Updated: Mar 11, 2022
A piece in the NTF Collection.
You couldn’t ask for a better friend than Gladstone. He was gregarious, jubilant, self-serving, and extremely malicious. He had, for sure, a gambling problem, but only when he gambled, and further, only when he was losing, even if the stakes were low. He loved gambling, maybe more than trim or even alcohol and I remember seeing him once at a blackjack table in Vegas weeping softly like a small abandoned child after losing his paltry bonus check to the house, plied with a significant amount of alcohol, stinking of it, not only through dilated pores, but from the miscalculations in hand-to-mouth coordination, his Hawaiian shirt sticky with vodka, rum, whisky—whatever else they put in a Long Island Iced Tea—and the lack of sleep, seriously, he had been up for two days. Conklin had a similar problem, but he only gambled when playing Craps in Vegas, which always ended badly, or at a 7 Eleven scratching cards trying to win another $20 to keep the ride going, or at one of the infamous Booray card games I hosted from time to time. Gladstone was much more prolific with his gambling; he’d take any bet, anytime, anywhere—high stakes, low stakes—it didn’t matter, as long as there were stakes, otherwise it just wasn’t gambling. He was overjoyed when he won; devastated when he lost. Even so, when he told me he lost a bet with Shannon the Licensing Coordinator, he fell off his chair laughing and also weeping tears of pride, despicable delight, and exultation. Gladstone knew he would lose the bet which is the only reason he made the bet. And he did it all for me. This was not generosity; as far as I remember, Gladstone did not possess that trait. This was malicious Gladstone. There were times when the rewards of malice outweighed the rewards of selfishness. This was one of them, and I was both a co-conspirator and a co-benefactor. He enjoyed being malicious to one person even if it meant being generous to another.
Gladstone was the Manager of Desktop Services and possibly my strongest ally and biggest advocate of The User Pool. He spent his time at work browsing the Internet once it was provided to him, and initially, without regard for Corporate spyware, which also landed him in HR. While some of his finds were innocent, or let’s say more innocent than the unambiguous filth and smut you could find on the World Wide Web, it always still had a questionable edge to it. He’s the one who introduced me to the very first South Park short called Spirit of Christmas; there were actually two of these shorts by Trey Parker and Matt Stone which carried the same title but were differentiated as: Jesus vs. Frosty (1992) and Jesus vs. Santa (1995). Gladstone showed me the second version which I’ve always considered the very first South Park since that’s the one that got all the attention from George Clooney and other celebrities and ultimately got them the series deal at Comedy Central. This all according to me; Wikipedia may have something different to say. Regardless, Gladstone was sent to HR for the more definitive and explicit pornography browsing.
Gladstone sat in Triplet’s office with his head hung low, his eyes drooping like a hound dog ashamed, frightened and whimpering as his master reprimands him for pissing on the carpet.
“This is very disappointing Mr. Gladstone,” Triplet said as she pulled out the evidence provided by Corporate IT and started rattling off the websites. “Persian Kitty, Dani’s Hard Drive, Cum City, 1000 Facials, and… Ladyboy Ladyboy?"
“That was a mistype,” he stammered. “I mean, really, they all were. The web is very volatile. You mistype something and all these porn sites pop up and you can’t close the windows. You try to close one window and it pops up five more. I’m really a victim of circumstance here.”
Triplet produced her fabricated, disparaging smile, closed the file, folded her hands, and placed them on the file in front of her frigid, stringent breasts. “I’ll be honest with you,” she began, which only meant she had no intention of being transparent. “I was against this from the beginning. Internet access at work, that is. I believe that human nature, at the very genetic level, is only really concerned with one thing: sex. By nature, we as humans seek to proliferate the race, constantly, at a very subconscious level, at DNA level, and it’s beyond our control. On the conscious level, we can act appropriately and behave with decorum, but subconsciously we still, constantly, are brimming at the core with the desire to propagate the species. It’s hard enough working daily with the opposite sex, being professional and restraining those deep-seated desires, but we do it because we’re adults. However, providing a direct conduit to unsavory and elicit images and movies only exasperates the already precarious situation we’re already in eight hours a day. I was against it from the beginning, and in the end, it will come to light that I was correct and ultimately, I’m sure, we’ll roll back general access to the Internet and grant it only on an exception basis.”
Gladstone stared at her as if there might be more. She placidly peered back, eyebrows raised, lips pursed patently conveying authority and judgement. “So…” he said. “Is that it?
“That, and you’ll be terminated the next time it happens.”
When Shannon the Licensing Coordinator confessed her private fantasies about me over lunch with Gladstone, he viewed this as an opportunity to be malicious and generous all at the same time, and in his view, this was one of those rare situations when everyone wins.
“Unfortunately for you, he’s married. And an extremely faithful husband.”
Gladstone knew that fantasy often remained fantasy. And the look in Shannon the Licensing Coordinator’s eyes told him that, regardless of fantasy, she had boundaries. Even so, it was a short, shoddy brick wall that kept her on that side of it and it could easily be toppled with a slight kick. She just needed incentive and it had to be her idea.
“Anyone can be seduced,” she said confidently.
Gladstone shook his head staunchly, eyes closed with composure to express arrogance on the subject he, of all people, should be the most adept at and said, “Not Jason  _x. He’s completely devoted. There is no way any woman can seduce him.”
According to Gladstone, that’s when Shannon the Licensing Coordinator did that head tilt, chin tucked mulishly into the neck, eyebrows raised like she had just been quadruple hog triple dog double frog dared, and she was in elementary school where the only way to save face was to accept the dare. “Wanna bet?”