Episode 21: Parabol+Parabola
Several FBI agents linger around the breakroom and devour the carrot cupcakes that Toni has brought in. Conference in five, their supervisor tells them, and grabs one. How many have you had? He asks one of his subordinates. I lost count, the man admits, they’re worse than Pringles.
Toni, you are the best thing that’s ever happened to this office. The boss tells her, as he takes his seat at the table and unwraps another cupcake. The other woman at the table rolls her eyes and looks at Toni’s plaid western shirt with its top three snaps open and frowns. So what’s the latest from the Taj Mahal? One of the guys asks. Never been. Why - are you offering to take me? The guys grin at Toni and laugh at the blushing agent. How was the concert? Great while it lasted. It took forever to get out of there. I ended up sleeping over at Bettina and Lana’s. How can the two of them be roommates? An agent asks. Nancy Drew and Callie Shaw, Toni replies. The boss nods his approval. That’s a superb analogy, Toni. You’d make a fine agent. She smiles widely. I’ve got to admit, I love working with you guys. I wish it could be a permanent posting. All the male agents grin at this.
What’s the latest on your transfer? The woman special agent asks. I’ve got several offers now, but my dad asked me to reconsider when we went to brunch yesterday. I told him that I really like what I’m doing now, and how much of a blast it is living at Jax’s with Samantha. But that I know that they both aren’t going to last. What did he tell you? He said that I should be like Kramer from Seinfeld, you know that episode where he and the car salesman go on the test drive on empty and keep going. The boss breaks down laughing. I love that episode, he roars. He points at Toni. This world would be a better place if more daughters were like you, the boss announces sagely. Thank you. Toni tells him, and puts her head down.
So you’re not dating any of the band? The woman agent asks Toni, trying to trip her up. She shakes her head no. Sam told me that the guys used to call me “Don’t Wife That”. Of course, now I’m just Toni. Although Simon always calls me Tiger. Get it, Toni the Tiger, Frosted Flakes? The guys laugh.
“Don’t Wife That”? That makes no sense, the boss says incredulously. Thank you for saying that, Toni says and beams at him. The woman agent rolls her eyes again. Is something the matter? The boss asks her frowning. She was totally fishing for compliments. Was not! Toni protests. It’s just that Jax and Simon idolize my former fiance, she explains. The woman agent puts her head in her hands and shakes her head. Just to clarify, you aren’t seeing anybody right now, right? An agent asks. My dad is the only man who calls me, Toni confirms.
Are we going to talk about her all morning? the female agent protests. Why don’t you sit in my chair and run the meeting? No really. I’m going to get another cupcake. Maybe two.
The guys grin at each other, as the boss comes back into the room a minute later. So who was your fiance? He asks Toni. He is such an amazing guy. I completely screwed up, and he was so right to dump me. How did he dump you? One of the guys asks. Hello, we have business to discuss, the female agent protests.
This is a good teaching moment for when you’re in my seat, he tells the female agent. People matter. Relationships matter. Leaders care about both. He looks at Toni, and gestures for her to continue. Well, we were in Vegas, newly engaged. And we ran into Simon and Jax, who he knows, and they invited us to go to a magic show with them. Afterwards, Simon and I went off gambling and turned ten thousand into 379K at blackjack. The casino pulled our dealer, so we switched over to roulette and lost it all. Jax had taken Simon’s phone and credit card, and he was ready to call it a night. But I put up my engagement ring against a hundred thousand dollar marker. I lost it all. My fiance made sure I got home on a first class flight, and insisted that I keep our Volvo and luxury condo.
Your engagement ring was worth one hundred thousand dollars??? The woman agent says incredulously. Toni looks down at the table and doesn’t answer.
Alright, on to business, the boss says hurriedly…
So, Toni… one of the guys says as they drive out to do a background check interview. Yeah, Charlie? How in the world did you get an invite to live at Jax’s? Bettina brought me along to supper, and like the camel that got her nose into the tent, I wasn’t about to leave. The guys laugh. When Simon drove her home, I threw out all his stuff in the hall and claimed his room as my own. Everyone laughs. You are so cool, Toni. Where does he bunk now? Another agent asks. The poolhouse.
Have you ever meet Rolf? One of the agents asks. She nods. What’s he like? I’ve never met anyone like him, Toni admits. Remember how I told you guys that Jax and Simon idolize my fiance? Well, Morty idolizes Rolf. I think he’s seen every Youtube clip that Rolf has ever appeared in. After the concert, Rolf came back out with a fresh tshirt and a bottle of water, and sat on the edge of the stage and chatted with Morty. Then the rest of the guys came out and made themselves available to take pictures and sign autographs. It was all spontaneous, and Rolf was the one who made it happen.
So did you get a picture with him? No, I didn’t get to meet him until Saturday night, when he came over for the bonfire. He doesn’t own a car, and asked if Sam would pick him up. Anyway, he and Sam came out to the firepit, and he went out of his way to sit next to me. And he took my hand and squeezed it and told me that he was really glad that I was there. It was so unexpected and made me feel so welcome. But then he was really quiet for the rest of the night. Lana told Simon that he’s more like Jon than Jax, and having met him, I agree.
So we’re all telling stories about the concert, and Rolf is silent. And finally Jax asks him what was his experience of the concert. And Rolf says that performing was euphoric, but afterwards he felt hollow and empty because they didn’t measure up. You guys all know what I’m talking about. And the guys all stood and did a solemn toast to Nickelback. That makes no sense, an agent comments. Nickelback cannot hold a candle to SH5. Toni shrugs. I think it’s a coming of age, hero worship thing that they haven’t been able to shake off.
Anyway, then Bettina asked Rolf if he’d ever been in love. And he told her that love is a shy elf that lives in the forest who likes to play hide and seek. And the harder you search, the more elusive it becomes. And just when you think you’ve got it cornered, it becomes invisible. But if you just enjoy being in the woods and sit quietly, soon enough it will sneak up and sit beside you and put its arm around you.
That’s pretty good, an agent comments. Toni nods. Rolf didn’t say anything else for the rest of the night. After Lana and Bettina left, he and Jon stayed up all night remastering a rap album in Jax’s recording studio downstairs. I’m not a musician, but those guys really know their stuff.
Where does he live? Off Highway 90 a little ways. You can’t see his place from the road; it’s kind of hidden in plain sight.