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In "Center of the Universe," God struggles to balance the demands of his career with the needs of his long-term girlfriend. In "Magical Mr. Goat," a young girl's imaginary friend yearns to become "more than friends." In "Unprotected," an unused prophylactic recalls his years spent trapped inside a teen boy's wallet. The stories in Simon Rich's new book are bizarre, funny, and yet...relatable. Rich explores love's many complications-losing it, finding it, breaking it, and making it-and turns the ordinary into the ...
In "Center of the Universe," God struggles to balance the demands of his career with the needs of his long-term girlfriend. In "Magical Mr. Goat," a young girl's imaginary friend yearns to become "more than friends." In "Unprotected," an unused prophylactic recalls his years spent trapped inside a teen boy's wallet. The stories in Simon Rich's new book are bizarre, funny, and yet...relatable. Rich explores love's many complications-losing it, finding it, breaking it, and making it-and turns the ordinary into the absurd. With razor-sharp humor and illustrations, and just in time for Valentine's Day, Rich takes readers for an exhilarating, hilarious ride on the rollercoaster of love.
I born in factory. They put me in wrapper. They seal me in box. Three of us in box.
In early days, they move us around. From factory to warehouse. From warehouse to truck. From truck to store.
One day in store, boy human sees us on shelf. He grabs us, hides us under shirt. He rushes outside.
He goes to house, runs into bedroom, locks door. He tears open box and takes me out. He puts me in wallet.
I stay in wallet long, long time.
This is story of my life inside wallet.
The first friend I meet in wallet is Student ID Jordi Hirschfeld. He is card. He has been around longest, he says. He introduces me to other cards. I meet Learner Permit Jordi Hirschfeld, Blockbuster Video Jordi Hirschfeld, Jamba Juice Value Card, GameStop PowerUp Card Jordi Hirschfeld, business card Albert Hirschfeld DDS, Scarsdale Comic Book Explosion Discount Card.
In middle of wallet, there live dollars. I am less close to them, because they are always coming and going. But they are mostly nice. I meet many Ones and Fives, some Tens, a few Twenties. One time, I meet Hundred. He stay for long time. Came from birthday card, he said. Birthday card from an old person.
I also meet photograph of girl human. Very beautiful. Eyes like Blockbuster Video. Blue, blue, blue.
When I first get to wallet, I am “new guy.” But time passes. I stay for so long, I soon become veteran. When I first meet Jamba Juice, he has just two stamps. Next thing I know, he has five stamps—then six, then seven. When he gets ten stamps he is gone. One day, Learner Permit disappears. In his place, there is new guy, Driver License. I become worried. Things are changing very fast.
Soon after, I am taken out of wallet. It is night. I am scared. I do not know what is happening. Then I see girl human. She is one from photograph. She looks same in real life, except now she wears no shirt. She is smiling, but when she sees me, she becomes angry. There is arguing. I go back inside wallet.
A few days later, picture of girl human is gone.
That summer, I meet two new friends. The first is Student ID New York University Jordi Hirschfeld. The second is MetroCard.
MetroCard is from New York City and he never lets you forget it. He has real “attitude.” He is yellow and black with Cirque du Soleil advertisement on back.
When MetroCard meets GameStop PowerUp Card Jordi Hirschfeld, he looks at me and says, No wonder Jordi Hirschfeld not yet use you. I become confused. Use me for what?
That night, MetroCard tells me many strange things about myself. At first I do not believe what he says. But he insists all is true. When I start to panic, he laughs. He says, What did you think you were for? I am too embarrassed to admit truth, which is that I thought I was balloon.
It is around this time that we move. For more than two years, we had lived inside Velcro Batman. It is nice, comfy. One day, though, without warning, we are inside stiff brown leather. I am very upset—especially when I see that so many friends are gone.
No more GameStop PowerUp Card Jordi Hirschfeld. No more Blockbuster Video Jordi Hirschfeld. No more Scarsdale Comic Book Explosion Discount Card.
Only survivors are MetroCard, Driver License, Student ID, myself, and a creepy new lady named Visa.
I am angry. What was wrong with Velcro Batman? It had many pockets and was warm. I miss my friends and I am lonely.
A few days later, I meet Film Forum Membership Jordan Hirschfeld.
At this point, I am in “panic mode.” What is “Film Forum”? Who is “Jordan Hirschfeld”?
Jordan Hirschfeld is same guy as Jordi Hirschfeld, Metro-Card explains. He is just trying to “change his image.” I am confused. What is wrong with old image? That night, I poke my head out of wallet and look around pocket. It is dark, but I can see we have new neighbor. He says his name is Cigarettes Gauloises. He is very polite, but I get “weird vibe” from him.
It is about this time that I meet strip of notebook paper. On him is written
Now we’re getting somewhere, MetroCard says.
I have never been more frightened in my life.
That Saturday, five crisp Twenties show up. I assume they will stay long time, like most Twenties. But two hours later, they are gone, replaced by receipt La Cucina.
MetroCard looks at receipt La Cucina and laughs. She better put out after that, he says. I am confused and worried.
Later on, I am minding my own business, when Jordi (sorry, “Jordan”) shoves his finger into me. I am terrified. What was that, I ask. MetroCard grins. He is checking to make sure you’re there, he says. For later.
My friends try to calm me down. One of the dollars, a One, tells me about the time he met Vending Machine Pepsi. He was stuffed in and out, in and out, so many times. He almost died. I know he is trying to make me feel better, but I am like, please stop talking about that.
Eventually, the moment comes. It is like other time. I am taken out of wallet and tossed on bed. It is very dark. I can make out shape of girl.
She picks me up and squints at me for a while. Then she turns on lamp.
I am confused. So is Jordan Hirschfeld.
“What’s wrong?” he asks.
His face is like Jamba Juice Value Card. Red, red, red.
“I think,” she says, “that this might actually be expired.”
There is long silence.
And then, all of a sudden, the humans are laughing! And then the girl is hitting Jordan with pillow! And he is hitting her back with pillow! And they are laughing, laughing, laughing.
The girl reaches into her bag.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ve got one.”
Part of me kind of wants to watch what happens next. But I am quickly covered in pile of clothes.
When I wake up next day, Jordan is dangling me over trash can. I look down into pit. Inside are Cigarettes Gauloises and Film Forum Schedule. They are talking “philosophy.” I sigh. I do not really want to move in with them, but what can I do? I figure this is “end of the line” for me.
Suddenly, though, Jordan carries me away—to other side of room. I am placed inside shoe box under his bed.
At first, I am afraid, because it is dark, but as vision adjusts I see I am not alone. There is strip of notebook paper
firstname.lastname@example.org. There is receipt La Cucina, on which is now written, “first date.”
I spend long, long time in shoe box.
When I arrive, I am “new guy.” But as time passes, I become veteran. I welcome many new friends: Birthday card Rachel. Happy Valentine’s Day Rachel. And many, many Post-it Notes Rachel. I love you, Jordi. Rachel. Good morning, Jordi! Rachel. Everything in here is Rachel.
I do not know how things are in wallet these days. But I am glad to be in shoe box. I feel as if I have “made it.” I am happy. I am warm. I am safe.
OLIVIA FROWNED AT HER Marmite sandwich. She knew she must consume it or face the wrath of her governess. But the smell was so revolting she could not bring herself to take a single bite.
She opened the curtains and sighed. It was only teatime, but it might as well have been night. The fog obscured all traces of the sun. It had been raining for days and the entire estate had turned a greyish brown. Even the flower garden had lost its colour. It looked to Olivia like a giant heap of Marmite, mucky and ugly and foul.
“Oh, what a dreadful summer!” she cried.
And indeed it was. Her parents had gone on a three-month pleasure cruise and left her under the care of Ms. Higginberry, a horrid old woman who was constantly forcing her to practice sums. As far as Olivia knew, she was the only child in all of Hamptonshire. There was no one to play with and absolutely nothing to do.
“If only something exciting would happen,” she thought miserably. “Anything at all.”
She was about to try the loathsome Marmite sandwich when something peculiar caught her eye.
“Good heavens!” she whispered. “Have I gone mad?”
She knew it was impossible, but there appeared to be someone standing in her looking glass.
Olivia was frightened, but she had always been a curious and intrepid child. She stood up slowly and turned to face the mirror.
There—framed in the looking glass—was a large brown goat. He looked like the ones she’d spied on the servants’ farm. Two brown horns protruded from his knobby head, and a shaggy beard hung fuzzily from his chin. But unlike most goats, he was standing on his hind legs—and wearing a three-piece suit.
“My goodness!” Olivia gasped. “A goat in a waistcoat!”
“I got it on Jermyn Street,” the creature replied. “Isn’t it stupendous?”
Olivia began to feel faint.
“You can talk?”
“Yes,” the creature confirmed. “But I’m afraid we don’t have time for conversation. You see, I’ve come to take you on an adventure—a stupendous, tremendous one!”
“But my governess—she said I was supposed to sit right here until I finish all my Marmite!”
“Your governess is a Willy Wally! If she fancies Marmite so much, she can eat it herself!”
Olivia laughed for the first time in weeks.
“Why, you’re delightful!” she said.
The goat bowed modestly.
“You’re too kind.”
He stuck his paw through the looking glass, grabbed the Marmite sandwich off her plate, and gobbled it up in a single bite.
“Zerkity zerks!” he said, grimacing. “That was awful! But at least it’s gone now—and we can be on our way.”
“But where are we going?” Olivia asked her new friend.
The magical creature laughed heartily.
“Where aren’t we going?”
The next few days were a flurry of excitement. Yes, there were still sums to solve and Marmite sandwiches to eat. But with Mr. Goat by her side, Olivia was happy for the first time all summer. Every afternoon, when Ms. Higginberry took her nap, the wonderful creature leapt through the looking glass and took Olivia on a rollicking adventure. One day, they crept into the pantry and stole sugar cubes from a cupboard. On another outing, they found wagon grease in the basement and oiled up the banister, transforming it into a pleasure slide.
“Stupendous!” Mr. Goat howled as he rocketed down the staircase.
“Tremendous!” Olivia cried, following close behind.
On Saturday, the sun came out, bathing Olivia’s bedroom with golden light.
“Zerkity zerks!” Mr. Goat cried. “What a wonderful, sun-derful day!”
He got on all fours and Olivia hopped on his back.
“Giddyup!” she cried.
“At your service, milady!”
She laughed as he barreled down the staircase and out the door, galloping willy-nilly across the grass. After a time, they collapsed in a meadow at the edge of the estate. They lay on the soft earth, laughing uproariously amid the wildflowers.
“Oh, Mr. Goat!” Olivia cried. “The last few days have been ever so much fun!”
“They’ve been wondrous!” her friend agreed. “Wondrous, fundrous, scrumdrous!”
“I’m so happy you’re by my side!”
Mr. Goat leaned in and kissed her.
“Whoa,” Olivia said. “Whoa…. What was that?”
Mr. Goat flushed with embarrassment.
“I—I’m sorry…,” he stammered. “I thought… you know… I thought that’s where this was going.”
“Well, you thought wrong,” Olivia said. “We’re just friends. Okay?”
“Okay,” Mr. Goat mumbled.
There was a long, awkward pause.
“We should go back,” Olivia said, avoiding eye contact.
“Okay,” Mr. Goat said.
They walked back to the house in silence.
Olivia was hoping that Mr. Goat would stay away for a few days, so that things could cool down. But the very next day, in the middle of Ms. Higginberry’s nap, he popped out of her looking glass.
“Hello, Mr. Goat!” Olivia said cheerfully. She had decided that the best course of action was to pretend nothing strange had happened.
“I fancy an adventure,” she said. “How about you?”
“Yeah,” Mr. Goat said, clearly distracted. “Yeah.”
He coughed nervously. His breath, Olivia noticed, smelled of sherry.
“Listen,” he said. “About yesterday…”
“We don’t need to talk about that.”
“I’ve been on medication for an ear infection… and the dose was really strong—”
She waved her hand, mercifully cutting him off.
“You don’t need to explain,” she said. “It’s not a big deal. We were friends before yesterday and we’re still friends now.”
“Well, that’s splendid!” Mr. Goat said. “As long as we preserve our friendship—that’s the important thing.”
“Yes!” Olivia said. “Exactly!”
There was a pause.
“Can I kiss you?” Mr. Goat said.
“I just want to be friends,” she said firmly. “That’s all.”
“I know,” Mr. Goat said. “I know. I just—I think we should give this thing a try! I mean, there’s obviously something between us! You said it yourself, when we were frolicking—you said you wanted me by your side.”
“Yeah, like in a ‘friend’ way.”
Mr. Goat growled.
“You led me on.”
“What?” Olivia cried. “No, I didn’t!”
“You totally led me on! You rode on my back! Do you realize what that was like for me? It was torture! I’m a full-grown goat. I have needs. Stupendous, tremendous needs.”
“That’s not my problem.”
Mr. Goat sat down on the floor, massaging his temples with his paws.
“Zerkity zerks,” he said. “Zerkity, zerkity zerks.”
“Are you going to calm down?” Olivia said. “Because if you’re not, I think you should go back through the looking glass.”
“I’m sorry,” Mr. Goat said. “I’ll calm down. I’m sorry.”
He smoothed out his suit and took a deep breath.
“So you’re not attracted to me at all.”
“Just tell me. I need to hear you say it. It’s the only way I can move on.”
Olivia threw up her hands in frustration.
“Okay, fine,” she said. “I’m not attracted to you at all.”
Mr. Goat burst into tears.
“Oh my God!” he cried. “Oh my God!”
“There, there,” she said, patting him halfheartedly on the horns. “You’ll find someone.”
“That’s not true!”
“Sure it is.”
“No, it’s not! You’re the only one who can even see me!”
Olivia hesitated. He had a point there.
“Look,” she said. “We’re great as friends… but we’re just not physically compatible. I mean, for goodness’ sake, I’m only nine years old.”
“So what? I’m only eight!”
“Well, yeah, but what is that in goat years?”
Mr. Goat looked down guiltily at his feet.
“It’s like midfifties, isn’t it?” Olivia said.
Mr. Goat clapped his hooves sarcastically.
“Looks like someone’s been practicing her sums.”
“You’re such a dick,” Olivia said. “Just because I’m not giving you what you want, that doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk.”
“You’re right,” Mr. Goat mumbled. “I’m sorry.”
“I think you’d better leave.”
There was another pause—the longest one yet.
“Can I just lick your face one time?” Mr. Goat asked. “Just one time and then I’ll go away forever.”
“No,” Olivia said.
Mr. Goat hung his head and trudged wearily across the nursery. It seemed to Olivia that he was moving as slowly as possible. Eventually, after an interminable length of time, he stepped through the looking glass and vanished. Olivia sighed with relief and sat down by the window. The rain had started up again and the sky was thick with fog.
“Oh,” she muttered. “What a dreadful summer.”
THE FAT CATS ARE GETTING richer and richer!” Otto screamed hoarsely into his megaphone. “While the genocide rages on! If that’s not an injustice, I don’t know what is!”
There were only about a dozen protestors left, but they followed along passionately, waving their cardboard signs in the frigid November air. It was freezing out and I was amazed that anyone had come at all. It was a testament to Otto’s leadership skills. Every Saturday, regardless of the weather, he got us to follow him to Washington Square Park. We knew, analytically, that our protests were irrational. How could a pack of unwashed college students convince Congress to end the War on Terror, or abolish the American prison system, or legalize hallucinogens? Still, standing there in the cold, with Otto’s guttural screams pounding into our skulls, we felt strangely powerful. We felt like we could change whatever we wanted.
“Darfur is a contemporary holocaust!” Otto screeched. “And if we don’t stop it, no one will!”
He continued his diatribe, specks of spittle flying everywhere. Suddenly, though, in the middle of the word “industrial-military,” his voice trailed off.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He didn’t respond, but I could figure it out by following his forlorn gaze. Jen was strolling across the park, holding hands with a broad-shouldered man in a cardigan. Otto squinted at the pair with rage, his hands trembling slightly at his sides. He’d been screaming for the past four hours, but this was the angriest he’d looked all day.
“If that’s not an injustice,” he seethed, “I don’t know what is.”
Otto could be extremely convincing. During our sophomore year, he’d persuaded me to boycott McDonald’s, even though they’d recently brought back the McRib. But no matter how hard he tried, he hadn’t been able to get Jen to date him.
“It’s morally and ethically reprehensible,” he said, staring bitterly at Jen’s Facebook profile. “I’ve put in months of labor. How could she enter into a relationship with someone else?”
I nodded sympathetically. It was unfair. Otto had been obsessively courting Jen since freshman orientation. He tried to sit with her at every meal. And if her table had no space, he would sit as close to her as possible and look in her direction whenever he made a loud point. He invited her personally to all of his protests. But so far, she hadn’t attended a single one. Once, on a Saturday night, I walked in on Otto weeping in the common room. He said it had to do with a situation in Kabul. But I had a feeling it had to do with Jen.
Otto didn’t seem sad tonight, though. Just angry.
“It’s outrageous,” he muttered through gritted teeth. “She refuses to go on a single date with me. Meanwhile, the fat cats on Wall Street just sit there, getting richer and richer.”
I was confused.
“What do the fat cats have to do with Jen?”
“It’s all connected,” he said vaguely.
He grabbed a fresh placard from a stack on his desk and started writing on it with a Sharpie.
“What are you doing?” I asked nervously.
“What does it look like?” he said. “I’m taking a fucking stand.”
I passed Otto the next day on my way to Anthro 1. He was sitting on the steps of Jen’s dormitory, holding his new sign. DATE OTTO NOW, it read, in neatly printed block letters.
“How long have you been out here?” I asked.
“Since last night,” he said. “And I’m staying for as long as it takes.”
I noticed an open backpack by his side, stuffed with PowerBars and what looked like a first aid kit.
“I don’t know if this is such a good idea,” I said. “I mean, what are you going to do if it rains?”
“I’ve got a poncho.”
“What about if you have to go to the bathroom?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet,” he admitted.
“Well… don’t you think that’s a concern?”
“It’s a concern,” he said.
I looked up at Jen’s dormitory. She lived in a twenty-story high-rise at Twelfth and Broadway. I didn’t know which apartment was hers, so I couldn’t tell if she was even home.
“I should probably go to class,” I said apologetically.
“Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll be right here.”
I called Otto from Bobst Library a few hours later. He only had so many PowerBars in his backpack, and I was worried about him. It took a few tries to reach him.
“Sorry,” he said. “I was in the Porta Potti.”
“Porta Potti? How did you get one of those?”
“One of my volunteers called the city.”
He tried to explain, but his voice was drowned out by a thundering sound.
“Gotta go!” he cried out over the din. “Drum circle!”
By the following morning, there were dozens of students on Jen’s steps, chanting and banging bongos.
Whose Jen? Otto’s Jen!
The crowd was predominantly male, but I was surprised to notice some women there as well. Otto’s cause had struck a chord with everyone.
I tried to make my way toward him, but it was difficult to fight through the crowd and eventually I gave up. As I was leaving, a squirrelly-looking guy in a Phish T-shirt handed me a flyer.
1) Jen must sever ties with her current boyfriend and enter immediately into a long-term sexual relationship with Otto Jankaloff.
2) She must, effective at once, begin to feel love toward him.
3) She must become attracted to him physically.
4) A general reduction in student loans.
I suspected that Otto only threw in the last demand to get more people to his protest. Still, it was an impressive list. Simple, but firm.
Excerpted from The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich Copyright © 2013 by Simon Rich. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 2, 2014
Many of the stories made me chuckle out loud, and I found the majority of the stories very pleasant. Great, quick stories when you have downtime in a waiting room or on a bus ride.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 2, 2013
Posted April 6, 2013
Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began listening to this audio book but what I got was one of the funniest books I have ever listened to. I picked out my favorite short stories and shared them with my husband. He laughed out loud and wanted to borrow the CD. There are 30 short stories on this CD. Each story has something to do with a relationship. I was not previously familiar with the author Simon Rich but I now know he is a genius! My favorite story is 'Dog Missed, Connections' where a dog is writing to dogs that he has seen hoping to hook up with one. Others that I truly enjoyed were 'I Love Girl'. In this tale we meet a caveman with a crush on a friend’s girlfriend. In 'The Girlfriend Repair Shop', a therapist suggests Max take his girlfriend to the repair shop if he wants to continue in the relationship. 'Scared Straight' is the tale of a young man desiring marriage; a married man is brought in to direct him on the path of bachelorhood.
I found most of the stories funny in a perverse way; they certainly are not politically correct. The stories can be easily classified into three categories: boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy and girl break up. Men will love this book and of course some women as well. However, women beware, this book focuses on women who are cruel, charlatan, and generally despicable people.
Posted January 4, 2014
I breezed through this book, enjoying all of it and I sent it to my dad also (who loved it). I heard an interview with the author and one story on the Savage Lovecast and was intrigued - I was not disappointed.
Each of the short stories has a new perspective, some are very short and quirky, others have pathos, all are entertaining and original.
If I had any suggestions for a sequel, it would be that I'd like to see a little more from the "girlfriend" perspective in some stories, and perhaps a queer relationship or two, but I can see why the author chose more familiar perspectives for these stories (if God and a condom can count as familiar) and he certainly nailed each of these, as far as I can tell!
Posted May 14, 2013
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Posted March 4, 2013
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Posted September 16, 2013
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