What I Know About Clem


I work with a fifty-seven-year-old dishwasher named Clem, which rhymes with “phlegm” and is short for Clement.


Clem refuses to pay taxes.


Clem is suspected to die any minute. In fact, many of our fellow employees finance a bi-annual fantasy Clem death pool, the stakes of which are higher than ever now that Clem has supposedly gone back on meth.


Clem complains constantly. These complaints mostly involve his bad back but will sometimes include random sports teams, government policies, and his wife.


Clem can’t stand his wife. He says, “She ain’t even Freddy Krueger-pretty,” and I’m not so sure what that means, though I do see the woman often, usually when she comes to bring Clem his cigarettes, and she kind of looks like Aretha Franklin, but, like, Aretha now, which means she’s a big lady.


Each one of Clem’s kids that Clem knows about have grown up to do jail time, except for one who OD’d before sentencing.


Clem is pissed when management take away his Tuesday morning shift. Tuesday or no Tuesday, Clem will still cry “broke,” and he’ll do it while borrowing money to buy scratch-off tickets. Clem will never win back your money. It’s almost endearing how often Clem loses other people’s money. They’ll go, “That crazy Clem is up to his old tricks again,” and spot him another fiver, thinking they’ll recoup big once the death pool reaches its inevitable conclusion.


Clem is possibly the smartest dumb guy I’ve ever known, besides myself.


Clem found a screenplay he wrote in his underwear drawer that was covered in rat shit. It’s called War Dogs and he wants me to produce it. He says it’s about aliens who invade Earth and plan on destroying humanity, but as dogs. I legitimately want to read and possibly produce this screenplay, if of course I suddenly decide to become a film producer. Extraterrestrial beagles? Sounds like a winner.


Clem is a huge fan of English ‘80s pop singer Simply Red, which is unfathomable this day and age. Every day he will ask me to pull up “Holding Back the Years” on my iPod even though I keep telling him I don’t have it and that I will never have it because having that song on one’s iPod is unfathomable this day and age, and Clem will always say, “Bullshit! I know you got it,” and then tell me about the time he brought his karaoke machine to a cousin’s wedding, where, denied an impromptu performance of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” he got sloppy drunk and, much to everyone’s horror, decided to rip the entire setup out of the wall and then leave with it under his arm. Clem can be unreasonable like that.


Clem tells on fellow employees he does not like, even if they aren’t doing anything specifically wrong, which is impossible because everyone at this job does everything wrong.


Clem talks a lot of shit. He even has a few wise catchphrases, like: “Some days you’re The Million Dollar Man, some days you’re just Virgil,” or: “Don’t be a Marty Jannetty; be a Shawn Michaels.” Clem is big on turning classic WWF shenanigans into esoterically delivered metaphors, and I applaud him for it.


Clem is all about YouTube; keeps telling me to search “popular maggot videos.” He particularly enjoys watching videos of bizarre medical procedures (colonoscopies, liposuctions, vagina removals, foreskin restorations, and so on). He also researches cyst-lancing techniques. He is obsessed with abscessed. I ask if he’s ever found a cyst-popping video montage set to the music of Survivor, and he calls me insane.


Clem will never not complain, even if management decide to give back his Tuesdays.


Clem will never not tell on employees, even if the employees he’s telling on go, “Knock it off, Clem, what the shit?”


Clem says, “I may not be the smartest tool in the shed, but at least I’m in there. I’m in the shed.”


Clem will outlive us all because Clem is immortal. In fact it’s possible that I myself, despite younger age and better health, will cash in before Clem does, and this worries me.


I pay taxes.  

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