by Thisbe Nissen
I took an electronics class my senior year in high school. I had a period to kill, and I figured it would be an interesting class with an easy A attatched.
The thing about electricity, is it's quite complicated to master, but oh so easy to fuck up and zap yourself. One misplaced lead, an incompatible capacitor, and you're done. If you're lucky it won't work. Unlucky and you'll be pulling back your fingers.
So leave all electrical matters to the professionals.
Same goes for cons. I love watching or reading a great con artist go to work. The effortless way they charm their mark, how they get them to play along, often leading them to believe the whole thing is their idea. Far too often the mark blames themself when everything goes tits up.
Rich Randall is not a good con man. He's got the opportunity. An electrician by trade, he's got knowledge the rest of us do not. "Pig-tailing" wire? You got me. Here is some money. Do the job. Please don't fuck me.
This happens to us far more often than we care to admit. Do you know what the hell your mechanic is talking about once he gets past the first sentence? Sure, we might know what a bearing is and what it does, but do we know what it actually looks like? I don't. Not one clue, so I take the man in the jumpsuit's word for it hoping he won't charge me through the tailpipe. As long as he's not greedy, he'll get away with adding a few bucks on. I'm not going to question an additional $50 if he says it needs to be done.
Tell me my car needs a new motor, and I'll call shenanigans.
That's what Doreen, the main character of Win's Girl should have done. But you can't blame her, at least not at first. She's clearly written as a very nice girl, who has had some misfortune in life. Nissen does a great job of allowing us to feel sympathy for her situation. We want everything to turn out okay.
I'll forgive her for falling for the charms of Rich. He was recommended by a trusted friend, and although he's not a union guy, he's funny, charming, and a family man. The set up is a good one. From the beginning he tells her his esitmate is a little high, but only because he's so thorough and stands behind his work. She agrees to his quotes and tells him to start.
That Monday he arrives around noon. It's a bit late, but he's got the stories. He bathes Doreen with his troubles, evoking the sympathy the reader is supposed to be feeling for her. He's a hard luck guy, and this job was just the break he needed. He just can't thank her enough.
I'm not buying, but unfortunately Doreen is. The next few days, the work gets later and sloppier. The hard luck stories become more and more entangled (drugs! IRS! bail money!) and her doubts begin to take hold. At this point, I had hoped she'd walk away, or at the very least, call the cops. Instead she gives him more time and money to finish the job.
This is where it became apparent that Rich is an idiot. He had the game won. All he had to do was fake some more work, make sure the wiring worked, and gone home. But the dumb bastard just stopped showing up.
From the author's excellent opening paragraph, I knew this story took place in a rather small town. This is a place where people wore their work clothes to the bar. I grew up in a town like this. You fuck someone over, you can bet you will see them again.
And that bar is exactly where Doreen sees Rich. I won't give away the ending, but it was vindicating. Somewhere Judd Nelson is raising his fist in triumph.
Perhaps that is why I enjoyed this story so much. Far too often we are treated to the slickest of snake oil salesmen. For every Sawyer (from Lost), it's nice to see some bumbling idiot get what he deserves.
This story originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review.