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  • "General: Unskilled"
  • Ryan Dull (bio)

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Illustration by Jane Raese

[End Page 100]

Mikey was on the road somewhere in Fountain Valley, looking for the 405, a ceramic saluki in his right hand and a big forced smile on his face, teeth and all. He'd heard from the entrepreneur and motivational podcaster Greg Charridan that smiling, even fake smiling, sent signals to your brain that helped to keep you upbeat. It was important to stay positive, although Mikey knew that the ceramic saluki was probably going to ruin his day. [End Page 101]

Delivery jobs were always scheduling nightmares. And the dog was guaranteed to break, its spindly saluki legs splayed out in all directions, just begging to snag on an empty buttonhole. It was maybe five inches long, lighter than a penny, and brittle as a glass tooth. Mikey was afraid to hold it and afraid to put it down. It was worth about twenty dollars to shuttle this thing out to Huntington Beach, and it would take half a pound of careless pressure to set Mikey back ten times that much. Shirt pocket? He'd crush it. Passenger seat? If someone cut him off, the glove-compartment door would smash the thing to sentimental dust. Sunglasses case? Inner wall of the spare tire? Mikey wondered for a long, feverish moment whether his best option might be to keep the ceramic saluki inside his mouth for the duration. But you never knew with antiques. What if his tongue smudged the paint? Not an easy thing to explain. Bad review for sure.

He should have turned down the job as soon as he saw the dog. No, he should have turned down the job as soon as he heard that he couldn't deliver it until late afternoon, which meant he'd have to schlep it along on any and all jobs he managed to pick up in the interim. But he didn't turn down jobs. First line of his profile: "Mikey H. doesn't turn down jobs." It was key to his growing appeal. So he was stuck with the dog. Delivery between 3:45 and 5:00. Which meant about 4:00, if he wanted a good review.

He had an appointment at 11:00 and an appointment at 2:00, and otherwise it was catch-as-catch-can. It was a Tuesday, he was the fourth most highly rated nonspecialist in the greater Anaheim area, he had a 2012 Volkswagen Golf, and he was willing to drive. He'd find something. He could move up to number three today. That was not outside the realm of possibility. Six days since he'd hit fourth place, and straight five-star reviews ever since. He visualized his name rising, like a weather balloon, to the top of the Anaheim Taskr General: Unskilled leaderboard. At a red light, he held the saluki a foot in front of his face and said, "You will not impede my ascent."

Mikey pulled into a CVS parking lot, slid back the sunroof, opened Taskr, and made himself available. After a moment, he popped the glove compartment and plucked out a box of tissues. He'd mummify the saluki, that's what he'd do. Mummies lasted forever. But his phone was already buzzing, easy job eight minutes away. He laid the saluki in a loose mound of tissues on the floor in front of the passenger seat. Back on the road in under a minute, tires singing across uneven asphalt. [End Page 102]

He spent forty-five minutes helping a middle-aged guy move dusty patio furniture from a storage unit into a U-Haul. Mikey left the saluki on his dashboard, where he could keep an eye on it from across the lot. The guy spent the whole time talking about the Ducks, but Mikey didn't follow hockey. He responded mostly by talking about the Clippers, but it didn't seem like the guy followed basketball. They got along fine. At the end of the shift, the guy offered to keep Mikey's clock running if he'd help him to unload the U...


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pp. 100-112
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