The Extra-Special Library Book Borrower Prize
Your library recognizes your impeccable and astoundingly eclectic taste, as well as the speed with which you digest every tome you borrow, not to mention your almost god-fearing respect of due dates. You are awarded the privilege of trust check-out, whereby all you need do is nod to the librarians and point to your book upon exit, the rest being tacitly understood. You are allotted a four-figure budget for the purchase of new books, and a quiet room is named in your honor. A card, not dissimilar in appearance to the one brandished by “Conan the Librarian” in that one episode of Reading Rainbow, is imprinted with your name, allowing access to every library in the world, even those traditionally considered “private,” or “in someone’s home.” Bask in the glow of what you always suspected was your rightful due. Accidentally dog-ear first edition of Don Quixote, be forgiven by stern Spanish bibliophile owner. Drool a little bit on handwritten manuscript of The Book of Matthew -- correct M’s mistakes in red felt-tip. You are excited and finally happy.
You’re in the chair, staring at your reflection, trying as hard as you can to keep your head from brushing against the hairdresser’s assertively pendulous breasts. The breasts stop fluttering. They hover. “My God,” says your hairdresser, “you’re so good at this.” Running through the list of intransitive verbs currently being performed by your person (sitting? being? out-spacing?), you draw a blank. “At what?” you cautiously inquire, hoping that she will not say avoiding my breasts. “Well honey, you’re just about the best I’ve ever had at keeping your head where I want it. I say ‘up’ and you go up, ‘down’ you go down -- I bend you one way and there you stay, like a Gumby doll!” She practically screams it. Not knowing whether she is fucking with you or has merely absorbed too much Barbicide, you cock your head to the side, bangs spilling towards raised eyebrow in a supercilious cascade. “OK. Ummm, thanks.” The rest of the staff crowds around you at Lucy’s (your stylist’s) beckoning. Five women of varying ages and breast pendulousness stand in piles of hair: toffee-colored cowlicks, sideburns, mullets. They gaze lustfully at your head, which remains perfectly congruent with Lucy’s last tilt. They begin clapping. They request a speech -- won’t take no or please you’re scaring me for an answer. “Well,” you begin, “I guess I have my teachers from Catholic school to thank for my posture, along with my dentist’s neck-bracing equipment. That’s all, thank you.” “Better than any mannequin I ever had at beauty school,” says Lucy, possessively tousling your half-cut hair. You are given your choice of product and accessory, and the promise that, in addition to appointments at any time, Lucy will make house calls. On your way out, you imagine this will make it significantly more difficult to avoid her breasts.
Yes, you can dodge and weave, you can hold it on the hill with the clutch, you can even, thanks to a wiring glitch, make each headlight turn on and off independently of the other. But wow, can you ever park. The car just glides in between those lines, precisely equidistant from each: a perfectly parallel horizontal. Oh, and of course you’re just as spectacular on grass, sidewalk, cobblestone, mud, and salt flat. You know it’s a gift, albeit one which your friends openly ridicule, especially in the presence of your tenuously significant others. You never mind them though. You know you’re good, and that’s what drives you. One day, a letter arrives in the mail: plain, brown, with your name peek-a-booing through the plastic window. You open it and glance at the letter -- the font is odd; it’s impact. Why would anyone write to you, no, write anything at all using such a horrible font? Impact resembles letters in the same amorphous way that the universal sign for Ladies’ Room entirely belies the curves of an actual woman. But enough form, you think, let’s dive into content. The letter informs you that someone has nominated you for the MacArthur Parking Genius Fellowship. The award carries with it a cash stipend for automobile maintenance and the opportunity to test a new prototype: a car which is malleable to the touch, but sturdy as well, making it perfect for even the tightest spots. The letter also tells you that you can only be nominated by a former recipient, and that, in V-6 years (as they joked Roman numerically/engine-wise) you would have to pass this on to another parking prodigy like yourself. But you know that’s a long way off and that there were still a lot of niches to fill between now and then: you would seep into every nook and cranny of the paved world’s toasted English muffin. You couldn’t wait to tell your friends -- would the gloating not be even sweeter than the prize? Of course somebody had to notice how well you parked, you think, how could they have not?
You’re a man. You’ve known this for years, thanks to the casual observation of your anatomy. However, nothing could have prepared you for the surprise at Outback Steakhouse #131. While emptying your bladder in a urinal (the one at the end; the others were filled with dimes, piss the color of orange Hi-C, gum, and approximately 1.5 packs of cigarettes), you concentrate on aiming the half-parabola stream straight into the tiny holes at the bottom. Why? Because it produces a sound that makes you shiver with happiness. Or perhaps because you are very drunk. After you shake, zip, and adjust, you step away to give the auto-flusher its in absentia cue. Then, a voice, deep and stentorian, intones your name. You are freaked out. A quick peek under the stalls reveals scraps of toilet paper and what looks like a tea cozy. There’s the voice again -- it’s definitely coming from the urinal. You silently swear never to drink Foster’s again, and despite the waiter’s assurances that it’s just good old-fashioned bush bread, mate, you still suspect the secret ingredient is PCP. The urinal summons you closer, trying to calm you down. You scratch your chin for a moment, deep in thought, in terror; then you puke all over the place. The urinal voice tells you to breathe: “We have a prize for you, because you’re number one. Go number one, g-- ” “I just did,” you retort. (You’re such a smart-ass when you’re drunk.) “No, we were about to say go over to the sink and wash yourself off. We’re going to take your picture and you need to look good. You look like shit right now.” “Yeah, well look who’s talking . . . you know, wait a sec. You can see me?” (Bees of confusion buzz in your head.) “Of course we can, we’ve been watching you pee for years. Out of millions of candidates, you always flush, you leave the seat down for the next person, even in the men’s room -- always aim straight into the bowl, no mess, no splash -- just like a good high-diver. You even straighten your back -- such amazing form.” (You consider this for a second.) “That’s pretty fucking perverted man.” “No it’s not.” “Yes, it definitely is.” (You’re arguing heatedly with a urinal.) “We’re retired urologists, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Now, about your prize, if you’ll just kindly direct your attention to the infrared eye of the auto-flusher, we’ll show you what you’ve won.” “No, shut up,” you harangue. You run out the door, the urinal still moaning your name, but you’re eager for more beer, for some beechwood-aged BREWSKI. If need be, you think, in a pinch of course, you can just pop in and out of the women’s room. You’re sure no one will mind. And plus, you hear they have a couch in there.
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