by Adam Kluger
“Good morning, Mr. Schmertz. This is Dawn with Orlando Marketing and Tourism to let you know you’ve just won an all-expenses paid discount opportunity to visit one of our luxury resorts in the Greater Orlando Area … let me axe you … would you be interested in speaking with one of our senior sales agents—”
“What time is it?”
“It’s 6:15 am Eastern on this beautiful Tuesday morning … how are you doing today, sir?”
“Go fuck yourself and never call here again.”
Todd Schmertz was a native New Yorker. He hated telemarketers but for some reason he forgot to sign up for the “do not call list” and for this mistake he was paying a heavy price.
The coffee smashed down in his mug in black, hot torrents of love. Dark and bitter. Just the way he saw life. He flipped on the TV but that annoying, disgusting commercial about the hair-club for men always seemed to find him — how could they possibly know about his growing concerns. He clicked off his small black and white TV and glanced at the mirror and scowled. As he walked by the dining room table he snuck a look at the mountain of bills that was growing larger and larger. What the fuck! Who was pinging him on his work-issued BlackBerry this early — hopefully no one from the office. What is this? The subject line of the email read:
NEED YOUR URGENT HELP; Dear Kind Sir — I am from Nigeria and I need you to pick up $5 Million Dollars from a bank account for me …
Schmertz hit delete before he could finish reading the pathetic missive.
He straightened his tie and locked his apartment door. He looked down the hallway hoping not to run into the landlord or a snoopy neighbor, and made a dash for the elevator.
Of course, Ms. Judy “Buttinsky” was in the elevator. Why wouldn’t she be?
“Hey, Schmertz — saw that eviction notice posted on your door a month ago — guess you’re still here, huh?”
“Good morning to you too, Judith.”
“What’s good about it — I can still hear your damn TV after 9 o’clock at night — don’t you even work, Schmertz?”
“Yes, Judy, I work.”
“What do you do again?”
“I circumcise elephants for the circus, Judy — it doesn’t pay much but the tips are enormous.”
“That’s disgusting, Schmertz — oh yeah, that’s right, you work in a mailroom somewhere. I guess that explains a lot.”
“I’m not sure what you mean, Judy, but always a pleasure sharing the slowest moving elevator in the world with you. Later, I’m sure.”
“Yeah, just watch yourself, Schmertz.”
On the street an ambulance siren shrieked. Schmertz snaked his way down the street past panhandlers and planned-parenthood spokespeople. He squeezed on the 6 train and was on his way to work.
A homeless man stood right next to him the whole ride down yelling his tale of woe out to the entire subway car. Schmertz did not feel sympathetic, he felt annoyed. Pissed off. He got off near Wall Street. Up the staircase. On the street, he weaved his way through businesspeople talking loudly on their iPhones — walking right in front of him, ignoring him. For all intents and purposes, Todd Schmertz was the invisible man.
As he got to the office, two minutes late, Florence the secretary and resident office gossip was there waiting for him. It was no secret that Florence knew everybody’s business at the office and that she took particular delight in her unspoken job of spreading the word when somebody was about to get fired.
When Schmertz walked through the door, Florence gave him a weird little smile.
“Hey, Flo, waddya know?”
“Hey, Schmertzie. Boss wants to see you right away … don’t bother clocking in … and by the way, it was nice knowing ya.”
“Oh yeah? Well, it’s been that kind of morning anyway, and you know what, Flo, I never fucking liked you anyway.”
“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, baldy.”
“Hey, Flo, how’d Makluskey’s dick taste?”
“Fuck you, Schmertz!”
“You wish, Flo — take care of yourself.”
“Yeah, you too, kid.”
He knocked on the boss’ door already knowing what was coming next.
“Good morning, Mr. Schmertz … why don’t you take a seat.”
Adam Kluger is a New York City–born street artist and writer. A direct descendant of British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein and a past art student of artist Ion Theodore, Kluger went to the same high school as Jack Kerouac and spent some time studying the great artists throughout Europe before settling back in New York. Kluger draws his inspiration from diverse sources that include Jean Dubuffet, Marc Chagall, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Bob Ross, Eric Payson and Pablo Picasso. Kluger is one of the leaders of New York’s growing anti-art movement.