“Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues…”
Jimmy McGill felt as if he’d barely had time to unpack his stuff and break in his bed before Chuck told him he’d be reporting for work.
“At my firm, of course,” had been the terse reply that Chuck had given him when Jimmy had asked where. He figured it’d be better than to ask any more about what he was doing, and quickly conjured up some less-than-favorable scenarios. Maybe he was going to stand in for the opposing side, in stocks, and let the lawyers throw tomatoes at him in order to boost morale. That seemed like the kind of thing Chuck could get behind.
Here he was, however, and he didn’t see any stocks in sight.
All he saw was a mailroom. Mailrooms were not a concept he was unfamiliar with, of course – he had snuck into a few in undergrad and some great stories involving double entendres about “packages” were born – but he had never pictured himself working in one. So that was the plan. Chuck was going to bore him to death to make him atone for his misdeeds. That was just like Chuck, after all – it’s not like he had any insight up in his throne of perfection with his prim and proper wife and fancy lawyer job; everyone else had to always be wrong, because Chuck was always right.
“Here is where you will be working, Jimmy,” Chuck explained. His eyes were already exuding an aura of exhaustion, and Jimmy hadn’t even done anything. “This is your last chance. You mess it up, and you’re done.”
Jimmy wanted to mutter under his breath, but he really did owe Chuck. There was nothing that he hated more than the fact that he owed Chuck.
“Sure, okay. I’ll get right to work. Hi ho, hi ho.” He saluted for good measure. Chuck responded with a disgusted look and walked back off to… well, wherever lawyers did their fancy lawyering, Jimmy figured. He’d have to get inside there one of these days and see how the other half lived.
Jimmy stepped inside. Well, this was going to be exciting – just what he dreamed of, a life in the postal service. No wonder people called it “going postal”. He looked around to see stacks of brown inter-office envelopes, huge plastic bins stacked with mail, and not much else, other than the people already at work sorting them.
The word seemed to fly right into his ear. Jimmy jumped and pivoted at once, in a supremely clumsy attempt to see what, or who, had spoken the question.
He had come face to face with a beautiful blonde. Maybe his luck was changing; she had actually spoken to him, which was a nice change.
He opened his mouth.
“Ah, yeah, new, so new.”
She blinked at him, then extended her hand.
“I’m Kim Wexler.”
“Oh.” Kim, as the blonde was apparently named, put her hands on her hips and smiled. “As in… Chuck McGill? Distant relative.”
“Extremely distant. I’m his younger brother,” Jimmy grumbled.
Kim cocked her head to the side; she had a ponytail and Jimmy watched as it bounced a little.
“I don’t see it.”
“Yeah, neither do I,” Jimmy said. “To hear my mom tell it, he’s John, Paul, and George, and I’m Ringo.”
Kim looked at him, her eyes flashing as she smiled.
“Well, hey now. Ringo was pretty talented in his own right. It Don’t Come Easy was a great song.”
“You know, it really was,” he agreed.
There was a long pause, as he stared at her in a way that he was sure was uncomfortably long, to the point in which she was going to trip him and then hit him over the head with the mail scale.
Thankfully, it didn’t go that way.
“Anyway, mail room. Welcome…” She gestured around her. “This is where office correspondence goes – usually to die, because I don’t know who actually reads this stuff.”
“Where’s the boss?”
“Making the rounds. Better look busy.” She reached out and handed him a stack of mail. “You are basically going to want to take these from this place, and put them somewhere else.”
“Where else?” Jimmy asked.
“One of these bins is usually a good bet. Then some other lucky person gets to wheel it around, figure out where these go, and get pissed off because one of us put something in the wrong bin.”
“Well, I hate to ask it – but what’s the right bin?”
“No one knows.” Kim spread her arms apart. “This is basically The Trial by Kafka. If you find the right bin – let me know.”
“I’ll keep you posted.” Jimmy set the mail down beside him for a moment. “So what brings you here, anyway? I mean…”
“What’s a nice girl like me doing in a mailroom like this?” Kim quipped.
“That’s basically it.”
“Needed a job. Plus… I mean… I don’t know, it’s stupid.”
“I don’t really see any better conversation coming along.”
“Well, I’m actually in law school right now, so I figured I’d try and get into a law firm, anyway I could. Turns out,” she paused to toss a piece of mail in a bin, “That way was here. Maybe it’ll rub off on me.”
Jimmy crinkled his nose.
“Not a fan of that phrase.”
Kim threw a piece of mail at him.
Jimmy retrieved his stack of mail, gazed around, and walked over to deposit them in a random bin before guiltily speeding back over. Kim was shaking, obviously trying not to laugh out loud.
“I think I’m going to like working here with you, Jimmy McGill.” She offered her hand and shook his. “Or, you know, Ringo Starr.”
"It Don't Come Easy" by Ringo Starr, copyright 1971
“I been told when a boy kiss a girl/Take a trip around the world…”
Kim Wexler was trying very hard to keep her mind on the discussion that was going on in her class.
She didn’t really talk to any of her classmates, so she didn’t know most of their names, having dubbed the main talkers as Well-Dressed Snooty Woman, Cute Stoner Guy, Yells His Opinion Louder Guy, and Laughs at Inappropriate Moments Woman.
The heated discussion was currently going back and forth between Well-Dressed Snooty Woman and, of course, Yells His Opinion Louder Guy. It was, Kim would admit on a good day, somewhat entertaining.
But even Cute Stoner Guy couldn’t have redirected her attention right now. She was busy thinking about Jimmy McGill, and that bothered her. She had never been one to sit around thinking about some guy, not even in middle school when everyone else was decorating their notebooks in their combined initials and far too many hearts. It wasn’t as if he was some kind of dreamy knock-out, either – objectively, she’d seen better. Objectively, she’d been propositioned by better.
But he did make the mail room more interesting, that was for sure.
Did that mean she liked him? In a “liked, liked him” sort of way? She kicked herself to be a law school student still thinking that way, but there was a distinction, wasn’t there? Couldn’t you file people into different categories depending on whether you saw them as a prospect or not?
Either way, that was not supposed to be her focus right now. She was supposed to be making in-depth notes about the law. She’d worked too hard to get distracted now, by anything. Plus, it wasn’t like any kind of a relationship would actually work. She was already engaged to law school.
She smirked and thought of an adaption of an old phrase: “Law school won’t keep you warm at night.” It was a pretty funny image, snuggling up with an entire building. Or maybe the professors – that was kind of an unpleasant image, given that most of them were in their sixties and seventies.
Now her mind was wandering again – she was starting to think like some high schooler again. She needed to keep on track – nothing was going to stop her from doing what she needed to do. She’d get her degree, join a firm, work her way up, and then she’d be someone her parents could be proud of, like she had always planned.
She would be letting them down if she got caught up in crazy mailroom shenanigans of any kind.
Mailroom shenanigans. That was another interesting thought. Kim wondered what kinds of trouble people got into in mailrooms across the country. A rather unpleasant end to someone jumping down a mail chute that someone had relayed to her came to mind (and the ensuing court case), but she pushed that aside in favor of more sultry endeavors. People jumping into the bins in the throes of passion, for one.
Back when she’d been an undergraduate, people had had sex in the library, according to the school paper at least. But no mailrooms, at least as far as she knew. Maybe she just hadn’t been invited – they had, after all, all thought she was a bit of a square in her dorm.
That had been back in Pennsylvania, so much closer to home.
Albuquerque had been new in so many ways. She hadn’t planned on getting accepted to UNM, after all. She’d applied to a stack of places and come up with pictures in her head of each and everyone one.
And then there’d been UNM, with its application promising no fee if she applied early.
She had decided that it couldn’t hurt, and she’d applied, then went back to dreaming about South Carolina’s beaches or exciting nights in the middle of Washington, DC where all the movers and shakers were.
She’d gotten a big stack of rejections; she remembered some quote by Stephen King where he’d talked about using pink slips as wallpaper. She wondered if she could go that route.
Then it had come: her holy grail, her saving grace. A large brown envelope; she’d spotted it on the porch and run to it, feeling like a person in the desert running towards a water fountain and being terrified that it would turn out to only be a mirage.
Well, the desert part had turned out to be right, at the very least. She barely even remembered applying to UNM; however, that was where she would go. She brushed off images of endless parties and decided that if she had to live among cacti to do what she set ut to do, then that would be the way it would have to be.
And if she was willing to go up against cacti, then she would have to be willing to not fall victim to a nice smile and some wit. Nothing should slow her down.
Too many people around her had made that mistake too many times. It would be nice to think about it, to giggle about it like she was a girl again, but she had stopped being a girl a long time ago. She’d keep her head on straight, and she would shut up her heart when it came to Jimmy McGill.
Once she got her degree, then she could think about things like that. If she even still knew him, that was. By then, they would be two completely different people, on two completely different trajectories.
Which of course begged the question – were they two different people now, or was she just telling herself that?
Kim looked up and scanned the room, taking a moment to bite the back of her pen.
Cute Stoner Guy was making a point about the hot coffee warning case.
And Kim Wexler was totally, absolutely not still thinking about Jimmy McGill. She had it all in the bag.
"Boys" by the Beatles (originally by the Shirelles), copyright 1960/1963
“Tell me that you love me, baby, let me understand…”
“So tell me about Chicago.” Jimmy looked up to see Kim gazing down at him. He was hard at work weighing and stamping mail that was set to go out, on to the outside world. Probably all kinds of important briefs or other fancy things that were going to change the way entire nations were run. Maybe there was something a little impressive about being the middleman there; kind of like Charon, except he would be ushering mail instead of souls.
Same general idea, though, he told himself. Still important.
“Chicago?” Jimmy set one of the packages down and shrugged. “Well, I didn’t live in Chicago proper, exactly. It was a little town called Cicero, and it was about twenty minutes from Union Station, if you took the train. These big trains – called Metra trains – they’re double-decker, so I always used to sit up top. Also, you could take your chances that the guy wouldn’t actually get to you to ask for your fare. I got caught a couple of times with no fare card, but other times I ended up taking a free ride.”
“Was it worth the risk?”
Jimmy had to think about it for a moment. He locked eyes with her and shrugged.
“Yeah,” he replied, “You have to keep life interesting.”
“Oh, you do? By sneaking free rides on trains? Wouldn’t it just be easier to pay?”
“People have to live a little. If sharks stop swimming, then they die.”
“Those two things don’t even have anything in common, Jimmy. You’re just coming out with random traditional sayings.”
“No, Kim, listen – seriously. There’s an old saying – or it was on Johnny Carson or something - ‘I know a man who stopped smoking, drinking, and carousing…”
“And ‘he was perfectly healthy up until the day he shot himself.’”
“Okay, point made. You have to live a little, or else your whole life falls apart. But I think turnstyle-jumping I a little on the lesser end of things. I’d like to go skydiving or bungee jumping or something like that, and I think those are a little more extreme than trying to beat a what, four dollar fare?”
Jimmy acted offended.
“Five seventy-five! That’s no small change, Kim.”
“Yeah, you could get a whole Happy Meal with that. Or a hundred-dollar fine.”
“Well… you could have argued the case for me,” Jimmy said, flashing a grin. He took a deep breath, then willed himself to put a hand on Kim’s shoulder. She didn’t back away, just met his eyes again and smiled.
“Oh? How much would you pay me?”
“I think you’d do it pro bono. Charity work,” Jimmy replied. “For the poor and unticketed.”
“Oh really? Yes, my heart always goes out to those who cannot afford the train fare. It should be an inalienable right to be able to travel…”
“I love it when you talk legal to me.”
He watched a blush light up on Kim’s cheek. She gently pushed his hand away.
“We shouldn’t be flirting at work,” she told him. A little light went on in his heart that she felt they were flirting. That had to be a good sign, right? If she wasn’t interested, she would probably be talking legal in the sense of restraining orders.
“Okay. No flirting at work,” Jimmy replied. He looked away, then back to his packages, and continued weighing them. “You want to, uh, flirt after work sometime instead?”
Kim looked back at him.
“What kind of a … flirting location were you thinking?”
Kim sighed and shook her head.
“Anywhere except Swiss Farms. I assume this means you’re asking me on a date?”
“You’ve been on a date to Swiss Farms.”
“Don’t remind me. It’s one of those memories that will never go away. I’ll still be having nightmares of it when I’m in the old folks’ home. So, I say to thee – anywhere except for Swiss Farms, and I will go on a date with you to that locale. Or surprise me. Or something.”
Jimmy extended his hand and took hers.
“It will be my honor, Kimberly…”
Kim pulled a face.
“Please never call me Kimberly again. Kimberly is not my name.”
“…To escort you to somewhere that is not Swiss Farms… It isn’t?”
“Hell no. I’ll pull out my driver’s license. Kim Morgan Wexler. My parents weren’t messing around with that Kimberly nonsense. Can I also point out that no one named Kimberly ever is called Kimberly? It’s because it’s an awful name, that’s why. It’s a travesty. What about you? Is ‘Jimmy’ on your birth certificate? That’d be more weird than ‘Kim’ by long shot. Weirder. Whatever”
“No,” Jimmy replied. “James McGill. No middle name.”
“Does Chuck have a middle name?” Kim looked around. “Is it something embarrassing? If so, I need to know. Is it Wolfgang or something like that?”
“First of all, I think Wolfgang is an awesome middle name, and I could have totally made that happen if it was my name. James Wolfgang McGill. I would have sounded prestigious, yet also slightly dangerous.”
“You’re avoiding the question, Jimmy. Or… Wolfgang, or whatever.”
“Chuck’s full name is Charles Emerson McGill.”
“As in Ralph Waldo Emerson?”
“One and the same.”
“Fancy. Did he go into the woods to live deliberately?”
“I’m pretty sure that was Thoreau, actually, and I wish he would. You can’t imagine what it was like growing up with him.”
Kim smirked and looked around.
“Trust me, I know more than you think.”
“I feel like there’s a story there.”
“You’ll just have to wait and see, Jimmy McGill. I don’t give everything away at once, after all. Sometimes you have to stick around for the big finale if you want all your questions answered.” She tapped him on the head and went back to her own stack of packages. Jimmy found himself watching her. Maybe he had a chance here.
"I Wanna Be Your Man" by the Beatles, copyright 1963
“Would you believe in a love at first sight?”
“Thinking about Kim?”
Jimmy looked up from the spaghetti he’d brought into work in a Tupperware container – and was currently regretting – to see Ernesto sitting across from him.
He rolled his eyes. Ernesto was his best friend here at HHM, besides Kim of course. Part of this odd male lunchroom-bonding made him yearn for the days when he and Marco used to tear up the Chicago metro area, pulling off scam after scam and tricking suckers out of their cash.
“No,” Jimmy replied quickly. Even though he liked the guy, there was no way he was going to confide in him about something like this. Then he’d probably get ragged on for the rest of his time here, and he was already getting ragged on for being Chuck’s little brother. Occasionally they called him “Nepo”, short for “nepotism” behind his back, and sometimes they referred to him as “Chuck Jr.” Jimmy thought it was slightly funny up until a point, and then it was just annoying. It was high school all over again where Chuck was the honor student and he was the problem child.
“Aha! I can tell you, man. I can tell it – you’ve got ‘the look of love’ and you can’t deny it.”
“What are you even talking about?” Jimmy closed up his Tupperware – he needed to remember not to try and cook again – and let out an exasperated sigh. At least, that was what he was trying for – his friend seemed to hear something else entirely.
“That’s it, man! That’s it! You can’t bear to be without her. Just ask her own, man, stop mooning all over the place. Get in there and get it.”
Jimmy stared at him.
“First things first, man, I’m already going on a date with her. Second of all – I’ll get it when I get it.”
“Spoken like a man who is in no hurry to get it.”
“Well, yeah, of course. You go in there making a move before it’s the time, you just look like a boor and an idiot. Which I’m sure you’re used to looking like, so you don’t have a problem with it, but I’ve just always been more suave than you. So watch and learn, Ernie, watch and learn.”
“Yeah, like I want to learn from the world’s biggest novice.”
“I’m the world’s biggest something. Not novice, though.”
Ernesto rolled his eyes.
“Gross, dude. That is not an image I wanted anywhere in my brain, ever.”
“You started it.”
The door to the breakroom opened, and Kim stepped inside.
“What are you boys going on about?”
“Nothing you’d be interested in, Kim. Guy stuff. The big game and such.”
“Oh?” Kim fired back. “What big game would this be? Football, baseball… Or, oh wait, the big game of dirty jokes you two were telling two seconds before I walked through the door?”
Jimmy let his eyes go wide.
“Me? Tell a dirty joke? Never.” He put his hand on his heart. “Cross my heart and hope to…”
“I wouldn’t make any oaths that you can’t follow through on, Jimmy.” Kim plopped down in the chair across from them. “Hey, listen, so in three weeks it’s my law school graduation, and I want to know if you two idiots were planning to attend.”
“Well, with an invitation like that,” Ernesto replied, “I guess we can’t miss it.” He looked meaningfully at Jimmy and when that got no response, he poked him harshly in the ribs.
“I’ll be there, Kim,” Jimmy swore. “Hey, maybe one day I’ll do the same thing.” She beamed at him.
“You? A lawyer?” she asked, then paused a moment, “You know, I can see it. Nobody can talk someone into something better than you. You’d have a jury in the palm of your hand. And you’re smart – you know your stuff and you think of things people usually ignore. Don’t just dismiss it, Jimmy – you should go for it. Law school.”
“You got all that watching him sort mail?” Ernesto asked.
Jimmy rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, and where would I get the money for that?”
“I just said that you’re smart. You’ll figure something out, Jimmy.” She tapped him on the shoulder. “And maybe as soon as you pass the bar, I’ll go ahead and find someone to sue, so I can give you your first client! Start you off right.”
“Who would you sue? And wouldn’t you sue them yourself since you’ll already be a lawyer by then?”
She put a finger under her chin and stroked it.
“I’m sure I’ll think of someone who’s done me wrong. I’ll start making a list. All the people who owe me money, for one – my roommate owes me a hundred and fifty dollars and I haven’t seen a cent of it. Maybe I’ll start with her!”
“Oh, do tell. I haven’t heard about this roommate. Maybe I’ll start writing up briefs on her. But wouldn’t it cost more to file than you would actually gain if you won?”
“See, Jimmy. You do listen to me.” She reached out and put her hands in his hair. “You’ll make a lawyer yet. And… yeah, probably, but sometimes it’s the principle of the matter. She said she would pay me back.”
Jimmy stood up and looked at Kim before pressing his hand against his chest.
“I swear to you, Kim Wexler, that I will get your money back. These roommates cannot be allowed to borrow money with impunity and not pay it back – it is a travesty against the very principles our great nation was founded on. If George Washington were alive today, he would say…”
“Can somebody let me out of this coffin?” Ernie cut in.
Kim stepped in and pressed a kiss against Jimmy’s cheek.
“My hero,” she told him, giving him a hug. “Best lawyer of all time.”
"With a Little Help from My Friends" by the Beatles, copyright 1967
“Let me be your little dog/’Til your big dog comes…”
Howard Hamlin seemed to have it all, at least as far as Jimmy could see. He was always dress in impeccable suits, always had every hair perfectly in place. Chuck and he seemed to always be shoulder to shoulder, always discussing some vital piece of courthouse information, and whenever Jimmy would pass by, they would lower their voices as if he couldn’t be trusted not to do something nefarious with the information. They were always looking him up and down with suspicion; Howard covered it up by being extra-jovial and dubbing Jimmy “Charlie Hustle”.
Jimmy couldn’t stand Hamlin; he was everything that Jimmy wasn’t, and everything that Jimmy could never be. Chuck listened to him in a way he’d never listened to his younger brother, and Hamlin and Jimmy couldn’t have even been more than a few years apart. Only in his thirties, and Hamlin already had his name on the firm – twice, to be exact, though Jimmy had never seen the other Hamlin. Must have been Howard’s father, he figured, or maybe Howard’s own brother. Some kind of silent partner, or someone who hadn’t thought a mailboy worth introducing himself to.
Recently, Hamlin seemed to have taken an interest in Kim. He’d stop by the mailroom to talk to her, and sometimes he’d lead her out in the hall. He’d only ever say he “just wanted to bounce a few things off” her. Jimmy hated it, and he felt a fire burning in his chest to know what they were discussing.
So far, he’d refrained from asking, but it was feeling more and more like a Herculean task to do so; in his mind Kim was his, or should be his at least. Not that he’d show that – he didn’t want to come off as Frederick in The Collector or something.
That didn’t stop him from being curious, though.
Howard started bringing by coffee for Kim, complimenting her on her outfits and on her work.
Jimmy could feel the heat rising up in his cheeks. It was going to be like before, all over again – except now instead of that sunroof asshole who’d slept with Jimmy’s ex-wife (and yeah, he’d been his stepfather, too, but Jimmy tried not to puzzle that one out any more than he had to), it was going to be oh-so-perfect Hamlin.
Except that Kim wasn’t his wife, of course. She wasn’t his.
Even his wives hadn’t been his, if he was being completely honest about it. He still remembered both of them, of course, the trill that had risen in his throat at the thought of them, once upon a time. He’d been a kid when he’d married Katie – eighteen and just out of high school, and she was, too. She’d had short brown hair and deep blue eyes. They’d gone to prom together, and they’d been dating since they were twelve. It had been one of those things that seemed meant to be, meant to last.
It had lasted a year.
Then she had gone off to “find herself”, at least as far as the note on the nightstand had stated. Jimmy hadn’t really held it against her – he figured he wasn’t much fun to be married to.
He’d seen her at the movies a few weeks later on the arm of the guy who had been quarterback of the football team, and he hadn’t really felt much of anything about it. Maybe he wasn’t the marrying type of guy, maybe this was going to be a good thing for him in the end.
Then there’d been Marianne, his second wife. This time, he had thought that he’d planned everything out and that absolutely nothing could go wrong. She was a redheaded knock-out and they seemed to have everything in common. By now, he was twenty-five, so he figured he wouldn’t make the mistakes of his youth all over again. This time, he’d be ready to settle down, maybe even raise a family. He could picture it – itty bitty McGills running around the yard, getting into a little bit of trouble but not much. He’d try not to let Uncle Chuck turn them into boring people.
He had actually pictured them lasting forever. She seemed to understand him in a way no one else ever had – they laughed at the same jokes, hung out at the same places, even liked all the same sports teams, including “the weird ones”.
It was a match made in Heaven.
Up until he’d brought her home to meet his parents – well, his mother and stepfather. Jimmy’s mother had been a gracious hostess, bringing out turkey and chicken and asking questions about Marianne’s life and where she saw herself in ten years. Everything seemed to be going perfectly.
His stepfather, Robert, had acted like he didn’t think much of Marianne at all. Jimmy didn’t find that surprising, as he didn’t think much of Jimmy, either. He’d been telling him since he’d married Jimmy’s mother that Jimmy was the useless one, that he’d never be as good as Chuck, and “at least I have one stepson that’s worth something, I can’t really wish that I got two.” Jimmy had usually ignored him – he’d been effectively ignoring him since he was fifteen years old - but tonight of all nights he seemed to be really going out of his way, needling each of them, making smart remarks every few moments.
If it weren’t for Jimmy’s mother shooting him pleading glances, he’d have picked up a fork and threw it at Robert’s head.
When they left, he’d thanked Marianne over and over again.
“Sorry that you had to deal with that asshole. Thanks for being so cool about it.”
She’d laughed at that.
“Oh, he wasn’t so bad. Anything for my husband, after all.”
He’d come home early a few weeks later to find a trail of clothes leading up to their bedroom. He’d followed them like breadcrumbs, even as he knew he shouldn’t have, because he wasn’t going to find anything good at the end of them.
Thinking about it now, the feeling as he’d opened the door, it was still one of those things that had made his blood boil. Jimmy wasn’t normally an angry man, no – but that had set in motion the series of events that had led to his “Chicago sunroof” (and an awful first impression on his new stepbrothers – did this guy have kids all around town?), the series of events that had led him here.
Howard Hamlin was putting his hand on Kim Wexler’s shoulder.
Jimmy had to look away. He’d never measure up to that – at least, not for now.
"Matchbox" by the Beatles, originally by Carl Perkins, copyright 1957/1964
“Close your eyes… and I’ll close mine…”
Jimmy was sitting across from Kim Wexler on the bed in her apartment. She was smiling.
“You really took my advice after all? You got into law school?”
“Well, I figure maybe I can have the office across from you… Now that it’s going to be Hamlin, Hamlin, McGill and Wexler, after all.”
Kim set her glass of wine down on the nightstand and let out a snort.
“Yeah. Okay. Right away, I guess? I’m glad you have such confidence in my abilities, though. I’m glad somebody does. Howard’s a bit of a ballbuster.”
“Oh really?” Jimmy asked, rolling his eyes. “I couldn’t have figured.”
“Oh, come on. He’s not all bad, though. I mean, he did hire me right out of law school. Otherwise I’d be sitting in the corner, looking at my loans and just crying and beating the walls, and no one wants that.”
“I don’t know,” Jimmy replied, “It might make for a good Shakespearean drama or something. ‘To loan, or not to loan? That is the question.’”
“Friends, Romans, debt collectors! Lend me your ears.”
“No, they’ve already lent you enough!” Jimmy shot back. Kim picked up the glass of wine and took another sip.
“You want some?”
“From your glass?” Jimmy asked.
“I promise, Jimmy – I don’t have mono. And that’s really the only thing you can get from sharing a glass with somebody else.”
Jimmy raised an eyebrow.
“How exactly do you know that? Or, wait, rather, why do you know that?”
“One of my roommates’ weird friends came over one time, and I saw her drinking a soda I had just bought. I didn’t really want to give it up, but then I was second-guessing the whole situation later, so I did some research to see if I was at risk.”
Jimmy leaned in.
“Well, were you?’
“Drink the wine.”
He took a sip, then leaned in again; this time, she met his lips with her own. Jimmy let his eyes shut and took a deep breath, willing the moment to last. Once they broke this, everything would reset, and they’d be back to their own places in the world – she’d still be Kim Wexler, lawyer, and he’d still be Jimmy McGill, Slippin’ Jimmy, Mail Guy, and night time correspondence school kid.
Kim pulled back, and she smiled at him.
“Let’s…” she trailed off a moment later, preferring to take his hand in hers and lead it downward, between her legs.
“Kim, maybe we shouldn’t…” Jimmy started, because there was something surreal about the whole moment; even when the voice inside his head kept telling him that this was exactly what they should do, that this was exactly what and who he wanted. Part of it seemed too good to be true.
“We don’t need to make a big deal out of it,” Kim whispered. “Doesn’t change anything. We don’t have to make any big decisions. Not unless we want to. The future is ours, Jimmy. We’re going to work together and make it… we’ll make it what we want it to be.”
“Are you drunk?” Jimmy teased. “You sound like a fortune cookie.”
“I’m not drunk off half a glass of wine,” Kim retorted. “Quit stalling. I might not be giving you the same offer tomorrow. Tomorrow, I might get buried alive in a pile of paperwork and I might need you to come claw me out… and by the time I get out I’ll be dying of thirst and they’ll need to put me on a respirator. And you, you will be sitting there going, ‘I should have taken that moment to have sex with Kim.’” She wagged her finger at him and grinned. “Unless you really don’t want to. I’m not going to throw you out if you don’t want to go all the way.” She moved the wine bottle out of the way, and the glasses too. Kim was always practical, even about something like this. No need to mop up stains in the middle of a moment.
“I do if you do,” Jimmy stammered, but he was beginning to hate the sound of his own voice. He let Kim replaced his hand where she wanted it to be, and his fingers began to gently pull aside the material of her pants, slowly slip inside. “This is really why they called me Slippin’ Jimmy,” he whispered huskily, against her ear.
She chuckled, and he felt her body shake. She lay back, and he put his head on her shoulder and breathed in.
Being with Kim was different than any other woman. He felt a strange sort of comfort as she guided his own clothes off, as if nothing could break this moment, as if he had nothing to prove.
As if he was his own rock star and didn’t have to live up to anything or anyone ever again.
It was a soft sort of peace.
“Turn it all off,” Kim told him as she brushed her hands across his chest. “It’s just you and me for tonight.”
Jimmy reached back and pulled on Kim’s hair-tie. She let her hair fall at the sides.
She reached up and shut off the lamp.
“Good night, Jimmy McGill.”
Jimmy leaned back, and let everything fade into black.
"Good Night" by the Beatles, copyright 1968
“We would be warm, below the storm, in our little hideaway beneath the waves…”
“So, what’s your plan?”
They were standing in the ABQ BioPark Aquarium, trying very hard not to look at one another.
Jimmy had asked for the position at HHM, and Howard had hit him with a politely phrased but devastating refusal.
Kim could tell that Jimmy was trying to convince himself that he hadn’t wanted to work around Howard anyway, but she knew him better than that. She could see him falling apart behind the verbal jabs and attempts at optimism.
“You should come work with me,” Jimmy told her. She let out a deep breath. Of course, there was a part of her that wanted to say yes, to run off with him and start a law practice together. It wasn’t the craziest thing anyone had ever done; it wasn’t selling everything she owned to buy a guitar and busk her way to the Grammys or something. It wasn’t throwing caution completely to the wind; Jimmy was a good lawyer and she was certain he’d do…something.
But affixing herself to that dream and abandoning her own? She couldn’t do that.
“Well,” Jimmy said, as if he was trying to fill the silence with anything other than the refusal she couldn’t bring herself to voice. “I guess I have to figure out where I’ll be working, first! It might take me some time to get up and running, but once I do – wait and see, I’ll be such a big deal, even Chuck will be amazed.”
Kim nodded and smiled, turning her attention, for a moment, back to the manatee that was floating by them in the tank.
“You think they get bored in there?” she asked. “I mean, do they memorize the tank and wonder if there’s anything else out there for them?”
“I know they say goldfish forget what the tank looks like by the time they get around it again.”
“I heard that’s a myth.” Kim rested her hand against the glass, looking into the creature’s big eyes. If she asked it for advice, what would it say? Probably to sort it out by herself and not resort to asking a sea creature for advice. And that would be pretty valid. “Maybe they go crazy, like the woman in that story about the Yellow Wallpaper.”
“Way to ruin my childhood, Kim. Thanks.”
“I don’t know. I never had a goldfish growing up. All I had was tadpoles and garter snakes, and I was never allowed to bring them inside. They all had fancy names, though – I went through a Roman phase for a while and named them all after Emperors and statesmen. It was all very proper for a tiny snake I found out by a pond somewhere. I used to catch dragonflies and give them names, too. Even worms.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t become a vet instead of a lawyer. Though sometimes it’s kind of the same thing.”
“It’s really not that bad. Once you really get out in the field… You form bonds with people. You get to see inside their heads. I mean, you’re trying to advocate for them. You want what’s best for them.”
“Even if they’re horrible people?”
“Who am I to judge, sometimes? You can only really look at yourself and make sure that you’re behaving ethically. What the clients do once they get out the door… I don’t know. Sometimes, it might change them for the better… But other times, I guess it’s like raising a child. I can’t control them once they fly the nest.”
Jimmy crossed his arms.
“I want to do a good job,” he said, “But honestly, I don’t know if I want to do a good job for me, or to show Howard and Chuck and all of them.”
“Is one of them right or wrong? I tend to be a fan of all roads leading to Rome. As long as you’re not hurting somebody else, if you’re doing good things, that’s what matters. Eventually, if it’s right, then everything else will fade away and you’ll just be doing it because you’re really, really good at it.”
“Do you think that I’ll be really, really good at it?” Jimmy asked, beginning to stare at the glass as well. Kim could see their reflections in the glass; it was as if they were floating, too, as if they were drifting along to where they wouldn’t have to worry about anything.
But that was a lie – there would always be something that they had to worry about. They were lawyers.
“I do,” Kim told him. “You don’t give up. If I needed a lawyer, I’d go with the one who I know won’t give up on me.”
Jimmy looked over at her.
“There’s a lot of things I don’t give up on.”
She blushed and stared into the water. She wondered if these manatees, or any of these animals, got tired of their lives underground; maybe they secretly hated swimming but wouldn’t survive on land; maybe they were like Ariel in the Little Mermaid.
Kim had always thought that Ariel was stupid – she couldn’t imagine loving someone so much that she’d give up her voice for them. What kind of life could she live without a voice – unless there was some sort of mermaid sign language on the horizon, of course.
“Jimmy,” she started. There were a lot of things going through her mind, but she couldn’t narrow down one that she wanted to say, or one that would make any of this any better. She was always going to be caught up at HHM, and whether it got her anywhere, she couldn’t be sure.
But she couldn’t run off and live Jimmy’s dream with him, either. She couldn’t give up what she had here to chase something that might never come to pass.
She wasn’t sure, though – was she giving up her voice so she could walk on land? Or was she making sure she wouldn’t drown when she got tired of swimming?
"Octopus' Garden" by the Beatles, copyright 1969
“The biggest fool that ever hit the big time/and all I’ve got to do is act naturally…”
“I still envy you for getting this massage parlor set-up, I’ve got to say.” Kim looked around the room and took in the chairs again, the different colors of nail polish stacked on shelves. “Makes me wonder if I should have hung it all up and went to beauty school. Less paperwork – unless you light someone’s hair on fire, or something like that.”
“Sounds like something I would do,” Jimmy replied, leaning back on the massage chair.
“Hey, listen,” Kim took a seat next to him. “I know you’re still mad about Chuck, but Howard did set up that appointment for you. I thought you had a really good chance of getting it. Why’d you bail?”
“It just wasn’t right.”
“I think you choked on purpose. You’re sabotaging yourself.”
“I thought you’re trying to become a hairdresser, not a psychologist,” Jimmy shot back.
“Hey now… I’m trying not to take it personally. But it looks like ever since you found out that Howard wasn’t the asshole you thought he was, you’re running around like a ship without a rudder, and you keep crashing into things. You can’t go on like this forever, Jimmy.”
“Maybe I’m just steering a new course.” He was looking away now, fixing on a small spot on the wall, a little crack. He’d have it fixed, soon, and then he’d be out of the nail salon and have a real office; he would be in for himself and wouldn’t have to worry about doing “the right thing”; what was the saying? No good deed goes unpunished?
He was done with that.
“Maybe,” Kim asked, “But to where?”
“To somewhere better,” Jimmy told her. “I can’t impress Chuck – it’s impossible. I’m never going to be the lawyer he wants me to be, or the man he wants me to be.”
“Jimmy, that’s not…”
“No, it is. And that’s Chuck. He’s my brother, and I love him, and I hope for the best for him. I hope he beats his illness and I hope he’s the best lawyer that he can be. But that’s not me, it’s never been me. I’m Slippin’ Jimmy with a law degree, that’s what Chuck told me.”
“Chuck is a dick. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a brilliant dick – and he’s your brother, so no offense – but what he said to you? It’s not true. But if you let him psych you out like that, you’re not doing yourself any favors. They wanted you to join them because you’re… you’re really, really good at what you do. You’re a great lawyer. Maybe Chuck is just bent out of shape that he can’t be the perfect McGill brother, but that’s got to be his trip, not yours. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
“Yes, but what I’ve got to do is… Kim, I don’t think you would understand.”
“Try me. Just go ahead and… I don’t know, lay it on me. Because recently you’ve been acting really differently, and I don’t know how to get you to come back to Earth.”
Jimmy put his feet up and smiled.
“I’ve got a plan. But I don’t know if you’ll really care for it.”
“Okay? Shoot. Tell me what your plan is. Unless you’re planning on robbing a bank or something, in which case I’ll have to put my lawyer hat on and advise you against it.”
“Not robbing a bank. More like robbing a guy’s who’s robbed a bank.”
Kim raised an eyebrow.
“You’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you Jimmy?” He didn’t answer, so she pressed on. “Seriously, Jimmy, if you’ve got come kind of weird scam cooked up, you better tell me what it is so that I can talk you out of it.”
Jimmy shifted up and glared at her.
“Who appointed you to talk me out of anything? I can look out for myself, Kim.”
“Oh, yeah? Because you’re not doing a very good job of it.”
Jimmy pushed back and bit his tongue. Everything he was going to say was not going to come out right, and Kim was just going to get pissed at him. But maybe it was time to stop caring – maybe Saul Goodman didn’t care. He almost mouthed the words to himself, almost traced them on his fingers. That’s who he would be and he was deciding now; Saul Goodman wouldn’t care. Not about Chuck, not about Howard, and not about his drawn-out ethical debates he was always having in his head that only ever came back to bite him. He wouldn’t be stuck in the back room of a massage parlor anymore, and nobody would call him Slippin’ Jimmy.
No one would doubt him.
He’d never have to talk to Chuck again, never have to take care of him, never have to smile and pretend to be chipper as he saw his older brother becoming a shell of what he used to be. He’d never have to sit in the courthouse with a bunch of third-rate clients so that he could get five hundred dollars and barely keep his electricity on.
He’d be a new man. He’d be Saul Goodman, for real.
But if he wanted all that, he would probably have to give up Kim, for better or worse, whatever it was the two of them were and what the two of them could be one day. Was he willing to do that? Saul Goodman couldn’t have a wife, Saul Goodman couldn’t have a family. They would only slow him down, pull him back into all those ethical dilemma questions he should have left behind in the first year of law school.
He looked up at her, put his hand over hers, and sighed.
“I’ll tell you when it’s done, Kim. When I’m ready.”
"Act Naturally" by the Beatles, originally by Buck Owens, copyright 1965/1963
“I met you in the morning, waiting for the tides of time/but now the tide is turning, I can see that I was blind…”
Kim tried hard to act as if it wasn’t bothering her that she hadn’t seen Jimmy in three months. He’d insisted that he needed time and space, that his new practice was taking up all his time and once he had a free moment he would be sure to give her a call.
She had never thought that she would be the one who got left behind. Somehow, she’d always pictured it the other way around, and had vowed to fight against it.
But now, she was starting to see commercials for Saul Goodman on TV. It was hard to wrap her mind around the fact that he and Jimmy were the same person – yes, Jimmy had had the showmanship, he’d had the way with people, but he hadn’t been… this. He hadn’t been Saul Goodman.
Something – or a lot, if Kim was being completely honest with herself – was wrong with this picture. Maybe if she just went over and talked to him, she could talk some sense into him, get him back on the right track.
She was busy, however, and rising fast. Her caseload was beginning to show something other than a bunch of assists, she was beginning to make a name for herself.
So sometimes, as much as she didn’t want to admit it, the days blurred by and she didn’t think very much of Jimmy McGill at all.
Other days, he was all she could think about, and she missed his jokes, his hand on her shoulder, his voice on her phone. Had they had a fight she hadn’t been privy to? Maybe she had said something he had taken the wrong way – he could be like that, sometimes. Too sensitive.
One day she woke with the sense that she must deal with this Jimmy situation now; it was as if, if she were to wait a second longer, she might not have another chance. A flaming rock would fly in front Mars and promptly wipe him out of existence, and Kim would have never gotten the chance to ask him what the hell his deal was.
And she would regret it for the rest of her life, because that was the kind of thing that she did.
She pulled on her tan trenchcoat, thinking back to the first time she’d worn it. She’d been a kid in law school then, trying to set the world on fire, thinking she could change all the injustices and really make a difference.
Nowadays, she wasn’t so sure. It seemed more like she was spending time arguing over dollar amounts, filling out paperwork, and digging up dirt on people. Half of the time, the things she was researching never even came into play in the case. It was like a big boxing ring, except that the fighters were all buried under mountains of paperwork and no one was ever truly knocked out.
Maybe she could still grasp a little bit of that hope again, and use it to figure out what had gone wrong with Jimmy-cum-Saul. Or, hell, maybe what had gone right – his commercials were airing three times a day and his billboards were taking over town.
A quick flip through the phone book had turned up a quarter-page ad for “Better Call Saul!”, complete with a street address and picture of the office. Kim had to wonder how the hell he’d managed that huge statue of liberty; maybe there had been a prop set, or a tax place had gone out of business and sold it off.
She hopped into the car and drove off, wondering what she would find. Nothing good, she was quite sure – this was the kind of set up that always led to something unpleasant in the movies. If she had to know, however, it would be better to know now. If she was going to walk in on something awkward, well…
She remembered the story Jimmy had told her about walking in on his wife and his stepdad.
At the very least, Kim’s stepfather was currently living in Japan, and as far as she knew he wasn’t gay.
Kim was pretty sure she should have called first, or should have come by earlier in the day. Maybe she could waltz in and act as if she was a client – unless she saw Jimmy straight out, as soon as she walked in.
She was playing all the different scenarios over in her head by the time she opened her car door, looked out into the evening sky, and pushed through the unlocked front door of the Law Offices of Saul Goodman.
“That’s right!” She was conscious of someone yelling as soon as her feet clicked against the tile floor.
Kim’s first thought was that she should have known this would happen, because this was always the kind of thing that happened on TV when you decided to show up unannounced to visit your ex; her second thought was to wonder if Jimmy even qualified as her ex.
But her third thought was that Jimmy McGill was dead to her, so dead that the next time she was going to see him, he better be appearing larger than life, Hamlet’s father-style. She was done with him.
On the ride home, she decided that she really didn’t have a right to be mad at him. It wasn’t as if they were dating or anything. She hadn’t even seen him in months, and obviously, he had moved on.
But the sight of him laying back on his desk with a brunette in biker shorts crouched between his legs was not going to get out of her mind any time soon. There was a small consolation in the fact that she’d thrown his paperweight at his head.
It hadn’t collided with him, but it had shattered against the wall.
“That was a nice paperweight,” she mused as she turned the dial to the local classic rock station. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
"What Goes On" by the Beatles, copyright 1965
“And our friends are all aboard… many more of them live next door…”
Kim was flying high the day that Hamlin, Hamlin and McGill became Hamlin, Hamlin, McGill and Wexler, even though it made the name of the firm that much harder to say.
“However,” she was telling Ernesto as she raised a glass of champagne, “It also helps eliminate the possibility that H&M can sue us for sounding too similar to them. They do make rather nice affordable fashions, though, I must say.”
“Thanks for the product placement,” Ernesto told her. “Now I know where to get all of my latest fall fashions.” Kim rolled her eyes.
“Ernesto, we all know you shop at Men’s Warehouse. Don’t even kid with me.”
Howard walked over in that moment; it looked like he was ice-skating.
“Congratulations, Kim!” he told her, raising his own glass and clinking it against hers. “Listen, once this is all said and done, and the ink’s cleared on everything… we should go out to eat. Somewhere fancy, just you and me.”
Kim rolled her eyes.
“Speaking of ink drying, has it dried on your divorce yet?” she whispered in a slight scold. “Scale it back, just a tad, even though we’re equals now. Sort of.”
“Sort of?” Howard asked, and Kim shrugged.
“Well, Hamlin’s always going to come first – twice, even. How is your father these days, anyway? I haven’t seen him in the last few weeks.”
“Hawaii,” Howard replied. “Got remarried again.”
Kim cocked an eyebrow.
“I didn’t realize the Hamlin clan was such a marrying bunch.”
“Not me,” Howard protested, “Clara and I were together for ten years. It’s not really my fault that she fell in love with a cowboy while she was on vacation at a dude ranch. If she wasn’t my wife, it would actually be pretty romantic. They’re probably going to grow old together and spend lots of time writing each other sappy letters.”
“Did you basically just compare your wife’s affair to The Notebook?”
“Well, maybe not exactly. Not the depressing parts at the end. That would be pretty harsh.”
Kim snapped her fingers.
“You do realize you have now actually admitted that you are familiar with the plot of The Notebook, and that I am never going to let you live it down, right?”
Howard rolled his eyes.
“Now what about your male friend?”
“…To whom are you referring?”
“You know who I mean. Have you seen his commercials?” Howard put his finger up in an imitation. “Better Call Saul?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen them,” Kim told him. “I think most of New Mexico has.”
“Do you two still talk at all?”
Kim turned her head away. Her new HHMW face, that never let on what she was thinking (all ready for her own billboard, she had assured herself), wasn’t quite prepared for this question.
“No,” she said at last. “Not really.”
“It’s a shame, really. You two seemed so close.”
“Yeah. Well. I guess fame changes people,” she said dryly. After she’d burst in on Jimmy’s extra-curriculars that one day, she had considered calling him to yell at him, but had decided against it, figuring it would just feel embarrassing. Then she had considered calling him just because she missed hearing his voice, but decided against it because she had found that feeling to be equally embarrassing.
She had thrown herself into work and tried to ignore the little angel on her shoulder that still retained a soft spot for James McGill, Esq., or whatever he was calling himself nowadays.
She tried to remind herself that no matter what colorful suit he was wearing or what obnoxious used-car salesman commercials he was running, he was still the same Jimmy.
But it was getting harder to see, harder to picture, as the time went on. It started to feel as if there had only ever been Saul Goodman, plastered across the TV sets, and that Jimmy McGill was some back-story she had invented in her head while people-watching in an airport.
She didn’t like thinking about it. So she decided, on this of all days, that she wouldn’t.
“Bottoms up,” she told Howard with a grin, then clinked their glasses over again. “It’s a good ship, I have to say. Maybe we can bring a few more people on, though? New partner, new staff. I mean, along with my old staff.”
“You drive a hard bargain, Kim, but you stammer while doing it. It makes you pretty endearing,” Howard told her.
“I’m not going to turn into an obnoxious corporate person… Not to say that you are one, of course.” She paused. “How about Chuck? How is he taking the switch up, anyhow?”
Howard’s face darkened, and he looked down.
“I don’t really know. We don’t talk much, anymore. He’s… well, he’s sort of faded away since that falling out with Jimmy. Whatever he said to him, I guess there’s some bonds that aren’t really repairable. It’s a damn shame, though. A brother, I mean.”
“Do you have any brothers, Howard?”
He shook his head.
“You think I managed to get this spoiled without being an only child, Kim?” He smirked. “No, this takes years of practice. My parents just had me. Got perfection the first time. What about you?”
“I have a sister. We don’t talk much.”
“Is she a lawyer too?”
“She’s a lot of things. Lawyer is not one of them.”
Bert from the mailroom walked over and offered another toast to Kim.
“Thanks, Bert.” She sipped her champagne and looked around the room. It seemed like everyone was there that had mattered, that had sway, even those that had just been around in the shadows for all these years, watching her climb.
But Jimmy wasn’t there, and that was a damn shame. It made the champagne taste just a little bit bitter.
"Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles, copyright 1969
“Let me know, honey, how you feel
Tell the truth, now, is love real?”
Saul Goodman kicked his feet up on his desk and let out a huge sigh. It had been yet another day of running around trying to save Walt and Jesse’s skins, and all he wanted was a shot of Jack Daniel’s and, maybe, a foot massage.
That was a funny thought. He had masseuses that came in now for things like that – and they didn’t come cheap, let him tell you – but the whole thing felt kind of empty these days. He was on top of the world, even if that world was also dangling on a razor’s edge. But the excitement… something about the excitement wasn’t there, as of late.
He considered picking up the phone and asking Francesca to come in, but that just felt embarrassing. Francesca worked for him, and even though he tended to hit on her all the time, it wasn’t the same as hitting on someone who actually chose to be around you.
Plus, Francesca never flirted back; she usually gave Saul the kind of look that a frustrated mother gives her child before she grabs him with one hand and starts whacking him with the other.
At least his phone wasn’t ringing – any of them, in fact. It was a moment of blissful peace, or at least it should have been. He felt restless, unable to figure out what to do with this time.
He kicked his feet off the desk and stood up, paced, walked around. These days he always had something to do to fill his time – he would work out, or get a massage, or catch up on a TV show, or even read if he was desperate enough. He didn’t feel like doing any of those things, though; none of them felt right.
He wondered if that phrase “quiet – too quiet” would be at work here. Maybe that was what it was all about. Quiet meant that his clients might be off trying to cheat death and fate again. Quiet meant that the door could open any minute and bring with it men with guns, or a furious Mike in a leg-breaking mood, or something even scarier. The next phone that rang could be bringing with it news that the FBI were on their way to haul Saul off for good and lock him up for ever.
Still, the quiet stayed, until he began to pick up sounds in his head – the rumbling of the air conditioner, the mewing of an outdoor cat, the sound of himself breathing.
He couldn’t stand it. After hours, without the sound of the cast of weirdos outside in the waiting room, everything seemed to grind to a halt; it was the same sound they enforced in a horror movie before something jumped out and started eating people.
It made him wish for the murmurings and squeaking of his old mail-route back at HHM.
It was odd to remember that now.
He tried not to think about back when he had been Jimmy McGill. Not many people were around who remembered those times, and if they did they seemed to have the good sense not to mention them, because Saul didn’t want to talk about them. Who would? Who would want to run over the catalog of times Jimmy had been the loser, the number of times he’d been metaphorically doused in puddle water after a semi-truck ran by? It wasn’t worth it, and it was just depressing.
The last time he’d put his Jimmy hat on had been a year ago. The main thing he remembered about it was that he’d had to get drunk off his ass to even build up the nerve to go, to trade the colorful suit for a black one, not to mention a black hat he’d found that looked more like Walt’s than he cared to admit.
There had been classical music playing, and that had made sense. Whoever had been in charge of this event had gotten that much right. He didn’t know that Chuck would have cared for all the crying and flower-throwing, however. He had always been basic and practical.
There was a photograph of him inside, propped up, but he didn’t really look like the Chuck that Saul remembered. After he had left, who had been around that would have taken a picture of Chuck, though? Maybe he just didn’t remember – it had been years, after all.
He hadn’t come by, not because he was angry, but because there was nothing to say. And because Saul Goodman had never had a brother. He’d had two ex-wives, that he had kept – because, phrased in a certain tone, that was funny and quirky. It made him seem like a better lawyer if people were looking for someone to aid in their divorce – he could top their “crazy ex” story with his own.
He saw Kim out of the corner of his eye. She was dressed in black, and to his Saul mind, it flattered her – she looked just as good as ever. His Jimmy mind, meanwhile, was short-circuiting, wanting to go up to her and to apologize, to say something, to offer an olive branch. He wanted to say something – anything would be better than lurking in the corner and acting as if he didn’t see her at all.
A few people walked over and tapped him on the shoulder, but he didn’t recognize them – probably the new faces hired at HHM in the past few years. He was certain most of them didn’t even know he was Chuck’s brother, but rather just some guy who had showed up at the funeral and must have some connection to somebody.
From across the room, Howard Hamlin locked eyes with him, and Saul gave him a nod.
Howard gave the eulogy. He talked about “My friend, our friend, Charles McGill – he always fought the good fight, to the very end.”
Saul slipped out before they went back to whoever was preparing food.
It was probably going to be back at HHM.
"Honey Don't" by the Beatles, originally by Carl Perkins, copyright 1964/1955
“I’m sorry that I doubted you, I was so unfair
You were in a car crash, and you lost your hair…”
Officially, Saul Goodman, AKA James McGill, died in a car crash. It was one of the easier deaths to fake, Ed had mused as he set up the car and let it drift towards its fiery end.
Saul watched with a detached sort of regret. It had been a nice car; not his only car, not for a long time, but a nice car. He had had good times there.
He wasn’t going to be having good times for a long while, now. He was off to Nebraska, and he wasn’t looking forward to it. After he had left Cicero for the last time, he had vowed to stay out of the Midwest. And this wasn’t even the “it’s like New York, but friendly” Midwest, the way Chicago was.
This was the “no one locks their doors because everyone would know who stole it anyway” Midwest. This was two steps away from actually living in the movie Fargo.
And he had thought Albuquerque was going to be dull. He obviously should have taken advantage of the place more, while he had the chance.
It was odd to watch the car hang off the edge of the concrete abutment, before falling off the edge and into a creek.
Maybe Saul Goodman really had died – Ed had already given him a new name – Gene. It was one of those names that nobody born after 1973 had anymore, and it made him feel older than he was.
Then again, in Omaha, he imagined he would age much faster than he would have back in his office. He would miss the huge Statute of Liberty. He wondered who would rent the place now.
Maybe a tax office.
“Come on, we better get moving before someone sees us here,” Ed told him, “And we want people to assume that you really did meet your end long enough for us to set you up in Nebraska. We don’t want anybody sitting around watching America’s Most Wanted and figuring you out.”
Saul felt kind of proud that Ed figured he was big enough to warrant an episode of America’s Most Wanted – but he didn’t believe it to be true.
“What’s Nebraska like?” he asked. Ed seemed like the kind of man who hailed from the Midwest, though it was hard to put his finger on a specific accent. Maybe, in his line of work, it paid to not have ties to any particular place, or any particular time. That line in Saul’s head made him think that maybe Ed was kind of like Doctor Who, except that he time traveled to get people out of the shit they had drug up all by themselves, and took lots of money for it.
Not that the pay hadn’t been worth it.
“Do I look like I’m from Nebraska?” Ed replied dryly. Saul figured it probably wouldn’t go all that well if he admitted that, yes he did. He looked like the kind of man who had lived most of his life hanging out in barns and tipping over cows for kicks.
And this would be the man that Saul was entrusting his life to, or at least his freedom.
How times had changed. Where had everything taken a turn, gone the other way? Maybe he should have had some sort of “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment along the way, but he hadn’t. Saul guessed that the angels had missed him, or he’d figured them for a drunken hallucination.
It hit him that he wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to anyone, not that there was anyone left to say goodbye to. He wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or incensed that Walt had insisted that he come along to New Hampshire with him, and had seemed shocked that Saul had said no. He’d rather live alone than have to listen to Walter White’s ramblings about hiring a team of hitmen to go get his money back – the man had obviously never heard the phrase “quit while you’re ahead”, though in his case he was ahead only because he wasn’t dead yet.
Who would Saul even say goodbye to if he could? Recently, it felt like the only people he saw regularly were Walt, Jesse, Huell and Kuby. He was pretty sure that Huell had gone to the big law office in the sky, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Kuby had split town or suffered a similar fate. Walt hadn’t said much about where Jesse had gone, which probably meant he was buried in a shallow grave somewhere.
But Saul was still alive. He couldn’t help thinking about that old saying, that when the whole world had burned down and was in ruins, the cockroaches would still be there. The cockroaches and, of course, the lawyers.
There was a certain amount of exhilaration in it – he remembered reading stories of people who had narrowly escaped death who had been dragged into the ambulance screaming about how they were the toughest motherfuckers out there, and he could get it. Just the same, he wanted to sit down and relax somewhere; somewhere that wasn’t here, watching the embers of his car smolder along with his former self.
There was one person he would have liked to say goodbye to. But she wouldn’t have wanted to see him now. She wouldn’t have recognized him now.
He turned to Ed and shook his head with a sigh.
“Well, here’s to Omaha. Maybe it will be a new start.”
“It’ll be the start of something, all right – and that’s what you should be thankful for. It was nearly the end.”
Saul climbed back into Ed’s van and watched as the New Mexico mid-day sun disappeared. It would be a long ride to Omaha.
"Don't Pass Me By" by the Beatles, copyright 1968
“Now all I’ve got is a photograph, and I realize you’re not coming back anymore…”
“Why did they even hire that girl? She’s so weird!”
“You know what, at least it isn’t somebody like Barbara – Tiana might be quiet as a mouse, but at least she’s not in everybody’s face calling them a bitch.”
“I know that’s right. I nearly threw her into the dough-mixer. It was gonna be something out of a horror movie.”
“Well, thanks, Lee, now I’m never buying anything from here ever again.”
“You say that now – but as soon as you smell it… you’ll buy another one. You know the cycle. It’s vicious.”
Jimmy McGill – no, Saul Goodman – no, Gene Parker stood in the corner, watching two of his employees bicker. They were both just out of high school and seemed to be close, always commenting on the other employees; they were decent workers themselves and as much as Gene had tried to break up some of the less necessary “chit-chat” (he hated that phrase even as he’d begun to use it), he couldn’t bring himself to intervene half of the time. At least somebody seemed to be having a good time at their job.
The work was a bit monotonous, but it wasn’t as bad as he would worry it would be; Omaha felt pretty desolate at times, but the job gave him a routine.
And he’d become rather fond of these new pecan Cinnabons, even though some of his employees felt that it was too much going on in one snack.
“Can you talk to her, Gene?” one of the two girls – her name was Leila – cut in, “I mean, she hasn’t been back in fifteen minutes and her lunch lasted an hour ago. But if she’s back there dead or doing something weird, I don’t really want to know about it.”
“PTSD,” agreed her friend, Karen, with an emphatic nod of her head.
Gene wondered if these girls knew what real PTSD looked like, and he decided that he really hoped they didn’t. They were good kids.
“I’ll go. You two hold down the fort – try not to curse out any customers.”
“Can’t make any promises if that one guy comes back in again. ‘I’m sorry, I need a refund on this soda. Because it doesn’t taste good.’ Like what are your standards man?”
Gene shook his head and made his way down a tiny hallway and into the breakroom, which consisted of a microwave that may or may not have exploded Gremlins caked to the walls, three fold-out chairs, and a table that someone had unwisely tried cleaning with hand soap. Okay, it had been him, but it had seemed like a reasonable substitute at the time; he hadn’t planned on the film that now took over the whole table.
Tiana was sitting in one of the chairs, elbows on the table and a pair of headphones in her ears. She was bopping her head, eyes closed, and arms wrapped around herself. This was the most active he’d seen her – she tended to flinch from customers and had burst into tears and hid in a closet when some guy had started screaming at her about the lack of sufficient icing on his Cinnabon.
“Hey,” Gene said; he reached in front of her to slowly wave his hand in front of her face. “Earth to Tiana. Your break was over fifteen minutes ago.”
She pulled the headphones off and looked at him. He could hear Ringo Starr singing “Every time I see your face, it reminds me of the places we used to go…”
“Shit,” she reached over and turned off her iPod. “Sorry, Gene. Got distracted.”
“Ringo?” he inquired. “You weren’t even born when he did most of his stuff.”
“I’m going to see him on Friday. He’s still around.” She tossed a half-drunk Coke in the trashcan and pulled her nametag back on.
“He’s coming here to Omaha?” he asked.
“Yeah. Two of my friends crapped out, though.” She warily looked up to meet his eyes. “Been trying to sell them on stubhub, but nobody bit.”
“I’ll take them,” he blurted. “How much?”
“A hundred for both, as long as you’re not planning to fire me.” She brushed a piece of icing off her shirt. “I’ll get them right now.”
Gene reached into his pocket and pulled out a crisp one-hundred dollar bill. This was a stupid idea, one of those things that people do that ultimately comes back and bites them in the ass. If this were a TV show, he figured, there would be ominous music playing in the background right about now, and it would be featured a few episodes later after someone intoned “Previously on…”
But what else had happened previously in Gene’s life, over the past year? A whole lot of nothing, nothing but regret and wishing he were back somewhere else.
“Who are you taking?” Tiana asked, venturing a grin at him. “Your girlfriend?”
Gene shook his head.
“You think I have time for a girlfriend? I’m too busy trying to keep you all in line. I don’t have time for any of that.”
Tiana reached out her hand and gave him two crisp tickets.
“These better not be fake,” he mused, and she rolled her eyes. “Now, head back to work. People were complaining about you.”
As she walked out, he looked at the tickets and sighed.
It had been a stupid idea. It was still a stupid idea.
But when had that ever stopped him?
He walked into his office and pulled an envelope on the desk, put one ticket inside, and then plucked up a Post-It Note.
“Kim – meet me here. I hope I’m still your Ringo, after all.”
He closed it up, scribbled the address of HHM on it, and contemplated not sending it. He’d blow his cover, after all, and what reason would Kim have to want to ever seen him again, anyway?
He tossed it on top of the out-going mail. It was worth taking the chance; otherwise, he’d only be stuck with a photograph.
"Photograph" by Ringo Starr, copyright 1973