The Denouement of Tomes I've Borrowed or Own

As I walked through the open doorway of Theodore-call-me-Ted’s office, he cut his eyes at me (sufficient for intuitive Laban-shape-movement identification) and continued his screen-reading.  That was permission to sit; if he didn't have time, he'd have immediately shot me a question.

Of his three client chairs, I decided on the Haratech because I’d just finished a difficult night-shift and it was the most comfortable.  Pistons wheezed when I sat.  Additional hydraulics gasped as I leaned. Theodore-call-me-Ted could get his hackles and ire all fumed together in a ball up his ass if people popped-in-to-shit-with-the-bull and adjusted his Haratech's ergonomics.  So the other reason I sat there was (as feeble a power-play as it was, it was all I had) if he left me sitting for more than the 17-average-seconds it takes to finish a paragraph, he’d have to come around that desk and re-default-position the chair’s settings after I left.

After 25 seconds I stretched and rolled my shoulders and scapula.  A dampener in back of my spine shushed. I shifted an elbow off the armrest and allowed my arm to hang along the outside of the chair.  I wiggled my fingers near the adjustment levers like a gunslinger over his holstered Colt .45 while Ennio Morricone's guitar from the end of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly strummed in my head. 

Theodore-call-me-Ted slid his chair to center-desk, took his hands away from the keyboard, and then (begrudgingly-slowly) drug his focus from the screen and looked at me. His mouth hung partly open.  The glare from his monitor washed-out the right side of his face giving him a half-zombie look.

I wanted to say, there's two kinds of men in this world: those with loaded guns and those who dig, but I doubted Theodore-call-me-Ted would recognize the last line from the film.  Instead, I asked myself the same rhetorical question as always—how much professionalism could I expect from this mouth-breathing poster child for the Peter Principle, especially at an end of shift morning briefing?

He closed his mouth and tightened his lips. Anyone who didn’t know him would think this exaggerated-bottom-lip “frown” of his, indicated he was a scowl and two tears away from bawling. But I knew him. This was his way of smiling.

I said, “The denouement of tomes I've borrowed or own.”

After pausing to absorb the phrase for a full-second, he said, “That’s a fantastic one. Maybe the best yet. I love the vowelly way it lumbers over the tongue. Wait a minute...someone used the word denouement?”


“Ancient French dude in Piccadilly-tweed with elbow patches?”

“No. Youngish. Californian. But he pronounced it wrong.” I shrugged and brought my right ankle up to rest on top of my left knee.

Theodore-call-me-Ted and I had played this game for several years—ever since we learned of a shared Drew Barrymore affinity. Her best line in Donnie Darko was: This famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language, of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, that Cellar Door is the most beautiful.

So...whenever a beautiful word combination lands in the bottom of one of our boats, we share it with the other.

“How’d he pronounce it?”


“You correct him?”

“Nah, he was a month-past-pain-tolerance Green. Destitute to boot. Medical records checked out.”

“He pronounce it tome, or do Californian dickweeds say it like tomb?”

I smiled enough for him to see my eyes wrinkle and pushed a little breath thru my nose with my diaphragm. This was Theodore-call-me-Ted trying out his morning funny. I crossed my arms and jiggled my right foot (I hoped my let’s-move-this-along message was clear).

He looked back at his screen and said, “Twenty-two from your shift.” Then returned his focus on me and asked, “Any of the Greens I need to look at with any weight?”

“They’re all routine. One could become a Yellow, but I already tagged it for legal to check-out first thing.” I said with a slow head shake.

“What's the source of beyond-tolerance-guy’s pain?”

“Well...that’s obviously open to interpretation. Could be the weight of the information in all the tomes he read. Maybe he was referring to the culmination of lifting an entire library one book at a time. But I suspect his statement was simply a neologism.”

“You asked him to explain the cause of his pain and his response was: ‘the denouement of all the’. . .”

“Not all, just . . . ‘tomes he'd borrowed or owned’. Yea.”

Theodore-call-me-Ted rolled his eyes, lifted his hands off his desk and said in a hushed pseudo-shout, “Insolvent Greens are people."

I pretended ignorance and jiggled my foot a little faster.

He continued, "Synopsize the Blue ones.”

“Only two. First one came in just after midnight. Woman, 68, local, NRS. (An acronym for Negative Relatives or Survivors, even though everyone knew No Responsible Siblings was more appropriate.)

I personally oversaw the exam: no deception indicated. The sticker price went on her card. I figure two-three days. She estimated high seventies, but I think it will go closer to a hundred—she’s got a reverse-mortgage on a 1939 bungalow in the Oakbrook District that’ll kick it up at least thirty, I think.

Second one was about a hour ago: guy from Idaho, 29, stage four. Records go back two years. I registered him in. Rough estimate is two-fifty. He has no will yet. The other half of his estate’ll go to a girlfriend.”

“How much went on his card?” He asked.

“Standard Med-Room Rate for the seventh floor.”

“Oakbrook bungalow’s SR?”

I knew he hated these. The law requires we formally document every Stated Reason—SR—but we are only permitted to discriminate against applicants for legitimate medical or legal reasons. . . .

“Hell. She’s a Skanker isn’t she?” He exclaimed.

I nodded. Shrugged. Emulated his pout. Raised my eyebrows. Looked out his windows at the tops and sides of the waiving trees, their leaves being nudged by wind until they showed their lighter undersides.

Years ago, Doctor Emily Maalsquanq designed a simple quiz—available to anyone with access to the web of internets. It supposedly measured a person’s level of dementia, senility, or Alzheimer’s affectation. If a person’s Maalsquanq score declined, repeated testing allegedly determined the optimum moment to come to us. Since the law prevented us from accepting applications from anyone mentally incapable of completely understanding their actions, we received a handful of people a week who—when asked why they were electing to terminate their life—answered with: because my score is still high enough.

“Fuckass. Suck-a-Fuck.” He said as he tucked behind his screen and began aggressive key-pounding.

I nodded some more, then I racheted a lever and the lumbar area of the chair got noticeably more comfortable, so I twisted a knob and the seat cushion moved my butt cheeks slightly wider apart.

“Go home Pommeroy.” Theodore-call-me-Ted said from behind his screen.

As I stood, turned and exited his office, I said, “See ya tomorrow, Theo.”

He said, to my back, “Call me Ted.”

I don't think that writers ... function because they have something they particularly want to say. They have something that they feel. And they like the art form; they like words... — Stanley Kubrick