Pantsed, Part 1

(Stick around. There will be two other parts.)

Darnell Loman walked out of the elevator and into the office at 8:15 Friday morning, wearing his best gray suit. He tossed a smile to Christina the receptionist (red-head, Roman nose, single), and headed for his cubicle. He walked on his toes and jangled his keyring around his finger. The weekend was in sight, and he had successfully shaved a quarter-hour off the last workday. He flopped down into his high-backed executive chair (tan, faux suede, cushy) and sighed. Today was the day he gave the big presentation for the president of the company. He could nearly taste that raise. He smacked his lips almost lasciviously. And of course, there was the special something at 9:30. He powered up his desktop. He could take it easy until at least 9. Hubert, his small-mustached manager (fat, sweater-vested, chronic coffee-carrier) didn’t usually shuffle his way around to the 2 block until then. He slouched, and stacked his feet on the desk.

His watch beeped the hour. He swung his feet to the floor and began typing away. Two minutes later, Hubert came around the corner. His round belly preceded him like a gelatinous majordomo. He wheezed at Darnell.

“Ready for your presentation?”
“Hubert,” said Darnell, leaning back in his chair and stretching his arms overhead, “I am not the kind of person who goes into a big meeting like this unprepared. I think I can handle myself.”
“Mm” Hubert grunted. He rubbed his small mustache with his meaty fingers. “Working hard?”
“Hardly working!” he chortled, offering the joke with raised eyebrows.
Hubert’s eyes went squinty. “Don’t make jokes like that around the president.”
“No, sir.”

Lightning Camera

When the lightning was striking,

It struck me that some higher being might

Be documenting the region

With some enormous antique flash-pan camera.

And when under the dim red light (not infernal)

The liquids brought our images swimming to the surface,

They showed me dancing, laughing,

A blur living so hard and fast that focus

Could not catch me.

You too, smiling, inconsistent,

Happy and inconsistent,

Insisting that life meant nothing

And finding every meaning you could.

And here I was,

Expecting to see you starched and upright,

With a pale blank stare,

Looking at the camera

Like a wall painted white.

Hands

The night was old, and the pizza place was calling us. Working with drywall for a whole day had sanded us down to dusty, sagging remnants of blue-collar respectability. Flat greasy food was singing to us like a beautiful yellow siren of arterial blockage, and our work-weary minds felt no inclination to resist. So the empty streets and dark neon signs herded us like a series of negative sheepdogs, until we gave a cheer when we saw the sign glowing several streets over, and visions of cheese Frisbees soared through our heads.

The man standing behind the counter took our eager orders with equanimity. Apparently he saw this sort of thing a lot. He grabbed a dough globe and began to stretch and pound it out flatter, disappointing all sorts of aspiring bacterial Magellae. Then the newly flattened planet began to swirl through the pizza place sky, tossing off his spinning fingers, elegantly orbiting through the flour-dusted air. Then I noticed his hands.

They were twisted and malformed. Some birth defect had left him with fewer fingers than most, and less grace than most.

But despite the ugliness in his hands, the things they could do were beautiful. The dough touched them lightly, then leapt up to the ceiling again, dancing under his touch.

I asked him how long he had been throwing pizza dough for. He said he had been there seven years. “How long to get that good?” I asked. Tens of thousands of throws, he said.

There was a reason he wasn’t on day shift. Some people wouldn’t have wanted to eat pizza they had seen being tossed by those hands. Some people are morons.

I enjoyed that pizza more than many things I have eaten. I knew that it had been made beautifully, made by a man whose hands transcended their own fallenness.

Love bestows loveliness.

The crookedest hands made the best pizza.