Week 21 of Deal Me In 2015 brought me the Ace of Spades, and with it a story from Josh Green’s collection, Dirtyville Rhapsodies. The story is “The Delusional Mr. Necessary,” and is one of two stories from that collection on my roster of stories, the other being his “Axis of Symmetry.”
I have an ongoing effort to try to do a better job of keeping track of where I first hear about the stories or authors I read, and for this one I can happily say I actually know its exact “provenance.” 🙂 Back in 2013, I went to an author event at the local Bookmama’s Bookstore featuring local author Robert Rebein, who is also a creative writing professor at a local university. I asked him if any of his students had subsequently distinguished themselves in the literary world, and Josh Green was the first name he mentioned. I made a note of it and later, when my trusted Indy book blogging colleague Melissa (at Avid Reader’s Musings) posted a positive review of it, that sealed the deal and I downloaded a copy.
The story quickly staked its claim as one of my favorites of the year thus far. The Mr. Necessary of the title is Bob Necessary, a self deluded patron of a public gym. His life is, in reality, going nowhere fast. His one marketable skill is repairing video game machines. The kind of machines that “no one plays any more” though. He lives with his mom and has probably an unnatural attachment to her. He suffers from delusions of grandeur of the highest comical order. We learn that he is also delinquent on his membership fees at the gym.
His first person narrative of the story takes place over just one night – his final visit to the gym – at least until he makes good on his overdue bill. (“If I want to come back, do I have to pay for all the months at once?”) When exiting the gym he even assumes the gym employee stationed at the front desk – who tries to be kind to him while enforcing the gym’s collection policy – is “interested” in him. She tells him “You’re so full of the wrong ideas.” while ‘flipping her eyelashes in a final rejection.’ Bob rationalizes his expulsion from the gym saying that his mother needs lots of looking after (which made me wonder if there really was a mother – at least of a non-Norman Bates’s mom variety).
Mr. Necessary’s descriptions of the gym and it residents and politics early on in the story won me over immediately.
“Spandex on me would be too boastful. On any other man downright flagrant. I prefer gray sweatsuits with high-powered elastic at the ankles. So tastefully accentuating, so perfect for jumping jacks. Nothing says watch-me-perspire like the wetted Rorschach blots that seep out the back of gray sweats.”
Observing another man in the gym (a man who he secretly calls ‘Hercules’) he says:
“Hercules is wrapping up. He tufts back his locks and takes a slow cool gander at the Elliptical girls. He is sniffing my turf. In my younger days, this guy might’ve been in for a grapple, or I might’ve just kicked him in the plums. But now I take the suave approach, the high ground traveled by us more established and gentlemanly beefcakes. I let Hercules wonder and want and then drown in his own soppy bashfulness. He’s too shy to make the approach. Like the rest of us, I bet he’s hatched a thousand hypotheses about courting gym women but has acted on none. Nobody talks in these places. They just peek. They keep eyes on the fanning deltoids of the ship-shape crowd around them but never mouth a word.”
The delusional Mr. Necessary’s delusions extend to his family as well, remembering that his mother, referring to him, notes that “late bloomers bloom best,” and of his father that “Dad was a winner. And smart beyond his janitorial duties.”
I myself have spent some hours in gyms over the years (well, mostly 20 years or so ago) and a lot of the author’s characterizations rang true to me. I also admit that I’ve known some (admittedly less pathologically) delusional people in my travels. The gap between self-image and what the world at large really thinks of you can often be quite large (see the TV show “Survivor” for instance). I really enjoyed the story and look forward to reading the others in this collection.
What about you? Have you encountered many “Delusional Mr. Necessarys” in your life? In literature? The delusional do make for some interesting “unreliable narration” I must say. 🙂
Learn more about this author at his website http://joshrgreen.com .