Of Mice and Molecules...
Where the Cats Pee (and Other Adventures with Jarl and Myrtle)
Read Part Four
Jobless day fourteen? Fifteen? Twenty? Time is doing funny things. Still no job nibbles, much less an interview. Also still no unemployment. I am still eating increasingly stale pastries purloined from the Marriott’s breakfast buffet, as I try to stretch my food reserves a few more days before breaking down and buying groceries. It's reached the point where I’m now actively searching for ideas on how to find food – for example, I spotted a deer on my evening jog and entertained a fantasy in which I trapped and roasted it.
This evening, Jarl tells me that my hands are too large for me to be an effective pickpocket. This advice was not solicited.
Before any of this began, I’d signed up to run the Chicago Marathon. Exercise has become one of my only avenues to escape the turmoil of the house. This gets me out of the house for up to two hours a day, and has me in arguably the greatest shape of my life. It also leads to my first income since being fired when I find a dollar whilst on a run.
Money is becoming very tight. I’ve managed to cut back, at least as far as food is concerned, mainly by joining meals when invited by Jarl and Myrtle, both of whom have been great in looking the other way on the mooching. It’s possible they now regard me as one of their boys. Not sure how I feel about that, but this is no time to skip free meals out of pride.
In the good news department, I had a phone interview with a smallish, 30-person startup in South San Fran. I’ve also got another phone interview with another small biotech company. I’m starting to notice that all of these start-ups have these bland corporate names that combine science and corporate techspeak. Everything is Sequenode or Reversacyte or Cerebrolomix or Rejuvalex.
Apologies if the biotech company names I just made up actually exist. Bigger apologies if they exist and I wind up working there.
After nearly three weeks of running to avoid overdosing on Myrtle and Jarl, I am able to crush a training run of over twenty miles. This, combined with a particularly frugal trip to the grocery store makes this into what passes for a good day 'round these parts. When I discover Jarl left some extra french fries out, I wonder how long I can keep this winning streak going.
It’s funny how your priorities and worries change when you no longer have a job. Obviously, I’m no longer worried about dragging myself out of bed to impress my boss, or the fallout from a failed experiment. On the other hand, when I go to the grocery store, I am now spending far more time dithering over which deal is slightly better: the generic diet soda at regular price or the brand name on deep discount.
My current preoccupations support a theory I’ve held for some time: no matter one’s current circumstances, your problems at the moment enlarge themselves to become quite pressing, even when they’re really not. As an example, a drowning man’s sole worry is treading water and drawing air, but I contest that this same man on dry land will eventually fret equally over his current challenges, even if they’re trivial matters like the paint shade on one’s BMW.
Still no word from my first interview, but I did learn one thing during the discussion: I was being paid far less than the market rate for the area. Perhaps I can add “shitty salary negotiator” as a bullet point to my resume. There’s another interview on the horizon, this one with a small biotech. The idea of working for another start-up is distasteful in the wake of my recent experiences. That said, I know I am not strong, and will crawl right back into an abusive relationship if it comes with a biweekly paycheck.
Myrtle is picking up her workout regimen again. I’m probably going to hell for making this public, but some of these workouts need to be described. Today Myrtle was “too busy” to get to the pool. Her “workout” consisted of “swimming” in the family’s hot tub for twelve to fifteen minutes. Yes, the bubbles were on. Yes, I saw Myrtle in a one-piece. I would not mention this had Myrtle not brought up this grueling feat of endurance at dinner, lording her commitment to health over Jarl. And maybe me too, now that I think about it.
A few days later, Myrtle announces she’s going to ride the bike. The family had an entire fleet of bicycles, all safely unridden in the far recesses of the overflowing garage. I must confess, the attempt piqued my interest, as I’d never seen someone of Myrtle’s size attempt to ride a bicycle. However, when I inquired, I discovered Myrtle owned an antique exercise bike and would be "spinning."
Later that afternoon, I asked her how the ride had gone. “Great,” she said, “I did fifty.”
“Fifty minutes or fifty miles?” I asked, impressed.
“No, fifty pedals,” she answered.
Fifty pedals. Later, I calculated that, for a decent cyclist, 50 pedal revolutions takes about 30 seconds and burns just under eight calories.
[Emails/texts sent to Susan over the course of the day. Completely unedited.]
Jarl has taken his first drink. It is 10:03 AM.
Myrtle comes home from her temp agency interview. She's giving us the blow-by-blow and mentions to Jarl and I that the hiring manager asked about her proficiencies. As she tells this story, Jarl is still drinking wine and eating cold ravioli directly from the can. The following exchange occurs:
Myrtle: So the guy asks me ‘What are your skills in Excel?’
Jarl: (long, long pause) Excel-lent. (Giggles profusely at own joke, then finishes ravioli as though he's made a contribution to society).
Myrtle: Jarl, bring me something to drink. And a snack!
Jarl brings Myrtle a snack.
Myrtle: Don't feed me this! I'VE ALREADY GOT DIARRHEA!!! Are you trying to make it worse?!?
Jarl walks away wordlessly.
Myrtle: [Eight minutes later] Jarl! Bring me some cookies!
Jarl returns with prune juice. It is accepted without comment.
Out of seemingly nowhere, Myrtle (sitting at her desk) yells at Jarl that he is a lazy alcoholic. Jarl yells back that he is not lazy. Jarl is lying down on his bed as he makes this proclamation and, up until ten seconds ago, had been snoring like a chainsaw. The entirety of the ensuing argument occurs as a round-the-corner shouting match, without any visual contact between the two combatants. I suspect Myrtle wished to rouse him for a snack (see above conversation).
Amazingly, it’s getting wilder here. I don’t know how to explain it – it’s as though some of the strings that bind us to reasonability and order have suddenly torn. To really put you into the situation I'm living in, I'm just gonna post the texts I've sent to Susan about what goes on at the house. Brace yourself:
- Another fight. Myrtle has curtailed Jarl's wine budget. Storm brewing.
- Myrtle just broke a chair by sitting on it. Said they used to have six of them. Now only four.
- Myrtle is watching Touched by an Angel and cooking fried chicken. She just used her cell to call her son to dinner. He was in his bedroom, twelve feet away.
- Myrtle has cursed Jarl for making her stand to find a button. Jarl has responded by opening his last bottle of inexpensive wine.
- [one minute later] After the fight Myrtle prepared a root beer float. She is blaming her and Jarl's weight gain on stopping smoking.
- Jarl just suggested starting a fake company to pay Myrtle's health insurance bills. Not sure he understands how money works.
- Jarl claimed he was “too smart to masturbate.” This was totally spontaneous – absolutely nothing was happening to warrant the statement.
- Myrtle just mentioned she makes a point of buying "bacterial" soap.
In the last ten days, Myrtle has single-handedly worked her way through an eight-pound can of nacho cheese. We're talking the liquid “orange gold” faux-food that movie theater snack bars drown nachos in. If the choice of foodstuff wasn't so revolting, the banter that accompanies its consumption is, if possible, even more disturbing.
In spite of their frequent bickering, Jarl and Myrtle do have the occasional tender moment. By and large, these are laced with unintentionally sexual entendre. Here's an example from this morning. As always, it involves food preparation:
Myrtle: What do we need to get rid of? (Referring to the food in the fridge. Things now become kinky.)
Jarl: We've got some strawberries...
Myrtle: Eh. You trying to stuff something down my throat?
Jarl: Uh... (sexy Jarl pause) no!
Myrtle: Good, 'cause I've had enough sugar today.
Myrtle: All I want is some salty meat.
Jarl: It's too hot for meat right now.
Myrtle: (angry and shrill) I want some meat!!!
Jarl: (perusing fridge) I've got a bone you can pick.
Myrtle: Well... that sounds delightful. I'll gobble that up tonight.
My dictation broke down around this point, but there was a substantial amount of additional dialogue, some of which concerned itself with the type and size of mushrooms Jarl possessed. If they’re doing this intentionally, it’s brilliant – it wasn’t clear whether the mushroom talk was simply a discussion of comestibles, a euphemism for Jarl's meat popsicle, or a next-level reference to the psychotropic fungi needed for them to get freaky. After Myrtle said she "enjoyed a little mushroom," they began discussing inviting others over to enjoy them as well. Broken, I fled, tears streaming from my eyes.
As a bonus for reading this far, I give you the king of the unintentionally sexual stuff (do not read if you've eaten in the last week or so):
Scene: Jarl and Myrtle are sitting down to dinner. Myrtle is not feeling well. Jarl is putting the final touches on the meal and serves the first course.
Myrtle: (weakly) Thanks for tossing my salad.
Jarl: (characteristic pause) Thanks for lettin' me toss it.
Sweet Fancy Jesus.
Next time: I run out of money, Jarl blacks out, and Myrtle contemplates working for the mafia.
Read Part Six
Where The Cats Pee
A multi-part story covering my time as a houseguest of the least stable family in America.