Jim Martini

Fiction by Michael Bible
The Judge, by Casey Jex Smith. Copyright the artist. Courtesy MEPAINTSME. Private Collection.

Despite his name, Jim Martini didn’t drink. He was the only one from our office who didn’t get hammered at Desmond’s after work. He wore a weird ring on his pinky and listened to Phish full blast on his wireless speaker. At lunch he almost sexually devoured canned tuna. Washed it down with copious Red Bulls. Wore cargo shorts, flip flops, a leather fedora. Everyone knew who he was, but no one really knew him. Honest to god, we don’t think he said two words until that day at the all-hands meeting. Leeanne, the bosslady, was calling out that month’s birthdays. Asking everyone what kind of food they wanted at their party. When she got to Jim Martini, he said, I don’t want a party.

What do you mean you don’t want a party, Leeanne said. Everyone wants a party. 

A pregnant pause filled the glass meeting room. 

We were on the 56th floor of a fashionable building near the park. The high windows looked out over the city. People down below were running from the rain. Our company made cages for animal testing. Demand was through the roof that quarter, but we couldn’t fulfill orders. We later found out this was due to a strike at our factory in China, something about the child workers jumping off the roof, but Leeanne believed the problem was the computers. That’s why she hired Jim Martini, who was supposed to be an ace with computers. The rest of us were in sales and we were damn good at it. Closing came second nature to us. We’d all gone to respected colleges and never wore sensible shoes. We loved our wives and kids but didn’t let that stop us from getting wrecked at Desmond’s after work and dancing with the Irish girls, but not Jim Martini. He wasn’t one of us. He didn’t understand team culture. He didn’t have our warrior mindset. 

Leeanne stared him down. She knew the first one to speak would lose the negotiation, but she underestimated Jim Martini’s commitment. He took a carrot from his pocket and began eating it, chewing at high volume. Leeanne looked at the floor then back at Jim Martini. 

How about we get carrots for your party, she said. Would that make you happy? Carrots and smelly tuna fish. 

Everyone busted out laughing but Jim Martini kept right on eating his carrot till it was gone. He licked his fingers. 

I don’t want a party, he said. 

Jim Martini got up and walked out of the meeting without saying a word. We watched him through the glass walls. At his desk he rolled his back on his exercise ball then began typing furiously. Leeanne ignored him and moved on to the next items on the agenda. Talk of benchmarks and churn rates. We wrapped up and she dismissed the meeting and we returned to our sales calls. We were still on our first customers when she came to the bullpen waving a piece of paper in the air. 

We should say a few things about Leeanne. First off she was a boomer and had to have all her emails printed out for her because she refused to read off a computer. She was pushing 60 with big eyes and big hair. Like a deacon’s wife or a women’s basketball coach. Her ex-husband, a prominent homosexual Republican, now had full custody of her two children because she used to have a pill problem. Though she never spoke a word about her personal life, we could tell she wrestled demons. She ate a salmon salad every afternoon for lunch and did sudoku alone at her desk. She had some pretty controversial opinions about one world governments and the moon landing but she was a hell of a manager. She was tough, of course, but always fair with us. However, Jim Martini was a different story. She marched over to his desk and waved the piece of paper in his face. 

Did you really just write me this email, she asked. 

Jim Martini sat there stone faced. Like Mount fucking Rushmore. Leeanne lifted the paper up and began to read aloud. 

Dear Leeanne, she read. In the future please refrain from calling on me in meetings. It’s embarrassing. To be clear, under no circumstances do I want a birthday party. Thine, Jim Martini. 

Leeanne ripped up the email and threw it on the floor.

You need to grow up Martini, she said. If you want to say something to me, say it to my face. Now, get back to work.

Jim Martini put his headphones on and went back to typing furiously and we thought that was the end of it. But a few minutes later Leeanne came back out of her office again. She was holding another printed out email and walked over to Jim Martini’s desk and read it aloud.

Dear Leeanne, she read. I’d like you to know that ripping up my last email was highly inappropriate. I have a medical condition called ‘severe anxiety.’ I cannot be the center of attention. Doctor’s orders. A birthday party would be a major trigger for my ‘severe anxiety.’ Also, please do not read this email aloud like you did the last one. That is also a trigger. Thine, Jim Martini.

Leeanne balled the paper up and threw it at Jim Martini's face.

Anxiety, she said. There’s no such thing as anxiety. It was made up by globalist doctors. I run a business here. Not a support group. We throw birthday parties because it makes people happy and happy people do more work. I could give two shits about your triggers.

Jim Martini nodded his very large head that he understood.

We really thought that had to be the end of it once and for all and we could all go back to the business at hand, selling reliable containers for housing animals undergoing experiments at discount prices. But just as Leeanne was almost back to her office, Jim Martini broke his silence. We all stopped, hung up on customers mid-sale to hear what he was about to say.

If happy people do more work, he said. Then don’t throw me a party because it will make me unhappy.

Neither of them budged an inch. No one made a sound. We were awaiting Leeanne’s impending tirade. Instead, she turned on her heels.

Suit yourself, she said.

After work we all went to Desmond’s across the street. It was an Irish Pub that made little sense in the neighborhood. A relic from the days when this part of town was all warehouses and docks. We were on maybe our third or fourth after-work Guinness and someone was halfway through a story about his dog biting the mailman in the nuts when Leeanne came through the door. She’d never once set foot inside Desmond’s. She walked over to our table.

Boys, she said. We need to talk.

Someone pulled a chair out for her and she sat at the head of the table.

We’re going to throw Jim Martini a surprise party, she said. His birthday is this Friday. I’m going to bring him downstairs to pick something up and when we get back you’ll jump out and surprise him.

We all took a sip of our beers at the same time.

Do you really think that’s the best idea, we asked.

I’ll take everybody to TopGolf after, she said.

TopGolf was our favorite spot for team building. The Michelob Ultras flowed like wine and the winner of the longest drive of the day got a Cuban cigar. We agreed to help her surprise Jim Martini. Friday morning rolled around and she took him downstairs. We crouched behind our desks and turned off the lights. A few minutes later the elevator door opened on our floor. We heard footsteps. Leeanne hit the lights and we jumped out and screamed, Surprise! Jim Martini froze, his mouth wide open. He started to breathe heavily until he was full on hyperventilating.

Is he okay, we asked.

He’s fine, Leeanne said.

Jim Martini started to weep. He went down to his knees and put his head in his hands. Then he got into the fetal position and began rocking back and forth. We had to admit it was a little scary. He laid on the floor and threw a tantrum so embarrassing it’s hard to describe. He was making sounds no adult should make in public. A small puddle of urine formed on his shorts.

Okay, Leeanne said. Let’s go to TopGolf.

What about Jim Martini, we asked.

He just needs a minute, Leeanne said.

Maybe you should call someone, we said.

Nonsense, she said. I’ll talk to him.

We went downstairs and piled in the van. A few minutes later Leeanne came down and we left for TopGolf. It was a gorgeous damn day. Something out of a museum painting.

Who needs a beer, Leeanne asked.

We all raised our hands. The day went off splendly. At TopGolf we swung big and sang along to the dumb songs they played over the speakers. Leeanne matched us beer for beer. The sun was almost gone so we walked out to the parking lot to smoke a joint. We were passing it around and Leeanne made her way into the circle. When it came to her she took a hit. 

Yall want to know a secret, she asked.

We nodded.

I locked Jim Martini in the office, she said.

You did what, we asked.

He was being a little bitch and wouldn’t come to TopGolf, she said. So I locked him in the meeting room.

She started to laugh.

That’s pretty messed up actually, we said.

Oh my god, she said. You’re all snowflakes.

We took the van back to the office. When the door opened on our floor we could hear Jim Martini moaning. We turned the lights on and saw him in the glass meeting room, bloody and naked. We called 911.

Okay, Leeanne said. Let’s get our stories straight. He locked himself in there. Right, boys? Right?

We disagreed.

The next time we saw Leeanne or Jim Martini was three years later at the trial. We all testified. Leeanne was convicted of false imprisonment and got five years. The company paid Jim Martini millions in damages in a civil trial. We all got laid off. A few years later we got word they were closing Desmond’s once and for all so we decided to have a little reunion on their last night. We drank ourselves stupid just like the old days. A strange man wearing a black suit came in and bought everyone a round. It took us a minute to recognize it was Jim Martini. He looked great. His face was clear and he’d lost a bit of weight. Fixed his teeth. There was a lightness about him. He ordered a gin martini.

I spent years sober, he said. But now I have a taste for martinis. 

We bet a lot of things changed after the money, we said. 

True, he said. But it wasn’t just the money that changed me. 

Jim Martini had a few more gin martinis and told us his story. 

I got catfished, he said. I wired $60,000 to a woman who turned out to be a Russian hacker. I met an ex-CIA guy at a party and told him about how I got scammed. He said he could help me track down the hacker in Russia. It took months but we found out the hacker was a man named Peter living in a remote village in Siberia. So I went to Russia with a translator. The villagers told us Peter was in love with a girl named Olya, who worked in a local cafe. He’d written her poem after poem with little luck of winning her affections because she was in love with a local farmer named Ivan. One day Peter came into a large sum of money, the villagers told me, and he began to buy Olya extravagant gifts. Watches, handbags, caviar. I realized that Peter was using my money to win her love. I wanted to see him and they gave me directions to his house, a few miles south of the city. The countryside was green and lush from the thawed winter’s snow. I knocked on the door of the small blue house and a thin boy answered. I asked if Peter was home. He said he was Peter. He was about 16 years old. He had two black eyes from Ivan’s fists. He offered me tea. I asked about his poetry. He read some aloud to me in Russian and I could tell they were poems about how the pain of love was worth it just by the sound of the words. I told him who I was and that I knew he was the one who stole my money. Without saying a word he wrote me a poem. I’ve kept with me ever since. 

Can we see it, we asked. 

Of course, Jim Martini said. 

He pulled from his pocket a thin piece of paper and handed it to us. It was delicate, yellowed from age. We slowly unfolded it to reveal a hand drawn picture of a penis. Jim Martini started laughing. He was laughing so hard he almost fell out of his chair. Then we all started laughing too and couldn’t stop. Everything in the world was suddenly hilarious. That’s how we became friends with Jim Martini. He became one of us. We kept drinking until they closed Desmond’s forever. It was a hell of a night. One for the ages.

Michael Bible

Michael Bible is the author of the novels Sophia, Empire of Light, and The Ancient Hours, which was published in Italian by Adelphi Editions as L'ultima cosa bella sulla faccia della terra. He wrote the screenplay for the feature film Dogleg. His writing has appeared in The Paris Review, Oxford American, The Baffler, and New York Tyrant. His next novel will be published by Clash Books and Adelphi Editions next year. He lives in Manhattan.

Casey Jex Smith

Echoing the delicate lines of traditional engraving, Casey Jex Smith's intricate pen and ink drawings unravel into phantasmagorical visions, populated by sprites and anthropomorphic flora. The influence of these psychedelic parables are rooted in the artist's devout Mormon upbringing. "At the centre of Mormon belief is an expanded narrative built around the Garden of Eden" Smith explains, "When you attend temple ceremonies, you watch films that go into this narrative in great detail, and they tend to be made using elaborate Hollywood-type sets of the biblical garden as paradise. It's a place I want to be in. Unintentionally it's also a sexually charged place where you and your perfect mate tromp around in the nude, eat fruit, and pet goats." ¹

His illustrational style can also be traced to the more low-brow influences of his adolescence, like the detailed drawings found in the earliest editions of Dungeons and Dragons. The artworks of in-house illustrators like David A Trampier, David C Sutherland III and Erol Otus were fantastically detailed and often bordered on the naive - they left their mark on the young artist. "The drawings were a little bit better than what the teenagers who were playing the game would have made themselves," ² states Smith. Though the mythical universe created by Smith is one of an accomplished draftsman, its true power resides in its visual density and a seemingly limitless imagination.

Casey Jex Smith received a BFA in Painting from Brigham Young University and an MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute. He currently resides in Provo, Utah with his wife and fellow artist Amanda Smith and their two children. His art has been exhibited at The Drawing Center (NYC), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF), Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UT), and Spring Break (LA). His work has been featured in ArtReview Magazine, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, Rhizome.org, Wired.com, ArtMaze Magazine, and New American Paintings.

1, 2. Sharma, Manu. "Casey Jex Smith speaks of his sublime and fluid realms." Stir world, Feb 03, 2021.