The Quotable

I’m Good

Being as handsome as I am has its disadvantages.

Case in point: this guy I work with at Klingspor. His name is Kenny, he works in Quality Control, and he’s not a particularly good-looking dude. He’s been pursuing Summer Pinkman over in Sales, and last Friday night, after months of trying, he finally bags her. This took god-knows how many dinners, probably about a million movies, and one Sugarland concert which I doubt he could afford.

I’m privy to this info because Summer, who I’ve been bagging myself on and off for the past three months, told me. Her way of making me jealous – good luck with that.

The truth is, I have very little problem bedding down the ladies. Just check out the goods. Naturally blond, perfectly trimmed goatee, six-foot two-and-a-half, stomach as flat as Miami. I have skin you could write the Declaration of Independence on. I smell good, no artificial fragrances. I make whatever I’m wearing seem hip. Often, when I’m having sex with a chick, I wish I was getting as good a deal as she is.

But the deal breaker occurs when this new hire, Antoinette, comes to work in Customer Service. She’s dark and small and not particularly good looking. In certain light, she has a phantom mustache. She speaks with a foreign accent like— I don’t know — Portuguese or something. I’ve banged my share in C.S., so when I walk in at 10 AM, under the pretense of checking on this or that, the tittering starts and I can envision the mental notes passing back and forth. Any one of them would jump at another chance at spending an afternoon in the supply closet or an evening at Motel 6, even if it involves leaving a boyfriend, lying to a husband, or letting a lesbian lover down easily.

I’m actually here to set something up with Marilyn Jay, a 40-something who has just separated from her old man and, I estimate, is hotter than a pan of bacon grease. I don’t spot her, so I walk over to the newbie’s desk to enquire. I discover that not only is this Antoinette strikingly unattractive, she’s also rude. When she finally does glance up from her computer, after I give her a second or two to soak the whole thing in, she doesn’t even react. Most gals seeing me for the first time are, if I may be presumptuous, bowled over. Some act as if they’ve just taken a sharp blow to the stomach. They gasp and their eyes go wide. Others lose the ability to speak. Many, and I’m sure it’s involuntary, begin to undulate as if they’re wriggling into a pair of too-tight jeans.

But when Antoinette’s eyes meet mine they’re as vacant as the oversized white blouse that she wears like a tablecloth.

“You’re the new girl,” I say.

Without a hint of a smile, she says, “Woman.”

I put Marilyn Jay on the back burner for now. I tell Antoinette I work upstairs in Special Markets and that I’ve been here awhile and if there’s anything I can help her with blah-blah-blah.

“I’m good,” she says. Which throws me. Because this is a cue. This is the bait. This is the point where most of them say, Well I am a bit confused by fill-in-the-blank, or If you wouldn’t mind, maybe we could go over whatever. What they don’t say is, I’m good.

So I leave Customer Service, passing Marilyn Jay who’s on her way in and who gives me this huge, I’m-yours-for-the-asking grin, but at present I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

A few hours later I go into what I will call “Plan B,” although I’ve never needed anything resembling a “Plan B” in the past. I approach Antoinette’s desk for the second time that day and I say, “I don’t know what your lunch plans are, but since we’re going to be working together maybe we should hit Popeye’s.”

“That’s okay,” she says, her lips still one level line. “I’m good.”


I begin to do something I’ve never done before. I begin to research. I call up her records from Personnel. Twenty-five years old. High school graduate, community college. Never married, no kids. Last worked as a Liaison Information Technician, whatever the fuck that is. Hobbies include 60’s-era music, and church related activities.

This information is artillery. This and the fact that for the next three mornings in a row I bring her coffee and a piece of Danish kringle. She thanks me, but I never see her touch anything. I lie and tell her she looks good, despite the fact that her hair could use a good washing and she occasionally has lipstick on her front teeth. During these times the other girls in Customer Service stop working and look over like they’re watching a billion dollar lottery drawing and the only person with a ticket refuses to check her numbers.

Finally, one Monday on my way down to buy something from the soup wagon, I run into her alone on the elevator. I think about bringing up how much I enjoy music of the British Invasion years, but fear this might come off as really, really creepy. So I just blurt out something else. I say, “I am dying to make love to you and I am willing to do anything it takes.” I figure when all else has failed, maybe honesty has a chance. My fear is that she’s going to say, No, thanks. I’m good, but she doesn’t. Instead she says, “I’m sorry, Ralph” (my name is Roy,) “but I just don’t find you attractive.” The elevator stops on the second floor; Antoinette gets off; the doors close.

So fuck this, right. Even Ted Williams, the best goddamn hitter in baseball history, whiffed once in awhile. Maybe this broad is blind as well as stupid. So I forget about the soup, I ride up to Sales on the 8th floor, I find Summer Pinkman loading paper into the copy machine. I ask her if she’d like to come over to my place tonight to watch TV and take part in some “extra-curricular activities.” I figure this is an easy three-pointer until she tells me she can’t. She and Kenny are going over to audition for roles in a community theatre production of Showboat. Okay. Shit happens. No biggie.

I walk into Customer Service — Antoinette still isn’t back at her desk — but who cares? I’m not here for Antoinette. I’m here for Marilyn Jay who’s playing a game called Crazy Pool on her computer. “Hey,” I say. “Now that you’re free, we should do something together.” I’m sweating like a pig because I’ve taken the stairs from Sales instead of waiting for the elevator. Three floors. Old MJ looks up at me and smiles and I figure I’m in, except she goes, “I better not. Me and the big guy have been talking about taking another go at it.”

And this is when it hits me. This little bitch Antoinette has somehow turned Klingspor’s entire female population against me. She’s poisoned the waters like a saboteur. Either that or maybe I’ve lost a step. Not likely, but maybe. Maybe my looks, a ten-plus on any female’s scale, have slipped down to just a ten.

I call in a flimsy excuse and go directly home. Once inside my apartment I run into the bathroom and study my reflection in the mirror over the sink. It’s the goatee. It’s out of style and it hides a chin that’s strong and sincere. I snip at it with a pair of sheers, lather up, peal it off. The skin underneath in a different shade. More pale, perhaps from lack of sunlight. My eyebrows look ridiculous now, like misplaced parenthesis, so I try to cut them back with the electric trimmer and wind up making a mess of things. When I force myself to put down the trimmer, I have two pencil-thin lines over my eyes, and blood is beginning to clot in small droplets where I once had a goatee. Now my hair makes my head look unbalanced, like a lightbulb rolled in coconut, so I hack at that. In the end I’m bald, my skin as multi-colored as a poorly designed quilt. I’ve removed my shirt and noticed gray chest hair and deposits of fat under my armpits. And I feel the way people must feel when they find out for the first time that they have a fatal disease. In my case, the disease of not looking all that good.

Rage overtakes me, but it’s short-lived. Like a cancer patient, acceptance sweeps in with the tide. A second chance, a window of opportunity. I’m unrecognizable, even to myself. A person who can effortlessly pick up the phone and quit a job he’s always hated. Who can apply for a position in the mailroom. A person with contacts in Personnel.

And who knows? Maybe this time it’ll be better. Maybe this time not a single girl, not a single woman, will even look my way.

Except for Antoinette. Who will glance up from her desk one sun-baked fall afternoon, lock eyes with the newbie delivering the mail, and smile.


Z.Z. Boone’s fiction has appeared, or is scheduled, in New Ohio Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Pank, Weave, EclecticaAnnalemma, The MacGuffin, Underground Voices, Third Wednesday, Word Riot, and others. He currently teaches creative writing at Western Connecticut State University.

Subscribe or Buy

Like this piece?

Support the artist!

Share This

The Quotable Issue 3 - Transformation