Johnny America


My Psy­chic Life Coach


Du­ane isn’t re­turn­ing my calls. He’s my Psy­chic Life Coach (or “PLC,” for those of us in the com­mu­ni­ty), and while por­tions of his out­go­ing mes­sage are dif­fi­cult to de­ci­pher due to the promi­nence of plan­e­tar­i­um mu­sic in the mix, I’m cer­tain I can hear Du­ane an­nounc­ing that he’s tak­ing A Leave of Ab­sence of In­de­ter­mi­nate Length. There are no men­tions of emer­gency con­tact in­fo, no re­fer­rals to rep­utable in­ter­im PLCs in my area.

With each sub­se­quent call, all I hear is Shirk­ing of PLC Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and Breach of Fidu­cia­ry Du­ty, and I im­me­di­ate­ly con­sid­er fil­ing re­ports with both the De­part­ment of Pro­fes­sion­al Li­cens­ing and Reg­u­la­tion and the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bu­reau. It is on­ly af­ter a long, warm bath with Ep­som salt, how­ev­er, that I shelve my whistle­blow­ing and walk next door to con­front Du­ane face-to-face, client-to-PLC.

I’m about to knock again when Duane’s fig­ure fi­nal­ly ma­te­ri­al­izes through the screen door. He’s not wear­ing a shirt and there is a Scar­let Macaw par­rot perched on his fore­arm, its talons open­ing and clos­ing and draw­ing faint trick­les of blood. He smiles like he just caught me in a lie.

“It’s good to see you, Regi­nald. Welcome.”

Duane’s home smells like a Bath & Body Works and, in the liv­ing room, there is a young woman sit­ting cross-legged on an ot­toman, eat­ing al­monds from a Zi­ploc bag. She is al­so sans chemise, her stringy black hair long enough to drape her bo­som, and she doesn’t avert her eyes from Bare­foot Con­tes­sa to ac­knowl­edge my presence.

“I’d in­tro­duce you to Ok­sana but I’m afraid that, un­less you are flu­ent in Es­ton­ian, the same would be fruitless.”

“You’ve aban­doned me in a time of cri­sis, Duane.”

We take our tea on the back porch. It is there that Du­ane in­forms me that, ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ate­ly, he’s uni­lat­er­al­ly end­ing our PLC-client re­la­tion­ship. He’s walk­ing away from the trade al­to­geth­er, ac­tu­al­ly, has al­ready ac­cept­ed an en­try-lev­el call cen­ter po­si­tion with a re­gion­al au­to in­sur­ance car­ri­er. He di­rects my at­ten­tion to the stack of unassem­bled mov­ing box­es rest­ing against the sid­ing of the house, in­di­cates his readi­ness to up­root and re-seed in Skaneate­les, NY by month’s end.

“I’m re­luc­tant to clas­si­fy it as a ‘re­tire­ment,’ per se. But it feels per­ma­nent, Regi­nald. This econ­o­my has made beg­gars of us all.”

Du­ane in­sists that I not take the sev­er­ance per­son­al­ly, re­minds me of the book of busi­ness it took near­ly thir­teen years of Life Coach­ing to amass, the tens of hun­dreds of dol­lars he will be walk­ing away from and the val­ued clien­tele to whom he must bid farewell. Today’s un­sched­uled ap­point­ment will be pro-rat­ed, he con­tin­ues, my ini­tial $350 re­tain­er re­fund­ed with interest.

“I’d be re­miss, Regi­nald, if I didn’t sug­gest you press for­ward with a new PLC. You’re a way­ward ves­sel, in need of mooring.”

He sug­gests I con­tact Glen­da at the Agency, so that she can re­view my Cur­rent Needs. Ul­ti­mate­ly, he be­lieves Rayanne will be best suit­ed to as­sume his post, what with her be­ing a Chick­a­saw med­i­cine man in a past life and the owner/operator of a func­tion­al ’98 Toy­ota Ter­cel in her current.

“She’ll come to you, Regi­nald. Just give her fif­teen, twenty…”

“I don’t want Rayanne. I want you.”

I bring up the frayed wires, the wet floor at that Steak ‘n Shake. The ex­haus­tive in­ven­to­ry of dis­as­ters avert­ed due to Duane’s time­ly sooth­say­ing. I can feel my Pan­ic Dam swell and bulge, the well­spring of doubt on the oth­er side poised to flood my brain and drown my fu­ture. It is then that Du­ane reach­es across the card ta­ble, press­es his gum­my palm against the top of my right hand. Our eyes are mag­net halves, mine wet with fear and his blood­shot from all the caf­feine, in­ex­tri­ca­bly locked in place.

“Regi­nald, why did you come to me to­day, seek­ing counsel?”

I tell Du­ane about Melis­sa, about the trips to Starved Rock with the jour­ney­man roofer. How she re­turns home well past 10:30 pm CST, our agreed-up­on week­night cur­few, smelling of curly fries. Could her heart be­long to another?

Du­ane set­tles back in­to his tat­tered lawn chair, arms fold­ed in deliberation.

“That bitch is def­i­nite­ly step­ping out on you, Reginald.”

I scroll through the pro­files at in search of Duane’s suc­ces­sor but find noth­ing but char­la­tans. Bekah’s Pow­er Rat­ing is a ro­bust 4.9 out of 5, but her pri­ma­ry fo­cus ap­pears to be re­unit­ing pet own­ers with Gold­en Labs who break free from back­yard bar­be­ques and end up in Ore­gon. Mis­tress Sindee claims to have pre­dict­ed the col­lapse of Lehman Broth­ers back in the mid-80s but couldn’t proph­e­size HAROLDWINNICK1’s gout. And so on.

I pow­er down, fold the lap­top over. Through the bay win­dow I watch as Du­ane and the Es­ton­ian woman set up long fold­ing ta­bles along the side­walk, drag box­es of use­less bric-á-brac to be liq­ui­dat­ed. The mak­ings of a garage sale.

Soon, Du­ane will em­brace a new era, its high-qual­i­ty na­ture pre­sum­ably clear as crys­tal to him for years by now. He’s al­ready fore­seen his me­te­oric rise to mid­dle man­age­ment, his ca­reer tra­jec­to­ry the stuff of leg­end with­in the in­dus­try brain­trust. He al­ready knows he has a touch lamp, ad­e­quate sta­pler re­fills. He will have ben­e­fits, health and oth­er­wise. He will have every­thing in his Cen­tral New York Val­hal­la and time will Swif­fer away our men­tor­ship pe­ri­od from mem­o­ry, a mere dust bun­ny on his life’s Formica.

As for me, I will sim­ply be. I will sit idly by and watch as Melis­sa finds her­self, main­ly in the com­pa­ny of oth­er men. I will take strange com­fort in her ro­man­tic me­an­der­ings, man­i­fes­ta­tions of Duane’s fi­nal rev­e­la­tion. I will con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous­ly con­sume food­stuffs with dan­ger­ous­ly-high lev­els of trans fats and high-fruc­tose corn syrup, and for no good rea­son at all.

I will ac­cept that to­tal, ir­rev­o­ca­ble ru­in awaits me around every cor­ner, skulks through every shad­ow, ready to blud­geon me with my own terror.

Filed under Fiction on August 26th, 2011

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