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Perhaps the fact that the weather was so shitty should have been a clear omen that today wasn’t going to be the spectacular turning point in Gerald’s life that he thought it would be, but as a matter of fact, Gerald quite enjoyed gloomy weather.

And how could today possibly turn out bad?

Earlier this week, he’d finally worked up the nerve to ask out the drop dead gorgeous woman he’d previously only ever had the pleasure of seeing when his hair needed trimming (which, funnily enough, had recently become once every three or four days), and they were seeing each other tonight.

After the fifth time in three short weeks that this busty hairdresser had spent half an hour bending unnecessarily far over Gerald’s ever-growing lap to trim his ever-shrinking fringe, Gerald had dug up the courage to stumble his way through an awkward invitation to dinner.

If we’re being honest here, Gerald had deliberately stuttered, mumbled and fidgeted as nervously as he could during his date proposal to come across as cute and vulnerable, thereby masking his true intentions of pounding her metaphorical back door all night before discreetly slipping out through her real one the next morning.

The sooner the better, too, because she was fucking terrible at her job. His hair looked like some kind of bizarre bird’s nest, and Gerald had resorted to wearing a beanie whenever he wasn’t in sight of this latest endeavour of his.

Anyway, the fact that this deceptive technique had actually scored him a hot date with this sexy idiot had inspired a bold new “just go for it” attitude, which had caused Gerald to walk into his boss’s office and demand consideration for what would be their department’s top story of the week.

The article was going to be about the winner of “Sloppy Seconds”, a primetime reality television show where two girls fight over a guy for 18 episodes, demonstrating their prevailing love for him by eating gross food, carrying out demeaning tasks and generally humiliating themselves in creative ways until he chooses which girl he’d like to marry.

It was a controversial series, to say the least, and there’d been countless scandals and lawsuits in previous seasons.

One contestant had actually choked to death on camera while stuffing 19 hotdogs in her mouth, and another was hospitalised when one of her fellow contestants removed her artificial leg and beat her over the head with it.

A third was disqualified for removing her glass eye and performing sexual acts on the bachelor with her eye socket (apparently she thought she’d found a loophole in the “no sexual favours before the series finale” clause).

The current season’s final episode would air tonight, and the story would be in the “Hot Goss” section of the Ottawa Observer’s weekend edition, where people might vaguely register the headline as they pulled the page out and used it to line their birdcage.

Gerald had taken the initiative to write two articles in preparation for the big event – one where the shrill and ill-tempered blonde from Atlanta wins, and another where the former nun-turned puppeteer wins.

On a personal note, Gerald was rooting for the puppeteer. She had renounced her Christian faith to pursue a career in adapting well-known pornographic films for the theatre… with puppets.

Anyway, regardless of who won, Gerald had an article about the trials and tribulations of their path to victory ready to go to print as soon as the verdict came in. Both articles were saved on his computer – edited, fact-checked and approved for publication the moment the finale ended tonight, just in time for print in the following morning’s newspaper.

His boss, Sandra, had half-glanced up from her desk to acknowledge Gerald’s wise forward-thinking, and Gerald had half-glanced back from the doorway to double-check her level of enthusiasm. It hadn’t suddenly surged in the last six seconds like he’d hoped, but he was excited nonetheless.

Sandra had announced earlier this week that her workload was getting a little ridiculous, and she would soon require a deputy editor. Anyone who was interested in the role should email her directly before the end of the week (which Gerald had done), and she would make a decision by Friday.

So that’s why Gerald wasn’t bothered by the gloomy weather – today was Friday, and this morning he was getting a long-awaited promotion from “irrelevant cubicle stooge” to “important corner office guy”, and then tonight his penis was getting an even longer-awaited promotion from “flaccid and unused” to “currently ejaculating all over a beautiful hairdresser’s tits and face”.

If you haven’t figured it out for yourself yet, Gerald is a bit of an asshole.

It only took Gerald the brief few hours between lunch and dinner to completely fuck his life up. Of course, the fact that he skipped both those meals probably had something to do with it, along with an ill-advised impulse buy, enough rum to sedate a pirate, and a bar stool that really wasn’t located where it should’ve been.

The brief few hours between breakfast and lunch, on the other hand, went so smoothly that Gerald could not have had any idea what was coming.

Even before breakfast things were off to a pleasant start, when Gerald woke up five minutes early and treated himself to a quick wank that ended with him using last night’s fast-food wrappers to wipe the contents of his orgasm off his stomach and chest (and a tiny bit off his neck, too – Cersei Lannister’s naked walk through King’s Landing on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones had caused it to be a particularly violent and fruitful wank).

Anyway, by the time Gerald hit the road for work, his day was off to a good start. He swung by his local café, Hipsta Barista, where the establishment’s namesake looked up from behind his coffee station and welcomed him warmly.

“Cheer-old! Friend of mine, how are yourself this date?”

Hipsta Barista was Ukrainian. He was also exceptionally good at making coffee, and a fine example that learning a new language by reading the exact same edition of an English and Ukrainian version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban side-by-side won’t teach you the ins and outs of English grammar.

But nonetheless, he was a cheerful lad – when he wasn’t bellyaching about how Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea had created a huge rift between himself and his wife, an Odessa-born beauty named Людмила (best pronounced by developing a severe cold and then coughing a lot).

She was in favour of a Ukraine reunited with Russia, whereas Mr Hipsta Barista wanted liberation by the European Union. Apparently this had led to Mrs Barista (now Ms Former Barista) walking out on their marriage, packing up all her shit (and most of his), heading back to Ukraine, and having their pet goldfish put down as there was no longer anyone at home all day to take care of it.

Mr Hipsta Barista now cried every night and most of each day while serving customers, much to the dismay of those with enough time on their hands to write negative TripAdvisor reviews.

Gerald found it absurd that two people could be married for several years before such a massive difference in political opinion even came up in conversation. He also found it absurd that you can have a goldfish “put down” by a vet.

And finally, Gerald found it absurd that Hipsta Barista could take this long to make a coffee – perhaps by the time Gerald was sipping his latte, Russia will have been muscled out of Crimea and Hipsta Barista could happily return to his liberated homeland with a brand new goldfish.

When he eventually did get to the office, still wiping Mr Barista’s tears off his shoulder, Gerald underwent the standard routine of taking a seat at his workstation, logging in, reading a few emails and generally making sure that the rest of the office had seen him show up at 9am.

Now that they had, he could head to the bathroom from 9:08 to 9:43 and enjoy blissful solitude while he removed any remnants of this morning’s recently consumed coffee from his body in perhaps the least glamorous way possible, all the while wondering if perhaps he was in denial of being lactose intolerant.

Gerald then returned to his desk for a grand total of 86 seconds, before heading down to the cafeteria for another coffee to sip while he finally started working, about an hour after he was supposed to.

He glanced at the clock in the bottom corner of his computer screen and calculated that he had about 2.5 hours until his lunch break, at which point his work week was effectively over.

You see, while Gerald had no trouble telling anyone he crossed paths with that he was a subeditor and journalist for the Ottawa Observer, he usually neglected to mention that 90% of his job was to attend viewings of houses for sale, take photographs, and list any standout qualities of the property.

Despite the steady decline of print media in recent years, the newspaper’s budget still allowed for a real estate journalist to personally attend these viewings and report on his or her findings.

For Gerald’s part, he would conveniently arrange all of his house viewings to be during the second half of his workday towards the end of the week, so that he could spend his Thursday and Friday afternoons sneaking beers, joints and the occasional dose of LSD on the job.

Today was no exception, and lunch-time couldn’t come sooner. Once that clock ticked over to 12:30pm, it was all beef lasagna lunches, cigarettes in the car, pale ales, and busty hairdresser cleavage.

As Gerald contemplated this, he surprised himself in noticing that all of his favourite pastimes involved the use of his mouth.

Gerald was roused from his erotic daydreams by a tap on the shoulder. He spun around in his seat to find the overly enthusiastic and exhaustingly anecdotal new junior graphic designer beaming back at him. Gerald did a very poor job of hiding his disdain.

“Hi Gerard,” he muttered.

“Hi Gerald!”

Yes, the similarity in their names was probably why Gerard had latched onto Gerald from day one. Gerald had been optimistic in thinking Gerard would eventually move on, while Gerard had been optimistic in thinking Gerald would eventually warm to him.

At least they were both “glass half full” kind of people. However, this optimism hadn’t served either of them any good so far.

Gerard had been working at the Ottawa Observer for several weeks now, and his disappointment in failing to win Gerald’s approval was matched only by Gerald’s disappointment in failing to shake this annoying new employee.

Gerald managed to last about 12 minutes into a riveting story about spending the weekend untangling old coat hangers, before he interrupted Gerard with a toilet-related emergency. It was really only a half-excuse… Gerald’s current diet meant that nature called several times a day.

As he emerged from the toilet cubicle for the second time that morning, having just wiped equal parts shit and blood away from what was surely close to being a prolapsed anus, Gerald seriously considered that he might actually be lactose intolerant.

But hey – he’d flushed it all down the toilet along with Gerard’s coat hanger story, and now it was time for some house viewings.

The first viewing had gone down without a hitch. It was a three-bedroom apartment on Bronson Avenue, right in the heart of Ottawa – a very desirable location. No sooner had Gerald taken photos of each room than a guy in a suit came bustling through the door with a pregnant woman and a toddler.

Gerald took this as his leave, and managed to slink out without more than two minutes’ chit-chat with the real estate agent – perfect.

His next viewing was nearby, on Cooper Street. Rather than retrieving his car from the Albert Street parking lot, Gerald opted to travel from Property A to Property B on foot.

Was it to milk his paid time outside of the office? Was it to soak up the revitalising February snow blowing sideways into his face? Or was it perhaps because there was a liquor store ideally situated between the two house viewings? That’s for Gerald to know and for you to speculate.

Whatever his motivations were, Gerald arrived at the Cooper Street viewing with gum in his mouth and a distinct flask-shaped bulge in his suit jacket.

“Gerald, glad to see you could make it,” the realtor feigned warmth as he shook Gerald’s hand at the door. “Please, take a look around and let me know if you have any questions.”

Gerald didn’t have any questions. Of course, he didn’t have any questions. He didn’t even have any fucking interest. In the apartment. In the newspaper. In this whole fuckin’ city. Who wants to live in Ottawa, anyway? The streets are full of sleazy politicians and scheming businessmen… that’s why Jeremy got the promotion today, not Gerald.

The email had come through while Gerald was waiting in line at the liquor store. Upon skimming the email and seeing a whole bunch of Jeremies where there should’ve been Geralds, the latter hastily added an additional flask of rum to his basket at check-out… plus a lighter… plus a pack of cigarettes.

The checkout chick’s judgmental eye lingered on Gerald for perhaps a moment too long, but he didn’t notice because his appraising eye was lingering on her chest for perhaps a moment too long.

Unlike the previous viewing, this one had a genuine buzz about it. In fact, that’s putting it mildly – Gerald could hardly move inside the apartment. People were scrambling to inspect every room, try every switch and tap, and fill out applications. The mood was tense and competitive.

He took a few photographs for the newspaper, but they looked more like blurry fan pics at a music festival. This whole exercise was hopelessly unnecessary anyway – with this amount of interest, the apartment would be sold before this “story” was even published.

The silver lining of such lively surroundings was that Gerald could help himself to as many sips of his flask as he liked; everyone was too preoccupied to notice the tipsy journalist stumbling around, taking pictures of people’s feet.

Everyone, that is, except one.

“Oh my god, are you a house writer?”

Even if Gerald hadn’t already been half a flask of rum deep, he would’ve struggled to comprehend that one. Was she implying that he wrote from home? Did she mean that he wrote houses? Maybe she thought he was a screenwriter for the TV show, House M.D.

Gerald didn’t give the question much thought. Mostly because he didn’t need to answer – the woman who’d asked it had already been distracted by her phone ringing. But once she answered, he’d been distracted as well.

How enormous do a woman’s breasts need to be that they jiggle when she talks on the phone?!

Once the woman finished her call, Gerald made it clear that he could use his sway to help her get a great deal on the apartment. To this, the woman suggested that he needed to see her current apartment in order to determine whether she was worthy of this new one.

I know there’s a few flawed bits of logic here, but this woman’s undercarriage didn’t care about that, and it was on Gerald’s face before he’d even had time to object. Once it was on there, Gerald needed to reserve any gasp of fresh air he got just to inhale and exhale. There was no room for complaining.

He didn’t even remember how they got from the home viewing back to her apartment.

One moment he was flirting with her in the middle of a crowded Cooper Street apartment, trying in earnest to keep his gaze about eight inches higher than where he wanted to be looking, and the next moment he was giving that same taboo area his full and undivided attention.

Time seemed to smudge along with this lady’s makeup, and it was at some point during all this sweaty fun that Gerald spotted the clock on the wall. His heart lurched as he registered the time.

“Sloppy Seconds!” Gerald exclaimed.

He reached over his current sexual partner’s furiously bobbing head to fumble for the remote controller, and switched on the TV just in time to learn that the erotic puppeteer had won. Gerald cheered, as he celebrated two climaxes at once.

Jeremy might have won the battle (receiving a well-earned promotion), but Gerald was determined to win the war (writing an article, which was literally part of his job description).

Little did Gerald know that when he called the office, the odds were instantly stacked against him. An enthusiastic Gerard answered; apparently he’d stayed back after hours to create some memes.

A dizzy and disoriented Gerald asked a confused and jittery Gerard to re-tag a particular file from orange to blue, and then drag it into a specific folder.

“Done,” Gerard confirmed.

Gerald grinned. “Done.”

And with that, Gerald collapsed back onto the luxurious sheets. He’d never been with a girl whose husband had such a nice house before, and he clearly intended to make the most of this lady’s generous hospitality.

The two of them spent a few more hours together, drinking wine and fornicating until Gerald suddenly remembered there was somewhere he needed to be.

By the time Gerald staggered into the Shaggy Beard, he was well on his way to losing most of his basic motor skills. His breath reeked of alcohol, and the rest of him reeked of cheap perfume and fish, for some reason.

Meanwhile, the busty hairdresser was well on her way to losing her patience. Gerald had already texted to postpone their meeting time twice, and now she had been waiting at the Shaggy Beard for over an hour.

Gerald spotted her sulking near the back corner, perched up high on a stool with her legs crossed, the foot of the upper leg jiggling impatiently as she assessed him with a scolding glare on her face. He nodded, more to himself than to anyone else, to acknowledge that yes, she was in fact here and he had seen her.

He stumbled over to her, weaving between the various tables and chairs, and slumped into a seat. To Gerald’s bewilderment, he found himself sitting alone. Only once he swiveled around in his chair did he realise that he’d brushed straight past the busty hairdresser and sat down at the next table, with his back to her.

Chuckling to himself, he slapped his leg and threw his head back. “My mistake darling,” he slurred.

“I hope you have a good excuse, Gerald,” she said as he got to his feet and shuffled over until he was standing before her, only slightly taller than her on the stool. She recoiled as he came close. “Oh, Gerald, you stink.”

“I was celebrating.” The words came out in one jumbled heap. “We’re celebrating.”

“Yeah? What exactly are you celebrating, Gerald? Acting like a drunken dickhead in public?” She pressed her hand onto his chest to push him away as he was swaying forwards into her.

He was wearing a lopsided grin, and his eyes kept focusing in and out. What he said next was pretty close to incomprehensible. But not quite. And the busty hairdresser definitely comprehended it.

Her hands had already been in her purse, looking for her keys. She paused and shot him an incredulous frown. “What? What did you say, Gerald?”

He leaned in closer and she recoiled at his breath again. “I said…” but it got lost in his heavy breathing. “I was saying… I want… I want to...”

More gibberish… still almost incomprehensible, but still not quite. It was enough to paint a picture.

The busty hairdresser stopped fidgeting and sat dead still, staring at Gerald the way people stare at someone when they bend over to pick up a cigarette butt off the ground and put it in their mouth.

It probably would have been better if she’d cut Gerald off rather than falling silent, because he followed up with some of the foulest suggestions to ever come out of a human’s mouth.

The busty hairdresser, whose name we’ll never know, rose from her seat and quietly left the bar. She hadn’t caught the whole string of ramblings, but she understood enough to know that Gerald wanted her to suck something.

For the record, no one sucked anything of Gerald’s that night. In fact, no one paid him much attention at all, which was bad in another way.

The next few hours were a haze of disgusted women shying away from Gerald’s advances, indifferent bartenders ignoring Gerald’s money-wielding hand, hostile bouncers violently removing Gerald from the premises, delicious fast-food devoured in dirty alleyways, not-so-delicious fast-food vomited back up in other dirty alleyways, disgruntled taxi drivers barely tolerating their sick and semi-comatose passenger, fumbling house keys, half-cooked frozen pizzas and shit-smeared toilet seats.

What’s ridiculous is that Gerald found himself short on toilet paper, today of all days. Gerald stared out the bathroom window at the pre-dawn twilight, slightly swaying on the toilet seat (which only served to further smear the poop across his ass cheeks) and almost had an epiphany… almost.

Instead though, he just lit a cigarette, which soon engulfed the entire apartment en-suite with a thick smog of second-hand smoke.

Eventually, Gerald did have an epiphany. At the time, it didn’t seem like a life-changing one. In fact, it barely qualified as a situation-changing one.

Gerald realised that the morning newspaper should be on his doorstep by now, and he could use it to wipe his ass clean.

Slowly but surely, Gerald staggered from his bathroom to the front door, pants around his ankles and dried shit encrusted to his asshole. He retrieved the weekend edition of the Ottawa Observer, and returned to the still warm toilet seat, ready to fix his predicament.

However, once Gerald squinted for long enough to focus his eyesight on the gossip section of the newspaper, he realised that his current predicament went far beyond running out of toilet paper.

For several moments, Gerald puzzled at the image of an all-too-recognisable shrill and ill-tempered blonde from Atlanta, Georgia. Above her, in big block letters: WINNER!

Gerald might have been drunk beyond all reasoning, but he was 100% adamant that he’d seen the guy ride off into the sunset with the nun-turned-puppeteer in last night’s season finale.

Gerald’s brain went into overdrive, and his stomach dropped – the Ottawa Observer had published the wrong fucking story.

By the time early-rising Canadians were yawning as they retrieved their morning paper, pouring themselves a coffee, leafing through the pages and cottoning onto the fact that the Ottawa Observer had made a colossal mistake for which the journalist and subeditor in charge of the story would grievously pay, Gerald couldn’t care less.

This is because right around the time that the North American public was learning of Gerald’s mistake, Gerald was fast asleep behind the wheel, snoring like a lawnmower while his car soared along a snowy highway at 120km an hour, weaving back and forth across the thin white line painted down the middle of the road as if his car was the needle that was stitching the two lanes together.

He actually got extremely lucky for a remarkable amount of time, veering the favourable way as the road curved left and right, and it was nothing short of a miracle that not a single other soul had been inclined to drive along that same stretch of road at that exact time on that particular morning. Gerald’s death-defying antics went completely unnoticed.

For the last 350 metres or so, Gerald’s hands weren’t even on the steering wheel – they’d slipped off into his lap as his car lurched to the right and drifted over the painted line for a final time.

As all four wheels made their way over to the wrong side of the road and continued their trajectory towards the opposite shoulder and the ditch beyond, Gerald started lazily playing with himself in his sleep.

A short tunnel loomed ahead. Again, miraculously, luck was in Gerald’s favour (perhaps not as much as all the other journalists who had managed to get the correct story published in the newspaper and maintain their jobs and integrity, but still… luck was in his favour more so than all the people who had ever smashed into a wall at 120km an hour).

The trajectory of Gerald’s speeding car was just shy of barreling into the brick wall beside the entrance to the tunnel. Instead, Gerald’s car rocketed through the tunnel entrance and grinded against the tunnel’s inner wall, jolting Gerald awake as sparks flew along the side of his car.

If things had stayed that way, the car would have continued scraping along the tunnel wall on the wrong side of the road until it shot out the other side of the tunnel, at which point Gerald would have presumably taken his foot off the accelerator and slowed to a safe speed.

But things didn’t stay that way. In Gerald’s shock, he grabbed the wheel and spun it away from the wall, which sent his car careening across the tunnel into the opposite wall… the last 3 or 4 metres of wall, that is. Because then there was no wall. The tunnel was finished, and Gerald’s car went soaring off the road towards the ditch that followed.

Weightlessness. It seemed to go on forever. It felt like an eternity, but at the same time it wasn’t even long enough for Gerald to move a muscle. He just sat there, frozen in this incredible moment of soaring through the air, with the snowy bank of hard ground looming ahead of him larger and larger as his car arched downwards.

He was probably still travelling at about 80km an hour when the nose of his car ploughed straight into the ditch. Gerald remembered seeing a massive spray of powdered snow rushing towards him, and had a nanosecond memory of a time when he sneezed halfway through snorting a line of cocaine.

He never saw the airbag deploy or the windscreen shatter. And even if he’d seen it, he certainly wouldn’t remember.

The other thing Gerald never saw was his life flash before his eyes.

All that flashed before his eyes were a few quick, random frames of himself playing some anonymous girl’s naked ass cheeks like a bongo drum while she laid on her belly watching TV. She looked bored.

Then it was all black.


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