The Northville Review
an online literary journal
The Charismatic Accountant

Garrett Socol

It was the first time in the show’s extraordinary history that a certified public accountant was asked to host Saturday Night Live. Allan Barnicle could hardly believe it. He’d never acted on stage or performed in a comedy club, never dreamed of a career in front of the camera; he didn’t even consider himself particularly funny. But thanks to a winning personality and an infectious smile, Allan was the lucky guy, the carefully chosen amateur.

The American people had become tired of talentless, emaciated celebutantes like Paris Hilton. Large groups began to boycott US Weekly and picket the offices of People. Tabloids folded. Audiences were fed up with deceitful, disgraced politicians trying to redeem their reputations on reality TV. The networks were forced to produce thoughtful, intelligent dramatic shows as well as sitcoms that were actually funny. The message was clear: The public wanted actors to act, not to create fragrances or share diet tips or write lame tell-all books.

Twenty-six and great-looking with bright green eyes and a lean, muscular build, Allan’s wavy brown hair usually drooped in his boyish face. This gave him a rumpled, just-woke-up look that most women found ferociously sexy. They flocked to him, and he flocked to voluptuous redheads.

It happened this way: Executive producer Lorne Michaels decided to take part in the anti-celebrity movement with an episode of Saturday Night Live. NBC talent scouts scoured the tri-state area in search of a funny, charismatic unknown, and they narrowed the candidates down to three guys and a gal. While sitting in the reception area of the network’s midtown office, Allan and the solitary female struck up a conversation. “I’m Amanda Vreeland,” the voluptuous redhead said. “No relation to Diana.”

“I didn’t think women were named Amanda except in soap operas,” Allan said, desperately trying to place the name Diana Vreeland.

A smile lit up Amanda’s flawless, fair-skinned face. “What do you do?”

“Accountant,” he told her. There wasn’t a scintilla of evidence to link Allan to the murder of Owen Thorndike that had recently taken place at the office of Preston Flinch Choi Cornleaf Halberstadt Sanz Newkirk Barnicle & Briggs, so he saw no reason to mention it.

“You don’t happen to work at the firm where that client was murdered, do you?” she asked.

Embarrassed, Allan nodded. “As a matter of fact, I do. But I wasn’t in the office the day it happened. I was with my grandmother in New Jersey who was having her hip replaced.”

“I’m not accusing you,” she assured him.

“Right. How do you spend your days?” he asked, changing the subject.

“I work with the chronically mentally ill,” Amanda said. “People who’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Some of my clients also deal with Axis II personality disorders like borderline, histrionic, or obsessive-compulsive behavior.”

“That’s cool,” he said.

“Why is that cool?” she asked.

“Compared to them, I’ll be a snap to deal with.”

Amanda didn’t appreciate jokes about her profession, but she knew Allan meant no harm. She could hardly wait to crawl into his bed and make him beg. Little gave her more pleasure than watching a confident, cocksure man beg for mercy.

“Sorry,” Allan said with shame. “What I just told you was in extremely bad taste.”

“Yes, it was.”

“Now that I’m being considered for Saturday Night Live, I try to be funny all the time. Sometimes it backfires.”

“You can make it up to me one night with a fancy dinner,” she said.

“I like the sound of that.” he said to his captivating new acquaintance.

The following Wednesday afternoon, Allan got word that he’d been chosen as host for the November 3rd show.

“Can we celebrate later?” he asked Amanda via cellphone.

After a French-Asian fusion dinner and the best chocolate souffle either of them had ever tasted, they trekked back to Amanda’s apartment. The bright full moon illuminated the parked cars and pedestrians on the still crowded Soho street. Instantly after walking through the door, Amanda handcuffed Allan to a leg of her dark oak dining room table. In the dim light of a lavender-scented candle, she removed his clothes, massaged his body and made him beg for forgiveness. “Tell me you’re sorry you got the SNL gig instead of me,” she said with glee.

“I’m so sorry,” he replied with a combination of titillation and trepidation.

“Exactly how sorry?” she asked.

“Terribly, terribly sorry. I’m the sorriest guy on the planet.”

“Don’t you think you deserve a beating for being such a bad, bad boy?”

“But not too hard.”

Instead of taking out her tennis racket, Amanda marched to the bookshelf and grabbed a hardback copy of Naked Lunch.

* * * * *

The next morning, Allan shared the news of landing Saturday Night Live with his colleagues. “I can’t believe I got it,” he told Gordon Flinch, a geeky, prematurely gray Princeton grad.

“You’re going to be a household name in houses other than yours, mine and your mother’s!” Gordon exclaimed. “I’m taking you to lunch.”

“It’s barely eleven o’clock.”

“We’ll eat light.”

Over a sausage pizza with extra garlic, the guys discussed Allan’s great fortune and Gordon’s grand failure with women. “I’ve been cursed in that area,” the mild mannered accountant admitted. “My first carnal exploit didn’t occur till a year after college, and it was pretty dismal. When was yours?”

“A week before high school,” Allan said. “It was fantastic.”

“People need to be touched. Going years without physical contact can drive a man mad, you know.”

“That’s why you have to be with the wrong woman until you meet the right one,” Allan explained. “In fact, you have to be with a lot of wrong ones. Why don’t you ask Nanette out?” It was common knowledge that Gordon was crazy about Nanette Krupp, a rail-thin, perky blonde colleague with a bold sense of style.

“I don’t think she’s into me,” Gordon said with regret.

“You won’t know for sure until you ask.”

Nanette got wind of Allan’s big news at three in the afternoon. She breezed down the hall in a black leather minidress with studs on the shoulder pads. “You sly, talented cookie!” She threw her skeletal arms around Allan’s torso, and kept them there longer than he would have liked. “I knew you had splendid business acumen, but who knew you had a sense of humor?”

Just then, Gordon knocked twice and nervously stepped into the office.

“Did you hear about Saturday Night Live?” Nanette asked.

“Yes,” Gordon said. “Amazing. And your dress is beyond amazing.”

“Thanks,” she chirped. “Diana Vreeland once said: Never fear being vulgar, just boring.”

“Diana Vreeland?” Allan blurted out.

“Vogue’s greatest editor.”

“I decided to throw a viewing party,” Gordon said. “I’ll invite the whole gang. Just had the carpet shampooed.” He gazed at Nanette with longing.

Nanette turned to Allan, who was standing next to his baseball bat attached to the wall. It had been a gag birthday gift from Gordon, to fight off his many women. “Will you come to Gordon’s after the taping, Allan?” she asked.

“I can’t say for sure, but I’ll definitely try.”

Nanette’s disappointment was so palpable that a seismic shift occurred in the mood of the room. “I guess you’ll be surrounded by too many swooning women to show up at Gordon’s dinky get-together,” she said, perched on the edge of heartbreak.

“I plan to have it catered,” Gordon boasted.

“This guy knows how to throw a blowout bash,” Allan said, even though he’d never attended a party at Gordon’s place.

“Is it my imagination, or do you smell like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden?” Gordon asked as he stepped closer to Nanette.

“Don’t know,” she said. “Never been there.”

“Never?” Gordon asked incredulously. “Maybe you’d like to accompany me some Saturday.”

“Maybe,” she flashed a weak smile.

“Are you free on the 5th?”

“Sorry,” Nanette replied “Root canal.”

“Yikes,” Allan said. “You’re having a root canal?”

“No,” she whispered into Allan’s ear. “I’d rather have a root canal.”

“I need to get back to work,” Allan announced. “Damn profit and loss statements are due.”

“Sure thing,” Gordon said as he hurried to the door. Nanette followed, shooting Allan a quick glance over her shoulder before disappearing into the hallway.

Thrilled to have her all to himself, if only for a few seconds, Gordon asked his great love the first question that popped into his head. “Are you an only child?”

“I’ve got a client waiting for me. Sorry.” Nanette zoomed off as if she’d rather be in the eye of a tornado than chatting in the hallway with Gordon. He felt as if she’d rushed away with one of the valves to his ailing heart.

* * * * *

The week before the Saturday Night Live broadcast was one of the most grueling of Allan’s life. There were pitch meetings, read-throughs, rehearsals. Sketches were written, rewritten and rewritten again, rehearsed, rehearsed, and rehearsed again. On Friday, costume fittings took time away from rehearsing. On the day of the taping, rehearsals continued until a full dress rehearsal in front of a studio audience. Allan relished every second, realizing this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Relieved to learn that he’d appear in only the opening monologue and three sketches, Allan was glad to play a minimal part in the show. The last thing he wanted to do was give viewers a license to snore or channel surf.

In the first sketch, Allan would play a certified public accountant dealing with a client from hell. The second sketch would require him to don a wavy, shoulder-length blond wig and act the part of a demanding, self-absorbed rock star. In the third, he would play a conservative family man whose teenage daughter was arrested for indecent exposure at the mall. The musical guest would be Felicia Laufer, a professor of medieval history at Hunter College.

James Franco was brought in to make a surprise appearance in the first sketch, playing the client from hell. After the first rehearsal, James told Allan he had a likeable quality and good sense of comic timing. “Thanks,” Allan said. “Coming from you, that means a lot.”

“Don’t get caught up in the whole Hollywood scene,” James warned him. “It’s full of phony, two-faced people.”

“This is a one-time gig for me,” Allan replied. “On Monday, I go right back to the accounting firm.”

“That’s the smart thing to do, man,” James said, with a warm smile.

On the big night, Amanda sat next to Allan’s proud parents, Irene and Jim. They made the journey from Clifton, New Jersey to be part of the studio audience despite Irene’s active gallstones.

An enthusiastic group of twenty colleagues showed up at Gordon’s bland downtown apartment with its beige carpet, beige curtains, moldy bathroom and kitchen cabinets in need of remodeling. Several disturbing Diane Arbus black and white prints on the walls gave the place a distinctly macabre vibe. A half circle of chairs was set up in front of the flat screen TV.

The last to arrive, Nanette appeared in a silk, ruby red halter dress with short, sarong-style skirt, rhinestone-studded stilettos and spiked hair. The sight of her standing in the doorway gave Gordon a rush of desire so heated he was sure it could set the building ablaze. “You look spectacular,” he said.

“Red’s a good color for me,” Nanette explained, stepping into the apartment and giving it a neon glow. “Green is your color.”

“I’m wearing brown,” Gordon said.

“I know, but green is your color.”

“I’ll remember that. Would you like a drink?”

“Circus Rickey,” she said, scanning the room to see who was present.

“I’m not familiar with that,” Gordon said, embarrassed.

“Then anything with gin will do.”

“Got it. There’s food on the dining room table.” On display were platters of chicken potstickers, crab herb cheese puffs, zucchini fritters, and samosas with tamarind dipping sauce. Every chair was taken, and the overstuffed sofa was jammed with jubilant accountants. Nanette kicked off her stilettos and stretched out on the recently shampooed carpet. Right after she took a giant gulp of her gin and tonic, the show began.

When Don Pardo announced, “And your host, Allan Barnicle,” the crowd at Gordon’s place erupted in ecstatic whoops and hollers.

Allan made his way to the middle of the stage. When the applause died down, he said, “In case you’re wondering who the heck I am, I was recently made partner in the accounting firm of Preston, Flinch, Choi, Cornleaf, Halberstadt, Sanz, Newkirk, Barnicle & Briggs.” The studio audience broke into laughter. “That wasn’t supposed to be funny,” he added with a sheepish grin.

Allan was a natural, likeable host. “We’ve got a great show for you,” he said. “Felicia Laufer is here.” The studio audience applauded, and the TV screen dipped to black.

A moment later, the first sketch began.

“That’s James Franco!” Nanette shouted. “I would bear his child.” James was hilarious, and Allan matched him every step of the way.

In the second sketch, Allan was a sight gag in a long blond wig and glittering gold jacket. Again, he was great. He didn’t appear in the next sketch. After the commercial break, Allan introduced musical guest Felicia Laufer, who possessed the lung-busting, headache-inducing vocal power of Celine Dion.

During the musical performance, Nanette struggled up from the carpet. She made her way to the bathroom to relieve her bursting bladder, and to see if her host had anything interesting in his medicine cabinet. With Nanette out of the living room, Gordon took the opportunity to covertly kick one of her stilettos into a nearby closet.

In the next sketch, Allan played the harried suburban dad waiting for his daughter to return home. At a certain point, the doorbell was supposed to ring, but a minute before the cue, three burly police officers stomped onto the stage and approached Allan. “You’re too early,” he whispered.

Allan was handcuffed on live television. “Allan Midas Barnicle,” said one of the officers, “you’re under arrest for the murder of Owen Thorndike.” Allan and his fellow cast members registered shock, but the audience assumed this was part of the sketch. After he was escorted off the stage, the performers did their best to improvise. Even James Franco returned to the stage, taking over Allan’s part. But the sketch disintegrated before America’s eyes.

The mood in Gordon’s living room turned funereal.

“This can’t be for real,” Edward Choi said.

“This is a massive mistake,” Nanette shouted.

Gordon seemed to be in another world. He sat in the chintz armchair, staring at something beyond the flat screen TV. “I didn’t know his middle name was Midas,” he muttered. “He has the touch.”

“This is surreal,” Trevor commented.

Gordon rose from his chair, snapping himself out of his catatonic state. “Hey everyone! There are plenty of zucchini fritters left!”

No one else said a word.

This was not the way Gordon had intended the evening to end. He’d hoped the clinking of ice cubes and laughter would continue until the wee hours. He’d thought Allan might make a surprise appearance. He had dared to imagine Nanette spending the night and sampling his pumpkin pancakes in the morning, unless she preferred Raisin Bran or Honey Bunches of Oats.

Guests began to leave in groups of twos and threes. “Has anybody seen a candy apple red stiletto?” Nanette shouted as she searched under the sofa. No one had seen it. Five minutes later, Nanette was the only remaining guest. “Where could it have gone, Gordon?”

“Let’s look in the bedroom.”

“I didn’t set foot in the bedroom,” she said, hobbling on her right stiletto.

“Maybe someone kicked it in there.”

A bizarre black and white print hung on the wall above Gordon’s dresser. “What is that monstrosity?” Nanette asked.

“It’s a Diane Arbus photograph called Screaming Woman With Blood On Her Hands.”

“You hung it on your bedroom wall because…?”

“It’s high art,” he explained.

“Oh, I see. You have to be high to appreciate it.”

“It’s an authentic thing of beauty, like your face.”

A guffaw emerged from Nanette’s delicate mouth. “Why are you an accountant when you should be a poet?”

“There’s no money in poetry,” Gordon said. “Add a v to poetry, and you’ve got poverty.”

“Isn’t that part of the experience?” she asked. “Starve on the streets of Paris or Brooklyn while you create your masterpieces?”

“I need a certain minimum to live, Nanette,” he said. “I also need you. I need you the way a diabetic needs insulin.”

“And I need you to find my bloody shoe.”

With a sudden lurch, Gordon lunged at Nanette’s throat.

“What are you doing?” she yelled.

“Trying to kiss the elegant neck of a swan,” he said.

“Go to the Bronx Zoo!”

“You’re my insulin!” he insisted.

“I heard you the first time. Now get out of my personal space!”

With manic force, Gordon pushed her onto the platform bed. As he hoisted himself up onto the extra firm mattress, Nanette lifted her legs and brutally kicked him in the femur with the stiletto that was on her right foot. He screamed in pain, and fell backward onto the hardwood floor.

Nanette jumped off the bed, and bolted out the door. “Take a cold shower!” she shouted, leaving Gordon writhing and moaning in agony.

“I would never hurt you,” he whispered after she was gone. “Why would I hurt the one person I love in this world?” Gordon remained on the floor, the minutes passing in slow motion. He saw no reason to get up after being knocked down so many times. He couldn’t imagine life above ground without Nanette. He couldn’t imagine it even though he saw her for what she was: an insensitive bitch with a powerful right kick. Gordon had always wanted to be taken seriously, but no woman had ever paid him serious attention. He was tired of imagining the possibilities. He had used up every ounce of desire to continue desiring, every bit of hope that had once revved the engine of his heart. The world was a bleak, barren purgatory without that.

On Monday morning, it was explained to the partners in the accounting firm that the weapon used in the murder of Owen Thorndike was the baseball bat that had been displayed in Allan Barnicle’s office. Miniscule amounts of blood were found on the bat’s maple wood. The blood matched Thorndike’s. When Allan’s attorney explained this to him, he had been rightfully outraged. “I barely touched that bat!” he had said. “It was a gag gift from Gordon Flinch.” Exactly two hours later, an armed guard had approached Allan’s jail cell. *You’re free to go, Mr. Barnicle,* he said.

The partners listened with horror, all except Gordon. He hadn’t shown up for work.

The police knocked on Gordon Flinch’s front door. When there was no response, they forced their way inside. Gordon hung from a noose made of neckties, in his bedroom closet. A neat, handwritten note lay on his dark wooden desk.


Sorry you had to get mixed up in this. I could barely tolerate Nanette’s crush on you, but when she started sleeping with Thorndike, that was the limit. The blood kept gushing and gushing like it would never stop. Quarts, jugs, gallons, kegs. I washed and washed it off the bat, obviously I didn’t do a good job.

I didn’t do a good job at anything. So tired of being insignificant.

By the way, you were great on Saturday Night Live.

The story made the front page of every newspaper in the country. Allan was rabidly pursued by the media, but chose to remain behind closed doors. Gordon’s death hit him hard.

When Allan heard that his Saturday Night Live was the show’s highest rated episode in three years, he dove head first into a new career. After signing with a major talent agency, he received a huge advance to write his memoirs. He took a supporting role in a James Cameron film that, coincidentally, starred James Franco. He signed to become the face of Banana Republic’s new line of men’s safari wear. Allan turned down an offer to host his own talk show, but mulled over the lucrative possibility of starring in a CBS sitcom.

Amanda was out of the picture because it was becoming too difficult to hide the bruises. After dating Megan Fox for a week, Allan began seeing Bibi Rabbit, a blonde, size zero star of the reality show Shaping Up With the Shiksa. In this relationship, it was Bibi who got the bruises.

For A-list actor Allan Barnicle, profit and loss statements were a thing of the past.

About the author

Garrett Socol's short stories have been published in more than two dozen literary journals. His first collection of stories, Ear of Lettuce, Head of Corn, will be published in 2011 by Ampersand Books. His plays have been produced at the Berkshire Theatre Festival and the Pasadena Playhouse. He created and produced shows for the E! Network including Talk Soup and The Gossip Show. His website: