Max dropped out of college five years ago to become a—to become a what? A writer? An artist? A professional basketball player? It doesn’t matter. Max is none of these things. This is what he is: a man being fired.
Max is blankly staring at his boss, Rick, who sits at the far end of a long oak table. Rick is wearing a white shirt and a red tie. Three perfectly aligned pens (red, blue, black) peek out from their holder in his breast pocket.
Rick is going bald. His naturally spiky white hair loops itself around a dome of bare skin atop his head; a white picket fence protecting nothing. His naked scalp shines from the fluorescent lighting overhead, as if freshly varnished by a bowling ball cleaner.
Max hates this man because he does not have a pocket pen holder himself. His pens, a jumbled mess in his left pants pocket, share their living quarters with a cell phone, a movie ticket stub, and some mints.
Max’s pens are often out of ink. At his desk (that is, before his desk was relocated to a shoebox), he would rummage through his pocket until he found a pen. He would uncap it and touch its tip to the paper.
Then he would vigorously scratch with the empty vessel until the white sheet was scarred with attempted sentences and, after he’d given up, angrily carved geometric patterns. Max would then put the pen back into his pocket. Maybe next time, he would think.
“Max, are you listening?” asks Rick, cocking his head. “Again, I’m sorry I have to do this. But, as you know, we are going through–”
Max is no longer in this office. He is on a basketball court, surrounded by thousands of rabid fans, and it is the championship. His team is down by one point and there is only ten seconds left on the clock. The cheering fans, their faces and chests painted with the team colors, stomp their feet and clap their hands like war-painted Spartans preparing for battle.
Max is dribbling toward the other end of the court, ahead of everyone else. Damn, he is fast.
Max jumps into the air and rockets through space. Time stretches itself out as he extends his arms upward. Camera bulbs flash. His full head of hair undulates in slow motion.
He slams the basketball into the hoop just before the final horns blare, echoing throughout the pulsating cocoon of the stadium.
The crowd goes insane. Everyone is on their feet. Some people are dancing. Others are hugging fellow fans, crying tears of joy.
The entire stadium rushes the court, swarming around Max. He is covered in sweat and his heart is hammering with adrenaline. His chest is going to explode, he is so happy.
From the mass of hands, arms, and faces surrounding Max appears a basketball and a plea for an autograph. He is happy to oblige. He takes the basketball and a magic marker from the elated fan. He uncaps the marker and touches its tip to the ball’s freckled, leathery surface. He signs his name with ease. The marker is full of ink. Hell, it’s oozing the stuff.