“Oh man, I want to see the new movie Aim High but the tickets are all sold out. It opens this Friday, you know, the one based on the newest Nora Roberts book?” Dorian James rambles.
“Never heard of it.” Sybil tells Dorian in the CRASS cafeteria as she crunches her dog biscuits.
“I want to see it when it comes out, but the tickets are sold out because it is a Valentine’s Day movie.”
Sybil has a few extra minutes before she logs onto the phones, so she searches OKStupid for potential dates, reacting to herself as she reads through the personal ads.
“41 year old man in Chicago seeks female. Must be 18-25 and love sports.”
“Do you like big trucks? 21 year old guy, loves beer, weed, works hard and plays hard, no games.”
Naw, I like the occasional backgammon.
“Rare frog, last of his species, seeks woman of any age to give him a kiss. Very polite tender-heart. Age 45. Bourbonnais.”
Just a photo of his feet? A bit odd, but I can try I guess.
Before Sybil has a chance to message the stinky feet from Bourbonnais, he emails her.
Sybil and the mystery man email back and forth. They hit it off right away. The divorced man complains a lot about his ex-wife, which Sybil tunes out. Sybil talks about her love of lawnmowers and dog food, which the guy ignores only to interrupt her about his “poop elves” story.
It’s a Valentines Day in Kankakee. The birds are chirping and Sybil is tweeting online about how excited she is about her new man and the mystery gifts he keeps teasing her about.
It is 11:30 and Sybil is on the phone trying to double down on debt. Operations Manager Mike Philips comes by with a delivery.
“Flowers for Sybil!”
Sybil hangs upon the debtor and immediately logs off the telephones. The long, green and cream box, sealed with packing tape, came from New Jersey. Sybil gets out her scissors. She struggles for 20 minutes and finally opens the box. Inside are 12 longstemmed roses individually attached to the box by hard plastic fasteners.
Sybil’s frustration grows as her scissors are not enough to loosen the delicate roses from their restraints, so she grabs a set of pliers from her drawer after five minutes of searching.
Finally, the flowers are out. Thankfully, the potential suitor included a vase. Sybil goes to the ladies’ washroom, fills the vase with water from the sink, and puts the haphazard bouquet on her desk.
Sybil calls her mystery man to thank him.
“You just won Valentine’ Day!” he says to her.
“I did?” Sybil sighs.
“Well, did anyone else get as much as you today?” He asks.
“I do not know. I did not look…and I am not that impressed by gifts. I am more of an acts of service person. I like when people do stuff for me,” Sybil tells the gentleman.
“Look in the box, Sybil.”
She looks in the box. She uncovers a movie ticket.
“You and I can go to the opening of Aim High tonight! I cannot wait to meet you!” he says.
“You sound familiar. What is your name, mine is Sybil.”
Bourbonnais multiplex clerk, neckbeard and communal narcissist, Damien Hurlbutt, has caught word that his estranged former wife Lori is coming into Kankakee County for a doctor’s appointment. He is deathly afraid of running into her because he is scared she might confront him about his history of verbal abuse toward her, tarnishing his squeaky-clean image. He heads over to his brother Robbie’s apartment to ask him and fellow con man Pat Splatt to come up with a sneaky way into avoiding her.
“I’m back!” Damien tells his younger brother and fellow narcissist, Robbie.
“I’m front!” Robbie snickers back.
“I am leaving town for a week or longer. I am telling my boss at the cinema and then hitting the gas. My ex-wife is coming back into town and I am scared.”
“Scared?” Robbie replies in his typical faux-Elvis voice.
“Yeah. Sssh, don’t tell anyone. I really look good online after I smear campaigned her to all my friends, even to that famous couple until they had told me to stop messaging them, sending them presents and mailing them weekly postcards. I had sent them a drawing I made all by myself after our friend passed away since I had talked them into letting me send them art instead. I swear, they are really impressed! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!” Damien exclaims with glee as he rubs his palms together.
“Just man up and deal with it!” Robbie Hurlbutt tells his older brother Damien.
“Come now. That is not how you talk to a fellow Men’s Rights Activist! You know that!” Damien says on the defense to Robbie.
“I hope you get the time off approved.”
“Okay, okay, okay, okay…” Damien repeats ad nauseum, not knowing his little brother Robbie is already out of earshot.
“You’re wrong!” Damien snickers beneath his breath to the person at Robbie’s door.
A half-grinning Pat Splatt opens the door and struts inside.
“I popped the question!”
“What question?” Damien asks.
“Heyyyy…where did you meet her?” Robbie replies and looks away.
“Hey Pat, my ex is coming into town and I am feeling lukecold about this. I was wondering if you could help come up with a scheme—“
“Damien, I just got engaged!”
“I know, I know. My ex is due in sometime this week. I would like to gingerly bow out of town but I have to work. What do you suggest I do?”
“Hey, can I sing at your wedding, Pat?” Kankakee’s number one Elvis impersonator, the one and only Robbie Hurlbutt asks.
“Do you know anything besides Elvis?”
“I can sing lots of oldies.” Robbie replies.
“Do you play any metal?”
“No, but you can book me really cheap. I will throw in my groovy dance moves for free.”
“I’ll consider it.” Pat says to Robbie.
“So where did you meet her?” Robbie asks.
“The dating app OKStupid. Hey, I’ll show you guys a picture.” Pat gets out his phone and opens up said dating app.
“Who’s Daniel Sprague?” Damien asks.
“Oh, that’s my profile,” a half-embarrassed Pat replies as his gawky, straggly self shows the Hurlbutt brothers the obviously-stolen photos of the handsome, athletic man in the photos with the gorgeous hair and eyes.
The Hurlbutts smile and ask to see his new girl.
“Her name is Alix. She’s from South Africa.”
“When did you meet her?” Damien asks.
“Oh, a month ago.”
“She came to Kankakee?” Robbie asks?
“Hey Damien, let’s work on avoiding your ex,” Pat says to change the topic and the three work on scheming.
The next day arrives and so does Damien. Unlike Pat, Damien rings the bell and waits. While he waits, he taps his foot and jiggles the doorknob a dozen times. Make it a baker’s dozen.
“Well doesn’t that put poop in your soup?” Damien asks Robbie.
“My time off did not get approved. I have to work. That means if my ex-wife comes into town, and visits the theater, she could say something bad about me if I am mean to her! What do I do?”
“Weren’t you saying you had heel spurs, just like the former president?”
“You know, the Moon landing may not be real but darn it, my bone spurs are!” Damien sternly replies.
“You deserve a long, hard week off.”
“You know, that’s right. I’ll just call in.”
“What do you do at that theater anyway?”
“Oh, make copies of tickets and give them away. And make color copies of things I print out…all on the company’s dime. Why not? They’re paying for it.”
The brothers share a giggle and Damien drives home to his neckbeard nest to sleep on the floor.
Damien dials his supervisor, Cinema-13 owner Konrad Teirant, on his ten year old flip phone to call in “sick.”
“You will need to be examined by a doctor and have a written excuse for each day you are out. Company policy.” Konrad says to Damien.
Upset and surprised by this rule, Damien makes an appointment to be seen. The office cannot tells him he cannot in until next week.
“Phew!” Damien says aloud after he hangs up his ancient flip phone and writes down his doctor appointment.
Damien drives over to Robbie’s apartment, where Robbie, his roommate Andy Skandees and Pat Splatt are all watching TV.
A bulbous Damien sits down on the basket chair and nearly falls out, while Pat stares angrily at his phone on the couch next to Andy, who is relaxing in his white tank top and cargo pants.
“She says she wants to come meet me. In person. I keep telling her I am busy. She says she is on her way to Kankakee in a week-and-a-half for a business meeting via way of Chicago!” an unhappy Pat exclaims.
“Why don’t you want to meet your girl? Andy asks.
“Reasons,” Pat replies.
“Did I tell you my story about the poop elves?” Damien asks with a large grin on his face.
“Way too many times…” the rest of the room answers in unison.
“Oh, I forgot.” Damien lies.
The Kankakee storm rages on, and then changes to sun five minutes later.
Damien spends the next week off work, feeling glad he does not run into his former wife out and about, especially at work. It is review week coming up and he is deathly afraid of this time of year, as he is every year. Damien lives to impress, and will not even let his peers throw him a birthday party because he is not the one doing the impressing. If anyone would care enough to surprise him —not that they would — he would take over the check, (in a not-so-polite-way) and insist on paying on it himself thinking that would somehow impress them.Damien only does this for image, as he only cares about himself. He just wants to look good to cover up his lack of empathy.
Damien goes to the doctor’s office the following Monday before returning to work at the movie theater that night. After all, he had just spent a week off for his heel spurs!
While waiting for about an hour for his fifteen minute exam, in walks a familiar-looking woman, along with a much older lady. Damien looks up.
“Oh gawd.” Lori says to her friend after briefly looking over at Damien and then back at her friend.
Damien is now shaking with fear. He immediately dials up Robbie. It goes straight to voicemail. He calls Andy. Same thing. He calls Pat.
“Hey, man. It’s an emergency.”
“Be right over. I am charging you double-time.”
Damien flips over his bronze-age phone and waits, tapping his fingers, whistling audibly.
Thirty minutes pass and Damien has not been called back to see the doctor, neither has Lori.
Pat Splatt walks in, cowboy boots a-clomping.
“Hi Damien. What’s going—“
Damien points across from him, to his former wife and her friend.
“What do you want from me?” Pat asks.
“That’s my ex wife! I thought her appointment was last week! You gave me the info.”
“So what. Things change. It happens.”
“Hey, you sound familiar!” says one of the ladies across from him.
“Hey-hhmm-hhuhhh—hmmm—what?” a melodramatic Damien replies.
“No not you, that guy next to you.” the elderly lady replies in her Cape Town accent, appearing to be about 72.
“You mean Pat?” Damien snarkily replies.
“Pat? I thought your name was Daniel!”
“Alllll-iiiiixxxx?” a stunned Pat Splatt replies.
“Yes, sonny. It’s me. I had told you I was coming into town. But you hadn’t wanted to meet me. I wonder why not? You do not look anything like your picture. The engagement is off.”
“Well neither do you!” Pat exclaims.
“Calm down everyone!” a staff member shouts from behind a window.
The group of people waiting wonder how any of them would get any calmer by a comment like that.
Damien is eventually thrown out of the office and Lori is called in next.
Needless to say, Damien does not pass his yearly review at Teirant Cinema-13. Poor Damien. If only he had just tried to be nice. But then again, he would not be Damien.