At Happy Temp they’d put us—Sligo and myself—through a battery of psychological tests.
I would describe myself as a: Leader, Follower, Peacemaker, Instigator.
The best way to settle a dispute is: Compromise, Vote, Debate, Lead pipe.
I think about my mother’s undergarments: Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often.
We sat in chairs intended for third-graders and stabbed our fraudulent answers onto a ScanTron sheet.
“This is just to make sure no one has a little gun-go-bang-bang episode,” explained Tonya, our placement specialist. “You’d be surprised, actually, how many students we see from the university.” Tonya wore a gray pantsuit that screamed: Middle-class! I am from the middle class! The button on her lapel said: Someone Fast. Someone Happy. “Did you know that nearly forty percent of our clients find permanent employment with one of their primary assignments?”
We did not know this. We knew that we had graduated with degrees in philosophy and, as a rather obvious corollary, that we needed jack. The idea of, you know, being able to pay for things. And this had led us to Temp World, which was located in a business park environment that included an artificial lake with real geese stained the color of smog. What was to stop us from snuggling into the ulterior warmth of Temp World, with its drowsy cubicles and denuded kitchens? A world of no hard feelings. A world of see you tomorrow (maybe). A world of Styrofoam-box lunches, ten-second crushes, and climate control.
Temp World even had its own nomenclature. Typists were reborn as Data Entry Specialists. Receptionists became Communication Coordinators. Where, we wondered, might a genuine philosopher rank? Would we be granted the imperial bayside view? Access to the precious office supplies?
“What’s this one about?” Sligo said. “Factory Transport Technician.”
Tonya’s head moved in crisp, disapproving circles. Her hair had these terrific commercial aspirations. “You gentlemen, with your educational vectors, could easily code out for Systems Management. Or even Executive Facilitation.”
“We’re interested in something more cash intensive in the short term,” Sligo said. The truth was, he liked the idea of working in a factory, which is what Spinoza had done, back at the dawn of Enlightenment. Sligo had gotten himself all strung out on The Ethics. He claimed to be fascinated by the mathematical exploration of God’s nature, though it was obvious he had developed a rather unwholesome crush on Spinoza.
“You have to consider Q-O-L issues,” Tonya said.
She meant Quality of Life. Tonya did not like the idea of a life distinct from its own quality. I felt just the opposite. The further I could drag my life away from any discernable quality the better. Sligo was outstanding in this regard. He was a Bedouin of the late-model capitalist persuasion. At night, in our squalid, broiling apartment, he dreamed of manna raining from the heavens in the great days to come.
At the soda factory, they gave us hard hats. Chick the Giant brought us down onto the floor. The noise was on the scale of Mahler. “This is the hartness,” he shouted.
The hartness was shaped like a calliope, with a series of ramped chutes descending from a steel pillar.
“Those’re the racks.”
“Shouldn’t we have some kind of an orientation?” I said.
Chick pointed to a pair of white feet painted on the floor. He motioned for us to place our palms in front of our chests, bench-press style. “Hold em up or they’ll fall on your head. Knocks you out the first few times.”
“What are you talking about?” Sligo said. He looked at me. “What is this guy talking about?”
Chick flicked a switch and racks of soda came flying at us. There was a crunching sound, much like molded plastic striking my skull. Sligo went down a few seconds later. The fork ops laughed and pointed.
“Fuckin sucks, huh?” Chick shouted down at us.
“Shouldn’t we,” I said, “isn’t there some way—”
But Chick had walked off. I turned and the next rack caught me flush on the forearm. I could hear Sligo slapping the floor, like a wrestler pleading for mercy.
Sometime later, Chick appeared on the rampart above us. We read his lips. “Off-load,” they said. “Stack.”
In the break room, we stared at our ribboned palms. Sligo bummed a smoke off a kid who introduced himself as Otis. He was thin, delicate, ostracized by the other blacks. His nose was tremendous, like something Hollywood assigns the lesser comic talent. I’d seen him racing around the floor with a broom and a dustpan.
“Hey,” Otis said, “you guys ever feel like going nuts, just getting some kind of weapon and taking a few motherfuckers out?”
“All the time.” Sligo sucked in a lungful of smoke. He collected lost souls like lint. It was his utter incapacity for judgment that drew them.
Otis nodded. He wore a hairnet and white hightops. On his lap was a book entitled The Invisible Guiding Hand. “I get that feeling sometimes. That’s why I gotta read this book. To sort of, you know, cast the ugliness out of myself.”
“Good luck,” said the biggest of the black dudes. He was planted in front of the A/C unit.
“The whole point of worshipping,” Otis went on, “what it says here, is to reach this state of what they call spiritual harmony, which is where you’re not reaching after anything. Even if you doubt on something, you have this calm on your heart. You ever had that?”
“Maybe once,” Sligo said, through the ribbons of smoke. “As a kid.”
“Then sometimes I think I got no chance. Like I was born with the wrong kind of heart. Like some kind of mix-up at birth.”
“Bigass mix-up,” said the alpha black.
Otis looked up. “Who you calling bigass?” he said. “You fucking swamp nigger motherfucker fucked your mother asshole.”
This did not strike me as a prudent response. Alpha-black had forearms of the Sonny Liston stripe and tattoos on his neck. He rolled his shoulders. “Crazy Otis getting all riled up. Showing off for them white boys. White boys, what you think of Crazy Otis?”
“I’m not white,” Sligo said. “I’m Irish-American.”
“Yeah,” Otis said. “Irish-American. So fuck off. And don’t be calling me crazy either.” Otis stood up, handed his book to Sligo and, rather improbably, took a few steps toward his antagonist.
I couldn’t imagine Otis would stand a chance. But Alpha settled back onto his heels. “Easy now, Otis. We just conversating.”
Beyond the glass, the racks stretched for blocks. The fork ops zipped to and fro, taking from one stack, adding to another. The hartness kept cranking and the old-timers braced their feet and rocked back as the racks slammed into them. One thought of those circus freaks, the men paid to take cannonballs in the belly.
Otis sat back down and straightened his hairnet and his face softened again. He pointed to a partition, which unfurled like a giant Japanese fan. “Behind there’s where they pump in the fizz. They got the sucrose in vats north of the bottler. If you wanted to kill someone, you could hide the body back there and wouldn’t nobody find the body for months. Months.”
Sligo nodded. It was amazing, truly scary, how much slack he would cut someone, if they gave him free tobacco.
A whistle blew and a new wave of workers filed into the break room, gulping smoke like carp and smashing at the vending machines. We were both dumbstruck at the notion that we were expected to get up and go back out to the hartness. Already, our bruises ached. A welt like a tiny egg sat above Sligo’s right eye. I seemed to be bleeding from one of my wrists.
Back on the line, the pelting continued. The fork ops laughed with the fierce cynicism of mall Santas. They knew something we didn’t: this was the way the world worked, actually. You got socked in the mouth, over and over, until you put in your time. Then, with a little luck, a little scheming, you got bumped up a notch, which meant that you could now watch other people get socked in the mouth. Invisible scrims of carbon dioxide rose around us. It was like being stuck inside a giant mouth.
“This is what he meant,” Sligo shouted at me. He was on about Spinoza again. “The illusion of freedom. We are only aware of our desire to pursue that which is seen as useful to us. Can that be called a true cause? It’s only that we need to think—” Down he went. Down down down.
Chick watched from his perch. His face registered a species of disappointment I associated with Native Americans in pollution ads.
Otis told us Chick was part Catawba. His great-grandfather had been one of the last of the Old Council to surrender to the National Guard. They’d set up a siege around Blowing Rock and fired muskets at the campfires. This was America back before the service industry: you played ball or you starved.
Released into the afternoon, our shadows staggered on the long pavement. Slowly, like young plants, our bodies rotated toward the sun. Sligo and I turned east, toward the water tower, the university on the hill. Our comrades went west, across the highway. Black with black, Mexican with Mexican. They were headed toward Undertown, Los Robles, places where the underclass lived among their brands, which they could buy, which could keep them company, whose jingles filled their blue rooms with song.
At home, in our shitcan apartment, we lived like veterans of an unjust war: feeding off cans of orange food, throwing the phone, sleeping the moment we could clear space. Every morning, we received more bad news about our bodies. Just the sight of college kids, flouncing around in clean undergarments, wolfing veggie wraps and bitching about electives, was enough to cause Sligo to start throwing left hooks. The denizens of Lee Street gave him a wide berth, as if employment were something they might catch.
On break Otis came to us, with his hairnet and his great rhinoceros of a face, and told us gleeful stories of violence and sorrow. His dream was to earn his degree in theology, but he was having trouble getting the credits lined up. There was a parole officer mixed up in all of it. And a woman he called Boo. He’d worked at all the factories, bounced from soda to cigs to chicken patties and back again. He wanted us to know about the threads of human flesh woven into our products, the ejaculatory hijinx at the fish stick plant, the gradual flensing of will from spirit.
In return, Sligo explained to him the basic principles of Spinoza: that God could be neither separated from His creation, nor expected to guide human events, that man’s bondage resided in the strength of his emotions, that the only true freedom resided in the power of understanding.
Otis listened to all this with the utmost wonder and frequent interjections: Why would God create something then ignore its fate? Was the devil also a part of God? If understanding was freedom, why had it taken the Civil War to spring the slaves?
“I know a guy,” Otis said. “Not exactly a friend, but a guy I know. He went on a rampage down at the die cast plant, shot up the whole place with a magnum. You don’t think that guy needs God? I’m telling you: these places take something from you. Sometimes I wake up and I can’t tell if I’ve been out there, in the street, doing things. Or just thinking about doing things.” Otis paused and looked at his shoes. He was, in his own way, trying to teach Sligo something essential: That the world of ideas mattered only to the extent a man could free himself from the world of shame and hunger.
“Do you guys really go to college?” Otis said.
“What was it like?”
Sligo motioned for another cigarette and sighed. “Paradise,” he said. “A green place with long pastures of silence. All the windows filled with sun. They heat the halls in winter. You don’t have to do anything but read and nap on the carpet. There’s these smart, foxy chicks all over the place. Everyone pretends to be depressed, to sort of keep the guilt in check. You float along on coffee and loans.”
“When you got to pay back the loans?”
Sligo shook everything at once, as if Otis were guessing badly at charades. We both owed thousands to the State of North Carolina. This was the running joke of our portfolio. Sligo had written the governor several times already, to apologize for his failure to pony up. (“Simply put, your honor, I am a bad credit risk. I believe this to be a hereditary condition.” He suggested the state file a lien against his vital organs.)
Otis looked at each of us carefully. “That don’t sound like the colleges I been to,” he said. “There ain’t no pastures at A&M. It’s all concrete.”
A&M was where the blacks went. The African Americans, by contrast, went to our school. This was one of the truly special innovations in American racism: the turning of the middle-class against the poor. The poor cast suspicions. They dressed in chunky gold and shot each other and fucked with hopeless impunity. They talked of weapons and blunts in poorly punctuated couplets and leapt across our TVs in tightly sprung bodies. And still, everyone wanted to be like them. Not like Otis, in his tender, half-formed hopes, his halfway house and his baby mama, but like the audacious inventions his condition spawned. The glorious id, the frantic player, unfit for the sustained attentions of revolution (which made the most sense) and gorged instead on mythopoetic junk food: sexual abandon, blacktop executions, slam dunks, and shopping sprees.
Otis looked at his shoes again and picked at the spine of his book. His hands were trembling a bit. I had the urge to seize his arm, right then, and tell him to resist whatever dark urges were bubbling inside him. But the shift buzzer sounded and he raced for the floor. He wanted to make sure he got his lucky spot before the hartness started up again. This was absurd. He was just the janitor. He put a good deal of stock in his lucky spot, though, which was under the fading poster of Ronald Reagan holding a can of Coke. He told us Reagan gave him luck.
“Wasn’t Reagan drinking a Coke when he got capped?” Sligo said.
“Have a Coke and a bullet,” he said.
On Friday, Chick called us into his office and handed us each a pink slip.
“What’s this?” Sligo said. “Some kind of commendation?”
“Too much talk,” Chick said. “We need guys who don’t talk so much.”
Sligo stared at his pink slip. “Don’t you think this is a little cliche?”
Otis was waiting for us outside the plant.
“You all got the shitcan, huh?”
“I don’t think Chick is really himself today,” Sligo said. “He’s been under a lot of pressure. We should probably grab a drink.”
Otis squinted and kicked at a pebble. “I ain’t supposed to drink. They got rules where I’m living at.” He rubbed the flanks of his fabulous nose. “Maybe, you know, it was for the best. You all can get a better job anyway.”
“Come eat with us.” Sligo flashed Otis his check. “On me. Burgers. Bad Chinese.”
I thought about Wok ‘n Roll, scallion pancakes so greasy as to soak Rorschachs through the white wax box. Peking Ravioli whose pork and ginger filling was the same precise shade as my ex-girlfriend’s lovely concha. The proprietor, Atul, wore a scowl straight out of the Ottoman Empire. This was the perplexing ethnography of Lee Street: to work the native cuisine was considered poor form.
Otis glanced past us, into the land of the white and nearly so. “Naw,” he said. “Naw.” Here, again, was the great unbridgeable gulf. It was nothing personal. We all knew that. Otis dug into his satchel. “You should read this. It’s a real good book. I read it already.” He tried to hand Sligo the book. “They won’t let me sell it back,” Otis said. “There’s too much writing in the margins.”
“You’re acting like we’re never going to see one another again,” Sligo said. “What kind of way is that to act?”
That night, proceeds safely socked away in our livers, spattered in and around the toilet bowl, Sligo gave voice to our lamentation. His singing voice was surprisingly faint. “Mrs. Otis regrets to inform,” he crooned, “that she will be unable to take lunch today.”
My breathing entered a phase of sorrow. Our room smelled of macacheese and mouse poison. Outside, the crickets played at a quaintness not even they believed anymore. We’d spent too much time shoving the earth around, and now the plants were dying on us; there was nothing left to spit oxygen back at us.
“Where’s that from?” I said.
“My gran,” Sligo said. “An old Depression song he used to sing.”
“What’s it about?”
“Regret, I guess. And lunch.” Sligo began singing again, trying to work himself into the next verse.
A week passed. Then another. I called out for ex, but she wanted nothing to do with me. Sligo spent his days hunched over Spinoza, Man and His Well-Being, On the Improvement of the Understanding, all the golden oldies. “Don’t you see it?” he howled. “Spinoza was the first guy to recognize where the Enlightenment was headed, that the hard scientists were going to overrun the palaces of learning. So you know what he did? He tried to prove God’s existence using Euclidian proofs. Euclidian proofs, Mikey! Can you imagine? Leibniz took one look at the math and laughed so hard he invented calculus. Shit.”
What an ominous stink we made. Max — the son of our former department chair, a wayward boy auditioning for delinquency — was our only visitor, and he was impressed to no end. He’d always assumed adults had to bathe.
“My mom says you guys are going to wind up on welfare,” he told us.
We’d tried welfare, actually. But they’d kicked us off. These days they wanted everyone working, scraping gum off the sidewalk, whatever. They were managing laziness right out of existence.
Sligo yawned. “Tell your mom she’s starting to look like Linda McCartney.”
“She says you bring shame to the academic community.”
“Tell your mom she can’t sing worth shit. Tell her she nearly ruined Wings.”
Max picked a dead mouse off the floor and twirled it by the tail, like a key chain.
“Put that down,” I said. I shoveled the mouse onto a magazine and into the toilet. It spun down, eyes closed, like a mouse in a terrible dream.
“At least with Yoko Ono,” Sligo said, “she showed a little pussy.”
“My mom says she knows you’ve been stealing clocks from the library.”
“Clock,” Sligo said. “Singular.”
Tonya acted delighted to see us again. “Hell—oh-oh. I was just thinking about you two.”
“No you weren’t,” Sligo said.
Tonya made a sound like an abruptly squeezed accordion. The banner hung from the particleboard arch behind her said: Temporary Relief Is Just a Phone Call Away. She had opportunities for us, viability calibration, actuarial mediation! With our test scores! If only we would get ourselves cleaned up a little! Tonya dreamed of making us permanent members of the American workforce. We were her Everest.
Sligo enjoyed disregarding her counsel. Her ardency excited him. “Temp mama,” he called her. “She’s got that mean yearning, Mikey. One hundred percent Mrs. Robinson. How old do you think she is? Forty?” We were both wrecked with sexual need. “Bark, temp mama! Bark!”
Sligo insisted that we find a place to teach. This was what Spinoza had done, after all. They’d booted his ass out of Judaism for denying that angels exist and he’d earned his keep by teaching little Jesuits. We wound up at Yankee Thigpen Vocational/Technical High School. The pay sucked eggs, but the wardrobe was casual.
Vice-Principal Hitch gave us the campus tour.
“I like what you’ve done,” Sligo said. “The observation posts are a nice touch.”
The student body streamed past us: young, black women with pot bellies.
“Must be one hell of a cafeteria you got here,” Sligo said.
Hitch scowled. “They’re pregnant,” he said. “Daily lesson plan’s on the desk. Stick to the book and you’ll be fine.”
Classes ran straight through the afternoon, tech writing, resume prep, computer op. We blurted out our script, while the girls flirted and chewed gum and played with their hair, which had been straightened with chemicals, or hidden away under shiny colored wigs. The meaner ones, or perhaps those living closer to the truth of their circumstance, stared out the windows at the fences.
I joined Sligo for his seventh-period class.
“My name is Professor Fortran. You may call me Sligo.”
“Sligo?” said a burly girl in the second row. “What the hell’s a Sligo?”
Sligo looked momentarily perplexed. He glanced down at his lesson plan. “Okay. Today we’re going to talk about phone etiquette. Say, for instance, someone calls to complain about a bone they found in their food.”
“What food?” the girl said. “I didn’t give nobody no food.”
“Yes, but let’s just pretend, for the sake of this model—”
“If you hungry, go to the store. Don’t be begging us for food.”
“Boo just mad ‘cause her baby daddy got arrested again,” the girl next to her said.
The rest of the class laughed. “I oughta beat your little rice nigger ass.”
“Who you calling rice nigger?”
“What’s a rice nigger?” Sligo said.
“You ain’t done shit.”
“I’m gonna do shit right now. I’m gonna beat your ass till your mama hurt.”
“Least I got a mama.”
The class went oooeehhhh and both girls stood up and Sligo leapt between them. “Ladies,” he said, “we’re here to learn. To raise ourselves up from the muck of ignorance.”
“Who you calling ignorant?” Boo said. Her face was dark and round and quite beautiful.
“You ignorant,” said the other girl. “Getting yourself a baby by some crazy nigger can’t even hold a job.”
That was all Boo needed. She reached around Sligo and told hold of the other girl’s hair and yanked.
A scuffle ensued, a rather ugly scuffle, in which Sligo was the primary victim. He was a big target and not especially agile. He managed to stem the action only by taking hold of Boo and lifting her from the ground. She was weeping at that point, kicking at his shins and yelling for blood. A couple of security guards arrived eventually and slapped plastic cuffs on the combatants and led them away, through the failed summer air.
Sligo sat down at his desk. For all his bluster, he was shaken by violence, which argued against reason, suggested a far more natural response to grief.
“Maybe you could go to the infirmary,” I said. Boo’s fingernails had raised red welts across his neck and down his pale chest.
“Nonsense.” He picked up the lesson plan. “We were discussing a customer service model, in which the caller reports a bone in her hamburger. Remember that consumers are especially sensitive about what they put in their mouths. Please stop laughing. Okay, so I’m the consumer: Oh, my teeth hurt. Who has a response to this? How about you?” Sligo pointed to one of the Latin girls in back.
“She don’t speak English,” said the girl next to her.
“How about you, then?”
“I ain’t your dentist.”
“Yeah, but this is the number it says to call.”
“I didn’t put no bone in your hamburger.”
“This is serious,” Sligo said desperately. “I think I broke a bridge.”
“Why you eating hamburgers? You too fat already.”
There were a few titters and then, all at once, the girls simply shut down, a capacity their lives had prepared them for exquisitely. This was not the gaudy inattention of suburbia, the raging silence of privilege, but a true deadness to possibility.
“Alright,” Sligo said, “you’re not interested in telephonic protocol. What if we talk about task recall? Schedule management?” Sligo’s head swung like a tether ball. “Are there any questions. No?” Sligo checked the clock. “Let’s try a written exercise. Please write down five things you would say to me if I told you I’d found rat parts in my pot pie. Take your time.”
Walking home, down the streets of Undertown, we took turns pretending we’d be back the next day.
The light fell in such a way as to make everything appear drugged: the playgrounds twinkling with broken glass, the markets where men gathered in the shade of awnings to file yeasty grievances with the dusk, the chop shops garnished in razor wire, the squat police substation that pushed the criminal element closer to the highway. The dogs of Pit Bull City appeared too depressed to attack.
“Was this the way we came?” Sligo said.
We passed a woman on a bus bench. Her t-shirt fell around her like a white tent. “Don’t get caught ‘round here after dark,” she said.
“I recognize this street,” Sligo said.
“We were just here,” I said.
The officer at the substation, Gilkey, looked like a TV cop destined to die badly in a shootout: thinning hair and a weak chin.
“What happened to your neck?” he said to Sligo.
“He broke up a fight,” I said. “We work over at the Vo-Tech.”
Behind Gilkey, slumped on the bench of the lockup cell, was a frail-looking figure. We might not have recognized him at all, but for that grand nose.
“Hey,” Sligo said. “Hey. I know that guy. Otis! Otis! There’s obviously been some mistake. That guy—he’s a good egg. I used to work with him.”
“No mistake,” Gilkey said. “Please don’t step past the line, sir.”
Otis looked up for a moment and his face showed a terrible blankness at the center. The light in the cell was the color of rancid butter. One could see silt flitting down from the roof tiles, settling onto his scalp, which gleamed without its hairnet. Glum ravines circled his mouth. He had done something, raced into the night and tried to free himself probably, in the wrong way. Now he was headed for the great Negro Time Capsule known as hard time.
“I’d really like to speak to my friend,” Sligo said. He stood in his best altar boy pose, head bowed, hands clasped in a posture of prayer. “Please officer. I am respectfully asking your permission.”
“You some kind of lawyer?” Gilkey said.
“Alright,” Gilkey said. “Keep it brief.”
Sligo walked over to the cell. “Hey Otis,” he said. “Hey. What happened, man? Are you okay?”
But Otis wasn’t about to go all gooey.
“Come on,” Sligo said. “Talk to me. I know you want to talk to me.” He reached out and touched the bars of the cell.
“I’m going to need you to step back,” Gilkey called out. “Unless you want to join your friend in there.”
“Otis. Come on, man. Say something.”
Gilkey stepped out from around his desk.
“Tell me what I can do to help,” Sligo said.
Otis turned away, hunched himself into a sullen little pool of light. He was in the process of disowning, right there, anything that ever might have passed between himself and someone such as Sligo. Again, it was nothing personal. This was just his way of showing us how fortunate we were to not be him.
“He’s not going to talk to you,” I said. “Come on, Slig. No kidding around.”
But I was wrong about that. Otis did finally say something. “That Spanish guy you were talking about—he don’t know shit. God’ll take care of me,” he said softly. “I ain’t worried.”
Gilkey gave us a ride back to our place and told us, not unkindly, to stay away from where we didn’t belong.
Sligo was all puffed with woe. There must have been some mistake. Otis wasn’t the criminal type. I told him to shut up for once, leave it alone. We were into the heavy nights of July. The air in our place seemed to be doing half the sweating all on its own.
I thought about what Otis had said—about man’s insatiable need to believe. But perhaps we, as a species, had come into being for no particular reason, had developed the capacity to recognize ourselves, to pity and scorn, for no real reason. Perhaps the heavens above were as much about detachment as possibility. Was God, after all, just a giant coat hanger on which to rest the baffling cloak of death?
Sligo was asleep now, snoring in rasps, and my underarms felt like swamps. I had stumbled, somehow, into one of those dangerous moments of self-recognition. I could see that everything, every squandered afternoon, would cost us something. And I might have done something right then, escaped into the howling night myself. But Sligo sat up suddenly, and his face was glowing like a pale star.
“Listen, Mikey. I’ve got a plan. Do you want to hear my plan?”
“I was thinking to myself: What would Spinoza have done in this situation?”
“Spinoza wouldn’t have been in this situation,” I said.
“But he was, Mikey. He was in our exact situation. He spent all those years grinding lenses in a factory. Disowned. Exiled by his own people! But he never gave up. Even on his deathbed, with glass dust shredding his lungs, he retained his faith in man as an agent for good.”
“I don’t want to die like Spinoza,” I said. “That’s not the kind of happy ending I had in mind.”
“What we’re going to do, we’re going to go back to Chick and plead our case,” Sligo said. “Then, once we’ve got a little capital, we’re going to bail Otis out.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “And Tonya. Oh Mikey, she’s the kind of horny little temp mama who can find us something truly lucrative. That’s all Otis needs, man. A second chance.” He was dreaming out loud now, like he always did, and I listened to him, not the actual words, but the music behind them, that dumb lullaby the heart can’t shake.
At Happy Temp they’d put us—Sligo and myself—through a battery of psychological tests.