By Mike Stevens
Harry Shadow was always getting himself in horrible trouble with people. It seemed that when he was with someone, he always had to one-up them on what they were talking about. Never mind that he usually had no clue what he was talking about, he plowed ahead and dug himself a huge hole. But, instead of digging himself out, he just kept shoveling, and made it even bigger. He may as well be wearing a jester’s outfit, with a dunce cap on his head. A good example was just today:
A group of people from the neighborhood were having a luncheon and getting to know three people who had recently moved into town.
“So, Joe, tell us where are you from, and anything else about yourself you think we should know?” said one of the ladies from the neighborhood.
Joe Pillar replied, “I’ve moved here from Tennessee, where I was vice president of a firm that manufactured parts for NASA.”
“How interesting!” responded the lady from the neighborhood. “Welcome to Houston!” “And you?” she asked, turning to Fred Simmons.
“Well, my name is Fred Simmons, and I recently opened a new branch of my business, “Rockets of Tomorrow”. I also own my own racing team, “Simmons Racing”, where we race Indy cars all around the country.”
Harry Shadow felt a rush of shame. He had moved here, had no luck finding a job, and was currently working nights at a mini-market here in town. He really felt inferior to the other two guys.
“How about you?” asked the neighborhood lady, looking at Harry.
How could he hope to compete with the others? His story was lame! He couldn’t very well say that he had come into town desperate for any kind of job.
“Ah, my name is Harry Shadow, and I’m a rocket scientist working out of my 35-room mansion.” Actually, he was living in a tent at the state park. “I, because I’m considered a genius, write expert articles for scientific journals. I’ll soon be opening my own company, “Shadow Space Industries”. Anything else you’d like to know?”
Fred Simmons spoke up, “Oh? Where is this mansion located? I wasn’t aware that we had a home that big in town.”
S**t! “Well, actually I’m not sure exactly how many rooms the house has; because I’m so busy building and designing space stuff, I’ve never get into most of the rooms.”
Everyone at the luncheon gave him a strange look, and an awkward silence descended on the room. Finally, Fred Simmons spoke up.
“Well, Mr. Shadow, we’re in the same business. Tell me, how do you feel about the new generation of adhesive polymers?”
Damn, he had no clue! “Ah, they hold like crazy.”
Simmons got a puzzled look on his face, then asked, “Tell me, that’s a mighty strange way of phrasing it; is that the way they teach at…at…”
“General Rocket Academy.”
“General Rocket Academy” is where I leaned the phrase,” Harry sputtered.
“I’m unfamiliar with that particular institution.” The only place you’ve likely been is an insane asylum, Simmons thought to himself.
Harry cringed, and plowed ahead. “Oh, that’s because the academy recently changed their name.”
“Oh, is that right? What did they change it from?”
Great, now he had to come up with the former name of a non-existent company. “The, ah… Blast-Off King Brothers.”
Simmons guffawed and replied, “You know what I think? I think you haven’t the faintest clue about rocket science, or any other kind of science. I think you’re full of it, Mr. Shadow!”
Harry glanced around at the now-hostile group of neighbors, and answered, “Look, I’m not going to sit here while my credibility is questioned! Believe it or don’t, it makes no difference to me. I’m a rocket man, and now, if you’ll excuse me?” He stumbled towards the door, hearing laughter behind him; all he wanted was freedom from the burning interrogation; from having to bluff his way; as if he knew everything about rockets. Why couldn’t the topic of conversation be about something he was knowledgeable in, say…beer, T.V., beer… Well, so what if he didn’t have any knowledge about scholarly topics, he had a PHD in living real life!
As he remembered the incident, Harry Shadow hung his head in shame. Why?
After months working the graveyard shift at a mini market, he had finally landed a better job, and was headed for lunch break on his new job; where he worked at a fish processing plant. This was his 2nd week on the job, and he had made several acquaintances. He wouldn’t call them friends; for some reason he felt like they were avoiding him, but he was probably sensing something that wasn’t there.
The lunch room was abuzz with conversation. Small groups were discussing various topics. Seth Palmer sat apart from those groups. He felt like being alone. He had much to think over. Should he propose to Lucy and move? If so, should he seek a better job with higher pay? Either way, he would have to leave this place behind. He had been happily employed here for the last 15 years. Every friend he knew had worked here at one time, or was working here still, but if he did propose, he’d have to leave to earn more money. He was just starting to ponder the question when he noticed a face approaching through the lunch room window. Great, it was the new guy who seemed to lie for a living. Before he could escape, here came Harry Shadow, after spying an empty place next to Seth, and he inquired,
“Hey Seth, is this seat taken?”
Seth so wanted to tell him it was, but that would make him a liar, just like Harry, so he answered, “Why, no, sit down.” Oh crap, here we go!
As Harry was getting settled into the chair, they both overheard another employee, sitting at a different table, saying,
“…so I told him I’ve already got my money in high-tech stocks.”
Harry immediately asked the man who was speaking, “Oh, so you’re in the stock market also? Would you mind if I asked you which stocks you think are good?”
Seth said to himself again, oh crap, here we go!
“Why do you want to know?” asked the man suspiciously.
“Oh, don’t worry; I’ve already got all my money tied up in stocks. I’m afraid if I invested in more, I’d have to hire an armored car to haul all my profits to the bank. I’m doing extremely well. In fact, so well I’ll not be working here much longer!”
“Oh yeah? I’d love to hear the names of some of your stocks,” replied the man.
Oh no, think, think, Harry cringed to himself. “Ah, I’m not going to give them away for free.”
“If I promise not to invest in them, will that take care of your worries?”
Damn! “I’ve got to warn you, you’ve probably never heard of these companies. They’re listed on the “Action Stock Exchange”
“The Action Stock Exchange? Never heard of it.”
“Umm, that’s because some of the lesser-known companies got together and are doing their own exchange, sort of like they’re the second string. I’ll tell you a couple.” Think, damn it! “Umm, let’s see, there’s “Towhead Tonsorial Supply”, and “She-Male Jeans”. They’re called that because their jeans fit either a man or a woman.”
The man let out a loud belly-laugh and replied, “You mean like most every kind of jeans?”
Damn! “Who do you think started the trend?”
“What a load of bull! “The Action Stock Market”? “Towhead Tonsorial Supply”?, “She-Male Jeans”?”
Once again, Harry had backed himself into a corner with his lies and exaggerations.
“Ah, I think I heard my wife calling from the other room. I’d love to stay and tell you more, but duty calls. It was nice meeting you, and so long.”
“Yeah, same here, goodbye,” replied the man, staring at Harry in disbelief.
Seth Palmer just shook his head after saying a quick goodbye to Harry, and exchanging glances with the other employee. Harry was so full of it. Wife? What wife? Harry was still single; women tended to get turned off when he told them he was a bank president, and they came into surprise him at work, and what do they find? Harry was sweeping the parking lot. It was always something better with Harry. Instead of just being happy with the way things were, he had to embellish. A lot!
Harry Shadow walked jauntily up the stairs to the front door of the business he was applying to work for. “Pianos and More” was hiring a piano player to go out on goodwill missions to promote their company, and today was his job interview. He was ready to leave the blood and guts of the fish processing plant behind. He reviewed his phone call to the company:
“This is Pianos and More, how may we help you?” the pleasant voice who’d answered the phone had said.
“Yes, my name is Harry Shadow, and I’m calling in regards to your open position. You can stop your search right now, I’m your fellow.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Shadow, that position has been filled.”
Harry’s heart sank. He said, “You might want to here me out first. I know pianos inside and out, and I know people.” He knew nothing about pianos, and he didn’t like the people he knew, and avoided them as much as he could.
“Let me transfer you to Mr. Joplin’s office. He owns the company and does all the hiring.”