…my buddy explains as he queues up Uncut Gems for at least the fifth time, this time being my first time, having only agreed to watch the on-screen panic attack in hopes that he’ll finally stop talking about Uncut Gems—although the allure of the popcorn and watermelon Sour Patch Kids that accompany any good movie play no small role in my decision—so I don’t quite get what he means as the camera retreats from the Welo mine in Ethiopia to a colonoscopy procedure room in Midtown Manhattan, because it’s hard not to feel for a character you first meet with an endoscope bobbing and weaving through his large intestine, but he insists when I say as much, meaning I just sit on his uncomfortably stiff couch, stealing glances at my phone as it lights up with email notifications, and sort of come around to his point, because face it, there’s only so much patience you can have for a dude with a goofy-ass goatee who hustles fake Rolexes and cheats on Idina Menzel like she’s a third-grade spelling test, not to mention his comically poor strategy of throwing hands with The Weeknd, but I’ll be damned if Howard Ratner doesn’t start winning me back over, in that classic Howard Ratner move of never letting you drift out far enough to the point where he can’t reel you back, because next thing you know, I’m rooting for the Celtics in a nine-year-old game like I’m Ben Affleck or somebody, so when the movie ends, I say, I know he’s an awful person who sinks deeper and deeper into messes he single-handedly makes, but how can you not want him to hit it big at the end? You don’t root for Howard Ratner, my buddy says, leaning forward, away from the stiff back of the couch, because as long as he keeps screwing up, you know you’re not doing so bad. The axel is still attached to your wheels. His ain’t. When he fails, well, that’s how you win.
From Upstate New York, Tyler Norton mostly writes dark fiction, which explains why he’s so drawn to Uncut Gems. His work has previously appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine and Home, an anthology by Ghost Orchid Press. You can follow him on Twitter @tywritesthings.