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Mistah Kurtz, He Dead (Part 1 of 5)

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Jul. 20th, 2008 | 10:05 pm
posted by: msmcknittington in loathlylady

Title: Mistah Kurtz, He Dead (Part 1 of 5)
Author: msmcknittington
Word Count: ~4300
Pairing/Character: Jack/Liz; also Kenneth
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Being listed as Jack’s emergency contact wasn’t the only big surprise of the night. A fic in four-ish parts. ETA: Now five!
Spoilers/Season/Episode etc: Through 2.10, just to be safe, but nothing significant after “Greenzo” (2.5).



Mistah Kurtz, He Dead (Part 1 of 5)


There’s a lot to be said for living a relaxed life, Liz thought as she sat in the hospital waiting room. Like being a cordwainer in Italy or making those sparkly t-shirts with cat butts on them. Anything but being the executive vice president for East Coast Television and Microwave Programming. Working for a subsidiary of the Sheinhardt Wig Company took years off a man’s life he couldn’t spare.

It turned out that Jack had listed her as the emergency contact in his wallet, which was kind of a surprise. It was also kind of a surprise that he took the time to fill out that little card that came with wallets. And that whatever kind of super expensive wallet that Jack carried still came with those little cards, not just the ones you could buy at department stores. She wondered if the expensive ones still came with the fake credit cards -- Master Express, for all your credit needs!

Blerg. She was getting hysterical. Being listed as Jack’s emergency contact wasn’t the only big surprise of the night. In fact, it paled in comparison to the real surprise. Which was that Jack was dead.

Yep, dead. Very extremely deceased. Pining for the fj--well, she couldn’t imagine Jack ever pining for the fjords (Scandinavians, after all, were practically Socialists in his eyes, and Socialist was just another word for Communist) or watching Monty Python, but she could see him missing corporate boardrooms. So Jack was pining for Italian leather desk chairs and international mergers, maybe with Scandinavians, but more likely with Germans, who were a people he didn’t understand, but could respect.

There. She was getting all ramble-y and hysterical again. She was pretty sure that was because she had been stuck in this waiting room for nearly two hours, with only a coffeepot to keep her company. The coffeepot had been nearly full at the beginning, but now there were only one or two cups left in it, and it was a big pot. The caffeine had made her jittery and she sort of had a headache, but it balanced out, because she was also not dissolving into a weepy puddle on the floor. Which would be pathetic. If Jack were here, he would tell her so, while simultaneously complimenting her on something she wasn’t even aware was admirable. Her ability to drink six or seven cups of day-old black coffee in two hours, maybe.

But he wasn’t here and he never would be again, because he had had another heart thing. The doctor had used a lot of medical terms Liz didn’t understand when she first got to the hospital, but after she had said, “Miss Lemon, I’m sorry to tell you this, but Mr. Donaghy passed away shortly after arriving,” Liz had stopped paying attention. She had acted like she was paying attention, but she wasn’t really. She had been repeating to herself over and over, “Jack’s dead, Jack’s dead, Jack’s dead.” And now she was sitting here, waiting for someone to show up with Jack’s effects. His stuff. That he’d been wearing when he died.

Oh god, this was the worst day ever.

Just when she thought her bladder might burst from all the coffee, because she didn’t want to leave for the ladies’ room in case someone showed up, the doctor she’d talked to before came into the waiting room carrying a bulgy plastic bag. It looked like it was from the gift shop in the main lobby. There was a picture of a teddy bear on it and “Congratulations!” was spelled out under that in building blocks. That was kind of funny in an ironic way, but also really, really sad.

“I’m sorry this took so long to get to you, Miss Lemon,” the doctor said as she handed the bag over.

“Thank you,” Liz said. Trying to make a joke, because that was just her, she added, “Odd choice of wrapping. Not something you expect to see in this situation. ‘Congratulations! Your friend’s dead!’”

The doctor smiled a little. She looked tired, like she had to do this too often, but usually not with lame jokes.

“It was either this or a medical waste bag, and those are hard to get past the exit.” She paused. “I just want to say again how very sorry I am for your loss.”

“Thank you. Again.” She stood up from the vinyl chair, bag held tight in one hand. It was all lumpy with shoes and watches and, heck, maybe a handgun. She didn’t really know. Jack had been a great believer in self-reliance and, by extension, the second amendment. “I better get going. I’ve got some phone calls to make. Some cheese trays to order. You know. Stuff.”

When the doctor said of course, she understood, Liz left the hospital. Well, first she stopped by the bathroom, feeling weird taking Jack’s things in with her, but not wanting to leave the bag in the hallway. Then she left the hospital and went to the disordered haven of her apartment, again feeling weird taking Jack’s stuff with her. But it felt weirder knowing Jack was dead, and that was why she had a bag with his socks in it on the subway.

Once she was in her apartment, she set the bag on her couch and ignored it for a while, puttering around and doing things that didn’t really need to be done. After changing into her pajamas for the third time, she stood in front of the bag, just staring at it. She couldn’t decide whether she should open it up and look at what was inside, or just hold onto it until Colleen could make it up from Florida. She thought Colleen was the one who would end up with Jack’s stuff; Liz wasn’t going to hand it over to Bianca. Or Phoebe, who she imagined would probably try to sell it on the streets.

In the end, she opened up the bag, just to make sure that everything was there. Even if Jack did carry some sort of firearm, she wanted to be sure that it was present and accounted for. In the bag were his shoes, which were huge. He was -- damn it, had been -- a pretty tall guy, but she hadn’t expected him to wear such big shoes. His socks were shoved down behind the tongues, so she pulled them out and peeked inside. Size thirteens. Wow. Under the shoes were his pants and his shirt. All the buttons were gone from the shirt, and they weren’t in the bottom of the bag. That was wrong. His shirt shouldn’t have been missing all the buttons. Jack would never have let that happen.

Underneath all that, were his watch and the things that had been in his. There was his cell phone and a beeper and a couple of receipts. His keys, with a “Republican Party Super Supporter” key fob. A comb. His wallet, which was leather and most definitely not bought at a department store, didn’t have any pictures in it or anything like that, just ID and credit cards (real ones) and some cash.

Liz picked up the watch that Jack had always worn on his right hand. It was heavy and gold, because Jack hadn’t believed that real men wore inferior metals like silver or platinum -- gold was king. The watch was also very cold, which was even more wrong than the shirt missing all its buttons. Every time she had shaken Jack’s hand or he had taken her by the shoulder to stare into her eyes and give her a lecture, the watch had felt slightly warmer than the rest of his body, and seeing it now off his hand, she expected it to be just as warm as it ever had been. But no. It was cold and hard.

Which was why she was now dissolving into a pathetic, weepy puddle on her living room floor, holding the watch in her hand like it would bring Jack back. Like squeezing it as hard as she could would make him walk through door and say, “Snap out of it, Lemon. There’s half a roll of cookie dough in the fridge and a spoon already in it. Seize this opportunity to go in there and gorge yourself like Kobayashi.” But she was crying too hard to even think about eating, and this wasn’t really the kind of ache that cookie dough could soothe.

Definitely the worst day ever.

***


The next morning, she didn’t look her best. Not that she ever did when she woke up, but there was a special kind of dishevelment that sleeping on a hardwood floor after crying yourself out brought. It was so tempting to crawl from the living room to her bed and wrap herself up in her duvet, and maybe sleep for a few more hours or just stare at the plaster swirls on the ceiling until she found the one that looked like Mitt Romney. But she didn’t especially want a repeat of last night, and seeing the face of a prominent Republican on her ceiling would probably do that. So she put on yesterday’s jeans, a shirt with a mustard stain that wasn’t too bad, and her Chuck Taylors. It kind of felt like she was putting on armor to face the day, hiding behind canvas sneakers and mustard stains, and maybe she was. She just hoped bi-curious shoes were enough to get her through to five o’clock.

At work, everybody already knew about Jack. Kenneth had heard about it through whatever sort of carrier pigeon, vacuum tube system of communication the NBC pages had, and he had told Grizz and then Grizz had told Dot Com, and Dot Com had told the entire world, basically. So Liz hadn’t had to stand in front of the cast and crew of The Girlie Show and say something trite. Like suggesting they have a few moments of silence, during which Frank would probably have farted and Toofer would have taken offense, and that would have been the end of that. Remembering Jack with flatulence was not the way she wanted to go.

So it was actually a relief when, after she had told him to figure out what had happened to the ducklings that had disappeared from backstage, Kenneth asked her if it would be all right to throw a little party to remember Mr. Donaghy.

“But I’m going to have to ask you to behave yourself this time, Miss Lemon,” he added at the end of his request. “You really hurt Grizz’s feelings at my last party, and I’m not sure he’s over it yet.”

“Yeah, things have been awkward between us lately,” Liz muttered. Then, almost dreading the answer, she asked, “What’s going to happen at this party, Kenneth? Do you have any traditions from back home in mind? Or religious things? Because I’m not comfortable bringing religion into something work-related.”

“Well, back when my dad died, we washed out all his body cavities with wine and myrrh, and we wrapped him in samite, just like in the Bible. Then we burned all the photographs of him in the house, which my mom’s friend Ron says is in the Bible, but they didn’t have Polaroids back then, so I don’t know what to think about that.”

Liz stared at him, carefully maintaining a neutral face. Was he planning on stealing Jack’s body from the morgue? Or doing all that in effigy?

“But Mr. Donaghy isn’t blood kin, so we won’t have to do that stuff,” he continued, blissfully unaware of Liz’s discomfort. “I could make some recommendations to his mom, though.”

“That won’t be necessary, Kenneth,” Liz said quickly. “So, what would happen at this party?”

“I thought we could eat some healthy snacks and talk about our happy memories of Mr. Donaghy. And maybe we could set up a box for donations to the American Heart Association or something like that.”

She nodded.

“That sounds really nice. When’s this going to happen?”

“Tonight! We have to do it before Mr. Donaghy’s spirit gets too far from earth, so he can hear all the nice things we’re saying about him. Otherwise he might come back and bother us real bad.” He sprang to his feet, making Liz jump back. “I’ll go and ask everybody to come.”

Huh. Just when things were looking kind of normal, there was always that one last thing to pop out and concern you.

***


For the second time, she wasn’t the only one to show up at one of Kenneth’s parties. It wasn’t quite the hedonistic experience of the last one, but that was OK this time around. It probably wasn’t appropriate to have quite that many ladies of questionable virtue at a wake, anyway, unless it was for a pimp, and then it was unavoidable. She definitely knew Frank’s hat wasn’t appropriate. It said SAD PANDA, and references to child abuse were appropriate in a very small number of situations, and none of them involved fruit leather and small talk.

She had hesitated over it before leaving her apartment, but she had slipped Jack’s watch on her wrist after putting on the only black dress she owned. Its weight felt reassuring on her hand, and she liked the idea of there being a little bit of Jack at the wake. It was kind of like he was there to pull her back from the edge whenever she was ready to cross over into the no cookie dough, no savior zone.

“Hey, Pete,” she said when they both happened to be at the snack table at the same time. In what was probably an effort to prevent a repeat of last party, Kenneth had shoved it in a corner of the living room, behind a potted tree and his bird’s cage.

“Hi there, Liz. This is kind of weird, isn’t it?”

Sonny Crockett eyed Liz and Pete uneasily, holding his seizure medication in one foot and tucking himself farther behind his perch when Pete reached for a piece of American cheese.

“We messed you up pretty badly last time, didn’t we, Sonny Crockett?” Liz said under her breath. Talking to the bird seemed safer than answering Pete’s question, because, yeah, this was really weird, and she was afraid if she acknowledged that, it would only get weirder.

“Did you just call me ‘Sonny Crockett’?”

“No, I was talking to the bird.”

“Yeah? Did he say anything back?”

“He’s a parakeet, Pete. They don’t talk back. They just sing and hide their seizure medication from party guests.”

“Where is Lutz?” Pete asked. “No, wait. Don’t answer that, because I don’t want to know.” He gazed into the bottom of his cup of apple juice, not making eye contact with Liz. “So, how are you holding up?”

“I’m OK. Should I not be?” Oh, damn. Pete was going to see right through that one.

He looked up from his cup, and she knew he knew she was lying.

“Liz, you and Jack worked pretty closely together. You saw each other every day and spent some time together outside of work, so it’s not like you just had a working relationship. Are you sure you’re fine?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Really fine. He was just some guy that I worked for. And talked to a lot. And who spent a lot of time trying to make me a better person, even if our ideas of what makes a better person were pretty much diametrically opposed. And who trusted me enough to make me the first person to know he was dead.” She sniffed. “So there’s really nothing to be upset about.”

Pete was quiet for a second after listening to that.

“If you say so, Liz. But when you need to talk, I’ll be waiting. You’ve got my number, and my wife isn’t going to mind if you call in the middle of the night after all you’ve done for us.”

“I still can’t eat Poptarts, you know.”

“Yeah, I know, and I’ve apologized for it. Just remember that I’m here for you, OK?”

They parted ways after that, Pete to talk Jenna out of singing “Amazing Grace”, and Liz to attack the snack table. Kenneth had meant it when he said they were going to eat healthy snacks, though his idea of healthy didn’t necessarily match the FDA’s. Ever since his experience with caffeine addiction, he had only eaten raw and highly processed foods; there was no middle ground. It wasn’t unusual to see him alternate bites of raw broccoli with a bologna and American cheese sandwich at lunch. He usually washed it down with a glass of milk or, on Fridays, a bottle of Yoohoo. As a diet, it was an unholy union between locally-grown produce and America’s blandest. High in fiber, but there was always the threat of cream of mushroom soup lurking in the background. So the food on the table ranged from apple slices and organic peanut butter to taco dip that had little in common with Mexican cuisine.

As Liz stabbed a frilled toothpick into the pot of cocktail franks in chili sauce and grape jelly, the watch grew strangely hot on her wrist, like the mechanics inside had started to overheat. Except that the entire band was hot, too, not just the watch part. Maybe the heating element on the crock-pot was going bad. She patted the outside of the pot, but it wasn’t very warm. Picking up the electrical cord, she saw that it wasn’t even plugged in.

“Weird,” she said under her breath.

“I must say, this is the worst party I’ve been to in over a decade. Even Cheney has better canapés than this, and the man is on a highly restricted diet. What is this cracker made of? Sawdust?”

Liz nearly dropped the cocktail frank she was holding. She did drop the cord, and it landed in the pot with a little splash of sauce.

“Jack! You’re . . . here.”

What else could you say when your dead boss showed up to his own wake?

“Yes, it’s me, Lemon. Who else were you expecting?”

“Not you, actually.” She took a deep breath, the kind she usually reserved for Tracy’s hallucinations, which were apparently contagious. “You’re supposed to be dead, Jack. Seeing you in the flesh is kind of a surprise.” She stared at him, and then blinked a few times. “Wait. Are you transparent? Am I seeing through you?”

As if to answer her question, she saw Frank near the kitchen, sort of blue and washed out when seen through Jack’s body. He was telling the story of the time he won a Twinkie eating contest, but lost the crown for activities unbecoming to a champion, complete with hand motions and hip thrusts.

“Yep. I’m seeing through you. I wish I wasn’t, but I am.”

“My non-corporeal state has put a bit of a crimp in my style, as you might imagine. I’m stuck wearing this suit. Not much of a problem for most of the day, but in the evening it becomes troublesome.” He snagged another canapé from the tray. “What do I need to do to get a drink around here?”

“There’s only organic apple juice and Yoohoo. How are you eating that?”

“I’m not quite certain.” Jack studied the half-eaten cracker before popping it in his mouth. “A man must eat even in stressful times such as these. Being dead isn’t as relaxing as you might think.”

“I’ll have to take your word for it. What I meant was, how are you eating? Ghosts don’t need to do that, right?”

“I’ve got some connections upstairs.” Jack gestured toward the ceiling. “They pulled some strings for me.”

“In heaven? Get out! Who do you know up there?”

“I can’t be giving away all of my secrets, Lemon. And I’m not quite a ghost, exactly.”

***


“I think Liz is taking Donaghy’s death a lot harder than we thought,” Jenna said to Pete as they stood on the other side of the room, watching her have a conversation with herself behind the potted tree.

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “It’s either that or she was drinking before she got here, and she didn’t smell like booze when I talked to her earlier.”

They watched Liz make a particularly aggressive gesture toward the wall.

“Pete, do you think I would look hot if I started talking to myself? Crazy-sexy, like Angelina Jolie or Anne Heche?”

“Maybe to homeless people,” Pete replied. “Do you think we should call Spaceman for Liz or something?”

“I don’t see how that could make the situation better. More interesting, but not better.”

“I thought he might have some sort of anti-crazy pill we could slip in her drink.”

“No, I don’t think the drugs he has do that sort of thing. I mean, look at Tracy.” Jenna waved in the direction of the kitchen, where Tracy was pouring libations of Yoohoo on the carpet for his “Black Irish brother.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Pete said, sipping from his glass of apple juice and unable to take his eyes off Liz and her one-woman show.

***


“I’m having my body cryogenically frozen until they find a cure. My connections are doing things to ensure that my physical being is kept fresh until I complete my mission.”

“A cure? For death? When did you turn into Walt Disney?” There was something else in that sentence that needed to be questioned. “You’re here on a mission. How are you going to do anything if the only thing you can touch is food?”

“Yes, Lemon, a cure. I have faith in the medical community. I suggest you find some, as they’ll be the ones caring for you in your solitary old age.”

That last statement removed all doubt that it was Jack she was talking to and not a figment of her imagination. She was pretty hard on herself sometimes, but she didn’t usually come right out and say she was going to spend her golden years with only a cat for company. Of course, a cat couldn’t feed her blood pressure medication crushed up in applesauce, so whether or not she had one was moot.

“As for my mission, I’ve been charged with doing a good deed. I have two weeks to do something beneficent in order to return to life. If I don’t succeed in two weeks, then it’s all over.”

“That sounds a little bit Blues Brothers 2000 for you, Jack.”

“No, it’s more like All Dogs Go to Heaven, but that’s beside the point.” He dug into the taco dip and took a bite. Apparently the dead and semi-dead could still look nauseous. “Oh, this is disgusting. I realize Georgia isn’t exactly cosmopolitan, but I can’t believe any red state would create something like this. It tastes like something a Mormon vegetarian would dream up.”

“It’s got ground beef in it,” Liz pointed out, but Jack waved that away, as if ground beef wasn’t really meat. “Two weeks isn’t a very long to time to work a miracle. I mean, not that you doing something nice would be miraculous, but I’m assuming you can’t just rescue a kitten from a tree.”

“You would be correct with that assumption, Lemon. It has to be fairly big, but not gaudy. I can’t just donate thousands to cancer research, for example. I have to put my heart into it, give it some real thought.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea, but I know I can depend on you to help me think of something and then execute the plan,” he replied before eating yet more of the Mormon taco dip.

***


Jack disappeared (literally) shortly after that, having eaten most of the taco dip, while protesting every bite. As soon as he was gone, Liz realized how very strange it was to have stood in a corner for nearly twenty minutes talking to her deceased boss. The more she thought about it, the stranger it felt to still be in the room with her coworkers, which marked one of the first times she had been sure she was more crazy than Tracy Jordan. Way more unbalanced, way less rational, and way more prone to weeping. Which was what she felt like doing, because being crazier than Tracy was a new and frightening experience.

So she squeezed her way past Lutz and Cerie, who were standing in the doorway of Kenneth’s bedroom, Cerie talking about her fiancé and Lutz pretending to not be looking down her shirt. Liz grabbed her coat off the bed and made straight for the door and freedom. No goodbyes, no regrets. Only home and a bottle of wine. Or three.

Once the elevator had slid down two floors, she started hearing Kenneth saying, “Otherwise he might come back to bother us real bad,” in her head. Over and over, until she jabbed the button for the next floor and took the stairs two at a time back to Kenneth’s apartment. She had short legs; it was tough going. Once there, she took her wallet out of her purse and looked inside. Only twenty-three bucks, mostly in singles. That wasn’t going to be enough. So she grabbed her checkbook out of her purse and wrote a check for a hundred dollars. She looked at it for a second and wrote “guilt money” in the memo field before shoving the check into the donation box Kenneth had set up for the American Heart Association. Then she emptied her change purse into the box for good measure.

Just in case.

To be continued . . .


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Part II on Wednesday, 23 July.

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Comments {8}

The Mighty B

(no subject)

from: runawayblue
date: Jul. 21st, 2008 03:35 am (UTC)
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Oh god this is wonderful! The beginning is so heart-wrenching, poor Liz. But there's a lot of hilarious lines, too. You've got all of them spot-on!

“Well, back when my dad died, we washed out all his body cavities with wine and myrrh, and we wrapped him in samite, just like in the Bible. Then we burned all the photographs of him in the house, which my mom’s friend Ron says is in the Bible, but they didn’t have Polaroids back then, so I don’t know what to think about that.”

My mom's friend Ron... This line is hilarious.

(I love you for a reference to All Dogs Go TO Heaven. I love that film so much.)

This is looking mighty interesting, I look forward to more!

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msmcknittington

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from: msmcknittington
date: Jul. 21st, 2008 08:57 am (UTC)
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You have no idea how tempted I am to just post the second part RIGHT NOW, but I need to space it out because there's some tinkering left to do on the third and fourth parts, and I don't want anyone to get antsy because they have two parts to read and then have to wait a week for the next one.

I kid you not, that is my favorite line out of the whole piece. Kenneth just cracks me up, and his mom's friend Ron makes me laugh every time I think about him. I hope Ron makes an appearance on the show someday and turns out to be like Ronald Reagan's illegitimate son.

Thank you so much for my first review! (Like ever.) I love "All Dogs" too! And I didn't want to go with a "It's a Wonderful Life" reference. Bleh.

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Cec

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from: cecism
date: Jul. 21st, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)
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This is such a unique story - don't know how you got the idea, but I'm grateful you did! It was funny and poignant and heart-breaking all at the same time, and even if the storyline was fairly unusual, it's still all wonderfully in character. Looking forward to the next part!

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msmcknittington

(no subject)

from: msmcknittington
date: Jul. 21st, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)
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It came to me in a dream! Really. Jack as the Ghost of Christmas past. And then a whole bunch of what-ifs starting turning in my brain and here they are, written out. Honestly, I think 30 Rock is one of the few shows out there where a storyline like this isn't really all that out there -- the show's pretty weird to start with.

Thank you very much!

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Lord Arlen's wife

(no subject)

from: ladyanneboleyn
date: Jul. 21st, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC)
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I don't usually comment on fanfic, because I can't think of anything to say other than "Hurr, I liked it." But I feel the need to tell you that I will be awaiting the next installment of this with baited breath.

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msmcknittington

(no subject)

from: msmcknittington
date: Jul. 21st, 2008 11:50 pm (UTC)
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Hush. You'll break my resolve not to post it right away instead of waiting until it's ready.

Thank you! I hope it will live up to expectations.

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excellent conversationalist (with food)

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from: muic
date: Jul. 24th, 2008 01:34 pm (UTC)
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*FLAILS*

in caps because holy crap that was good. Although I got lamely sad during the beginning of the story when Jack was 'dead'. But of course, DUH, Jack would have connections with heaven.

Thanks for that! Great job and I'm off to read part 2 :D

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msmcknittington

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from: msmcknittington
date: Jul. 25th, 2008 10:38 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! Don't worry about Jack -- he makes quite a comeback later on.

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