From a cluttered desk near the back of Wilderness Printing Rick Matherson sorted through a bundle of envelopes, cards and pieces of paper. Word travels fast he thought to himself, surprised at the number of letters and cards received since the promotion. One-by-one Rick slid the congratulatory notes onto a floor mirror in his office. A gap between the surface and trim provided a comfortable resting place.
“How goes it Rick?” his supervisor Mr. Wiggins asked. Mr. Wiggins, who recommended Rick for the promotion, a common practice. “You settling in okay?”
“Yeah Al, thanks,” Rick said. “Say could we get together after lunch. I’d like to talk about the budget figures I received. There some things I found when I ran some numbers last night and I think I found a couple of ways to save….”
“Whoa, slow down hoss! You’ve been up in the bigs for a week. Take your time. Hell, clean off your desk, get your things put away,” Al laughed. “There’ll be plenty of time to talk numbers. You got the rest of your life to talk about numbers.”
Al’s laugh seemed neither sincere nor sarcastic, regardless Rick took the bait.
“Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “Just the same, could we talk after lunch. There’s some things about the meeting next week. I’m not sure on some of the responsibilities for the position and I would like to be clear on what I’m expected to do.”
“No problem hoss. Meet me in my office after lunch. We’ll get out of here for a while, just the two of us,” Al said. “I want you to know Rick, you’ve put in a lot of work to get here. I’m very proud of you and I know you’ll do fine. If there’s anything I can do, anything, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Occasionally glancing at image his figure cut, Rick continued to attach the cards on the mirror in some honorable arrangement. He couldn’t help but place those who had the greatest hand in his success near the top of the mirror, about eye level. Former co-workers and relatives, even an old college girlfriend took time to send warm thoughts. Sure, some hadn’t, some friends who’d slipped by and fallen off the tread-mill of time couldn’t possible know the how his life changed. Afterall, the same tread-mill moved Rick through his 27 years, took him from home to college, and ultimately to Wilderness, Rick figured. The memories flooded his mind when a call on the desk phone cut short the remembrances short.
“Hello,” he answered.
“R. D. What is up man?” the voice on the other end asked.
“Uhh, not much, what’s going on?”
“Oh you know, just chillin’ Not much new here, though I’m fixin’ for some action after lunch. I just heard about your promotion from Stem, and I just figured we should go celebrate,” the voice said. “You know, like we used to do it and all and on and on.”
The words on the other end of the phone hit like an unexpected punch to the stomach, one that lay in a past Rick was ashamed of having. The voice belonged to Mo-Jo, or Maurice as his driver’s license told it. Rick worked at a restaurant with Maurice nearly two years ago, when Rick needed extra money to pay the bills. Many months passed since Rick last heard Maurice’s voice, but the reaction hadn’t changed. Certainly the man behind the voice hadn’t either.
“Yeah, thanks man, thanks for calling an all,” Rick said. “Things here are pretty good. I mean, I can’t complain.”
“Yeah, R.D. My boy goin’ uptown and all on us. Shit man, wasn’t just the other day we was runnin’ them fools downtown and coppin’ some….”
“Yeah, man those were the days, but there gone man. I’ve gone straight since then,” Rick said. “None of that whatsoever. Been cool fool but all that bin done and all. Anyway, I’ve got a meeting to get ready for, so thanks for calling and I’ll….”
“Whoa, what kind of shit you talkin’ ‘bout. Man, you know who dis is. It’s Mo-Jo man. I ain’t askin you to give up your place man. Whatchu say we go and grab some seafood ‘bout 1:30 man. We’ll go down to that joint on Edwards, the one across from the bar. Whatchu say man.”
“Listen, Maurice, I’d like to, but maybe some other time okay. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
“Well then me and Stem just swing by the office then and pick you up, whatchu say to that,” Maurice said. “Unless of course you embarrased to to be seen with us at your new job and all.”
“Yeah fine Maurice. I’ll meet you down there. What’s the name of it? Bibby’s Shack,” Rick said. Yeah I’ll be there ‘bout 1:30 okay. You straight with that?”
“Hell yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout man. R. D. and Mo-Jo back at it again.”
“Naw man, it’s nuttin like that, but I do owe you a meal don’t I? Well all right then,” Rick said. ”I’ll see down at Bibby’s. Take care till then.”
Rick arrived at Bibby’s Shack of Seafood half an hour early. The white facade of the building gave no indication as to the quality of service that could be found within. Entering, the decor shocked him in its familiarity. The dimly lit bar with the large mirror which ran the length of the wall, stools faced away from the counter and ready to be sat in, the entire scene would have been picture perfect from any memory Rick had of the place, if he had chosen to remember the place. A booth in the back of the empty restaurant seemed appropriate for the occasion. Rick glanced up at a clock which read 1:15 which gave him 15 minutes to leave. Instead he sat down with a Molson to wait for Maurice.
Didn’t think you’d be back here did you, you spineless chump, you came so far but it all comes back doesn’t it, Rick thought. Anyway, you’re stronger now, a stronger person and you don’t need what he can offer you, never needed it, but now you’ve got direction, a path that you’ve achieved and found success on, sure it took a while but at least you’re on it and moving forward, besides, how much time is there left to waste, God only knows how much time was wasted in this place, doing nothing but wasting time and waiting for something to come along. Not any more. Now you make it happen. Well, make the best of it, have a good meal and get out, and turn down all offers, you have a meeting with Al yet today and now is no time to relive the past.
As he entered Bibby’s, the sound of Maurice’s voice cut through Rick’s self-serving pep talk. Like a peacock strutting with feathers in full display Maurice sauntered up to the booth and threw a hand at Rick’s back.
“My whilen whitey R.D. Whaz up?”
“Hey Maurice, what’s going on,”
“Come on man, where’s the love man
Man, you always be talkin’ so loud, always out hollarin’ out, ‘Look at me, look at me.’ Damn man, what’s goin’ on?”
“Just chillin’ man. Slowin’ down and settin’ up shop.”
“You talk to Nikki lately? What’s she been up to?”
“Naw, I had to cut that bitch off. Too much drama and all. Man she started run ‘round talkin’ like she’s pregnant and all, just causin’ headaches. I had to let her go, ya know what I’m sayin.’”
“I hear ya man. You still working up at the delivery place?”
“Yep, but I’m lookin’ at this bank job Stem told me about. Pays over ten bucks and sounds chill too,” Maurice said. “Enough ‘bout all that. What’s your job like?”
”I’ve been named sales manager at this printing place, called Wilderness Printing. It’s cool so far but I’ve only been doing it for like a week or so. So far so good right.”
“Damn right, if it feels good and you ain’t hurtin’ no one, then….”
“Then do it,” they said in unison.
“Listen man,” Maurice said. ”I’m not really all that hungry and all, but I’m fixin’ to pick up a ball in ‘bout twenty minutes. You game?”
“Mo, what’d I tell you the last time I saw you?” Rick asked.
“I know what you said, but you know it goes. It ain’t got to be like it used to be. Let’s go crank some, grab some brew and go from there.”
“Man, I got a meeting in like two hours or so. I ain’t even about that shit now,” Rick said. “It’s been like a year and I don’t want to get back down in it. I don’t need it anymore.”
“And you know what I say to that.”
“I know and I….”
“So do you want it?” Maurice asked. ”I’m a hit the bathroom quick so finish your beer and think about it. You don’t want to, man I ain’t mad atcha. Just think it through.”
Maurice got up and disappeared behind the bathroom door, a move that afforded Rick’s conscience one last attempt to derail the inevitable.
It’s just once right, you don’t have to do it again. Rick thought. Besides, you’re entitled to a little celebration, look at how far you’ve come, you’re your own man now and not taking orders from these guys. No, you can’t give in, it could be your ruin and you can’t afford the risk, can’t lose all you’ve worked toward.
“So what’s it gonna be R.D.?” Maurice asked as he returned to the booth. “Hey go check out the bathroom. I left little somethin’ for ya in there. The stuff’s that’s comin’ through ‘possed to be ten times that and that’s a fact.”
“What about my meeting Mo?” Rick asked. “I just got the position, I can’t go blowing meetings my first week.”
“Man it’s you’re first week, you can’t be expected to get all these meetings in right away,” Maurice said. “Besides, it’ll give you a lil’ bump and get you jazzed up. I got’a roll so are we going?”
|August 10, 2013