What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Desperate Student, Episode 16: Cupid Loveline

This continues the Desperate Student series. Get caught up here before proceeding. Or you can just wait for the book.

I hate medic planes.

You would too if you contracted the obscure VIRUS 200 (vernacular: Orangutan flu) during a job-related safari and woke up on your way back to the states for extensive medical testing.

I don't remember most of it. I recall waking up - always with a nurse standing next to my bed with a clipboard - and being asked all kinds of fairly intuitive questions like "Would you have a beer with a pony you'd never met?" and "What color are triangles?"

You know. The sort of questions you ask people with Orangutan flu.

When we finally landed, my arms, chest, and back were pocked with needle marks and there were about thirty little sensor things taped onto various parts of my head and torso. I had an IV running on each arm and a third, smaller one on my left thumb. There were staples holding together a fresh scar near where my appendix presumably no longer hung out. Everyone was now wearing blue face masks and the light had been dimmed.

"Wh ... whuh hathibined?" I asked. My jaw was numb.

"We ran some tests," Said the nurse with the clipboard.

"I'm guh be okay, righ?"

"You were never in any danger. Orangutan flu is like a severe head cold."

"Buh theh why dih you do all thah? I nevah gay you puhmishuh."

"Yes, you did, sir. We have a signed consent form given to us by your former employer."

Jane was more wily than even I'd given her credit for. "Cah I go now?"

The nurse shrugged. "Sure, I guess."

"Wuh abow ah this stuff ah me?"

"You're welcome to take it off, sir."

"Wew ah we?"

"O'Hare International Airport. We'll disembark in a few moments."

"I wan go now."

"Suit yourself." The nurse tossed her clipboard onto the table next to my cot and walked off into another room. I noticed zebra doodles all over it.

With great effort (I was feeling pretty weak), I yanked all the probes and needles out of myself and staggered to my feet. It felt like the room was whizzing by; I fought to stay standing and took a hesitant step forward, steadying myself against the cot.

"Careful," the nurse called from the other room. "You've lost a lot of blood."

I reached the door to the plane and sagged against it. The plane was about a quarter mile from the bustling O'Hara airport B terminal. With careful deliberation, I took the first step onto the stairs down to the tarmac.

I awoke on the tarmac with pieces of asphalt embedded in my forehead. I stood slowly and staggered across a vast expanse of criss-crossing runway to a chain link fence, which was made of chain link, the bottom of which was poorly buried. I yanked up a section and wriggled under. Then I wandered for a few hours with a vague understanding I needed to get away from anything related to Jane Goodall.

I awoke at the foot of a rundown white building in an old metropolitan section of town. A burned-out sign outside read: "Chicago Herald."

Now I don't expect you to believe this. I suppose if you believe I once took a bullet for the president this might not seem like that big a jump. But to me, what happened next was the most extraordinary and absurd thing I'd ever experienced since my episodic autobiography began. There was a fifty-dollar bill slid under my left hand. No unique markings. No note. No one around. I just suddenly had fifty dollars. For a moment my mind flashed back to the tales of King Midas. But King Midas never forged Mexican citizenship papers so he could work as an agricultural laborer.

I slowly pushed myself up to my feet, weighing the bill in my hand. Besides this bill, I was at rock bottom. And even with it I couldn't go home or survive for very long. This was no time to be conservative. I studied the money for a long moment. Ulysses S. Grant stared back at me with unblinking eyes that seemed to give me quiet reserves in inner strength.

"Go ahead, son," He seemed to be saying. "I didn't split the confederacy in half by eating taco bell until my funds ran out." It wasn't so much the words so much as the fact that Grant seemed to be talking that really got me. I knew I needed help. I had to shake things up. I crumpled the bill tightly into my fist and walked deliberately into the Chicago Herald office.

There was a payphone in the corner. I checked the number, then walked to the receptionist and spoke through clenched teeth.

"I want to take out an ad - the best you can get me for tomorrow's circulation with fifty dollars."

"For 47.99 I can give you an inch-by-half-inch with simple text."

"Perfect. I want it to say: 'Don't like what you see? Stop the blind search with a personal matchmaker. Professional, discreet, guaranteed happy match within two weeks. (847) 334-6991.' Can you fit that into an ad that size?"

"That's a bit wordy."

Eventually she got me down to a more reasonable ad. It ran:

MATCHMAKER (847) 334-6991

Very economical.

Satisfied, I went back to the somewhat dilapidated couch and passed out. I was awakened at ten o'clock by a janitor. "Can I help you?" He asked.

"Hm? No. Thanks. I'm waiting for somebody."

The janitor looked dubious but nodded and moved on. I passed out again.

At around eight the next morning, the phone rang. I picked up the receiver before the first ring ended, then spoke, trying not to sound too eager:

"Hello?"

"I saw an ad in today's paper for a matchmaker?"

"You've got the right number. That is, I'm him. I am he. This is him."

"My name is Wade Roberts."

"I'm ... Cupid ... Loveline."

The man sounded confused. "What should I call you?"

"My friends call me ... Cupid."

"Can we meet?"

"How about we just discuss over the phone. It's faster."

"All right. What do you charge?"

I thought fast. "Five hundred dollars."

"Five hundred!"

"Well, yes, I mean ..."

"That's a fraction the cost of the last person I called."

"Well I mean, five hundred for the basic service. It's two thousand for the premium service."

"What do I get with premium?"

"Most of it is behind the scenes. We use a complex process to bring your chance of success from ninety percent to ninety-nine percent."

"I want the premium. Sign me up right now."

"All right, Mr Roberts ..."

"Call me Wade."

"Wade. So tell me a little about yourself."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

"You mean you don't know me already?"

"Should I?"

"I mean everyone knows me. Just everyone! You haven't heard my music?"

"I don't think so ..."

"Last Time I Kissed You? I Could Be The One?"

"I don't think I've heard those."

"Why, that's amazing. You're one in a million. I'm very popular. That's why I want a matchmaker. I want to use a forged name so I don't get swarmed by adoring fans."

"They won't recognize your face?"

"Uh ... well ... I mean there's always that risk. But people don't seem to recognize me generally. I mean I go out all the time and no one takes another look. It's because I'm so reclusive. It's what A-list celebrities do."

"So what are your interests? Your hobbies?"

"What, am I on a date with you now?"

"No, I just wanted to know a thing or two about you so I could match you."

"Listen Cupid. You're the professional. I don't pay you to make small talk. I pay you to find me the girl I'll be happy with until a highly publicized and messy divorce in four or five years. Make it happen!"

"All right - well what kind of a girl are you looking for?"

"You know - sweet, pretty, smart, fun, talented, a good smile, looks good in blue jeans. Also I want someone who will hang on my arm and announce all my achievements at parties so I don't look quite so boorish. And stare at me across the room with an adoring look. And call me all the time when I'm out of town. And leave me sweet little notes in random places. And she needs to be good at yoga."

"I can get you a girl like that within the week, Wade."

"Fantastic!"

"Let's talk about payment."

"Half now, half when we're engaged?"

"Fair enough. Where do you live?"

"In the ritzy section of town."

"I'm out of Chicago on a private mansion. I'll send one of my lowly servants out to meet you halfway to pick up the money."

"Where's halfway?"

"Oh, shall we say ... the Chicago Herald Office? It seems fitting somehow."

"That's not in a good section of town."

"It'll be good for you. Oh, and bring cash." I hung up hastily. My hands were cold and clammy; I rubbed them together briskly. Someone was coming with a thousand dollars to my location. Maybe life was finally starting to pick up.

I waited outside for half an hour, then a black limousine pulled up and a tall beefy man in a suit with sunglasses got out. He walked straight to me. "Cupid Loveline?"

"I work for him."

"Please deliver this briefcase on behalf of my client, Wade Roberts." He handed me a light but promising black leather briefcase. I tried to accept it as casually as possible, wondering in the back of my head if I'd ever been this close to so much money.

For several minutes after the limo drove away, I stood on the sidewalk holding the suitcase in an agony of indecision. A big part of me wanted to jump ship - to take my thousand dollars and fly away and pull the same hoax on someone else later on. But for some reason I stayed. I'm not sure if it was the chance of more money later on down the line or a vague sense of moral compulsion. But I was contracted as a matchmaker, and I was going to follow through.

Cupid Loveline was going to make Wade Roberts a happy man.

7 comments:

Daddy Warbucks said...

That was pretty good. Looking forward to part deaux.

big mo said...

haha, i'm eager to read the next bit.

Anonymous said...

It is a lot shorter than the other ones before it I like it

Christopher Yerziklewski said...

That was great guys. One of the best Desperate Students yet.

you can call me batman said...

oooh, this oughta be good...

team cheese said...

BATMAN!!!! I FINALLY KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!!!!! YAY!!! Haven't seen you in forever. lol. this really really oughta be good. I wonder what Desperate student would do if Wane ended up meeting Suzy by chance and they totally clicked then Wane canceled on Cupid.

team cheese said...

*Wade lol. I'm TIRED. gosh.