The agent has a career-altering meltdown because of his wife at a client’s Halloween party. 3,095 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
It was now an hour later and Casey couldn’t find Lori anywhere. He’d called her cell phone a dozen times, but it had gone straight to voicemail.
Casey was standing by Cheyne’s massive swimming pool, now unrecognizable because it had been transformed into another Halloween set for the Dump Trump bash. It could have been a scene out of a big budget Hollywood movie. Dry ice gave off a smoky effect and magnified the scene of a sinking ship with a fake Donald Trump at the bow, his red baseball cap on and a megaphone in his hand. “We’ve got this in the bag!” he announced. Off to the side were Paul Ryan and Chris Christie figures wearing rat ears and jumping off the sides.
Casey cursed out Cheyne for being so blasphemous towards the one man who could turn this country around. Now the agent just wanted to find Lori and get the hell out. “Lori, you out here?” Casey called, trying to spot her through the thick dry ice smoke. He spotted a dwarf, dressed as a nuclear warhead, walk by with a tray of tequila shots and grabbed two, hoping they’d take the edge off. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this angry.
Casey seethed as he stormed across the patio and back into the house. He headed for the stairs with reluctance. He’d already checked every room downstairs and the entire second story, with no trace of his wife. Now he was going to the third floor to find her. There, he spotted his assistant who was dressed as Harry Potter. The kid had a big goofy smile.
“Have you seen my wife anywhere?”
“No, I haven’t seen her at all tonight,” the aide said. “But I was wondering; do you think we could finish our conversation from earlier today?”
Casey was boiling. “What do you have to say that is so pressing?”
“That a lot of the time working for you, I don’t feel like I’m being truthful,” the kid said, unable to look Casey in the eye. “Like your lie to Fran today about Cheyne’s girlfriend and 9/11.”
“Keep your voice down,” Casey said. He looked around. To their left was a room with a red neon sign above the door that read: FOR PRIVACY. He grabbed his assistant by the arm and marched him toward the room. It was small and dimly lit and all four walls were covered in mirrors.
“And how exactly does it affect your sobriety if I tell a studio vice-president a lie to help my client? And not just any client but the agency’s biggest fucking writing client, Cheyne Gold, your host tonight. Are you going to smoke a joint because you patched me through to a call?”
“Don’t get so mad at me, boss. I’m just not comfortable lying any more.”
“Then you’re in the wrong fucking business,” Casey said, furious.
“It’s just that my sponsor says I need to keep my side of the street clean and not do things that are going to make me feel bad about myself.”
Casey leaned closer, his breath reeking of tequila. “You have no idea the kind of shit I had to do when I was an assistant at the agency. I walked my boss’s three oversized dogs every fucking day and had to pick up their ginormous crap. I read scripts until three in the morning. I would sleep in the office half the week because he had me working so late. I ate so many shit sandwiches and I still have to eat them every fucking day.” Casey tried to catch his breath. “You have it so easy, kid, you have no idea.”
The aide looked like he was about to cry. “I’m not complaining about the workload. I’m just talking about the dishonesty part.”
“It’s the lay-of-the-fucking-land, buddy. Go be a teacher or something,” Casey concluded, trying to calm himself down.
The assistant’s voice started to crack. “I don’t want to be a teacher. I want to work in the film business. I’ve wanted to do this ever since I was a little kid and saw Star Wars nine times.” He began to sob.
Casey didn’t want to make the kid cry. And, more importantly, the aide needed to keep Casey’s secrets until he moved to the other agency.
“Listen, you’re a great assistant,” Casey llied.
The aide blew his nose on his Harry Potter costume’s sleeve. “I am?”
“Absolutely. You’re going to go really far in this business. And I’m sorry I had to be so hard on you.” Casey noticed the cross that hung from the kid’s neck. “You want to know the real reason why I have to lie so much? Because I’m a Christian. You and I are the minorities around here. That’s why I keep my real moral and political beliefs to myself. And you should, too. These GTA guys wouldn’t talk to me if they knew I go to church every Sunday and I’m voting for Trump.”
“But that’s not right. I think you should be able to be true to who you are.”
“We Christians have to look out for each other,” Casey said, lowering his voice.
Before Casey could continue, the lighting in the room began to change. Glowing green letters around the word “PRIVACY” were now “A WORLD WITHOUT PRIVACY.” A light came up from behind the mirrors, revealing three people who appeared to be listening in on the conversation. One of the men held a video camera labeled “PROPERTY OF THE NSA,”
“What the fuck?” Casey said. His heart was racing. It took him a moment to realize these were robotic mannequins. Casey was filled with rage again. I’m so sick of Cheyne. So sick of his politics. So sick of his party, he thought.
Casey patted his assistant on the arm. “So, are we cool?”
“To be honest with you, I have a lot of thinking to do.”
“You do that,” Casey said, adding, “But I have to know that I can trust you to never repeat to anyone what I just said. Not even to your sponsor.”
“I never would. You have my word,” the kid pledged.
Two hours later, Casey had made countless laps around the party and still couldn’t find his wife. He was standing in the hallway next to the kitchen, contemplating his next move, when his assistant found him.
“Hey, boss. I know you’re looking for Lori. She’s in there,” the kid said motioning to the kitchen. “I think she had too much to drink.”
Casey was not looking forward to dealing with Lori when she was inebriated. The last time had been at a friend’s wedding when she’d slumped in the corner crying and acting needy as hell and repeating, “Tell me you love me.” Please, not another one of those scenes, he prayed.
The closer he got to the kitchen, the louder the chant: “SUCK IT! SUCK IT! SUCK IT!” Inside, he strained to see through the tightly packed bodies. What the hell was his assistant talking about? Lori wasn’t here. A few people were using cell phones to take videos of something. A guy dressed as Shrek slurred to Casey, “Tell me that isn’t the luckiest guy at the party!”
The agent saw the man in the cow suit holding the costume’s two rubber udders and squirting tequila into the mouths of two women as they each sucked on a teat. It gave the effect that they were giving the cow a double blow job. One of the women was the Asian valet.
The other was Lori. She was now wearing only a red bra, her dominatrix pants, and the tall costume boots.
Casey felt as if he were watching a car accident in slow motion, and yet he was part of the crash. He wanted to run over and pull Lori the hell out of there. But he just stood — frozen. He could see that Lori was smashed but still aware of what she was doing. Vengeance was her apparent motive.
“SUCK IT! SUCK IT! SUCK IT,” the crowd kept chanting.
Then the cow guy put his hands on the back of Lori’s head and moved his hips back and forth to match her motion. Not to be outdone, Lori pulled the udder from her mouth and started licking her tongue on the tip, like a porn star. The crowd shouted its approval. Casey noticed the senior partner of his agency watching near the front. Motherfucker, Casey thought. But he still couldn’t move. His arms and legs felt paralyzed. Casey was dying inside. Then Lori reached for the bovine bastard’s crotch and stroked her hand up and down his groin. The cow guy gave her a wide smile.
“Hey, that’s enough!!!” Casey shouted. He looked like a rabid dog as he ran forward to stop his wife. Then he turned and gave orders to the crowd. “All of you, just back off.”
The guy in the cow suit was still sitting in the middle of the room, staring at Casey and smiling. “Fuck you!” Casey yelled, lunging for his throat. The jerk went over backwards, holding onto Casey. A few men stepped forward to pull the pair apart, shouting at them to break it up.
But Casey was on top of the guy in the cow suit, throwing wild punches. The bovine bastard flipped Casey onto his stomach. Before Casey could get up, the fighter mounted his back and secured a chokehold. “You need to chill out, my man,” he hissed, squeezing Casey’s neck tighter. Casey tried to break free, but there was no room to move. He was on the verge of passing out. Finally the crowd rushed forward and pulled the guy off.
“Casey, calm down,” slurred Lori who was still very drunk. “It was my fault.” She put her hand on Casey’s shoulder from behind.
He spun around. “No, you calm down! What the hell were you doing?”
“Having fun,” Lori said.
“Fun? And where the fuck have you been for the last four hours?”
“I went for a drive with—”
“Who? The cow?” He was sure she had fucked the guy. His eyes spit hatred at Lori. “Move your ass if you want a ride home.”
Casey stormed out of the kitchen. He was three steps from the hallway when a champagne flute shattered directly above his head. Shards of glass showered down on top of him. Casey spun around. Lori stood there glaring at him. It was clear she’d thrown the stemware.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Casey demanded. There were a few “ows” and “ouches” yelled from the crowd. But Casey kept his eyes on Lori, not wanting to see who was witnessing his humiliation.
Lori was so angry she could barely get her words out. “You’re the one who likes whores. I know exactly what you did this afternoon.”
“What are you talking about? After my meeting with the writer, I was in my of office all day.”
“Bullshit,” she snapped.
Casey looked around and spotted his assistant. “Was I or was I not at my desk?”
The aide looked apologetic. “I told you that I have to stay sober no matter what,” he said, avoiding Casey’s eyes. “I have to be honest. You left early.”
“See, even he won’t lie for you anymore,” Lori said.
Casey’s face burned. Everyone was looking at him. His stomach tightened. “Lori, enough!”
She grabbed an open bottle and took a massive swig. Champagne dripped from her lips. “Okay, you hooker-fucking pervert… Enough.” Just then she noticed that Cheyne was there, watching and listening. “I was just talking about what a liar my husband is.”
“Lori, ENOUGH!” Casey called out.
“No, ENOUGH OF YOU!” she countered. “One more thing, Cheyne. Your boy over here is voting for Trump.”
“Shut up!” Casey yelled.
“What?” Cheyne asked. He looked confused.
“Casey’s been lying to you this entire time,” Lori continued. “He just sniveled his way into your MoveOne.org events to get on your good side. He hates your politics.”
“You’re voting for Trump?” Cheyne asked Casey.
The room grew silent. Blood pounded in Casey’s ears. Then he broke into a full sprint for the front door to get out of there as quickly as possible. As he came close to the driveway, he passed a sign that read: HOUSE OF HORRIBLE EXCUSES. A number of Trump lookalikes, all dressed in straightjackets, were screaming, “It was the teleprompter!” “It was the media!” “It was the faulty mic!” “It was Saturday Night Live!”.
“IDIOTS!” Casey yelled as he ran past.
A few minutes later, Lori stumbled out of the party and made it to the bottom of the driveway. She was beginning to feel nauseous when she spotted Casey. He was about to get into the Lexus, but not before he ripped off his costume and threw it in the backseat. Dressed only in his boxer shorts, he got behind the wheel. Lori was about to open the passenger door when it locked with a click.
“Casey, come on,” she said, pulling on the door handle.
Staring straight ahead, he put his foot down on the accelerator and revved the engine. She knocked on the window. Finally, he turned in her direction and looked at her knuckles. He’d always hated her large hands. He pictured her jacking off the cow with those ugly hands. There was a honk from the car behind him, then another. He was blocking everyone.
“Casey, are you going to let me in?” No reply. “Fine, I’ll call an Uber. I don’t want to ride with you anyway.”
The lock opened. Casey gunned the car down the road before Lori was able to close the door. Her head hit the ceiling as they flew over a speed bump. He drove through three red lights and nearly ran over a homeless woman crossing the street with her shopping cart. His speeding made her spinning head more unbearable. He swerved onto the freeway as Lori reached for the button to roll down her window.
“Leave that up. It’s cold,” he ordered. She pressed the button anyway. “I said, leave it up.” She slumped forward in the seat, which infuriated him even more. “What’s the matter, nothing smart to say?” he snarked at her.
“Oh, no,” Loris exclaimed, covering her mouth. But it was too late. Vomit spilled through her fingers and onto the floor carpet. She held her stomach as her body heaved. She vomited again.
“Oh my God,” Casey yelled. "You didn’t!"
Lori gulped a few deep breaths, shook the hair out of her eyes and tilted her head to one side before asking in the most sarcastic tone possible, “Happy now?”
The next morning, Casey was at the Brentwood carwash watching a handful of Hispanic men working diligently to get Lori’s barf out of his Lexus. He had decided not to go into work today. Everyone at the agency had been at Cheyne’s party and, worst of all, he remembered their phones had videoed the meltdown. Casey wondered if it had gone viral.
He had put in three calls to Cheyne but they went straight to voicemail. He’d also sent Cheyne a text: Hey Buddy, please give me a ring back, so I can explain. But there was no response.
The agent was trying not to panic, but his solar plexus was tight with fear. If Cheyne dropped him, Casey would have no leverage with Synergy, or even his current agency GTA whose partners were not happy with him after his rant about getting too small a bonus.
Then a text came in from Cheyne: I’ll speak to you next week.
“Prick,” Casey said aloud, hating the fact that Cheyne held so much power over his destiny. His life was completely on hold — and it was torture.
Exactly a week later, on Election Day, Casey was walking out of the polling station in Brentwood when he heard a ding coming from his cell.
You’re fired. The text was from Cheyne.
“Mother FUCKER!!!” Casey yelled, shaking the phone up and down with rage and picturing smashing Cheyne’s face with it.
A few Brentwood parents who had come to vote with their kids gave Casey disapproving glances. One woman in particular he recognized from Cheyne’s MoveOn.org events. She was with her eight-year-old daughter, obviously taking her to this historic event voting in America’s first female President. “I hope Hillary loses!” Casey screamed at them.
The woman cracked a smile. “Not likely,” she told him. The mother pulled her daughter close and stared down Casey. “Such a nasty man.”
As the election results poured in that day and Trump was demolished by a landslide loss, Casey went into a depression. It was only deepened by the email he received from Synergy letting him know that the deal they had offered was off the table. Casey found out later that Synergy had signed his star client Cheyne without him.
When Casey’s GTA contract came up for renegotiation, the agency decided not to renew. He heard through the grapevine it was not only because he’d lost The Goose, but because he’d publicly confessed to supporting Trump.
Casey was never able to recover from the series of events set off by Cheyne’s party. The agent went to work at a mid-level tenpercentery, but without his writing stable who stayed with GTA . Casey eventually left the business altogether and went to work for his father at the American Pride Car Wash chain. Lori found out more details about Casey’s adultery after digging into his cell and computer histories. She decided he would never change and eventually left him. She moved to Malibu to start a new life. It was on the tennis courts that she met her new husband, a graphic artist, surfer and environmentalist who was different from Casey in every possible way. Namely, he was honest. They soon had a daughter, a gutsy girl they named Hillary.
This is an updated excerpt from the novel American Pride released under the author's pseudonym Michael Ker in 2015 by Publisher By The Seas.