It was a normal day at work when I decided to take a walk out into the shop where the guys were loading up a unit to ship to California. I started taking pictures with my iPhone. There was a hum of electricity in the air the way there always is for an activation launch. I climbed aboard a nearby ladder to get a higher perspective shot when the ladder began to fall. Crazy Train was blasting from the big speakers in the back. The three guys prepping the unit in front of me all turned and then, in super slow motion, they reached in my direction. I snapped two of the best photos of the day on the way down then casually stepped onto a cutting table and onto the floor before catching the ladder six inches from impact. Two of the guys nearby stood frozen and open-jawed as I set the ladder back onto its legs with my left hand, while snapping a couple more photos with my right. But the other guy, Barry, the foreman, pulled his hat down tightly and marched away from us toward the office. Was I being busted? For what? Unnatural physical abilities? Oh well. It’s not like they can fire you for that.

With the unit nearly loaded, I decided to take advantage of the charges in the air and practiced some parkour. I leapt from the floor to a table to the top of a nearby unit. I leapt onto and off of a moving tractor trailer. I did three backflips off of a nearby wall. I was about to vault along the side of an upright unit when Doris appeared. Doris, the office manager, a large black women in her 50s who looks like she’s in her 30s, approached me from the opposite side of the shop with arms pumping and hips swiveling. Barry was right behind her. As was Mark, the company owner. What the fuck? I put my shirt back on and was catching my breath when Doris stepped into my personal space and challenged me nose-to-nose. “Just what do you think you’re doing, Jim?” she said through clenched teeth and in a tone that was much softer than her face. I looked over at Mark with raised brows? “What?” I shrugged, smiling. “What is this?”

“You’re out here supposed to be taking pictures, right?” asked Doris, who stepped between me and my visual contact with the men, who had all gathered together at this point. “Right?” She snapped.

“Mark?” I appealed with a laugh.

“Mark’s not talking to you Jim, I am. Now are you going to answer me or what?”

“Ok, yes. I’m out here taking pictures. So what?” I said firmly.

“Good.” She said. Then she pulled an oversized cob of corn on a stick from her pants pocket and took a full bite. The men grimaced. “Now I want to see you do one of those fancy circus moves that Barry here told me about.” she said giving a nod over her shoulder toward Barry.

At this point I’d realized that I was being set up. For something. So I decided to let em have it. Fuck it – if they wanted a show, they were getting a show. And for the next five minutes I proceeded to jump, vault, run, propel, roll and climb on trucks, tables, ladders, walls, metal chairs and anything else I could find as a prop. When I’d finished, everyone stood frozen with jaws agape. Except for Doris who was clearly unimpressed as she finished off the last of her corn.

“That’s not bad.” she said. “I’ve seen better, but it’s not bad.” Then she walked over and stood directly in front of me again. ”Now – are you ready to do this kind of thing for real?” she asked.

Again, I looked over to the men in the room who were now talking quietly amongst themselves.

“Jim honey, I’m right here. Look at me, Jim. Do you want to do this for real? For a reason?”

I nodded.

“Good.” She said. She then pulled a business card out of her pants pocket. The same pocket from which she removed the corn on a cob on a stick. “Call this man. Right now. Don’t delay. Do it now Jim. Your country needs you.”

I took the worn white card from her. The card read: Jody Sears 2948752390485024958. I looked at Doris, puzzled.

“I know, it’s a funny number, right? Just call it. Trust me.” Then she turned with a jerk and walked back toward the office. “It’s alright boys, get back to work.” she called to the group of men. “Everything’s going to be fine.” And before she reached the office door she yelled back without looking, “Call him now Jim – with that phone you’re holding in your hand.” And she was gone.

I immediately called the weird number. It started to ring. A man answered. “Jody Sears?” I asked.

“Ha. Yes, is this Jim?” the man on the other end said with a smile. He sounded exactly like Billy D. Williams.

I looked over at the guys – but they’d dispersed. I was alone in a massive and echoey metal shop talking to a man who sounded exactly like Billy D. Williams. “Uh – yes? I mean – yes, this is Jim.” I responded.

“Ha. That’s great. We’ve been waiting for you. Are you ready to serve?” he asked.

Was I? Was I ready to serve? “Yes.” I replied. Of course I was.

“Ha. That’s great. Now walk to the back of the shop toward the open bay door to your left.”

I did. A black sedan appeared. A very tall white man wearing black sunglasses and a black suit that was too short for his arms and legs stepped out of of the front passenger side, and opened the door behind him. His arm gesture welcomed me inside.

“Get inside the car, Jim.” Jody said.

I got into the back seat. The very tall white man slammed the door shut behind me, got into the front seat and the car sped off. No one was in the back of the car with me, and there was dark glass separating the back of the car from the front. “Ok, I’m in. Now what?” I asked Jody.

“Ha. That’s great. Now here’s what we need you to do – “ And then Jody Sears, who sounded a lot like Billy D. Williams, spent the next ten minutes explaining to me how I was going to help infiltrate a Georgian spy ring by using my athletic ability in an olympic-styled tournament that was taking place in twenty minutes at my daughters’ school.

“We know you’re going to do great, Jim. Now if you’ll look in the box on the seat to your left, you’ll find a special pair of shoes that you’ll need to wear for the competition.”

On the seat next to me was a medium-sized box wrapped in green foiled Christmas paper and topped with a red bow. I laid down the phone and ripped open the present. Inside was a pair of black leather wingtips by J. Crew. They were my exact size.

“When do I wear these?” I asked, puzzled.

“Ha. Well, you put them on now, Jim. And you’ll wear them throughout the competition. It’s part of an ancient Georgian custom.”

I put on the wingtips. As we got nearer to my daughters’ school I was shocked to see hundreds of empty cars parked along the roadway. Once we arrived, I knew why. There were ten-thousand people sitting in an inflatable sports stadium on the school property that had been inflated that morning. When the car stopped, the very tall white man opened my door and I stepped out and into a roaring crowd. ‘Way too go schmoopie!’ I heard my wife cheer from somewhere.

Two male referees in tight, glittery red shorts escorted me to the center of the arena where I stood in a line next to four barrel-chested men who were also wearing black leather wingtips by J. Crew, and across from five thin men with ponytails who wore bright blue plastic clogs. A whistle blew, and the games began.

I ended up dominating every competition. From the the soccer tournament, to the swimming meet – it was like men against boys out there. Our team won every event. Then, as the final competition of the day, Georgian crow chasing, was about to start, the black sedan appeared in my periphery on the top of a nearby hill. As instructed, this was my sign to execute the plan and force a confession from Zeonick Ktsavske, one of my teammates, who happened to be the most notorious and slippery enemy of the state that our nation had ever faced.

But something had happened that day. You see, I had grown fond of Zeonick. Between competitions I had the chance to talk to him, and I learned he was supporting a family and that he had only turned to espionage as a way to keep his six daughters in college. So when I saw the sedan, I questioned the credibility of Doris and Jody. As the crows were loosed in the large aviary at the center of the playing field, the crowd roared – and my phone rang. It was Jody.

“Jim. This is it. Why haven’t you forced that confession? You’re not having second thoughts are you?” He paused and I watched my teammates fumble over each other in the aviary while the nimble men in the blue plastic clogs had already caught, tagged and released three of the slick black birds. “Jim. I’m going to need you to look over here at the car.”

I looked. Billy Fucking D. Williams was standing in front of the black sedan. He was wearing a white suit and was waving with his right hand, while holding up a phone to his ear with his left. “Oh, and Jim?” he said as he reached into his jacket pulling out a gun. “I’ve got a gun.”

At this point my first reaction was to say, ‘Obviously, asshole. It’s a little redundant that you had to SAY you have a gun when you told me to look over at you and I can clearly see the gun.‘ But instead, I just hung up. I entered the aviary, got the confession, and then helped our team catch, tag and release sixty-four crows – one more than our competition.

The final horn sounded ending the games. I received four medals on the champions podium that day. Each cast in gold and bearing the likeness of Richard Libertini as General Garcia from the In Laws. I had never felt more humble, or grateful. In the crowd, I could see my family. They were all crying and clapping. Up on the hill, Billy D. Williams and the very tall white man waved goodbye and drove off. A few minutes later, the stadium was deflated, but not before most of the children used it as a bouncy room.

I’m not going to lie – it was the greatest day of my life so far. And yet, I still can’t sleep at night for fear of revenge. And I’m pretty certain I’m being watched. There are way more crows moving around me today than there ever were before.



Jim Mitchem

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Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.