Mojo by Chris Green
Dan Lomax has lost his mojo. He woke up one morning, and it was gone. A mojo, of course, is a magical or supernatural quality that attracts people to you and makes you successful and full of energy, sometimes represented by a good luck charm. But to see it in simplistic terms is to miss the point. The easy way to describe it might be to say you know when you have it and you know when it’s gone. Dan knows his has gone. His mojo has vanished. Of this, he is sure. There is no point in him looking for it down the side of the settee or in the laundry basket. Or in the back of the garage where he keeps useful bits and pieces. It is not that kind of lost. It will not be in his stash underneath the stairs. Or underneath the stars. It will not be in the air that he breathes, or in that special place that only he knows. It will be in a lost mojo location, which is just off the map. But this is where he will need to be looking if he is to have any hope of finding it.
Dan knows this, and yet, he doesn’t know this. The day has barely started, but already he is wracked with indecision. Should he stay in bed or should he get up and face the day? Should he ask Ruby if she knows anything about his mojo disappearing or should he keep schtum? Should he have muesli and blueberries for breakfast or should he have a fry-up? Should he go into work and risk making mistakes or should he phone in sick and go for a run, to see if his brain fog clears? This is the effect a lost mojo can have. You are no longer certain of anything. Things that you have taken for granted for a long time no longer make sense. The resulting confusion will impact your judgement and will affect all your decisions. You may begin to question the very mechanics of cause and effect.
What steps might you take to bring a wandering mojo into line? There is little formal guidance. Muddy Waters famously got his mojo working. Being aware of the Creole origins of the term, Muddy was probably more hands-on with his mojo. He may have even carried a mojo bag or gris-gris bag around with him to attract babes. One assumes from the lyrics of the song, that Muddy’s mojo was a temperamental sonofabitch. By his own admission, it did not work on the object of his affections. This was clearly stressing him out some. After all, not many people took the trouble to write songs about mojos. You could probably count them on the fingers of one hand. One can assume that Muddy somehow got his mojo problem sorted though, or came to terms with it because he lived to a ripe old age. But there are no recorded details of Muddy’s secret that Dan might be able to refer to for guidance. And while The Doors’ Jim Morrison rebranded himself as Mr Mojo Risin’, he died in his bath before he could elaborate.
Dan recalls hearing somewhere that action brings good fortune, so he decides to get up and go into work. Mojo or no mojo, nothing is going to be gained by sitting around the house and moping. Idle hands and all that. He is ill-prepared for the note from Ruby he finds waiting on the kitchen table. It is a shocker. It explains why the bathroom was clutter-free, though, and why she did not wake him earlier with a cup of tea. And some! It appears she has left him. A devastating blow so early in the day. Ruby cites irreconcilable differences. But does not specify what these are. She doesn’t need to spell out; the letter says. He will know why she’s going.
She must have somehow got wind of his mojo disappearing, he imagines. Understandably, a cute babe like Ruby might not want to live with a mojo-less man. Anticipating a rocky road ahead, she has made her move. Alternatively, although it appears to have come as a bolt out of the blue, might Dan have unconsciously been aware that Ruby was writing the hurtful letter and planning her escape? And this was the reason his mojo had decided to jump ship. Perhaps the two things are directly connected. Simple cause and effect. Action and reaction. His mojo had helped him punch above his weight in the pairing. No question. He is all too aware of that. Ruby is a stunner. And so much younger than him. Well, nine years younger. Everyone tells him he is a lucky man. But a lucky man no more, it seems. No mojo, no luck. No luck, no mojo. You can’t have one without the other.
Dan tries to comfort himself that at least he still has his job at MBrio. He might be running a little late this morning, but if he resolves to put his energies into work by keeping himself busy, he can avert a complete breakdown. He has plenty to occupy him at MBrio. And it’s a damn good job. Pretty much how he wants it. Surely his position here is safe. There will always be a demand for invisible pants and silent guitars. Maybe he can come up with some exciting new lines to supplement these success stories. But can he manage to do this without his mojo? After all, it was his mojo that had secured him the senior position at MBrio. He would never have got the Product Development Manager post on merit alone. His work record up to that point had been less than spectacular. And his mojo had helped him to see gaps in the market and come up with innovative new everyday items like the bouncing kettle and the collapsible dog which had earned him his reputation as an influencer. The USB composter he is working on is sure to be a winner. Well, hopefully.
Why won’t his car start? Lexus’s are supposed to be the most reliable models on the road. His is only eighteen months old, and he had it serviced last week. It was Ruby’s idea to let Beth’s husband do it, Beth being a friend of hers. Dan would have taken it to the Lexus dealer. Bruce had seemed friendly enough, though. But looking back on it now he has had a chance to think of it, perhaps not. He remembers there had been an edge to their dealings. More than you might expect from a first encounter. Had Bruce suspected there might be something going on between him and Beth? Because she was around theirs all the time, did he suspect this was not always to see Ruby? Of course, it wasn’t always to see Ruby. But how could Bruce have known that? It hadn’t been a regular thing and they had always been careful. And if he had known, wouldn’t he have been more directly confrontational? Bruce was a big bloke. He did not seem the sort to beat around the bush.
Why has no one forewarned Dan about the takeover of the UK arm of MBrio by the American giant, BIG? Why does the company restructuring involve getting rid of some of their most prestigious lines? And with it, some of Dan’s most successful ideas. While the BIG board aren’t actually saying outright that Dan is for the chop, he has to be interviewed for the Products Development Manager post he already holds. Without his mojo, he can see that it might be an uphill struggle to convince the Americans that he is up to it. They might want a different arrangement.
Dan has a choice. He can continue the perilous slide into obscurity, or he can commence the fight to retrieve his mojo. Once the momentum of misfortune gains a foothold, it’s a slippery slope. He has seen this happen. Unless he wants to join the ranks of his sad ex-colleague, Wet Blanket Ron, he realises he had better shape up, PDQ. Ron was, and presumably still is, a smorgasbord of calamity. Disaster upon disaster every which way he turned. Planet Ron is not somewhere you would ever want to find yourself. It is a woeful place.
Which is unfortunate, because Dan and Ron’s paths are soon to cross once more.
After Dan’s car-crash interview with Freeman Couch and Cordell Lang of BIG for the re-advertised Products Development post, and his summary dismissal with not so much as a thank you, he feels utterly deflated. So deep is his humiliation that his mojo now seems nothing more than a distant memory. The rest of the day passes in a haze. He is not sure how he ends up at the Box of Frogs pub instead of The Star Lounge, where he might normally choose to go for a quiet drink. Or how he ends up talking to the barman, who he thinks he recognises from years ago from somewhere, but he cannot place where. He doesn’t realise that the barman at the Box of Frogs will know nothing about mojos. He is none other than Wet Blanket Ron. Ron is the last person you would expect to have meaningful advice about anything, but mojos are certainly not something that he knows much about. They do not feature in his world. Even so, Dan is glad to have someone to unload onto. Someone who might understand.
‘The thing is, up until now, I’ve done so well, man,’ Dan tells him. ‘And now all this.’
‘I haven’t,’ says Ron. ‘Don’t worry. You’ll soon get used to it. Just wait and see.’
‘I didn’t have to work at it. Things just fell into place. It was like there was some guiding force.’
‘You’re going to get us back onto mojos, aren’t you?’ Ron says. ‘I can tell. Look! When you’ve been to a few of of the places I have, you will stop believing all that shit. Trust me!’
‘You have to have some hope, man.’
‘No, you don’t! What are you going to do with hope? What did hope ever do? Hope didn’t do me any good when my wife left me.’ Hope didn’t help me when I lost my good job. Look at me! Serving in a bar that’s barely worth running! What makes you think it’s going to be any different for you? You’ll be lucky to even get a bar job now. They’re all closing. This one’ll be gone in a week or two, I shouldn’t wonder. They only get by now because they don’t pay me. Well, they haven’t yet. And I’ve been here two weeks already.’
‘But I’ll be back again, don’t worry about that. These are just minor setbacks. In the big scheme of things, they will be just a blip.’
‘You can tell yourself that what you are going through is a minor blip, and you will rise above it. But after a few weeks of it, it will be a different story. Mark my words.’
Dan eventually realises who it is he is talking to and, exasperated by Ron’s negativity, he heads back home in a funk. He tells himself he needs to steer clear of people like this. But two nights later, after a further slide in fortunes, he finds himself back in the Box of Frogs once more seeking Ron’s counsel.
‘I don’t know how it can have happened, Ron, but I’ve just been to the cashpoint and it has swallowed up my cards,’ Dan says. ‘Not just the debit card, but my gold credit card too.’
‘Join the club,’ Ron says. ‘Mine went ages ago. I suppose you want a pint on the cuff, then.’
‘That would be good. Yes, please.’
‘Why not? After all, it’s not like this is going to be a long-term gig.’
The bar is anything but crowded, giving Dan and Ron a chance to chat about their relative woes. It is not long before the air is ringing with tales of cruel fortune. Ron has the edge. He has had by far the greater experience of adversity. His mojo, if he ever had one, has been missing a very long time. His troubles started long ago when he lost his job in the office supplies warehouse. He was coming to terms with this when he was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver. Hospitalised with a catalogue of injuries, he went down with Norovirus. While he was in ICU, his wife, Heather, ran off with his best friend, Frank, who had been giving her lifts to work. On release from hospital, he was given notice on the flat by their unscrupulous landlord, Kostas Moros, who saw Heather’s disappearance as an excuse to subdivide the apartment and make more money. Ron suspected Kostas too had been having an affair with Heather. To cap it all, he ordered Ron to pay two grand for damage incurred to the flat during the tenancy. This cleaned him out and set the trend. Things have been going steadily downhill since.
‘So what are we going to do about it, Ron?’ Dan says. ‘We can’t just stand there and keep taking it. It’s time for us to fight back.’
We, he had said. Dan had said, Us. A mutuality. It is a long time since anyone has expressed that much of an interest in his well-being. Ron is thrilled to have an ally. But Ron’s expectations are modest. He has been living hand to mouth for as long as he can remember. If his association with Dan can improve his situation a smidgeon, it will be a result. As he has been sofa-surfing for weeks, it would be a good start if Dan were to let him stay at his gaff until he finds somewhere more permanent. To sleep in a bed without cat fleas would be heaven in the Wet Blanket Ron universe. Dan has a large house, and it’s at least possible he might like the company now that Ruby has moved out.
What Dan is letting himself in for by allowing Ron across the threshold, he cannot possibly be aware of. But in a moment of madness, he lets Ron have a key. Come and go as you please. What could go wrong? There are no disasters in the first day or two, and Dan wonders if he has turned the corner. Having Ron to give moral support appears to be helping his confidence. No sign of his mojo returning yet, but he manages to get the bank to unfreeze his account and get the car back on the road. Now he and Ron can go places.
But slowly, and somewhat predictably, things begin to fall apart. Little things at first, like Ron leaving the taps running with the plug in. This floods the house, ruining the carpets and the décor, and disables the electrics. Dan’s troubles grow when he finds the house insurance with ZQK lapsed. The day before as it happens. Ruby has always dealt with mundane things like insurance policies. He is now looking at a colossal bill for repairs. He gets a follow-up call from the bank, giving him a new ultimatum over his financial arrangements. In a word, categorically, no more credit. Ron’s position in the Dan Lomax household becomes diminished, but somehow he hangs on by he skin of his teeth, with an agreement to work like shit day and night cleaning up the mess and doing the remedial work on a very limited budget. But Dan resolves to keep his distance from now on. Negative people like Ron have a habit of dragging you down. As Albert Einstein said, they have a problem for every solution.
Meanwhile, Dan looks for a job. With his impressive portfolio of product developments, it is surely only a question of time before he lands something worthy of his talents. He updates his CV and sends a few speculative emails off to Mbrio’s competitors advertising his availability, only to discover that word of his dismissal under a cloud seems to have got around. And he is challenged about all manner of patent irregularities and threatened with lawsuits. The Product Development world is not happy with his practices. Legal papers from firms of solicitors with long squabbles of names begin to arrive in the post, presumably with the thought that, as an individual, he would be easier to go after rather than MBrio.
Ron continues to cause mayhem. Having somehow succeeded in getting the house electrics back on track, he cancels out the good work by crippling Dan’s network of computers with a multipartite virus brought in on the back of an unsecure site selling fake documents. And this within twenty minutes of Dan letting him have the password. Only Ron could manage this. On the positive side, it does stop Dan’s string of abusive emails coming in, giving him time to think, and possibly delaying his descent into the depths of depression.
But Ron doesn’t know this. Fearing the worst, and being a natural coward, he makes himself scarce.
Dan is left once more to face his troubles on his own. While religious zealtots might differ, philosophers and renaissance men will tell you this is the only way troubles can be faced. Ultimately, the individual is the one who holds the keys to his destiny. The only one who can bring about change. Help can come in many forms, but when it comes down to it, this is all it can ever amount to: help. It is never something that can be relied upon. Others might come up with words of encouragement, but everyone is out on the ocean, drowning in the swell, while others can at best stand by the shore, waving cheerily. Everyone is alone and sometimes this is not a bad thing. At least, it simplifies matters. If Dan Lomax is to rediscover his mojo, it will be Dan and only Dan who is able to do it.
If you were to meet your soulmate in a new Southern fried-chicken place that you have accidentally stumbled upon specialising in Creole and Cajun dishes and taken have refuge there to get out of the rain, might you be inclined to re-evaluate this wisdom? Might you believe there was a hidden agency at work? A guiding hand of some sort to help you through the dark night of the soul?
Dan thinks so. He is in no doubt there’s a force at work. He is sure this is it. His mojo is back.
The restaurant is called Down Home. He feels, without travelling, he’s been transported to a better time and place. A carnival of aromatic spices fills the air. The lighting is seductive. Mystical gris-gris talismen hang loosely from the walls. He imagines these will be loaded with meaning and significance. They will have energy and purpose. He feels lifted, elevated, his senses on heightened alert. Herb doctor, spiritual healer; says a notice. Or perhaps it is a voice in his head. It’s becoming hard for him to distinguish where the stimuli are coming from. Dr John’s Remedies is playing. Mac Rebbenack from the East area of New Orleans. His voodoo-funk tunes rise out of the Louisiana swamp along with the snakes and alligators, and are steeped in mystic folklore. If ever there’s a time to get things to work, this is it.
‘Hello,’ the dusky-skinned beauty before him says. ‘You look like you might be looking for the same thing as me. Would you mind very much if I shared your table?’
‘I wish you would,’ says Dan. ‘That would work out well, don’t you think?’
‘I’m Destiny,’ she says. ‘I can be yours.’
‘I’m Dan,; says Dan.
All is suddenly well in the universe. He is sure this is it. In this time and place, he can prosper. There will be abundance. The horn of plenty is at his disposal. His mojo is back.
Copyright © Chris Green, 2022: All rights reserved