Somewhere behind the dirty orange haze that hangs over the city is the sun.
Kelly Gruber, spokesman for Right Guard brand antiperspirant and deodorant sits underneath a beer-sponsored umbrella on a second floor patio somewhere on Yonge Street. The chair is white and plastic with a faux-woven back. The umbrella is tilted at an angle that does nothing to prevent the sun from burning angrily through Kelly’s silk shirt. Earlier he tried to wrestle the umbrella into a state of usefulness, only to pinch his fingers in the mechanism that adjusts the height; only to have the umbrella threaten to collapse and upend his table; only to have the few other early morning patio patrons stare at him like a goddamned idiot.
Kelly’s new coping strategy is immobility; eyelids at half-mast. During the last week some kind of voracious heat rash has colonized his armpits, cracking his soft underarm skin. He still has to lift his beer, but most other motion has ceased. It’s too hot to think and Kelly’s brain churns away without his input.
* * *
In the afternoon, back at the hotel, Kelly should be on a stationary bike and dressed in more than white tube socks and briefs, but instead he’s lying on his back, spread-eagled across the cool tile of his bathroom floor listening to Hall and Oates pouring out of the speakerphone.
“Gillette Company, the makers of Right Guard and the Gillette Sensor, thank you for your patience. Your call is important to us and will be answered in sequence by the next available associate,” says the recorded voice.
Either Oates or Hall sings, “Say it isn’t so painful to tell me that you’re dissatisfied.”
While rehearsing his end of the phone conversation Gruber accidentally moves his left arm and the stinging pain brings tears to his eyes. He isn’t certain whether he should he mention he’s the spokesman for the Canadian ad campaign, or if he should admit that he had applied the deodorant to broken skin for several days before he saw the finely printed warning, which advised to discontinue use in just such a situation.
What he wants to know is how he’s going to swing a bat tomorrow without crying in front of George Bell or David Wells. He wonders how soon he can be traded if he does cry. Gruber listens to Hall and Oates and bets that this sort of thing never happens to Bo Jackson. It occurs to him, not for the first time, that maybe what he really wants is to be Bo Jackson.
He decides not to mention any of this to the Gillette rep.
* * *
"How come I’ve never seen your commercial Kelly?"
This was Kelly’s father last week, his voice over the phone muddled with college football television announcers.
“Pop, again, it’s only on in Canada. I told you.”
"Mike Schmidt is selling GMCs, Bo Jackson is hustling for Nike,” his voice trailed off for a minute, “I mean you ain’t Strawberry, you know, telling kids to Just Say No, but—"
"Shhhit, there’s my boy, selling deodorant to Eskimos. I bet they ain’t got Roberto Alomar selling deodorant, right? Am I right?"
“Fruit Juice, Pop! Alomar Sells Fucking Fruit Juice!”
Then Kelly hung up the phone.
* * *
As Hall and Oates are taking it home the long way, the music cuts out.
“Thank you for calling the Gillette Company. How may I help you?”
Surprised, Gruber panics, and his mind goes blank for a moment.
“Bo . . . knows baseball,” he says into the silence and sits up abruptly, the sudden movement filling his eyes with tears.
Kelly hangs up the phone.
* * * * *
Days 1-26 of The 31 Days of Kelly Gruber
Published On: August 26, 2007
Permanent Location: http://www.forgetmagazine.com/gruber27.htm