Packages arrived at his house weekly. He’d tell you it was his hobby, something no one had thought of doing before. It might lead to a book deal or to a talk show. Crazier things had happened.
At home, he had a few beers but lost count; he was a widower. His boss had asked him once again if he was planning to retire before the end of the fiscal year and didn’t hide his disappointment when Henry said he wasn’t really sure. He began his real job, the one he was creating so he could jump ship after forty years of going to the same cubicle on the second floor in the planning department of a transportation company where the idea was to keep the buses running on less money every year. He leaned back on his leather recliner and held a cellphone and credit card. All the tools of the trade in one hand. Sweet.
Tuned into the shopping channel to check the action. There was an infomercial about a love meatball machine, something like an ice cream scoop giving birth to identical meatballs, twenty to the pound. A woman dressed in a skirt and a red top, low enough to reveal some popping cleavage, kept repeating, “These meatballs are made with love.” The meatballs were guaranteed to cook more evenly than the ones you made by hand. Might appeal to the homemaker or to the would-be chef. He ordered it. Next.
Something special for the car, a license plate holder that was machine-studded and hooked up to a car’s bluetooth and wi-fi network allowing the driver to broadcast several messages, one to tailgaters that warned, “Get Back,” another with a more insipid “Have a Nice Day.” A third one you could customize. He knew exactly what he’d say. By eleven, Henry thought he should get to bed when a stocky man with a mustache appeared on TV talking about a package deal for “flipping houses,” the same thing his co-workers talked about over and over again, short hand for making a shitpot load of money. He ordered the product and turned off the TV. He was glad his evening had been productive.
Once he’d receive the boxes, Henry deposited their styrofoam and plastic pillows outside in his recycling bin, then proceeded to his kitchen table where he tested each item. wrote reviews on his blog, and rated each one according to a system of caterpillars. More caterpillars meant more butterflies, therefore, more potential to fly. Henry reviewed everything on his blog and posted pictures. Afterward, he stored the stuff in his garage, a ready-made treasure trove of Christmas presents for those imbecile “Secret Santa” parties. He tracked the numbers of hits on his blog. Any day now he’d get the call. It had to happen.
In several weeks, the house kit arrived. He emptied it on the table. Out flew a set of papers, a playing board, and a set of little houses. He didn’t understand, arranged roof pieces, doors, and windows. There were instructions to call an 800 number. He did. A man introduced himself as Flip Johnson and congratulated Henry for playing Flip This House. Then he realized. It was a fucking board game. Flipping houses the same way you’d flip cows in that tube of bovines popularized several years ago by bored students on spring break. He’d rate this so-called deal with one rip-off caterpillar and dumped the gizzards into his recycling bin. False advertising. But when he opened the door, he didn’t see his shed; instead he only saw the sky. Henry couldn’t wait to write his review. This could be it!