Bill Marshall had stepped outside to call his boss. Fortunately, he was only asked three questions about a particular customer. There was a crisis of course. Was he aware? Did he have a plan? When would he act on it? He was aware, he had a plan (he didn’t), and he would act on it tomorrow. They exchanged pleasantries and ended the call. Bill looked around. The paranoid 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 Bill had still not called home. There were two more missed calls and a voicemail that he could only assume was hostile. He mused that he would rather fill his asshole with honey and squat on an anthill than go home right now. The fighting about money was out of control. She wasn’t entirely wrong, They were clearly in a deep financial rut and he hated his own inability to fix it. What bothered him most 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 Bill engaged her. “What was that about your brother you mentioned earlier?”
“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 gift shop,” Bill explained. “Although they’re a bit pricey.”
“He doesn’t have a computer. He lives in VT and he’s broke.”
Bill was not proud of the next thought that popped into his head. The word “deadbeat” 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.”
Bill was floored. He knew something about this. 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 Bill 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, he 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,” Bill 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.”
Bill 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.