Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Miss Ass by Joseph Carfagno

I know it is trite but I can’t help it: whenever I stand in a crowded subway car and feel my buttocks jiggle – I have gained some weight over the past fifteen years -- as the express arrives at or departs from a station, I compare myself to a piece of cattle headed with its mates to the stockyards of Kansas City or Chicago. My eyes stray from my reading material or companion’s eyes to the inviting or threatening countenances of my fellow commuters. The passengers read their holy books, nod to their music. Seldom and then only briefly do our eyes meet. The train stops short, I am jostled, and invariably I think of Miss Ass.

I was selling business intelligence (not an oxymoron) or data mining software then. I’m not sure what to call those products now, I haven’t kept up with the field. I am selling more tangible things nowadays. Miss Ass was the administrative assistant for a potential client. This was in the midtown headquarters of a huge multinational firm. When I entered her work area for the first time, she beckoned me to sit while she checked on her boss’ availability. I noticed she had an attractive figure but didn’t think any further about it. There are many beautiful women in New York. I am a professional salesman with a family to support. If a client caught me ogling his employee, I could lose a sale. I simply sat on a comfortable chair and thumbed through some of the magazines scattered on the adjacent table.

Our meeting ran late. At length my client checked his watch and told me he needed to leave soon to catch his train home. He walked me to the elevator himself: Miss Ass and most of the staff had gone home for the evening. I shook hands with him upon parting, thinking only of a potential sale.

* * *

A few days later I was catching up on some paperwork at my desk when a colleague asked me about Miss Ass. I swiveled in my chair and looked up at him. “Excuse me?”

“You haven’t heard of Miss Ass?” A few other salesmen gathered round him.

He recited the tale. “She’s often cited in the medical literature. She was born deformed. Her heart and lungs were so weak that the only original part of her that could be saved by the doctors was her buttocks. Somehow, no one is quite sure how, through the heroic efforts of some ambitious doctors and cutting edge medical technology, she survived. Eventually she left the hospital and was able to lead an almost normal life.”

“She looked like any other admin to me.”

He whistled. “I’ve heard the technology has really advanced. Seeing is believing. But tell me about her ass.”

I recalled seeing her stretch in her tight skirt as she opened her boss’ door a crack. I remembered how she returned to her seat. I stood up, stretched, craned my neck. No women had ambled over. “It’s spectacular.”

* * *

Eventually our team made the sale. On a late Yom Kippur or early Columbus Day – a Monday in the early fall, at any rate -- my manager asked me to pick up some papers from the client. I hadn’t been to their office in months. I sat in the vestibule waiting for the boss to appear. Miss Ass was not at her desk. Finally he arrived. He shook my hand, smiled, ran his hand distractedly through his thinning hair, rummaged through the materials in Miss Ass’ impeccable work space, found nothing, and went back into his office. I made myself inconspicuous so as not to flummox him further. When the boss reemerged from his office, he apologized. “Miss A. has the papers. She’s working from home today. It’s a school holiday.” I agreed to pick up the papers at her home in Sheepshead Bay.

I really didn’t have much choice, I reflected, as I boarded the Q train. We needed the papers to book the sale in the third quarter. This was a light day. I had meetings scheduled throughout the rest of the week. Of course I also wanted to see how Miss Ass lived.

She lived in a two bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of an elevator building overlooking a playground. As she buzzed me in, she told me I could just walk into her apartment: the door was unlocked. She had set up a small office space near the window of her bedroom. The papers I sought were on top of a two drawer filing cabinet near her desk. She seemed distracted. I glanced at the jumble of things strewn about her dresser, end table, and thin bed. Apparently she did not live with a man.

After an awkward silence, Miss Ass asked me if I had everything I needed. I assured her I did. She smiled and told me that her son had overslept and was then in a hurry to join his friends. She hadn’t had time to tidy up; besides, she wasn’t expecting any visitors. She pointed the boy out to me – a mixed-race child of eight or nine slightly smaller than his peers but otherwise completely normal. “He’s very handsome,” I told her.

Miss Ass swiveled in her chair and beamed.

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