“You Procrastinate,” by Fred Smith

Apr 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

You procrastinate. You study for every exam the night before. You prepare for every meeting that day. But somehow you succeed. Wildly. You are respected and known. So much so that they tap you to head the winter Olympics coming to your hometown. They appoint you five years before the Games. Does anything really take five years to prepare for? A year in, it is still four whole years away. A whole presidential term for chrissakes. With three years to go, you consider lobbing in a call to a couple of construction guys, get some estimates on a bobsled course and somesuch, but then the ex-wife rings your cell with some pain in the ass problem. Three years is 36 months. That’s a buttload of months. Two years out you start a things to do for the Olympics list but don’t get much past 1. consider calling Jeffrey to pitch in. Jeffrey handles concessions at the high school football games — a good organizer. Probably a good list-maker too. You’ll be sure to call him later. Last year, you actually call Jeffrey, but it goes straight to vmail. Must be on the phone. This isn’t the kind of thing you leave a message for – help me with next year’s Olympics of which I am in charge and have done nothing to date – so you’ll call him back in five. You wake up last Tuesday. You lie in bed staring at the ceiling. Then it hits you: Holy shit, the Olympics start on Friday! You are pissed at yourself for not calling Jeffrey back last year, or at least leaving a message. Well, you have three days to do this. Fucking Christ redeemed the fucking world in three days. You’ll be damned if you can’t organize a fucking Olympics in the same time then. You just need to get going right fucking now! After a hearty breakfast. You need fuel. And a thorough reading of the paper. You need to be up on current events. Could come in handy when organizing an Olympics. After that, you retire to the sofa with your notepad and pen. Time for the organizer to get organized! So many questions. So many details. The games start on Friday. How long are these goddamn games anyway? You think a fortnight. Or is that Wimbledon? What is a fortnight anyway? Time to break out the computer. You google fortnight. There’s a sale at Sears. You buy a pretty nice linen shirt marked down 25%. Linen can get wrinkly, but there’s nothing better when it’s hot. A fortnight is two weeks. But you decide to plan on three. Better safe than sorry, you always say. How many countries are coming? Let’s count. Well, there’s us, probably Canada. Probably a bunch of those little, cold countries too. You dig out a globe from your clothes closet. Jeez, there are a bunch of those little cold countries. You bet 30-35 countries are gonna show up. Well, all of those countries are gonna need a pot to piss in. First things first then…the Olympic Village. You call La Quinta. You tell the girl you need a couple thousand rooms for two no three (thinking!) weeks checking in Friday night. She tells you she has one. You take it. But you tell the girl in a firm voice that if any other rooms open up to be sure to give you a call. You’re pretty sure she will. You trust that girl. After a few more calls to the national chains, you have 19 rooms locked down solid. Some of those countries are just gonna have to double up. And you’re betting that girl is going to call back any time. Now you need to visualize the different events and what the infrastructure needs will be. You close your eyes to visualize. You wake up at 2. You’ll work it out with the construction guy when you get him on the phone. You call the construction guy. You ask him if he were you and you were him what he would be asking you to get built for an Olympics. He reckoned he didn’t know. Fucking idiot! Might as well get this moron started on something, though. You ask him to build you a bobsled run. He asks when you need it by. You tell him no later than Thursday night, which is crafty because you probably really don’t need it till Friday. He says he’s not sure what a bobsled run even looks like. You tell him to google it and get back to you asap with a quote. You actually say asap. Time to put that call into Jeffrey. Not only is he organized, he has a Subaru. Jeffrey answers, but just after he says hello, your call waiting beeps. Things are heating up now! You tell Jeffrey to hang on. It’s the construction guy. He says he googled bobsled run and doesn’t think he can build one by Thursday night. You smile because you know you really have until Friday morning. Maybe he will come down on the quote if you give him that extra time. Crafty. You ask him how long he thinks it will take to build the bobsled run. He says three years. You beep Jeffrey back in and tell him that you will have to call him back. You need to think. Construction guy couldn’t build a bobsled run this week. Could you? You think there’s some plywood in the garage. Just before you get up to go look, it hits you – inspiration.  Did those Italian Greeks when they were bobsledding naked 10,000 years ago even have a bobsled run? They most certainly did not, you are betting. They probably bobsledded naked down a mountain – that’s the Italian Greek way. In fact, that is going to be the tagline for this Olympics : An Italian Greek Olympics – Back to Basics. It writes itself. You should probably get a banner made that says that. You call a sign shop and ask the girl to print you a banner and you need it no later than (wink, wink) Thursday night. She says no problem, but says if you order five or more, the price per banner is better. What the hell, it’s the Olympics after all. You order five. Now back to Jeffrey. You ask him if he could spare a couple of hours this afternoon to help you organize the Olympics. He says sure, good ol’ Jeffrey, and pops right over. You fill him in on the Italian Greek concept and he loves it (natch). Jeffrey asks what’s on the to-do list. You knew Jeffrey was so into lists, you could just sense it about the man. You explain to him that if he is wondering if official Olympic banners were still on the to-do list, he would be dead wrong. That has been taken care of in its entirety, absolutely put to bed. And if he was wondering if reserving almost 20 rooms for the Olympic Village was a dangling loose end, well, he would be one seriously mistaken Jeffrey. That, too, is no longer an item of concern. What is on the to-do list is, then, of course, everything else. But banners and 20 or so hotel rooms, do not give them another thought, no sir. Being the leader that you are, you tell Jeffrey that this Olympics organization will forthwith implement a divide and conquer strategy tailored to organizing an Olympics in the most time efficient manner possible, since the previous go it alone strategy you had executed for several hours now appears to be in need of tweaking. In that spirit, and with a nod to whom owns the Subaru, you anoint Jeffrey head of all events in which people start at the top and attempt to get to the bottom as quickly as possible. You will be in charge of all events that involve sliding. And once you and Jeffrey get those done, that should just about cover it. You can see a look in Jeffrey’s eyes. His noodle is noodling. Out with it Jeffrey, out with it! The opening and closing ceremonies are on his mind. Fuck! You forgot about the ceremonies. But hang on. Is Jeffrey sure those Italian Greeks did opening and closing ceremonies 10,000 years ago? Because if they didn’t, it would be a total insult to a Back to Basics Italian Greek Olympics, wouldn’t it? Jeffrey’s pretty sure they did. Well, leaders lead but they don’t have to be perfect. No sense beating yourself up over an honest oversight. But (that Jeffrey!) he has the solution. Jeffrey’s not the type to throw out potentially insoluble problems without a solution in mind. You can use the high school football stadium as the venue for those ceremonies. Jeffrey handles concessions. Jeffrey even has the key to the place and he shows it to you. Jeffrey has like 60 keys. They must weigh 5 pounds.  Ok, you have the venue. But ceremony implies something ceremonial. You are thinking uniforms, you are thinking precision, a display even of awesome might. Yes, this is developing nicely. Jeffrey snaps his fingers. He really does. He’s got it. That Jeffrey! Jeffrey’s brother-in-law Ronnie is scoutmaster of his son’s Cub Scout pack. He knows Ronnie would just jump at the chance to have those boys parade around for the Olympics. Who wouldn’t? But you are not sold yet. Would they be in full uniform, and you mean full? You mean kerchiefs twirled to such perfect points they could draw blood. Yes, full uniforms guaranteed. Will they be precise? After all aren’t most of them around 8? Jeffrey says you will be surprised. You hope so, but you trust Jeffrey. Leaders have to trust their hand-picked assistants. Can they display awesome might? That might be stretching it. But now it’s your turn to come up with a high wattage idea…Does Jeffrey think Ronnie can get two or three Webelos to join in? Jeffrey thinks so, and then Jeffrey goes one better…he is pretty damn sure he may be able to get a couple of actual Boy Scouts, maybe even First Class ones. Ah, bringing in the big guns. Sold!! So sold, you think maybe you should celebrate having solved the Gordian knot of those ceremonies. You and Jeffrey repair to a bar for a celebratory nip. Nine hours later you repair from a bar for a celebratory good night’s sleep to hit the ground running even harder (if that is possible) tomorrow. You agree to meet Jeffrey first thing in the morning at Denny’s to plan out another ridiculously productive day. You wake at 11:25 a.m. fully clothed on the toilet. The phone rings. It is Jeffrey, fucking Jeffrey. The same fucking Jeffrey that thought that 8th double vodka would be a goddamn good idea, when you passionately argued that it would be better luck to stop at 7 and which thereby clearly encouraged you to order a 9th. And 10th. Round numbers seemed important. Jeffrey sounds like he might be on the toilet too. You look in the mirror transfixed by the deep, perfectly formed knuckle prints on your cheek. Do you have kidney disease? Dialysis would suck. And it would be Jeffrey’s fault. Note to self: as soon as these Olympics are over, look into suing the hell out of Jeffrey. He has assets. All those keys have to open something. Being the leader that you are, you swallow your righteous anger. Jeffrey will experience your legal vengeance when the time is right. Right now you need Jeffrey. But actually you don’t need Jeffrey so much today. What you need is to figure out a way to stand up and then locate your bed in this maze of a house. Just may sue the fucking architect along with fucking Jeffrey.  You tell Jeffrey in the calmest of voices that you think this Olympic Games would best be served today by reflecting on the things each of you need to do tomorrow. For example, Jeffrey might likely put rent a mountain at the top of his list, but you will leave that for Jeffrey to decide. Jeffrey says something garbled and rings off. The next morning dawns crisp and clear. It is still crisp and clear when you wake up. The day before the Olympics! You are nervous but excited. And just a little proud. Starting tomorrow, all of your hard work is going to pay off. You meet Jeffrey for a late breakfast at Denny’s. You sense Jeffrey is aware just how badly he screwed up at the bar the other night. Jeffrey wants to atone for his sins, and has done so by getting up an hour ago, piling into the Subaru and searching for his mountain. And not more than 20 minutes ago he found it! Oh, Jeffrey! Jeffrey can let you down, but Jeffrey always, always picks you back up where you belong. On top of that, Jeffrey didn’t see any for rent signs around his mountain, so his mountain must be unowned! What a windfall! This Olympics will probably come in under budget. But does it have snow? Jeffrey thinks it does. That’s good, because snow will likely play an important role in these Olympics. But wait, there’s more. Jeffrey is about to explode with excitement. What do you think is smack dab next to Jeffrey’s mountain? It is a pond. A pond perfect for sliding. So the pond is frozen? Yes, most of it. You stare at Jeffrey in solemn amazement. The little man before you has in one hour assured you of organizing the best damn Italian Greek Back to Basics Olympics ever. You probably won’t sue Jeffrey now. You have one more little idea. A final flourish, the little red cherry on top of this scrumptious Olympic sundae you’ve created. What if one of you, and you’re thinking Jeffrey here since he owns the Subaru, drove the 45 minutes across the state line and bought a buttload of bottle rockets to shoot off at the opening and closing ceremonies when the Cub Scouts are marching around? Spectacular, no? You stare at Jeffrey. Jeffrey stares back at you poker-faced. His eyes are telling you that he nailed down a mountain and a pond this morning, what the hell have you done? It’s a standoff. You, of course, would be happy to go, except that it is 45 minutes away, and you don’t have a Subaru. Finally Jeffrey clears his throat. What if, instead, Jeffrey says, when the Cub Scouts are marching around Jeffrey flips the football stadium lights off and on really fast. Genius! Done and done and all 100% legal to boot! You lift your coffee cup. Jeffrey does the same. You declare that this Italian Greek Back to Basics Olympics is now organized. Your cell rings. It’s that girl from La Quinta. A tear comes to your eye. Yes, it is finished.

Two or three weeks later you walk through your front door. You have just come from the closing ceremonies. The Cub Scouts were particularly excellent. The President of the International Olympic Committee declared that these were a most prurient and parsimonious Olympic Games. Impressive alliteration from a foreigner. You google prurient and parsimonious.  Fucking foreigner. There is a message on your machine. It’s Al Gore. Al Gore says that he had heard that you were the organizer of the recent Olympics and had done an excellent job. Apparently Al Gore has not yet googled prurient and parsimonious. Al Gore was wondering if you would consider heading a task force charged with lowering worldwide carbon dioxide emissions by 75% over the next ten years. Sounds interesting. Ideas to lower worldwide carbon emissions by 75% immediately flood your brain. No way it would take ten years. You decide to accept Al Gore’s offer. Definitely need to call Al Gore back tomorrow sometime.


Fred Smith says: “I live in Ames, Iowa and attempt to make a living. I am consistently impressed by the writing of others. What I think is funny in my mind is outshined by the stuff I read on publications like Defenestration. So that spurs me on. I would really appreciate any comments from readers of this piece!”

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