Chapter Six


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“Good afternoon sir, may I please have your passport please?”

The boy, probably in his mid-teens, hood up, a pair of Beats around his neck, begrudging pulls his passport out of his pocket. The boy doesn’t hand it over to Jesse. Instead, he lays the passport flatly out on the ledge for Jesse to pick up.

Jesse takes the passport, “What brings you to Canada?”

“The plane,” says the boy sarcastically.

“Duh, I am not asking what transported you from one place to another, I was asking for the reason why you are here,” explains Jesse.

“Because I like cold winters and wide open spaces,” says the boy impatiently.

“Ok, weirdo,” Jesse reads the passport, frowns, and mumbles, “Batman Superman?”

“It pronounced, Bate-man Supper-man,” whispers Batman.

“Your eyes are kind of shifty,” observes Jesse, “Are you trying to hide something?”

“What, no,” says the Batman, who starts shifting his eyes even more just to mess with Jesse.

“Are you by any chance on any prescription?” asks Jesse.

“You mean, drugs?” says the boy with a sly grin.

“That’s it asshole. Your eyes are shifty. Your name sounds made up. You have a pair of headphones around your neck. You better be ready for scrutiny, because I am going to ask you a series of harsh and probing questions, and you are going to answer it!” Jesse begins to suck air into his stomach. His facial expression turns and becomes constipated. His face turns from red to almost blue.

“Dude, what are you doing?”

“Expanding,” grunts Jesse. “Succumb to me!” Obviously, watching Rutting Red Deer with bigger antlers scaring off other lesser deer with smaller antler on National Graphic last night made an impression on Jesse.

Batman starts to perspire.

“ARE YOU DOING DRUGS!” screams Jesse. Of course, males in the animal kingdom with a loud booming voice also have a higher chance of protecting his territory and courting the females.

“Uh…no,” sweat trickling down Batman’s face. “No.”

“WHY ARE YOU SWEATING!”

“It’s hot. God, it’s hot in here,” says Batman.

“THIS IS CANADA! PEOPLE DON’T SWEAT IN HERE! HAVE YOU EVER SEEN CANADIANS SWEAT IN CANADA? I AM NOT SWEATING!” screams Jesse.

Beads of sweats fall from Batman’s face. It’s working, thinks Jesse.

“Now, Batman, do you use drugs?”

“No! I swear! I don’t!” Batman has heard a lot of things about Canadians, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine Canadians to be like this. Contrary to popular culture’s depiction of Canadian, this Canadian that is sitting in front of him does not seem at all like the easy-going rugged outdoorsman that he is expecting. They are more like batshit crazy. Jesse starts to foam in the mouth slightly. Batman winces, this one is off in the deep-end of insane.

“WHERE WILL YOU BE STAYING HERE?”

“At…a hotel,” Batman whimpers.

“HOW LONG WILL YOU STAYING HERE? AND FOR WHAT?”

“Four days…for a Starcraft gaming conference.”

“ARE YOU BRINGING ANY SEEDS AND FRUITS IN THE COUNTRY?”

“No sir,” says Batman, picking a spot on the floor to look at, avoiding eye contact.

“ARE YOU SURE?”

“Yes sir,” says Batman.

Jesse squints his eyes at Batman. Batman uncomfortably exchanges a glance with Jesse.

“Have a nice day,” says Jesse, wiping foams from the corner of his mouth. He hands Batman’s passport back to him.

“Thanks,” Batman darts past customs.

Great day at work, thinks Jesse. He does his end of the shift stretches. He managed to get through three visitors in the past hour, a significant increase over his two visitors per hour work rate. This has been an area of concern for his colleagues who are always complaining that people in Jesse’s queue eventually give up and shift to their queues. As a result, total queue time has increased. On this topic of debate, others have ridiculed Jesse on his ‘thoroughness’ and his taking too much time on each person. However, Jesse does not share their concerns. A person can never be too thorough. His colleagues call him crazy, but Jesse would rather see a one thousand innocent men locked up in jail than to see one guilty man roam free. Still he made compromises, he let the last one go easy.

Jesse checks his email. And that was when he saw what he saw.

 —–

“Is this your penis?” was something that Jesse never thought he’d ever have to say in his life. Taken out of context, it could have been meant that a man, tending to his day-to-day business has misplaced his penis and Jesse has simply stumbled upon his penis, sir, is this your penis?

Or maybe a man’s penis needs further identifying or confirming in a rhetorical way. Like a man waking up in the dead of the night rethinking his life’s decision, wiping residues of ice cream off his face and asking is this my life? Did I just eat two buckets of ice cream at 3am?

Or maybe a man and a woman have switched bodies (for example, both were peeing a fountain during a lightning storm), and the woman woke up the next morning to see what’s between her legs in surprise asking is this my penis?

None of the situations applies to Jesse. He sighs at his slightly pixilated photo of another man’s penis, enlarged 150% larger than its original size for easy identifying. As if the owner of a penis would be confused by a smaller photo oh no, actually now that I have taken a better look at it, this one’s not mine. 

Some guy in the office emailed a picture of presumably of his own penis to Jesse. Jesse screamed a little when he first saw it. He has never seen another man’s penis other than his own. Anyhow, the email address bootiecall9000@yahoo.com cannot be identified. Under the permission of Michael, Jesse has taken up a task force (consisting of only himself; Tom gracefully turned down the invitation) to identify the penis.

The penis photo has been sparked the interest of his colleagues around the office, one that has been desperate for new juicy gossip for some time. There is only so many times that you can discuss how Janet from HR forces literally everyone to ‘like’ her daughter’s recital on Facebook. Naturally, everyone converge in on Jesse’s penis photo like swarms of houseflies converge in on houses, assuming houseflies are attracted to houses and not because those said flies that has been domesticated.

Jesse demands all men to strip from waist down. The women scream in disgust, interest, and excitement. Men scream in protest except for George from accounting, whose pants were already down by his ankles. The crowd dissipates to go for lunch. Jesse stopped the crowd from leaving, commenting that murderers almost always return back to the crime scene and the penis-creeper is amongst the crowd. Again, Jesse volunteers to inspect each man’s penis. Again the men protest. Again, George’s pants were down by his ankles.

So far, only George has been ruled out.

During lunchtime, Jesse put up a ‘head’ shot of the office phallus up on the bulletin board, caption – Wanted: If you think you have seen this penis, please contact Jesse at extension 1238. The poster was taken down almost immediately. So good old interrogation is the only way to go.

“Is this your penis?” says Jesse with confidence.

“Ew, why did you enlarge it?” says Maria, “That’s like, so gross. And I am like, a woman! Are you like, serious?”

“Yes, so, are they yours?” asks Jesse. “I don’t want to leave anything up to imagination, you know. I saw you offloading that crate of paper, quite strong.”

“I am so offended!” says Maria.

“So is it yours?”

“No!”

“Sorry. My mistake.” says Jesse sheepishly. “Next!”

Tobias from custom walks in. Berkley graduate. Thinks he’s too good for everyone.

“Is this your penis?”

“No, it is not,” says Tobias.

“Are you sure?” says Jesse.

“Are you saying that I am lying?” says Tobias with a I-can’t-believe-he’s-asking-this smile on his face.

“I am not saying that, I am just confirming.”

“Ok, and my response is – no.”

“Are you saying it’s absolutely not yours?”

“Yes! What do you want me to do? Show you?”

Jesse doesn’t speak.

“You serious?”

“Well, you offered it.”

“No, it was rhetorical question. That question was not meant to be taken literally!”

“Well, if I don’t see it, you are still on this list.”

“Fine, leave me on there.” Tobias crosses his arms.

“Come on now,” says Jesse, motioning his hands back and forth.

“No, what ‘come on now’ business? Don’t you ‘come on’ me,” laughs Tobias in disbelief, “And what is this douchey motion that you are doing with your hands?

“I know the way you look at me. The way you were eyeing me in the elevator last week? You gave me the creeps!”

“What do you mean ‘eyeball’ you! We just exchanged a social eye-contact. You were the one that lingered! So I looked back to you!” Tobias scowls, “By the way, I don’t know if you are doing this on purpose or what, there is only one person that this penis belongs to – Drake. He’s the only black guy in the office.”

“Oh great, now you are just being racist!”

“Now, I am not commenting that’s what black people do but that’s obviously a black penis. And now you will have to deal this. Good luck.” Tobias storms out.

Jesse looks at his photo again. Do black people really have black penises? The only penis that he has seen in his life is his own.

A little Google search wouldn’t hurt, thinks Jesse. He screamed a little when the search results showed up.

—–

“Yo homie! Give it to me where it’s at!” Jesse nods towards his outstretch palm, showing Drake that his palm is where ‘it’s at’.

Drake takes Jesse’s hand awkwardly. Jesse takes Drake’s hand and flips it around, trying to coordinate a special black handshake but to no avail.

After a bit of straining and twisting, Drake takes his hand back out from the tangle, “We don’t have to do this.”

“Oh, no problem, brother, can I call you brother?”

“Uh, I would be more comfortable if you go back to calling me Drake,” says Drake uncomfortably.

“Cool, respect, Drake,” Jesse rubs the tabletop with his index and middle finger as if he’s DJ-ing. “I feel ya!”

“You don’t have to do this Jesse,” says Drake rigidly. “I am from Ontario. My family has been living here for three generations.”

“Ok,” says Jesse with relief. Acting black is hard. “Now I am going to ask you a question that is not based any social or racial stereotypes, and those stereotypes are probably untrue anyway, but is this your penis?”

Drake came into this room dreading this question. He did send the photo to Jesse, only by accident. He is going to get fired for this and he knows it. The only surprise is that it took so long for everyone to realize that he sent out the photo.

Suddenly Drake has an idea.

“Why do you say that? Is it because I am black? Someone sent out his penis to his colleagues and it must be the black guy who did it!”

“Whoa, no!” Jesse reacts as if there is a ticking time bomb. “But…”

“But…?”

“But maybe, just maybe, this penis does belong to you. Because you know, you are…of African descent, and this penis seems to belong to a person…of African descent, and you are the only person…of African descent in this office.”

“Basically you are saying that because a black dick must belong to the only black dude in the office!”

“No,” says Jesse, “But…yes? It is?”

“What do I like fried chicken and drink grape juice? Do I smell like olive oil?”

“No!”

“I ain’t speak with no improper grammar, double negatives or nothing right? Jesse?”

“Well no…”

“Then why you say that dick is mine? Jesse? Why? I thought we are bros…dawg!”

“Well, maybe it isn’t.”

“Great.”

Drake stands up to walk out.

“Wait,” Jesse holds Drake back, “Just take off your pants, just once. I take one look, and if it isn’t, I won’t bother you again.”

“What? You tripping fool? You ain’t get to see no black cock. Black guys don’t that, it’s…”

“It’s…what?” says Jesse with a smile. Countermove.

“You know, that.

“Gay?”

“Hell no, I have many gay friends.”

“Are you saying that taking off your pants is uncool, and that uncool thing is gay?”

“No!”

“Are you homophobic?” says Jesse maybe a little too loudly.

“No!”

“Do gay people disgust you?”

“Hell no!”

“Do you think gayness can spread?”

“No!”

“Do you hate gay people?”

“No!”

“Then why do imply that taking your pants in front of another men is gay?”

“Because that doesn’t happen in a normal social context?” Drake ventures out a guess.

“So you are saying that being gay happens outside of the social norm? That they should hanged?”

“No!”

“Well then take off your pants! We are just two men trying to get to the bottom of this case. There’s nothing gay about this!”

“Right, there’s nothing gay about this!” agrees Drake.

“Right! Take it off!”

Tearful, Drake unbuckles his belt.

Jesse finally finds his the matching penis to his penis photo – the glass slipper to Cinderella’s story except perhaps a million times more vulgar.

He screamed a little when Drake did take off his pants.

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Chapter Five


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Tom yawns. Second week on the job rotation and he’s bored already. Sitting at the booth, checking passports, and stamping passports then rinse and repeat for two more weeks. Next month the new batch of fresh-hires shuffles over to Departures. That means patting down flirty hot curvy girls. Except replace “hot” with “grumpy” and “girls” with “middle-aged-men-with-a-turban”. At least he can take solace in the fact that they are probably still curvy.

Tom looks at his watch – 10:19am. God, he has going through the motions, the slow motions, hoping to make the unbearable boredom more bearable. He sat an extra two minutes on the toilet seat, went for three coffee breaks, dialed himself twice so he can pretend it’s urgent, and walked extra slowly back to his cubicle (and taking care to only step on the alternating black tiles). Time just refuses to go faster.

Just then the stream of arrivals come down the escalators. He checks his monitor, Flight 4804, Air New Zealand. Tom yawns with an open mouth like he’s given up on life. He looks over to Jesse, who is stretching his deltoids. Probably warming up. Unfortunately, not everyone’s goes on mini side-adventures like Jesse.

Jesse unplugs his earphones, Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ still ringing in his head. Showtime. A tired looking man walks over.

“Sir, can I have your passport please,” says Jesse, peering over the man standing at the counter. Long line today. The man obliges and hands over his passport. Jesse quickly flips to the laminated passport photo page that is integral to anatomy of any passport.

“What brings you to Canada today sir?” Jesse looks up properly this time to get a good look of the man. Receding hairline, mid forties, glasses, jeans, and a t-shirt that says ‘I know H.T.M.L (How To Meet Ladies)’.

“To visit family.” The man yawns. His extremely obnoxious tone implies that Jesse has already asked too much.

“Where will be you be staying?” says Jesse unblinkingly. He can feel the contagious urge to yawn well up. He tries hard to resist but the urge to yawn is almost completely irresistible. Finally, with his nostril flared, Jesse lets a half-yawn. It is not a pretty scene.

“At my cousin’s apartment,” says HTML.

“What do you plan on doing here?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

“So you plan on not doing anything. Like – uh, breathing? You plan on not breathing?” says Jesse. What an idiot.

“Yes, I plan on not breathing for the next two weeks I spend here,” says HTML matter-of-factly.

“Uh, ok, good luck with that,” says Jesse sarcastically.

“Ok.”

Silence. Jesse stamps the man’s passport.

“Ok, what game are you playing? How you do you plan on NOT breathing in the next two weeks?!” says Jesse, almost crazy.

“I don’t know, I guess hold my breath. Just hold it in,” says HTML lazily, the words sliding off his tongue.

“Sir, all living organisms need oxygen for metabolism. The world record is 19 minutes 21 seconds. Are you telling me you can hold your breath for more than 19 minutes and 21 seconds?”

“Yes, I think I have made it quite clear that I can hold my breath for more than 19 minutes 21 seconds.”

“Well, tell me, tell me how do you plan on holding your breathe for more than 19 minutes?”

“I just hold my breath, it’s not that hard. I am a black-belt at breath-holding.”

“What? They don’t give out black-belt to stupid things like hold-breathing!”

“Stupid? I wouldn’t say breath-holding is stupid.”

“Alright, you and me, let do this,” grunts Jesse through closed teeth.

“Let’s. Challenge accepted,” HTML raises his eyebrows. He is not sure if Jesse is for real or not.

Just then Mike comes around, “Alright, what are you ladies fussing about? People are complaining about the line and they expect me to do something about it!”

“Sir, I mean, Ma’am,” Jesse always forgets Mike’s actually a ma’am and not a man. “This man and I are holding a breath-holding competition. He says he has a black belt in breath holding.”

“What? I thought they don’t give out black belts for breath holding?” says Mike.

“Exactly, and he said he can beat the world record for breath holding,” says Jesse.

“He can hold his breath for more than 19 minutes and 21 seconds?” gasps Mike. Apparently everyone knows the time for the world record for breath holding. “Alright let’s do this. Breath-holding competition on a count of 3, 2, 1!”

All three of them hold their breath, much to the complaint of the now very restless lineup.

Forty-two seconds later, HTML grabs his passport and goes.

 

Loser, thinks Jesse. Now he faces off against Mike. Male versus female. Testosterone versus estrogen. Actually, Jesse is not entirely sure if he has more testosterone than Mike. Legend has it that the women’s washroom has a urinal for Mike so that she can stand up to pee. As he is thinking of this, four seconds has elapsed. Jesse’s vision is starting to blur. He clenches his butt together harder.

At this rate he is going to lose to Mike. Jesse stares at a single strand of Mike’s mustache that has turned grey. The grey strand wavers in the air, like a caterpillar wiggling itself to life. The shouts and screams of the complaining crowd dampen. Jesse’s peripheral vision darkens. Jesse clenches his butt even harder together; his butt is now sealed airtight.

Ten more seconds and feels like an eternity. Yet Mike stands stone-faced, not even batting his eyes once. Beams of sweat rain down Jesse’s face. How does Mike do it? Can it be that I am wrong for all this time? Does clenching my butt not help with holding my breath?  

Jesse loosens his closed butt flaps defeatedly. That felt better, only because it is followed immediately by a rippling earthquake of a fart that Jesse cannot control and does not foresee the need to control partially because he misinterpreted his growling stomach because it is getting close to his mid-morning snack time.

Just then Jesse cannot hold his breath any longer. He takes his fart back into his system by the mouthful and vomits a little in his mouth. Jesse’s fart is so palpable you can almost slice it in half.

“Take a seat and get back to work!” says Mike. “Still got a long way before you can beat me!” Mike gasps for air and doesn’t. And of course he doesn’t.

What remains of Jesse’s queue shuffles over to Tom’s station, staying away the radioactive zone of fart. Mike rushes off. Tom rolls his eyes.

Ever since Jesse’s accidental solving of the marijuana case two weeks ago, Mike has taken a special interest in Jesse. Becoming Mike’s protégé, however, has more drawbacks than actual benefits. Just last week, after Mike found his bacon to be unsatisfactory, Jesse found himself on a special assignment ‘maximize the baconness of this goddamn bacon’.

As a special perk, Jesse received his own custom-made (?) penile sleeve. If you can’t beat them, join them! That’s how you fight sexual inequality in the workplace! Jesse was quick to point out that although he has a feminine name, he’s actually a man – man’s man – and not a man’s woman, like Mike.

Meanwhile Tom waves the next person in, peeking at the time. 10:27am. Hoo hum. Two more hours left until lunch.

In what seems like forever, it is finally lunchtime.

“…To…get…her?” whispers Twiggy.

“To get her? Who do you want to get?” says Tom. “Oh, you mean, lunch together?”

Twiggy nods breathlessly and they stroll over to the cafeteria. The Careers (a.k.a. office suck-up who laugh a little too hard at their superior’s jokes to get ahead, and sometimes get a head), sit at the first table saving spots for supervisors/managers/directors. Table two houses the Gossips, mainly composed of females and gays who creates, stirs, and spreads the gossips around the office. Sometimes the Careers sit with the Gossips to dissolve, resolve, or to load up on any juicy gossips. The Asians sit at the next table, and who knows what they are saying. Sitting behind the Asian are the ESPNs, who are really fat sports guy that do not do any sports but claims that their thirty second walk from their house to their garage keeps them healthy.

“Ew, sick! What are you doing Jesse!” shouts one of the Mean Girls. Jesse walks over to Tom with a dripping salmon on his side. The Mean Girls are the evil queen bees of the office social hive that is aptly depicted by the Tiny Fey movie of the same name. Tom shakes his head – this feels like high school all over again. He goes over and sits at the table of the Outcasts.

“Tuna sandwich again? That’s weak sauce,” Jesse crinkles his nose at Tom’s sandwich and slaps his salmon the table. “Boom! Omega 3 fatty acids. Your food is fuel, Tom. And my fuel is the good-kind.”

“Don’t drive?” smiles Tom weakly.

“I use straight vegetable oil.” Jesse slices and fillets the fish. It’s sashimi Tuesday.

“Of course you don’t Jesse,” says Tom. “Of course you don’t.”

Wrinkling her nose at the sight of the fish, Twiggy takes a tall cylinder that contains exactly three sticks of celery. She takes one out and munches on it.

“That don’t seem healthy,” Tom munches on his tuna sandwich.

“…Witch …poop,” Twiggy mumbles so inaudibly that Tom can’t even pick up a complete word.

“She said – There is a witch that taste like bat poop,” explains Jesse.

“…sand…poop,” clarifies Twiggy breathlessly.

“She said – There is sand that taste like poop,” Jesse rolls his eyes. “And that’s totally untrue unless if you ate sand for dinner.”

“I…bet…poop,” Twiggy mumbles so inaudible.

By this time Jesse and Tom can put 2 and 2 together. And they figured it was probably 4. “Oh you mean, u think my sandwich taste like poop!” says Tom.

Twiggy nods.

“So what are you doing for your weekends guys?”

“Mrav maga classes,” says Jesse. “Then I am going to volunteer at the local manhole to motivate homeless men to take up basketball or football. That’s what poor people do to get out of the slums. Or to memorize trivia facts to win ‘I want to be a millionaire’.”

“Right…” says Tom. Turns to Twiggy. “You going to watch the Oscars?”

“I wouldn’t, I have a distaste for the Oscars,” says Jesse.

“…Why…say…that?” asks Twiggy.

“What they are doing is a detriment to the film industry,” says Jesse. “I want to boycott The Oscars.”

“I didn’t know you have such a strong opinion about this. I am discovering new facets of you that I have never seen before,” Tom munches on his sandwich.

“What happened to the good old days where when you give an exquisite performance a good pat on the back? Why do you have to bring slavery back? And name the slaves Oscars? I mean, we have enough problems in the world thank you! Don’t need them anymore!”

“Oh Jesse,” says Tom.

“Twiggy, you are unusually quiet today,” says Tom.

“Yea, quieter than quiet. Word whisper!” says Jesse with a grin like he just told the funniest joke in the world. One of Jesse’s favorite show is the ‘Dog Whisperer’. Cesar Millan is a total badass that harnesses canine energy like no other. Jesse would like to have an army of dogs. Like a homeless man. Or the male equivalent of the scary cat lady.

“Twiggy?” says Tom. Twiggy is sprawled over the table. Jesse nudges. No response. “Twiggy?”

But Twiggy doesn’t respond.

“Oh god, oh god, she passed out!” says Tom.

“I knew it! Nobody eats sticks of celery for lunch and is able to function!” says Jesse, stuffing salmon sashimi slices into his mouth.

“Guys! Get help!” implores Tom to the others. The Mean Girls instagrams the moment. The Gossips gossip. A Career runs out for help. “Jesse! What are you doing!”

Jesse cowers over Twiggy. He pries open her mouth and regurgitates a pink mushy paste into her mouth – like a mother bird purging to feed her nest of babies.

“Jesse!” Tom pushes Jesse aside.

“Giving her nutrients,” says Jesse as matter-of-factly vomits into Twiggy’s mouth. Tom throws him a dubious look. “What! I have no breast milk! This is the best I can do!”

Just then medics charge in. “What happened? Clear the area, we have to strap her onto the stretcher!”

“We think she fainted. Probably low-sugar level, we have never seen her eat anything with calories.”

“What is this pink munch in her mouth?” asks the medic.

“Chewed up salmon. You can thank me later,” waves Jesse.

“Okay…” amidst the confusion, the medics carry Twiggy off. Jesse and Tom trail the medics out of the room only to be held back by the ESPNs who are extremely experienced in breaking fights or in this case, a pervert (Jesse). The crowd dissipates and Jesse and Tom find themselves alone at the table of the Outcasts.

“Boy, wonder what they are doing to Twiggy?” says Jesse.

“Beats me,” says Tom.

A beat passes. Silence. And it’s the awkward kind.

“You know what Jesse,” says Tom. “For moment back there, I kinda wish I was the one who passed out.”

“If you want salmon so much you could have ask me Tom,” says Jesse, “In fact I still have some in the tank of the back toilet.”

“No not that,” says Tom. “I guess I really hate this job. I hate it so much that I’d rather be sick than be here.”

Jesse doesn’t respond.

“I guess you probably really despise me huh,” says Tom with a weak smile. “I am not really the macho strong man type.”

“No, you are really not that manly,” says Jesse.

Tom smiles weakly.

“But I guess you can still have these sensitive yet intuitive understanding of your emotional state.”

“You mean ‘feelings’?” smiles Tom.

“Fool, know this, a man only feels when he’s seeking vengeance, or he is eating a delicious steak, or watching Saving Private Ryan, or – ”

“Am I making you uncomfortable? When is last time you talked about your feelings with anyone?” asks Tom.

“Like never. And no. It’s not making me uncomfortable,” says Jesse, whipping sweat off his face. No one needs to know that he ran away from a pigeon yesterday. Between the unrelenting stare, sharp beaks, and bird flu there is no way of winning against those vicious pigeon. And the fact that birds were dinosaurs in their previous iteration in evolution didn’t help either.  “I live in uncomfortable. In fact, let’s continue to have this chitchat about opening ourselves to each other.”

“Oh Jesse,” says Tom. “If my days are half as interesting as yours maybe I wouldn’t hate this job so much.”

“Life is only as interesting as you make it out to be,” says Jesse. “I see you at your booth sulking. You look like you are living to keep from dying. Can’t have this can’t do attitude. If Ash sulk like you did when you got his Pikachu, he’d end up being a useless bug catcher stuck in the Veridian Forest.”

“Pikachu is a really bad starter Pokemon eh,” smiles Tom.

“The worse thing is that Pikachu is also a complaining arrogant prick that refuses to go into his Pokeball,” continues Jesse. “And let me tell you this, if he didn’t get his Charmander, he’d be in real trouble in the Pokemon League. Anyway what I saying is, if you didn’t get what you want in the beginning, keep looking until you find it.”

“I don’t think that’s the best analogy,” says Tom. “And speaking of Pokemon –”

“Yes, I know. Team Rocket. Don’t get me start on Jesse from Team Rocket,” Jesse grimaces.

“I won’t,” says Tom. “Thanks.”

“Thanks not accepted idiot,” snaps Jesse.

Chapter Four


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Jesse is on the run. He shudders. What did I just see? He shakes his head to rid himself of that toxic thought as if that thought would permeate into his vein and body. He sidesteps a janitorial staff but knocks down the janitor’s janitorial cart spilling janitorial contents all over the floor. He picks himself up, not literally, but figuratively – because what kind of person can actually pick himself up literally? He stumbles on a janitorial soap bottle, leaning on the wall for balance.

Good god. He thinks again. What did I just see?

Jesse pauses. Actually, what did he just see? Coming to think of it, he can’t be sure. All he remembers is murky figures in the toilet cubicle doing murky things. He then pauses to think deeper. Are those figures actually murky or is he so traumatized that his brain censored it? Whatever it was, it triggered his flight or fight response. And Jesse’s flight and fight response is extremely sensitive. A small figurative push would send Jesse-a-flighting or a-fighting.

One time Jesse was handed a university essay on the topic of flight and fight reaction and stress responses in the modern workplace. Bombarded with work, he literally ran away from the essay. Only to run into an aggressive pack of wild dogs which chased him into a washroom. Gasping for air he looked up to a mirror, only to see a cockroach crawling on his head. Everything was okay until the cockroach batted its wings and took flight. Four hours later he was found pacing in small circles in a local park running away from himself.

Still, a small part of his brain tells him that whatever he saw, that thing was no good. And no good is bad (obviously). His instincts take over and the next thing he knows, he is on a spiraling run around the immigration headquarters on the first day of work.

Jesse remembers how proud he was as he steps into the corridors of immigration headquarters.  He also remembers being extremely disappointed after meeting a few of his would be colleagues.

* * * * *

He has high expectations for today. After all, today is the first day of training. And he is training with a select group of individuals who made it past the screenings, the interviews, and have shown that they have the potential to thrive at immigration office. He expects a room full of menacing eye contacts and manly groans. These people have to sit in a booth at the country border stamping passports for crying out loud! Yet he finds himself next to a wiry, boney, stringy, and rangy beanpole of a person appropriately Twiggy.

“Hello I am…Twiggy…” says Twiggy breathlessly. Her already quiet voice somehow drops a few amplitudes lower as she finishes her sentence.

“Hello Twiggy,” says Jesse as pleasantly as he can while maintaining a hint of distance in his voice. Jesse has no interest in making friends. What if he grows too attached to them? What if, and he gasps when he thinks of this, what if they grow too attached to him? He can’t handle the emotion burden if they get killed in action.

“Your…” says Twiggy, her mouth still moving but with no accompanying sound. Like in a silent film – except there are no onscreen title cards.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch what you said,” says Jesse.

“Your…” tries Twiggy again.

“Yes, okay, thanks,” nods Jesse mechanically. Jesse couldn’t catch the rest of what she has said but just want to seem agreeable. Not the manliest thing to do, agrees Jesse, but he has yet to find a woman’s words worth listening to.

Twiggy looks annoyed. Jesse does a double take. Did she just ask me a question?

“What is the second word you just said?” Jesse tries again.

“Mustache…” Says Twiggy weakly, touching her philtrum.

“I see you are impressed with my mustache,” says Jesse. “All great men has one –”

Twiggy picks up Jesse’s mustache from the floor and hands it to him.

“Ahem”, coughs Jesse, literally saying the words ‘ahem’. “If you really must know, I just didn’t have the time to grow one. And they are not just any fur, they are PETA approved cruelty free fur – ”

“Hey Jesse, you made it!” says Tom, his friend from the interview.

“Hey Tom,” responds Jesse. Jesse has never been happier to see Tom.

“I heard there’re free brownies after the training seminar,” states Tom. “Do you know if it’s true?”

“No, why would that be true?”

“I heard – never mind.”

“So what’s up?” says Tom, trying to make conversation.

Jesse looks up, “The ceiling.” Does he take me for an idiot?

Tom laughs. Just then Jesse senses a dominating presence approaching the room.

“Good morning ladies! I am Michael Anderson, a.k.a. Mike Anderson, branch deputy officer! And I will be your training supervisor for the day,” says Mike. Having the name of a man, Mike is actually a lady. Legend has it that she once felt an immense urge to ‘take a shit’, and the toilet was where her son was born. Preferring to refer to herself as ‘himself’, Mike is never one for feminist movements. Weak women disgust her. Sporting a clean crew cut and a killer mustache, she sometimes gets mistaken as a man to fresh hires and intern who don’t know any better. “I know what you are thinking when I introduced myself – there will not be brownies after training. I don’t know how the rumor started. Anyway, there are only three rules when you are with me. One – do not question my orders. Two – do not question my orders. Three – do not question my orders! Now are there any questions?”

“Mister Anderson! Question: how do we know which rule we broke if we disobeyed you? Rule one, two, or three?” asks Jesse. He genuinely wants to know.

“What is your name?” says Mike, squinting at Jesse.

“She is a woman,” whispers Tom to Jesse.

Shit, thinks Jesse. Strike one.

“My name is Jesse, madam,” reports Jesse.

“You feel like a smartass Jesse? You know what happens to smartasses in this office? They are going to get a fisting, punchbag!” says Mike, holding her fist up.

“Does it mean what I think it means? Or…?” asks Jesse, confused.

“Oh I know what I mean. And when I am done blowing you, you are going to more than feel it. So don’t cross me again,” points Mike, not entirely aware of her sexual innuendos. “Now anyone got anymore smartass questions?”

* * * * *

Mike tours the hires around the headquarters. First the accounting department (They always come early, for work), the visa and policies department (A gang of blowhards), information systems department (They always gives us blast caps. What? They always go over budget), enforcement and claim assessment branch (My ass hurts when I think of them, they are a pain in the ass!), and finally the management branch that the fresh-hires have interviewed for (Thank god for some sanity and sense in the office!).

Then comes lunch break. And thank god for lunch break. At Mike’s dismissal thirty fresh-hires run like migrating wildebeests to the toilet. No one dare ask for permission to go to the toilet or dare take detour from the group. This will be their first taste of Mike’s authority before someone with a horrible case of irritable bowel syndrome shat in his pants later in the afternoon.

To avoid getting trampled by the onrush of piss rage, Jesse hops the customs posts to use the toilets in foreign baggage arrival area. Neverminding the ‘Out of Order’ sign, Jesse runs in the washroom to relief his strained bladder. Midway through peeing is when he notices something is out of order.

Someone else is also using the washroom. Jesse zips up his pants and walk over – two pairs of legs in one cubicle. A slight ruffle, a hollow thud on closed toilet lids. Noise of unzipping follows. Jesse is about to tell them that the washroom is empty and there is really no need to share a cubicle when they start speaking.

“Oh yea…” groans one voice.  “This is some good shit…”

“Shove it in, do it quickly, before anyone notices. God, we really shouldn’t be doing this here,” warns another voice.

“One more, one more,” begs one voice.

“Alright, but you better pay up for this shit,” says another voice.

Are they doing what I am thinking? Jesse thinks. He has only read about them on the Internet. Are they…shit-eaters?

 “Sirs,” knocks Jesse, “Sirs! Step out please. I will have to ask you to drop your…brownies and step out of the cubicle.

“Shit!” shouts one voice.

“Shit!” shouts another voice.

“Step out now,” repeats Jesse, hyperventilating a bit. He’s not sure he can deal with people crazy enough to eat they own feces. “Put your hands up and step out now!”

Begrudgingly, one of the two men steps out of the cubicle. There is a smush brown on the corners of his mouth, clumps of brown on his fingers, and a whole bag of brown sitting on the toilet stool. As he rise his arms, kibbles and bits of brown drop to the ground.

Jesse can feel his throat contract. He swallows hard to tries to suppress this feeling. But the sensation of his breakfast wells in his chest. The smell of eggs is too much. He bends over.

“Yo…” says one of the men who still have his hands up.

This is too much, thinks Jesse. Jesse turns around and runs out the door. Someone else will have to deal with those shiteaters. But of course, that didn’t help suppress his urge to regurgitate his breakfast, and he does. Jesse vomits as he runs, leaving a trail of digested, mushy paste on the floor.

He shudders. What did I just see? He shakes his head to rid himself of that toxic thought as if thinking that thought would permeate into his vein and transform him. He sidesteps a janitorial staff but knocks down the janitor’s janitorial cart spilling janitorial contents over the floor. He stumbles on a janitorial soap bottle, leaning on the wall for balance.

Good god. He thinks again. What did I just see? He vomits into the janitorial cart much to the compliant of the janitor.

“You! Stop there!” shouts the familiar dull, husky voice of Mike. “Stop right there!”

Helplessly, Jesse waits for Mike, mentally preparing for a fisting.

Mike puts a hand on Jesse’s shoulder, “Fantastic job, freshie!”

“What?” asks Jesse.

“I am complimenting you so you better take it,” glares Mike, holding her fist up for good measures. “You have just helped bust one of the largest cohesive cross-border drug smuggle case for as long as I can remember. Good job, just one thing though – try not to vomit all over the place next time.”

“Yes!” fake cheers Jesse, holding his palm up to hi-five Mike. Mike didn’t return it.

“So how do you know?”

“Know…?” says Jesse. Obviously he has no idea of what crime he has helped solved.

“Knowing that the marijuana they tried to smuggle is baked into the brownies?” remarks Mike.

Those were brownies? The brownies that everyone is talking about? thinks Jesse.

“Hahaha,” fake laughs Jesse. “Of course I know! I am always know! Why wouldn’t I know?”

“Is that a question?” says Mike.

Shitting his pants, Jesse runs away.

Chapter Three


The Interview

“Hello, Jesse. I am Kevin. I will be interviewing you today. It’s pleasure,” says Kevin, extending his hand towards Jesse for a handshake.

“Also my pleasure, sir!” Jesse eagerly takes Kevin’s hand. He shakes it a bit too vigorously.

“Wow, that’s a very firm handshake you got there,” Kevin recoils in pain and reels his hand back.

“Thank you sir!” Jesse salutes, fingers and thumbs fully extended and joined. The back of his hand and palm fully concealed from sight, forearm a perfect forty-five degrees to the ground. Surely Jesse must have practiced this one-count movement everyday.

If a moment was especially patriotic, which was sometimes before, during, and after the national anthem was sung – Jesse would be the first to salute it. He once saluted a screening of Saving Private Ryan, holding his position and crying like a fool much to the complaint of other patrons. Needless to say if there was a moment worthy of a salute or not, Jesse would be the first to do it. As a direct result of his daily practice, the area above his right eyebrow is several tones lighter than his left.

“Right, please take a seat Jesse,” says Kevin.

“Yes sir!” Jesse sits, hands on his knees. His posture is perfect. “May I say that’s a very cute pin you have on your shirt sir. Very small. Looks nice. Speaking of small things, I am a fan of peas. Love them. Let’s talk about small things.”

Jesse grins smugly. Fifteen seconds into the interview and he can feel that the job is in the cusp of his hands, within reach. He has read somewhere that performing the following steps would enhance his chance of success in a job interview:

  1.  Give a firm handshake,
  2. Engage in small talk,
  3. Compliment the interviewer,
  4.  Use a lot of positive-sounding words, and finally
  5.  String positive-sounding words together by using a mnemonic device to enhance positive memorization of his name.

He only has steps 4 and 5 left.

“Ok…so Jesse, tell about yourself and why you’d be fit for this job?”

“That is an excellent question sir! First I would like to introduce myself, my name is Jesse. J-E-S-S-E. J stands for Judicious, E for Exemplary, S for Supreme, another S for Successful, and E for Efficient. Judicious, Exemplary, Supreme, Successful, Efficient – Jesse.”

“Wow,” remarks Kevin, more dumbfounded than amazed. “Wow.”

“My positive traits don’t just end here. I am happy to report that I am highly trained Sytema sir! I have trained under Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Ryabko, both renowned masters of Systema, sir!” reports Jesse. “My specialization is in the art of grappling and my strongest body lever is my waist – ”

“Wait, excuse me Jesse,” Kevin interrupts.

“But I haven’t –,” Jesse sounds disappointed.

“Just three things,” says Kevin, “First, while your martial arts training is very interesting, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s relevant to this job. Second, please stop yelling. Third, I am sorry, do I have something on my forehead? Why are you staring at my forehead?”

“To show respect, sir,” whispers Jesse, immediately adjusting to Kevin’s second request,  “Sir, a subordinate should never meet the eye level of a superior to avoid confrontation.”

“Oh please no. Please there’s no such thing as rank in the immigration department,” Kevin frowns, “Look at me like a normal person and treat this just like any other conversation.”

“Yes sir.”

“Call me Kevin, please.”

“Thank you K-Kevin,” stutters Jesse, obviously not comfortable addressing Kevin by name.

“Loosen up, buddy. I can sense that you are a bit nervous. My job here is not only to evaluate you but also to help you put your best foot forward and to help you evaluate us.  This is a two way process. Just talk to me like a friend. Try visualization techniques,” Kevin explains. “For example, some people find it more comforting to imagine their audience naked when they are giving speeches. Try that. Imagine that I am naked.”

“Uh, are you sure?” Jesse looks dubiously at Kevin.

“Try it, see if it helps.”

“Ok, only if you say so,” says Jesse in defeat. His eyebrow twitches as he tries to conjure up an image of a forty-something man fully nude, basking in white fluorescent light. Jesse slowly cranes his head to gather intelligence on Kevin’s bodily details. Jesse starts to muse:

Matching shades of tan on face, neck, and hand. The tan is a bit too even – giveaway for a tan you get from a parlor. Combine that with the overpowering scent of cologne, Kevin is a man that cares about his looks but is a bit unseasoned. Maybe he is easing back into the dating game. But the ring on his finger, can it be just a midlife crisis? There is a picture of what presuming is Kevin and his parents on vacation. But no picture of wife or any kids. Must be getting back into the dating game then –

“Jesse?”

“ – Yes?”

“You have been staring into space for the past five minutes. Is everything alright?”

“Sorry I am just trying that visualization technique. It is quite effective. Can you give me a few more minutes?” says Jesse politely.    

“Ok, fine. Five minutes and we really have to carry on with this.”

Jesse continues to muse:

Ruffle in the shirt, he’s been losing quite a lot of weight. Again, no pictures of his wife in the office. If he does have a lover, then his extramarital lover frequents his office. Maybe he really has been cheating on his wife with a female colleague. Not ruling out male colleague. For now, assume female colleague. Without any other leads, the receptionist makes the most sense. Receptionist is fresh on the job, that bit is easy to figure out by her enthusiasm and eagerness to serve all the interviewees. The young body in the office lures him. He’s trying to look younger to please her. The grip from his handshake shows he’s been working out. Though unsurprisingly I overpowered him. Weakling. So to imagine him naked, he’s toned but not muscular. But how am I supposed to imagine him fully nude? There are no clues as to the size of his –

“Why are you looking in between my legs?” Kevin looks concerned.

“Gathering details on the size of your junk.”

“Excuse me?” asks Kevin, slightly confused.

“I am trying to visualize your penis,” says Jesse straightforwardly.

“Don’t try to visualize my penis!” gasps Kevin.

“But sir, aren’t you naked?” asks Jesse in confusion.

“Yes, yes, but -,” stutters Kevin. He was the one who suggested the visualization technique. “Right, how about this – imagine me without one.”

“Like a woman?”

“No, like a gender neutral being.”

“Like Buddha. ‘The original of suffering is attachment’. He has no suffering because his penis is detached,” says Jesse, absorbed in thought. “Got it Kevin, that helps.”

“Right. Ok let’s get back to the interview,” Kevin loosens his collar. He can’t wait to get this interview over and done with. “I am actually looking for academic achievements and real world experiences that are relevant for this job. For example, I am very impressed with your grades. I also read that you served as a biology research assistant in your third year? Tell me about that.”

“Oh yea, that’s a good one,” says Jesse. “We flew to Malaysia to study Orangutan mating behaviors. Stayed overnight in the Borneo rainforest and an idiot roasted marshmallows. The aroma must have driven the Orangutans crazy. The dominant male of the pack flanked us at our base camp. No match for me though. I had him in a death lock in 3 moves. Orangutans may be intelligent tool-users, but they are lousy close-combat artists.”

“I see,” Kevin scribbles on a notepad. “Tell me why you want to work in immigration?”

“Well Kevin, to be honest, I have passed immigration several times and frankly the performances of the immigration agents are just not satisfactory.” Jesse leans back in his seat and cuffs his heads together. “They ask idiotic questions like: ‘what is the purpose of your visit? Why did you stay 3 months in Russia? How long are you planning to stay in here? Welcome home. Enjoy your stay’ – ridiculous.”

Jesse continues, “In my opinion, Kevin, immigration is our first line of defense. Went to Germany once, didn’t understand a word they were saying, but you can tell they take their jobs seriously.”

“Strangely insightful. Next question: where you envision yourself in five years?” asks Kevin.

“Easy. Rescue the world from catastrophe. Step#1: Spearhead attack. Step#2: Capture opposing warlock. Step#3: Control warlord. Step#4: Kill Villain. Step #5: Relish in moment of glory. Step#6: Kill villain again who rose from his grave.  Final step: Win war. Become war hero. Embrace eternal glory.”

“That is…very ambitious Jesse,” says Kevin, “However quite frankly, I don’t think a catastrophe that you have just described will ever happen.”

“Well that’s hardly a good attitude to have,” Jesse relies, “Ignorance amongst civilians are actually the first telltale sign that something bad is going to happen. Look what happened in Dragonball Z, everyone was going about his or her business, and then, BOOM, Vegeta arrived and almost destroyed Earth. Happened again with Captain Ginyu. Again with Freiza. I can go on!”

“Actually I don’t think –,” Kevin wants to say something but doesn’t, “Humor me, tell me about the kind of catastrophe you envision. What should we be looking at five years from now?”

“Well, you never know when a catastrophe is going happen or that wouldn’t be a catastrophe right? But by my estimation, it only takes one idiot biologic research scientist to contaminate us all with a vicious virus and unleash a zombie apocalypse,” says Jesse, “And when that happens, let me just say, I didn’t play five hundred hours of Resident Evil for its realistic graphics and superior game-play.”

“Your imagination is simply refreshing. I mean everyone should definitely play President Devil and prepare right?” says Kevin sarcastically.

“It’s Resident – yes,” says Jesse, slightly annoyed that Kevin would confuse Resident Evil with ‘President Evil’, but he graciously let it slip. “Yes, I think we all should prepare for a zombie apocalypse.”

“Right, what if I tell you that in the unlikely scenario, a disaster doesn’t happened,” says Kevin, “What do you see yourself doing five years from now if I gave you this job?”

“In the event that that doesn’t matter happen, in five years I will be happy patrolling the border as the supervisor-in-charge for the immigration post.”

“Right. And this would be an appropriate segue into the next part of our interview which is role-play,” explains Kevin, “I think you are going to excel in this area Jesse. I am going to be an Italian tourist and you are the immigration agent. Don’t hold back. I am looking forward to your creativity and problem-solving skills.”

“Ok, one question. How do I know when to break out of character?” asks Jesse.

“Good question – when I tell you to break out of character.”

“Understood.”

“Right, here we go,” says Kevin, and then in his terrible Italian accent, “Ciao!”

“Hi, may I have your passport please,” says Jesse in a stern voice.

“Vhat? No understand?”

“Passport? Your traveling documents?”

“Vhat?”

“Get your act together Italian. This is not Italy,” Jesse speaks more slowly and with increasing volume. Perhaps if he screams louder he can get this idiot of an Italian tourist to understand English. “I need your passport. A passport. PASSPORT. PASSPORT!”

“Si, si, passaporto!” Kevin hands passport to Jesse.

“Timmy Soprano,” reads Jesse.

“Si.”

“Your passport has expired,” examines Jesse, his face emotionless and completely rigid.

“Vhat? No comprendere?”

“Are you in any way, connected to the Mafia?” interrogates Jesse.

“Sorry, sorry no comprendere!”

“Don’t play dumb with me! Are you connected to the MAFIA!” shouts Jesse into Kevin’s face. “Answer me right now!”

“Sorry. See family. See family,” explains Kevin.

“Family? Is your family Tony Soprano?”

“Tony Soprano? Non. Non. Non.”

“Don’t lie. You are in serious trouble mister! Put your hands up!” yells Jesse, his eyes crazy, borderline maniacal.

“See family! Son! To see the Wife!” explains Kevin.

“Alright if you are not willing to surrender then you leave me with no other choice!” Jesse springs into action immediately. He leaps on top of Kevin and attempts to put Kevin in a death lock.

“What are you doing? Are you crazy?!” gasps Kevin in complete and total bewilderment.

“Oh, so now you suddenly speak perfect English huh? I knew something was up!” grins Jesse.

“Stop! Jesse! Stop!” shouts Kevin in futile.

“How did you know my name? Who gave you that intel? What kind of operation are you planning?” says Jesse, obviously still immersed in role-play.

“Are you crazy Jesse? I am Kevin!”

“So your real name is Kevin. Created another alias, typical. Amateur, tell me what else you are hiding before I break your arm! YAAAAAAHHHH!!!”

“Stop!”

“YAHHH!” screams Jesse while slapping Kevin on his back. Not very martial arts like.

“Jesse! Stop! Break out of character!”

Jesse stops immediately, “How did I do?”

“Are you crazy! My god!”

“I am sorry, did I hurt you? You specifically said not to break out of character, and may I add, that double-alias thing? You referring to yourself as Kevin? That was genius! Almost had me confused there!” laughs Jesse.

“My god! Have you actually lost your mind? Have you done your research? You are not interviewing to get into the military!”

“Actually you stand corrected there. I am happy to report that I have done my research. This is a shift job, hours are flexible, job entails that I ask questions to foreigners, and stamping their passports,” Jesse retorts. “I can also tell about you what I know about you too. For example, I can tell that your tan is fake. You are married. You have been going to the gym lately. You have a mistress. And that mistress is most probably – ”

“Mistress? Mistress? I have no mistress. Are you stalking me?”

“No, not stalking. Paranoid much? Ever seen Sherlock Holmes? Principles of deduction?” grins Jesse smugly. “I can tell all of this by simply looking at you.”

“Well you have made a mistake,” says Kevin in a fake state of calm.

“Well, huh, no, look  –,” says Jesse. This Kevin is completely clueless, isn’t he?

“Ok, ok shut up, stop. How about this,” interrupts Kevin. He looks around and whispers, “I give you this job and you don’t tell anyone about this?”

“Well no, Kevin,” says Jesse, “Your personal history is completely confidential. I’d never accept a job in exchange for – ”

“Right, of course, I understand your noble intentions. I want to offer you this job, from the bottom of my heart. I want you to take it. You have done a fantastic job at this interview. Your background is very fascinating. I’d like to offer you the position. What do you say?” says Kevin weakly.

“Then I gratefully accept.” Jesse proudly shakes.

“Great. I will let you know when training starts,” says Kevin, looking wan and bleary eyed.

“I will make you proud. I will make the country proud,” salutes Jesse.

“Jesse. I want to reiterate – please don’t tell anyone about my relationship with Anton,” pleads Kevin.

Jesse turns around, “Anton?”

Chapter Two


guns and mustaches

It is a mid summer’s day. Jesse weaves through the street, passing by pedestrians going about with their lives. He pulls his overcoat closer and reaches inside the coat to feel the cool metal of the trigger against his fingertips. Giddy with excitement, he smiles a creepy smile.

In the midst of this, he catches the eyes of a teenage girl. A look of terror. Between his sweaty complexion, a coat that would win the approval of the flasher community, his increasingly greasy smile, and his hand fiddling with whatever is in his coat, it is not hard to understand this look of concern.

Jesse doesn’t understand why people don’t just come up to him and comment on his amazingly awesome replica of Adolf Hitler’s infamous suit. In fact, he is in the busy part of town and yet no one walks within an arm’s length radius of him. Shy and too in awe probably, he thinks.

A nine-year-old boy laughing and chasing after a girl no less of his age runs by and catches a glimpse of Jesse. The boy pauses to look at him, “Mister, aren’t you hot in that coat? Are you sick?”

“No, young one,” Jesse smiles his patient smile, which is still quite perverted. “This is an exact replica of Adolf Hitler’s infamous suit made by Hugo Boss. Cool right?”

“I guess,” says the boy, unimpressed.

“Mark! Come on!” shouts the little girl from the end of the street. The boy turns to run.

“Wait! Boy! Want to see something even cooler?” says Jesse in a panic.

“Ok.”

“Ok boy, but no touching – you gotta be a man to handle one of these. Can you do that?”

The phrase ‘be a man’ seemed to spark the little boy’s interest, “Let’s see it!”

Jesse unbuttons his coat.

“Cool!” shouts the little boy in excitement. At the same time, the little girl, tired of waiting for the boy to catch up to her, darts back to him. Once there, she sees Jesse towering over the little boy with a gun in hand, the man’s forehead shimmering with sweat, and of course his inappropriately misplaced grin. She screams. Stumbling, the girl falls on the sidewalk, bruising her knee. Almost immediately the girl erupts in tears and snout, flailing her arms and legs around. This catches the attention of pedestrians.

“Uh-oh,” Jesse scrambles over to help the girl up. He has never been good with children.

“Mark? Maria?” hollers a woman in the distance, “You and your sister better get back here right now!”

“Mom?” the boy responds. “Look mom! This guy has a gun!”

Chaos ensues. The cacophony of a bustling downtown sidewalk is interrupted by sharp shrieks, screeches, and squeals of bystanders.

“Oh my god!” the mother of two screams helplessly, imploring others to help her, “Call the police! Someone help my kids!”

“Lady!” screams Jesse on the top of his lungs, “Don’t be alarmed. I have got this situation under control, what is causing you distress?”

“You!” points the woman, “Please don’t hurt my kids. I beg you. Take me! Take me!”

“Oh are you looking at my pistol? This little thang? Relax!” explains Jesse, pulling his gun from its holster, “This is a one to one replica of a Walther P38. It was used by the Wehrmacht in World War II. The word Wehrmacht is German, meaning the unified armed forces of Germany in World War Two. Anyway, this is not a real gun. Although like the P38 this replica has a weight of 800 grams, a locked breech, and short recoil. It has a muzzle velocity of 365m/s.”

Jesse stood there in the wake of his own lengthy explanation.  Much to the horror of everyone else but him, waving his gun around during his animated lecture does not exactly have a calming effect. So naturally everyone panics even harder. Police siren screeches in the background, fast approaching the scene.

“I should be going,” Jesse mutters nervously to nobody in particular. He turns to bypass the fence in the alleyway behind him.

As if on cue, two gargantuan, pig-ish policemen hop off their vehicle. The two of them stumble clumsily towards Jesse with their soggy midsections tossing and turning in midair. One full minute later and twelve short yards later, they finally arrive to see Jesse hopping the fence. They reach for their guns yelling, “Police! Hands up sir! Climb back down from the fence!”

Jesse ignores the police’s warning and continues to climb up the fence. Huffing and puffing, the two policemen put their guns back into their holsters and struggles to get up to the fence. They pull at the cuffs of Jesse’s trousers, to which Jesse protests, “Stop! These pants are unique! This suit is a carbon copy of the one Adolf Hitler wore on his fiftieth birthday!”

“Climb back down or we will be forced to violence!” gasps one of the policemen, visually out of breath in the short tussle.

“Sir please let me explain,” says Jesse. He pulls his gun out of his holster.

The policemen’s muscles tense and eyes go wide at the sight of the pistol. In unison they scream, “Drop your weapon!”

“Again, this is not a weapon, this is a one to one replica of a Walther P38. It has a muzzle velocity of 365m/s – ” explains Jesse impatiently while brandishing his weapon.

“Drop your weapon right now or we are going to shoot!” shouts one of the policemen. Jesse drops his gun reluctantly.

“Argh!” grunts the other policeman, too tired to lift his lips to form words and too exhausted to make even coherent sounds. He is still gasping for breath from his short jog.

“Goddamn it Steve! I know you are tired, but buckle up your lip and keep yourself together!” says the police to the other police, Steve.

“I shoot! Shoot!” grunts Steve.

“Alright! Alright!” Jesse concedes and leaps off the fence.

“That’s more like it Steve!” remarks the policeman not named Steve. He turns to Jesse, “Now we have received a report of a man waving a gun between Bloor and Avenue Street.  Given the fact that you are armed and you tried to flee the scene, we are going to bring you in. You have the right to remain silent. But be reminded that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”

The policeman not named Steve closes in on Jesse and grabs Jesse’s overcoat in an attempt to pin Jesse down to the ground. Steve picks up Jesse’s toy gun from the ground.

Jesse, in one fluid movement sheds his trench coat from the clenches of the policeman. He sprints away, shouting, “Ha-ha! This is principle twenty-one of Sun Tzu’s art of war ‘Jin chan tuo ke’, which means getting away like a cicada sloughs off its skin! My trench coat is designed for easy slippage in case I am taken in as hostage. So long suckers!”

The two policemen stand where they are, too baffled and too tired to give chase. They are never going to catch up to Jesse anyway.

“Steve, is that a real gun?” says the policeman, eyeing the gun in Steve’s hand.

Steve detaches the magazine from the chamber of Jesse’s gun, “Plastic BBs.”

“Yea, I thought he was an idiot.”

“Me too.”

“Doughnut?”

“You read my mind, brother, you read my mind,” the pair skips off merrily to the nearby café.

————————–

Jesse steps into the reception area. He walks over to the receptionist, “Hi, my name is Beasley. I am scheduled for an interview today?”

“Jesse Barry Beasley?” reads the receptionist off the master list of interviewees.

“Yes, that’s me,” he grimaces. He hates his name. After a string of boys, his mother was desperate for a girl. Much to her disappointment, her streak of boys were not to be broken. She compensated by treating Jesse as a girl. And for the first four years of his life, Jesse thought he was a girl too. Moms from around the neighborhood would pat his head, commenting on how cute he looked in his colonial dress. He wanted to be a princess. He thought of the first time his mom took him to the local swimming pool at age five. Walking into the woman’s changing room was when he realized he had one part too many to be a beautiful princess like Cinderella.

“Please have a seat Mr. Beasley. I will inform you when the interviewer is ready.”

“Thank you.” Jesse surveys the scene. There are four men in the room. Jesse suspects that they are all interviewing for the same position. A guy is checking his hair in the mirror. Idiot, he thinks, immediately eliminating from the competition in his mind.

He turns to get a better look of the room. There are three possible exits in the room: the entrance, a door leading to another room, and a hallway. Jesse picks the nearest seat to the entrance.

 In case of an emergency, this is the fastest exit point, thinks Jesse.

“Hey, my name is Tom,” says Tom slowly, poking his head into Jesse’s space as if there is an imaginary line separating the two men.

Jesse jumps. He hadn’t notice that somebody crept next to him. Idiot, he reflects,cursing himself for his carelessness.

“Beasley,” mutters Jesse. He doesn’t even tilt his head; instead he twitches his eyebrows to acknowledge Tom. First to concede in this battle of the testosterone is the weaker one, the beta male. And being a beta male or being perceived as a beta male is not in Jesse’s plans today, or any other day for that matter.

“Ready for the interview?”

“Please, ready?” Jesse rolls his eyes, “If there is one thing that I am ready for, it is making a first impression and nailing interviews.”

“Cool.”

“Are you ready?” asks Jesse.

“Yea, I went on the immigration website and talked to my Uncle who also works at the immigration office. I guess I am sort of ready. How did you prepare?”

“Psh, see this?” Jesse curls both of his biceps. “See these babies? Rule #1 of making first impression – look fit. Headed to the gym last night and did twenty concentration curls and benched 80 pounds last night. Ran fourteen flights of stairs to my apartment after my workout for cardio. Did fifty crushing grips to optimize my handshake strength. When the interviewers had to pick one person for the job, are they going to choose the alpha male with the voluminous chest or the guy who did research and actually learned about the job? Please.”

Jesse reaches into his pocket and takes out a bundle of fur. Jesse secures the fur on his upper lip.

“Why did you just put hair on your face?”

“It’s a mustache.”

“Let me guess, to look more manly?”

“Correct. All great men has one, Genghis Khan has one, Josef Stalin has one, Adolf Hitler has one, Karl Marx has one, heck, even Chuck Norris has one. Rule #2 of making a great impression – sport a manly mustache.” Jesse grins, but he immediately regrets this. He suppresses the corners of his lips and forces a frown. He can’t show weakness by smiling, especially not in front of competition. Tom returns with a dubious chuckle. Jesse sighs, the damage has been done. Now he thinks I am a weakling.

“So why didn’t you just grow one?”

“I didn’t have the time,” whispers Jesse. When did Tom’s eyes become so piercing? He immediately averts Tom’s gaze.

“Sorry? I didn’t catch that.”

“I didn’t have the time to grow one,” Jesse mutters again. This is partially the truth. Jesse has tried (desperately) for past twenty-three years to grow one. Growing a mustache takes time, he’d say to himself. Sometimes it takes more than twenty years.

A buzz and the receptionist picks up. After a few quick exchanges, she stands up to announce, “Beasley.”

Jesse sighs with relief, perfect timing. If this conversation continued any longer he’d have been in real danger of exposing more secrets about himself and risk having his image of being the alpha male go down the drain.

“Good luck man,” Tom says with a smile on his face, “It was a pleasure speaking to you. I hope we will get the chance to work together in the future. It’d be fun.”

“If you are saying that to see if I’d show weaknesses, then you are failing. I’d never wish my competitor luck,” Jesse replies. “But I guess you’d have a better chance of getting this job than that effeminate idiot who is fixing his hair.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Nice try. Thanks not accepted.”

“Jesse Beasley?” Receptionist presses.

“Here,” Jesse spins around to face the receptionist, “Beasley right here.”

“Right this way Mr. Beasley”

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Chapter One


Facing a mirror, bending his knees, and taking care to suck in his abdomen, Jesse throws a left uppercut.  His knuckles stop centimeters just before scrapping the mirror in front of him. He examines his follow through. His arm is slightly bent at his elbow and not locked.

Locking joints after throwing a punch is a rookie mistake most rookies make. But he is no rookie. He is an above average amateur.

“No, no, no,” he hisses and shakes his head in anguish. The sleeve lining of his suit pulls hard at his arm. Tension lines emerge in the back of his suit.  He sighs and lets his arm down.

Just like a strait jacket. What kind of idiot invented the suit? He muses, tucking his shirt into his trousers, it restricts range of motion, reduces jab speed, cheapens elbow blow strength, offers poor warmth to weight ratio, and little to no defense padding. The only benefit of wearing a suit is to use as a disguise as a waiter to take target by surprise.

From the corner of the mirror, he can see the reflection of his grandfather’s military uniform. He touches the services medal on the linings of the uniform. Soldier! If there are no pockets in your pants, you can always warm your hands by cupping your balls, he said to Jesse once. Jesse remembers this especially vividly. The pair was preparing spaghetti meatballs for dinner and the combination of shaping and cooking meatballs must have sparked this piece of trivia out of his grandfather. His grandfather loved giving out survival advice.

He tries to suppress the urge to stand straight and salute, paying his respects to his grandfather and his grandfather’s comrades, Vietnam Veterans who stood for their country when in need. His eyes nearly tear up as he thinks of his grandfather who upon his deathbed grasped his hand and uttered in Jesse’s ear something he didn’t understand. To this day Jesse still has no idea what his grandfather has told him. But it sounded important to his thirteen-year-old mind. After all, his grandfather never gives trivial advice.

Never trust a black man, his grandfather used to say, never trust a white man. Never trust a Chinese either and never trust a woman. Don’t trust a black, white, Chinese, or female donkey trader, they are the worst.  

He needs to focus on the task at hand. To drown out the memories of his grandfather, he paces around the room, delving deeper in thought:

This Uncle Joe’s custom suit slows jab speed by 0.27 seconds, and the tightness of these pants slows sprint speed by 1.2 seconds. I can disable an armed attacker by impact to his groin in a second. I also can gouge his eyes in a second. Or I can falcon kick his groin and gouge his eyes. No shame in going for weaknesses. That’s why I wear protection at all times.

Jesse heads to his closet and opens it. He lays his eyes upon the suits Uncle Joe (Jesse’s most trusted tailor in town) has custom made upon his request for different purposes. He’s had a hard time choosing which suit to wear, remembering from an article he read a while ago saying the first thirty seconds will cement how another person views you. And he wants to be viewed favorably. He also remembers from another articles that to impress interviewers, the interviewees have to dress properly to the occasion. So he has to wear a suit to his interview at the immigration office tomorrow. Yet he does not want to sacrifice mobility for merely looks. Jesse grabs his collection of suits and lays them out in front of him:

Uncle Joe Suit A: Maximum neutral jump hard kick range: 60 degrees

Jab speed reduction: 0.29 seconds

Uppercut hook strength reduction: 0.30-pound-force

Defense padding grade: 2.0

Sprint speed reduction: 1.3 seconds

Note: Shoulder construction for maximum uppercut force.

Uncle Joe Suit B: Maximum neutral jump hard kick range: 50 degrees

Jab speed reduction: 0.23 seconds

Uppercut hook strength reduction: 0.28-pound-force

Defense padding grade: 6.0

Sprint speed reduction: 2.8 seconds

Note #1: Maximize padding to reduce stun from heavy blow.

Note #2: Material susceptible to extreme shrinkage when dry-

cleaned.

Uncle Joe Suit C: Maximum neutral jump hard kick range: 65 degrees

Jab speed reduction: 0.33 seconds

Uppercut hook strength reduction: 0.45-pound-force

Defense padding grade: 4.0

Sprint speed reduction: 1.8 seconds

Note #1: Perfect fit for the hipline to maximize high kick range.

Note #2: Uncomfortable for the groin.

Uncle Joe Suit D: Maximum neutral jump hard kick range: 70 degrees

Jab speed reduction: 0.27 seconds

Uppercut hook strength reduction: 0.35-pound-force

Defense padding grade: 1.0

Sprint speed reduction: 1 second

Note #1: Reduce defense padding to maximize offense (construction

material: spandex).

His eyes dim as if he had to choose between eating the broccoli first before the steak or the broccoli after the steak. Suffer first or suffer after? Decisions, decisions. Unlike the ‘vegetable situation’ he can’t drown his broccoli in an inch thick layer of ketchup and ask for an extra scoop of ice cream for eating his vegetables.

These won’t do. He shakes his head. These suits are fine and all, with their own pros and cons. However, standalone all these suits are missing that extra ‘oomph’, that extra element that shows everyone who is the man in the room.

Rubbing his temples, Jesse turns around and slides the curtains open.

Looking out the window, with the afternoon suns strong and bright, he can almost feel the Vitamin D penetrating his skin. He needs to be in tiptop shape for his big day tomorrow. Vitamin D promotes bone health and increases the mortality of elderly women. Overexposure to the sun will damage skin collagen and cause premature skin aging. Yawning, Jesse stretches his hamstrings.

Once he made the mistake of stretching after a particularly rigorous workout. Too tired to cloth himself after coming out of the shower and to the absolute horror of his elderly neighbor (76-years-old owner of 24 cats and counting) he’d go on to expose parts of his body not appropriate for the viewing pleasures of a wide audience. If age is the suitable measurement of maturity and if anyone were to accidentally watch him stretch nude, elderly people would be the most qualified to do so. The police officers didn’t buy his defense.

Suddenly he realized that his neighbor probably just wanted to get some sun and as an extra bonus, got flashed. Never undress naked in front of a window on a particularly sunny day because elderly women might want to get some sun in order to live longer, he makes a mental note in his head.

After stretching to his satisfaction, he pulls the curtains together and binds the seams with multiple layers of tape, shielding his room from the sunlight. He goes to his door, snaps six layers of locks in place, and switches off the light. He uses the remaining tape to seal the gaps between the door and its frames. With the room completely sealed from the inside, nobody can peek now. As a further bonus, since the room is also kind of soundproofed, any unusual sounds are immediately detectable. He slowly closes his eyes and begins to navigate through the darkness.

From age six to eleven, Jesse would spend his bedtime attempting to train his sensory organs to a superhuman level. He would place obstacles around his room and then he would blindfold himself and scream as loud as he can. He was trying to develop a sonar mapping ability that would let him ‘see’ in the dark. When screaming failed, he would purr into space, thinking that the increase in frequency would yield better results. That unfortunately failed too. This was one of the many reasons why furniture in his room were baby proofed.

Jesse walks over to his bed (knocking over his chair in the process) and pauses to listen to any irregular activities from the apartment above and below. He turns his head over his shoulder and sniffs – nothing out of the ordinary. Still he can’t shake this uneasy feeling. He swings his arm in circle like a spin top – a technique he developed to check for obstacles or enemies within the radius of his arms. He halts to a stop, counts to thirty in his head, and performs his technique again. No obstruction. Yup, nobody is here.

He kneels and goes head first under his bed and pulls a black briefcase after pushing away a carpet full of dust. Jesse quickly inputs the pass code and flips the lock.

“This is it,” Jesse says. The inside of the case emits a yellowish glow. He stares at it, transfixed.

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