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“Take it from me, kid” by Oliver Lee Bateman

1. “Berkman, how long have you been working here?”

“…”

“Ten years and we haven’t even really talked. I bet you think I’m just some kind of awful jerk, don’t you? The mean old boss, totally out of touch and so forth and so on.”

“…”

“Well, I wanted to take some time to share with you—to impart to you—a little bit of the wisdom that comes with age.”

“…”

“Let’s have a look at you: a young boy in the pink of health.”

“…”

“No, I understand that. I was 35 once too, you know? I want to tell you that you need to treasure that body you have. That body you’re in—that lonely body, so very lonely—is as good now as it’s ever going to get. I used to be like that. It’s going to go away—it’ll get away from you sooner than you think—and you’ll be fat and old and bald and wondering where the time went. This is—and I won’t hesitate to say it—probably the happiest moment in your life.”

“…”

“Yes, right now. Right now, sitting here and talking to me. The happiest moment of your life.”

“…”

“Isn’t that something?”


2. “I want to ask you if you know why people in the, ahem, ‘thinking fields,’ law and journalism and medicine and the like, commit suicide at such alarming rates.”

“…”

“I suppose that’s part of it, the money—at least as far as journalism goes, anyway—but what I believe it really comes down to is that, if you’ve got a bare minimum level of mental functioning, enough brainpower to recognize when you’ve screwed the pooch…then you’re able to understand why you absolutely have to swallow those sleeping pills or slit your wrists in the bathtub or pull the trigger on the shotgun with your big toe or what have you.”

“…”

“Yes, it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought. It’s what you think about as you’re getting older.”

3. “Let me tell you something about substance abuse and running a business.”

“…”

“You’d better believe it’s a bad idea. You take that first drink on a Sunday night, then five or six more…pretty soon you’re getting a hangover while you’re drinking and all you can do is drink some more to kill it, ‘hair of the dog’ and whatnot. Suddenly you don’t want to go in Monday anymore, and since you’re the boss, you start coming in on Tuesdays.”

“…”

“It’s a slippery slope, for sure. Eventually you’re only there on Thursdays and Fridays, and when you get there you’re staring down at three piles of mail: Companies who are suing you because you haven’t paid your bills, former employees who are suing you because you haven’t paid them, and summonses to appear in court for everything from driving while intoxicated to nonpayment of parking tickets.”

“…”

“I agree with my whole heart. Those were dark days for us here.”

4. “Here’s one: Your subconscious, Berkman, is a like a force field. Like a force field that goes up when the Romulans or the Klingons start firing on your ship.”

“…”

“How does it work? Well, imagine that you’re in a store and just shoplifting stuff left and right. Lining the pockets of your coat with glossy magazines, red meat, prescription creams, sundries. What your subconscious will do, in a situation like that, is get you the hell out of there as fast as your legs can carry you.”

“…”

“I’m trying to explain to you that your subconscious is your only real friend in the entire world.”

5. “There was a period, Berkman, I think it was from 1959 until about 1978 or so, where there wasn’t anybody who could give me a run for my money.”

“…”

“That’s a run for my money in any way you can think of. There just wasn’t one person who stacked up, I don’t believe. In other words, that’s the time frame I would establish as my ‘prime period,’ were I forced to choose.”

“…”

“Well, now that you mention it, there might have been a few other years that were very nearly as good.”

6. “Do you know who Hitler and Himmler and those guys really hated? Journalists. They hated journalists because journalists tell the truth. That’s why I became a journalist. One of the reasons why, anyway.”

“…”

“Sure, they hated the Jews, too, but I think it was first and foremost about the journalists.”

“…“

“Yes, if you were a Jewish journalist it was doubly difficult for you. You probably didn’t stand much of a chance under that régime.”

7. “This is a fine conversation starter for any kind of party or soirée or social occasion in which you find yourself: Ask the crowd, the gang, if they can come up with one good reason why marijuana ought to be illegal.”

“…”

“It’s such a good, progressive question. It’ll open them up. And maybe one of them is, heh, ‘Holden Caulfield,’ as the kids used to joke.”

“…”

“That’s right, it means you want to know if they have any marijuana.”

8. “I had, in my day, so many opportunities.”

“…”

“What? No, no regrets. I won’t live my life that way.”

“…”

“Well, wait a minute…I do regret letting go of that nice ’72 Fleetwood I had. You wouldn’t believe how big that goddamn thing was. 230 inches long, with a 130-inch wheelbase. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

“…”

“It wouldn’t be the same. Just wouldn’t. Take my word for it.”


Oliver Lee Bateman is one of the co-founders of the Moustache Club of America, a literary collective (or "beehive," as the kids like to say) that specializes in postmodern flash fiction, schoolgirl diary entries, navel-gazing coming-of-age stories set at prestigious New England preparatory academies, and good clean fun. He is also a Ph.D. candidate and Andrew Mellon Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh.