The bad day…conclusion

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.

The bad day…a Mike Valentine tale

“What can I get you?” the bartender asked. She had startled Mark Valentine. Despite the fact that a drink was all that he had wanted for the last 2 hours, he had been distracted by the Sox game on the corner TV.

“Good evening, Liz. What are the beer specials this evening?” God, how he hated to ask that question. The Crown Royal bottle on the top shelf was waving and calling his name but he was on a copper budget. His gold tastes would have to deal with it.

“Coors Light and Bud Light draft are $2.50 each.” She seemed to be on edge tonight, not as friendly as usual. He would know, he was as regular as Norm from Cheers.

“Bud Light, please.”

“You got it.”

Within seconds, a tall mug of cold, GMO infused, foamy piss water was in front of him accompanied by a basket of tortilla chips with Salsa. For anyone else, that’s another $2.50 but Liz always took care of him. He took a long sip of his beer and scanned the bar. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular. Maybe a new face or something to indulge in his favorite past-time. People watching. His scan was nearly complete as he turned his gaze back to the Sox game.

As he did so he inadvertently caught the gaze of the guy sitting beneath the TV. He was careful to not stare back but instead focused on the TV. He occasionally found himself darting his glance at the man and each time his gaze was met. This annoyed him. Why does every dickwad sitting under the TV think I’m looking at them? Where the fuck else am I supposed to look?  He glanced over again and the fellow looked particularly hostile. Mike was not in the mood for a confrontation, it was the very last thing he wanted after today. So, he chose to look straight ahead at the mirror behind the bottle rack. As cranky and depressed as he was when he came in, it was now worse. He was disgusted by the round face and bloodshot eyes that stared back at him. Relax, Mike. The mirror adds 15 pounds.
Yeah, but how many mirrors am I in right now?

He decided that he had to do what he hated most, play with his phone like “one of those” people. Mike Valentine was opinionated and old-fashioned and the phone thing conflicted him. He needed it and hated it at the same time. He saw the cell phone as an Orwellian nightmare, herefused to be glued to it and he an had open disdain for those who were. But in this case, drinking alone at 3:45 on a Tuesday afternoon it really was no time to stand on principle. As he pulled the phone from his pocket he saw that he had missed 3 calls. 1 from his boss and 2 from home. He made a mental note to call his boss back. He chugged the remainder of his beer and motioned to Liz for another. She was there with a fresh one immediately.

“Nice hat.” Mike had forgotten that he was wearing his Red Sox Scally cap. He loved the hat and got a lot of feedback whenever he wore it.

“Thanks Liz. I like it a lot.”

“Get it at Fenway?” she asked.

“Yup, thieving bastards got me good on it.” He had, on a whim gone into the gift shop at Fenway Park, home of his beloved Red Sox while on business in Boston looking for that very hat and paid stupid money for it.

“It looks good on you. It’s a keeper.” She smiled at Mike, there was a sadness behind it. As she walked away she said “My brother would love it.”

The comment seemed odd to Mike, almost as if forced. Less conversational and with intention. Whatever. Remembering that he had to return his boss’s call he pushed his stool back and stepped outside. He walked to the end of the concrete walkway to escape any noise from the patrons entering and leaving. Mike knew from experience that this was the best spot to call his boss and lie to him. The nature of the call would dictate how big the lie will be. Mike hated this part, and it was of no comfort that he had done it a lot lately.

Mike Valentine was in a rut at work. His customers weren’t busy, so consequently his portfolio was suffering. His competition was killing him and Mike was worn down by the constant “No’s” from his customers by about noon each day. Deep down he knew that he was a great salesman. But he had lost faith in his product, his managers and most important, in himself. He hated going to work lately. He hated going home also. Especially when the money wasn’t coming in. Every day that he could knock off early he did. Without permission, of course, which is why he was dreading making the call. If asked where he was, what would he say?  He wasn’t where he was supposed to be so whatever he said it will be a  lie, a lousy fucking lie that he thought he was above. He took a deep breath and dialed his boss.

to be continued…