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"Cancer Carson," short story excerpt

Wednesday 2/16/22

A joke went around the office that Carson must have been a radioactive waste dump, because he gave you cancer, and people referred to him as Cancer Carson or Carson Cancer, if they wanted him to be a noun or an adjective, depending. You’d say, “Do you believe the shit that Cancer Carson pulled in that report?” or, “This is some real Carson Cancer shit you’ve given me here,” when someone fucked up a deal.

He was a cancer at work because he absolutely sucked at his job, but he tried hard, one of those guys who can’t understand why they suck, but they know they do. It’s as if some misfortune, this cruel blade of blight, was cast into them at birth, which they’d never overcome. Maybe that’s what fate really is.

Like when I was working at a Starbucks one summer home during college and I was on the bar, a blazing blur of motion, arms trying to do eighteen things at once, sweat running down my forehead, even losing my wind, thinking that no one had ever made drinks as fast as I was making them. I was the Starbucks fucking comet in my head. There was this girl there I wanted to bang, and I was almost certain out of the corner of my eye I could see her looking at me in wonder. Dazzled. Dripping her own self with the sexy seepage, a term my freshman year roommate coined, which was ironic, as the kid would not stop playing Minecraft and always wore the stretched out black hood of his sweatshirt over his head so that he looked like some child-molesting Druid. But then the manager pulled me aside and said I sucked, I was too slow, and maybe I should just ring people up unless it was really slack and I could practice on bar then. Sometimes that’s life for people. Someone like a Carson.

Most of the guys at work who are higher-up like I am love to fire people. We call it firing the shit out of them. What you do when you fire someone is you act all concerned, go into this big act, with tact, which you’re mostly doing so that later you can do an imitation of your own self when you’re telling the other guys how it went down and also so that you won’t get fired because the person you fired the shit out of tried to sue the shit out of the company. The other higher-ups laugh like drunken fifteen-year-old girls at the most serious parts. We do this game seeing who can go the longest without becoming a human hyena. The longer it takes, the harder everyone ends up laughing in the end.

Of course, later you end up firing one of those same guys, or they fire you, and once I said, as serious as I could as I was firing one of our best former firers, “live by the sword, die by the sword,” and then I nearly fell over laughing, but the guy I was firing had just bought a house and his wife was about to have their third child and we learned a week later that he had a cardiac event but would probably pull through. Still, it makes you think.

Normally I enjoy letting someone go. They’ll be fine. It’s life. Helps teach them that life is real and that being a pussy is for a girls’ locker-room, which was something my high school football coach used to say, whatever the fuck that meant. He was busted as part of a sex traffic ring years later, and his ministry fell apart. Guys on the team I still knew said he got a raw deal just because he was single and in his fifties and he drove a van, but some people can’t let go of the past. Those are pussies, too. But there was no way I wanted to be the one to dump Cancer Carson, though it also did occur to me that he would cry, and he’d beg enough for his job so that I could act all moved and say, “Okay, you can keep it, on a probation period, if you do…” then I’d have to think of something. Like having him jerk off onto his own face. Well, not that. But something.


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