This is a continuation of yesterday’s post. I welcome you to catch up here.
Mike had stepped outside to call his boss. Fortunately, he was only asked a question about a particular customer. Was Mike aware? Did Mike have a plan? When would Mike act on it? He was aware, he had no plan (he lied about that also), and he would act on it tomorrow. They exchanged pleasantries and ended the call. Mike looked around. The thought that his boss was on to him and sitting in a car across the parking lot waiting to bust him always occurred to him. It wasn’t an entirely unlikely scenario, managers spy on their employees all the time. He decided that at this very moment it would be a relief, shrugged it off and went back to the cold, non-judgmental beer patiently waiting for him inside.
Ninety minutes and 4 beers later Mike had still not called home. He mused that he would rather fill his asshole with honey and squat on an anthill then go home. The fighting about money was out of control. She wasn’t entirely wrong, Mike was clearly in a rut and he hated his own lack of effort to fix it. What bothered him was her methodology, and her timing. She never let up and started with him at the worst times. So here he sat, avoiding…well…everything and everybody.
As Liz came over to offer him a refill Mike engaged her. “What was that about your brother you mentioned earlier?”
“Yeah, sorry about that. It was awkward as hell, I know. I said that he would love a hat like yours. He actually mentioned it to me a while back that he wanted one.”
“They’re available online and at the giftshop.” Mike explained. “Although they’re a bit pricey.”
“He doesn’t have a computer. He lives in VT and he’s broke.”
Mike was not proud of the next thought that popped into his head. The word “deadbeet” had come to mind. “Sorry to hear that.” Mike offered.
“He’s dying of Testicular cancer.” She said. She was tearing up. “I want to visit him but I can’t get out of my shifts this weekend.”
Mike was floored. He had successfully beaten Testicular Cancer 15 years earlier. He had been lucky. His heart ached for Liz. The conversation ended on its own awkward volition and Mike drank some more. When he finally decided to go home, he summoned Liz for his bill.
She brought it to him and he again offered condolences for her brother. She thanked him and walked away. He waited for her to walk through the swinging doors to the kitchen. Once she did, Mike quickly took his hat off, stuffed the bill and money in it and left the hat on the bar. He walked out as fast as he could.
As he sat in his car, composing himself for the fresh hell he was about to drive home to, Liz appeared at his driver’s door. She knocked. He opened the window.
“You shouldn’t have done that. I can’t possibly accept the hat.” She was crying.
“Yes, you can. And you will. Go to VT. Fuck your shift, fuck your boss, fuck all of it. Go see your brother.” He paused. “Give the hat to your brother and I hope he will feel better on some level.”
“Thank you so much.” She stammered. “It means so much to me.”
“Exactly.” Mike Valentine said. “To me it’s just a hat. To you it’s something that actually matters. I’ll be here this weekend, I hope I don’t see you.”
She forced a small laugh.“I hope not also. Thank you again.”
Mike smiled at her and put the window up without saying a word. Liz walked back inside.
For the first time that day he had done something that felt right. He liked the feeling. It was refreshing, invigorating. He wanted more of it. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.