Saturday, July 5, 2014
Per Pound of Flesh: Chapter 13 - Getting Fired Is Never Easy (Excerpt)
Two weeks had gone by without John hearing from his mother and he told Brandi that he was feeling nervous about the whole thing as she readied herself for the day in the room that had been his mother’s. Brandi had thrown lots of stuff out, packed lots of stuff away or moved it into his bedroom, flipped the mattress and changed the sheets but it was all too familiar for him. It was still his mother’s bed.
He looked in the mirror as he flipped a cigarette end over end against the wood surface where his mother had once done the exact same thing with her own cigarette.
“So what are you worried about? Are you worried he’s some kind of killer or something?” She stepped behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders just over the straps of his undershirt. She gripped at them as he looked at himself in the mirror with his head reflected back at him between her breasts covered in a black bra.
“Your mother is a smart woman,” she said.
“I know. But I called her three different times now and I guess before I didn’t really worry about it because she was just working and everything but with the money she gave us--”
“--hey don’t worry about it. In part that money was ours and she just gave it back. You can’t worry about that stuff. She’s an adult.”
“I just worry about her,” he said. “She gets so excited about things.”
He thought back to Clark, the man who was supposed to be their knight in shining armor, a man who was a liar and a cheat.
“People have to live their own lives. If it’s as good as she said then we all have it made. I mean I really don’t want to inherit this dump but it’s something. When we get our own house we can rent this one.”
He flipped open the lighter and sparked the wheel to create a flame. He held it for a long moment to see the reflection in the mirror until Brandi took hold of his wrist and guided the him up to her mouth where she had placed her own cigarette.
“The baby,” he said.
“Is fine,” she said. “It’s my only one.”
She used the fire and inhaled deeply before he lit his own cigarette. He reached for her backside and she let him take it. He gripped at her slightly enjoying the feel of flesh. She reached back to him and grabbed the back of his head.
“You want to have sex tonight?” he asked.
“Let’s see how it goes,” she answered.
She stepped out of his grasp and walked from the room. He had become excited by touching her and he wanted something more but she was teasing him.
He looked to the clock and saw it was quarter after eight. He hated mornings when there was little to do. He thought about playing video games or else watching television, maybe look for a job. He hated the idea of looking for another job, another boss, another day trying to get by while he sunk deeper in debt.
He got up from the chair and walked from the room, through the trailer and exited through the front door where he found a familiar sight of the trailer park he had known for a little more than four years when Clark had made the down payment on it for him and his mother. At least then, he thought, she was smart enough to put it in her name so that when his wife found out it couldn’t be taken back.
That was the part that was news to them, his wife, the man had been married and had two children but lied to them both. He thought of his mother out there with a stranger and he worried about her safety. He had never met the man so he didn’t know what he looked like but he could imagine the empty hotel rooms and the long roads between them. He flicked the butt of his cigarette out into the lawn then lit another one.
She had received many gifts over the years from men but they had trailed off in her later years when her age, no her spirit, had finally begun to drain. All of his life she had been fierce, fueled by nicotine and liquor, prescription pills. When she wanted to rearrange the furniture in the middle of the night he had learned to go along with it. When she was having a good day it was great. She had a will and vitality that he knew took a blow from Clark but he didn’t expect it had been terminal. No, she was the type to get a second wind.
His phone rang and he pulled it from his pocket. It was Dennis. For a moment he was suspicious of the call, troubled somehow by why he would call so early. Maybe Dennis had to call off and they could switch like before, he thought. He answered it.
“What’s going on man?” John asked.
Dennis sounded about ready to cry. John could hear the commotion of traffic, the wind. He was walking.
“Are you there?”
“Yeah,” Dennis said.
“Can you talk?”
John looked to make sure no one was around feeling it was confidential.
“I just got fired,” Dennis said.
“I don’t know. I mean, I can’t talk about it.”
“What’s going on?” John asked.
“I have to get out of here,” he said. “I took the bus to work today and now I’m stuck so I just started walking. Can you pick me up?”
John knew he had hours before his shift at the grocery store and said that he could meet Dennis then asked for him to pick a spot and stay there. Dennis told him the name of a chain breakfast food restaurant.
“I’ll be right there,” John said. He hung up then headed back to the bedroom and began to search for his shoes, his socks, and a belt. He picked them up and began to walk with them in his hands. When he passed Brandi she asked him where he was going.
“Out,” he said.
“What about Josie? I thought we could go to the mall.”
He stopped at the door and looked back to her.
“I can’t,” he said, “a friend needs me. Go with Rachel if you want.”
“Rachel is working today. You know that. I thought we could spend some time together.”
John hated the mall. He had a friend in need. He wanted to make the conversation short. He wanted to sink any thoughts about it.
“You’re always just looking at stuff and walking around. There’s nothing there we need.”
“We can still look,” she said.
“Brandi we need to hold on to that money and pay some bills,” he said. He slid on his socks and shoes then pulled open the door and exited.
Twenty minutes later he passed the coffee shop then thirty seconds after that he pulled into the parking lot of a strip mall and made it to the place where Dennis said he would be. He made his way inside and to the table where Dennis sat staring at a cup of coffee. He took a seat opposite of him.
“What’s going on? I was speeding all of the way over here.”
“Did you get a ticket?”
“No, luckily no cops were out. So what’s going on?”
“I got fired.”
“You got fired or you thought you got fired so you quit.”
“I got fired. That,” Dennis lowered his voice, “fucking old queen fired me. And it was all Mitsy’s fault. I didn’t even make it to the lunch rush.”
“He found out,” Dennis looked to John who turned his head quizzically. “You know, about me.”
“Oh,” John said. “How?”
“Mitsy, she saw me with this guy.”
“This morning,” Dennis said, “I didn’t really take the bus. I didn’t mean to lie to you. It’s just that--” he began to cry slow long tears that ran down his cheeks. John reached for napkins in the holder and handed them over.
“He dropped me off this morning and she saw him kissing me in the parking lot. The bitch couldn’t even wait until after lunch. She told him almost right away. I just knew something was up when she was cleaning up with me this morning. It was just awkward the whole time and she kept staring at me.
“Then work started and things seemed okay. I was in the middle of getting someone coffee when she asked to meet with him and then right afterwards he calls me in to his office. I just knew something was wrong.
“So he asks me right away if I’m gay. And I’m thinking you know like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ but goes, you know, like, it’s already been told to him that I was and that he didn’t think it reflects well on the business because it’s a Christian business and he’s a Christian businessman. So he says I had to leave. Just like that. He’s such a hypocrite.”
“So he just fired you?”
“Yeah,” Dennis said.
“Isn’t that discrimination?”
Dennis shook his head and blew his nose then gripped the napkin tight in his hand as he said, “not in this state. There’s no protection for homosexuals in anything. I mean I never expected to be married here but fired. He’s a fucking miserable sack of shit.”
John looked around to the other tables which were mostly empty as the place was between breakfast and lunch. No one was looking to them, not even a waitress or waiter was in sight.
“I don’t even know why I’m crying. I hated the job. I mean it sucked. Michael was such a douche bag. I bet he dreams about sucking cock.”
John smirked at the outburst then looked around again before focusing back on Dennis who dabbed at his cheeks.
“What am I going to do for a job?” he asked. “I needed that money.”
“Hey, it’ll be fine. I mean it’s not like you have to pay rent right?”
Dennis let out a deep sigh. “My parents,” he said, “you don’t think he called them? I mean I had to put their information on my application in case of emergencies. If my parents found out. I mean it was already bad enough when my mom figured out I hadn’t been in my room all night. By the way I told them I was with you.”
“Just take it one step at a time,” John said.
“I’m in so much shit if they find out,” he said. “All of my life I’ve had to hide who I was and now this and I can’t even keep a fucking job.”
Dennis looked John in the eye. He had a look of fear John hadn’t seen before in his life. He was exposed and vulnerable. Some part of John wanted to cry with him but he couldn’t. He felt like doing the opposite, to show some resilience instead.
“I haven’t seen a waiter since I sat down,” John said. “What kind of service do they have here? You might be able to work here,” John said.
“I hate these places,” Dennis said before he laughed then leaned close and asked with a sarcastic tone, “Do you think they are hiring?”
They were stopped in front of Dennis’s house like they had been when John had asked him if he was still gay after Dennis had come out to him on John’s birthday. It was all there in John’s mind as he stared at Dennis in the seat next to him.
“Well, I wish I could take you out for a drink but my wife really wants to go to the mall and I have work later tonight.”
“It’s okay,” Dennis said.
“No really, I’m sorry,” John said.
“I know,” Dennis said. “You’ve been really nice to me.”
“But if you need me then give me a call.”
Dennis opened the car door and began to stand.
“No really, call me,” John said. “If your parents, you know, if they know and you can’t deal with it.”
Dennis turned and looked back to him.
“I wish I could kiss you,” he said.
“I know,” John replied.
“Well, it’s just a dumb fucking job I didn’t like anyway.”
“Maybe it’s for the better.”
“Maybe,” Dennis said. He moved the door slightly with his hand to close it then stopped. It was a moment. It was an ending. He pulled it open to steady himself the readied to close the car door.
“Hey, take care,” John added.
“Thanks I’ll see you later.”
Dennis closed the door and turned away from the car as John watched him walk back to his home. It was a mundane sight that he had seen before but it meant so much more to him in that moment. He shifted to drive and pulled away from the curb.