Friday, 9 October 2015

Guest Author Brandon Kidd of Guelph, Ontario


Brandon Kidd is an author and library worker in Guelph, Ontario. His short fiction is published in a number of periodicals and on two other writing websites: CommuterLit (www.commuterlit.com) and The Quick Brown Fox (http://quick-brown-fox-canada.blogspot.ca). Brandon's first novel, "Randy Talbot's Closet," is being released by Beau To Beau Publishing (www.beautobeau.com) later in 2015. He is an avid reader of Scandinavian crime lit, thoughtful romance novels, sci-fi/fantasy epics, and anything else with a strong narrative and interesting characters. Visit his website at www.cellardoorpress.net.


An excerpt:

“The Misfortune Cookie”

by Brandon Kidd

 

            Kevin Watson sat before the remains of his dim sum developing indigestion. For once, he was grateful he had eaten alone. The faint blue printing on that tiny strip of paper stared back at him brighter than a Las Vegas billboard. He gulped and read them once more: “A new acquaintance will bring you disaster.”

            What kind of a fucked up fortune was that!? He expected something banal like, “Your efforts will bring good results” or distinctly Confucian: “Good things come to those who wait.” Not this. Who was this stranger? Where would this fateful meeting take place? What form would this disaster take?

            Kevin's palms started to sweat and then he heard the voice of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise… In his head. Having grown up on Star Trek The Next Generation reruns, the voice of Kevin's conscience now sounded remarkably like Patrick Stewart. And why not? Captain Picard rocked! Adventurous, brave, principled, but also diplomatic and philosophical —boldly go where no one has gone before (but never needlessly risk your  crew). And what did Captain Picard say to Chief Engineer Watson about this evil fortune cookie?

            "Meaningless! A quaint but antiquated tradition designed to occupy superstitious minds. Pay it no further heed, Mister Watson."

            Aye-aye, sir. But still, Kevin couldn’t help wondering. Could this new acquaintance be Sophie, his blind date from Saturday? He thought things had gone well. He’d made plans to see her again this Saturday. It had been his first date in over a year and he like her. So far.

            “Maybe she’ll turn out to be some crazed psychopath who sends me dead squirrels in the mail. Maybe she had twelve other blind dates that week. Maybe we’ll get married only to have her leave me ten years from now for our nineteen-year-old pool boy.”

            Kevin didn’t know. But as he sat there, leaning forward in his chair, loosening his tie with moist hands and staring at a couple half-eaten dumplings, he knew this: that fortune cookie had just cost the waitress her tip.

            Kevin was twenty-eight years old. Last year he’d finally landed his first real, permanent full-time job since leaving school.
He was now a professional computer programmer. He coded software for libraries. He was good at it. He liked it. He felt it was important work. It paid well enough for him to live on his own and grow a condo down-payment fund. Now who was this new acquaintance who was going to come along and screw it all up for him?

            He gasped. Maybe it was his new boss, Mike —excuse me— Mister Hargrove. Kevin didn’t like Mike Hargrove. He was a year younger than Kevin and about one quarter as intelligent. He was certain Hargrove was one of those guys in university who spent his time rewording Coles Notes and copying snippets of code from the internet to complete his assignments, who crammed for every exam then promptly forgot everything from the course by the next semester, who spent his hours outside class “networking” by joining every team, club, society and association on campus, scanning people at social gatherings for who might be useful at some point in the future, collecting email addresses and business cards like a pig sniffing for truffles. No, Kevin didn’t like Mike Hargrove. And now, thanks to this stupid fortune cookie, he was going to worry about getting stabbed in the back by the guy every day this week.

       
     Kevin reached for his wallet and left his fortune on the table. It wouldn’t matter if he took that little slip of paper with him or not, after one reading its words were tattooed on his brain. He counted out enough money to cover his bill and though for a moment before leaving a twoonie for the waitress. It wasn’t her fault fate had decided to play chicken with him.

            “Have nice day,” she chimed with an elastic smile as Kevin left.

            “Fat chance,” he thought.

            Kevin was an unimpressive figure by many measures, certainly in comparison to the parade of other businessmen in Hugo Boss suits and Prada shoes zooming around Downtown Toronto in shiny new sports cars. He walked back to his office in an old pair of running shoes, wearing a wardrobe by Mark’s Work Warehouse, carrying a backpack by Mountain Equipment Co-op. He was of less than average height and built like a scarecrow but nevertheless reckoned himself not bad looking. He had short brown hair which he cut and styled himself, a clear complexion (on good days), and a small nose which made him look several years younger.

            Walking down University Avenue on this bright, breezy spring day Kevin should have been enjoying himself, breathing in the clean air off Lake Ontario and wondering whether there was still ice on the lake back home in Winnipeg. He had moved to Toronto for university and stayed there afterward, working a long string of nerve-wracking contracts before finally landing a permanent, full-time job. But Kevin hated Toronto. No, to be accurate, he hated Torontonians —of which there were two distinct types in his opinion.

            There was the native Torontonian. They were born here and alternated between attitudes of superiority and entitlement. They also spoke twenty percent faster than non-natives. Generally the native Torontonian was only suspicious when speaking to someone of the second type, the new Torontonian.

         
   The new Torontonian, one who has managed to establish himself in this city despite the myriad obstacles, is assumed by the native to have done so only by screwing over someone else. Native Torontonians believe, if only unconsciously, that honesty is the sacrifice demanded from newcomers by the gods of The Big City. They are, therefore, distrusting of anyone who wasn’t born within the service area of the TTC. This uneasy dynamic existed between Kevin and his boss. Hargrove exemplified the native Torontonian.

            Kevin was not jealous of Mike Hargrove. He had no desire to screw him over or possess anything of his —his athletic six-foot-two frame, his extroverted personality, his $40,000 smile or his seemingly endless network of “friends.” What Kevin resented was that Hargrove thought he was jealous of him. Kevin saw this as the absolute pinnacle of arrogance. Hargrove thought so much of himself he automatically assumed that everyone around him wanted exactly what he had. Furthermore he thought so little of everyone else that he assumed they couldn’t possibly be happy and therefore must be deviously plotting to topple him from his castle of self-satisfaction and claim what he had for their own.

            As he approached his office, slaloming between sidewalk vendors, Kevin recalled an exchange from earlier in the month. Hargrove had cornered him at the fax machine.

 

            “Hey there, Kev!” he said, landing a slap on Kevin’s back.

            “Hi,” Kevin replied with no more cheer than professionalism demanded. After his promotion, Mike Hargrove insisted everyone address him as "Mister Hargrove" in order to engender the necessary “aura of authority” required to successfully manage a team. Although he remained on a first name basis with a select few and still called everyone else by nicknames which ranged from flirty to offensive. "Kev" was among the more tolerable ones, so Kevin accepted it but resented the politics of it all. He skirted the drama by simply not using Hargrove's name at all. The fax machine moved slower than rush-hour traffic down Front Street.

            “How’s the new workstation?”

            Since his installation as manager, Hargrove had reorganized their office into cubicles of adjoining desks and Kevin, among others, had lost the privacy of an office in order to "facilitate better communication and teamwork." Kevin had already objected to the new arrangement once saying that it affected his concentration. The objection received no response.

            Hargrove didn’t want to hear what Kevin really thought, but nor could Kevin bring himself to lie about this situation and say he was happy with it, so...

            “Oh, as well as can be expected,” said Kevin.

            The fax machine continued to struggle connecting. Goddamned dial-up! Energize, damn you!

            “Good! Glad to hear it.”

            Hargrove interpreted everything positively. Kevin reckoned that if he’d said, “No one likes the new arrangement, myself included. It’s the absolute worst idea in the history of the universe.” Hargrove would’ve replied with something like, “Wow! What great feedback! Way to come out of your shell and assert yourself, Kev!” He then would’ve strutted over to his office —yes, he still had an office— and shot out an email saying how proud he was of how well everyone had made the adjustment. Sociopath.

       
     “So, Kev, are you still trying that whole on-line dating thing?”

            During the brief time they’d worked on the same team Kevin made the mistake of sharing with Hargrove some details of his personal life; he now paid for that mistake on an almost daily basis. Fortunately, Kevin knew a foolproof method for diverting Hargrove’s attention: give him an opening to brag about his own life.

            “Yup. How’re things with you and Cindy?”

            “Oh, things couldn’t be better!" Hargrove beamed. "She’s on assignment right now in Milan covering fashion week. But she should be on the runway if you ask me. She's got a figure on her that could rival any of those models. We’ve got plans to go up to the cottage for four days over this weekend. Oh! That reminds me...”

            Hargrove leaned in to Kevin and lowered his voice.

            “Here it comes,” thought Kevin. “The ask.”

            “I told the director at LCS that we’d have the new module ready to show them as soon as I get back. Can you do it?”

            The fax machine was finally transmitting.

            “My deadline is still a week away.”

            “True, but in these tough economic times we should work extra hard to impress our clients. We wouldn’t want to lose any accounts.”

            The fax finally finished transmitting that invoice, having stalled just long enough to allow this oh-so-pleasant conversation to take place.

            “Uh…” Kevin mentally weighed his work load and, “Well, since you’ve already told them it’ll be ready I guess it’ll have to be.”

            Kevin took up his papers, and turned to his boss with a tight smile stretched across his face.

            “Alright! You’re a superstar, Kev!”

            Hargrove gave him a shot in the arm as he marched off to his office having successfully ensured both his professional reputation and his long weekend plans. At the expense of Kevin's. Jerk.
 
Read the rest of this clever story here


Thank you Brandon for sharing The Misfortune Cookie.

Drop by Brandon's website to find out more about this talented writer. www.cellerdoorpress.net



Next week the Scribbler will be sharing some short works by Gwen Martin of Yoho, New Brunswick. It will be her second visit to the SBS.

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