Saturday, May 28, 2022

Henry: Honesty is the Best Policy

Mike Henry
Mike Henry

You made me so mad yesterday. Good thing I am preternaturally composed—in total control. Look me in the eyes, listen and learn: Honesty is the best policy when you discover you’re not going to get away with lying again.

And before I forget, don’t you ever call me again while I am in surgery. It’s hard enough doing a brain transplant without my phone buzzing every few seconds, having to reach into my jeans under my surgical gown and get all that squishy gooey pinky brain stuff all over it.  People think it’s easy to build a brain transplant practice.  Take it from me.  It’s getting harder and harder to convince donors to give up their brains, even though it’s obvious they’re not using it. I’m thinking of running ads on some of the reality t.v. shows that target more intelligent viewers.  A well-done commercial might convince a donor to give his or her brain to save some pitiful donee from a lifetime of ignorance. On second thought, it might not. People are so damned selfish. 

Back to you, you lying s.o.b. You asked me to return your rental car to the local leasing agency because you allegedly were scheduled to perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number Two for your nephew in his neo-natal unit at the charity hospital run by the Tiny Sisters of the Homely and Disgusting Poor.  I owed you a favor since you had hired the hit men who rubbed out the entire staff of the telemarketing firm that called me every day for the last three months asking if I was happy with my erectile dysfunction medicine.  I chuckled as I imagined their office looking just like the workplace in the opening scene in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, when Robert Redford walks in and sees all of his co-workers wiped out, the mimeograph machine going kerplunk, kerplunk, pumping out page after page of secret stuff, and the Keurig low-water blue light blinking ominously. 

You mentioned a minor scratch on the Hudson you rented, but were careful to park it so I could only see the driver’s side when you gave me the keys and your rental contract. I pulled into the HertzSoBad downtown branch, slightly bumping the front of their office trailer, which happened to sit precariously on skinny little cinder blocks. The trailer teetered a moment, and fell over. The manager climbed out the front door onto what was now the roof of the office trailer, leapt the ten feet or so onto the parking lot, sticking the finish. He stood proudly, hands on his hips, and asked what he could do for me. 

I said I was turning in the rental for a friend. He walked around the Hudson and studied the passenger side for an hour and twenty minutes. Being highly intuitive, I began to suspect something.

“Anything wrong?” I asked. 

“Did you notice this?”

I walked around the Hudson to join the manager. “My friend said he put a small scratch….”

I stopped explaining when I saw the entire passenger side was crushed. Rear and front fenders were dangling, almost torn off; both doors crunched and pushed in, inoperable. 

“Is this going to be a problem?” I asked.

“Shirley,” the manager yelled up to the trailer roof. 

A neatly-coiffed secretary in her sixties clutching a file climbed out of the trailer door onto the roof. She sat down rather hard, almost tumbling off to join us on the parking lot below. Shirley stabilized herself, tugged at her hem to cover her knees, paged through the file, and pulled out a form.

“The customer declined coverage,” Shirley screamed. 

“Maybe it was like this when he rented it,” I said. “Perhaps he didn’t notice these little nicks.”

The manager pursed his lips, causing me to wonder where the hell that term came from, because his lips did not look like a woman’s purse. I made a mental note to consult my vest pocket OED.

“What the hell,” the manager said. “He looked like an honest guy to me. Let’s just forget about it. The next renter probably won’t notice.”

“Most people who rent don’t use the passenger side anyway,” I offered, encouraging the manager along. “Do you need some help getting back on the roof to get through your front door?”

“Nah,” he said as a rope ladder cascaded from the roof and hit him in the head. He stepped onto the first rung causing the ladder to grow taut. I backed away and watched Shirley, her feet braced against the door jamb, holding the other end.  

I walked away, thinking how beneficial it is in today’s world to have an honest face like yours, and wondering where I could hire a muscular secretary like Shirley.

Michael Henry is a writer in Oxford. A graduate of Tulane and Virginia Law School, Henry published his seventh novel, Finding Ishmael, in April, 2014.