The job description was accurate: Assistant Needed for Commercial Body Modification Project. Sherilyn was excellent at assisting, having done it most of her life. She was certified to assist the nurses who would visit her grandparents in their home, where they would eventually die—together, in flames, probably though not conclusively one last act of rebellion against the world that had always, in their view, conspired against them. She had assisted dozens of her friends with their writing in college—plagiarism, really, though no one called it that then. Had driven getaway for her high school boyfriend’s second vandalism spree (two hundred plus broken windows, flares shot up over the water like fireworks trailing into glitter, all the parking meters downtown winched up from the concrete then left there like used toothpicks for giants), and admittedly it was sort of under duress, if that’s what you’d term their love, though she would have rolled on him in a minute if she had somehow been caught. Still, she could be counted on to show up on time, appropriately attired, prepared for almost anything, at any time, and to see whatever through. If she was a boy she would have been a boy scout, peppered with pins and multicolored badges, having mastered WEBELOS and on her way for sure to Eagle. Which is why she kept getting hired for these jobs. Her references: impeccable. Her work record: spotless. This was a kind of genius, she told herself, to be the supporting cast, even if you never got to call yourself a protagonist.
This story springs in large part from an actual conversation I had with a friend of mine named Paul about the relatively unsuccessful nature of Pauls vs Johns in the world. The more I considered his point (consider how many Pauls are well known in the world versus all those Johns), the harder it became to refute, and while I came up with some solid counterexamples, I had the sense that it was the exception that proved the rule, at least that's what I think that saying means. This also includes several inside jokes for said Paul and it is build on a private joke I used to laugh about a great deal, way more than I should have, to the point where it became a kind of anti-joke, a joke that was funny only to me in my response to it, and irritated (to a significant degree) my wife. These things finally came into a work of art. Originally published in Gulf Coast online.