He’s No Diplomat
October 4, 2020

Faye was lying on the couch, smoking a joint. She was wearing Joe’s earphones, snapping her fingers to the music. Whitey, her Scotch terrier, was running back and forth, trying to get her attention. Every so often, she’d reach down and rub his ears. “We’ll go in a minute, baby. Mommy’s baked.”

Joe came out of the kitchen and lifted the earphones. “Your dog needs to go out, Faye,” he said. “He probably needed to go out an hour ago.”

“He’s okay,” she said, closing her eyes, snapping her fingers again

Joe got Whitey’s leash off the back of the door. He liked Whitey more than Faye. At least, with Whitey around, he could get out of the apartment and away from Faye’s pot. That was his first mistake. He shouldn’t have told her she could smoke pot in the apartment. The bigger mistake was letting her stay in the first place.

“At least open the window,” he said to Faye on the way out. He knew it would still be closed when he got back. Faye was always cold or depressed. Mostly, she was depressed because Mona wasn’t begging her to come back. Mona was Faye’s girlfriend. She was always telling Faye who she thought was a jerk or a waste of time. As far as Mona was concerned, nobody was a bigger waste of time than Faye’s friend, Clive.

Clive was some bureaucrat working downtown. He never explained to Faye exactly what he did, other than he knew people, some important, some who only thought they were important. Clive could tell the difference, you see, and Faye needed Clive. He was going places, he had major connections. “Clive’s my man,” Faye would say, lighting a joint, playing with Whitey.

For months, Clive had been promising to find Faye a job. They’d go out for lunch, have some drinks, then she’d come home drunk. No job seemed to materialize where Clive was concerned.

Mona kept telling Faye he just wanted to get into her pants. “Did you tell him about us?” she kept saying. Mona hated Clive. Even his name sent up warning signals. “Who the hell calls their kid, Clive?” she’d say. One day Mona gave Faye and ultimatum: “Him or me, Faye. Make up your mind. If it’s me, I don’t want to hear Clive’s name ever again.”

That’s how Faye ended up living with Joe. She couldn’t stop seeing Clive. “He’s getting me a job,” she’d say. She asked Joe if she could stay a few days at his place — a week at the most — just until Mona calmed down.

“She’ll come around,” she said. “She always does.”

It was over a month now.

Joe kept asking her, “How do you know Clive’ll come through?”

“He’s a diplomat, for chrissake,” she’d reply. “He knows people all over the world. Do you know people all over the word, Joe? I’ll bet you don’t. Clive’s been everywhere. He’s got friends in Dubai. He said there might be something in Dubai. Can you see me in Dubai? Maybe a diplomat’s assistant?”

“Clive’s no diplomat, Faye,” Joe said.

Nothing seemed to phase her where Clive was concerned. She’d bunch cushions behind her head, put on Joe’s earphones, and light a joint. When Whitey needed to go out, she’d say, “Mommy’s not ready yet, baby.”

“I’ll take him,” Joe would say finally.

Joe and Faye used to work at the same advertising agency. When a big multinational bought the agency out, half the staff was let go. Joe and Faye got their pink slips the same day. Four months later, they met on the street.

“I joined the other team,” she told him, saying she was in a committed relationship with a woman named Mona. Mona worked for a big charity. She made enough for both of them. Things were great, except for this thing with Clive. “Mona can’t stand him,” Faye said. She was always on Faye’s case, telling her Clive was a con. She didn’t believe for a second Clive was a diplomat.

“Where are his diplomatic plates?” Mona kept asking. She’d watched Clive pull up in his blue Mercedes, honking his horn, stepping out of the car with his sunglasses on.“Why doesn’t he come to the door?” she’d say. “What’s all this secretive shit? He’s playing you, Faye.”

When Faye moved in with Joe, she was always going on about Clive doing this and Clive doing that. Then he’d call, she’d get dressed. Three hours later, she’d stumble through the front door drunk. “We’re getting there,” she’d say, holding her fingers an inch apart. “We’re this close. Clive says so.

One day, Joe came back from a job interview and found the the hall all wet. The back of the toilet had cracked. All Faye did was throw down a few towels. “Why didn’t you call the super?” he asked. Someone was pounding on the ceiling downstairs. Then the phone rang. Water was coming down into the neighbour’s kitchen. “I’m getting the water turned off now,” Joe said.

When he came out of the washroom, Faye was back on the couch.

”What’s happening with this job?” he asked. “I’ve got expenses here. I could use a little help.”

“I’m on it,” she said.

“What does that mean exactly?”

“Clive’s coming tomorrow. He says he might have something.”

“It better be a job, Faye.”

“Don’t worry.”

“I’m worried.”

Clive came by around noon. He rang the buzzer and Faye let him up. Joe was in the kitchen washing the breakfast dishes. Clive looked surprised when he saw Joe. He nodded, Joe nodded back. If Clive was a diplomat, he was one washed out version. His face looked like melted wax and he wore an ascot. When he helped Faye on with her coat, he looked puzzled, like he couldn’t figure out the living arrangement.

“I thought you lived alone?” he said to Faye.

“I’m just staying here until I get myself sorted,” she said.

“What happened with Mona?”

“I’m off Mona,” she said. “I’m going back to men.”

“That’s a shame,” he said. “I never got a chance to meet your Mona.”

Joe spent the rest of the day waiting for the plumber. When the guy finally arrived, he didn’t have the right joiner bolts. He had to go out again. By the time everything got sorted, it was close to six o’clock. Whitey needed to go out, and Faye was still at lunch with Clive. Joe got his coat, grabbed Whitey’s leash, and started walking towards the elevators. When the doors opened, Faye was standing there looking through her purse. “I have to pee so bad,” she said. “I should have gone at the restaurant. Do we have any aspirin?”

Joe walked Whitey and came back. The stereo was going, Faye was in the shower. He let Whitey off his leash and filled his dog bowl with Kibble.

Faye came out wrapped in one towel, another over her head. She sat on the couch cross-legged, drying her hair. Whitey jumped up next to her, climbing on the pillow behind her head. She stroked his tummy and put on the earphones. “You’re my good boy, aren’t you?’ she said to Whitey.

“So what’s the story?” Joe asked. “You said Clive had good news.”

“He’s been busy.”

“Faye, listen to me, you’ve been living here rent free. I’m out of work myself. Hopefully, that’ll change, but things are tight.”

“I’ve got money,” she said. “Clive loaned me some.”

She took four one hundred dollar bills out of her purse.

“Here,” she said, then grabbed a hundred back. “I need more pot.”

“What about work?”

“Clive’s taking me out again on Friday.”

“You have to make a point of asking about the job,” Joe said. “Stop getting drunk. Tell him you’re desperate. Tell him anything.”

“Don’t worry, I will. I won’t even drink.”

“Well don’t,” Joe said. “Stay focused.”

Clive showed up that Friday at one o’clock. He wouldn’t come upstairs. When Faye arrived home later, she was drunk again. She flopped on the couch, lit a joint, told Whitey she’d take him out later. “Be a good boy, now,” she said. “Mommy needs a toke, then we’ll go to the park.”

“What did Clive say?” Joe asked. “Is he coming through with something?”

“He’s up to his neck in alligators. We’re getting together next week.”

“Why’s he always telling you how busy he is? He can make time for lunch. How long were you two at the restaurant? What? Three hours? Four? You’ve got to make a point of asking, Faye. Tell him you’re broke.”

“He gave me money,” she said, grabbing her purse. “It’s right here.” She dumped everything out on the coffee table. There were boxes of matches, napkins, even a small shampoo bottle. She kept shaking her purse, dropping things on the rug. “Where is it?” she kept saying. Then she grabbed her jacket, checked the pockets, then shook it as well.

Whitey ran around Faye, barking away, his pink tongue hanging out.

“Stop it, Whitey,” she said. “Mommy’s got a headache.”

“Faye — ” Joe said.

“It’s here somewhere.”

“There’s no job, is there?”

“He gave me four hundred. I was holding it at the restaurant.”

“You can’t keep living off Clive, Faye.”

“I’m not living off Clive.”

“Mona’s right, he’s playing you.”

Faye sat down and started crying. “I don’t know what happened to it,” she said. “Maybe I dropped the money in the washroom.”

“You said you wouldn’t drink,” Faye,” Joe said.

“I’m sorry,” she cried, getting up and pulling the cushions off the couch. Whitey ran around her barking away. “Shut up, Whitey,” she said, making like she was going to smack him. He ran under the coffee table, then came out wiggling around her. Faye picked him up and hugged him. “I’m sorry, baby,” she said. “Mommy loves you so much. Very, very much.”

Joe grabbed Whitey’s leash. He wrapped it tight around one hand. Then he got his keys off the table. He took Faye’s keys as well.

“Listen,” he said. “I can’t keep carrying you.”

“I’ll call Clive tomorrow.”

“Forget Clive, Faye. He’s a phony. He’s no diplomat.”

Joe called to Whitey and clipped the end of the leash to Whitey’s collar. As he was going out the door, he saw Faye looking for roaches in the ashtray. He had a ball in his pocket. He kept squeezing it. When he got over to the park, he threw the ball and Whitey ran after it. His tail was going the whole time. Whitey brought the ball back and Joe threw it again. Joe squeezed the ball each time. He squeezed it as hard as he could.


Photo by Logan Liu on Unsplash

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