Howard and Susan

Howard and Susan

Howard began his Friday night by thumbing through his comic book collection. He was looking for inspiration. The epic adventures of his youth always found their way back to the forefront of his mind in times of crisis. And Howard was in a crisis. He was facing down an almost assured meltdown at work. A presentation he was months away from ready for: being presented Monday, 3 p.m.

His time would probably have been better spent in preparation, but the weight of the task in front of him proved so crushing as to pummel him back to a prepubescent state. A child looking to his heroes for answers. How to face down the evil corporate supervillians? Batman made it seem so simple. He never quit. Nor had he ever suffered a moment’s indecision. A very enviable claim.

Howard collected himself. He put down the stack of well used collectibles, and picked up his smart phone. He called Susan.

Susan was already hard at work. Her end of the presentation was coming along just as she had planned—meticulously. She was at point 33 of her 40 point synopsis on the importance of undeveloped real estate in their mutual client’s portfolio. Howard knew all this. Howard knew Susan.

He knew Susan’s long brown hair, sleepy auburn eyes, her high cheek bones, the overly noticeable dimples, pale skin, impressive bust, even the slightly pronounced bump on the back of her neck where her spine subtly shifted from nape to back. He also knew her personality. The career gal mentality, feminist leanings, independent nature, irrepressible optimism, the undying inability to accept blame for anything. Oh yes, Howard knew Susan.

“How’s it hanging Suzie Q?” Such a stupid nickname, they both hated it.

“Just blazing through another few key sections for Shwermer.” Shwermer was the client. They both hated him.

“Shwermer’s a putz. Let’s get dinner.” Howard enjoyed being to the point.

“I’ve already eaten.” Susan lied.

“Alright, a movie then.”

“I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“No you don’t. You’re on point 35 of your 40 point presentation, and you’ve already got the next five points written down in that big beautiful brain of yours, so let’s get drunk and do some regrettably dumb shit tonight.” She laughed despite herself.

“Howard… you know we can’t. Not after last time.”

Howard frowned. “Last time was a fluke Miss Q. You know how Howie gets on too much tequila.”

“I wish I could forget.” An edge of pain had entered her tone.

“Well, you must’ve forgotten last time, because it was you who insisted on the shots.” He playfully parried her malice. That was his way, to avoid responsibility for his actions by any means necessary.

“Well, even if I do forget, my sister will never let me hear the end of it.” Howard rolled his eyes.

“Your sister seemed like she was having fun at the time.—“

“–And maybe she was, but that doesn’t make the whole thing right. You… you were… so demeaning.”

Howard hated this word. He thought of it as a catchphrase for the helpless. “Then you shouldn’t have joined in. You felt awkward? Unsafe? Embarrassed? Unhinged from your boring little box of reality? Well, sue me Suzie. We were just having fun, and if you didn’t like what I was doing, you could have stopped at any time. But you didn’t. You sat there and took it like a man. For which we were all very proud of you, knowing about your insatiable penis envy. Which, oh by the way, probably stems from your unmitigated compulsion to prove that you have the most massive cock in the room.” Malice had now crept into Howard’s tone too.

“Fuck you, Howard.” A sharp click indicated to Howard that it might be time to flip the comics back open.