“Criminal record?” he enquired.
“Not in this country, mate,” I joked. “Haven’t had time. Haha! I just got here last week! Hahaha!”
“I thought so!” he exclaimed. “Back in New Zealand, huh?” He leaned back in his chair and asked, “What crime? Felony or misdemeanor?”
Now, maybe it wasn’t too smart to make a joke about my criminal record to my potential employer like that, but after my sour-apple-shit-hole outburst of earlier, I kinda figured we an an understanding, Vinny and me.
“Criminal record?” I started to protest. “There wasn’t any…”
But you know how it is… people hear what they want to hear.
“Wait a second!” he interrupted. “Let me see if I can guess!”
“Really,” I began. “There wasn’t…” but he held up his hand, stopping me short.
“That’s all right!” he said. “Let me guess! I like to guess.” He looked at me and cocked his head. “Arsonist? Naw, you’re not an arsonist and you couldn’t be a murderer, either. Nothing too serious. You’re too goggle-eyed for that!”
“Huh?” I said. “Goggle-eyed?”
He ignored me, continuing his critical appraisal, “Yeah, and you’re kinda skinny, too, and with yer accent and that suntan ya look damn suspicious. A hustler, maybe? Dope freak? Second story man? Wait a minute! Don’t tell me!”
I laughed inwardly because I’m not a second story man and never could be…
I’m a backdoor man.
I stood and said nothing. It occurred to me that Vinny had probably encountered, in his working life at Empire Messenger Service in NY, NY, an extremely broad range of humanity… most of them, it must be admitted, the poorer, more marginalized members of society.
I couldn’t blame him for being suspicious.
Let’s face it, friends… You don’t have to be poor or different to be treated like a criminal in this country… but it sure helps!
He smiled and leaned forward across his desk. “Got it!” he said. “You’re a flasher!”
“Huh?” I stammered.
“Yeah, that’s it!” he said in triumph. “I’m never wrong! Flasher, right? A dog-gone wienie wagger!”
“I never…” I began, but he mistook this as a natural desire on my part to keep it quiet and interrupted again.
“You never flashed kids,” he agreed. “Did ya, Flasher? Good! Good!”
“Of course not!” I insisted hotly. “Please don’t call me Flasher.”
“Sure!” he said breezily, “I can see why you’d be sensitive about it. But don’t worry, we’ve got all kinds of perverts working here. We’ve got a …”
“I’ve been trying to tell you …” I said.
“Okay, Flasher. Okay. I don’t care what you do on your own time. Just keep it zipped while you’re working for the company, right?”
“HOLD ON!” I finally insisted. “I don’t have a criminal record.”
“Oh?” He seemed disappointed. “You’re sure?” He looked at me hopefully. Maybe I could come up with something if I thought hard enough?
“Yes,” I said. “I’m sure.”
Then my intuition quietly told me I was going to get the job, and I said to myself, ‘Careful what you wish for, Flasher old boy.’
“Okay,” said Vinny a little resignedly. “See the girl out front. Fill out these forms. Ya start tomorrow.”
He handed me the forms and I turned to go, pausing at the door. “Thank you,” I said. “You won’t regret …”
“Sure, Flasher!” he interrupted. “Good luck. And for god’s sake keep your dick in your pants! Okay?”
“Okay,” I laughed. “I’ll try.”
I stepped through the door.
“Next!” he yelled past me into the waiting-room.