Travels and Travails of Small Minds follows the sideways trajectory of an unambitious career temp worker occupying the most nowhere of nowhere jobs. Nathan spends many a hungover morning and afternoon fetching coffee for his senile slumlord boss in a dust-choked office on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Between gossiping with his lone co-worker in their dangerously untidy office, hanging with a drug-addled neighbor, and dealing with a jealousy-ridden girlfriend, Nathan stumbles headfirst into a clumsy property scam which finds him unknowingly at the center.
With a cast of characters including a dead beatnik legend, an eccentric and pompous collector of the beatnik’s works, a new love interest in the form of a tenant with unclear intentions, and a network of sociopathic former literature professors, a saga unfolds over eight days in August which sends Nathan careening through lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, the suburbs of England, and Beyond in a swirl of comedic intrigue.
Travels & Travails Of Small Minds excerpt, in which an American temp worker escapes from the henchmen of a sociopathic literature professor with the aid of some English lager louts.
OUT ON THE ROAD, bearing down toward the freeway, there were empty bottles all over the van’s floor, clanging off of one another at every turn. I was riding shotgun with Bilky lying down on the floor in the back, moaning. In the filthy side mirror I saw one of Oxford Man’s men gunning down on us, smirking and shaking his head at the state of the vehicle he was chasing, his bony face set in determination. He was inching closer and closer to the back bumper of the van. “Who is this tosser?” Milly laughed, staring the spy down in his own mirror.
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“He doesn’t like me very much.”
“Well, I know where to take him, then.” Milly snorted.
Swerving with absolutely no warning onto a country road instead of pushing forward toward the freeway, the rental car chasing us almost losing it on the unannounced turn, I watched a smile spread out across Milly’s face.
“Oh my God, Mill!” Bilky was shouting from the back. “Not the bloody golf course!”
The car seemed to linger on the road behind us, hesitant to follow, after Milly jumped the small hill and started tearing off across the course. Due to the fog, there weren’t that many golfers on the links, though two men in a cart drinking gin and tonics had to swerve out of the way when the van came tearing out from behind a row of trees, roaring directly at them. The car finally set out after us, half-heartedly at first, hanging fifteen yards behind us, unsure how to navigate the green terrain filled with sand traps and flags. Once we hit a long, flat link he sped up, gaining confidence, catching up to us almost bumper-to-bumper.
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“Why are you letting the bastard catch up?” Bilky was looking out the van’s round back window. I clutched the satchel close, half-expecting the man to utilize an expanding robot arm to reach into the vehicle and snatch it from me.
“You’ll see.” Milly grinned, rapidly approaching a bend around some perfectly manicured bushes.
Rounding the bend, a deep, long sand trap suddenly loomed in front of us, visible through a break in the fog, gleaming white and wet from that morning’s mist. Both vehicles were traveling too fast to avoid it. There was a small hill in front of the trap. Milly’s eyes grew wide. I held onto the satchel and ducked down as Bilky let out a frightened groan. He gunned it at the hill, bearing down fast.
With two sickening thumps, the van’s front and back tires hit the hill a split second apart. We were clumsily air-born, wobbling violently. Milly let out a warrior’s shriek as the van came bashing down on what I hoped was the grass on the other side. The vehicle’s shocks were not enough to absorb the hit. My teeth knocked together and my chin hit my chest, wrenching my neck as the bottom bounced off the ground with horrific force.
Milly yanked hard on the wheel, throwing his considerable body weight behind it, managing to bring the rattling apparatus to a sideways halt. We had cleared the trap. Bilky had been hurled against the back door, on the floor with his white Reebok Classics sticking up from a pile of beer bottles.
“I’m alright!” He held up his hand as if in surrender. “Think I’ll stay down here for a while.”
The pursuing car had not been so lucky. He hadn’t hit the jump at the full, fearless speed required to clear the trap, breaking at the last minute, plunging front-end-first into the wet sand, kernels rattling in the grill, front tires sunk deep in the crud while the back tires spun helplessly. The man got out of the car, standing next to his now useless vehicle. He sat down in the sand, flipped us a two-finger salute and spit.
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A man sporting a green uniform emerged from a nearby utility shed. Screeching hysterically, he came running for the sand trap wielding a long rake. Their pursuer got up and crouched into a karate pose as the man descended upon him, swinging the garden tool wildly.
Milly stepped on the gas, aiming the shaking van back toward the road.
“I’ll leave them to sort this out.”