Daniel Presley is an American author and screenwriter living in Paris. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hunger Mountain, The Minnesota Review, Drunken Boat, Wigleaf, Hobart, and elsewhere. His film Populaire (2013) won Best Narrative Feature at the San Francisco International Film Festival and Best First Feature at the COLCOA Festival. He’s currently finishing a novel and a collection of short stories.
Tie shoes. Adjust belted jeans on hips. Smooth hair back in mirror. Realize smoothing hair is impossible, give up task. Grab preprepared Bloomingdale’s Big Brown Bag. Open HQ door. Exit HQ. Lock HQ door. Check lock exactly three times, not more. Proceed down stairway. Remember: do not run.
Five floors down. Counts as exercise, even though descending. Pass vestibule mailboxes that are death to look into. Be kind to anyone present: fellow tenants, mailman, dude who fixes things. Mrs. Bowles is there looking disappointed at envelopes. Hi, Mrs. Bowles. Well hello there, Bob. Nice day we’re having, isn’t it? Don’t rightly know, ma’am, just now heading out. Working again? You work so hard. You should take a vacation. It’s summer. Thank-you, Mrs. Bowles, I was not aware of that.
Be kind. Blast of hot air. Now the street. Should’ve been nicer to Mrs. Bowles. Is not Mrs. Bowles fault life is in fucked-up way. But not for long. Prayers have been answered.
Must not panic. Must proceed in orderly fashion. Look like civilian on way to casual day. Just out for a stroll with my Bloomingdale’s Big Brown Bag. Maybe I’ll take in a movie later, if it rains, that is, after work.
Who am I kidding? After work means pick Samuel up from school, make spaghetti. Visit Josie in hospital. Do same tomorrow.
Into the subway. Hate subway. Hate MetroCard. Hate logo. Hate smell in subway. Will stare at the floor. Will endure it. Will not look at map. Sends wrong signal. Am not a tourist. Will not look into eyes of passengers/potential murderers. Will keep to myself. Will inwardly sing song or think about Violet. While on job must not think about Violet. Violet is the sexual accelerator.
Exit 163rd Street. McDonald’s. Buy lowest price, non-cardiac traumatizing food item to obtain restroom token. Eat fries on way to restroom. Sorry, stressed, deserve this. Restroom occupied. Restroom always occupied. Every time, same McDonald’s, same restroom, occupied. Please, don’t let it be homeless man/crack addict/whore, not again. Behind door, hand dryer engages. Hot already, don’t need more heat.
Door click. Deep breath; ready to hold it. Breathe out. Pretty thirty-something lady sorties. From her comes altruistic smile as though acknowledging my waiting patiently and civilly. Smile back, not too big, sends wrong message. Women under so much stress already.
Inside. Safe. Urinate. Wash hands. Keep water running at sound encasing level. Dry hands on pants. Rummage through Bloomingdale’s Big Brown Bag. Retrieve Hawaiian shirt and waspy blonde man’s wig. Change shirt. Place waspy blonde wig on head. Try, vainly, to tuck own hair into place. Do not want to use glue. Glue makes scalp itchy. Must use glue.
Look like man on holiday. First time in big city. Everyone at hurry-up speed. Everything amazing. Nothing like this where I come from, no sir, nothing like this.
Take bus. Bus worse than subway. Bus full of crazies and criminals. Am not a criminal, just simply surviving. Foreclosure impending + $450 weekly not enough. Josie needing operation. Can’t afford. Debt company not pleasant to deal with. Calls frequently. Threats. So busy on weekends. No time.
No seats available on bus either. Driver wearing headphones, in fact, everyone on bus wearing headphones. Don’t want to be plugged in, robot-nodding. Don’t want to be theirs.
Single dads, fucked. Samuel, healthy, thank God. Always thank God when Samuel’s name is brain-said. Josie. Dear God, please bless Josie. So sweet. Please make well. Sick for so long. Insurance nearly done. Never expected insurance agent, woman, to approach, to be so, human. Fortunate accident? Guardian Angel? Who cares which? Let’s have a drink. Thought, yes, single dad no more. Happy, for first time in long time. Calls herself Barbara. Pretty. Older, but pretty. Two drinks. T.G.I. Friday’s. Expensive. Cocktails. Worried about paying. Don’t worry, Bob. Why? Willing to help out, extend coverage, make more complete, no deductible, in return for favor. What kind of favor? More like, employment. Job opportunity. Cash on the side. Paid in fat envelopes, right? Yes. Was kidding. Not kidding. What kind of job? Involves where you will work next. Something simple. No questions asked. How much cash? $2,000 weekly. What?
Your name will be Henry.
But my name is Bob.
Add a chemical.
What if I get caught?
You won’t get caught.
What does chemical do?
Once thawed, sperm won’t swim.
Manhattan CryoBank refuses to pay settlement.
Many women, made sick by fertility treatments.
Horrible. Unlawful. Should be punished.
Here’s your chance to do something good for the world.
And get paid. Still, no seats available on bus. Will choose new route next week. Keep psychic transactions to a minimum. Important to use at least two modes of transportation. At least one disguise. Evasion tactics SOP. Look like man on holiday. Pretend to be amazed by sights, though, no sights yet, just more of the same LEGO blocks and chain crap. Still, different chain crap from where disguised man is from.
Manhattan CryoBank. New place of employment. Check-in. Standard security. Hey, Henry, how you been? Well you know, the same old. Can I please have a look-see to the bag? No sweat. Laugh to self. Stuff not in the Big Brown Bag. Bag a ruse. Stuff duct-taped inside of trousers. Plastic tubes. No metal. Thanks buddy. Sure thing.
Wash hands. White smocks. Face-mask.