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Diagnosis: A-Hole

The holidays bring out the best in us. 

Even our inner asshole.

Diagnosis: A-Hole by Paul Greenberg


The week before Christmas, I was diagnosed as bipolar. That was the day I decided to let my inner asshole shine. Fuck mood swings, hysteria, and depression. After leaving my shrink’s office that day, I decided to celebrate by saying, “fuck it all.”

Misery begins at home.

I live on the second of a three-floor tenement with my dog Butch in a predominantly white trash corner of the North Shore.

On the first floor lives a woman. She's also single, has no pets, and is an alcoholic.

Everyone in the apartment shares the same driveway. On any given day, I can find a half-dozen little nips of vodka lying like dead soldiers next to her car, along with the contents of her ashtray and pennies she drops there to bait me. At least that's what my paranoia tells me.

I may have ignored this behavior before but now I clearly see this as the “fuck you” moment it’s meant to be. I take the vodka nips and line them up like Christmas lights in front of the door for all to see. They blink Absolut blue as the sun shines on them in the wee hours of a sparkling new day. The smell is like a rummy’s breath on your neck as you open the door. I go back to the driveway and play foot hockey with the pennies, kicking them toward her car. As they ping off her Subaru, I shout, “Score!”

Upstairs, four generations of South Americans share two bedrooms. They run an illegal daycare during the week and every morning I watch people drop off their toddlers. Those blessed sweet children run around the apartment for the next twelve hours, jumping off furniture, running in and out of the building, slamming doors, and making my dog jump out of his shit all day.

There’s nothing like coming home after work, hoping to settle into your comfy chair, only to have a dog on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The daddy up there is a big, bald, brute of a guy with one eye. I always suspected he could speak more English than he let on, so when he complained about Butch by pantomiming a barking dog with his hand, I went off my fucking nut.

“My dog will stop barking when your brats stop imitating the eighty-six Celtics up there. Comprende? Tell Parrish, Bird, and McHale to stop pounding the parquet and my dog will stop barking. Comprende?”

A few days later, One Eye Guy has done some body work on my white Ford Fusion. Black goo has been squeezed into the crevice surrounding the loose back quarter panel, like ants surrounding a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder Bread. 

I know this is a sign he wants to be friends but why give up an opportunity to make an enemy? Would I find him in my apartment next giving the kitchen floor a nice coat of wax?

 It happens on Christmas Eve. I watch from my window as One Eye Guy directs traffic out front, squeezing as many cars into the driveway as possible. Baskets of food, presents, and cases of Presidente beer are hauled upstairs.

The karaoke machine comes on and the ceiling starts shaking. I pick up the aluminum bat I keep for security and put on a Batman mask I saved from Halloween. Turning on my stereo, I pick out Trent Reznor’s cover of “The Immigrant Song,” crank it, and make my way upstairs.

It’s raucous in there and when it sounds like the crowd is going to collectively cum, I bang the bat on the door. The music stops and the crowd gets quiet. When the door opens and my big moment comes, I plan to scream, “turn the fucking music down.” My voice cracks instead and I end up sounding like some wheezing crack whore.

Everyone laughs and I yank off my mask. They recognize me as the asshole from downstairs. The laughs turn to an inviting cry of joy, applause, and shouts of “Merry Christmas!” I’m pulled in and the woman from the first floor hands me the coldest beer I’ve ever had, then kisses me under the mistletoe.

The day I’m diagnosed as bipolar becomes the start of me putting away my ass hat. Merry Christmas.


Paul's first book of short stories, "Dead Guy in the Bathtub," will be released late March from All Due Respect Books.