When Max is videotaped fiddling with himself at work, it seems the whole world is out to get him. But a trip to the Rehab Center for Awkward Adults might help put things into perspective.
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
When a video of Max fiddling himself in the staff bathroom of his work showed up on the internet, there were many questions to be asked. And while Max had been asking himself things like “Who would put a camera in a bathroom?” and “Is that even legal?”, most of the internet was wondering what kind of creeper-pervert would give himself an orgasm while he was on the clock.
Max had become somewhat of a celebrity around his city of Vancouver. Everywhere he went he was met with snickers and cold glares of disgust from the people he passed. Some even went so far as to cross the street at the sight of him.
Max didn’t have many friends to begin with, but with this popular scandal making the rounds, it had completely cleared his social schedule. All the servers at Burger Barn that used to talk to him often now completely ignored him, going out of their way to avoid even the briefest of eye contact. And his boss, Chef Jason, didn’t make it any easier for him. Even in the middle of a complete kitchen white-out, he would tease him.
“Nice dick,” Chef Jason would say loudly in Max’s ear. “I’ve watched that video like ten times! It keeps getting funnier! My baby sister has a bigger dick than you!”
Max would hang his head solemnly and go back to his work in silence.
One day, Max sat on a dock at the pier. His legs dangled off the ledge while he tossed pebbles out into the ocean. As a kid he could never really get them to skip like the other kids so he just kind of gave up. Now he just liked to hear the sound the stone made as it breached the water’s surface.
In a way, Max envied those stones; sinking down to the unknown depths of the sea, engulfed in its embrace, falling comfortably away from the chaos of the world above. He stared down at the water below; his distorted reflection looked back at him, waving back and forth—completely undone.
When he looked up, he saw, drifting out of the sunset like some painting in a dentist’s office, a silhouette of a sailboat approaching. As it sailed forward it seemed to be heading right for him. He pushed off the wood planks and got to his feet. He could see the boat well now.
There was a single man at the helm; thin framed and wrapped in a pink striped t-shirt with an exceptionally deep collar. The man’s eyes were as blue as the ocean and his smile was cheerful and inviting. He stood proud, with one knee on the nose of the boat, his fists against his hips, looking much like how you would imagine an explorer in the olden days.
As the boat pulled up to Max, the sailor brushed the blonde curls from his forehead and dropped the heavy anchor into the shore. He gave an eager wave over to Max.
“Are you lost?” asked Max. “The marina is over that way.”
The flamboyant stranger smiled and shook his head. “No, Max. I think it is you who is feeling a little lost right now, am I right?”
“Maybe,” Max replied. “But how do you know my name?”
“You’re famous, are you not?” asked the Sailor. “The viral video of you jerkin’ your gherkin in the staff bathroom of the Burger Barn?”
Max frowned and looked back down to the water. “Oh. You’re one of them…Look, could you just leave me alone?”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” the stranger said. “You see, I’m here for you. And so, that being the case, leaving you alone would be quite counterproductive. And to answer your first, rather rude, assumption: No, I am not one of them. I am something much, much better.”
“Are you, like, a lawyer or something?”
The Sailor stuck out his palm and shook Max’s hand as he introduced himself, “I am Sailor Dee! And I am here to take you with me on a journey to the fourth dimension, where resides my ever-enjoyable, always-educational, Rehab Center for Awkward Adults!”
Max scratched the blonde shag on top of his head. “Uh, is this a joke or something?”
Sailor Dee’s smile dropped. “No, it’s not a joke. Now can you hurry up and get in the boat? These people over at the seawall are looking at me like I’m trying to kidnap you and rape you.”
“Those people are looking at me,” Max sighed. He tossed another pebble out into the water.
The Sailor leaned in and whispered, “Max, if you don’t get into this boat right now, I swear to beautiful baby Jesus that I will pull up this anchor and beat you to death with it, do you understand me? It is of the utmost importance we get sailing before nightfall.”
“Why’s that?” asked Max.
Sailor Dee huffed, “Because then the day will be gone. And once the day is gone that means a new one is on its way. Today won’t matter anymore.”
“Pff! Says you!” laughed Max. He stepped into the sailboat. “Alright,” said Max. “I’ll go. It can’t be much worse than this.”
The Sailor took the anchor hoisted above his head and placed it gently down on the floor. “Good choice.”
The sun was almost halfway under the horizon when the two of them sailed off into the vast Pacific with nothing but the whoosh of the waves and the squawks of seagulls in their ear as a gentle evening breeze kissed upon their face.
They sailed all night and had come to shore by morning. Max had walked the Vancouver shoreline many times but didn’t recognize where they were at all. There were no people, no dogs, there was no litter, no pop cans, no plastic bags, or even cigarette butts. The beach sand was pristine and untouched. From there it turned into plush, grassy hills for as far as the eye could see.
“Where are we?” asked Max. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to this part of the beach before.”
Sailor Dee docked the anchor and stepped out onto the sand. He wore white loafers with exposed ankles. “You’ve never been anywhere like this before, pumpkin. You won’t find this place on any fairy tour. Not unless I’m the fairy giving the tour!” He laughed gently at his cleverness.
Max got out of the boat and followed the Sailor up the hill where a large wood cabin stood at the top. The closer that they got to the cabin, the more Max got a look at the architecture’s intricate carpentry and decorative windows. It was something out of an old fairy tale about dwarves and a princess. This was a comforting sight and made Max feel it was less likely this man had brought him here to kill and/or rape him.
As they got even closer still, Max noticed two other people waiting at the circular entrance. They both were about his age. A girl; she was short and stalky, draped in a baggy green sweater with a game controller printed on the center of it. A frizzy, orange mane fell on her shoulders and thick spectacles rested on her freckled button nose. The other was a boy; dark-skinned, tall and lanky. The sides of his head were shaved and on top, he had long purple bangs that hung over his brow like eye curtains. His T-shirt was black with a white skull in the center and on his wrists were bracelets with spikes coming out of them. Not real metal spikes, plastic ones painted silver.
“It’s about time you got back here,” said the girl, her arms crossed and a pout on her face. “We’ve been bored out of our trees!”
Sailor Dee replied, “I told you I had to get one more, my sweet. This is Max.”
The girl looked Max up and down. “He doesn’t look so awkward,” she said. “But he does look really familiar…” She continued to examine him for a moment but failed to make her desired connection.
Sailor Dee opened up the cabin door and ushered them inside. Besides a long couch draped with colorful quilts and some chairs around a wooden coffee table, furnishing in the cabin was sparse. A thin layer of dust had settled over the cracked hardwood floor, which creaked under their feet as they entered. The dust combined with the beaming sunlight coming in through the window illuminated a soft glow throughout the main sitting room, but much of the rest of the cabin remained hidden in shadow.
The girl immediately walked over to the far wall and pulled down a crossbow from the center of a rack that also held a long sword and a spear. “While we were waiting for you we couldn’t help but notice your nice collection of murder weapons,” she said accusingly. “What’s going on here? Do you, like, hunt humans or something?”
Sailor Dee chuckled. “Heavens, no, my sweet. Those are not my weapons…they are yours.”
A wide smile broke on the girl’s face. “Really?”
“Come now,” said Sailor Dee, motioning to the chairs around the coffee table. “Take a seat.”
The girl put the crossbow back on the rack and joined Max and the other boy at the table.
Sailor Dee clapped his hands together. “So! Here we are! Welcome to Sailor Dee’s Rehab Center for Awkward Adults! Each one of you has been made an outcast by your respective social circles. We are here to find out what can be done about that. Before we begin, does anyone have any questions?”
The purple haired boy raised his hand. “Where is this place?”
“You have come to an island off the coast of the Fourth Dimension. For the most part, this island is a beautiful place. Here in the Fourth Dimension, consciousness and emotion are allowed to run free without the rules and confines of your dimension.”
Max raised his hand. “Well, if this is such a beautiful place, then why do we need weapons?”
“It is better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them,” Sailor Dee replied. “Now why don’t we go around the group and introduce ourselves.” He pointed to the purple-haired boy. “You first.”
The boy sunk in his seat, embarrassed to have been singled out. “I’m Darron. There’s a million reasons why the guys in my neighbourhood don’t like me. See, in my neighbourhood, all the guys think they’re real gangsters. They sell coke and smoke weed, I don’t do drugs. They listen to Trap music; I listen to emo. With all the stories in the news recently about kids getting shot by police in America, there’s been a real anti-white movement. They call it black unity…but when I didn’t want to protest, a bunch of them jumped me. They call me cracker-jacker and Oreo.”
“Oreo?” asked the girl.
Darron sighed. “Black on the outside, white on the inside…Anyway, the only reason I didn’t protest is that we don’t have those problems in our city. Half the cops are black. There’s no racial tension, or at least there wasn’t until all these news stories started coming on the news. But that’s America. There are a lot of things wrong with America. Why are we going to let their problems poison our neighbourhood? If we’re going to get mad about that, why aren’t we getting mad about famine in Somalia? Or child soldiers? There is so much pain all over the world…I just end up blocking everything out and playing video games online at home.”
“Good call,” said the girl.
“Well, I think it was very brave of you to stand up for your beliefs even if it made you unpopular…more unpopular. And this brings us to the first step of rehabilitation.”
“What’s that?” asked Max.
“Never believe that just because it is the popular view that it is the correct view. It has been proven throughout history that this is far from the case. Most people just agree with whatever the popular view is to avoid being singled out or persecuted as you have been. From flat earth theory, to civil rights, to laws on abortion and yes, even homosexuality! There was a point in time where if you were to say something positive about homosexuality, you would be hanged! And in today’s world, if you say something negative about homosexuality, you would also be hanged; maybe not from a rope, because we don’t hang people anymore. But there was a time when we did. And it was normal. And you would be a fool to speak against it.
“It is the individual that incites social change, not the general population. The individual stands forward and says he will no longer be part of the way things are. Many agree with him, but do not speak up out of the fear of persecution. The individual is mocked, ostracized and rejected by the “respectable” people of society to the point where the people who share his belief can no longer watch him suffer alone. Inspired by his bravery, they join his side.
“Then the sympathetic see this and decide that, even if they do not agree with the choices and beliefs of these people, it is better to peacefully disagree than to continue to humiliate them. They too join the other side. It is only after they have become the minority in their hatred that the general population switches sides, playing as if they had been there all along. And so the cycle goes on and on, from the way we see Muslims, to global warming, to even the consumption of meat!”
A small smile broke from Darron’s nervous facade. “Thanks,” he said. “I never really thought of myself as brave before.”
“Is it my turn?” asked the girl, throwing her frizzy ends behind her shoulder.
“Of course, my sweet,” the Sailor smiled.
She took a deep breath. “Okay…I am an outcast because my friends are fucking assholes. All they do is go out every night, get hammered, do coke, and have sex with a bunch of random dudes. So I stopped going out with them. I started playing this online game, it’s so cool, it’s called Soul Sniper…”
“Oh, man! I love that game!” Darron blurted out.
“Awesome game,” Amy replied. “Anyway, now my friends call me a nerd and a spaz. Like, just because I don’t want to piss my life away on coke and booze, I don’t matter anymore!”
“Hmmm,” hummed Sailor Dee. “Do you ever miss the social aspect of going out?”
“Not really,” said Amy. “It’s the same thing every night. Getting belligerent, grabbing coke and then sitting there flapping our gums about utter nonsense for hours. I can’t live like that. But it’s not like I don’t talk to people. I talk to the gamers online. They’re funny, we joke around. Everyone except for this one guy, D. FenderBender. He’s a real dick!”
Darron’s eyes went wide under the purple curtains hanging over his brow. “I’m D. FenderBender!” he said. “You’re not AimShort, are you?”
Amy was flabbergasted. “Get the fuck…You’re D. FenderBender?! The avatar that follows me around killing me all the time?!”
Darron gave a goofy giggle. “Yup…”
She scowled. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about killing you…choking the life from you with my hands around your neck…”
“Whoa, whoa,” Sailor Dee butted in. “What a wonderful coincidence! But let’s not forget about Max over here.” He pointed to Max, who stared down at his shoelaces, and asked, “What made you an outcast?”
“I’m an outcast because someone put a hidden camera in the staff bathroom of my work and filmed me jerking off.”
Amy’s eyes lit up behind her thick spectacles. “I knew you looked familiar! You’re the jerk off guy!” she laughed. “Damn, dude. You got a small dick.”
Max sighed. “Thanks…”
“You masturbated at work?” asked Darron. He was torn between being disgusted and being intrigued. “Why?”
“Boredom, I guess,” answered Max. “Whenever I work at a job too long, I start to get destructive. At the job before this one, I started stealing the wine and getting hammered on shift. The job before that one I just stopped showing up. I guess when it really comes down to it: I hate where I am in life. I’ve been working in restaurants for over ten years and I’m sick of it. I hate the work, I hate the shit money, I hate the people…I hate myself for still doing it.”
Sailor Dee thought about it and asked, “But if you don’t like the people you work with then why do you care what they think?”
Max shrugged. “No one wants to be known as the creepy pervert.”
Sailor Dee docked his fists on his hips. “And who says that you’re a creepy pervert? The people who put a hidden camera in a private bathroom and then uploaded a video of you to the internet for everyone to see?”
“He’s right,” said Amy. “You may be weird and you may have a small dick, but I would say filming a person jerking off without them knowing and then putting it on the internet is way creepier than the act of jerking off. People jerk off. I have three older brothers. The house is sixty percent cum. They don’t do it at work though, that’s crazy. You need to get laid, man.”
“Oh, fuck you!” Max shot back. “You stay at home and play video games all day. What kind of life is that?”
“Hey!” yelled Darron. “You don’t talk to her like that!”
“Don’t tell me what to do, asshole!” barked Max. “What about you? With that chick haircut! And who the hell still listens to emo?!”
“Now, now!” the Sailor intervened. “This is a perfect time to introduce the second step of your rehabilitation!” He stepped into the shadows and emerged with a large chalkboard on legs and wheels. He picked up a piece of chalk and began to write.
When he was done, Amy read it out loud, “Mind Ya Business.”
Sailor Dee put down the chalk and dusted off his hands. “Three words that will keep you out of enormous amounts of unnecessary drama. You see, we all have different likes and dislikes, we are bound to disagree with one another eventually. And when this happens you can let it get the best of you or you can…” He tapped against the chalkboard.
“Mind Ya Business,” they answered.
“Very good,” replied Sailor Dee.
“But I was minding my own business,” Darron objected. “That’s why I got jumped in the first place!”
“My friends could use to mind their business,” Amy added.
“Mine too,” said Max.
“Controlling the actions of others is a futile cause. This step is not for them. It is for you. Just as you must be free to do things they do not favor, so must they be free to do things that you might not like. Even if that includes judging you.”
Amy’s head retreated into the collar of her sweater like a turtle. “Wow,” she said. “That’s pretty deep.”
“But what happens when they go out of the way to fuck with you?” asked Max. “When they make it so you can’t mind your own business?”
Suddenly there was a shift in light in the cabin as outside the glass the beaming sunlight was suffocated by a stream of troublesome black clouds rolling in. The sky turned cold and grey.
Sailor Dee ran over to the window and looked out to the hills. “I was afraid of this…” he said.
The three of them joined Sailor Dee at the window and saw what he saw. Approaching through the valley was a large crowd; they were disgruntled and looking for trouble.
“Who are those people?” asked Darron.
There was shakiness in the Sailor’s voice when he answered, “They are the bitter army. The bringers of misery. Victims turned agents of the evil King Fearandoubt!”
The crowd was thick and made up of many, men and woman alike. From forty-year-old bartenders to failed musicians, to scorned lovers and many other embittered souls who never found their happiness.
“What do they want?” asked Max.
“They want to drag you down to the depths of their misery,” said Sailor Dee. “And unfortunately, each one of you is at risk of becoming one of them!”
“What can we do to stop it?” asked Darron frantically.
“The third and final step to your rehabilitation,” said Sailor Dee. “If you want your happiness—you have to be willing to fight for it!”
Max headed for the rack of weapons on the wall.
“Where are you going?” asked Amy.
Max took the crossbow from off the rack. “Sailor Dee is right. If we don’t fight these fucks, we’ll become these fucks! We have to take a stand!”
Amy looked to Darron, “What do you say? Join up for a kill streak?”
Darron smiled. “Let’s do it.”
They took their weapons; Amy the sword and Darron the spear. Max kicked open the door to the cabin and the three of them headed out into the hills towards the crowd—the battle had begun!
One by one, the arrows Max flung
Whilst the soldiers of misery kicked and they swung
A spear in Darron’s hand pierced through the lung
Of a woman who’s prudish and mad she’s not young
And Amy’s broad sword jabbed and spilt blood
Of insecure thugs mad at what had not become
And when all had been slayed and the battle was won
They looked down at the bodies, proud of all they had done
From behind them came a slow clap from the soft, slender palms of Sailor Dee. He gazed at the fallen soldiers of misery with a proud smile. “You did not disappoint,” he said.
Amy had a grin cemented to her face. “That was better than any video game I’ve ever played…”
“That felt good,” smiled Darron. “Long overdue…”
Max smiled quietly to himself as if an answer had struck him. “I think I finally know what I need to do…”
Chef Jason smiled back at Max, unconvinced. “Yeah, right!”
“I’m serious,” said Max, packing up his clothes from his locker. “I’m done.”
“Is this because of the video?” laughed Chef.
“It’s more than that,” Max replied. “I’m worth more than this shitty job, these shitty people. It’s time I started believing that.”
Chef Jason was speechless. “So…what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Max with relief. “But anything is better than this bullshit.”
“You think this is going to stop the video from going around? I’ve been showing everybody!”
“I don’t care,” grinned Max. “Have fun watching me jerk off with the rest of your faggot friends.”
And with that, he walked out. As he was leaving, Chef Jason called out, “Yeah, well, you have the smallest dick I’ve ever seen!”
Max continued on. He didn’t have a snappy comeback and he didn’t get the last word, but all that didn’t matter. Chef Jason, or any chef for that matter, just wasn’t his business anymore. And it felt good.
Outside, Amy and Darron sat on the bench while Sailor Dee stood in the sailboat parked in the handicap spot. Their heads perked up when they saw Max approaching. “Did you do it?” asked Amy.
“How do you feel?” asked Darron.
Max laughed despite himself. “Good, actually…Really good.”
Sailor Dee twirled the keys to his sailboat around his finger. “Well, it seems my work here is done. Does anyone need a ride?”
“I don’t know if that’s gay humor or not, but we’re fine,” said Amy. She smiled at Darron and slid her hand into his. “We’re going to play some Soul Sniper.”
The two of them said goodbye and walked on into the day, hand in hand.
“Well, it looks like they are going to be alright,” said Max. “You think there is someone out there for everybody?”
Sailor Dee smiled, “Sometimes there’s two.”
Max chuckled under his breath. “Alright, Dee. I’ll see ya.”
“Let’s hope not,” said the Sailor. And then he and his sailboat floated off into the sky, further and further until they were completely out of sight.
Max continued to walk through the strip mall parking lot, kicking a small pebble along as he went. On his way he came across a young woman crying on a bench in front of another restaurant. Her head was buried in her palms and her hair hung over her face.
“What’s wrong?” asked Max.
She shook her head, still buried in her hands. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “You’ll think I’m gross…”
He sat down beside her. “Try me…”
She sniffled and wiped her nose, running her hands through her hair. She sat up a little straighter now but still looked down at her shoes. “Fine, fuck it. Who cares, anyway?” she said. “My boyfriend just broke up with me because we were out to dinner and when I came back from the bathroom I told them they had these new gizmos in the toilets in the girls’ bathroom that shot water up into your bottom region when you flushed. Anyway, I told him I stayed in there a little longer than I should have because it felt kinda good and he flipped on me. He was all like, ‘What, I’m not good enough for you? You have to masturbate?” And I’m like, ‘It’s just an orgasm! Masturbating is like shaving my legs. It has nothing to do with love! I don’t know. I must sound crazy to you…” She started sobbing again and buried her face back into her hands.
Max smiled. “You don’t sound crazy at all.” He extended his palm to shake her hand. “My name’s Max,” he said.
She lifted her head and clumsily brushed the hair away from her face. When she finally got a good look at Max, she smiled, “I’m Jennifer,” she said, shaking his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”