Look Don't Touch

By: Tess Oliver

I was so deep in my beer soaked misery, I hadn't noticed that Jack walked up until the chair scraped the floor. He glanced at the parade of empty shot glasses and then stared at me, seemingly assessing my state of mind, as he sat down.

He grabbed the pitcher of beer and poured himself a glass. "So did Grant really can you?"

"I don't know what else you would call it when your boss tells you to get the fuck out of his building."

"Well, shit. Maybe he'll come around when he realizes how much revenue you bring to the business." He took a long gulp of beer. Jack Hunter was one of the few individuals I'd allowed into my personal circle of friends. I had thousands of acquaintances, mostly business, but very few friends. And I preferred it that way. Jack was one of those California pretty boys who the women went nuts for. Like me, he hadn't settled down with one partner. His motives for staying single had less to do with focus and a resolve to stay unattached and more to do with the fact that he loved women, all women, and as he liked to say, he didn't want to 'miss out by tying himself down'. I'd met Jack in college. We were both studying business administration. He was from a working class family of six, where his parents put more emphasis on love than on money. And I was from a family of two, my dad and me. The only focus was on money. Love was a four letter word in our household and not just literally. Not that Jack didn't love money. He was nearly as cutthroat as me when it came to business. That and an extreme fondness for women were probably the only things we had in common.

The usual set of horny, drooling loudmouths had already taken over three of the tables lining the front of the stage. The dancer who Jack and I called Dorothy of Oz because she started her show wearing a short blue dress and red sparkly shoes had already stripped down to her red sparkly thong. Her long leg snaked around the pole as she swung her mostly naked body around. I'd never done anything more than tuck twenty dollar bills in the dancers' g-strings. Jack had a harder time keeping his hands off of them. And they had a hard time resisting him and his thick wallet.

I smacked my glass down hard on the table, not out of anger but because the earlier whiskey shots were throwing off my coordination. "Fuck it. I've been wanting to start my own private equity firm. That's what I'm going to do. If I can ever get my head back in the game. I just let things get out of control. Dad always said ignore the pain, but I forgot to ignore the pleasure."

"You don't have to ignore the pleasure. You just have to dial it back some." Jack leaned forward and rested his forearms on the table, then immediately regretted it. He wiped each arm with a napkin and sat back. "This is Jeremy Travers all over again."

I lifted a questioning brow at him. "Who the hell is Jeremy Travers or do I even want to know?"

"I went to school with this weird kid named Jeremy Travers."

"Guess I'm going to find out, whether I want to or not."

Jack nodded confidently. "Just hear me out. Jeremy wasn't such a weirdo. He was just under complete control of one of those wacky moms who thought playing video games turned kids into killers and eating candy shaved years off your life." He shrugged. "She was probably right there but then who wants to live a long life when you can't even eat candy."

"I might not be drunk enough to hear this stupid, seemingly pointless story." I slammed back the rest of my beer and refilled the glass.

"There's a point, and a good one, because, in a way, Jeremy's mom was from the same warped school of parenting as your dad. When we were in fourth grade, Becky Jones was having a birthday party. Becky was one of those sugary sweet girls that everyone liked. She brought cupcakes for every class event and she lent you her cool colored markers during art without a second thought." Jack sensed he was losing me and sped up his story. "Anyhow, Becky invited everyone in class to her party because she didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I'm pretty sure it was the first time Jeremy was ever invited to a party or at least I never saw him at one before that. Becky's parents set up a carnival theme. They had placed bowls of candy all over the house, and you could fill up little paper bags with as much candy as you liked. Jeremy, who never got to eat candy, was out from under his mom's thumb for those two hours. He shoveled that candy as if he might die without it. His mouth and tongue were stained with every color in the rainbow." The music stopped along with the usual chorus of hoots and hollers as the stage cleared for the next dancer. No longer competing with the usual clamor, Jack lowered his voice. "Jeremy ate a lot of fucking candy. Then we were sitting around singing Happy Birthday to Becky, and all of a sudden, Jeremy's eyes rolled back in his head and he had this crazy seizure right in front of all the gifts. The ambulance came. Most of us thought the whole thing was pretty cool, but Becky was crying because her party was ruined. Jeremy came back to school on Monday looking as if he wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear. It turned out he had eaten so much candy, it had spiked his blood sugar to a dangerous level." Jack finally took a breath. He waved toward me with a flourish. "And there you have it. Jeremy Travers, all over again."

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