Monday, April 6, 2009

Meet Mark -- Part 1 -- "Nothing But Time"

Welcome to Part 1 of Meet Mark. This is what I've come up with after the very strange "voting" that recently went on in this blog's comments section!

This first segment -- a very sedate beginning, admittedly, just laying some groundwork -- will be relatively brief, because I wanted to have something up for today, Monday. I'll post the second installment when it's ready. And as far as how many parts there will be... I have no idea, nor am I overly concerned about it, frankly. Maybe two, maybe three... maybe twenty-eight, plus an epilogue. (It wouldn't be the first time, right?) I'm going to relax and let this story unfold at its own pace, and if it starts getting too jumbled, or boring, or whatever... Feel free to tell me, and maybe I'll just chuck the whole thing at some point.

But... probably not. We all -- and "all" includes me, too -- need to have a little faith in me as I get back in the swing of things!

* * * * *

During the last few weeks, Mark had learned more than a little about the various temporary employment agencies in the Worcester, Massachusetts, area. They all had basic similarities, of course, but each had its own unique points as well. He liked to bounce from one to another, just for the freshness of the experiences.

(Well, there was that, and at least one other reason he chose different agencies on different days... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.)

Today Mark sat in the sparsely-decorated waiting room of an agency he'd utilized only once before. The waiting room was a windowless room at the end of a dark corridor. The agency's main office consisted of an uncertain number of cubicles beyond a solid door that connected to the waiting room.

The door to the main office remained shut, except for when one of the agency's employees magically appeared to hand a newly-arrived job applicant a form to fill out, or whenever an applicant was summoned into -- or returned from -- the inner sanctum, as it were. And for some strange reason, the agency's staff always escorted applicants out through a door in the rear of the main office once said applicants were done for the day.

The waiting room's decor consisted of a dozen or so metal folding chairs, most of which were positioned around either of two round tables. Each of the tables had a plastic cup filled with tiny pencils. A television which showed a mix of daytime talk shows and afternoon infomercials sat on a high shelf in a corner of the waiting room. The television's volume had been set at a slightly uncomfortable level, a bit too high.

There was only one person in the waiting room other than Mark, and that was a bald man with a dark brown VanDyke beard who looked to be in his mid-forties. Mark's age, more or less.

The door to the main office opened, and a short, average-looking young woman with light brown hair emerged, softly calling out what sounded to Mark like his name. He stood; so did the bald man.

The bearded man and Mark looked at each other quickly, then at the woman. She glanced at the sheet of paper in her hand quizzically, muttered "Ahhh," and said, much more loudly, "Which one of you is John?"

The bald man said "That'd be me," as the woman giggled. "Mind lettin' me in on the joke?"

She pointed at John. "When I came out, I only called your last name, MacArthur," she began.

Mark finished her thought, extending his hand to John. "And my name just happens to be Mark. Mark... Arthur."

John shook the proffered hand, nodding. "Got it. I don't need no houses to fall on me."

Mark sat back down, positioning his chair to face the television, as John followed the woman into the main office.

An infomercial for an unusual dating service began. Mark broke into a broad grin as the program's angle became clear. The dating service was run by a small group of self-proclaimed psychics, who promised to work together for their clients in order to steer them toward those who were sure -- destined, even -- to become their most successful matches.

Mark shook his head at one point, thinking, What a racket! I must have missed my calling.

After ten minutes or so, John returned to the waiting room, accompanied by a different, older, and somewhat prettier woman. She wordlessly motioned for Mark to join her as she returned to the main office.

Mark's interview only took about five minutes because they had his information on file from his last visit. After the interview, he exited the main office the same way he'd come in, instead of using the rear door.

John MacArthur was watching the psychic dating service infomercial, laughing softly. He looked over his shoulder at Mark.

"This is such a crock," he said, meaning the program.

Mark sat down at the same table as John, nodding. "It sure is. It gives a bad name to real psychics."

John looked at Mark as if he were unsure whether Mark was joking. "Isn't that like sayin' real ghosts, or vampires, or maybe leprechauns? I don't suppose you believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny too, do ya?"

Mark smiled amiably, but asked "So... umm... John, was it?"

"Nahhh, call me Jack. Everybody does. It's my nickname since high school, 'Jack Mac!' "

"Okay. So, Jack," Mark continued, "I take it you don't think there are any real psychics?"

"Course not. Load o'crap."

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure, yeah. I mean, as much as you can be about anything, y'know." Mark nodded again. "I mean, what's that old expression? You can only be sure of death and taxes?"

"Something like that."

"Especially in this state," John -- that is, Jack -- added, referring to the certainty of taxes in Massachusetts.

"And if I were to tell you that I'm a psychic... ?"

"I'd say you're either full of it, or just pullin' my leg," Jack said good-naturedly. He looked Mark in the eye. "Are you sayin' that?"

"Yes," answered Mark.

"No kiddin'. Okay, tell me what I'm thinking right now."

"I can't. I'm not telepathic; I don't read minds."

"I know what 'telepathic' means. But anyway, how about you tell me what's gonna happen in the news tomorrow. Or are you one o'those guys that bends spoons an' stuff?"

"No, you were right the second time. I'm precognitive. A fortune-teller, you might say."

"Stop definin' stuff for me, willya?"


"Just cuz I don't really believe in it doesn't mean I don't know nothin' about it. I usedta like comic books when I was a kid, but I never hadda believe in Spider-Man to know he could stick to walls, and shoot webs, and all that other stuff."

Mark apologized again, and made a mental note not to judge Jack solely by his speech patterns.

"So if you can tell the future," Jack began, resuming his good-natured grilling, "how come you're unemployed? Get hit with a lay-off you didn't see coming? Or maybe... " He paused.

"Or maybe," Mark said, smiling, "I'm one of those psychics who had his own shop, but didn't see that it was going to fail?"

Jack teasingly acted shocked. "Oh my God! How'd you know I was gonna say that? Are you psychic, or somethin'?" Both men laughed.

"No," admitted Mark, "My abilities had nothing to do with my saying that. I just get asked that a lot."

"I'm not surprised, if you go around tellin' perfect strangers that you can see the future."

"Actually, I don't tell too many people. But I knew you'd be willing to have an open-minded discussion about it."

Jack's eyebrows raised. "I assume that when you say you knew... "

Mark nodded. "Yes, this time I am talking about my... I hate to call them powers, but... " Jack shrugged. "As it happened, right about the time you made your comment about death and taxes, I was seeing a very strong image of you saying 'How did you know I'd say that?' followed by another image of the two of us laughing about it."

"Image? Like, a vision?"

Mark nodded again. "That's generally how it works for me. Let's say you and I hit it off so well that you take me home to meet your family."

Jack grinned. "Okay, let's say that."

"Five or ten minutes before arriving at your home, I might get a vision of your wife, standing in the middle of your living room. Or maybe I'll see an image of your five-year-old son, playing in his room upstairs. It's usually short-term, inconsequential things. Sometimes it's long-term. I might see your son at his high school graduation, instead." He thought for a moment. "Once, I got a really strange image, totally out of the blue, of the guy who played Gopher on The Love Boat standing around with a bunch of congressmen. This was years before he actually ran for office and got elected."

"Why'd you get that picture? Were you watchin' the show?"

"No, that's just it. I was actually in the middle of a baseball game. Playing in one, that is, not watching one."

"This so-called power of yours doesn't sound very useful."

"It usually isn't," Mark agreed. "It's often just plain distracting. But sometimes it comes in handy. I'm occasionally shown something that might happen, but that I can prevent. Usually small things. Someone's walking toward me, and I get an image showing them stumbling and falling because of a cracked piece of sidewalk. I yell, 'Hey, watch your step, there!' and he or she avoids tripping."


"And it's not something I can channel in any useful direction, ordinarily. So if I'm buying lottery tickets... " Jack started laughing. "You're thinking of the old line about how we never see a headline reading 'Psychic wins lottery,' right?"

Jack nodded vigorously, still laughing. "Yeah! Who said that, anyway? George Carlin?"

"Jay Leno. Carlin gets credit for everything, somewhere along the line. But actually, there have been headlines like that. Google the term sometime."

"I will, I will," Jack agreed, composing himself. "So, you ever get to prevent somethin' really important? Save a life, or somethin' like that?"

"Oh, I've made a difference, a few times... " Mark paused for a moment, and looked at Jack very seriously. "You mentioned comic books a few minutes ago. I don't suppose you believe in superheroes, do you?"

Jack smiled, "Yeah, about as much as I do vampires and leprechauns." Mark laughed. "And psychics," he added, playfully. "Why?"

"Well... When I was a much younger man... I almost became one."

* * * * *

Next time -- maybe -- another one of those oh-so-subtle plugs for my comic retailing alma mater, That's Entertainment! Or maybe that will come in Part 3. Or Part 4. Or Part 6. Or Part 14. Or Part 23. Or Part...

Join me here soon for "Meet Mark -- Part 2 -- "What's So Funny about Funnybooks?"


  1. David,
    As I was reading this installment I couldn't help getting eager to leave a comment like "Why didn't Mark apply for a job at That's Entertainment...." and then you ended with the hint of a possible upcoming blog about us...VERY clever of you to head me off at the pass!

  2. Let's just put it this way... The "Meet Mark" storyline should satisfy EVERYONE who voted, to some degree.

  3. I don't get it...where is the swinging physics content you promised to include? I was looking forward to some string theory! Nyuk.

    I've greatly enjoyed this first post of a new thing, and I look forward to seeing where it leads you! Golden Mask sounds pretty dang promising, I must say.

  4. No sex?

    Unles they are gay. Then this is flirting. Maybe they are bisexual. Ha ha ha.

    Cannot wait for next chapter.

  5. Ishat:

    "No sex?"

    Was there supposed to be?

    (By the way, if it matters... Mark's heterosexual. Jack... who knows? I haven't written his backstory yet.)

    Oh, are you referring to the whole "swinging psychics" thing?

    Story's not over yet, heh, heh, heh.


    Theme Thursday's topic is EGGS this week.

    Funny... I'm planning for Part 2 of "Meet Mark" to be posted on Thursday. Wonder what that could mean...

  6. Ok, I am intrigued and now I don't want to stop but I'm actually sleepy. When miracles occur you should probably go with it, ya know? hahaha So I'm stopping....


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