No Lucky Pants
How many pairs of lucky pants does Kessler
How many pairs of unlucky pants does Kessler own?
Is this bad?
Most definitely. There are days when a certain something extra is required of us and on
those certain something extra days we are accustomed to reaching into the closet and
finding (on an extra-special hanger perhaps?) a pair of lucky pants. But not Kessler.
Kessler has no lucky pants. I repeat: Kessler has no lucky pants.
How unlucky are these pants?
1 pair of khaki slacks: Very unlucky.
1 pair of navy blue trousers: Very unlucky.
3 pairs of blue denim jeans (baggy, loose, and boot cut, respectively): Moderate to
1 pair of black mesh sweatpants: Way unlucky.
1 pair of green corduroys: Mildly unlucky.
1 pair of camouflage pants: Vaguely unlucky.
1 pair of U.S. Navy dress white bell-bottoms: Mondo, off-the-charts unlucky.
Are the khaki slacks and blue trousers equally unlucky?
More or less.
Why is that?
They are his office pants and Kessler alternates them in the following manner: Monday
khaki, Tuesday blue, Wednesday khaki, Thursday blue. Then, the following week: Monday
blue, Tuesday khaki, Wednesday blue, Thursday khaki. Fridays, of course, are occasions for
casual dress and Kessler wears the same pair of office jeans (boot cut) every Friday.
These are the rules. Of the two, the blue pants should be considered more unlucky than the
khaki pants because several months ago Kessler spilled toner on the blue pants and
continues to fool himself into thinking that his co-workers don't notice the stain, which
is simply not the case as the stain is as plain as a stain can be. Its proximity to the
crotch area is doubly unfortunate.
Just how unlucky are these unlucky office pants?
Very unlucky. Consider the evidence:
Kessler was repeatedly passed over for promotion in these pants.
Kessler's frequent requests for an office were denied in these pants.
Kessler has been turned down by an absurd number of office temps in these pants.
Kessler was "interrupted" in the bathroom in these pants.
Kessler was reprimanded for stealing office supplies in these pants.
Kessler has received numerous traffic citations in these pants.
Kessler's computer has crashed, frozen, jammed or behaved in an inexplicable manner while
Kessler was wearing these pants. And so on.
How many times have these unlucky events taken place?
6, 4, 11, 2, 2, 3 and 676 times, respectively.
Who is this Kessler?
Kessler is the owner of nine pairs of unlucky pants. He works in an office. His job can be
characterized as either "going nowhere" or "dead-end" depending on his
mood. He is excitable, yet largely unsuccessful with women. This is a shame, though
certainly not the tragedy he thinks it is. He overestimates his abilities and
underestimates those of others. The ensuing discrepancy is often unmanageable.
Is Kessler in the Navy?
Is Kessler a veteran of the Navy?
No. In fact, Kessler experiences a curious mixture of claustrophobia and homophobia on
those occasions when he considers what life must be like on board those enormous ships.
Why would someone who is neither a member of the Navy, nor a veteran of the Navy, own a
pair of perfectly good white U.S. Navy-issue bell-bottoms?
That is a very good question.
Kessler is very sensitive about his sailor pants. He probably wouldn't like us talking
about them. In fact, he's been meaning to get rid of them, but he can't bring himself to
throw them away for reasons that are troubling to him, so they remain in his closet,
exuding an unlucky aura.
What makes these sailor pants so off-the-charts unlucky?
In 1999 Kessler attended a Halloween costume party. The party was hosted by an office temp
with whom Kessler was friendly but had not yet mustered the courage to ask out, which is a
very good thing because she probably would have said no. He attended the party costumed as
a sailor, a rare stroke of seemingly good luck as this particular temp, in spite of having
had her heart broken by a young seaman named Jim she met during spring break down in
Rosarita, Mexico, many years before, had a thing for sailors.
What do you mean "thing"?
Does this temp possess any remarkable characteristics?
She does. The temp, whose name is Diane, has a small Christian cross tattooed on the
fleshy part of her hand between the thumb and forefinger. She has an irrational attraction
to sailors. She falls in love very quickly. She is not unattractive. Not in the least.
Was the party a success?
It was. As the hours became small and the guests trickled out the door Diane asked Kessler
to stay a while. Soon they were kissing, pawing at each other, rutting on the floor.
Was this situation agreeable to both parties?
Very much so.
Why were Kessler and Diane making love on the floor?
Because the bedroom was occupied by Diane's husband, Jared, who had gotten riotously drunk
and had passed out cold.
Then what happened?
Kessler's condom broke and a baby was conceived. Of course, Kessler and Diane did not
realize this had happened. They were too busy getting drunk (Kessler) and falling in love
It just gets worse and worse, doesn't it?
I'm afraid so.
Where did Kessler get the sailor pants?
From a thrift store. It should be noted that it is almost impossible to acquire lucky
pants at a thrift store. In fact, the sailor pants in question were already terrifically
unlucky when Kessler bought them. In this instance, they were downright dangerous.
Who did they belong to before Kessler bought them?
They didn't belong to anyone. They belonged to the thrift store.
Who did they belong to before they belonged to the thrift store?
They belonged to a bandy-legged sailor named Jim.
Was this sailor in the habit of breaking young office temps' hearts in Mexico?
As luck would have it, he was.
What are the odds of Jim's sailor pants making it from his seabag in San Diego to
Kessler's closet in Los Angeles?
All that matters is that it happened. Looking back, it seems as if there could have been
no other outcome. Jim's pants were always already around Kessler's ankles at the moment
Kessler's sperm was striving to fertilize Diane's egg.
What happened to Jim?
That depends on whether you are referring to little Jimmy, Kessler's toddler son, or Jim
the sailor, little Jimmy's psychic progenitor. Little Jimmy lives with his mother, Diane,
and his stepfather, Jared, Diane's cuckolded husband.
What happened to Jim the sailor?
It's too terrible to talk about.
What happened to little Jimmy?
Nothing, yet. He's just a toddler.
Did things work out between Kessler and Diane?
They did not. Even though their highly efficient work stations were only a few feet apart,
they seldom saw one another. Meeting after work was equally impossible on account of
Jared, who despite being lazy, loutish and prone to fits of drunkenness was a secretive,
suspicious person. They traded e-mail messages and soon Diane's love morphed into
something strange, the Internet being a cold, sterile place to cultivate a relationship.
Each time she saw his name glowing in her mailbox, she thought the walls of her chest
might collapse. Kessler, however, was having difficulty hurdling the not insignificant
obstacle of Diane's marriage to Jared. He was either unwilling or unable to give himself
to a woman whose heart was contracted to another.
Is that a cop-out?
It certainly sounds like one.
Was Diane aware of this?
Yes. She wrote a lot of e-mails trying to convince him of her emotional availability, but
these efforts were largely unsuccessful.
Did Kessler's bad luck rub off on Diane?
We all have our own parcels of luck, good and bad, dispensed in quantifiable units. If you
choose to participate in the bad luck of another, that is your own choice, your own doing.
Pants are a convenient metaphor. The luck, however, is real and should not be discounted.
Did Kessler know Diane was pregnant?
He did after she told him.
Where did this happen?
By the sea. Diane convinced Kessler to take a sick day. They went to the beach together.
Even though it was June, the skies were balmy and clogged with clouds. They walked up and
down the Santa Monica Pier, holding hands. A pair of artists scribbled their sketches as
they passed. They had never seen such expressions before. They pressed their sketches into
their hands. He was a dead president in a silk top hat with mad pinwheels for eyes; she
was an elfin princess with wings too small to bear her. Then she told him.
How did he take it?
Not well. He asked her if this was good news or bad news. She said she didn't know.
Did he ask her if the baby was his?
To his credit, he did not.
What did he say?
He told her he needed some time, which was a lie. Then Kessler did a terrible thing.
What did he do?
On his way home he called his company's Human Resources Manager and told her Diane was
stalking him. He told her about the e-mails. He gave her the password to his computer. She
said she would look into it.
And did she?
You better believe she did.
How many e-mail messages did they exchange?
Inside of three weeks Diane composed 398 messages to Kessler's 142. To the cold eye of the
Human Resources Manager, the messages revealed a needy, obsessive woman on the verge of
hysteria or worse. Kessler came across as nice and polite, neither encouraging nor
Would a more perceptive Human Resources Manager have reached the conclusion that Kessler
was leading Diane along?
Yes, but Diane was only a temp and Kessler was a full-time employee. A bad employee, true,
but a full-time employee none the less. The next day the Human Resources Manager stopped
Diane at the front desk and sent her home. The locks had already been changed.
How could Kessler do such a thing?
Because his conscience was like a ship: if the hull was holed the compartment could be
sealed off and the ship would remain afloat. Because he was very good at lying to himself.
Because he was a coward. Because hed been running from responsibility all his life
and he wasnt about to stop now.
Did he suspect the child was Jared's?
No. After meeting Diane on the Santa Monica Pier he came home and cleaned his apartment.
Standing over the trash can in the kitchen, picking cobwebs from a broom, he saw himself
standing over Diane's toilet with a broken condom in his hand.
Are you making excuses for Kessler?
I am making excuses for everyone.
Did Diane tell Jared the baby was his?
And he believed her?
He had no reason to suspect otherwise. Little Jimmy took after his mother.
Was Diane heartbroken?
She was. After Diane was let go, she went back to the Santa Monica Pier and considered her
options. She could try another tactic, try to make Kessler love her. She could move out,
live on her own with her new baby. She could pitch herself off the edge of the pier and
drown. It didn't occur to her that she could simply go home, tell Jared she'd been fired
and make him take her out to dinner. She thought of all the reasons why she loved Kessler
and quickly reached the conclusion they were dumb, foolish reasons to fall in love with
someone. It all came back to how good he looked in the sailor suit, how much he reminded
her of her first sweetheart, Jim, who had been murdered by dope fiends in an alley behind
a Tijuana brothel. She gathered all the artists. A Chinese acrobat performed feats of
strength and balance while she waited. Sea breezes tousled her hair. The artists presented
their sketches. This time her wings were big and strong, lifting her high in the sky, and
her smile outshone the sun.
Is that how the story ends?
No. There is no end. Only more questions, many of which can never be answered. You'd think
this would create anxiety, but it doesn't. Few seek the kind of closure in life that we
demand of stories. We prefer that things be left open-ended by virtue of our children and
grandchildren. Most of us are quite comfortable with this arrangement.
Did Kessler ever see his child?
He saw a photograph, once, but that is not the same thing.
Where did he see the photograph?
Under the Santa Monica Pier.
What was Kessler doing under the Santa Monica Pier?
Fearing for his life.
Can you elaborate?
Certainly. While searching for a stack of pornographic magazines Jared had secreted in the
back of the guest bedroom closet, he came across a thick manila folder secured with rubber
bands. His suspicious nature got the best of him and soon he was sitting on the edge of
the bed reading a spirited e-mail exchange between his wife and a co-worker. He did not
read much. He did not have to. Jared experienced a series of epiphanies in which he
quickly deduced that Kessler had fucked his wife, knocked her up and dumped her. All of
which pointed to a single conclusion: Kessler must die. Jared loaded the Springfield and
put it behind the seat in his truck. The Russian nine millimeter semi was already loaded
and hibernating in the glove compartment. He drove to the office and waited in the parking
lot. When Kessler came out he rolled up and told him to get in. Kessler did as he was
told. Jared drove to the beach.
Which pair of pants was Kessler wearing?
The blue pants.
Did Jared know the significance of the Santa Monica Pier?
He did not. Kessler, of course, thought that he did and it gave him a bad feeling, which
worsened after Jared stopped, parked, opened the glove compartment he hadn't bothered to
lock and withdrew the Russian semiautomatic.
Was Kessler frightened?
Perhaps even more so.
Why is that?
Because Jared adored his wife. Because Jimmy was a terrific kid. Because the
responsibilities of fatherhood had made Jared less lazy, less loutish, less prone to fits
of drunken dereliction. Because he thought he finally understood why his father had
abandoned him and hated him less. Because he was sure one of those fucking sketch artists
on the pier would notice two men going down, one coming up.
What did he do?
He told Kessler to get on his knees, reached into his jacket pocket and produced a
photograph of his son, which he handed to Kessler.
Did Kessler take it?
What did Jared do?
He went home.
What did Kessler do?
What did Kessler learn from this?
What lessons might Kessler have learned?
That nothing is trivial. Appearances matter. The Internet is a poor place for love,
corporate cubicles poorer still. A lover's luck, good or bad, is indistinguishable from
one's own. A bad decision repeated is not the same bad decision, but another thing
altogether, leading to new possibilities for despair. Under no circumstances is it
permissible to purchase pants at a thrift store.
What mistaken impressions did Kessler take away from this encounter?
That Jared lacked nerve. That maybe his luck had changed.
That remains to be seen.
What can Kessler do to change his luck?
Get some new pants, for starters.