My roommate thinks I don’t know he’s a superhero. It’s endearing, in a way.

The first hint was his collection of books on jurisprudence and moral philosophy. Then there’s the disappearing every time we hear a siren or a scream down the street. He tries to act casual, like he doesn’t care about anything – just another well educated bro. But he knows where all the exits in every room are and he can sense danger, deceit, and malevolence. He also was peculiarly interested in my nonprofit career aspirations, making comments about how he appreciates a commitment to civil society, duty, and altruism.

It’s taking longer to figure out which hero he is. The Twin Cities has the largest concentration of vigilantes per capita outside of Seattle, so it isn’t like this is an easy process of deduction.

I have been carefully observing his behavior. He eats a lot of red meat, is outstandingly hairy, and has an aversion to silver. It’s been about a week since I moved in, and if my hunch is correct he should disappear for about a day around the full moon.

To be honest, I had my suspicions even before I moved in, but I was desperate for an apartment and he had a room free. It was a corner lot, one story house in Hamline. I’d been living with my cousin, Casper, an entreprenureal, OCD insomniac and after two sleepless weeks of perpetual cleaning and bathing, my roommate’s house, overgrown with ivy and a Craigslist ad that read, “Roommate needed. $350 per month, not including electricity, gas, and water. Cats welcome. Blase attitude preferred” sounded attractive.

A giant that looked like a younger Hugh Jackman with more hair greeted me at the door. “Mason Wakes,” he said, and we shook hands.

“Elliot Peter,” I said, “Do you sleep eight hours out of every twenty four? And do you clean less than once a week?”

“Yes and yes.”

“Have you had anyone put an offer on the place?”

“Not yet. The deposit’s one month’s rent and-” he started to turn around and lead me into the house.

“I’ll take it,” I said.

He looked back at me with an arched eyebrow. “Have you ever plotted to kill, main, ruin someones life, or stolen anything other than hotel bath towels?”

“Categorical no.”

“Do you like House of Cards or existential nihilism?”

I briefly considered lying or rescinding the offer, but instead said, “No.”


Casper helped me move in that afternoon. Mason asked if I wanted to get food at a Somali restaurant around the corner, but I said I had a networking event to attend.

The only way you get a job, is through networking. It’s a mantra I hear by every Millennial desperate to find work, especially in the nonprofit and arts sectors. Casper dragged me to three before I moved out and a fourth on my last night.

“What’s the point in all this? I thought sending in job applications was the thing to do?” I asked.

“It’s not what you know. It’s who you know,” my cousin said, counting his business cards.

“What does that even mean?”

“You claim to be a writer and you don’t understand a common idiom?”

“No, seriously. What am I supposed to do? Go in there and start handing out business cards?”

“More or less, yes.”

My cousin believes in business. If he had the same fervor for Catholicism, he would be a monk. Going to every downtown Minneapolis event like Church, reading his bibles of small business blogs and magazines. His calling was sales and I watched in awe and horror as he adopted mannerisms and buzzwords like gloves and tossed them on the floor as soon as he turned around to talk to someone else. Every time he shook  a hand, he surreptitiously doused his in rubbing alcohol.

About 60% of all jobs are found through networking. If you’re a salesman, fundraiser, or freelancer, the numbers are significantly higher. The trick is the follow up. Contact people, ask them for coffee, ask a lot of questions, weave your own aspirations into theirs. And then write thank you notes. Then stalk them on LinkedIn and repeat the process every few months. Remember – it’s about them. Casper said so.

The event that first night after moving in went about as well as all the others. I walked away with a dozen business cards and feeling like I’d just come back from an out of body experience. Out there, I was Elliot Peter the Effervescent Hack. On the street, I desperately craved the solace of alcohol and Game of Thrones.

I got as far as Riverside and Franklin on my bike when a man in a business suit flagged me down. “Hey, thanks,” he said when I stopped, then slammed his palm into my nose.

“Please give me your wallet and the key to your bike lock,” he said politely, standing over me with his fist raised.

As I reached into my pockets obediently, bleeding over my shirt, a nine foot tall, bipedal wolf stepped out and lifted the man up by his jacket collar. The man turned white and went limp.

“Say your sorry,” the wolf said sounding vaguely like Christian Bale’s Batman voice except after having his vocal chords put through a meat grinder.

“… I’m sorry,” the man said.

“You be more careful,” said the wolf to me, and then started walking away, lecturing the man in his scary, scary voice. “That suit was a nice touch. Very disarming. You’re not going to make me hurt you, again, right? This is the second time, Gerald. Second! Get clean. What would your girlfriend think…?”

I biked the rest of the way home, face aching, and arrived to find Mason sitting on the front porch. “How’d the networking… Wow. What happened to you?”

“Attempted mugging. I was the victim. A Werewolf saved me,” I said, watching him carefully.

Mason nodded, and I decided I could read volumes into it. “I’ve heard he’s new in town. Preventing petty crime and all that.”

“I was really hoping not to get involved.”

“That’s the life here in the Twin Cities, my friend. Heroes and victims.”

I lit a cigarette and he gave me a look but said nothing. “It was only slightly less brutalizing than the networking.”

After a while, he said, “There’s a trick to meeting people, you know? Don’t think about it as networking. There are a lot of interesting people out there. If they bore you or you don’t like them, don’t give them the time. I think you’ll find there are far fewer people you dislike than you think. And be honest with yourself and other people. It doesn’t help if no one knows who you really are.”

“My cousin and you have philosophical differences.”

“I don’t have the patience for nuances. Something is or it isn’t.”

I nodded.  Finally, I said, “I like House of Cards.”

He nodded. “I usually don’t sleep eight hours a day.”

Down the street someone screamed. “Excuse me,” Mason said, stood up and walked back into the house. I didn’t see him again until the next morning.

See? Endearing. I made a good choice.


1 Comment

Filed under Nonprofiteers, Story

One response to “Nonprofiteers

  1. Pingback: (Id)entity – Nonprofiteers #2 | sam ferree | scribbler

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