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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Devil-cum-Shoeshine Boy Tells a Customer the Genesis of His Current Occupation Is a Bad Bargain with a Savvy Businessman

Murray Brozinsky

Shoeshine, sir?

Hop up here.

Nice Rockports, comfortable?

Yeah, leather’s a bit worn but I’ll buff ’em right up.


Murdoch Post or Murdoch Journal?

Here y’ go.

My story?

I wouldn’t have the foggiest where to begin.

The beginning? Snarky.

True, as good a place as any.

My former boss, before going out on my own, in the beginning He just looks up and says light. And lo and behold it shines.

Him, you know, with a capital H.

Shines in the sky, anyway. Not quite so bright in your heads. He’s using faulty filaments or something. I mean, I’m embarrassed for you.

For you, you know all of mankind. I mean Adam stands there, twiddles his thing watching Eve chat up a freakin’ serpent. Clueless. I slither in to talk some sense.

Hell yeah I was there. One of the first angels hired on. Ask Gabriel or Michael or any of those other pinheads.

Oh, I thought you referred to them as that.

Why the freak would you think anybody could dance on the head of a pin?

Apology accepted. Where was I? Right, Eve. I try like the devil to get her to serve up cherry pie.

Oh yeah. Damn fine piece o’ ass that Eve.

True, she’s the only piece really. But still.

No, she Heisman’d me, dazzled by the other snake whispering sweet Apple in her ear. Pretty good deal it turns out; trades damn near two hundred bucks a share now.

The big H and I play a few holes in the sun after He kicks the couple from the garden.

His handicap? Um, minus fifty four, give or take. One stroke a hole. Sometimes he shoots lower when he does the freakin’ double hole-in-one thing.

On the back nine He goes into a rage. Pulls out his Treo—miracle, that thing—and calls Noah. Has him on speed dial number two, between Adam and Abraham. He takes a mulligan, and I pop open the umbrella. While waiting for the rain to stop, He bets me you’ll be good this time ’round. Never learns.

Barely enough for a one bedroom condo now, but back then I buy some nice real estate.

On the far side the river over there.

I open my gates to the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Of course you’ve heard that before. It’s inscribed on the freakin’ Statue of Liberty. Put there after the change of control.

Hold your horses. I’m getting to it. Gotta save some story for the other shoe.

The vermin walking through my gate, it’s like New Year’s at Times Square every day of the year. Couldn’t keep up with the population explosion. Ran out of funds to fuel the fire, and the price of brimstone’s like oil is today.

Wipe that smile or I’ll scuff your shoe. This is serious. I consult my accountants and lawyers, but they clam up tighter ’n a sphincter in a proctologist’s office when I can’t pay them. Say I owe them deferred compensation, too. Evil freakin’ creatures.

Then my savior, an old man in a pinstripe suit and blue and white polka dot tie from the land down under, comes to talk to me.

I hear you’re in a bind, he says.

I’m listening, I reply.

I can help, he says

Yes, very awkward. Sort of an inverse Faustian thing, but I’m between a cold rock and no brimstone so I hear him out.

I can pump capital into this place to keep it operating forever, he says. He makes a wonderful presentation with graphs and charts and very attractive financial projections. He assures me the place will never freeze over.

I ask what’s in it for him. Stock he says. Tells me his company’s looking for new investments. I think of my bargaining conquests with Niccolò Paganini and Tommy Johnson, tell him we’ve got a deal, and sign some papers.

Next day it’s raining fire and brimstone again, and damnation if I don’t feel like a prince. But the booze pours in, and the girls, cars, planes, media, political endorsements.

I ring up my new partner. What the freak? I ask over a glass of Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz from the Barossa Valley . I sold out he tells me; it’s his joint now. What the freak? Tells me the devil’s in the details. Duh. I seize the capitalization table. Freak those liquidation preferences. The details say he has majority ownership.

Yeah, he plays me. I swindle souls from violinists and jazz musicians but I’m no match for a media titan.

He buys my space. But the coup de grâce—tells me I’m not ruthless enough to run the show. It’s outgrown my leadership, he says. If I dump the silly horns I have a shot at a shoeshine boy/news vendor job, two revenue streams in one.

Salary’s the shits, but he lets me vest my stock—over eternity.

Murray Brozinsky is a writer and entrepreneur living in San Francisco with his wife and baby daughter. He has published pieces in many literary magazines. Most recently, his essays and short fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in 3711 Atlantic, Aesthetica, Brink, Duck & Herring Pocket Field Guides, Laughter Loaf, Opium Magazine, and <em>Prose Toad. He has also written columns for Wired magazine and Business 2.0.