“Bye Judy and Good Luck” p. 50

What does a girl have to do around here to get laid?

The Walrus - - CONTENTS - By Mona Awad

We call Judy “Fun Sized” be­cause of her height. None of us has ever taken a tape ­mea­sure to her, but Jimbo’s guess is no more than four foot eleven, prob­a­bly just as wide. None of us would ever fuck her, but we all agree she’s a riot. Like yes­ter­day, she comes into work with these lit­tle raised, red scratches all over both her arms.

What hap­pened to your arms, Judy? we ask her dur­ing a smoke break, Pall Malls burn­ing down be­tween our fin­gers.

Judy shakes her head sadly. She winces as if even that hurts. Then she tells us how she got so drunk last night that she de­cided she’d try to get her dog and cat to make friends. She was ly­ing on her liv­ing-room car­pet, lis­ten­ing to Jimmy Buf­fett sing “Changes in Lat­i­tudes, Changes in At­ti­tudes,” think­ing there was just so much hate in the world, not enough un­der­stand­ing. So she picked up her worm-in­fested Per­sian and put him next to her se­nile Airedale. That’s when, she says, the Per­sian went bat­shit crazy on her.

Shit, Judy, we say. That must’ve hurt.

Yeah, Judy says. Well, no. Not re­ally. Ac­tu­ally, she says, she doesn’t re­mem­ber much of it. Must have passed out.

We watch her shake her Mar­gar­i­taville lighter, then spark it up to no avail.

Judy’s got some­thing of a drink­ing prob­lem. We all do. You would too if you worked where we work, if you did what we do. We won’t bore you with the de­tails. Suf­fice it to say, we op­er­ate in a win­dow­less room, a dark, low- ceilinged space filled with cu­bi­cles and ashen faces lit by screens that make us look like the liv­ing dead. No plant lives here. One time, Judy, God bless her, brought in this lit­tle cac­tus that looked like a shriv­elled prick. It died al­most im­me­di­ately. We would all go home and kill our­selves now ex­cept that we have plans, lit­tle ropes of hope we still cling to. Maybe we’ll write an e-book on con­spir­acy the­o­ries or a his­tory of bad opin­ions. Maybe we’ll build a vi­ral per­son­al­ity or an app that preys on our worst fears. Maybe we’ll wan­der far enough into the ­nearby red ­desert to be ab­ducted by aliens. Judy thinks these are great ideas, thinks we have tal­ent. We have out­lines for the e-book. We’ve writ­ten ex­cerpts on bar nap­kins, those nights when the words flow and flow out of us like so much bile. We have given these ex­cerpts to Judy to proof­read, and she reads our hearts’ blood with un­fail­ing at­ten­tion, sway­ing slightly, hold­ing the bar nap­kin very close to her face. Holy shit, Judy says, you’re bril­liant. You could be big, she says. You could be huge. When Judy says we could be huge, she opens her scratched-up, fun­sized arms wide to in­di­cate how huge she means. And though the space she en­cir­cles is ac­tu­ally quite small, we see how big she means to mean. She means big­ger than the world, than a child’s idea of outer space. She cranes her neck up to look at us like we are Mount Ever­est, a rocky snow-capped peak en­cir­cled in an awe-inspiring fog.

Judy has to ride TRAX into work now. Has to. No choice. She got hit with a DU I a few weeks ago driv­ing the whole of our IT depart­ment home from the Dead Goat. All of us piled on top of one an­other in the back­seat, Jimbo and IKEA Je­sus hang­ing out the back win­dows scream­ing like Tas­ma­nian devils, while Judy sat hunched over the wheel up front, try­ing to teach us her ­Buf­fett love by crank­ing se­lected tracks from Son of a Son of a ­Sailor . Which more or less fell on deaf ears. We feel bad about all that, Judy. We re­ally do.

Don’t! Judy says. Please don’t. These things hap­pen, she says fer­vently. They re­ally do.

We nod. They do, it’s true. Mainly, though, these things seem to hap­pen to Judy. Not that she doesn’t help things along. At the time, from what we rec­ol­lect of watch­ing the world whoosh

darkly by through her cracked back win­dow, Judy was speed­ing through what ap­peared to be — and what the cop later in­formed her was, in fact — a res­i­den­tial area. Go­ing some­thing like forty miles an hour down a twenty-five-mile-an-hour road.

Judy! What were you think­ing ?

I don’t know , Judy says. She means it. It’s one of the rea­sons we love her. She never knows what she’s think­ing.

Did we men­tion Judy is ut­terly un­fuck­able? There’s her adul­ton­set acne. There’s how, when she hangs her head, a dis­con­cert­ing amount of scalp shows. And yet we of­ten find our­selves look­ing at her over the top of our dou­ble screens, at where she sits kitty-cor­ner from us. We look at Judy look­ing wor­riedly at her own screen, which is prob­a­bly blank ex­cept for a blink­ing ­cur­sor. The light on her face brings out the smoking ­creases around her eyes, the blood in the whites, the grated tex­ture of her skin, its sheen of pure panic. She isn’t ex­actly the best of pro­gram­mers. She used to come and ask us for help some­times. She’d wob­ble over in her too-high heels to­ward our clus­ter of work­sta­tions lit up by dy­ing lava lamps, to where we sat in our mid-back chairs sur­rounded by Je­sus Christ ac­tion fig­ures and flat Big Gulps, our head­phones fill­ing our ears with a mu­sic com­posed ­mainly of loops, pre­tend­ing like we didn’t see her, we didn’t see her, un­til she’d ahem. And even then, we kept our eyes on our split screens un­til she was forced to reach up on her tip­toes and tap one of us on the shoul­der. Psst. Hey. Sorry. But how do you... ? We tried to be nice about it at first, but that just en­cour­aged her, so fi­nally we had to tell her to sort of buzz off, we had work to do. We smiled as we watched her teeter away, sit back at her desk look­ing even more con­fused. We could do this job in our sleep, with our hands tied be­hind our backs, cod­ing only with our ­noses. Our job does not make use of our tal­ents. Did we men­tion we could do this in our sleep? We of­ten do, dream­ing of lines of code like hands stran­gling us. Still, we some­times run ­into snares, and when we do, it helps to ob­serve Judy, who of­ten looks trapped be­hind her com­puter, like a mouse un­der a largepawed preda­tor.

Some­times, at the end of a long day, one of us will hang Judy’s coat high up on the coat rack and kill a quar­ter of an hour watch­ing her jump and jump to reach for it. This never gets old.

There is no Happy Hour in our state, where the drink­ing laws are so strin­gent. Each after­noon, post-shift, we make do with Fire­balls at the Dead Goat. Judy, on the other hand, has a non­ironic love for Long Is­lands. Af­ter her first Long Is­land, Judy tells us all she’s start­ing a re­li­gion.

It’s go­ing to be called Judy­ism, Judy says.

When we ask her what its tenets are, she says none. Ex­cept one: Ev­ery­one needs to be nice to cats. But you can eat as much ba­con as you want. And Jimmy Buf­fett will be sainted for his many mir­a­cles.

There have been mo­ments, Long Is­land–lit mo­ments, when we have seen the hope burn­ing in Judy’s blood­shot eyes like twin tea lights: Take me home and fuck me one of you .

One time, one of us does. Not re­ally one of us, but Brian, our sort of su­per­vi­sor/project man­ager of sorts and, iron­i­cally, far more picky than we are. He claims to mas­tur­bate to the ­un­der­age girl who works at Toast­ers, who ev­ery day makes his muf­fuletta wrong, never gives him ex­tra olive salad even though he ­al­ways asks for ex­tra olive salad. This girl could be a model for face creams for young girls. That said, he also pe­ri­od­i­cally ­crosses the Utah border to bang over­weight pros­ti­tutes. Even so, we would never have be­lieved, even for a mo­ment, that he would be the sort to take Judy home, even in a crawl­ing-down-thestreet-drunk state — which he’s been in, we were with him. Yet this one night, around Christ­mas, when we are all feel­ing ex­tra sui­ci­dal, we leave work late for the Dead Goat and find Brian and Judy al­ready there, sort of lean­ing in to­gether, talk­ing. We don’t think much of it, but then the next thing we know, Brian’s tongue’s down Judy’s throat and Judy’s glasses are pushed half off her face and the moans of her plea­sure are ring­ing through our heads. It’s un­com­fort­able for some of us. We stare into the dregs of our Dis­grun­tled Elves, try­ing to con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion, to speak to each other about sports and the end of the world — how we’re pre­par­ing for it with bat­ter­ies and ammo and cans of chili and bags of rice. Even though we never cook it, rice. Why are we stock­ing up on a sta­ple to which we are in­dif­fer­ent? We talk about how you can feel the shit hit­ting the fan every­where — at Costco ev­ery­one push­ing each other over for a sam­ple, a lit­tle pa­per ramekin of luke­warm pig-hoof stew. What’s up with the world? We’re ­re­ally ask­ing. We do a quick side­ways glance that con­firms Brian and Judy are still at it. More so than be­fore. ­Some­thing un­seemly, truly dirty, not ­wit­ness­able, in this mo­ment. We pre­tend they’re not in eye­sight, that we don’t see them stag­ger­ing out the door of the bar.

Those of us with wives must in­evitably go home to them. Those of us with­out wives go home to some­thing else. Cats. Un­dusted sur­faces. Spa­ces un­bal­anced by ch’i, un­punc­tu­ated by ­Bud­dha stat­ues. Those of us with­out wives are lucky in some ways. They don’t have to lie in the dark be­side a woman, stomach lin­ing on fire from Dis­grun­tled Elf, star­ing at the blades and bones in her back, which ap­pear to form a glare in the moon­light. They don’t have to hear the ham­mer­ing of their own hearts in their ears while the dig­i­tal clock slowly ticks off the hours. They don’t have to look into this glare and think, by con­trast, of Judy smil­ing her slightly lop­sided smile, bar­ing her badly-in-needof-a-den­tist teeth. Bar­ing them even when she gets DUIs on our be­half, even when she tells us how once she nearly set fire to her cat. She didn’t mean to set fire to her cat, she said, he just looked cold. She’s sweet like that. If you’re cold, Judy won’t hes­i­tate to take a lighter to you. Would this deeply dis­ap­pointed woman with her back turned do that?

Prob­a­bly a few of us are ly­ing awake, won­der­ing what Judy and Brian are do­ing right now. Think­ing of them drunk in Judy’s apart­ment. Judy stum­bling nearly side­ways through her own cor­ri­dors as though she were on a storm-tossed ship, putting her hands out in front of her like she’s blind, which, judg­ing by

her glasses, she very nearly is. Brian stum­bling some­where close be­hind, smil­ing at Judy ahead of him in the dark hall­way. He’d be the one to turn out the light. We think of them ­crash­ing onto Judy’s sheets, which we imag­ine, for some rea­son, to be pat­terned with small pineapples. Sur­rounded by Jimmy Buf­fett posters plas­tered crooked to the wall with lit­tle bits of tape. All those ­Jim­mys watch­ing this un­watch­able union. Maybe her Per­sian and Airedale watch­ing it too. We do not try to pic­ture it. Where Judy and Brian lie in our minds, there is only a blank blaz­ing space.

Judy’s in love. Or so she tells us over ci­garettes and gut-rot ­Colom­bian in the break room the next morn­ing. The sight of Judy in love is dis­con­cert­ing. The flush to her oth­er­wise grey­ing cheek. Her eyes with this glaze to them, like dough­nuts, look­ing past us at some­thing fuzzy and far away that we can’t see.

Ap­par­ently Judy blew him. Or he blew her. She can’t re­mem­ber ex­actly who got blown. Might have been both of them. Def­i­nitely some­one did, be­cause one of them came. She’s pretty sure that was her be­cause, in her words, she woke up sticky. Then one of them cried. A lot. (She’s pretty sure that was him.) And then Brian, she’s cer­tain it was Brian, asked her if she wouldn’t mind hold­ing him for a while. So what did you do? We ask her. I held him, of course. He’s re­ally, re­ally lonely. I don’t know if you know the de­tails. We don’t. It’s a sad story, ac­tu­ally. But, fuck, she says, what I re­ally wanted was to get laid. What does a girl have to do around here to get laid?

When she says this, she frowns at Brian, who is sit­ting in the next room at his cu­bi­cle, pre­tend­ing to frown at his screen. He hasn’t joined us for smoke breaks all morn­ing. Kept to his desk and the water cooler.

She shows us the text she’s just sent him: I’d like to get un­der that desk and make your toes curl .

We ex­plain to Judy that while men do en­joy some of that, they also don’t en­joy too much of it.

Judy looks up at us — her hair’s still di­shev­elled from the night be­fore. She’s got flecks of black mas­cara dust un­der her eyes. Sud­denly we feel in­ex­cus­ably tall. A fog-en­cir­cled peak she isn’t so sure she wants to climb any­more. We slouch a lit­tle, smile.

She shakes her head, lights a cig­a­rette, ac­ci­den­tally set­ting fire to a stray grey hair, which siz­zles. We breathe in, along with the in­her­ently dirty air and our own smoke, the smell of Judy’s burn­ing hair.

Judy’s getti ng laid off. Prob­a­bly Brian’s do­ing, although to be hon­est we saw it com­ing for a while. As we’ve men­tioned, she’s less than com­pe­tent at her job. We’re not even sure she has a com­puter-science de­gree. Or that she even fin­ished high school, for that mat­ter. The way she would come to us, ask­ing us ba­sic pro­gram­ming ques­tions in a wide, shifty-eyed panic. It would be on the tips of our tongues to say, Shit, shouldn’t you know this, Judy?

Still, we know the real rea­son for her get­ting canned is Brian, who can’t bear the idea that ev­ery­one knows he not only fucked Judy but went fe­tal and cried in her fun-sized arms.

We want to have a good­bye party for Judy on her last day, which hap­pens to fall on her birth­day. It doesn’t hap­pen. We even talked about it among our­selves on pri­vate smoke breaks. How we ought to have a party. Maybe bal­loons. A Jimmy Buf­fett playlist? At the very least, we ought to get her a cake, one that says Bye Judy and Happy Birth­day . Or Happy Birth­day Judy and Good Luck ? Or Good­bye Judy and Good Luck ? Any­way, some­thing writ­ten on it in pink ic­ing. But we could never get that co­or­di­nated. Could never get it straight which one of us — Jimbo or IKEA Je­sus — was sup­posed to call the bak­ery. If it was Hot Pocket or Cracker who was go­ing to bring bal­loons.

Feel­ing bad about how there’s no cake, we get a Whatchamacal­lit from the vend­ing ma­chine and, dur­ing a smoke break on her last day, we of­fer it to Judy.

Thanks, she says. As she stands there chew­ing, we tell her how we were go­ing to get her this cake. How if it had been up to us, it would have been a great big cake that said Happy Birth­day Judy and Good Luck in pink ic­ing. Or Bye Judy and Good Luck . Any­way, ic­ing. With many tiers. We build the cake in the air with our hands, un­til it’s there in the air be­fore us. Lit and blaz­ing for Judy and Judy’s star­ing up at it.

Re­ally? she says softly.

Re­ally, Judy.

Her chin quiv­ers as she gazes up at the air cake we made her. Tears well in her eyes. It is so beau­ti­ful. Tears be­gin to well in our eyes too.

At the Dead Goat, we of­fer to buy Judy a drink. What­ever she wants. What­ever you want, Judy! And does any­one here have any Jimmy Buf­fett on CD? How about on tape, we ask a pass­ing bar-back. The bar-back doesn’t know. Oh, well. We asked, at least, is the face we make to Judy, who smiles sadly, nods ap­pre­cia­tively. She is too sad to speak. It’s a bit of a downer, re­ally. Cheer up, Judy! We need Judy to cheer up. Tell us a story about her cat. Light a cig­a­rette that lights her hair on fire. Watch her beat use­lessly at the siz­zle. Tell us how she stalked Jimmy Buf­fett that one time in Ve­gas. Tell us all about Judy­ism. What are its tenets again?

Judy just sits there. She says she doesn’t re­mem­ber its tenets. She stares down at the bar, into her own empty glass. She says to tell her again about the cake.

We tell her again about the cake.

One cor­ner of her mouth be­gins to jerk down­ward in spite of it­self. She cries in an ugly way that red­dens her nos­trils.

Sorry, she sniffs. It’s just los­ing her job, then her li­cence, and her boyfriend (she means Brian) all in one week. It’s just all hit­ting her sort of hard. She looks up at us with her tea-light eyes.

We put a hand on Judy’s boul­der-like shoul­der.

Those of us with wives must in­evitably go home to them. Those of us with­out wives go home to some­thing else. Cats. Un­dusted sur­faces. Spa­ces un­bal­anced by ch’i, un­punc­tu­ated by Bud­dha stat­ues.

We open our mouths to say some­thing more. There is ­noth­ing to say. We have had five Fire­balls and two Long Is­lands and even with that much alcohol in us, enough to fell an elk, we will never fuck Judy. This knowl­edge cour­ses through our blood as surely as the cin­na­mon whisky that’s killing us. We hang on to this fact like it’s a brick in our hands.

Prob­a­bly Judy is drunk enough to see the brick, be­cause she low­ers her eyes, guesses aloud that it’s get­ting late.

We walk Judy to the TRAX sta­tion, that we are happy to do. We of­fer to drive her home, but in a way that lets Judy know we’re just try­ing to be nice. First of all, Judy lives out in Roy, which is sub­urbs away. Se­cond of all, we’re ex­hausted. Un­like her, we have to go back to work to­mor­row. An­other day back to the dark and win­dow­less grind where no plants grow.

Judy knows. She un­der­stands. Says that, any­way, she wouldn’t want us to wind up like her. Get­ting pulled over, ar­rested, then bailed out at three in the morn­ing by her Mor­mon niece, who spent the whole drive home qui­etly pray­ing for her soul.

We tell her she could have called us. We would have bailed her out for sure.

Judy hangs her head. When she does this, we can see where the black dye ends and the blond roots streaked with grey be­gin. There re­ally is too much scalp show­ing to be nor­mal. Sud­denly we need to be away. Bye, Judy, we say, wav­ing. Good Luck.

We stag­ger back to our cars, fish­tail our way down the I-80, the I-15, the I-40, north and east and west to­ward our apart­ment in the sub­urbs, our one-room stu­dio by the tracks, our weath­ered bun­ga­low in the val­ley, our twice-mort­gaged condo near the mine. The drive is dif­fi­cult. It is al­ready night and our blood is ­mostly whisky. We’ll be lucky if we make it home alive, let alone not ­ar­rested. We keep our hot, swollen hands on the wheel and our eyes on the swim­ming dark. Loosen our ties. Sing softly un­der our breath. Songs we hate. We don’t want to sing, we refuse to sing, we re­ally don’t wish to sing this song so trite and ter­ri­ble, but it’s what’s play­ing and the tired words are in our throats, are on our tongues, are bloom­ing forth from our cracked lips in spite of us. Think of the ropes of hope, the ropes of hope. We could be big. We could be huge, re­mem­ber? Re­mem­ber some­where out there in the big black night is Judy. Prob­a­bly still on TRAX, or maybe she’s walk­ing now from the sta­tion to the bus stop that marks her fi­nal leg home. Or maybe she’ll walk all the way home. Some­times she won’t take the bus if she ate Alberto’s for lunch or is just feel­ing like a fat ass in gen­eral. Prob­a­bly she took the bus tonight, but what we pic­ture is Judy walk­ing. Quick steps, ­slanted, like the Earth is more tilted than it re­ally is, eyes on the side­walk full of cracks snaking like rivers in maps, her shoul­der bag weigh­ing her lit­tle round body down on one side, Jimmy ­Buf­fett ­blar­ing in her ears. “Mar­gar­i­taville,” or maybe “Changes in Lat­i­tudes, Changes in At­ti­tudes.” Sing­ing softly along and off-key. Fun­sized Judy walk­ing in the dark un­der a high, cold moon to­ward obliv­ion. A lit­tle out of breath, like we are, just sit­ting here, just ly­ing here, just drown­ing here, be­hind the wheel.

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