“The One-Two Punchline” | Novella | Written by McConnaughay | 7 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“The One-Two Punchline” | Novella | Written by McConnaughay | 7

Chapter Three

1.

Elvira slept in her own bed tonight, or to …, this morning, the sleeping schedule of someone on the graveyard shift was hard to predict.

Jimmy expected as much by how freaked out she seemed yesterday. It was something that would be an adjustment, he supposed, and he would have to be more certain to take his medication from now on, no more forgetting about it.

He could not say he blamed her, from what she said, it had been a very odd predicament to say the least. Jimmy’s situation was no doubt peculiar, and he could not pretend he understood the gist of it.

Jimmy smiled in front of the mirror as he adjusted the collar of his buttoned up shirt.

Reflection perfection,” Jimmy jested aloud, and smiled, but, as the words left him, he was confused when he found his lips had not moved.

Surely, it was a trick of the mind. He supposed he had not been watching his mouth with intent, after all.

He said it again: “Reflection perfection.”

His lips moved. Plain and simple, case closed. Maybe he hadn’t even said it aloud the first time, after all, maybe he had only thought about it.

He walked out from his bedroom and into the living room. It was a small one bedroom apartment, about all his paychecks were worth. He stepped outside and walked down the hallway, eyeballing the ugly, puke-green carpet the landlord had decided to line it with.

His car was not bad. It was a decade-old sedan with a dulled blue paint-job. It may have had a lot of mileage on it, but it ran well enough. Never once had it broken down on him and it did not have any unidentified squawks to speak of.

Jimmy was familiar with Buddy’s Diner. The establishment was quaint and understated, with all the charm and homeliness you would expect from your grandma’s house (without the smell of cigarette smoke and racism).

The food was not fast nor was it the type of restaurant cuisine Jimmy was accustomed to. They went the home cooked meal route; mashed potatoes, macaroni, stuffing, steamed broccoli, that kind of stuff. Jimmy would be more than happy to stay in his comfort zone and order a cheeseburger with a side of fries and a soda.

An older woman, barely five feet tall, stared back at him. Her black hair was pulled back in a ponytail and her face told the storied history of someone who was very much not in the mood to be serving him. Jimmy smiled at her, and offered a friendly greeting, which the woman forced enthusiasm for.

Dining by yourself today?” The woman asked, looking around the restaurant for a proper seating arrangement.

A friend of mine will be joining shortly,” Jimmy began, standing on his tiptoes, looking around at the tables as well. “But I don’t believe he is here yet.”

The woman nodded her head knowingly and then handed him a menu and went to tend toward a table of customers, doing a wavy hand-gesture that Jimmy took to mean as sit wherever you want.

It was lunchtime, which explained why she was as busy as she was. The close-quarters arrangement of tables did not help remedy the feeling of claustrophobia the restaurant created when it was too encumbered with customers. Jimmy did as he believed he was told, having a seat in a corner table with a window view of the main-road outside.

He spent a short time staring out the window like a puppy dog waiting for his owner to arrive, til its tedium became too much for him to deal with.

Instead, his eyes began surveying the lunch menu, unnecessarily skimming his fingers across each individual lunch item, despite the fact he had no interest in changing his preferences.

Once that became too became tiresome, Jimmy fidgeted with some of the salt packets on the table, making them intermingle with the plastic jelly containers. Oh, look at you, ketchup and mayonnaise bottles, eyeballing each other from across the dance floor, both too afraid to make the first move.

Thereafter, the excitement of playing with condiments soon dulled as well, and Jimmy was left with no other option than to acknowledge the situation – Dalton had not yet arrived.

And, as minutes collected to form a half hour, with no messages or missed calls on Jimmy’s phone to speak of, Jimmy had to wonder if that was by design.

He dialed Dalton’s number and waited, after a few rings, it went to voicemail, and Jimmy’s ears were met with Dalton’s prerecorded voice telling him to call again later.

Jimmy sighed.

Why was Dalton nowhere to be found? Surely, Dalton would have a logical explanation for standing him up for lunch? That was the rational side of Jimmy’s thinking, but, on this occasion, that was not the side of him that won out.

His anger pulsated. His throat burned with intensity. Dalton had played him. But, for how long had he been doing so? Could it have been a con from the very beginning? Jimmy shook his head, leaving the diner behind him.

Dalton was a dick, but that did not mean there was a grand conspiracy against him. As he stepped outside, he tried his best to calm down. It was not worth it and he was not worth it. Besides, it was not like Dalton would ever be in his life ever again.

Jimmy thought about that for a moment. He may not have been in his life, but he might be on his television screen. He might be on the marquee of major theaters he drove by, if David Nix was able to bring him to the top as he claimed.

He walked over to his vehicle and sighed again, a large pickup truck had done him a disservice and wedged itself in between Jimmy’s vehicle and someone else’s, in spite of the fact that it left barely any room at all for Jimmy to squeeze himself in on the driver’s side door.

Goddammit,” Jimmy mumbled beneath his breath, shaking his head in disbelief.

He ventured over to the passenger’s side door, figuring he would simply crawl to the driver’s side. However, as he opened the door, something stopped him. He closed the door and went back to the driver’s side, “It isn’t my fault. I shouldn’t have to!”

Jimmy yanked his driver’s door open, banging a considerable dent into the side of the person’s truck. It would be a tight fit, but he would be able to squeeze his way in.

Hey, what the hell, man!?” A gravelly man’s voice yelled out.

Jimmy looked over to him, gritting his teeth uncomfortably. “I, …,” Jimmy stayed quiet.

Who do you think you are? A real Billy bad ass, aren’t you?” The man walked over to him.

He was a large man with a worn dark-green hat and a white shirt that his belly hung out from.

Jimmy felt like a deer caught in the headlights. He gritted his teeth some more, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Oh, it is not like anyone would even notice the dent, given all the other bumps and scratches on this pile of junk. Why don’t you park better if you don’t want this kind of shit to happen?” A voice said.

It was not Jimmy’s voice, however. Even if it might have been projected from his body and even if it might have come out from his mouth, that was not Jimmy who spoke.

The man gawked at him and rolled his eyes, but, underneath that, Jimmy was able to read the perplexity in his disposition. It was because, he, too, knew what Jimmy knew – that Jimmy had not spoken, but a voice came out of him, nevertheless.

With a lost expression, Jimmy said nothing to negate the verbal onslaught. Instead, the burly man turned his broad shoulders away from him and walked back toward Buddy’s Diner, deciding the conflict was not worth pursuing further.

Jimmy, on the other hand, could not walk away from the talker’s words. He was brought to a standstill by his own fear, petrified with no idea of how to continue forward.

After a moment that felt longer than it actually was, he entered his car, gingerly forcing himself inside, being careful not to further damage the truck driver’s vehicle.

He met eyes with the rear view mirror, and kept his eyes locked on his reflection.

Nothing happened.

He had expected something, anything, to clarify whether he was out of his mind or not. Like an involuntary flicker of an eye, he wanted some type of response from his inner madman. He propped himself up in his char, so that his mouth showed in the mirror.

He watched his lips, snarling and smiling, and grinning and frowning, trying to drum up some type of reaction. Nothing came up, however. Jimmy dropped his head against his steering wheel.

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