some days are better than none
Ted’s Miraculous Epiphany
“A minute of your time, Ted?” said Bob. “Sure, Bob, what can I do for you?” said Ted. “Well, you see,” said Bob, crossing his arms and leaning back against the cubicle wall, “it’s been brought to my attention by certain individuals of your co-workers that your filing, Ted… well, that your filing has just not been quite up to par lately.” “How do you mean?” Ted felt a familiar cold clutching sensation in his guts. “Well, Ted, you see, it’s just that some of your peers with which you work have raised a few issues as to your filing. Just mainly that… well, it just hasn’t been up to quite the professional level of quality that we try to utilize here at Jefferson and McGillicutty.” “Well,” said Ted, “I’m glad… um… that this was brought to my attention, Bob. What exactly were they saying I was doing wrong?” Bob sighed and crossed his legs. “Well, see Ted, it’s basically primarily the filing techniques you’ve been utilizing. It’s just that here at Jefferson and McGillicutty we hold things at a higher standard… But some of your professional colleagues feel, and they mean this with the best possible intentions, please don’t take it as some sort of personal attack, Ted, you don’t see it as a personal attack, do you? It’s just that they were saying you know they just felt that your recent filing… well, of late, it just hasn’t really been at that level. Do you understand?” Ted stared at Bob for a moment. “Yeah, I think I understand. Thanks, uh, thanks for bringing that to my attention, Bob.” “I’ll tell you what,” said Bob, “We aren’t just going to fire someone over something like this without first, you know, informing them as to the problem at hand so that they can fix it. Some other companies might do that, but we don’t. See it’s just about solutions here, Ted! We are very correctively oriented here. So just uh I’m sure you’ll put in the effort in to turn this whole thing around. Right, Ted?” He slapped Ted on the shoulder with a laugh. “Yeah, of course, I-” “Great. Hey Ted: good talk.” And he left. Ted sat and stared at his computer monitor for a moment. Then he picked up his stapler and went to the bathroom. He stapled his scrotum to his inner thigh and put some paper towel down his pants to soak up the blood and went back to work, trying to file at his very best. On his way back home he stopped at the store and picked up one of the new Commando Squad action figures that were Timmy’s favorite. The Squad was very diverse, featuring both males and females of a number of different ethnic identities. This time he picked out the Latin American female commando. Timmy seemed to like playing with the female ones more, for some reason. He got home, greeted Alisha with a kiss, and handed Tommy the toy. “Oh boy, oh boy!” said Tommy and ran off to his room. “How was your day?” asked Alisha. “Fine. Hang on, I need to go to the bathroom.” Ted sat on the closed toilet seat, trying to work up the nerve to yank out the staples. “Ted?” said Alisha. “Are you ok in there? Is anything wrong?” “Nothing. I’m fine,” Ted called back, trying to hide the quavering in his voice… so much blood, dried and brown now instead of red. “Ted,” said Alisha, “did you hurt yourself at work again?” “No,” said Ted, but he could tell his voice sounded on the verge of crying. Alisha sighed. “Come on, let me in. I’ll help.” “No!” said Ted. “You’re going to be mad at me.” “I won’t be mad, just let me in.” Ted was crying now. “You’re going to yell at me and you’re not going to love me anymore.” “Please just let me in,” said Alisha. In his room, Timmy was tying his new action figure, Juanita, to the leg of his bed with some string. “No, please!” he voice acted in a high register. “I swear I don’t know the codes!” In a lower voice for Commandant Grishnack: “No one asked you about the codes, Juanita. Don’t worry, this is all going to be fine again very soon. There’s someone here I think you should see.” Timmy brought out General Juarez from behind the bed. “Daddy!” cried Juanita. “Juanita! You bastards! Why, if you hurt her…” “Oh, she’s just fine,” said Grishnack. “And guess what? She can stay fine. All you have to do is tell us the codes.” Timmy made General Juarez shake with rage. “But,” Juarez said, “I can’t let you destroy Earth. I… I just can’t!” “Oh, that’s fine too,” said Grishnack, “We weren’t expecting you to say yes just yet. Have a seat, General.” Two black-clad X-Squad Commandos entered, one carrying a baton in a Spring-Loaded Action Beat-Down Arm, the other a car battery with tiny alligator clips and real buzzing sound effects. “What… what’s going on here?” said Juarez. “Relax, General, just sit back and enjoy the show.” “Daddy,” said Juanita, “I’m scared.” “No… No! I’ll kill you Grishnack, I swear to God…” Grishnack laughed maniacally. When Timmy was done playing, his penis was strangely hard. He didn’t know why this happened, but it always did. He didn’t know what to do with it yet either, but it still felt good. He put his toys away, and when his penis was back to normal, he went downstairs to see what was for dinner. “For the last time, Ted, no!” It was nighttime and dark. Ted sat in the darkness a moment. “It’s because you don’t love me isn’t it?” Alisha made an exasperated noise. “Ted, of course I love you.” “If you loved me, you’d have sex with me,” said Ted. Alisha rubbed her temples. “I would be happy to have sex with you,” she said, “I would love to have sex with you. If your balls weren’t covered in puncture wounds.” “That’s always your excuse.” “Well, maybe that’s because you always staple your balls. Has that ever occurred to you? I promise you, I probably want to have sex even more than you do, but I just can’t. Even if it weren’t gross, it’s probably really unsanitary. Ok?” Ted sat quietly for a moment. “You promise you love me?” he said. “Yes, I promise,” she ran her hands through his hair. “You’re just so very cute.” Ted thought for a moment. “Then it must be because I’m a dirty and evil person for wanting sex so often.” “Oh god…” “I am dirty aren’t I? Dirty and sick.” “Did you just… I mean, did you hear anything I just… Ted,” said Alisha, “Ted, Ted. Let me explain something to you: your self-loathing is cute, up to a point. I like it, because taking care of you is like taking care of some poor wounded bunny. But the point of it all is kind of to feel good because you take this poor hurt thing and help it and make it feel better. But if you try and try and it doesn’t ever feel better, then it kind of ruins it. How do you think it makes me feel? I can’t make you happy no matter what I do.” They sat in silence. “It makes me feel like a failure,” she said. Ted thought for a moment. “You’re such a nice person,” he said. She kissed him on the neck and pulled him against her. “And here I am,” he said, “trying to pressure you into doing dirty things. I truly am sickening.” Alisha squeezed her eyes shut hard enough to see colors exploding outwards. She unentangled her arms and rolled away from Ted. “Go to sleep,” she said. “And now you don’t even want to touch me,” said Ted. “Oh my God. I can’t take this anymore. Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with you Ted? I can’t handle this.” “Do you think I want the job?” said Ted. “Do you think I like working there? Sure, it makes me miserable, but I go anyway. You know why? Because it’s worth it. It’s worth it to make you and our son happy. Do you think all this happiness you wallow in day in and day out is free? No! It’s not free. And so I work every day. And I hate it. And I never complain. But it’s worth it. It’s worth it so my beautiful wife and child can live the lives they deserve, and be happy.” Alisha sat up and pressed her palms into her eyes. There were those colors again. At least they were pretty. “I going to sleep on the couch,” she said and crawled out of bed. “Don’t leave me,” whimpered Ted. Alisha stood at the door, looking at the bed and feeling sick to her stomach. Ted heard the door open and close. Dirty bastard, he thought look what you did. Driving the poor nice girl away with your filth. I wish I never thought about sex. I wish I was still a little boy, all innocent and clean so I could be something worthy of love. I just want to be worth loving, but I’m just sick and dirty and hateful. He cried himself to sleep. Timmy lay in bed curled into a tight ball and sweating profusely. Please God, he thought over and over again, don’t burn the house down. I promise I’ll stop being bad. I’ll stop playing the torture games. I promise, please just don’t burn me and my parents. He pictured all those safety movies they showed in school, the ones where the houses burned down. They always burned down because the people did something bad, like left the oven on, or tried to pry toast out of the toaster with a fork or something. Timmy didn’t do those things, he tried very hard not to, but he did other bad things. Like the torture games. He knew they were bad. And he knew God saw it all, and God certainly knew it was bad. And if God was willing to burn people alive just for messing with the toaster in the wrong way, then…
He lay in the dark until the stress exhausted him and he lost consciousness.
Alisha lay on the couch and hugged a cushion, wishing it wasn’t just a cushion. She fell asleep and dreamed about when she was dating Ted and they had gone to her truck because the university basketball game was really loud and neither of them really liked sports and they lay on the floor in fetal positions, inverted with their faces next to each other upside down, because that’s the only way they fit, and he told her how he just wanted to go to sleep and wake up the next morning a different person and she ran her hands through his hair and wanted him to kiss her but he never did, he just looked away, and didn’t move. He didn’t kiss her in the dream either. The next day on the playground, Timmy was playing with his Commando Squad toys when he was approached by a timid boy wearing glasses and a striped shirt. “Hi!” Said the boy, “You like Commando Squad?” “Yeah,” said Timmy. “So do I!” Said the boy. “Commando Squad is awesome! I like them too!” “Yeah,” said Timmy. “My names Billy, what’s your name?” said Billy. “Timmy,” said Timmy. “Cool! I have the new Commander Masticator toy with the mechanized suit, we can play with that one too.” They played Commando Squad for a while. Billy thought it was odd that the female characters kept getting captured and interrogated so much, but he went along with it. Timmy seemed to get annoyed each time one got rescued though. This went on for a while, until suddenly someone yelled: “Hey!” Billy and Timmy looked up from their game. “Look, it’s Billy pee-pants! Have you peed your pants today yet pee-pants?” Billy turned white. A group of children approached. “Hey Timmy,” yelled one of the group. “What are you doing hanging out with Billy pee-pants? Are you guys gay faggots together or something?” Billy and Timmy stood to face the mob. Timmy’s eyes flicked about like a cornered antelope. “Look everyone!” called a different voice. “Timmy’s now Billy pee-pant’s bestest fag buddy. What game were you guys playing? Is it called ‘fag’? Or like… ‘pee your pants game’?” The children laughed. “NO! We were playing Commando Squad. Right Timmy?” Said Billy. Timmy glanced at Billy and back at the mob. “We weren’t playing anything,” said Timmy. “But we just-” “Shut up!” said Timmy and shoved Billy down into the dirt. “You’re gonna get pee on my toys!” Billy stared up at him, wide-eyed. The crowd guffawed. Billy tried to stand up but Timmy pushed him down again. “You gonna cry now, pee-pants?” “You gonna pee your pants? Huh?” The crowd gathered around, jeering and pointing. Timmy quietly collected his toys and left before the teacher could show up and get them in trouble. He didn’t look back. Later in class a pretty little blonde-haired girl sat across from him at his work group and smiled at him a lot. She was really nice. When he got home from school, he finished his juice box and crackers and then he locked himself in his room and fantasized about biting her all over and hitting her with a belt while she cried and begged him to stop. He felt weird when he was done, but didn’t know why or what the feeling meant. At work, Ted spent the first half of his day browsing internet porn. When he was done with that he went to the bathroom and stabbed himself in the leg with a pencil a couple of times until the lead broke off under his skin. He tried to get it out but couldn’t, and started to freak out a little. He finally got it out by squeezing and prodding at it, and he felt a lot better afterwards. He went back to his computer and read Calvin and Hobbes and reflected on how similar the strip was to the happy and carefree days of his own childhood. He couldn’t really remember what happy and carefree stuff he’d done back then, but he at least remembered that he had read Calvin and Hobbes at the time. He was trained well to hear someone approaching and switch back to his spreadsheet program. It was Bob. “Hey there Ted, how are you today? Listen, I just wanted to come by here to your cubicle and maybe just ask one small favor of you. Do you think you could come in on Saturday and do a little extra filing? Corporate feels we’re falling too far behind and the only way to cope is if we all pitch in as a team and work together in putting in a little extra time.” “Um,” said Ted, “are we talking overtime pay here?” Bob sighed. “Well, you see, Ted, Corporate feels, and I feel for that matter, that this represents more of an expected aspect of your job salary than it does some sort of extra working period on top of that amount. I mean just a couple years ago we were asked, and I was personally asked, to work weekends quite oftenly and at the time I don’t remember anyone raising a complaint. None of the real team players, anyway.” “I see,” said Ted. “Well, it’s just that, I was expecting to spend this weekend with my family, and all…” “Well, Ted, you know, it’s your decision. I mean, we’re not going to say you’re required or obligated to participate. So, I mean, if you feel that your time is better spent elsewhere, by all means, be my guest. If you want to more… demonstrate your willingness to work as a part of the larger team, you could do that too, but it’s not mandatory. It’s just a question of how secure you feel in your job right now and whether or not it’s worth it to maybe, you know, emphasize that security.” Bob leaned in close. “If you want a bit of personal advice though Ted take it from me: I just feel that so soon after this filing incident that hasn’t had a chance to blow over, you might want to keep your head low and try to stand out as that kind of team-playing individual who jumps on opportunities like this one rather than hides away from them. But that’s just strictly unofficial, you know, private personal advice from me to you as regarding this subject.” Ted felt vaguely ill. “Alright, Bob,” he said, “well, who else is on this team I’d be working with?” “Um well Saturday it would be basically just you working. I mean, the janitors will be here. But the rest of the team will be back at home.” “Ok,” said Ted. “So uh…” “Sounds fantastic. Well, I’ll see you around Ted, gotta run. Say ‘hi’ to the kids for me!” Bob was gone. Ted sat at his desk, staring at his stapler for a long while. “So you got kids too, huh?” said Chryl, poking her bulbous head up over Ted’s cubicle wall. “Aren’t kids great? I have three myself. I have pictures too, if you want to see them. They’re so great. My youngest one is two and a half. Here, I’ll e-mail you the pictures. She loves to watch Dora the Explorer she watches it all the time. I mean, me, the show starts giving me a headache, but she loves it. The little girl on that show, Dora, just keeps yelling and yelling the whole time and repeating stuff like three or four times and it gets really annoying after like six solid hours of that, but I mean, the kid loves it so I put up with it, you know? Why try to find some new TV show for her to watch when she already loves that one so much?” And then something occurred to Ted that made him feel a bit less like stapling himself. His eyes widened as it began to dawn on him. “I mean the other kids hate it too but they have their own TVs so they can watch their own stuff. They love that The Family Guy show. They’re five and one of them’s seven. I can send you those pictures too. It’s either cartoons over video games with them. They love video games…” As Cheryl’s blather slowly turned into white noise, Ted formulated within his mind a picture, a vision of the universe so beautiful and pristine that it made him want to cry. He decided he would tell Alisha about it when he got home. “Sup, Alisha?” said Derek, the male secretary at the office in which Alisha worked. “How’s it going?” Alisha sighed. She was holding a file to her chest like a teddy bear. “Hey, Derek. I don’t know, not that great.” “Aww, that’s no good. What’s wrong?” “It’s just… Ted and I have been having problems lately.” “Oh yeah? Yeah, I’ve been having problems with my girlfriend too. She keeps complaining that she can’t trust me and I’m like, come on? You can totally trust me.” “Yeah,” said Alisha. She looked down at her shoes. “I don’t know.” “What kind of problems have you and Ted been having?” “I don’t know,” said Alisha, “just… usual stuff I guess. He just has so many issues.” “What kind of issues?” said Derek. “Oh. Oh! Wait. You mean those kinds of issues?” Alisha raised an eyebrow. “What kind?” “You know what I mean. Yeah you do. Look,” Derek wheeled his desk chair forward and leaned in closer. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you come by my place after work and we can talk about it more? You know, in a more private environment.” “Derek…” said Alisha. “What are you getting at?” Derek sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Come on. You come over here, talking about how your man can’t perform and shit, and then you act like you don’t know that I know what the deal is. Don’t be childish, you know?” “Look,” said Alisha. “I’m sorry. You completely misunderstood what I meant. I was just feeling stressed and thought you were like a decent human being who I could maybe talk to about that kind of stuff. Thought. But ok. And besides, what about your freakin’ girlfriend?” “Ahh don’t worry about her. She’s one of those ‘I don’t wanna until I’m married myeh myeh myeh’ types. Which is good, you know, because then if I finally do marry her at least I’ll know she isn’t a complete slut. But, I mean, I got to take care of myself in the meantime. Right?” Alisha stared at him. “Right…” she said. “Hey, I’m gonna go. See ya.” “Later, Alisha,” said Derek. She left and he muttered: “Cocktease…” Alisha got home a few hours before Ted did, as usual. She watched a Lifetime movie about a girl who was raped by her gym teacher. But no one believed her. Every ten minutes, there were five minutes of ads for grooming products, each one explaining how she had so much inner beauty that was simply hidden under layers and layers of not owning that product. Then Timmy came home and she gave him a juice box and some crackers before he went and locked himself in his room for some reason. A bit later, Ted came home. He was smiling. Alisha stood at the door with her arms crossed, but she found herself starting to smile too. “Hey, guess what?” said Ted. “Yeah? Did you take the time off for Friday like we’d talked about so we can take Timmy up to the lake?” “No! And now I have to work Saturday too! But guess what?” “What?” “I figured out how everything works. Everything. It’s like… life is just a repeating cycle. But like, not with the same people each time. Each person goes through a cycle and at a certain point they make a new person and they go on to make another and so on! For forever!” Alisha raised an eyebrow. “And why are you so cheerful about this?” “Don’t you see?” Said Ted. “We’re only suffering right now because we’re on that part of the cycle. The first part is all beautiful and happy, you know, you’re childhood. And then it gets all horrible and sad, but it’s ok, because that’s when you make a new person to go through their bright and happy phase. Doesn’t that make sense?” “I don’t know, Ted,” said Alisha. “My childhood wasn’t really that bright and happy. My dad kind of got drunk and hit me a lot. I can’t hear very well out of my left ear because of him hitting me really hard once.” Ted furrowed his brow, looking a tad confused. “But… you see…” he said, “it doesn’t matter, because we just made a new person to go through his bright and happy stage for us! So it’s still ok. All we have to do is focus on making him happy.” “What about me?” said Alisha quietly. “When do I get to be happy?” “Alisha,” said Ted, “don’t be selfish. It’s not our job to be happy. It’s just our job to make sure that Timmy is happy and grows up big and strong so that one day he can grow up and meet a wonderful lady who’ll do whatever he needs to keep him happy. He probably won’t even have the dark and horrible part. And then they’ll love each other and it’ll be perfect and she’ll be happy too! You see? If we make a new person who’s happy, it really doesn’t matter if we were ever really happy at all! You see?” Alisha stared at him. He hugged her and she didn’t hug him back. Then he sat down on the couch and started watching TV.
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