“I’m gonna hit you,” the little boy announced.
He was six or so and a clone of his father, Jeff, only shorter. He had taken up a boxing stance and stood in front of me, poised, like an attack gnome.
“On your willy,” he added and pointed at my groin.
We were in the extremely ugly reception hall of Jeff’s house. Jeff had insisted that the team lunch be held at his place, probably so that he could show off his new Porsche and the even newer speedboat he kept talking about.
“He will,” Jeff said and beamed around at our colleagues. “Won’t you my boy?”
I often had violent dreams about Jeff. In these dreams I always embarrassed myself while Jeff was calmly superior. I’d try to shoot him but the bullets would be limp and plop to the ground.
“He’s very strong-willed,” Jeff added and ruffled the boy’s hair. “Just like his dad.”
The boy was unmoved by his father’s praises.
“What’s your name?” he demanded.
I told him.
“Why?” he pressed on.
“I — I dunno,” I said. “What’s yours?”
“Jeff,” he said with an air of finality. “You smell funny.”
I wanted to know what he meant but I couldn’t risk asking.
“Of course,” I said. “You look funny.”
He punched me in the groin and ran away.
“You sure managed to piss him off,” Jeff mused as I hobbled into the house. “Tell me, how are you with dogs?”
The inside of Jeff’s house was even uglier than the reception hall. There were animal skulls mounted along the walls and many framed pictures of Jeff doing something. The pool outside was ugly too. There was a golden mermaid at the one end and a large dolphin spout at the other. It was a hot day and most of the others were swimming. I changed in one of the ugly dressing rooms next to Jeff’s ugly sauna and joined them. Dan was in the pool. He was the oldest programmer on our team. He was a narcoleptic and often fell asleep while explaining his code. He also had no buttocks to speak of and constantly had to pull up his pants. We once found him in the office kitchen, standing in front of the open fridge, asleep, with his pants around his ankles.
“Should you be swimming?” I asked.
“Fuck you,” Dan said. “Did you see the house?”
“I came out here as fast as I could.”
Julia waded over. She was the nicest person on our team. She was almost spherical, with enormous breasts and a wide smile. She always reminded me of a giant model of a friendly water molecule I once saw at the Science Center.
“Do you think Jeff’s mother nursed him?” she asked.
“Why?” Dan laughed.
“She should’ve rolled over him in her sleep,” she replied.
“Right!” Jeff called out from the patio and tapped his ugly Rolex.
Jeff’s caterers had set a table on the patio with finger food and pretentious arrangements of fruit that no one would ever eat. We dried off and sat down around it while Jeff took up his position at the head of the table. He smiled wryly when I sat down at the opposite end.
“That’s good,” he remarked and gestured that I stay where I was. “Whatever you do, I’ll be far away.”
We picked at the food while Jeff regaled us with tales of his adventures. Most of his recent adventures involved the boat on display in his driveway. They were all the same adventure, really, with Jeff in his boat at various speeds. We were all bored but Jeff closed his eyes when he spoke and we couldn’t interrupt him. It was getting late when he finally emptied his bag of brags. Since his divorce, he concluded, he had had a lot more time to himself.
“Except when this one visits,” he added when little Jeff sprinted past toward the pool.
As an afterthought he pointed at me.
“He sure has a way with kids,” he remarked. “You should have seen this. He pissed off little Jeff at the front door.”
“How old is he?” someone asked.
“He’s six,” Jeff said proudly. “Going on sixteen.”
“It’s no surprise he got pissed off then,” Julia said. “He’s a midget teenager. Anyone will piss him off.”
Jeff was a short man, a real dust farter, and he didn’t miss this reference.
“He pisses off everyone,” he insisted. “It’s like he’s got this field around him, or something.”
He popped an olive into his mouth and kept talking.
“I’ll never forget when we went to this coffee shop. He pissed off the entire place.”
“There were only two people in there,” I mumbled.
“Sure,” Jeff smiled, “sure. Still, you managed to piss off both of them. I don’t know if there’s a name for what’s wrong with you, I really don’t. But I’m pretty sure there’s a pill for it.”
Perhaps, I thought, guns were the wrong choice after all. A cheese knife might work, like the one right there on the table. Beside me, Dan had fallen asleep. His chin dug into his chest and he drooled into his navel. Julia held up a dolma.
“What’s this?” she asked. “It looks like a koala turd.”
“Those are dolmades,” Jeff sighed. “They’re Greek. You don’t have to eat them.”
Little Jeff returned from the pool, out of breath, and showed his father a cell phone. My sphincter skipped a beat. It was my phone.
“What’s this?” little Jeff asked. “Is it a willy?”
Jeff glanced at the phone and blanched.
“Go and play,” he told little Jeff and took the phone away from him.
Then he turned to me.
“What the fuck—?” he hissed.
He held my phone for everyone to see. The little prick had somehow opened it and found a photo I’d kept that my girlfriend had taken years before in Berlin when we stayed in the apartment of a guy called Hermann. We never actually met Hermann because he was travelling in Nepal. In his spare room we came across a collection of sex toys. My girlfriend took a picture of me posing with an extremely large rubber penis and a sign on which she’d written Maybe Dick.
“That’s not mine—” I cried.
“He’s six!” Jeff went on. “How can you let him see this?”
“I didn’t! He—”
Dan woke up with a start and slapped his knees.
“That’s what I’ve said all along,” he resumed.
“Is that a willy?” little Jeff asked again.
By now he’d come around to my end of the table where Julia was laughing at the photo and pounding on the table.
“Jeff—” Jeff cautioned.
“What’s going on?” Dan asked and blinked at everyone.
“It is,” I told little Jeff. “But it’s a very big willy.”
“Hey—?” Jeff cautioned again.
“Is it your willy?” little Jeff wanted to know.
“No,” I said. “It belonged to a man called Hermann.”
Little Jeff made to say something but I cut in.
“I don’t know why his name was Hermann. It doesn’t matter. He’s dead now.”
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Jeff said through gritted teeth. “He has to be back at his mother’s in an hour!”
“Is that his real willy?” came the inevitable question.
“Oh no, sweetie,” Julia laughed. “It’s a toy willy.”
“A toy willy!?” little Jeff cried, delighted at this new possibility.
“Yes,” she nodded. “Hermann played with it, you know, for fun. Just like your daddy plays with his boat.”
Jeff fingered his Rolex and cleared his throat loudly.
“Look,” he interrupted and stood up, “it’s getting late. We all had better be going. Jeff?”
The boy ignored him and folded his arms.
“Did he play with it a lot?” he asked. “Daddy plays with his boat every weekend.”
“Jeff!” Jeff implored.
“Well,” I said, unable to help myself, “I think Hermann played with it every day.”
“Jesus Christ!” Jeff hissed.
“How do you play with a willy?” little Jeff demanded and refolded his arms.
We all got up to collect our things, but Julia knelt in front of little Jeff.
“Don’t you worry,” she said with a smile in Jeff’s direction. “When you get a willy like this, daddy will show you.”
“I’m gonna hit you,” the little boy announced.