The doorbell rang. In his sleeping shorts and flip flops, Irvin got up to answer the door.
Outside, dressed dapperly in a grey, 3-piece suit, was the consult, Mr. Simms, standing on the porch.
Irvin opened the door to greet him.
“Right on time,” Irvin said. “I like it.”
“Always on time,” Simms said. “I promise. And look, you didn’t even need to get dressed for the consultation.”
“I like that even more,” Irvin said.
“May I come in?”
“Please do,” Irvin said invitingly.
Simms entered. They walked across the living room and into the kitchen, taking seats at the dining table which Irvin hadn’t bothered to clear of crumbs or dirty dishes.
“As we discussed, my services will cost most of your savings,” Simms explained. “But I assure you, it will be well worth it.”
“It better be worth it,” Irvin said. “I didn’t work over 40 years at the phone company for nothing.”
“You have my guarantee,” Simms said. “It’ll be worth it.”
“You’re like an adviser, then? A coach? Sorta like a financial advisor or a life coach?”
“More like a life coach. Or consultant, as I prefer to bill myself.”
“So how’s this gonna work?” Irvin asked.
“For the cost of the majority of your savings, I’ll consult you on the easiest ways of getting through the remainder of your days. It’s that simple. Of course, there are a few things you’ll still have to do, but very few, I guarantee. And none will be strenuous in the least. When something arises that requires your effort, call me, and I will consult you on the easiest ways of getting out of it.”
“But I still have to call?”
“Well, yes. I can’t do absolutely everything for you. For example, I cannot read your mind.”
“Is there a discount since you can’t read my mind to know everything I want and need and then provide it for me?”
“No,” Simms said. “No discount for that. That enters the realm of metaphysics, and I have my limits.”
“Shucks,” Irvin said.
“But I assure you, from this day forward your life can be one of maximum leisure and near-total apathy. And there’s a lifetime guarantee that, with my services, it shall be and it shall remain.”
“How do you mean?”
“For example, what if I told you there was a way to structure your existence so you could remain on the couch, wallowing in your filth and watching television for weeks at a time without ever having to do anything? You wouldn’t even have to dress or bathe regularly to leave the house for those pesky groceries.”
“Good Lord, that would be fantastic,” Irvin said. “But how?”
“With my tried and true methods, I will consult you on how to guilt your friends, family and loved ones into doing for you what you don’t want to do for yourself, such as going outside for those pesky groceries.”
“This sounds too good to be true,” Irvin said. “It would feel so warm and grand for them to do all that for me. It’s truly all I ever wanted was to feel the warmth of their affection through all they’ve wished to do for me.”
Irvin paused and gazed critically at the consultant.
“I feel like I ought to be looking this gift horse in the mouth since it sounds too good to be true.”
Simms assured his client, “Lifetime guarantee. It’s in the contract. This bargain doesn’t live up to my promises, you get your savings back.”
Irvin leaned across the table to be serious.
“Mr. Simms, do you really expect me to believe all my needs and desires can be met by simply signing your contract?”
“You are not a fool, Mr. Greene. None who consult me ever are. You are all quite clever, indeed. So let me assure you, the few desires I cannot service you with, I have a tried and true method for allowing you to believe you are the victim of an indifferent society that doesn’t cater to each and every one of your needs. It’s a simple method, I assure you. And, once employed, will soothe and comfort your soul in all of its days of lying in your filth on the couch.”
Irvin needed this assurance.
“So what if my cable goes out? You handle stuff like that too, cause I hate dealing with those fucking idiots on the phone?”
“Sure. You call me any time of the day or night. I’ll advise you on how to guilt, say, a neighbor, into fixing it for you. As a last resort, if we can’t find anybody else, I’ll make the call to the cable company myself and arrange for a time for them to fix it.”
“And if I ever need a new TV?”
“I’ll advise you on how to convince somebody to order a new one for you and even have it delivered. I can even tell you how to play helpless so they’ll install it for you, too.”
“Helpless?” Irvin asked.
“Sure. I’ll advise you through the role of the Techno Idiot. If you play it good enough, they’ll forget you’ve got a manual that could walk a child through the set-up process. And, if people are still unconvinced, you give them my number, and I will plead your case. I’ll tell them why they should want to help you. I’ll tell them they’re mean and self-centered for not eagerly and unconditionally wishing to satisfy all your needs. But you never mind those details now. We’ll get to all that later.”
“You know,” Irvin said. “I worked over 40 years of my life for something like this. It sounds like a miracle.”
“It is,” Simms said.
“But, if it’s so good, isn’t there any way of us guilting somebody else into paying for your services for me?”
“I can tell you’re been at this a long time, Mr. Greene.”
“Yes. Most of my life,” Irvin said.
“Trust in me and I will teach you The Law of Maximum Return on Minimum Investment that you’ve yearned all your life to understand.”
Irvin swallowed hard, holding back the tears.
“How did you know? I’ve invested my life in The Law, and, so far, for nothing, except for my savings.”
“It’s what all my clients have yearned for,” Simms said. “Mastery of the Law of Maximum Return on Minimum Investment”
“I tried all these years to understand and exercise it, yet done it so feebly people have caught on.”
“And rejected you as a consequence of your feeble attempts and execution?”
“Yes,” Irvin confessed.
“I will coach you through it’s perfect implementation,” Simms said. “And you will feel incredibly special in reaping its rewards. So, so delectably and incredibly special that you receive so much more for your trivial investment than anybody else does.”
“Yes,” Irvin whimpered. “It’s all I ever wanted.”
“Unfortunately, it’s a one-time, upfront payment. And without my skills already, you’re probably not prepared for the level of manipulation required to get anyone else to pay for it. But I assure you, you’ll never go poor and you’ll never go hungry or without cable television. That’s what I’m here to do – through other people, prevent that from ever happening to you.”
“There’s one last thing,” Irvin said. “I don’t think people much like me. My family. My neighbors. I don’t think I’m much liked, much less loved.”
“I can fix that too,” Simms said.
“I’ll advise you on the construction of a false persona to fool them into believing you’re a lovable person. And I’ll even advise you on how to lie to yourself to believe that people love you, even when you know they don’t.”
“But how? This has been another of my life’s pursuits, and I’ve failed, so I thought it impossible.”
“How? Well, I can’t give away all my secrets. Sign the contract and you’ll know soon enough.”
Simms opened the portfolio and, over the pile of dirty dishes, handed the contract to Irvin. Then Simms handed him the pen, and Irvin eagerly signed over everything he owned.