"Son of a... Why can't I see anything?"
The question is to no one in particular and has deeper implications than Jeff Dempsey intends in the moment. At that precise point in time, Jeff is wondering why he's staring at a black screen and not his own image. Jeff and technology have always had a somewhat frosty relationship so this is not new territory for him. History had taught him there is no question too stupid to ask, no detail too simple to double check. And so it was this train of thought that has led him to the solution.
"Did I turn the webcam on?" he asks aloud. With one keyboard click, the screen lights up and the frame is filled with the now proud and smiling face of Jeff Dempsey. If he gave it any thought at all, he would probably come to realize he had little reason to feel pride but this didn't dampen his sense of accomplishment.
The image in the frame is that of an average looking 40-year-old man with a short, sensible, dark brown hair. The only sign his youthful prime is in the rear-view mirror is slight graying around the temples. Jeff settles in his chair, adjusts his hair, and takes a deep, cleansing breath. After a few moments of quiet contemplation, Jeff begins to speak to the camera.
"My favorite part of The Wizard of Oz is at the very end when Glinda the good witch tells Dorothy that she had the power to go home all along. All she had to do was click her heels together. Dorothy seems to take this exceedingly well for someone who just found out she went through six hours of hell unnecessarily. But more than that, I'm fascinated by the notion that something she glanced at maybe two hundred times was exactly the key she needed and she couldn't see it. It was right in front of her and, at the same time, invisible. In life, I'll bet that happens more than we realize."
Earlier that day...
"What did you win?" she asks with what seems to be genuine interest. Jeff heard the woman's voice but it was not enough to snap him out of his trance-like state. "Hello...Earth to Jeff???"
With a jolt, Jeff looks up to see Karlie, one of the wait staff at the Cedar Room Pub. The Cedar Room is another in a long line of modern Irish Pubs where it's not so authentic that you can only find room temperature dark, European beers but still Irish enough to make it a go-to spot every St. Patrick's Day. Jeff and his friends have been coming here since their university days.
"Sorry, I was.... somewhere else," he offers hoping she won't ask any follow-up questions.
"So, what did you win?" She gestures to the opposite side of Jeff's table.
Reluctantly, Jeff looks over and, once again, finds his gaze drawn to that which has kept him transfixed. It didn't have eyes, but still Jeff Dempsey could feel it staring through him, judging him...mocking him. The object of his obsession was a giant trophy, an obscenely large monstrosity, the kind that takes two hands to lift.
"Oh that? That's for a... flamenco dance competition." Jeff peaks out of the corner of his eye for the tiniest sign she is buying it. She is not. "You don't believe me?" Jeff presses.
"It's more believable than you won it at a lying competition. Another round, Senor?"
In a turn of fortuitous timing, Karlie heads back towards the bar just as Niko Stassinopoulos arrives. Just weeks past his 40th birthday, Niko still stands as the living embodiment of the Greek Adonis. With flawless olive skin, dark hair, and a rugged handsomeness, it would be very easy for Jeff, or any guy for that matter, to hate him. Had they not become best friends in elementary school, well before girls entered the picture, he just might have.
Niko spots Jeff and quickly pulls up a chair at their regular table. "There you are. You flew out of there like someone put up the bat signal."
Jeff raises his near-empty beer stein. "Wherever there is an undrunk pint of beer, I will be there."
YOU ARE READING
The New TwentyHumor
***WATTYS 2017 WINNER*** When the newly single, 40 year-old Jeff Dempsey suffers an agonizing humiliation at his high school reunion, he comes to realize he has accomplished almost nothing with his life. Armed with this new found insight, Jeff char...