From short story JASON LOOK

At work that next day, I quit my job. I decided maybe I'd work as a freelancer. I decided the ninetosixeverybodyelseisdoingitsowhatthehell wasn't for me. Nice and all, just notforme. I decided I'd try out working as a freelancer. That's what people were calling unemployment those days. I mean, if Jenny got by on a freelance wage, I figured I'd be all right.

I spent the next month in my bedroom. For the most part. First I was gettingtogethermyportfolio. Then I was reevaluatingmyportfolio. Then I was buildingmyresume. And for a while I was designingmyportfoliowebsite. Eventually I developed the habit of stealingthingsfromcornerdelis. It was an excuse to leave the apartment. It was something to do.

It started with a pack of gum. I asked Ebrahim for a pack of Kamel Reds, which was a deceit in itself because I had mostly stopped smoking (since I didn't smoke in the house and I never left the house). And as he was reaching for the cigarettes, which were under the counter because even most hipsters weren't dumb enough to smoke Reds, I pocketed a Juicy Fruit.

I felt bad because Ebrahim was a pretty good guy. I smoked the entire pack in my bedroom in about thirty two minutes. It was a hell of an accomplishment and I felt like if I could smoke an entire pack in thirty two minutes, I could probably take my resumeportfoliowebsite and shove it. And then I remembered why I'd smoked the pack to begin with, and it was because of that look on Ebrahim's face after I'd paid. He'd thought I was all right. Might've had to do with me being white. Probably also because he could tell I was a Jew. (I was pretty sure he was Israeli. Actually I was goddamn certain.)

So I went back across the street and asked him for another pack of Kamel Reds. He gave me a funny look, and probably not just because I'd asked him the same thing thirty eight minutes before. Probably more because I must've looked like a total nutjob, having just smoked an entire pack of cigarettes in thirty two minutes. But hell, I was a total nutjob, so I wasn't going to hold it against him. And I slipped the Juicy Fruit back when he wasn't looking.

The next day I asked Ebrahim for another pack of Kamel Reds and received another strange look. I pocketed what I was pretty sure was the exact same Juicy Fruit, paid, and exited. It was exhilarating. And I don't usually use that word. In fact, I looked it up in the dictionary just to make sure it wasn't one of those words people used incorrectly. And it wasn't. I was definitely feeling "very happy, animated, or elated" and as I ran down North 8th Street, towards the water, I decided to hell with diction, sometimes word choice didn't mean shit.

I threw the Juicy Fruit into the East River and watched it sink without any sort of symbolic hesitation. It just sank straight down. And I didn't bother taking the time to check out the skyline--I was much too happy, animated, or elated. Then I headed straight back to H-Q and started to plot my next move. It was around then that I thought about what my mother would tell me if she were still around.

The next few days I stuck to the turf. By the end of the week I'd pocketed Juicy Fruits from every cornerdeli on Bedford from Divisadero Street to Nassau Avenue. That was eleven cornerdelis by my count. That was eleven packs of Juicy Fruit, eleven packs of cigarettes. Needless to say I took up gum chewing and re took up smoking. Needless to say I was getting pretty damned good at the old stickgumpocket. Needless to say by the end of the week I was ready for a new racket.

Needless to say I'd sort of broken my agoraphobic habits and picked up (I looked this one up) kleptomaniac ones. All this time I'd silently wondered to myself whatthefuckisthatguytalkingabout whenever the word was mentioned (in colloquial conversation that'd make me feel like a watermelon). Whatthefuckiskelptomania? Needless to say I didn't know then what I know now. Needless to say I was excited because this was finally becoming my story. Not hers .

Then there was this night in my apartment. I'd chewed about two packs. At least. I was emptying my wastebasket. Full of gum wrappers. And there was all this stuff at the bottom. Stuck. And it wouldn't come out and I had to scrape it out. But goddamn it wouldn't scrape out, all I had was a pocketknife and it wasn't cutting it. I got the brilliant idea that what I needed was a paint scraper. What I needed was to steal a paint scraper. And then I thought, you know, Juicy Fruit was getting old.

I stole a paint scraper at Ace Hardware the next day. It was easy. Easier than I expected. Which got me to thinking maybe it's about time I moved on.

As I scraped the gum off the bottom of my wastebasket, I planned my next move. I was planning on really taking authorship now. I was all ready. All for.

Then she came back into the story.

:: More excerpts ::

*This excerpt is used with the permission of author & is from a much larger & unpublished short story.