The Dangers of a Safety Meeting

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Dangers of a Safety Meeting

There is more real pleasure to be gotten out of a malicious act, where your heart is in it, than out of thirty acts of a nobler sort.” -Mark Twain

Kenneth sat in the safety meeting that his work had required him to attend.  Kenneth slid around uncomfortably on the plastic chair that was made more for its stackable-form than for actually sitting.  Kenneth fidgeted and looked to the paper bag at his feet.  Five more minutes, Kenneth thought to himself.  Five more minutes and I’m wrapping this meeting up.

Kenneth didn’t feel that safety was something that needed to be focused on.  His school of thought was that if you were a klutz, then you should be careful.  If you were a coordinated individual, then you should avoid ice patches and falling pianos.  People needed to follow those simple guidelines and that was all there was to it.  Should a person cut their hand with a knife, they should put on a bandage and shut up.  Kenneth was the “heal with duct tape or super glue” type and had no patience for lessons on how to bend with his knees.  To Kenneth, if you couldn’t lift a box, you were a wimp.

Yet, because the pencil-necked little runt was in charge of things and Kenneth wasn’t, the man found himself waiting for the clock to count down to his freedom.  The presenter was droning on about the “dangers of extension cords” and how they were a tripping hazard waiting to happen.  Kenneth looked at the stranger and assumed that he was a consultant.  “Consultants” in Kenneth’s mind translated to “over-paid talkers”.  Kenneth felt his eyes drooping so he turned his attention out the window.

The view was the only saving grace that Kenneth had.  He always assumed that the company shouldn’t have allowed the blinds to be open if they really wanted him to pay attention.  The Stalwart Shipping Company occupied the forty-fourth floor of the skyscraper.  The building itself was the closest skyscraper to the ocean and the view was astounding.  In the distance Kenneth could see ferries lazily shuttling across the water while several smaller boats puttered about the coastline.  Further down the waterfront were the shipping lanes, but Kenneth had as much interest in the docks as he did in the presentation.  He looked at the water, the blue sky above, and back at the water.  If he were taking in the view under different circumstances, it would have been quite relaxing.

The trouble was that Kenneth wanted to be out in the world, not sitting and looking out at the panoramic view.  It was Friday afternoon.  He had a ticket to the baseball game in his pocket.  He had served the company well all week.  No one had gotten past his security checkpoint.  No unexpected visitors had gotten in.  He was a fine employee, a dues-paying union man, and it was almost time for him to punch out.  The company had gotten thirty-nine hours and fifty-five minutes out if him.  They were not going to get much more.

Kenneth rubbed his hands on his knees.  He felt the need to be free growing stronger within him.  He flipped open his phone and compared the time to the clock on the wall.  Both clocks told him that it was four fifty-nine.  Kenneth began to count down from a hundred and pulled the paper sack closer.  He didn’t want to cause a ruckus, he only wanted to leave.  The paper bag was just in case.

Lonnie Johnson, the creator of the Super Soaker.

The presenter was obviously oblivious to Kenneth’s feelings.  He continued to prattle on.  Kenneth could see that all of his coworkers were as anxious to leave as he was.  Well, everyone except the head of marketing, who had arranged the meeting in the first place after he had sprained his ankle.  Kenneth rolled his eyes at the accident.  If they hadn’t been giving tours of the warehouse, the clod wouldn’t have tripped over the crate.  Or the suit could have just watched where he was going.  Kenneth shook his head.  Now why would you ever do that, he thought to himself sarcastically.

“I know we’re a little behind, but we have just a few more slides.”

Kenneth’s eyes lit up with rage.  The presenter actually thought that Kenneth was going to sit there and listen to more of this.  The presenter was wrong.

Kenneth stood up and started walking towards the door.  The chairs around him started to swivel in his direction as the others saw him leaving.

“Kenneth?  We’re actually not quite done here”, the suit stated.

“It’s five o’clock.  I gotta punch out.  Union regs.”

“I’m going to have to ask you to stay.  I’m sure we can work out the details.”

That was it.  Kenneth hadn’t wanted the opportunity to present itself before, but now he almost relished his planning.  With a sudden move, he reached into the paper bag, pulled out a water balloon, and lobbed it into the air.  It landed on the shiny wood desk, bursting open and thoroughly soaking his higher-up in their precious suit, the presenter, and the presenter’s over-priced laptop.

“I said, I gotta go.”

Kenneth walked out of the room and slapped a few high-fives.  He walked out as a few people whispered their appreciation to him.  There would be repercussions, perhaps even some sort of write up.  Kenneth wasn’t too worried.  One of the men that had high-fived him was the union rep.

Safety could wait for later.  Kenneth had a ball game to enjoy.

Swinging to Their Own Rhythm

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Swinging to Their Own Rhythm

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” -Mark Twain

Ralph was the type of person that seemed as ordinary as could be.  His frame could hardly be called tall or muscular.  He was just a little too short to be of average height.  His hair wasn’t buzzed, nor was it shaggy; it was in that rather standard range in between.  With brown hair and a perfect triangle for a nose, Ralph was almost the token definition of non-descript.  If there was anything Ralph was good at, it was blending in.

There seemed to be no job better suited for Ralph than that of a guard.  He spent his days surrounded by beautiful paintings and sculptures in the museum.  When he was feeling lonely he would stroll through the Edward Hopper paintings, when he was homesick he would walk up to the museum’s lone Norman Rockwell, and when he felt like life just didn’t make sense, he’d stroll down the wall of Impressionists.  Ralph liked art a great a deal; he appreciated how these artists could express themselves and their emotions in ways that others could understand.  Ralph had yet to master that a remarkable talent for himself.

Ralph’s skill for being unnoticed, however; that he had down to an art.  As soon as someone started to take out a camera or reach out to a painting, Ralph was right there.  The most common reaction was that of surprise.  Ralph never tried to walk quietly, but his gait hardly employed stomping.  People didn’t register his presence when they passed him in the halls.  Then, before they knew it, Ralph was standing by them; tapping them on the shoulder.  Once they recovered from the shock, many of the visitors putting their hands to their chests, they apologized and cooperated.

Ralph’s supervisors had seen how stealthy he was and how he approached quietly.  The higher-ups thanked him for being so diligent in his role, but asked him to try to make his presence known when a guest was first visible.  They offered that part of his role was to serve as a visible deterrent.  If patrons saw him and were reminded that there were rules, then perhaps he wouldn’t startle the guests so much.  Ralph had heard the suggestion repeatedly, but was unsure how to go about doing so.  A small man with a slight build and a quiet voice could hardly compete with the wonderful canvases and breathtaking installations that surrounded him.

There was one area, one lone activity where Ralph felt confident and bold.  The activity didn’t require him to be tall or strong or good looking.  All Ralph had to do was show up.  There was no competition involved, Ralph only had to participate and his world was made better.  Yes, despite his age, Ralph still received great joy from playing on swings.

Oddly enough, the swings were the one place in the world where Ralph stood out.  Walking around in the crowds and throngs downtown, Ralph was invisible.  His feet would get stepped on, people cut in front of him in line to get coffee, and bartenders always managed to ask for his drink order last.  On the playground, the situation was completely different.  It didn’t matter how many children or families were near the swing sets, if Ralph was there he became the center of attention.  He tried not to take away from the children’s enjoyment and was quick to give up his swing to any youngster that might want it.  Yet, even if there were no kids wanting to swing, Ralph remained a curiosity

The day came where he was about to give in.  Ralph started to wonder if he shouldn’t start enjoying the relaxing swing sets early in the morning when no one was about.  A mother and her small daughters were approaching and the eldest had a wary look on her face.  The playground had eight different swings to choose from, but Ralph still felt like he should disembark to alleviate her concerns.

As he started to slow the swing down so that he could casually walk away, Ralph noticed something.  Two squirrels were gathered at a large oak tree about ten feet away from the playground.  Both animals were standing on their hind legs, apparently arguing with the other.  They chittered back and forth as a lone nut sat on the ground between them.  The chatting and excited noises came out louder and louder.  Suddenly, the slightly bigger of the two squirrels took its right paw, swatted the other squirrel upside the head, grabbed the nut, and then ran off.

Ralph burst out laughing.  He couldn’t help himself.  The action had been so quick, so completely unexpected that he guffawed at their squabble.

The two girls opened their eyes wide.  They ran forward asking Ralph what was so funny.  He pointed to the lone squirrel that was recovering on the ground.  It shook its head and began to run off.  Ralph told the small children about the nut and fight.  The retelling of the story only made Ralph laugh more.  The two girls didn’t fully understand his story, but they laughed along with Ralph regardless.

The mother rushed forward, rather upset that the girls had broken free of her.  She stood there, taking the scene in.  Her two children stood laughing while a stranger in a swing chuckled and laughed with them.  The scene was an odd one, to be sure, but she couldn’t help herself.  She too started laughing.  Before long, the four of them were assembled around the playground enjoying the day and commenting on how nice everything seemed.

Ralph stayed up that night thinking about what had happened.  No one had pressured him to leave the playground that day.  If nothing else, he had made some new friends.  Ralph wasn’t about to invite them over for tea yet, but he doubted that he would feel awkward if he saw them again.  Ralph wondered if the day hadn’t opened up a new opportunity for him.

The next day at work, Ralph tested out his plan.  He didn’t really change anything about himself, but he did take things a bit less seriously.  Ralph stopped worrying about what people would think and loosened up.  For many years he had been walking around, looking at the paintings and chucking at some of the stranger, more avant-garde creations.  And one day, not too far from that happy time in the park, Ralph cracked a joke.

The visitor didn’t laugh out loud.  She didn’t burst at the seams.  She merely smiled and went on with her visit.  Ralph grew a little bolder from that success.  He made another joke.  After that came another.  It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually Ralph became something of a go-to guy for light-hearted visits.  He would kneel down to talk to small children and sometimes tell them a joke.  Ralph was never an intimidating guard, but he became more and more of a good-natured one.  By the next year, Ralph had received several letters complimenting him for making peoples’ visits more fun.  Children especially, thought he was quite delightful.  He only spoke a sentence or two, but those few phrases made all the difference.  And when he laughed, everyone around him chuckled along.

Ralph is still the same person that he always was.  He probably won’t stand out in a crowd.  Folks who don’t know him pass him by.  He is still “that guy in line at the grocery store” or “a neighbor I know”.  But once people get to talking to him, they laugh.  For Ralph, it’s a small thing; one he rather likes.  And now he fits right in with every other kid, big or tiny, that likes to play on swing sets.

 

A Better View

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Better View

As one who has often felt this need, and who has found refreshment in wild places, I attest to the recreational value of wilderness.” -George Aiken

Marie had called it quits for the day.  The constantly ringing office phone, the boss who had a seemingly endless pile of projects for her; and then there was the commute.  She rolled her eyes at the thought of her drive.  It wasn’t just the traffic; it was also the construction that had eliminated half the lanes for what she thought were pretty cosmetic upgrades.  Marie was done.  She needed an escape.  She only had so many vacation days left but her mental health demanded that she take one.

Thus, early on Tuesday morning, Marie climbed into her car and revved up the engine.  Her normal business attire had been shirked for shorts, tank top, and shades.  The cup of coffee that she usually guzzled down by eight a.m. had been replaced with a bottle of water.  She had already sent an e-mail to her boss that something had come up and she wouldn’t be able to make it into the office.  Marie purposefully neglected informing him of the details.  Vacations were meant to be taken, she decided.  She’d worry about the consequences some other time.

Driving down the interstate, she giggled at the rows of cars.  They were all heading towards downtown while she was driving speedily in the other direction.  As the vehicles became less and less frequent, the mountains in the distance grew closer.  Even on the warm sunny morning, she could still see plenty of snow on the majestic peaks.  Marie’s car bounced and bumped along the gravel road.  An hour after she had left her house, she had arrived at the park of her choosing.

A cursory glance at the lot revealed only three cars.  Marie nodded in satisfaction.  That meant that the trails would be almost entirely clear and that the park was, in theory, open for her boot-clad feet.  She signed in, paid for her parking, and took herself and her backpack into the woods.  She left the real world and her cares behind with the car.

The longer she spent on the dirt path, the more life seemed to make sense.  What did it matter that the blind date from last week had been shockingly incapable of chewing with his mouth closed?  Who needed a successful date when there was a perfect waterfall that could sooth and relax her?  Did it matter how many voicemails were on her phone when there were chipmunks to chuckle at and watch as they skittered from tree to tree?

The petty everyday tasks and annoyances were put into their proper place.  Mighty trees that had withstood centuries passing and forest fires showed her that there was more to the world than a week’s “to-do” list.  The world kept turning, the trees kept growing, and the mountain snow would still melt and feed into the cascading rivers below.

As if to further punctuate the point, a doe scurried up the hillside.  It had no need for trails.  It leapt, bounded, and bounced between the trees and over any rocks in its way.  The doe stopped for a moment on the path.  It glanced calmly at Marie, blinking once, and then twice.  Marie wanted to step forward and get a closer at the animal, but she knew it would dart away.  The two female creatures stood there for a minute, each measuring up the other.  The doe’s ears turned up the hillside, obviously aware of something.  Just like that, the doe changed course and took off up the mountain.  Marie gave the doe the thumbs up gesture as it left.

The two hour hike gave way to a breathtaking view.  The sound of waterfalls had died down.  Marie wondered just what this lake was going to look like.  Then it came into view.  “Holy…”, was all Marie could manage to say.  In front of her was a panoramic view of a dozen peaks.  The lake, having thawed just recently, lay cool and calm with small chunks of snow dotting the surface.  The white covering still dominated the terrain.  That didn’t stop the rocks from trying to break through.  As the sun glistened in the clear blue sky, Marie beamed in response.  She spread out on a giant rock and lay down, using her pack as a pillow.

Bring on the sun, bring on the warmth, bring on the freckles, Marie thought to herself.  This is the life for me.  Marie knew the scene was too perfect to last.  She refused to acknowledge that truth quite yet.  Her batteries simply needed a recharge and the best power source in the galaxy was happily obliging.  With sunglasses on her face and heat waves rippling off her skin, all was well with the world.

An Affair Worthy of the News

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

An Affair Worthy of the News

Be faithful to your love and you will be recompensed beyond measure.” -Albert Schweitzer

“What do you think we should do?”

“Make out.”

“Tom”, Gretchen said with exasperation.  “We made out yesterday, now we need to be serious.”

“You think I’m not?  Well if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m always serious about making out.  I am all about serious.  I think we should do some serious making out.”

“Funny guy”, she said.  “But we need to come up with some sort of a resolution here.”

Tom lay on his side looking at Gretchen who was doing the same.  The weather was far too nice to be ignored and the couple had taken a blanket to a small patch of grass.  Tom saw his relaxing day off turning into a, “we need to have the talk” ordeal.  He took his right hand off of Gretchen’s hip and reached all the way around her back.  He rolled her on top of him and locked his arms tightly behind her lower back.

“What are you doing”, Gretchen asked.  A smile eked out of the corner of her mouth, proving that she was only partially resisting.  “We’re supposed to be talking out a plan of action here.”

“I am”, Tom replied.  “I just want to make sure that I have your full attention.  I know how you get distracted.”

Gretchen’s penchant for being distracted was what had caused the two to meet in the first place.  She had decided that the life of a reporter would be enough of a hustle to keep her brief attention span occupied.  The bosses liked her enthusiasm and had asked Tom to show her the works.  Neither of them had meant for anything to happen, but they certainly weren’t complaining at the results.  Tom had started off by showing her the press box at the arena, showing her the best secret places around the city, and generally sharing with her the secrets that came from years of reporting in they city.

In return, Gretchen had let Tom have an outlet for his playful side.  At work he was seen as reliable and professional; one of the true grunts that would work until the job was done.  Gretchen loosened him up.  Whenever she rushed off to explore some new sight in the city, she grabbed him by the hand and took him racing along with her.  Her laugh, the way her long hair bobbed up and down in the loose ponytail as they darted from one place to the next; it was all too much for Tom to resist.  Everything had come to a head at the boxing match.

Despite Tom’s protesting, his editor had enlisted him to help out while one of the sports writers was on maternity leave.  Things were quiet in the features section and the boss assigned Tom the wrestling match.  When Tom started to vent his annoyance to Gretchen over their morning cup of coffee, she excitedly revealed her secret love of the spectacle.  A quick call to the stadium resulted in a second press seat being obtained.

Tom was astounded by the fun he had at the event.  Gretchen was the main reason why.  She reached a level of excitement Tom could scarcely believe.  She screamed and cheered, calling each wrestler by name and crying for such attacks as “the whirlwind of destruction” and “the bang-town boom”.  Tom had tried to understand the actual proceedings for the first half hour, but he ended up watching Gretchen.  She was clearly having the time of her life and she only became more enthralled as the night went on.  Finally, as the victor pinned his weary opponent, the crowd echoed in one massive cheer.  Gretchen clutched her hands in front of her, her tiny hands balled up into eager little fists of glee.  She looked to Tom, unclenched her hands, and lunged at him.  Her right hand grabbed the back of his head and she pulled him close, her lips fiercely pressing against his.

Tom felt her warm kiss send sparks throughout his body.  He hadn’t expected this kind of attack at the arena.  Gretchen pulled away, realized what she had done, and blushed.

“Sorry” she apologized.  “The spandex, the chaos, the crowd”, she gestured around her.  “I guess I sometimes forget to censor myself.  Please don’t be mad?”

The reply came quickly as Tom put his hand through her hair and leaned close.  “I won’t if you won’t.”  Slowly, making sure he was okay, Tom pulled her towards him and the two enjoyed their exchange in the madness around them.

Ever since that night of kissing, the two had been having the time of their lives.  Their different assignments and pre-existing obligations kept them from spending as much time together as they liked, but they managed to sneak in a date or two each week.  If nothing else, they tried to always grab a quick cup of coffee at work.

Work, although it was the reason the two found each other, was also the biggest problem looming in front of them.  Gretchen had stated in her interview that she had big ambitions, and she had meant it.  From the day she sat down in her business suit and answered the questions asked her, the goal had always been present in her mind.  She wanted to be an editor.  She wanted to be the one making the shots and keeping tabs on all the activity around town.  She cringed at the idea of being trapped behind a desk, yet that was a sacrifice she thought she could handle.  That drive and passion was appreciated by the higher-ups.  But the part that they bristled at was the obvious affection that Gretchen had for Tom.

The newspaper had a rule.  The rule made sense.  The rule was strict.  And for Gretchen and Tom, the rule was a problem.  The rule stated that no employee should be in a relationship with an employee that could be answerable to the other.  Tom showing Gretchen around town and taking her places; that the bosses could excuse as a professional courtesy.  However two employees out and out dating while one made choices that could affect the other; that they wouldn’t have.  Gretchen had made informal inquiries to Anne, an editor she had grown to respect and like.  Anne explained it as softly as she could; management wouldn’t let an editor date a reporter, even if they weren’t assigned to the same sections.  The company wanted to avoid any and all appearances of nepotism, no exceptions.

Gretchen had tried to have fun with Tom, and that part had succeeded entirely.  The choice they would have to make soon continued to loom over their heads like a giant typewriter.  Any day it was going to fall and one of them might be crushed.  Gretchen warned Tom as they walked towards the park.  A decision had to be made.  She would prefer it to be made today.  Tom nodded quietly; a sign that he was trying to figure out a way to phrase the thoughts in his head.  That was one of the things Gretchen loved about Tom.  His thoughts always came out perfectly formed because of all the time he spent developing and arranging them in his head.  Tom rarely went through drafts or needed revisions; his writings, just like his conversations, emerged from his head ready for their audience.

“Here’s what’s going to happen”, Tom said.  He watched as Gretchen tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her.  She pulled her long hair out of Tom’s face, only for it to fall back towards him after she had readjusted it.  “Leave it”, he said.  “Here’s what we will do.  We will continue to fall deeply and madly in love.  It’s that simple.”

“Okay, she said as she ran her thumb against the line of his jaw.  And when I become editor?”

“Then I’ll quit”, Tom said quietly.

“Wait, quit?”  Gretchen broke free of Tom’s arms and sat next to him.  She stared down at him in disbelief.  “You can’t quit.”

“Sure I can”, Tom replied.  “People do it every day.”

“You can’t quit”, she repeated.  “You’re great at your job.  You love it.  You’ve spent years developing all those contacts.  What would you do if you quit?”

“I could still write”, Tom replied.  “I put some feelers out and there’s freelance work available.  Plus, my agent seems to think that there’s a book or two in this noggin of mine.”

Gretchen was stunned.  “You talked to your agent?”

“Well yeah”, Tom said has he sat up.  “You’re not the only one who’s been thinking this out.”

“Do you really want to quit, though?”

“No, I don’t”, Tom replied sadly.  He saw Gretchen was about to argue, so he spoke first.  “But I will.  You and I both know that editor jobs are rare in this city.  The media outlets just aren’t what they once were.  If you think a job is going to open up for you, then you have to seize it.  Period.”

“I don’t want you to have to quit”, Gretchen said.  “You’re good at your job.  You enjoy it, I know you do.”

“Very true”, Tom replied.  “But I enjoy you more.  And I care about your happiness more than a job, no matter how good I am at it.  Of course, if you ask my current editor, he may disagree with just how talented I am.”

“Don’t do that”, Gretchen snapped.  “I hate it when you put yourself down.”

Tom smiled.  “Yeah, I do.  Sorry.”

“You really plan to quit?”

“The way I see it, I have two choices.  I can keep seeing you, keep building on this wonderful stretch of, what, seven months?  Or I can have my job.  My job is interesting, but it isn’t everything.  I’d rather have no one calling me, offering jobs, than not have you call me at the end of the night.  It’s really that simple.  I’m supposed to support you, right?  Cheer for you when you want to have something for yourself?  Well then, consider it done.”

“You”, Gretchen said as she choked up, “are amazing.”

“No, the version of me that’s with you is.  I like myself more when I’m with you.  You make me feel more happier, smarter, and more confident.  Life is better when you’re with me.  It’s that simple.  You make me feel attractive, and it’s not just because you’re so stunning.  Which in case I haven’t told you today; you are.  The sun shining through your hair?  It’s pretty great.”

“You’re not so bad yourself”, Gretchen replied.

“Oh, I know.  I’m kinda perfect”, Tom said as he lay back on the blanket.

“Says the guy who forgot my birthday last month”, she retorted.  Gretchen lay back down and nestled next to Tom.  She put her head on his chest as they watched the few clouds above float lazily by.  A large cumulus in the shape of a sitting camel seemed to wink at her, wishing her the best.

“I did forget”, Tom admitted.  “But I promise to buy you flowers when you get promoted.  I’ll have them delivered to the office.  It’ll be a grand spectacle sure to embarrass you.  Hey, maybe you can use it as a reason to fire me?  Wouldn’t that be a fun story for our coworkers to gossip about?”

Gretchen rolled her eyes and sighed.  She wanted to be annoyed at his bad joke.  She couldn’t; Gretchen was far too busy enjoying a quiet day with a man who truly loved her.

Being Constructive with Downtime

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Being Constructive with Downtime

Sooner barbarity than boredom.” -Theophile Gautier

Lance was bored to tears; which as any construction worker knows, is not something a guy wants to be on the worksite.  It was the start of a long holiday weekend and traffic had done an admirable job of clogging up the highway.  For Lance, this meant that the shipment of resized I-beams was stuck in the sea of minivans, campers, and RVs that towed along an extra car “just in case”.  Lance had been up in the crane operator since four that morning and the desire to take off early kept biting at him.  Of course, due to numerous delays like the one that was occurring at the moment, the building was behind schedule.

The long hot summer had been made “interesting” by the seemingly endless list of problems.  The sub-contractors that decided they were too busy to run electric were by far the biggest inconvenience.  The buried bones that caused them to call up the authorities didn’t help matters either, but once they determined that the land used to be a horse ranch, the matter was cleared up rather quickly.  (Lance kept telling people that the horse’s tailbones didn’t look anything like human fingers, but no one had listened to him.)  And no one on the site could forget Joe, the out-of-control apprentice who desired it would be great sport to fire off the riveting gun at anyone who annoyed him.  Joe had been dismissed and essentially banned from any construction gig in the next four counties, but he had left a wake of destruction behind him.  Wallboard had needed to be replaced, meetings had to be held about safety, and a few of the men had been banged up rather severely in the attempt to sedate Joe.

ImageIf Lance were being honest, he was rather shocked that they weren’t more set back than they were.  He liked to think his skill as a crane operator was a key reason why.  He never had to make a second attempt.  The many seasons of operating the crane had honed his technique and the crane’s hook and cables stopped exactly where he want when he wanted.  He had watched other operators try to line up their target only to have to adjust and move and adjust again.  Each time Lance shook his head and patted himself on the back for his shining record.

For all the congratulating, Lance still found himself sitting where he had been.  The perch above it all afforded him with a pleasant view, but it was a view he had taken in far too much lately.  The same buildings and patches of grass that were visible today had been there the last four months.  He enjoyed his on-high vantage point at the top of the crane tower, but he had run out of interesting sights to take in.  The mountains off in the distance, towering above the pithy domiciles in the forefront, were hiding behind a thick layer of crowds.  Lance expected large droplets of rain to begin accumulating on his front window at any time.

Looking down to the ground, he thought he saw the work crew walking around.  Sure enough, there was the boss wearing his green construction helmet.  Everyone else had been comfortable with the standard colors.  Red, orange, white; all were high-visibility rated helmets and they all worked just fine.  However the boss had decided that he should special order his green helmet.  He claimed that his gear, “made him feel in touch with the earth that they were working with” and that it, “helped us all respect and reconnect with the dirt”.  Fluffy comments like that made Lance ill.

He wanted to dig a big hole, put in some concrete, and make sure the walls wouldn’t fall over.  Lance was no crazy tree-hugger, he just wanted to build four walls and call it a day.  His two sons were driving his wife nuts and she kept asking him how long he would have to pull double shifts.  The job was taking Lance away from his kids which was putting a strain on Laura, who in turn put the strain right back on him.  A nice view wasn’t worth much to Lance when he’d rather be playing football with his boys.

The options were plentiful for Lance.  He could wish that his crane was magically a mile longer and then he could pick up the truck that was stuck in traffic.  He could use his precision aim to grab his boss by the shoulder and lift him up into the air until they all realized that the day was wasted and the crew could all go home.  Or he could do what made the most sense and try to relax.

Land decided that wasn’t a half bad idea and tried to make get comfortable.  He cranked up the volume on the radio and pulled his phone out of his pocket.  He placed the phone on his chest while he laid back and let his head drape over the back of the seat.  He checked one last time to ensure that the control panel was turned off and then he used it to rest his feet on.  Kicking back and closing his eyes, Lance decided that he might as well try to get a little nap in.  He decided it was better to take a nap than to vent his frustration on all the nearby parked cars.  He was quite sure he could hit them all with the portable restrooms strewn about, but he decided being employed was a better option.  Lance might have been bored, but he wasn’t that bored.  At least, not yet; it was only four in the evening after all.

The One-Time Lucky Coin

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The One-Time Lucky Coin

“For a change, lady luck seemed to be smiling on me. Then again, maybe the fickle wench was just lulling me into a false sense of security while she reached for a rock.” -Timothy Zahn

Tad was hungry.  It wasn’t the sort of hunger that would wreck a person’s body if it went unfed, but at the moment if felt quite important.  If Tad was being completely honest, he would admit that it was a boredom-induced hunger.  He was off work in a few hours.  Tad had just eaten two hours ago.  Yet, he knew that if he took a short little walk to the vending machine and back it would be five minutes where he was actively doing something.

Tad walked into the break room and found it empty.  He was relieved at the absence of coworkers and the judgments they might make about his snack foods.  It was hard to sit in a staff meeting and command respect when the whole board room knew you’d had cheesy-fluffs for lunch. 

Rifling through his pockets, Tad noticed a lack of funds.  Normally he tried to keep a dollar bill or two on him, but he had spent his cash on the morning’s coffee.  The only thing resembling cash that Tad had on him was his nineteen seventy-four silver dollar.

To Tad, the metallic circle was not money.  When homeless people asked him for change, Tad never thought about the coin even though he had it with him every day.  Tad used the silver dollar to keep himself occupied.  Most people have a gesture or a quirk that they let run wild when they are bored and Tad was no exception.  He would take the coin and flip it through his fingers, toss it in the air, flip it behind his back only to catch it every time; the coin had survived over a decade with Tad. 

The problem was that the chocolate bar was staring Tad in the face and looking quite tempting.  The granola bars, as usual, were fully stocked.  The over-priced gum remained in its spot along the bottom of the vending machine.  What concerned Tad was that there was only one chocolate bar left.  As soon as he returned to his cubicle, someone else would get the idea to go grab a snack.  The way Tad’s luck went, that person would buy the chocolate bar that he felt like eating. 

Looking at the coin in his hand, Tad thought about their shared history.  The subtle changes that the many years had worn into the coin were probably invisible to others, but they spoke of a history between the object and Tad.  The coin’s engravings and bumps were just a little smoother than regular silver dollars.  The countless hours of the coin rubbing against his finger had softened the coin; sometimes Tad thought that it warmed up faster than other change.  The silver dollar was the first item that Tad put in his jean pocket.  The small corner of his right pocket was always occupied by the coin.  The fabric compartment that most considered useless always held the silver dollar that was ready to be used.

Tad’s hunger won out.  He had other silver dollars at home; a stack of them, in fact.  He could always grab another one.  For now, he was hungry.  He looked to the vending machine and examined the coin slot.  He began to wonder if the coin would even fit in the small opening, let alone be read correctly by the vending machine’s programming.  Tad felt himself involuntarily holding his breath as he put the coin in the slot.  To his surprise, the coin fit and registered in the machine. 

“Congratulations”

Tad looked to his right where the voice had come from and leapt in surprise.  There, standing next to him, was a leprechaun.  Tad wanted to argue the point, but the little man fit all the stereotypes.  He had a deep red beard, green attire, and seemed to be hovering a few feet off of the ground.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Peadar the Vending Leprechaun, here to grant a wish for ya.”

“Wait…”  Tad was understandably confused.  “A vending machine leprechaun?”

ImagePeadar sighed.  “What can I tell ya; times are tough.  Tourism’s been down in the last few years and there are only so many pots of gold to guard.  Those older leprechauns just refuse to give up their cushy positions, leaving the rest of us to fight and scrap for any leprechaun gig we can get.”

Tad scratched his head.  “But… a vending machine?  And why don’t you have an accent?”

“We’re trying to acclimate to your marketplace.  Do you know how long it took me to swap from saying ‘bonny’ to ‘cute’?  Regardless, the corporate folks felt that you might find us more approachable if we didn’t throw you too many linguistic curveballs.  So here I stand before you, culturally neutered.

“The machine itself, well that’s where things get a bit more interesting.  Obviously, not just any old person can get a wish from this machine whenever they want.  The manufacturer could never service as many requests as they’d get if any dollar bill would do.  No, they can only handle a slim margin of regular snackers, so they made the money selection very particular.  Only a silver dollar will bring me around.”

Tad started to think about the pile of silver dollars he had sitting at home.  Plans and dreams started leaping to the front of his mind.  Peadar sensed what was going on in Tad’s mind.

“Now you just slow your noggin down there, lad.  Seeing as how I work for a business, there are a few more limitations.  We have to cross a few t’s and dot a few more i’s to make this all work out.  Rule number one; it’s strictly a one per customer deal.  Once you dropped that coin in the slot, you had your shot.  Rule number two; there’s no prize for networking.  You tell any of your friends about it and it’ll count as a referral and be folded under rule number one.  There’ll be no sharing this information with your friends and charging them a finder’s fee.  Everybody has to discover it for themselves.”

How is he really going to know if I tell anyone? Tad thought to himself.

“Oh, I’ll know”, Peadar said with a laugh.  “Then there’s rule number three.  You get one wish.  That’s it.  It’s a one wish agreement.  Don’t go wasting your wish asking for another set of wishes.  Don’t think you’ll get the standard three wish combo.  That’s genii, not leprechauns.  The only reason you’re getting the one wish instead of gold is that we’re all out of pots, cauldrons, and tea kettles full of gold.  Got it?  One wish.”

Tad considering arguing the stringent rules that the leprechaun was throwing at him, but the look on Peadar’s face showed that he wasn’t about to change his mind.  The company had set the rules in blarney stone, and they were unlikely to bend for him.  Peadar tapped his foot in midair and made a show of looking impatient.

Tad went through the list of things that he could wish for.  He could ask for a house, but he didn’t have the time to upkeep it.  He could ask for a servant too, but Tad was rather sure that the leprechaun and his bosses didn’t allow such frivolities.  He’d like to marry a supermodel, but something in Peadar’s eye made Tad suspect there’d be a catch.  Tad might end up married to a foot supermodel who cursed like a sailor or a supermodel that had an annoyingly shrill voice.  Tad wondered what it would like to be smarter, but he was afraid that the leprechaun would make his head swell up three times too big.  Tad wanted many things from life, but looking like a reject from a nineteen fifties science-fiction film was not on his list.

Tad felt his hand starting to twitch.  Of course, now that he wanted some clarity of thought, he had no coin.  Tad wondered if someone wasn’t trying to teach him a thing or two about loyalty.  If he hadn’t spent the silver dollar, it would be here to help him mull over things.  On the other hand, if he hadn’t spent the coin he wouldn’t have triggered the leprechaun.  It really was quite the conflict.  Tad’s right hand felt uncertain and abandoned. 

I wish I had my coin back so I could think better.

The thought entered his mind before he could stop it.  Peadar grinned.

“Done!” 

Tad’s silver dollar reappeared in front of his face and started to fall to the ground.  Years of conditioning kicked in and Tad automatically reached out and caught it.  Peadar tipped his hat and disappeared before Tad’s eyes.

Tad stood there, rubbing his thumb against the eagle’s wing on the tail-side of the coin.  He felt somewhat reassured by the familiar object returning to his hand.  Tad knew that later on he would curse himself for not thinking up a better wish.  The immediate problem that bugged Tad was that he was still hungry.

Early Dawn

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Early Dawn

There is nothing comparable to the endurance of a woman. In military life she would tire out an army of men, either in camp or on the march.” -Mark Twain

The alarm clock roused Dawn from her peaceful sleep.  She lifted her head from the warm flannel-clad pillow to confirm the time.  To her disbelief, it was time to get up.  She let her face collide with her pillow and let out a slow moan of frustration that was muted by the fabric.  Dawn’s cat, Chaos; laid by her waist, unmoving.  The cat was used to it all and was undisturbed by his bedmate’s protests.

After she had allowed herself an extra minute or two of pretend sleep, Dawn slowly counted to five.  She had learned the old trick in a drama class and it worked well.  She told herself that she was becoming more awake as she counted to four.  She told her arms and legs to start getting blood flowing through them as she reached three.  She adjusted her neck and fingers ever so slightly as she counted to two.  When she reached one, she sat up and opened her eyes.  It had mostly done the job, but she still felt sleepy.  She rolled out of bed, doing her best not to disturb Chaos, and let her legs hit the floor.  The rest of her body followed suit and she found herself standing on the carpet.  She stood at full height and reached her fingers to the ceiling.  Chaos lifted his eyes just enough to survey the terrain.  No food was in sight, so he stayed on the warm comforter.  Dawn looked at the cat enviously and then plodded into the bathroom.

Flipping on the light switch, Dawn was met by the blinding lights above her mirror.  She had never wanted three bulbs above her mirror; she had even unscrewed one of them, but the two remaining lights filled her sleepy eyes with splotches.  Dawn blinked away the intrusion and let her eyes adjust to the light.  She took a comb in her hands and began her brief routine.

Dawn was an attractive woman.  Most people seemed to think so at least, and several fellows had been forward enough to express that opinion in myriad ways.  Dawn thought she was all right and liked to keep it that way.  When she had brushed all of her long brown hair back, she pulled it into a loose ponytail behind her.  It was hardly a fashion statement, but it would do for the morning’s routine.  She took her glasses from their nightly perch by the sink and placed them on her small nose.  Her brown oval-shaped eyes still had tired lines and a hint of redness.  Dawn sighed in annoyance but reminded herself that it was four in the morning; what did she expect?  The dimple on her chin agreed, but felt it wasn’t its place to speak without being spoken to first.

Dawn returned to the bedroom and went towards her dresser.  Chaos hadn’t moved an inch.  His tail had been bothering him, so Dawn wasn’t surprised that he lacked any vim or vigor.  She was confident that he would remain the sentinel of the mattress until he heard the can opener leap into action, then he would do the same.  Dawn opened the second drawer, pulled out a pair of black yoga pants, and put those on in place of her plaid shorts.  Her U2 t-shirt was regrettably abandoned as she pulled on her snug green tank-top.  She threw the shorts at the laundry basket, missed, and threw the shirt in.  She felt that one out of two wasn’t so bad and headed towards the living room.  She decided on her way that the shorts added contrast to the brown carpet and therefore it was a fashion choice, not her laziness; that allowed them to remain where they had landed.

Dawn found her yoga mat just where it always was.  The corner of her living room was quiet.  There were no decorations here, simply her mat and the window.  A serene view of the lake was visible and Dawn was once again pleased that she had picked this apartment.

Before her workout, she looked down at her belly.  She had a few more pounds on her than she liked.  Most of it was due to her pool schedule.  She used to like to go in at six a.m. and avoid any of the crowds.  The water buoyed her, calmed her, and drowned out the outside racket that life often brought.  Recently though, her gym had added a morning class.  She wasn’t sure exactly what they were doing, but it seemed like some sort aquatic jazzercise.  Dawn had considered joining in so that she could be in the water, but she wanted calm and quiet while the group preferred bouncing and flailing to boy bands from the nineties.  Dawn hadn’t swum in months and she missed it.

Also, Dawn liked carbs.  Most of all, she enjoyed doughnuts.  People would bring them to work, they would sit there and look inviting while she shopped for bagels; it was as if they were calling to her.  If she didn’t eat a few maple bars, then clearly she was depriving them of their purpose.  She couldn’t sleep knowing that she hadn’t done her part to help out the hard-working doughnut population.  Also, the pizza shop that had opened in the lobby of her office was not helping matters.

Dawn was still in fine shape.  Her years of yoga had honed her arms and legs into slender shape, even if her lack of exercise had caused to her lose some of her tone.  She could feel the muscles in her stomach waiting to come forth; she just needed to help them along.  Dawn liked to be in shape.  She was always happier when her body was ready for anything.  She had to admit that winter had slowed her down.  It was hard to go jogging when the thermometer wouldn’t reach above the thirties and without her pool she had found herself rather couch bound.  She still did some yoga, she still went hiking, but her routine was lazy.  Winter had come and gone, spring was in full force, and Dawn felt summer rapidly approaching.  One extra bit of motivation to get back to her former physique was Louis.

Louis and Dawn worked together and they had just clicked.  They were from two different states, two different backgrounds; two different upbringings. Somehow the two had fallen into synch almost immediately.  She liked how casual he could be in an office of stodgy coworkers while he liked the insights that she offered that no one had ever recognized before.  They had spent lunch together, gone on a few hikes together, and even been to see a play together.  He was just tall enough for her to put her head on his shoulder and he always made an effort to open doors for her.  She liked his style and had been expressing herself in frisky ways recently.  Louis was often telling her how nice she looked or how beautiful she was, so Dawn wasn’t afraid of him being too reserved in his displays of affection.  Still, if she could regain the stomach she had at this time last year…  Dawn smiled to herself.  It would be fun to see Louis’ jaw drop; the poor guy.

Dawn pulled her exercise ball close to her and pretended she was going to do a push-up on it.  She placed her legs shoulder-length apart and lifted one knee up to her chest.  She repeated this several times and then switched legs.  Then she lay on her mat, let her arms go loose at her side, tucked her stomach in while she breathed through her chest and let her knees fold.  She tightened the muscles in her core as she lifted her waist up into the air, lowered it, and repeated the motion as much as she could.  She then laid on her side, her out-stretched body taking up the length of the mat.  She told herself that she was looking pretty good, and turned onto her side.  Each leg got its time to be lifted into the air in a long, graceful line.  As Dawn wrapped up, she started thinking she should probably cut back on the doughnuts.  If nothing else, they were getting expensive.  She decided that she would limit herself to two of them a day.  Or maybe three…, she considered.  There was no need to make rash decisions, after all.

Dawn felt a few beads of sweat drift down her face and welcomed the cooling trickles of moisture.  She reached for the water bottle that she hadn’t finished yesterday and took long, refreshing sips.  She needed to remember to drink more water too.  She added that to the running to-do list that was constantly asking for her attention.  If there was one thing Louis brought to her life, it was that he distracted Dawn from her list of endless tasks.  She appreciated that about him.

Dawn sat on the mat, her legs crossed and intertwined.  She put the water bottle aside and put her hands on her knees.  As she took deep breaths she tried to block the world from her mind.  She pushed away her work day in front of her.  She discarded the car repairs she needed to have done.  She fought to remove any thoughts of her pregnant sister who was far too young to be having a kid.  Finally, and with a bit of regret, she stopped thinking about Louis and how he looked when he wore that blue shirt and hadn’t shaved for a day.  It took her a minute or two, but soon it was just Dawn and the quiet.  Chaos would bother her soon enough.  Her pet would demand to be fed soon enough.  For now, she simply breathed in and out, focused on nothing, and enjoyed this tranquil moment as the sun started to shine through her window.

Blind Love

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Blind Love

Ted wanted to punch the face in front of him.  For months this face had been promising him things, smiling, and then either being caught in a lie or changing his mind.  Politics, Ted thought as he angrily crumpled up the front page and threw it on the ground.  In front of him was a bowl of oatmeal that seemed determined to frustrate him.  He hadn’t added enough water to his instant breakfast and so a congealed pile of flavored goo sat on the table.  He could have attempted adding more from the faucet.  Past experience, though, had taught him that doing so would only turn this paste-like substance into a watery marsh.  Ted grumbled and attacked the oatmeal by jabbing his spoon into it.

This day was not going to go well for Ted.  He had decided that already.  Bumping his noggin on the showerhead seemed to have been the catalyst.  Slipping with his razor while he was trimming his moustache had certainly not contributed to his morning.  Ted had been left with to follicle options; trim the other side to look like some character from the nineteen-twenties, or just shave the whole thing off.  Ted rubbed his finger against his naked upper lip and dreaded his day at work.  If there was one thing Ted loathed at work, it was being evaluated.

Things would be different if Ted’s bosses had only appreciated him and all that he did.  He fixed his boss’s errors before big presentations.  That never stopped his superior from taking full credit.  He stayed after hours to finish up unreasonable piles of work.  His boss told him that he needed to work faster.  On a normal day, Ted liked his job well enough.  He found the task of getting rows and cells of numbers all lined up and inputted to be rather calming.  Unfortunately his boss was anything but calming and would often run through the office with whatever crisis he had created.  Then there were the “revolutionary new ways of doing things” that he was so thrilled to share with his underlings.  Ted shook his head at all of these.  How many different ways are there to type numbers into columns?  It is what it is, let it be.  This man, who was only paying dues until he got promoted to some other higher-up job, was the one who would be picking Ted apart and deciding how little of a raise Ted would get.  The oatmeal bore the brunt of Ted’s frustration.

At that moment, Ted felt a pair of arms slip around his neck.  If he were anywhere else, he would have responded with panic and terror.  However this was a morning ritual.  He glanced at the long fingers that slid past his neck, down his chest, and then wrapped around him.  Locks of hair; light brown, slightly wavy, and still tangled from sleep, brushed softly against his chin.  A familiar voice spoke quietly in his ear.

“So I said to him, ‘That’s not my tire, that’s my mother-in-law!’”

Ted said nothing to his wife.  He only sat forward in his chair and avoided their routine of making up punch lines to non-existent jokes.  Taylor released him from her grip and poured herself a cup from what remained in the coffee cup.  She sat across from her husband and sipped quietly.  Taylor was the morning person, Ted was not.  She knew by now that some mornings he needed to be a grump.

“So… really looking forward to that evaluation, huh?”

The look Ted gave her cooled the temperature of the oatmeal considerably.

“Got it.  Well, just think.  After this one is all said and done it will be another three hundred and sixty-four days until you have to hold your hat out to ‘the man’.”  Taylor took her hands from the blue porcelain coffee cup and put them together in a bowl.  “Please suh”, she said in a bad English accent, “may I ‘ave some mor’?”

Ted felt a smile break out on the corners of his mouth, but he quickly subdued it.  He was irked.  He was going to stay irked.  He would not let his wife roust him from his irked state.

“Nothing, huh?”  Taylor went back to sipping her coffee.  Her voice had quieted down as she realized her husband was in no mood for jokes.

“I don’t think you understand how good you have it”, Ted commented.  “Your boss can’t really assign you work to take home.”

“True”, she replied as she put the cup down and stirred her black coffee.

“And how often do you have to work mornings?  I know, I know, you have the breakfast event here or there.  Still, there are plenty of days when being a caterer is synonymous with sleeping in.”

“Yes, because I work my fair share of nights.”

“I know”, Ted said with a hint of resignation in his voice.  “You have to work around people, but you don’t have to keep coming back to the same dolt asking you for progress reports.”

“Nope”, she answered.  “I just have a different guy every day asking me what a nice gal like me is doing serving a sad salmon like that.”  Taylor shrugged.  “We all have the parts of work that we don’t like, honey.”

“I just, aah; I don’t feel appreciated.  All the work I do and he thinks I’m this lazy slob.  I work, I earn my paycheck.  I keep waiting for morons like him to go away.  And they do.  They get promoted and they hire another moron just like them to take their place.”

Taylor sat unmoving.  To any other person her lack of gestures would have been a sign that she had no opinion on the matter.  To Ted, the body language spoke volumes.

“What?”

“You know what I think”, she said as she lifted the cup as if to punctuate her statement.

“You think that I should quit.”

“I think that if you’re going to devote forty hours a week to something it should be fulfilling.”

“The work is fine.  The people; you know.”

“Really?  All the people?  The ones’ we’ve had over here seem quite pleasant.  How many times have we gone out with Barry and Lois?”

“Okay, so it’s just the boss.”

“And you can’t see past him?  You can’t get over him and focus on the rest?”

“I could if he would realize how much work I do.  He doesn’t appreciate me.”  Ted was thinking he should go back to sulking in quiet.  The morning was ticking away.  He was that much closer to entering the pit of doom where his boss and his ego would enter and only one would leave victorious.  He looked across to Taylor and watched her sitting there with her fingers intertwined.

Taylor’s left finger started to rub gently over her right.  It was the smallest of movements.  Any person walking by would not have noticed.  For Ted, that one gesture started a wave of realization.

Perhaps it makes perfect sense that Taylor’s hands were what shook him from his depression; they were the reason he had worked up the courage to meet her.   Ted and his friend Mac had been walking through the mall.  Mac had bought some backpack from an outdoors store and Ted had been trying to decide whether or not he should take the plunge and buy a kayak.  On their way out of the mall, they had passed by a piano that was sitting unattended.  A little placard placed on the grand said that the pianist was on break and that he would return within half an hour.  Yet, there was a woman sitting at the piano playing the keys like Ted had never heard before.

Mac and Ted had approached, each of them for their own reasons.  Mac kept pointing at Taylor and elbowing his friend, while Ted couldn’t stop listening to the music.  Before he knew it, he found himself standing behind her and looking down as her long fingers danced and flitted over the instrument.  As she finished the song, she looked at Ted who was clearly inside her personal area.

“Help you with something?”  Taylor had a hint of annoyance in her voice, but it was not a cruel tone.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, he had muttered as he back away to a more reasonable distance.  “I couldn’t help but notice your fingers.”

“My fingers”, she said questioning him.  “I haven’t heard that one before.”

“No, I didn’t mean that.  I wasn’t trying to hit on you.  I, I mean, you have great hands.”

“Thanks”, she said starting to get up.

“How long have you been playing here in the mall?”

“What, that?  That was me having fun.  I don’t know where the musician is”, she said.

“You’re not even a professional?”  Ted couldn’t believe it.  “You do that for fun?”

“Sure.  Is there a better reason to play?”

Image

Sunset Stroll On The Beach by Andrew Schmidt

With that, Ted had been smitten.  It had taken a few dates and a bouquet or two of flowers, but Taylor had fallen as well.  Ted’s initial theory had proven correct; hands like those belonged to a woman with a quiet grace and a peaceful way about her.  He remembered something that he all too often forgot.

“Is that what I do to you?”  Ted pushed aside his oatmeal bowl and leaned across the table.

“Huh?”

“Do I take you for granted?  Do I forget to see how much you do for me and how amazing you are?  I probably do.  You take care of the house; you work.  Yet here you sit and listen to me wallow.”

“You’ve had your finer moments”, she said softly.  “You’re not so bad, most of the time.”

“Thank you, but c’mon.  I don’t always see you, do I?  I look right through you some mornings, don’t I?”

“It’s okay”, Taylor replied.  She slowly and unintentionally swallowed the lump in her throat.  “We’ve been married for eight years.  We take each other for granted.  We aren’t the youthful, mysterious people that we once were all twitter-pated for.”

“Yeah”, Ted replied.  “Still, at the end of the day, I don’t tell you how much I love you.”

“I still know”, she answered.  “And I love you too.”

“Nope”, Ted said as he stood up and the chair fell backwards.  “I owe you.  What if I asked you out tonight?  What would you say?  You probably get tired of this house, right?  We should go out, dress up or something.”

“Ted, you don’t have to.”

“I know I don’t have to.  Do you want to?  Please?  Let me spend some time with you?”

“You aren’t tired of seeing me every day?”

Ted stood up, walked to the other side of the table, and kneeled in front of her.  He took Taylor’s hands in his and looked her in the eye.  “No.  Not even close.”

Taylor’s eyes started to water and she pulled her hands away so she could wipe her face.  Ted had obviously clued into a sore spot with her.  It was time to make good.

“Okay.  So I’m going to go to work.  I’m not going to worry about this evaluation because it doesn’t really matter.  You do.  We do.  And when I get home we’re going to get all dressed up, go out, and eat in a fancy Indian restaurant.”

“Ted”, Taylor warned, “you hate Indian food.”

“It’s not my favorite”, Ted admitted.  “However I happen to know that it’s yours.  That’s enough.”

“Really?”

“Really”, he reassured.  “You matter; you.  Not work, not politics; you.  So I should spend time reminding you of that.  Come on, when was the last time we dressed up for no reason?  I haven’t brought you flowers in I don’t know how long.  You deserve it.”

“Can I make fun of your mother?”

“If you don’t, I will”, he said.

“Then hurry up and go to work”, she said as she got up from her chair.  “You’re a good husband, do I tell you that enough?”  Ted watched as she lightly put her fingers under his chin and let her thumbs rub across his upper lip.  “Plus, I like you without the mustache.”

Ted’s day was not going to be a great one.  He was already trying to fast forward through his office routine.  Tonight though, Ted pondered.  Tonight held the potential to be pretty amazing.

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