Pity Those Who Don't Feel Anything at All by James Rumpel

Tim has a job interview, and his roommate Jerry encourages him to drink emotion-enhancers to help prepare himself; by James Rumpel.

Tim heard the uncontrollable giggling coming from the kitchen of the small apartment he shared with his lifelong friend, Jerry. Dressed in his best polo shirt and his only pair of dress pants, Tim emerged from his bedroom to find his roommate doubled over in laughter.

"You sure are in a good mood," said Tim.

"You bet I am, Timbo," replied Jerry between guffaws. "I just drank an extra-large bottle of HAPPINESS. I was a little down about breaking up with Theresa but I feel great now, Timitytimitytimtim."

"Apparently." Tim opened the fridge, looking for something for breakfast. As usual, there was no food. All he found inside was a half-empty bottle of ketchup, an empty pizza box, and a couple of six-packs of emotion-inducing beverages. Tim reached for the one labeled ENERGY but decided against it. He had a job interview today and did not want to be too jumpy.

"So, Timoramma," said Jerry, "are you nervous about your interview?"

"Maybe a tiny bit, but not too bad."

"I noticed we have a bottle of CALM in the fridge. Maybe you should have a drink of that, Timster."

"Sure, why not. What could it hurt?" Tim pulled out the tiny plastic bottle, twisted off the cap, and dumped the contents into his mouth. The thick liquid was nearly tasteless, though Tim thought he detected a hint of banana.

"Do me a favor, Timpany," laughed Jerry. "Could you take the trash out with you when you go?"

"Sure," replied Tim. He walked over to the garbage can and started to pull the trash bag out. An empty bottle sat awkwardly on top of numerous take-out containers. As Tim pulled, the bottle fell from the heaping pile of garbage and bounced a couple of times before stopping against the wall. For a brief second, Tim considered bending over to pick it up, but he left it. He wanted to make sure he made it to his interview on time.

Tim started toward the door and stopped. Maybe it would be a good idea to bring some emotion beverages with him. It was always good to be prepared. Reopening the fridge, he grabbed his backpack and haphazardly threw in a bottle of FOCUS and a bottle of PRIDE.

The thought occurred to Tim, that taking the time to grab those bottles might have been a mistake. Hurriedly grabbing his pack and the garbage, he raced out to his car, skipping every other step on his way down the stairs.

His drive to the interview could only be described as erratic. The gauge on his speedometer swung back and forth like an inverted pendulum. One moment he found himself speeding out of fear of being late and the next he slowed to well below the posted limit because he didn't want to be ticketed. All the while, his brain flashed from one negative scenario to another.

Tim's car pulled into the Havicorp parking lot a full hour and a half before his scheduled interview time. After sitting in the car for ten minutes, his anxiety began to wane. It was strange that the bottle of CALM had affected him the way it did. He had been using different emotion beverages for years and never had any adverse effects.

Almost on cue his phone rang. The biggest critic of his use of such beverages, his father, was checking up on him.

"Hi, Dad."

"Have you left for your interview yet? I just wanted to call and wish you luck."

"Thanks for caring Dad, but I don't need luck."

"Are you all hyped up on one of those stupid enhancer drinks again? They can't be good for you. I heard that the more you use them the harder it is to generate emotions on your own."

Tim made sure his sigh was loud enough to be heard through the phone. "That's not true. It's just propaganda. We don't need to have this argument again."

"Well, if it wasn't true, why would they be coming up with drinks for negative emotions. I saw some for SADNESS and ANGER in the store, yesterday."

"I don't know, Dad. Maybe some people like to have control over when they feel those emotions." As Tim answered he was struck by the fact that he wasn't as upset with his father as he should be. He quickly pushed that thought aside. "I've got to let you go now, Dad. I need to do some last second prep for the interview."

"I just don't understand your generation," continued Tim's father. "You always want to take the easy way out..."

Tim hung up the phone. Maybe his father was right and he couldn't generate his own emotions any more. The doubt passed quickly, never really taking hold, but it did make Tim consider that he might need more confidence.

He didn't have a bottle in his backpack but there was a drug store just beyond the parking lot. If he hurried, he would have time to purchase a bottle.

Tim felt a slight twinge of frustration when the store was completely out of CONFIDENCE. In order to work up the nerve to say something, he grabbed a small bottle of DISAPPOINTMENT and paid for it at the counter. After the transaction was complete, he quickly drank his purchase.

"I am very disappointed that your store doesn't have a complete supply of Emotion Beverages," he announced to the young woman behind the counter.

"Oh, what are we missing?" she asked.

"You don't have any CONFIDENCE. I really needed some, but now I don't get any. I am greatly discouraged."

"It's not my fault," replied the girl. "Some guy came in this morning a bought six bottles. He said something about having a job interview today."

"Well, you should have limited his purchase or had more on hand." Tim found himself having to fight back tears.

The girl reached under the counter, pulled out an open bottle, and took a quick swig. "I'm indignant," she said. "How dare you blame me. It's not my fault at all. Now, why don't you just get out of here before I call my manager."

Tim had a few minutes to sit in his car and collect his thoughts before going in for the interview. The morning had been strange. The CALM didn't work at all. Perhaps he was much more nervous than he realized. It was too late to worry about that now, though. The upcoming interview required his complete concentration.

He pulled the extra-large bottle of FOCUS from his backpack and chugged it.

The beautiful receptionist led Tim to the interview room. He found himself staring at her the entire walk.

"Mrs. Huverman is inside waiting for you," she announced with the voice of an angel.

Tim glanced back at her one final time as he entered the room. Once inside, he turned to face the middle-aged woman who would be conducting the interview. He froze.

"You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my entire life," he blurted out. He couldn't take his eyes off of her. She wore a purple business suit with a long skirt that showed just a tiny portion of her gorgeous calves. Her face was cracked and wrinkled. A pair of thick, oversized glasses sat on her long, crooked nose. Her dishwater-colored hair was pulled back in a tight bun. He was mesmerized by the streak of gray climbing from her roots where her hair was parted. She was everything a man could wish for.

"I beg your pardon," she said.

"Oh, I'm sorry, but you look amazing. I hope I'm not being too forward, but I would really like to kiss you." Tim unbuttoned the bottom button on his polo shirt and pushed the collar to the side.

Mrs. Huverman reached for the phone with alluring grace.

Tim unlocked the door and walked into his apartment. He felt a twinge of pain in his shoulder where the security guard had grabbed him while escorting out of the building. As he tossed his backpack on the floor, he noticed the bottle he had left against the wall that morning. The colorful label announced that the bottle had once contained MISCHIEF.

"I am so sorry," cried Jerry from the far corner of the kitchen. Tim had not noticed him sitting there, facing the wall.

"About what?" asked Tim.

"I did something terrible," replied Jerry as he turned to face his roommate. Tim noticed an open container of APOLOGETIC sitting on the table. "Last night I drank a bottle of MISCHIEF and switched all the labels on your emotion beverages. I switched your CALM with an ANXIOUS and your FOCUS with an AROUSAL."

"So that's what happened." Jerry had cost him the job and caused him to embarrass himself beyond imagination. Tim could feel the anger growing within, but it wasn't growing fast enough. He pulled open the refrigerator door and grabbed a bottle of ANGER which he drank in a single gulp.

"That's okay," he said. "I'm glad you did it. I didn't want that job anyhow."

"I shouldn't have done it," continued Jerry remorsefully. "I also changed your ANGER with a GRATEFUL."

Tim smiled. "I'm glad you did that. Why don't I take you out to dinner tonight and we can forget about the whole thing?"


  1. I was going to swig a bottle of FUN this morning, but now that I’ve read this story I don’t need to. Well done!

  2. Ha ha! Entertaining story. Light and humorous, but with dark underpinnings, clear relevance and SF's trademark cautionary note. Fun read.


  3. Great fun read. Kept building nicely. Despite being quite out there, still believable, which is hard to do. So, excellent job.

  4. Great fun read. Hard to make an unbelieveable concept sound believeable, but you did it. I wished I had written it and was envious, so I had to down some APPRECIATION, which mellowed me out. Excellent job.

  5. An inventive, clever, snappily written story with the highly relevant commentary on our inability to handle our emotions and our increasing dependence on drugs. I'd like a swig of an anti-worry drink right now.
    Well done.

  6. An amusing deftly written story, Luckily Jerry switched the ANGER to GRATEFUL. Everyone forgot there's such a thing as mixed emotions. Indeed , some intriguing underpinnings with substance abuse. I need a bottle of FOCUS.

  7. Controlling emotion is harder than it seems. The ending was very fitting, but I can't help but wonder what might have happened if the bottle of ANGER hadn't been tampered with...

  8. Just the right tonic on this cold winter day.

  9. Have emotions and capacities in bottles is a great idea and the payoff around the label switching works well. I half wanted his father to be covertly drinking the same sort of stuff. I think the concept could work really well as a script

    1. What a great idea (I wish I'd have thought of it). I want to go back and add a line for the father before Tim hangs up on him. I would have the father say something like "Now, I'm all worked up. I'm going to need a beer or two just to relax."

  10. Thank you, everyone. I really appreciate all the comments.