Metro 44 East
(The Bus Stop)
Metro 44 East
(The Bus Stop)
A Short Story
A Short Story
Eileen Smith Terry J. Walters
Eileen Smith Terry J. Walters
Metro 44 East
(THE BUS STOP)
On behalf of Eileen and Terry, greetings from Central Florida.
This short story was originally a play written and performed for their retirement community. It’s
a great place to live with over 2500 homes. Terry has been a performer, producer, writer and director. Eileen has previously written several plays for the community and her church, as well and performer, director, writer and producer in both. Both of them have participated in numerous variety shows here.
They started out with each writing an act. In the end they added to each other’s stories.
They then decided to do an Audio book version. The play was divided into 10 chapters and verbiage modifications to allow for non-visual communication. Parts of the original play were deleted from the script to avoid conflict with copyright laws.
Both the Audio book version and the play are available upon request.
They were having so much fun that they decided to turn it into a short story.
It’s been a challenge, it’s been great fun.
They hope you like it.
A special thanks to Marcie Walters (wife extraordinaire) for the cover composition and all the editing.
Eileen Smith’s – e-mail – Smithme736@gmail.com
Terry Walters – e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
METRO 44 EAST was published and performed in January 2017.
Audio book and short story published 2019
This work is in the public domain.
It was a Friday afternoon at the offices at ON THE TOWN Magazine. Our weekly periodical was, for the most part, a positive flow variety format which featured highlights and events deemed to be attractive to the city at large by the editorial staff.
We, the regular staff and reporters, had returned from our customary late Friday lunch. We noted that our assignments were posted. Under my name (Kevin Durey) was simply the entry “4PM”. That was when I was scheduled to meet with my editor to receive my assignment for the coming week. I had a regular feature article entitled “A Day In The Life”, where I would observe and record people and activities from a given location.
So, at precisely 4 o’clock, I entered the office, grabbed a seat as Thomas Sutton looked across his desk, smiled, and said “This coming week, as usual, I have all of your material gathering for your next column consolidated into one day. This one, however, will be a pre-dawn to post sunset day. I would like for you to capture the every-day activities of people who use the bus. I’m interested in hearing what people say and do, where they’re going, and what they do when they return. I have made arrangements with the shop owners to help conceal your purpose in being at this location. The name of the bus stop is “Metro 44 East”. It is one of the most popular stops in the Metro line. I know you know what you’re looking for so, hey, have a great weekend. We’ll compensate you somehow for the long day.”
It was right after the meeting that I left the office for a typical “chill and thrill” weekend. I found my alarm clock ringing its usual tune on Monday morning. It was going off earlier than usual as I prepared for work. I had managed to make contact on Saturday with some of the shop owners at the rear of the bus stop to try to minimize what could be my conspicuous presence. These were folks known to me from previous assignments. I managed a quickie breakfast and coffee before I made my way from apartment to car in what was still the pitch black of night.
It was a pleasant weather time, but was forecast for hotter for the balance of the day. I pulled into a nearly empty large parking lot at the rear of the buildings and made my way towards the front. The only light was from the street lamps and building security lights. There was no one there except for early preparatory employees working window displays, fixing foods and conducting inventories. I slid into a walled-in area that was near a news stand. It allowed reasonable concealment but gave me a clear view of the area and within voice range. A newspaper vendor made his way to the stand. Shortly after his arrival, there was a man who appeared to be of the “bum” variety. He staggered his way to one of the benches which was well in back of the bus stop and in an area situated between the fronts of two stores. While not inconspicuous, it was out of the path of foot traffic.
Life was beginning to happen. The sun was working on brightening the sky and it was obvious that day had arrived. People were beginning to pass by my location. Those who were walking in pairs were in speaking in subdued tones. As the traffic volume increased, so did the voices. I checked my voice recording device to insure it was working.
The paper vendor was now issuing his morning message. “Paper-get your morning paper…oh hey, Frank, how ya doing? Ya know, you have always appeared to be a bit indecisive…but now, you look even less sure of yourself.”
Frank responded- “Yeah, I know…all I know is I’m going over to the bus bench, sit down, and wait for the bus.” The conversations proceeded in the following manner, a man named Tom arrived at the stand.
Vendor- “OK folks, come and get the headlines for today-Tom, how goes the war of life with you? How was your weekend?”...
Tom- “Oh hey man, great…how about your weekend?...
Vendor- “Well, apparently better than Frank’s…for him, just another bad sunrise.”
Tom- “Well, I’m going to head over to the bench and see what’s up with him.”
Vendor- “ Yeah , well, good luck with that.”
Tom made his way to the bench and sat next to Frank.
Tom- “Hey, Frank, how goes it? Did you have a pleasant weekend?”
Frank - “Oh yeah, I’m living the dream…let’s see…I mowed the lawn and washed the car, listened to my wife complain…ya know, she has complaining down to an absolute science. She could qualify for her Doctorate degree in Advanced Irritation techniques. And then, there was the neighbor’s party that went all night long…I did not have a vicarious good time. But the highlight- the absolute highlight, was getting a phone call from my boss on a Sunday afternoon, telling me I have a 9 o’clock appointment today with the corporate President. Have I told you that Mondays and vacuum cleaners have something in common? They both suck out loud!”
Tom- “Wow…sorry to hear that. Hey, at least we got to see the football game on TV.”
Frank- “Oh, did I fail to mention the fact that the mutant gardener cut the cable that feeds our cable tv? There’s something pathetic about watching a football game on the radio.”
Tom- “Hey- the game wasn’t all that good anyway. Besides, we won’t be going to the finals, unless they turn the standings upside down. But at least we have a firm hold on last place.”
Frank-“ Oh no, here comes Harry…the one- man political machine is coming our way- just keep staring straight ahead…maybe he’ll just pass us by…or not.”
Harry approached the duet.
Harry- “Good morning, gentlemen…allow me to introduce myself. My name is Harry Helpin, and I’m running for Councilman, 5th District. Just know that a vote for me is a vote for you. I’m known to be conservatively liberal from both the left and right and I’m right more that I’m wrong, usually. So, please remember me on election day.”
There was a brief silence until Harry was out of ear shot. It was then that conversation resumed.
Frank- “Spoken like a true politician, eh? So, anyway, just what did you do that was so exhilarating and uplifting with your two days of freedom?”
Tom- “Let’s see…Friday night, there was dinner and dancing. My wife and I had a really great time. We did some shopping Saturday morning. Saturday night, there was this party we went to over on Beacon Street, and Sunday, there was…”
Frank- “Uh, where on Beacon Street?”
Tom- “It’s over at the house of this guy that I work with. His name is Jeff Benson- he’s the Vice President of…”
Frank- “Yeah…I know him…that was the party that kept me up half the night. Boy, when I see him, I intend to…”
Tom- “So, uh, hey, how’s that son of yours doing?”
Frank- “So far, he’s the highlight of the family happenings. Did I tell you- this year he managed to lose nearly 200 pounds of ugly fat?”
Tom- “No kidding? How in the world did he do that?”
Frank- “He got a divorce. (pause) She was pure FSU.”
Tom- “She went to Florida State University?”
Frank- “No…FSU- Fat, stupid and ugly.”
Tom- “Ooooo…sorry to hear that. But, I’m sure he’ll find someone that’s just right for him.”
Frank- “You really are the eternal optimist, aren’t you?”
Tom- “Well, I guess I’ve been blessed with a great job, a great wife and a great life going. I don’t have to go to work…I get to go to work!”
Frank- “There’s a cure for that- it’s called time. All that you just mentioned? You’ll get over it.”
Tom- “Hey look…one of the highlights of the bus stop- a street performer…and wow, we have advanced seating…I hear she sings really good. And, she’s cute to boot!”
The singer, a tall, thin long-haired female, who appeared to be of college age, performed a song while accompanied by her guitar, that apparently was appreciated by all, judging from the cluster of folks who surrounded her. She managed to do three songs before packing her guitar. Her tip-jar was filled with paper bills…no coins. There was something both sweet and soft and positively energizing.
I had to believe that the crowd of people watching this singer were not only impressed with the performance, but empathetic towards her apparent means of living. I looked back on the duo who were fascinated with the seemingly impromptu concert given by the lady. The crowd resumed their activities as the entertainer walked away.
Frank- “A street musician- now, maybe she has the job to have. You’re doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. No clock, no boss, no garbage.”
Tom- “Yeah, she does really enjoy what she’s doing, but there are some drawbacks. You can’t call in sick and get paid, and you can’t count on a steady income. If people don’t like what you do, you run the risk of going home hungry. And try getting a bank loan as a street performer. Being truly self-sufficient is virtually impossible. These are the trade outs. Me, I’m supporting me and a wife.”
Frank- ”Who knows? Maybe after this meeting I’m going to this morning, I’ll have to learn how to play a musical instrument.”
Tom- “Has it always been like this for you at work?”
Frank- “No, not at all. I started working for these folks…let’s see…uh… 16 years ago. I was entry level and worked my way up the ladder. But the higher you go, the ladder gets shaky and unstable. For the past year, the top brass has been on me like a cheap carnival ride.”
Tom- “Hey, trust me, things will get better.”
Frank- “Trust me- no they won’t.”
The bum at the bench sat up, looked around and rose up. He slowly made his way to the news stand where, when the vendor wasn’t looking, proceeded to lift the paper and began walking away.
Tom- “Hey, newsman-headline- that bum just took one of your newspapers without paying for it.”
Vendor- “Hey, thanks, man…hey, Dude…you know, I asked God to give me a bike, but I knew He didn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked forgiveness. If you return the paper, I’ll forgive you.”
Bum…”Uh, yeah, uh, OK.”
The bum worked his way back to his bench.
Frank- (short pause)- “I don’t know about the bum, but these two ladies coming this way aren’t particularly visually unappealing.”
The duet had approached each other from two directions, called to each other by name and were immediately engaged in greeting each other with a hug, and walking towards the bus stop bench.
Tom- “Good morning ladies, won’t you have a seat?”
Ladies- “Thank you.”
Tom- “Hey, Frank, why don’t we see if we can grab a quick cup of coffee before the bus gets here.”
Frank- “Great idea- nice having a restaurant right here…now that was a sound business decision, eh- maybe I should get a job application while we’re here.”
Tom- “I don’t know about that but hey, I’m buying.”
Frank- Your on- let’s go.”
The two women immediately began recapping their activities from the night before.
Susan- “So, Debby, what did you think about the party last night?”
Debby- “Oh Susan…my head says I must have had a good time, because I’m paying for it now. I think it was that last brandy alexander I had…whew…after that, things get real foggy. Did I do anything that would have been…uh…newsworthy?”
Susan- “Not to the best of my recollection. Then again, my recall is on stall also. I’ve got a marching band drum beating in my head- I can feel the mallets hitting my skull.”
Debby- “Yeah, but there were some items of interest I noticed.”
Susan- “Such as Tim and Tina?”
Debby- “Yeah…I never thought of them as an item. But, Tina was holding on to him like a life preserver.”
Susan- “Oh yeah. And her wardrobe. She must have confused her skirt for a shirt. That wasn’t long enough to cover her...uh…”
Debby- “Gotcha. And her sweater didn’t cover her other gotchas very well either!”
Susan- “Not to be confused with that blouse Karen was wearing. That thing needed a volume control knob.”
Debby- “So, what did you think of the dinner?”
Susan- “It wasn’t bad, I guess. Except for the salad. The vinegar and oil dressing was nasty- it tasted more like Black Flag.”
Debby- “Oh…then maybe those weren’t raisins in the salad? And by the way, did you try the filet minion?”
Susan- “Yes, and it was, how do you say…nasty. It tasted like monkey crap.”
Debby- “Oh, you’ve got me there. I can’t compare that to anything I’ve ever had. I have never eaten monkey crap!”
Susan- “Oh, gimme a break.”
Debby- “The only problem I noticed was the desert. I had the sponge cake. I think it was made with real kitchen sponges. No taste whatsoever. I was going to take some home to use when washing dishes. Which reminds me- the kitchen was sorta…well…dirty.”
Susan- “Oh…and speaking of Lenny- he was hitting on every female there. But last night, his batting average was 0-for-3. Even Carla turned him down, and she’s not known for rejecting anyone.”
Debby- “Well, the lamp shade on his head didn’t increase his chances. It didn’t match any of his wardrobe.”
Susan- “Well, it’s going to be a while before I party again.”
Debby- “I hear ya.”
As she spoke, she noticed the two men who surrendered their seats for them returning.
“Oh, here’s those guys who gave us our seat- hey, fellas, thanks again.”
The two positioned themselves behind the bench where the ladies sat and simply remained standing.
Tom- “Oh , hey- no problem, ladies.”
Frank- “So, how is our bench bum doing over there- he looks like he’s sleeping well.”
Tom- “Conscious and breathing…I guess. Funny thing- it seems as though he comes here for a week or so, then moves on. I wonder what his story is.”
Frank- “Tom, meet the man of mystery. We named him “Daryl the Derelict”- his real name is unknown. All I can say is that, for a bum, he doesn’t smell that bad- at least from here. “
Tom- “Yeah…if I were a bum, I wouldn’t mind being here.”
Frank- “Sure- one can sleep in the open, do a little dumpster diving for a meal, maybe steal a billfold for life’s little extras. And, if he’s caught, he goes to jail where he gets three hots and a cot. Hey- maybe he’s got an approach to life we’ve overlooked.”
Tom- “I’m sure he has a story to tell. Hard times usually produce an appreciation for the little things in life.”
Frank- “Yep, you really are the eternal optimist.” He was briefly distracted by a man who had been waiting for a period of time, wanting the news vendor’s attention. Frank yelled over to the vendor. “Hey, newsman, I think you’ve got a customer.
Vendor- “Hey, dude, whatcha need?”
Customer- “Excuse me but my watch has stopped. Can you tell me what time it is? (pause) Sir- can you tell me what it is?”
Vendor- “Time? Sure. Time is a system of measuring periods of duration. There’s daytime, night time, twine time, Louis Louis time, or time to buy a new watch. Or, you could look right above your head and see the fifty-five-foot clock which might address your need!”
Customer- “Oh, gee, I’m sorry…oh, yeah, well, thanks.”
I felt compelled to find another location, so I walked over to the far side of the complex where the “Café 44” was located. This was actually a combination of eatery and night club with operating hours from 6 AM to midnight. I stayed outside on the patio extension in front, complete with umbrella fitted tables. This was fine with me, as it truly was heating up outside. I grabbed a cup of coffee, and proceeded to a table. One table over, a couple was simultaneously grabbing a coffee and a seat. I re-checked my equipment to insure I was recording whatever events occurred. From where I was sitting, I could observe their actions without being totally obvious. The duo greeted each other by name- Sarah and Jeff.
Sarah- “Today’s the day. We’ve worked together for years, and now we are in head-to-head competition for the same promotion. You and I have been wanting this position for a long time.”
Jeff- “Yes, it appears it will all come down to this today. I’ve worked long and hard on this presentation. I guess I’m banking on my ability to have been part of that cluster deal from last year that landed our branch its highest profit moves in its history, which was the only thing that kept our branch open.”
Sarah- “Yes, that was quite impressive. But I have the better over-all annual reviews for the last three years running.”
Jeff- “Regarding your evaluation, wasn’t your cousin Kevin the head of the committee all three years? And as far as profit was concerned, we couldn’t have predicted the market fluctuations that occurred.”
Sarah- “But isn’t that something that a true manager would have considered in any successful presentation?”
Jeff- “I suppose you’re going to tell me that you would have seen the market falling?”
Sarah- “I would have provided more padding in the numbers, thinking this would happen.”
Jeff- “That is what I believe they call an assumption. And when you assume, that makes…”
Sarah- ”Yeah, yeah, yeah…look…each of us will do our presentation and let the committee decide, eh? And careful…you may be working for me real soon. Maybe we should ask our friend the fortune teller at her cubicle over there.”
Jeff- “Or maybe not.
In the distance, sitting a at her own booth, was a fortune teller. One of her friends stood next to her, overhearing the entire conversation.
Friend- “Well, what do you think of this?”
Fortune teller- “As a fortune teller, I couldn’t help but appraise their situation. I can sense their problem. I should tell them that I see things are going to be interesting for them shortly…yes, shortly, but I’m going to wait.”
As noon approached, I began an arbitrary stroll. In passing, I noted a man whose face had been recently in one of our feature articles. The corporation that owned the buildings behind the bus stop had recently hired a new chief of security. His name was Edward Porter. I was watching him as he observed one of the guards- a middle aged man in his security uniform. I observed Porter looking at notes and comparing a photograph to the guard. It was obvious that the two had never met. As he began his approach, I began recording.
Edward- “Hi…you must be Arnold.”
Arnold- “Uh, yes sir, I am.”
Edward- “Looks like you’re doing a fine job securing our facility.”
Arnold- “Why, thank you, sir.”
Edward- “Let’s see…according to my notes, you’ve been here for 3 years.”
Arnold- “Yes sir, that is correct.”
Edward- “So, where are you from?”
Arnold- “Well, originally, I was from Kentucky.”
Edward- “ I’ve heard of Kentucky. In fact, I’ve been to the race track at Louisville. Is that where you’re from?”
Arnold- “No, sir, I’m from Crab Orchard.”
Edward- “Oh…(pause) sounds like squirrel hunting country…are you by chance a banjo player (chuckles).”
Arnold- “Why, yes- how could you guess?
Edward- “Intuition, I suppose. I’m sure you miss log cabins, eh? (laughs) Well, uh, you’ve been somewhere I’ve never been before. We all gotta be from somewhere, right? At any rate, that’s a good job you’re doing.”
Arnold- “Why, thanks again. With new leadership, are we going to see any real changes here?”
Edward- “Well, as a matter of fact, yes we are. As you look directly at the center of the building frontage, you’ll notice at the center, there is a huge wall that connects each of the two sides of what appears to be a continuous run with 8 store fronts to each side. The bus stop here is centered on the sidewalk and is also centered on the wall. We are thinking about asking the owners of the building about eliminating the wall. That way, we can have easier access for the parking lot behind the building. Folks can walk from the rear parking directly to the bus stop.”
Arnold- “Uh, sir, can I mention something?”
Edward- “Uh, well, yeah, sure.”
Arnold- “22 years ago, when this building was being constructed, that wall was added in such a way as to trick city code personnel into thinking there was structural integrity between the two halves, when in fact, it is a facade. Removal of the wall would compromise the existing independent structures, inviting collapse.”
Edward- “How in the world would you know that?”
Arnold- “Research is one of my hobbies. I really enjoy that. Also, there is another area of concern.”
Edward- “What’s that?”
Arnold- “As you know, there are a lot of people who pass and gather here on a daily basis, primarily as a result of the bus stop. There is also a constant flow of folks who utilize the businesses here. As you know, sociologists call this type of area “People generators”. As such, there are opportunities for common crimes such as purse snatching and pickpocketing. If that area behind the wall is opened, this increases the potential for criminal activity, especially after hours. Limited sight perception from potential witnesses is greatly increased. Therefore, the need for additional security personnel and/or precautions such as upgraded surveillance devices, to wit: video and audio recording devices. And, even with this in place, there is an increase in liability which may or may not be covered by insurance.”
Edward- “What in the world are you doing in entry level security?”
Arnold- “When my wife and I moved here, it was a position I was qualified for.”
Edward- “Was previous management aware of your research skills?”
Arnold- “They never asked.”
Edward- “Obviously, you never told them.”
Arnold- “Well, sir, at the time it was the only position open and I needed the job.”
Edward- “So, obviously we have a man who can perform skills beyond twisting door knobs. Tomorrow morning, report to my office, and bring a resume.”
Coincidental and meetings were frequently a recipe for interesting writing. One such was about to transpire as two ladies were making their way to the café.
Betty- “Hello Lilly, I haven’t seen you in a long time. How is everything with you?”
Lilly- “I was thinking of you the other day. So happy to see you. Do you have time for coffee and a chat?”
Betty- “Sure, I’m running errands and can take a later bus. How are all those wonderful grandkids of yours?”
Lilly- “You know, Betty, I was on Face Book looking at their pictures this morning. I would love to see them without a phone stuck in their face.”
Betty- “I know, mine can’t even talk to me, they text me. I really miss hearing their voices.”
Lilly- “Is your beautiful granddaughter still climbing the corporate ladder in NY City?”
Betty- “Oh no, she quit that wonderful job and became a Paid Political Protester! She loves it, gets to travel all over the country and is paid extremely well. She just loves causing all the upheaval. Do I agree, of course not. But it’s her life”.
Lilly- “The world sure has changed since we were young. And not for the better. Are you still doing all the volunteer jobs?”
Betty- “Yes, but I’m so unhappy with some of the others. We have this woman who thinks she knows how to do everything. Well actually, she is pretty talented. But, you know we are a group of elderly women. We can’t do what we used to do. Anyway, Mean Maggie jumps all over the poor ladies if they sew a crooked stitch. Instead of quietly showing them what was wrong.”
Lilly- “Does she do that often?”
Betty- “Way too often. Last week an 85-year-old lady finished knitting a beautiful baby blanket. The edges were a bit crooked. I’m sure the needy mother would not have been upset with it, but Maggie, ranted and raved and told her to pull out the stitches. The older lady was embarrassed to death in front of the rest of the group. She said she didn’t need that and has left us. I was also going to leave, but the group does such good things for underprivileged older folks and children. I decided to stay. I also learn something new every week when we meet.
What is new with the group of yours, the ones that keep getting married?”
Lill-: (laughing) “Well you remember me telling you about Cookie? She thinks she has found the perfect man. She raves and raves about him. He has hair, most of his teeth, and still drives at night.”
Betty- “Do you think they will actually get married at their age?”
Lilly- “She seems to be planning on it. She claims it’s love. “
Betty- “How old are they?”
Lilly- “Well she’s in her mid-80’s. I’m not sure about him. “
Betty- “Has Cookie been married before?”
Lilly- “Oh yes, 6 times as a matter of fact. “
Betty- “You’ll have to keep me up to date on that one. Oh, look over there, that’s my neighbor Joe. He loves to fish and his wife Joy loves to cook. She makes the best trout almandine I’ve ever tasted. I wonder what he caught today. Hi Joe.”
Joe- “Hi, Betty how are you today?”
Betty- “I’m fine, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Lilly.”
Lilly- “How was the fishing today? Did you catch a lot?”
Joe- “Uh, well sort of.”
Joe- “Well, I promised Joy I’d catch trout. She was planning on making her special dish for friends. But, the fish were not biting, soooooo. Do you promise you won’t tell Joy?”
Joe- “Well, I went down to Smitty’s Fish Market and I ordered six beautiful trout. The young man looked at my outfit and asked if I wanted to tell my wife I caught them. I said I sure would. He wrapped them up and told me stand back. I did and he threw and I caught them. Well I have to get home before the ice melts. It’s great to see you and meet your friend.”
Lilly- “You have the most interesting friends.”
As the one man left, another approached.
Betty- “I know, I live in Pineridge, a really great retirement community. And speaking of friends, there is Billy. Hi Billy, I’d like you to meet my friend, Lilly.”
Billy- “Well, hello Betty, nice to see you and meet Lilly.”
Betty- “You really look nice Billy. I love a man who wears a belt and suspenders, neatly pressed slacks, a jacket and white socks. You look so handsome. Why are you down town at the Bus Stop?”
Billy- “I’m on my way for my next computer lesson. I have one every week at the local library. I’m really learning how to use a computer, most of the time. I think I finally solved the problem with remembering the password.”
Betty- “That’s great, I had to type out a whole list and then I can’t remember where I put the list. What trick have you learned?”
Billy- “My password is ‘incorrect’ easy to remember AND if I spell it wrong it tells me ‘that password is incorrect” so I can correct the spelling!”
Betty- “Oh, Billy, you are so smart and so handsome. Thank you for the information. I hope to see you soon.”
Billy- “Bye, ladies.”
Billy left, and yet another man approached- this one was not wanted.
Lilly- “OH MY, turn away, here comes Harry the Preputial Politician. I am so sick of listening to the people running for office and HE says the same thing over and over, and has for years. Oh, no, here he comes.”
The two ladies quickly left the area, leaving Harry to search for another potential audience.
As the work day was winding down, the folks who took the bus to work returned to the bus stop by the same means. Our friends from the morning were once again within view of each other. This time, however, there was a twist to the routine. Instead of bidding adieu, Frank noted that Tom was preparing to board a different outgoing bus.
Frank- (jokingly) “Hey, Tom, did you miss your bus from this morning?”
Both said simultaneously- “You were right.”
Frank- “What are you saying? Where are you going at this hour of the night?”
Tom- “I’m going to a job interview for a night shift gig. Man, I got laid off today.”
Frank- “Wow…how did that happen?”
Tom- “Our branch office is no longer in business. We just got notified this morning. We all got tossed. Our manager worked for 13 years for these folks and bang- no more job. There are two other branches that got the shaft and there are no vacancies anywhere for any of us.”
Frank- “So, uh, what kind of job are you applying for right now?”
Tom- “A whatever gig…I spent the day calling and nothing for me in my line. So, I’m thinking about a janitorial position across town.”
Frank- “Well, remember this morning…my appointment with management?”
Tom- “I hope it was better than mine.”
Frank- “Tom, remember I was telling you all the garbage they hit me with for the past year? Well, it seems the top brass wanted to see how I handled the pressure. Bottom line- I’m now the corporate Vice President. Hey, look- blow off the interview and job search. Let’s get a cold one and talk about how we can get you in where I’m at.”
As the one duet left for the café’s bar, the two “party” gals from the morning were reuniting.
Susan- “So, what party are we headed off to tonight?”
Debby- “I thought you said it would be a while before we did that again.”
Susan- “Yes, and it has been a while. Nearly a whole day.”
Debby- “Yep…you’re right. I hear Rodney’s got quite the invitation list for a Monday night gathering- right here at the lounge. He rented the game room too, so game night it is.”
Susan- “We’re on. What time?”
Debby- “It starts in half an hour…and hey, we can even get an early start. Yep- the game’s on.”
Susan- “Hey, Debbie, look at that lady with all the cats. What is she doing? There must be 5-maybe 6 cats.”
As the duet headed towards the parking lot to prepare for just another party evening, the lady with the cats captured my fancy.
There was humming, followed by a one-way conversation with her feline friends. “Good morning sweet kitties. Here we are on a beautiful day in a wonderful park. I’m going to put you all down in this nice green grass. Here we go, Lovey, Princess, Rascal. Oh where is the baby? Here she is in the bottom of the 3rd bag. I’m putting you down on the grass, Muffin. Yes, I know you love to be around my neck, Jasper, but wait your turn. Here we go Peace and Joy. OK, Jasper, down you go. Now sweet kitties, don’t bother that bum over on the bench.”.
With the cats under control, she resumed her humming. Among the passing crowd was a police officer. It was obvious that he noticed the cat lady. It was also obvious that he knew her and saw her as a recidivist offender.
Cop- “Maude, pick up those cats. You can’t use this area as a litter box. I’ve told you that before. Take those cats somewhere else.”
Maude- “You are such a grump. You are mean to me and my kitties. You make me cry.”
Cop- “Oh, and just when I thought things couldn’t get worse…here comes Harry, the Perennial Politician. Maybe I can sneak out of here without him seeing me.”
The policeman walked at a fast pace, determined to look as if he was responding to a call.
Tom, who was leaving after a productive conversation with Frank, had left the lounge and was headed toward the parking lot when he saw Harry addressing a small group of folks being held like hostages as Harry spoke endlessly.
Harry- “Hi, folks, I’m Harry Helpin. Remember, a vote for me is a vote for you. Remember to vote for me on election day.”
Tom had had his fill of the rhetoric and pulled the election-hopeful to the side.
Tom- “Harry, don’t you think you should maybe change your approach and your platform? You’ve been saying the same thing for the past…geese…15 years.”
Harry- “You know- you may be right.”
Angie- “Hello, Hazel, so happy to see you. Why don’t we step to the table and have a drink.”
Hazel- “Love to- let’s take some time to catch up.”
Chico- “Hello, lovely ladies. I ’m Chico, I’m your waiter.”
Angie- “Hi, Chico- I’m Angie, I’m your customer.”
Chico- (laughs)- “What can I get you?”
Angie- “I’ll have a Manhattan.”
Hazel- (sadly)- “I’ll have a ginger ale.”
Angie- “Ginger ale? No one drinks ginger ale.”
Hazel- (sniffing)- “My Murray loved ginger ale.”
Angie- “Ahh…how long has he been gone?”
Hazel- “10 years next month.”
Angie- “You must miss him a lot.”
Hazel- (wait a beat)- “Only when the alimony check is late.”
Angie- “Look at all those white-haired ladies. One is waving to you- do you know them?”
Hazel- “Oh yes- they are members of my charity knitting group. We do beautiful baby blankets, sweaters for preemies and other nice things. Each of those ladies work so hard to do charity work, and now each one is off to a target practice class.”
Hazel- “Yes- every one of those sweet gals carries concealed weapons.”
Masie- “Oh Angie and Hazel, I’m so upset, may I join you?”
Angie- Why, Mazie, hi, sure- have a seat.”
Hazel- “Mazie, what’s wrong?”
Mazie- “I can’t take a shower any more. With all my back problems, I haven’t been able to get in the tub, and now, I can’t shower.”
Angie- “Would a shower seat help?”
Mazie- “No- the problem is every time I get in the shower, my Life alarm goes off. The first time I heard it and answered it, to tell them I’m OK. This morning, I didn’t hear it. I showered and washed my hair. When I got out, I heard something and when I looked out the window, OH MY, there was the fire truck. A big, strong and handsome man was knocking at my door. I had to answer the door, or they would break down the door. I grabbed my robe and my walker and went to the door. I looked affright. The nice young man said “It’s OK- we are glad you are alright. I was soooo embarrassed. (Pause) I want a double scotch on the rocks.
Angie and Hazel- “Getting old isn’t for sissies.”
It was the last bus running for the night. I wondered if there was anything left from the day shift as the bus arrived. To my surprise, the fortune teller (coincidentally…or not) alerted on the bus as the doors opened. She saw, from her earlier encounter, a face that was familiar- it was Sarah, who was engaged with the head-on competition with Jeff, for a position at their place of employment, exiting the bus. She had the appearance of depression as she quickly made her way towards the parking lot. Then, Jeff appeared. He had grabbed a ride from a friend who dropped him off, just as the bus arrived. He saw Sarah moving fast, but he knew he had to speak to her.
Jeff- “Sarah, wait up- I’m sorry about what had happened. Oh, Madame Esther, what brings you here?”
Esther- “I saw in the cards that you would have a wonderful surprise today.”
Sarah and Jeff- “Wrong.”
Sarah- “Why don’t you just leave. It has been a terrible day.”
Esther- “Ah, you wait…and see. This day is not over yet.”
Sarah- “I still can’t believe what happened. I thought I had done a superb presentation before the board. I never missed a word. The timing and the visual presentations were perfect. I know that we- both Jeff and I, were both public relations people. So, what happened?”
Jeff- “I felt the same way. I knew my material, and the same feeling about my visuals. It should have scored a perfect 10. So, where in the world did this guy who got the job come from? Hey, here comes Martha from work. She’s been working there forever. Maybe she has an inside scoop. Hey Martha, any idea what happened today?”
Martha Wayne was an administrative assistant to the executive group at Barcomb Industries, where all three worked. Martha had tried to catch up with Sarah before she got on the bus after work, but the bus was already rolling before she could make contact. She got in her car and literally followed the bus to the Metro 44 East stop, then quickly parked her car.
Martha- “Hi, you two. You’ve both had a very disappointing day. Sorry to hear about it.”
Jeff- “Martha, you always know what’s going on. What happened? Either Sarah or I should have been chosen. Both of our presentations were excellent.”
Sarah- “Thank you, Jeff. So, Martha, who got the job?”
Martha- “I think there is a lot you don’t know. The boss has sold the company.
Martha- “Yes. This was something that had been in the plans for quite a while. It almost happened last year, but the new owner balked as his other investments took a dive. He recovered and made his move. The new VP is somehow related to the new owner and our company is going to be moved to Peoria.”
Jeff- “So not only did neither of us get the job we wanted, but we’re losing the jobs we have.”
Martha- “Correct. I understand that this is going to happen in short order.”
Sarah- “That’s just terrific. How are we supposed to pay bills?”
Martha- “Well if Peoria sounds inviting. Oh, hey, if it isn’t Harry Helpen. Harry, how are you doing?”
Martha had dealt with Harry on multiple occasions as she was the company’s liaison to the city’s board.
Harry- “I’m doing well. And you, how are you?”
Martha- “Fine, thank you. So, how’s the campaign going?”
Harry- “It’s going OK, I suppose, but there are those who have suggested that I do something different with my campaign. Perhaps they’re right, but I don’t know where to begin. I’ve got 6 months to figure that one before the election.”
Martha- “Have you met my friends Jeff and Sarah?”
Harry- “No, I don’t believe I have had the pleasure.”
Martha- “These two are the best of the best in public relations. You might want to talk to them- they can give your campaign a face lift- I personally can vouch for them. I’ve seen them in action and, WOW.”
Harry- “Well, thank you, Martha. I’ve always been able to count on you. Why don’t you two come with me. If you have time, we’ll have a quick coffee here and discuss the future. For the record, I could probably use both of you. And Martha, I’m indebted to you for introducing me to these fine people.
Martha- “Always a pleasure to help you, Harry. I really believe these two are what you are looking for.”
Martha returned to her car as the trio managed to coordinate a meeting time for the following morning. Harry was able to realize that this couple would be an ideal solution to his problem. After he was assured that things could only improve with their inclusion, he left for the evening. The duo remained at their table.
Sarah- “Jeff- do you believe this. One minute, all is lost and the next minute, we have this great opportunity. I’m having trouble believing this. I’m really excited about this.”
Jeff- “So am I. I would have never thought this horrible day could turn into such a great one. And I have to tell you, I really have enjoyed working with you and I really think that, if we got on the same page, we would make a great couple. How would you feel if we were to take our working relationship to a new level? Would you like to have dinner with me?”
Sarah- “Why, thank you very much, Jeff. I would really like that.”
Jeff- “So, what restaurant should we visit for our first date? Oh, look who’s here-hello, Madame Esther.”
Esther- “Hello, Jeff, hello, Sarah- my, you two look happy.”
Sarah- “Madame, you would not believe what has happened. Jeff and I have been offered wonderful PR positions in Harry’s campaign office. We also found that we have a lot in common. We actually really like each other. We’re going to dinner and get to know each other better. What do you think of that?”
Esther- “Who me, I’m not surprised at all. I foresee a wonderful evening for
both of you.”
Remember the age-old adage “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction? While all appeared to be good for Sarah and Jeff, a second situation was developing. A man in dressed in a business suit with a name tag reading “Dan” was now one of only a few people waiting for the final bus of the night to arrive. He was approached by a lady I will call Daisy. Daisy is a chronologically advanced lady who occasionally gets quite confused. She approached Dan for assistance.
Daisy- “Mister, Mister, I need to find bus stop 45 North.”
Dan- “Sorry, Mam, but you are on the wrong side of the street. You need to go back the way I’m pointing, then cross the street and you’ll find the bus stop.”
Daisy - “Mister, I need to find bus stop 45 North.”
Dan- “Go back that way, where I’m pointing, cross the street and you will find bus stop 45.”
Daisy- “Please, Mister, I need to find bus stop 45 North.”
Dan- “Ok, lady- let’s go over this one more time. Go back that way, cross the street and there you are.”
Daisy- “But I want to stay with you.”
Dan- “OK, lady, come on, take my arm. I’ll be more than happy to get you to your
Dan escorted her to her bus stop, and made it back in time for his ride. As he and the others boarded, I realized that the bus stop was virtually empty. There were still late-hour patrons at the café’s lounge from which emanated the sounds of laughter and chatter, but the balance of the stores, kiosks, and the bus stop itself were dark and uninhabited.
The only person in the area was the bum on the bench. While I was pondering what this man’s life was like, I observed a man, dressed in chauffeur attire, walking quickly in the bum’s direction, looking over his shoulders. I had worked my way to a wall area, where I was virtually concealed. I had no idea why this man was approaching the bum. Criminal intent didn’t seem to be likely. It was obvious to me that the chauffeur knew the bum by reputation only.
Chauffeur- “Mr. Daryl Benson, sir, the coast is clear. Your ride is here.”
Daryl- “OK, hey, thanks.”
Chauffeur- “Mr. B, you are an amazing man. You act like a drunken bum, and you pretend to sleep all day, but you have 14 best-selling novels in 10 years.”
Daryl- “Yes- homework, so to speak. Seems to work pretty well, don’t you think?”
Chauffeur- “Yes, and then you go home and right down what you hear, right?”
Daryl- “Oh, I don’t write the books. These people who come here do. I just record their thoughts on paper. Apparently, people who read the books enjoy it.”
Chauffeur- “Wow, what a deal.”
Daryl- “Oops, we’ve got to go. Mrs. B and I have a late formal dinner we must attend tonight. All I have to do is pull off the trench coat. There we go- instant tuxedo. I’m sure glad it’s cool out tonight. Well, let’s be gone.”
I stood in astonishment as the “bum”, now appearing as an elite member of society, made his way into the waiting limousine. I managed to get to my car and quickly used my computer to research the name I heard which would correspond to a book author and- bingo. There it was. No picture to confirm his identity, but what the chauffer had stated was verified by the computer entry.
As I drove home that night, I realized that Mr. Benson and I were, for all practical purposes, in the same line of business.