Over His Shoulder

27 Nov

Ruben wanted to see the tropics but could only afford Florida. For a six month sabbatical from his job teaching digital manipulation at Camptor Community College in South Dakota, he took local work to make spending money and was happy to get a little gig his first week in Tampa. His task: Photoshop an office party picture. Close open jacket, cover a grease stain on a necktie, and remove an undesirable from the background–a woman whose head appeared to be sprouting out of the shoulder of the CEO of Uubershopps’ Florida chain, Rance Hunksacker. Rubin didn’t ask much, 100 bucks an hour with a one hour minimum. This job took him twenty minutes.

Within 24 hours he was asked to put the undesirable back into the picture. It was a no-brainer since he saved drafts, but he knew Uubershopps could afford another hundred so he said it had taken “some time” to do the job and presented his invoice to Hunksacker’s assistant Barbara, kind of excited to be making two hundred for twenty minutes’ work. It had turned out the “undesirable” was Hunksacker’s wife, Eloise. When Barbara called to ask Ruben to put Eloise Hunksacker back she said it was “because she was laughing,” and pretty, and “looked so happy.”

So Ruben sent a new image with Ms Hunksacker back in place.

So when Eloise Hunksacker would, several days later, turn up missing, along with Rance Hunsacker’s Picasso, Ruben would become a focal point of the case. His work would become Exhibits A and B at the trial, testaments to the “fact, exhibit A!” that Eloise Hunksacker, “failed to appear at the party the night of the theft!” And of course “exhibit B! Her image was Photoshopped into the picture to make it look like she was there!” Ruben was characterized as an accomplice, for having “pasted her into the picture, and poorly at that,” the prosecuting attorney turning on his heel toward the jury, pointing at the picture and declaring, “the head is out of proportion!”

Of course the dates on the files should have cleared him but he saved on flash drives because he didn’t trust the cloud. He kept the drives on a key ring, color coded, this one red, and the red one had disappeared the night he met Jillian for coffee, a tantalizing twenty-something artsy hipster who made him forget he was a forty year old man as he chatted her up, she fondling his key ring of flash drives. He had left the table to get a lemon square to share and when he came back she was gone, the ring of drives remained, but the red one was gone.

“The prosecution calls the next witness,” Rance Hunksacker’s attorney said. A woman rose from the courtroom seats. Jillian!

State your name and occupation for the court please, the lawyer said. “Barbara Fulsom, Assistant to the CEO, Mr. Rance Hunksacker.” The questions would travel the predictable trajectories, who what where when how, and then came why: “Because Ms Eloise Hunksacker was in love with him!” she said, pointing to Ruben who reflexively looked over his shoulder for the accused, but there was no one behind him.

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