In the mechanical cacophony beneath bright lights and with the scent of poultry death in the air, Truman Humboldt reluctantly worked.
“You know, I really wish we were shelling lobsters instead of breaking chicken necks!” Truman Humboldt said loudly to the stout Mexican woman working across from him.
“Huh?” she said, with a puzzled look on her face, the noise of the factory floor making it hard to hear him.
“Lobsters!” Truman repeated with frustration. “I wish these were lobsters!”
“Lobsters? These aren’t lobsters, fool. You el pollo loco,” the Mexican woman said to him, waving her blue rubber-gloved hand at him in a dismissive gesture, and she went back to work, completely ignoring him.
Truman didn’t fully understand what she had said. “Thanks a lot!” he yelled back, and he smiled his awkward, yucky teeth smile, a smile that did nothing to improve his burning red complexion.
At lunch break, Truman sat by himself at a long table in the cafeteria looking down at the plastic tray in disgust. He spoke aloud to himself. “Chicken sandwiches. I hate chicken sandwiches. How many times do I have to tell you people I HATE chicken sandwiches!”
The chatter in the cafeteria died down and people stared at Truman and whispered.
One of the supervisors noticed Truman’s outburst and went over to him. “Everything okay there Truman? You seem a little tense.”
“Yes, Mr. Munich, everything is fine. I just wish we had some better menu choices.”
“Well, you know, it’s a free lunch. The company wants to be sure you are well fed because we care about our employees. But, you get what we give you. If you don’t like it, why don’t you bring your own lunch?”
“You know Mr. Munich, thank you, I think I may start doing that,” Truman said, the answer being tainted with a hint of sarcasm. “The only problem is, Mr. Munich, I couldn’t get a decent lobster in this God-awful town if it came right up to me on the sidewalk and bit me on the ass!”
Mr. Munich laughed and patted Truman on his bony shoulder to help soothe the situation. “Don’t you mean claw you on the ass, Truman,” he laughed. His loud, annoying chuckle was plainly insincere. “You know… Because lobsters have claws.”
Truman was unimpressed and somewhat insulted by Mr. Munich’s lighthearted joke. He feigned a snicker and rolled his red, swollen eyes.
“Oh, come on, Truman. It’s funny. Laugh a little once in a while,” Mr. Munich told him. “You’re much too tense about all this lobster stuff. We just want you to be happy here. You are happy working here, aren’t you?”
“Well, I guess so, it’s a job,” Truman answered. “You know how it is these days.”
Mr. Munich sat down next to Truman. He retrieved a white handkerchief from a pocket and dabbed at his sweaty brow. It was always too hot in the factory.
“You know, Truman, we do very important work here,” Mr. Munich began. “We process chickens for people all over the country. Why, just this morning, you may have broken the neck of a chicken that will be enjoyed by a thankful family in… Florida, for example.”
“Florida is hot and muggy and there are too many bugs and alligators and old people there. I hate Florida,” Truman snipped.
“Well, okay, wherever then. How about Maine? You always talk about going to Maine.”
Truman grew angry. “How dare you Mr. Munich! People in Maine only eat lobster! Lobster god damn it!”
“Hey, hold on Truman, settle down. There’s no need to get your tailfeathers in a ruffle. I’m sure some people in Maine eat chicken. They must. I mean, people in Maine can’t eat lobster every single day.”
“I could, and I would if I lived there instead of this shithole. I would eat lobster every damn day, and you know what, if you came to visit me, I wouldn’t let you have any lobster at all. I’d say to you, ‘No lobster roll for you, Mr. Munich,’ and then I’d tell you to get the hell out of my restaurant.”
Mr. Munich stood up and just shook his head.
“Okay Truman, you win. If you’re going to be like this, I’d rather not talk to you right now. You’re a good worker, Truman, but I think you’re losing your marbles. I would like for you to report to the company counselor this afternoon before you leave for the day. I think you need to talk to someone. A professional. I’ll let her know you’re coming.”
Truman Humboldt lightly knocked on the half-opened door of the counselor’s office in an upper part of the chicken plant where he had never been to before.
A soft female voice answered. “Come in.”
“Hello,” Truman shyly said, his heart thumping, as he looked at the well-dressed woman sitting behind a cluttered desk.
“You must be Truman, right? I’m Maggie Barrymore,” and she stood and extended her hand.
Truman grasped her hand with his and he got nervous in his gut, for her skin was very soft and warm to the touch. His was cold and damp.
“Please, sit down,” she said to him, and she subtly wiped her hand on her skirt.
Truman took a seat across from her. He became even more nervous when he saw how attractive she was, how perfectly professional and pompous and pouty and precious she was. How completely unlike himself she was. He wanted to taste her despite how distasteful she was to him. Just because she would never have anyone like him.
“So,” she began, adjusting the smart glasses on her flawless face and readying a pen to take notes. “Mr. Munich told me you had some trouble in the cafeteria today. Do you want to tell me about that?”
Truman looked down when he spoke. “Oh, I wouldn’t call it trouble. I was just a bit upset about having to eat a chicken sandwich again.”
“Truman, you can look at me, I won’t bite.”
“Unless you want me to,” Truman heard her soft voice inside his head say, like a radio in another room.
“Oh, I’m sorry, mam, I’m not always good around people, especially nice looking and put together people such as yourself. You have a fantastic vibe, sort of.”
“Well, thank you Truman, but we’re here to talk about you and what happened today.”
Truman heard her sensual voice in his head again, the radio turned a bit louder. “Do you want to take me to bed? I’ll let you do anything.”
“Well, like I said,” Truman nervously stammered. “I was mad about having to eat a chicken sandwich again. I just wish they had other things for us to eat. But then Mr. Munich suggested I should bring my own lunch from my own home if I wanted to, and I think I may just do that, mam. That’s about it.”
“You can call me Maggie; you don’t have to call me mam. That makes me feel old.”
Truman once again heard her mystical voice in his head, and he began to shake and scratch at his face. “I want you inside me Truman, right here, right now. Give it to me on my desk.”
“All right then… Maggie.” Then Truman brightened when he suddenly felt he had something meaningful to say, to a woman. “Do you happen to like Seinfeld?” he asked her.
“You mean the TV show?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty funny I guess, but let’s talk more about…”
“Would you like to come over to my house and watch it with me some night?” Truman nervously blurted out. “I could fix us dinner and maybe you would let me kiss you at some point in the evening. It could be like a hot date.”
Maggie Barrymore was a bit stunned and cleared her throat before she spoke again. “Now Truman, that would be highly inappropriate, and I would appreciate you not ever saying anything like that again. We work together. We are to act professional. Is that understood?”
Her imaginary voice penetrated Truman’s mind again. “You can kiss me anywhere you would like to, Truman. And I mean anywhere.”
“I’m sorry Miss Maggie, it’s just that you are… So beautiful. Like a perfect lobster just pulled from the chilly waters of the Atlantic.” Truman let his eyes close as he paused to imagine a life with someone special and beautiful beside him. “I would love to butter you up and eat you.”
Maggie Barrymore pretended to ignore his odd remark and nervously shuffled through some things on her desk in hopes of ending the meeting as quickly as possible.
“I was going through your file, and it looks like you’ve been with us for about four years?” she said.
“That’s right,” Truman answered, returned to reality.
“So, what brought you to Neptune, Nebraska? Seems like an odd choice for someone who’s so into lobster.”
“My grandfather owned a house here, and he left it to me when he died, and I had nowhere else to go after my folks kicked me out of their house in Lincoln, so I came here to live.”
“Why did your parents kick you out?”
“They were tired of me being weird and living in the basement and always talking about lobster and wanting to go live my dream life in Maine. My dad wasn’t my real dad though, he was just a step, and he was mean to me sometimes. He would tell me that I wasn’t a real man, but that I was just a scared little pussy in a man’s body. He just wanted it to be him and my mother by themselves. I never had a real dad, I mean, not that I know of.”
“That’s awful. I’m so sorry to hear that,” Maggie said, feigning empathy. “Do you ever talk to your mother anymore?”
“No, she died not too long ago. She had cancer in her brain, and of course my stepdad doesn’t want anything to do with me. So, here I am Miss Maggie, in Neptune, Nebraska, just trying to survive life while I chase my dream.”
“I’m awfully sad to hear that about your mother, Truman. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot.”
“Hadn’t we all Miss Maggie? Hadn’t we all.”
TO BE CONTINUED
You can read the first part of this story HERE.