The Passenger

THE PASSENGER is a modern satire complete at 74,000 words.


Kyle, a housewife, waits for greatness to find her while she raises her husband’s children. Trevor, a thrice-divorced real estate exec, sells the American dream but has no idea how to find it. And Hal works as a copy guy in a body he stole while trying to outrun the Divine Council who want him back in his post as creator of the universe.

Set in modern day Los Angeles, three people do their best to figure out how they became passengers in their own lives. When they each hit their personal breaking point, finally coming together at a court ordered anger management/smoking cessation group, the three forge an odd friendship which includes vampire blood banks, a biker gang and the possible extinction of humanity.

Readers of A.M. Homes THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE and Diana Wagman's BUMP  will enjoy this absurd tale about the complexities of everyday life.


KYLE—The Happy Homemaker
I always thought I would be someone great, someone different. I’m not, I am a housewife. I make babies, good babies, cute babies—but babies. Millions of people do it; it takes minimal effort, a gift from God given to even those who don’t appreciate or deserve it; to people like me. I pray every night for a sign to reveal itself, to show me who I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to do. The closest I came was at a bank. I’d just found out I was pregnant with my first child. I stood in the endless line wondering if having a child would put a damper on my dreams. As I walked the final length of the maze, cordoned off by red velvet dividers, there it stood, an ad for some product, ‘Your dreams are right on schedule.’ I kept the baby and have since had two more. My dream never showed up though I continue to wait while I raise my husband’s children.
I don’t really identify with them. If they hadn’t come from my body, I would insist on a paternity test, well maternity in this case. Funny the identity of the mother is never called into question, though I’ve often wished it were.    
I sound awful, but I can think this, I can’t stop myself from doing so. I never say it aloud, though I wonder if they can feel it. Children are intuitive things, just like animals. I’m not saying children are animals just that they think like them. I’m guessing this sounds equally as dreadful. Again, I don’t voice these thoughts; instead, I allow them to knock around in my head until I feel as though I’ll go mad.
I was not meant to be a wife or a mother. I was meant for bigger things.
“Mommy, wipe me,” my four-year-old says. She approaches me with her behind pushed out and I promise myself I’ll address the potty training again soon. I wonder if it would be wrong to drink this early in the day. I think about filling up my water bottle with Merlot, no, vodka, no odor. I wipe my child and head to the kitchen to prepare for the picnic I’ve promised. I eye the water bottle and pull it down from the shelf unsure of what I’m going to fill it with...
I load the kids into the mini-van (an oxymoron, there’s nothing mini about it, in fact, I’m sure it’s larger than an actual van, though I’ve never actually measured). On my way back to the house, I pick up the mail from the small mailbox shaped like a miniature version of our house, a mother’s day present from my husband. In it, I find the usual: bills, an invitation to another pool party, ads, and the quarterly newsletter from the graduate school I attended before I was a mother, a wife, before the rest of the world forgot me.
Later that night, after lunch making and giving baths, I sit and read the alumni newsletter believing it will push me back into the world of the go-getter where I can finally find the greatness that awaits. Instead, I find it a gentle reminder of all my failings as a human being; this of course defeats the purpose of my reading the damn thing in the first place. There are updates on all the people I used to know, used to identify with. There is an especially surprising update on Karen Wick; she was a slightly built thing who had breasts no bigger than the twelve-year-old boy who mows our lawn. She, who used to walk head hung low, glasses almost falling off her too tiny nose, is barely recognizable in the picture. Karen Wick stares back at me with the confidence only seen on the faces of those who know true success. Her breasts now rest perfectly beneath her bony clavicle in tanned perfection. The too tiny nose no longer holds glasses. The bitch got contacts I think as I continue staring at a person who was supposed to amount to less than me.
Karen Wick is now President of Savoy Pictures in Hollywood, California.
 The picture of my former classmate causes envy, but the caption causes me to choke on the cigarette I hold between my index and swear finger (that’s what my oldest calls it, as in, “Mommy, that old lady just cut you off, flip her the swear finger”... {I told you I was never going to be mother of the year).
“You coming up?” my husband Ben asks as I try to hide the cigarette behind my back. He knows I smoke so I don’t understand my efforts to sneak. I gave up smoking years ago, but have recently come back to it.
“I’m just reading the newsletter I get from grad school.”
He looks at me and smiles holding out his hand, “Let me see.”
I hand it to him and he flips through the pages. He stops at Karen Wick, “Who’s she?”
Obviously, he’s interested in my recently acquired nemesis, “Just someone with too large tits, and a spray on tan.” Damn you jealousy, I think, loathing the way I sound: like a teenage girl who just got dumped for a better looking cheerleader type. Funny thing is, Karen Wick was always more mascot than cheerleader. I was the standout. I had potential.
“Come up to bed,” he says and winks as I suck on the cigarette and find myself worrying about laugh lines.
“No, I think I have one more in me. I’ll be up after I brush the dog’s teeth.” Ah, the glamour. At no point in my life did I ever imagine I was going to be responsible for the oral hygiene of so many others. Not only do I have to brush the teeth of the three children I bore, but I also brush the teeth of a dog and cat I did not.
Right, smoking that’s where I was, so easy to lose my train of thought, remembering my descent back into the foul smelling abyss now maligned by a society, which once embraced it. I think back to the movies of the forties and fifties, beautiful actors hauling on long white sticks smoke billowing suggestively from their lips. I often laugh when I see pictures of those women now with their wrinkled skin stretched over skulls lolling on bony bodies they still attempt to starve in an effort to remain glamorous and young. I have to tell you, going back after you’ve quit is worse than starting fresh.
“Why go back?” The question I’m asked most often.
“Because I enjoy playing a role in my death, it takes the pressure off and allows me to be an active and involved participant in my own demise. It removes the guesswork. People often wonder what will get them in the end...I don’t, because it’s something I brought on myself. I will have no one to blame for my death but me. I am placing responsibility in my own hands which is exactly where it should be.”
When the woman at Sunday mass, the geriatric do-gooder who plays the organ and teaches Sunday school, asked last week this was my response, verbatim. She wasn’t pleased, but it shut her up and at the time, that was enough. 
HAL—The Copy Guy
I like to make copies, the repetition is freeing and lacks thought. The mindless creation of the similar, no discernible difference is somehow enjoyable. I tell this to Skittles at lunch, not really his name.
“So what is your name?” I ask as we share what looks like a tuna melt, though neither of us is sure. It was half price, which supersedes the knowledge of knowing exactly what it is.
We continue eating in silence.
“Which was my father’s name.” Skittles offers as he takes another bite of the melt. What I believe to be lettuce hangs from the corner of his mouth.
“Was?” I ask though I don’t have to. I know how he died. Lloyd Parks, father of Lloyd “Skittles” Parks, died of a massive coronary on January 25, 1975 as Lloyd, whom I shall from here on out call Skittles in an attempt to avoid any confusion, was being forced into this world by a mother who only prayed for him to be out. After 15 hours of pushing and several shots of a chemical to induce labor, Skittles took his first breath and Lloyd his last. No one can say for sure that’s how it went down. No one timed it. But I know. I have the unique privilege of knowing all—the big stuff; birth, death, war and the small stuff; when people screw, shit, shower, and shave. The thing that Lloyd is unaware of, his father died so he could live. I won’t tell him because he’s a sensitive sort who already feels he played a part in his father’s untimely demise.
“He died when I was young.” Skittles says as he uses the edge of a piece of heavy stock paper, what we normally use for presentation copies, to pry a piece of stubborn lettuce from his upper left incisor.
I can’t tell people who I am or what I know. I can’t tell them that the clear voices that once spoke to me are now nothing more than static, white noise. I don’t even think they know I’m gone.
“One more copy Hal,” he yells from his office. I wish he wouldn’t shout. I’m old, not deaf. I think about telling him this as I sit down after my lunch break. I wonder if I should go out and have a cigarette. I don’t really enjoy smoking, but I do enjoy the time away, the mental break. The great thing about smoking is its ability to clear an area. No one likes a smoker, unless it’s a fellow smoker and of course, smokers no longer come out and announce they’re smokers. Instead, they hide in back alleys, dimly lit pockets where they can’t be seen; where they can’t stink up the joint or kill people in a second-hand manner. I recently read an article claiming lawmakers were thinking of charging smokers, who exposed nonsmokers to their toxic habit, of a crime called long-term attempted murder. I’m not sure how true or close to the truth this is, but I do know smoking, once a social activity, is now a hidden depravity best left to the reclusive. I haven’t seen such ostracization since leprosy in biblical times and those poor fools had lesions all over them. A cigarette is a less offensive thing almost a separate appendage. I enjoy it more now that it is socially unacceptable.
I decide against a smoke and head into his office. “You bellowed?” My boss is a real tyrant. Not one of my best creations. 
TREVOR—Mr. Big Time Real Estate Exec
She saunters in waiting, with that dopey look on her face. If she weren’t so old, I’d have Casey in HR fire her. If I do it, I’m sure I’ll face a discrimination suit. I realizing keeping her around is easier than dealing with something like that. I sit behind my desk, water bottle in one hand pen in the other. Click, click, click I go with the pen, a meaningless distraction. I quit smoking two days ago and have only had one, a minor, but well-dressed and easily justifiable, slip up. I have a patch on my ass, a piece of nicotine gum in my mouth (chomp, chomp, chomp—at least it’s flavored now, though the orange tastes like chalk. I’ll ask Agnes to pick up strawberry tomorrow), and the pen to keep my hand busy.
Distraction is the key—click, click, click. Hold it together for a second, a second becomes a minute; a minute an hour and soon you’ve been clean for a week. Two weeks is what the book housed in the nicotine gum box says—to rid your body of the toxins and the addiction. They have support groups listed in the book to rid you of the psychological addiction, to help you alter your lifestyle. I went online and found a group in Santa Monica and I’m seriously contemplating going, seriously...
“Yes,” she says tapping her foot as if I’m somehow wasting her time.
“The Dimmerling Property, did you set up a time for me to see it?”
“Oh, I was going to do that later this afternoon. I’ve been busy training on the new system.”
The new system is a computer upgrade which anyone under the age of 60 could handle without issue. My secretary cannot.  
“Fine,” I shift in my chair and pop another piece of gum in my mouth. “No wonder no one else will let you work for them.” I say this as a tight-lipped whisper; at least I think it’s a whisper, which I blame it on nicotine withdrawal.  I can’t be nice and quit smoking.
“I enjoy my job and don’t want to work for anyone else.” This is untrue and we both know it. No one else wanted Agnes, but she’s spent years with the firm. I got her because I’m the newest partner. Byron, one of the founding guys has the hottest assistant of all…the irony; he’s too old to appreciate it.  Agnes hands me a small white box and gets up to leave. Before she does, she turns around and looks at me.
“What?” I pause thinking of the way I sound, “Do you need something Agnes?” I soften the tone of my voice. Yes, that sounds better, more even, less lion like. I have to act as if I give a shit about the employees, even those who rank lowest on the food chain. Unfortunately, Agnes is plankton.
“You should try a strong gum, cinnamon works well. It helps reduce the craving. Or you could take up a hobby. Knitting occupies the hands and is rather soothing.”
“What?” I stop myself before I add old bag. I haven’t made it to partner of the top-selling real estate firm on the West coast without some modicum of self-control. Sometimes it’s the things we don’t say that afford us the most power. I remember this as I click, click, click my pen.
“Quitting smoking, it’s a real humdinger. Gets to all of us and makes us want to take our anger out on the world. There are ways to manage though.” Agnes quit sometime during the Nixon administration. I’ve heard the story at least a dozen times since I announced my own plans to quit.
“I hate cinnamon gum and hobbies are for people who don’t take their jobs seriously.” Yes, the passive aggressive dig is directed at Agnes.
Agnes shrugs, “Just a suggestion.”
I look away from her and back to the large stack of paperwork I have to get through before I pick my daughter up and meet my ex-wife at the soccer field, damn family commitments. Why I had children is beyond me. I love my kids, but I certainly don’t have time for them.
“If you need anything,” Agnes doesn’t finish her sentence, or wait for a response, she simply closes the door.
I open the white box she handed to me, a small silver necklace with a miniature tennis racket and diamond ball. And I remember, Cadie is turning eleven today. Thank God for Agnes. I’ll have to apologize on my way out. 
I’ve worked for Byron & Jennings Realty Conglomerate for twelve years where I’ve climbed from mail clerk to partner in record time. I’m the stuff of legends, but to say so makes me sound arrogant. At least that’s what Belinda, my ex-wife says. She’s the second of two, three if you count the drunken Vegas debacle, which I don’t. That particular union was annulled when I found out Sydney had originally been Sidney. What I’ve found, divorce is difficult on the old bank account, at least I had the sense to have children with only one of my wives, the second. I have two kids, Bentley and Cadie. Silly names picked out by Belinda. I love the kids; I just don’t know what to do with them.
The alarm goes off on my phone, time for another patch and more gum. I spit the old gum into the silver trashcan at my feet and look at the intimidating pile building up. How much gum have I chewed? I only quit two days ago. When I spit it out, I notice it’s falling apart and what used to be a whole piece is now nothing more than a sliver. I must have swallowed most of the gum as it broke off in my mouth. I wonder if it’s dangerous to ingest. Can’t be any worse than smoking I think as I pop another piece out of the metal foil and chew until the nicotine hits my system. I pull my pants down and pull the patch from my ass. I shaved a spot just for this after I realized ripping the thing off hair is a rather painful endeavor. I apply another to replace the first, pull my boxers back up, followed by suit pants growing a bit snug, and make a mental note to hit the gym after Cadie’s practice. I pull out my phone and make an appointment for myself. There, I can beat this thing. I pick up my pen and continue to click.

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