By Paul Beckman
Strickland didn’t go to work Monday. He hadn’t planned on not working his first day on the job—in fact, just the opposite; he was looking forward to it. He had his last joint at seven and his final beer at eight-thirty or nine and went to bed at a respectable ten o’clock Sunday night.
When his alarm went off at six-thirty that morning he didn’t dawdle in bed. Strickland went to his dresser and took the last of the joint, barely a half, and lit up. Just as he was about to take a morning-opening toke, the “little guy” voice on his left shoulder said, “Perhaps that’s not the best idea in the world, Strickland.”
Strickland killed the joint and jumped in the shower where he washed his hair, shaved, brushed his teeth, and peed before scrubbing his body with a loofah sponge. He toweled off, blow-dried his hair, and dressed in the clothes he had laid out the night before—white shirt, red striped tie, gray slacks, and blue blazer. He put on paisley socks and penny loafers.
Strickland felt good. He checked himself out in the mirror. “Way to go, Strickland,” Lefty, the little guy voice on his left shoulder, said.
“The least you can do is tie a good knot in that tie, Strickland,” Righty said.
Strickland re-tied his tie. It was too long, hanging past his belt buckle, then way too short. Next the knot was twisted and, finally, it was knotted the correct length, but on second glance, it was twisted and hung inside out.
Righty said, “Leave it, Strickland. In your case, practice doesn’t make perfect. And do something with your hair—it’s a mess.”
Strickland, hearing Righty’s voice, re-brushed his hair until he brushed the blow-dry out and then he squeezed some gel on his hands.
Now his hair looked like a grease monkey’s hair, all shiny and stringy and winged out by his temples. “You’re a mess, Strickland. You can’t go to work looking like that—not today of all days.”
“Ahem. Ahem,” Lefty’s voice butted in, trying to get Strickland’s attention.
“Stop bothering me,” Strickland said. “You’re always bothering me.”
“You tell him,” Righty said.
“This isn’t a good move for your first day on the job,” Lefty said. “How do you plan on explaining this to your parole officer?”
Strickland kicked off his shoes and stripped down to his boxers.
“You’ll think of something,” Strickland said. “You always do.” He lit the J.
“Yeah,” Righty said. “Let Lefty handle it, Strickland. You’re busy right now.”
Strickland was busy trying to tie his tie right and got it on his first shot. He dressed again and wet his hairbrush and checked the clock.