Jul/Aug 2003  •   Fiction

A Choice of Both

by Kevin McGowin

And that was the morning he started thinking of himself in the third person.

This new development was a bit disquieting at first, but within minutes, it seemed, the head racked sleepless with anxiety the night before was stilled, and it all seemed natural, somehow inevitable. After all, he thought while he poured out the Iams into the little plastic bowls and the filtered water into their special metal ones, he was fairly certain his cats thought of him in the third person and probably always had. Francesca was rubbing against his leg as he poured the food, meowing softly. "Ooooh, FwanCheskooaah, you know Jim White is your Daddy," he simpered. "You know Jim will take care of you."

When your name is Jim White, it's a hell of a lot easier to start thinking of yourself in the third person.

And then he poured the coffee grinds into the white basket filter and turned on the coffee maker, pouring in water from the special decanter he'd prepared the night before. And while it was brewing, he started to shave. "Jim White, he is shaving," Jim White was thinking. "He'll have a smooth face, and his coffee, it's almost ready."

The next thing he knew he had a cup of it in his hand, in Jim White's favorite cup, the one with the picture of the Maine Coon Cat on it. "But Jim likes milk in his coffee," he realized. So that was when Jim White opened up the refrigerator and took out a half-empty quart, homogenized and pasteurized and spiked liberally with Vitamin D3 (whatever that was supposed to do), the 2% kind, and poured it liberally into his coffee, which was French Roast from Starbucks. He was watching himself watching himself, and at this, he had to laugh.

"Jim White just made him some café au lait," he bemused, "like he had in Paris just over 14 years ago at a bistro in the 4th Arrodissement." That had been when Jim had learned the latter word meant "district" in French and there were 18 of them give or take a few, and his girlfriend had laughed when he'd once ordered Merlot one afternoon at an outdoor café. It was all Burgundy then, you see. Now it's all Pinot Noir, thought Jim White, no Cabernet to speak of—but whatever, because Jim White, he thought, had not so much as looked at the stuff in nine years. The horns were starting to sound out on the street. Jim White looked out the window while he ironed his seersucker shirt.

But before he put it on, Jim White needed to take a shower, as he'd worked out fairly hard at the gym the evening before. "Jim will exfoliate with his loofah" mused Jim White, stepping into the water just after sticking his hand in gingerly to make sure it wasn't too cold. The water. He laughed. Jim White was now in the shower, and he was laughing.

If only they knew what a great deal he had planned about the Kitterage merger, he was thinking. They'd think of nothing but Jim White, praising him to the suburban stars over plates of chicken á la king with their families. He realized Jim White must be happy, because he was singing. "Luck, Be a Lady Tonight" was what he was singing. His cats were coming into the steamy bathroom to examine the commotion created by Jim White. "So LET'S keep the party PO-lite!" he sang, clipping off the ends of lines in just the right places, and washing behind his ears while he did so.


Jim White was walking out the door, dressed to the Tens in his lucky suit, which was yellow. Then he was in a Board meeting with the rest of the staff, and someone was speaking. The left shoe of Jim White is untied, he thought, and he began to tie it back.

"Is it Mr. White, or may I call you Jim?" somebody was asking from somewhere. Jim White smiled as he thought to himself, "Let's keep the party polite. The man thought there was a choice, and right he was, lucky bugger! For today, there is a choice of both!"

But the last four words were all that came out of his mouth, from the men's room, it sounded. Jim White needs to straighten his tie, he thought. The next thing he knew, Jim White was doing exactly that, looking down into the stream of water flowing from the spigot of the sink above which was the mirror containing the image of someone he once had known. But his image was clearer in the stream of water, cleaner, younger, better looking.

After a time, he saw his own reflection in the pool collecting from the overflow of Jim White. After a time, he just stopped staring.