By Kirk Shellko Loyola University
Odis was odd. No doubt was there about it. Still, Odis was in many respects a very common person. He had no children, nor did a wife live with nor girlfriend visit him, yet he possessed the same difficulties as other men, even women. Most often, Odis labored over the business activities of a man whose worth far exceeded his. He had regular work, but he also hired himself out on weekends and sometimes weeknights because though he toiled sixty to seventy hours per week, he never had enough money. Odis needed to pay his utility bill, his student debt, his electricity bill, his cell-phone and internet bill, buy a new cell phone every three months, pay his rent, his car note, his car and home insurance, his gas bill, as well as buy his bike maintenance, his replacement toothbrushes, his needle and thread, his Quaker oats, his Q-tips, his Saran wrap, his chewable vitamins, his drool-eliminator, his dandruff-control hair tonic, his suspender enforcements, his toilet paper, and his foot-sanitizer. Secretaries Day and Valentine’s Day as well as Hot Surfer Day were all coming up and there were presents and cards and gift-cards and chocolates and myriad other trifles to purchase. He owned no house; rented a car; possessed no savings and of investments Odis was able only to dream. He was rarely certain what he was supposed to do from day to day at his regular job, but there was always some spreadsheet or presentation that needed polishing or researching or some other such thing that the company needed badly quickly absolutely, and if Odis finished the spreadsheet or presentation not quickly – or even not well – enough, then his anxiety-level jumped at least one notch when his supervisor chided him. His perfect oddness was under constant threat of eviction from his apartment because he had been late with rent many times in past.
Odis enjoyed his work, sometimes, but there were times when he was not so fond of its monotony. His employer explained to him that his healthcare and his personal fulfillment were entirely his responsibility, and Odis agreed, though he was not certain what “personal fulfillment’ meant. He was very much the kind of independent man who would “go it on his own”, and Odis did just that. His progress was slow, but he was teaching himself how to diagnose physical ailments and how to operate. He would need these skills because his health insurance covered very few ailments and even fewer medical predicaments. He was learning how to cook inexpensive meals for himself, to exercise properly, to repair his leaky windows, to reupholster his dying furniture, to fix his car, to sew his own clothing, and to repair and construct his own computers. He spent five to seven minutes on each subject each and every night, and progress was discernible. Should he learn these things, he would be prepared to face any crisis, and he would need no-one to help him at all. Truly, his own boot-straps were coming up, and he was responsible.
When Odis returned home from his workday, he was exhausted, though he had not done enough work for the companies that paid him to be so lazy. He wanted only to sit down and relax, lower his anxiety-level more than he raised it. On this night he found a glass of Turner’s Sugar-Tonic in his refrigerator and sat in his favorite chair with a cold piece of meat that had been bundled in a tight wad of plastic wrap for nineteen days. He opened his mouth and fed the slightly sour, slightly foul-smelling piece of meat therein. On he turned the television, and glided along the channels from one to fifty-five. These were not the best channels, not by a long stretch. The best ones were two-hundred-thirty-two to five-hundred sixty-eight: the comedy channels. Odis sat, as on other nights, while he listened to a stand-up comedian complain about girlfriends, boyfriends and toilet paper, with a proper amount of expletives added. Odis laughed from belly to eyes and forgot about the long, thankless day of toil over profit. He called his brother and told him about this fabulous new comedian who “told it like it is.” His brother returned a hearty “ha ha” when Odis related the joke about the toilet paper, and they shared a few more of the very funny jokes about family-members, vacations and holidays. Odis prepared for sleep quite the relaxed and limber man, and he had not a care in the world. Thank goodness for comedians. When he arrived at work, Odis found a memo that told him to report to a meeting of the entire staff. The company was large and unwieldy in some ways, and when such a meeting was called, an auditorium of personages packed into diminutive plastic seats. The meeting was standard; Odis had heard it all before. The Leader of Gain explained how personal responsibility had gotten him where he was; the company offered better benefits than its competitors; everyone is part of the family of workers. One tangential note was that employees would be personally responsible for the purchase of their own uniforms. This revelation disturbed Odis; he had spent every penny of his last paycheck catching up on his credit-card debt. He owed only $878.45 now, a great deal better than the previous $1576.77.
“That’s a good card,” he thought. “The interest is only 13%.”
When Odis returned home that day, he sought only to sit before the television and watch again some of his favorite comedy. He wanted nothing of the five-to-seven minute learning sessions that he ordinarily practiced, practical and necessary though the acquired skills would be without anyone or anything assisting him in any way. This time he watched a very funny movie about a common child who becomes a detective for the CIA. At first, the government agent who reluctantly recruited the headstrong and impetuous boy scoffed at his patriotism and dismissed his assertions that terrorists were about to strike, but as he learned how this boy of eight years knew a great deal more than he did, was sagacious, and as he learned that the boy actually knew how to do everything better than he did and as they chased a cat who held an important government computer file in its mouth and contended with the emergence of a super-powered Santa Claus whose drinking habit had gotten out of control, he softened up. The CIA man even laughed at a stand-up comic who told a story about a motorcycle-riding mouse who after having fallen into a commode was swept into an underworld of rats and alligators at just the right time to convert the despotic regime that had governed there for centuries into a states-rights confederate democracy. Belly-laughs arose from the agent, the young man and his widowed mother at film’s end. Odis mused that the boy’s mother and the CIA agent would make a great couple, and they did! His heart was made warm by the steady diet of wholesome goodness that the vast and virtual entertainment complex now stuffed into the eyes, mouth, ears and nose of our finest resource: children. Odis thought about the commode humor and the toilet-paper jokes that the boy had made while he dressed himself for bed. He laugh-laughed and laughed a laugh some more. He watched a news entertainer explain to him how climate change was not real, and he laughed again. Odis was glad that he had no reason to think about such things. They were not real, only objects of derision and mockery, and he hated advocates of environmentally-responsible industry. Odis glided back to channel three-hundred twelve in order to watch an old episode of M.A.S.H. Hawkeye made him feel better by drinking and reading nudist magazines, and to bed he went glad that all of the things that were not real around him were not real.
The next workday wore Odis to the bone. He had completed a project only to find that a much-needed revision was necessary. He had not known about the revision until very near the deadline, and his supervisor said that he must finish on time. Odis had no choice but to remain after work for a few hours. No-one was able to stay with him because he was the only one who knew how to complete the project.
“Put it in my mailbox,” his supervisor said as he departed.
Odis arrived home once more tired and prepared for some fun, and tonight was a special treat. He did not realize at first, but a comedy marathon had been in progress. He missed the comedian who explained how all political parties are bad and the comic who railed at everything from mothers-in-law to the government interfering in private industry’s attempt to plant men on Mars and Venus, but another new stand-up sensation was talking about romance and relationships between siblings. Odis had five brothers and two sisters, and he recognized his own family in the complaints about how one brother pinned another down and repeatedly passed gas near his face. The comedian also talked about his brother who lived in a world of his own, manufacturing memories and facts as he thought fit. There was no way to convince him that practically all of his thoughts were almost complete delusions.
“That’s like my brother, Fred,” Odis thought.
He laughed so hard from foot to head, and Odis felt a distention in his stomach. The comedy marathon was hardly complete when Odis went into the kitchen and habitually removed one of his prepackaged meatballs from the refrigerator. He was in mid-chew when he found that he did not want to eat anything. He spat out onto his kitchen counter the meat and he paused for a moment, realizing that he needed no food, as if some laugh from the marathon had fed him. When Odis sat again before his web-screen television, he found that the laughter from the comedian somehow sated him. Not only did he not need any food, but he wanted no food.
“Strange,” thought Odis.
He went to bed sated and content, and when he awoke next morning, he turned again on the television and the marathon continued. He sat and watched a comedian talk about frustrations at work, and when Odis passed through his day at the office, he needed no food. On this day, his supervisor took Odis into his office and personally explained how the company needed to cut back due to the great recession and so Odis’ salary, along with everyone else’s, was to be cut by 8%. His supervisor and the owner of the company decided to spread the cuts around the office as lightly as possible.
“But we need some cuts,” he explained.
Odis was curious.
“May I ask if your salary was cut?”
“That’s all Odis. See you later.”
Odis was not disturbed by the news somehow. He wanted only to laugh, which was easy because his belly was filled with hilarity. When he returned home, he found that the marathon continued. Odis was so glad that he was recording it. He sat down once again and another newer comedian talked about boats and how he survived a lack of toilet paper when he last sailed across the Atlantic. He complained about his mother-in-law, Opra and one of his daughter’s friends and how said friend picked his nose at inopportune moments. He suggested that during stressful moments Opra picked her nose too. Odis thought his story was so funny that he forgot to sit up from his chair all night. He had not eaten since lunch-time but his belly was full. Odis neither ate nor drank the remainder of the evening, but he awoke satisfied and properly hydrated. He watched another episode of the continuing marathon before he left for work and took with him no food or drink. His supervisor congratulated him on his completion of the project and gave him more responsibilities.
“You are an asset to our company,” he said to Odis.
Four more projects with short deadlines were now piled on Odis’ desk, but he had with him a shield. His belly chuckled every time he thought that his work was too heavy or his compensation too little. He labored over the first project all that first day because its deadline arrived in three. Odis needed to stay late that night again, and again the night that followed, but he had no need of sleep, nor need of water. He arrived home on these nights to find a plate of mirth and glee waiting for him on his dining-room table.
“Ha Ha Ha ha Ha” piled one on top of the other.
There were Ha’s with cheese and Ha’s with pepper and meat mixed with Ha’s and sugar-water Ha’s. Odis devoured them all and when he stood before his supervisor once again, he was informed that his breaks from work in the morning were no longer available to him, but Odis was not fazed by the news; he removed from his pocket a bag of giggles and began to consume heehee’s before even he exited the office. Odis arrived as quickly as possible home in order to view that day’s stand up. The marathon continued to run, and Odis was grateful, but he was somewhat dismayed when he found that he was unable to turn off the web-screen television; a constant stream of comedy shows he would hear all night no matter whether he liked it. Still, as long his cable channels two-hundred-thirty-two to five-hundred sixty-eight remained operational, he was calm. Seven hours of slumber later he found himself in the kitchen with a fresh breakfast-plate of joviality and a small serving of Ha’s. He carried with him sugar-dust sprinkled amusement in his pockets and he had bagged a broiled plate of mirth. Odis believed himself fortunate that he digested a steady stream of giggles from the radio personalities who occupied his car speakers. They laughed at romance and sometimes dared to vocalize an expletive or two, and Odis chuckled with them about commodes and bosses as he drove. On this day Odis learned that there were to be lay-offs from his main place of employment, but he remained in good cheer. One of his favorite comedians, Jack Rack, gave a special that day – the clueless male corrupting his daughter with bribes and defying authorities with ignorance, family-oriented commode humor and super-Santa holiday antics abounding.
Odis felt good on most days now, since his diet had changed from food and water to mirth and humor, laughter and giggles. When he was unable to listen to stand-up, he felt tired and angry somehow; a few moments of situation comedy classics like “Home Improvement” and “Friends” set him a-right. Still, there began a few days when a certain nausea plagued him, though he had listened to a sufficient amount of Pisney animated antics. He found that he was unable to think clearly when these bouts arrived, but a few extra jokes about mothers-in-law, relationships and more commode humor calmed him. Odis prepared a steady stream of laughter for his every meal, and he snacked on teehee’s in the late morning, early afternoon and late evenings. The tee’s sweetened the hees’ a bit too much, but they were also very potent and were certain to rid him of his nausea. Hee’s regularly complained about landlords, high rent and living in the projects and Tee’s seemed to enjoy laughing at three men poking each other in the eyes, pounding one another with hammers and wriggling on the floor of a spaceship that took them unwillingly to the moon.
“It’s alright,” he thought as he bit into some candied merrymaking. “An ounce of prevention….”
The merrymaking was sour and sweet at the same time, and one bite released him from care. Odis had not earned enough money to pay his many bills when the new month began, and he needed to cut costs. His food bill had shrunk, but his purchase of comedy DVDs, CDs and online recordings had taken the place of that expense, with fervor. Odis found as many free comedy websites and downloads as possible and as he began to feel nauseous more regularly, just so did he increase his intake of glee. He carried with him three bags of merriment and two of glee dusted with good humor each day, and when he heard that his closest work-friend was forced into early retirement, these sacks of spritely spirit made him lighter and increased his step. The country was going to war with some place on the other side of the planet, but Odis had learned how to inject sunshine of the mind into his veins directly. He had not eaten in four months and his water bill was almost nothing because he drank nearly no fluids. He needed no longer to go to the bathroom, except to clean himself and become presentable enough for his fellow workers. The office mood dampened, the thoughts and aspirations of all the employees dropped precipitously as more cuts, layoffs and longer hours loomed. War was here and terrorists arose everywhere, and no-one was precisely aware of what laws were passed or who was presently in office. Odis knew that his fellow workers were just the same as he. They all loved comedy and welcomed him and his DVDs of hilarity into their homes and offices. They were aware of most of the comedy dishes that were served, but Odis had become a connoisseur of Comedy. He served them candied Hee’s flavored with healthy sprinklings of Tee’s as well as bowl-fulls of jovial mirthfulness. No-one was able to resist the urge to dine with Odis and he thus became a celebrity. He created a website where he linked the most famous and best of comedians to the rest of the world, and it received twelve million hits on one single day.
On that same day he received news that a valuable co-worker, one of his closest friends, had suffered a stroke and would be paralyzed for life. When he returned home, he took out a large bag of Tee’s, a cupful of Ha’s, one large chuckle, two guffaws, and a beautiful giggling fit he had just bought at the store and after beating, fluffing, and searing them together found himself gazing at his most decadent dish to date. Then he began his meal.
“Truly, this is a joyful day,” he thought.