American Fiction Contemporary

In the office lounge of a Real Estate firm in Central New Jersey, James Pollin captures the attention of ten of his coworkers.

“And then-” James chortles again, trying desperately to let his words escape before they are drowned by his uncontrollable laughter. “And then, when he shows up and can’t it…he’s gonna lose his shit!” James Pollin, the farthest thing from an “office-prankster” , allows himself to gently sink into the waters of popularity as he drinks in the adulation of his coworkers. This may be just an April Fools prank, but he expects to accomplish more than just a few laughs. This is how he will boost business. Build business. An investment. After all, what is the Real Estate business, if not a big popularity contest? And although Mr. Pollin has always been a likable, deferential employee, he knows he can  only get so far in life running at such a mild pace. This year, however, things will be different. This year, James Pollin is unshackling the chains of docility and stepping into the spotlight. This year, people will be at his feet, clamoring to do business with him. And it all starts with an April Fool’s joke.

Earlier today, AC Barker Realty named Perry Lions its annual “Most Valuable Broker”, an esteemed title that comes  with a raise, a five hundred-dollar Amazon gift card, and, most importantly, the “Golden Leads”: a list of premium prospects eager to ink. In a digital age, AC Barker, always with a flair for the dramatics, found it appropriate to present the leads in the form of notecards, encased in a gilded box. Although a competitive firm, nearly everyone was in agreement that Perry had deserved the honor. No one had worked harder, placed more cold calls, or stayed later at the office than Perry Lions. His numbers spoke for him, but it was also easy to give him the distinction because of his character. Humility, respect, and sensitivity-qualities almost extinct in the cut-throat world of Real Estate-followed Lions wherever he went. Never a quarrel with anyone. Not even a slight altercation. People say they have never even heard him use a swear word. However, this poor man has never faced  a test like he will tomorrow. For tomorrow, he will walk to his desk, and find all his Golden Leads  gone.

“You know guys, I’m gonna feel bad for the kid. Why couldn’t an asshole like Greg”, gesturing to him,  “win the leads so we could prank him?!” James nudges the butt of his joke to his left. The room swells with laughter, and the new office-prankster gladly drinks it in again. Hyenas. Soon to be minions. Intoxicated by his charm, inspired by his boldness, these squirming sycophants, without even realizing it, are slowly building James Pollin the throne he richly  deserves.


Clouds. Dark clouds. The sign of a great day. Ordinary people, the lazy slackers that they are, look forward to days of sunshine so that they have an excuse to leave work early. So they can do what? Push their kids on a tire swing? Ridiculous. Master of his own destiny and able to foresee  the path towards success, Perry Lions grins as he eases a little more on the gas and looks at the blackened sky. No need to even think about going outside. A perfect day to stay in and just plug away. Today of all days, as he now, for the first time, possesses the Golden Leads. Although by no means is a stupid “MVB” award at a shit-stain business like AC Barker a life-time accomplishment, it’s a start. The start to an inspiring, billion-dollar career. And maybe it won’t be in his inevitable best-selling autobiography, but he will for sure remember this momentous day. Mr. Lions will call hundreds of premium clients and jam his Google Calendar with meetings that will change his life. And it will all be too easy. Fish in a barrel.

Then, he can finally leave AC Barker and venture out to where the real money is: acquisition and development of real estate. For only a fool, or a pathetic idler is satisfied to remain a broker and miss out on the great sea of green waiting for those who are bold enough. What is amazing, is that many people never make that leap. They settle. Perry feels a chill flow through his body. That word always seems to unnerve him: “settle”. Pathetic. They move into mlk.toast suburban homes with their encumbering families and convince themselves that they’re happy. Deep down though, they know they’re not. He works with such people, but not for long…

He especially despises the ones who actually think they’re friends with him. He never came to the firm to make friends, and he’s not starting now.

Yet he is no amateur when it comes to playing, or at this point, mastering, the game. The game is a life-long journey of obstacles (people), steppingstones (people), opportunities (people and money), and prizes (money and power). While Lions is playing the game, it is essential he sticks to the script of the prominent monopoly piece that he is. And a big part of the game, in addition to a beast-like work ethic and a unique acumen, is, infuriatingly, ingratiating yourself with others. That means sucking it up and being nice. What many overly affable, loquacious bozos don’t realize, however, is that rubbing elbows is a subtle art. People can smell that fake crap from a mile away. Mr. Lions knows not to ask about your daughter’s major in college, because, other than not giving a single shit about it, it’s tacky. He is in the game for the long-haul, and he’s not going to throw it away by making useless chit chat.

Although blessed with many natural talents and qualities essential for a winner, Perry Lions considers himself a determined student of The Game. At his home you can find shelves packed with winner autobiographies (Mark Cuban, Warren Buffet, Donald Trump), winner blueprints (“How to Win Friends and Influence People”, “The Art of the Deal”, “How to Get Rich”), and winner brain exercises (“Keep Your Brain Alive”, “Spark”, “Curious”). The last category is underrated, as many brokers coast through life with repugnant vapidity, not knowing the intricacies of successful investing and therefore resigning to lives of mediocrity.

Reading such books does not guarantee success for many people, and there is a simple reason for that. These fools do not know how to read. Not like Perry. When winners write such books, there is a superficial layer of material intended to amuse the masses and keep them stuck as the pawns that they are in The Game. Then, between the lines, there are the real messages, intended for worthy pupils. For example, when Mark Cuban said, “One of the most underrated skills in business right now is being nice”, what he really said is “you must betray people to get ahead, but make sure to appear nice to get your way.” When Warren Buffet said, “You cannot make a good deal with a bad person", he does not actually care about the moral standing of his potential partners, but rather how they may affect public relations. The winner whose words hover most closely to the truth is Donald Trump, which is one of many reasons why Perry holds so much respect for the genius.

So for today, Perry Lions might not have been “born ready” (which he had always thought to be a nonsensical expression), but he has properly prepared his whole life for such an opportunity. With polished social skills, a razer-sharp brain, and the determination of an ox, he is a short way away from vaulting further down the path of greatness. He looks up again at the heavy clouds and breathes out a smile.


           It’s a beautiful day for a prank. True, the weather is horrible, but a good prank like this will lift everyone’s sprits, and, more importantly, James Pollin’s status. He got to work early, just in case. But not to make phone calls or answer emails. Just to wait. James lounges back in his chair with his arms behind his head and looks around. More than half of the office is here. That’s enough. He takes a peek over at Jenny Lane’s desk. Sure enough, with a hot coffee, a sexy blouse, and her luscious brown hair, she sits eagerly in her front row seat. Oh Jenny, the office hottie. Yesterday, while James was laying out the plan , she smiled at him in a most suggestive way. She had never given him the time of day before that, but this year is different. So very different. And while he’s earning the big bucks, she will surely be a lovely Christmas bonus.

The real question is how long he will keep up the joke, for it might last the whole day-perhaps the joke won’t be revealed until tomorrow, if it’s funny enough.

He should be coming any minute now…


Jenny Lane taps her coffee cup as she nervously awaits the arrival of AC Barkley’s MVB. Although she has not had many interactions with Perry, Jenny has always had an uneasy feeling about the young man. There was nothing in particular that made her jump out of her seat, but something about Perry’s strange demeanor and unique intensity troubled her. She can sense that he is not a man of peace, and, cursed with compassion, has almost felt compelled to help him. Multiple times before, she had considered walking up to him and offering a hand, perhaps just having a heart to heart, anything she might be able to do to alleviate his pain. However, she had always been held  back by the cautious woman within her, fearing that she would open a door to something more dangerous than she could handle.

But yesterday, her anxiety and indecisiveness overwhelmed her. No one had previously thrown rocks at this sleeping bear, but now, things might go really sour because of an April Fool’s prank-a stupid joke. Jenny has heard it all: “kill-joy”, “negative Nancy”, “Overly-sensitive”, but she still does not understand the lengths some people will go, at another.’s expense, to get a few laughs. Such a shock to Perry might cause him to say some nasty things, have a public meltdown, or worse.

Oh, how Jenny wanted to say something, be the one doubter to perhaps make a hung jury. But she didn’t. Although Ms. Lane would love to defy the toxic masculinity that ruled over her at AC Barker, she is more than practical. Choose your battles. That’s how you get by in life. After James Pollin had explained his risky plan, he stared right at her to guage her reaction. She could have shaken her head. Then maybe, just maybe, that would have been enough to collapse the operation without seeming like the anti-fun office Puritan. But all she could do was manage a phony, awkward smile.

Too late now. But maybe she has been over-reacting. Maybe this all will be a harmless joke, and Perry Lions will be a great sport about it all. One day she might even join in on the laughing. Oh, please, let this just be a harmless joke.


“Nobody better mess with me today”, Perry mumbles under his breath as he locks the door to his Suburu. Perry chuckles to himself as he gawks at his piece of shit car. A Suburu. Certainly, when he is cruising down Pacific Coast Highway in his Ferrari, he will look back and appreciate this pathetic vehicle. But enough daydreaming. Game time.

“Nobody better mess with me” he repeats to himself. For although many people would take the firm’s award as an invitation to complacency, Perry plans to double his efforts. That is what a winner does. And on this day of discipline, anyone who gets between him and his Golden Leads is asking for it.

He thrusts open the lobby door. “Nobody better mess with me.” 


           There he is! Walking through the door with his jacket still zipped up and his head down, Perry Lions seems eager. Eager to get to his desk and open the treasure chest. But it won’t be there! James feels a premature grin start to form.

           Poor Perry walks over to his cubicle, takes off his jacket, and sits down. He takes a deep breath before he starts to scan his desk. And now the rummaging, the head shaking, the squirming-it all begins.

           James Pollin looks around and notices other people are also watching, bringing cupped hands to their mouths and returning approving glances to him. Great start. While others are containing their laughter, James is unsure he can exercise such restraint.


Where are they? Perry opens the same drawer he had opened five seconds ago. Still not there. Where. Are. They? Surely, he didn’t lose it. Losing is for  losers, which he most certainly is not.

After he crouches to the floor and combs the full area under his desk, he starts to experience a new feeling: losing control. Heart thumping, head spinning, and sweat dripping, he collapses in his seat and buries his face in his hands.

Before he can formulate thoughts, he hears a sound. A despicable sound. Is that…laughter? Peeking out of his hands, his eyes find James Pollin at his assigned station, wildly cackling and banging his fist on the desk.

Does he think this is funny? Perry Lions, friend to no one, has especially always despised James Pollin. He had a secret nickname for him the first day he met him: “Slime-Weasel”. Did he STEAL my leads? Whether the culprit or not, Slime-Weasel must pay.


Amidst  chuckles, Jenny Lane winces at Perry’s morning struggle. This is not good, she thought to herself. Not good at all. Maybe she can tell him it’s a joke now, save him from further embarrassment. But before she could make the decision to even take another breath, she sees Perry rise from his desk.

He slowly, but sturdily walks across the room. His hot-blooded eyes gun down James as he moves closer towards him. James, cracking up with tears coming down his eyes, does not seem to notice, until it’s too late.

Wham! The first blow, a closed-fisted right hook, rocks Pollin in the left temple. He is knocked off his chair and falls limp to the ground. Perry follows this act with a few aggressive kicks to the pelvis, then returns with more fist-blows to the face. No more wincing from Jenny. All she can manage is an agape jaw and unblinking eyes. Straddling his victim, Perry continues to pummel the man’s face, mercilessly. Any laughter previously present is replaced with dead silence, the only sound of the room being one man pounding in the face of another.

Gary, their boss, runs out of his office and tears Perry off of James, terminating the massacre. This unpleasant scene, of one man beaten to a pulp and one man who had probably just publicly flushed his career down the toilet, somehow seems right to Jenny. That in some way, this awful April Fools display had to happen. Not a prank at all, but rather a sad resolution. Jenny feels that she is the unfortunate witness to a pre-determined, fatal car crash

April 02, 2021 23:26

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