashing through a set of double doors. He was met by the screams of children -- some startled, some excited, all shrill, piercing, disorienting, mind-destroying. It was much brighter in the kids' room than in the banquet hall. As Lemitz waited for his eyes to adjust, he received a brutal kick in the ass.

Gathering himself, Lemitz spun around, on the attack. The hatchet faced woman was in full feral sneer. He opened his mouth for another squall of profanity, but she cut him short with a punch to the throat. Of all the abuse Lemitz endured in his life, he'd never suffered a punch to the throat. The pain was exquisite, almost enlivening in how it lit every nerve-ending in his upper torso and super-novaed behind his eyes.

He dropped his drink.

A strange, inhuman gurgle issued from his crushed larynx.

There was an uproar of crying and gnashing of teeth among the children. The women dressed as elves brought their hands to their mouths, appalled, aghast. Mullen stood over Lemitz, glowering down on him.


Walter Q. Lemitz was fondly and reverently remembered as the first Berater to die in the line of duty. A video compilation of his PE career was cobbled together from cell phone cam footage, surveillance cam footage, as well as various event videographers' contributions. A plaque with Lemitz's name on it hung in the ZemhepCo Group boardroom.

Since he had no family or friends, ZemhepCo Group looked after Lemitz funeral arrangements. Following an administrative shake-up at the police department, where Staff Sergeant Mullen was put on indefinite unpaid leave, Detective Sneed appeared at Lemitz's funeral to say a few words.

To the few gathered at the mausoleum where Lemitz's ashes were interred, Detective spoke with great emotion. "Walter Q. Lemitz was filled with cocksnot. He was an artist."


Nadiv said...

fantastic! Would love to see this as a T.V special, reminds me of a premise the kids in the hall would think up. My favorite detail was the subtle inclusion of the Angry Whopper. --Pat

JB said...

Gripping throughout. Once I started reading I could not stop -