man in water

The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 8

man in water
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Steel’s hatred for his boss Jarrod Creep grew by the millisecond as they sat at a table at Dong’s Thai Palace in downtown Berlin, Wyoming. They stared at each other from within the cloud of a menacing chill. The air that surrounded them was incredibly uncomfortable. The silence was like autumnal mud—heavy, thick, dirty, sloppy, brown, cold—and finally broken by the annoying sound of Jarrod Creep spilling and speaking another glob of nonsensical bullshit.

“I wanted us to meet here today because I thought it might be a better arena for us to speak to each other more openly. More casual. Without the constraints of an office.” He tossed a hand in the air. “Don’t think of me as your boss right now, just consider me a friend, a guide really, in getting you back on the path to success.”

A waiter brought them each a Thai iced tea the color of an arroyo discharge after a heavy western summer rain. The ice cubes slowly turned. Steel took a long sip. “I love this stuff,” he said.

“Right… But look at me when I am talking to you, Steel.”


“I’m really putting my neck out for you here and sometimes I wonder why I even do it. I mean, you’re a bad person. I can’t say I like you in the slightest, but being that I’m a good person, I feel that as your mentor and the captain of the ship, so to speak, I should at least give you the opportunity to prove yourself. Doesn’t that seem extremely fair and generous of me?”

Steel’s emotions took a serious blow. “You think I’m a bad person?”

“Generally speaking. Yes. A lot of people do. In the office, around town…”

“Around town?”

“Yes. Word spreads. Word gets to me. People say you give off bad vibes, that you’re unprofessional and have a salty attitude about life.”

“Bad vibes? Unprofessional? Salty? I find all that hard to believe, Mr. Creep.”

Jarrod removed his glasses and cleaned them with a napkin. His tiny eyes of inherent evil squinted, and it made him look like a burrowing mole in a delicious garden. He replaced the spectacles on his face and looked at Steel with a full load of seriousness. “Believe it. My sources are credible. Honest people live in this town.”  

“Well, if we’re going to be open and honest here,” Steel began. “I would have to disagree with you on all counts. I feel I’m a good person and this talk of me giving off bad vibes in public and all that other garbage… It’s all just so inaccurate. In my opinion, people in Berlin, Wyoming don’t take kindly to outsiders… Regardless of if you’re a monk or a rapist. Newcomers just don’t have a chance.”

The waiter approached the table, looked down at them, and cautiously smiled. “Are you ready to order?”

“Get whatever you want, Steel,” Jarrod told him. “The newspaper is paying for this lunch.”

“Then I’ll have the most expensive thing on the menu… Dong’s Crispy Duck.” Steel smiled like a grimy Old West cowboy who had just won the poker pot at a rowdy saloon.

Jarrod acted like he was hot shit to the waiter. “And I’ll have the Tom Yum Soup with shrimp. Make sure it’s hot and fresh. Last time I was here it was a tad bit tepid. Thanks.” He turned to glare at Steel. “The Crispy Duck? Are you even going to eat all that? It seems a bit excessive to me. Have you ever heard of manners or etiquette?”

“You said I could have whatever I want. I can take the rest home if I don’t eat it all… Geez Mr. Creep, don’t have a panic attack. I thought we were here to have a productive conversation and it’s just turned into a relentless attack on me.”

Jarrod laughed, humorously at first but then ending it in a serious and judgmental way. “Look at us. We sound like an old married couple.”

Steel made a face. “Gross.”

“But seriously… If you feel so mistreated here, why not just quit?”

“You’d love that wouldn’t you?” Steel said. “I feel like that’s what you want me to do. You want to take joy in defeating me, in crushing my soul.”

Jarrod Creep sighed and leaned back in his chair. “It’s not, Steel. I’m not trying to crush you. I’m trying to groom you, like a horse. Right now, you are this awkward, dusty pony and I want to turn you into a shining stallion. I just wish you would see me as someone who wants to help you, not hurt you.”

Steel chuckled sarcastically at that sentiment. “Yeah. Right. And I can’t just quit. I need the money. There’s a woman who’s got the screws on me for a kid.”

“You need to keep that thing on a leash.” Jarrod now leaned forward and in almost a whisper said, “Look. We’ve got a bit of a problem.”

Steel eyed him suspiciously. “What’s that?”

Mr. Creep looked around before speaking. “Carrie Gould came to me. She told me that you assaulted her with some trick gum, and then said some pretty nasty things to her. She was very upset. So upset that she’s threatened to sue the newspaper for sexual harassment and emotional distress.”

“Oh please. That whale is a drama queen.”

“Perhaps, but this whole thing could really blow up. It could be very bad for the newspaper, the company, the town… And especially me.”

Steel looked at him halfheartedly. “So. What do you want me to do about it?”

The food arrived and filled the table. Mr. Creep unfurled a napkin and tucked it into his shirt collar before dipping a spoon into his soup and slurping it into his puppet-like mouth. “Oh yeah… That’s good. This makes me excited.”  

Steel cut into the duck and lifted a hunk to his mouth with his fork. He put it in and immediately made a face of disgust. “Oh, God. That’s awful.”

Mr. Creep was worried and wanted to know. “What do you mean it’s awful?”

“I mean it tastes awful.” Steel pushed his plate away. “I’m not eating that.”

“It cost 24 dollars! You can’t just not eat it,” Mr. Creep protested. “Do you think money grows on trees?”

“Well, it is made from paper. And if you’re so upset about it, just take it with you. I don’t care… And what’s this stuff about Carrie Gould?”

“She’s agreed to not sue and not press charges… If you go out with her on a date.”

“What!? A date!? Are you kidding me. Gross!”

“Come on, Steel. A lot of shit is on the line here. It wouldn’t be that bad.”

“Ugh. Forget it. I’d rather go work at Taco John’s.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” Jarrod berated. “And it’s just one lousy date. Her body may be grossly distorted, but she’s got a decent face.”

“She stinks,” Steel complained.

Jarrod nauseously grinned. “Maybe you can give her a bath. I bet she’d really like that.”

“Oh, please. Do you want me to barf right here at the table?”

Mr. Creep eyed Steel for a moment and then smiled. “Wait a minute… I think this whole acting like you’re grossed out thing is just that… An act.”


“I think deep down and in a creepy secret way, you really like her. I bet you fantasize about her all the time, don’t you.”

Steel was flustered. “No.”

“It’s okay, Steel. We all have sick, twisted thoughts at times. And here I am giving you the opportunity to live out your lurid fantasy… And keep your job. Seems like a decent offer to me.”

Just then, Steel glanced toward the window of the restaurant because it seemed some large object had crossed in front of the sun. He only saw her for a moment… It had been Carrie Gould looking in on them. Why did he want her the way he did? What was wrong with him? “Okay. I’ll do it.”


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