“Hey Professor,” Bob asked Jim Sutton, reading at the end of the table, who had been a college teacher before getting drunk one too many times at university functions. “What’s your opinion of the new guy… Bradley?”
Jim marked his spot in the book with a finger and looked blearily up, scanning the break room to make sure they were alone. “To paraphrase Plato, ‘He knows many things, but all badly.’”
“How in the hell did he get hired as a manager?”
Jim shrugged and blinked bloodshot eyes. “It’s not always what you know… sometimes it’s who you bl-”
Bradley waddled in, pants pockets pooching out to show their white lining. That he stood there with hands on hips made his too tight pants even more obvious. “Break’s over gentlemen!” His voice had a curious hitch to it; the word came out sounding like ‘genitalmen.’
Bob stoically watched as Jim smiled and put his book away in the satchel he used to carry his lunch. He knew Jim wasn’t going anywhere, but he had to get the fuck out. Surely there was something better for him out there. He returned to his cubicle.
* * *
Bob glanced up at the clock over Rita’s desk. She had one of the preferred locations along the wall where no one could sit behind her. Lucky her. An hour of thinking—resisting the siren song of Google and job websites—had come to nothing. Zip. Nada. No epiphanies other than that another search… another recruiter’s effort… would likely—surely—lead to the same situation he was in now.
He pulled his hands away from the keyboard, swiveled and reached into his open briefcase on the credenza behind him for the notebook—a hand-me-down gift—he had carried since graduation. He had thought to use it as an address book adding to the family information it already contained: a mishmash of addresses, phone numbers, and notes about the individuals that had been apparently gathered over the years. It was still in its small pocket with the cover snapped. Taking it out, his finger passed over its scuffed black leather then flipped the pages. He smiled at some of the names, frowned at others and shook his head at those he didn’t have a clue about who they were. He stopped at the letter G. There was only one name on that page. Hers.
She had been the one who had written all the information down and wanted him to have it. But he hadn’t updated or even used the notebook; who uses paper anymore.
He removed the folded slip nestled between F and H. As she had given him the little notebook she had told him. “I’m always here to help you.” She then pulled a sheet from a pad in that huge purse she carried everywhere and had written a phone number. “Call if you need me. It’s always answered, day or night,” she had handed him the page. Even older now, he didn’t know if she still would help. Especially if he went to see her after all these years of no contact with so little to show for what he had done since last time she had seen him.
The clock now seemed frozen. Stuck. Bob scanned the room… the tops of heads… hair of all shades. Some without any or with thinning locks; Louise the one female example. He visualized how that had happened over the years, working away—the clock going too fast or not moving at all—in the same place doing the same jobs. Losing hair and waistlines thickening. He wondered what people thought as they gazed at the back of his head with its beginning circlet of loss. Still too young for that damn it, he thought as he swept a palm over it to smooth the hairs that sometimes stood straight up like trees surrounding a forest clearing.
He looked back down at the page and thought how demanding she had been when he was a child and so specific about everything. Though we fought and argued, I had always done as she asked and always called her G. For Genevieve. With a last glance at the clock, he got out his phone. On the third ring—at the moment he remembered the six-hour time difference meant it was 11:00 PM there—a high, clear voice answered, “Yes?”
Bob swallowed, “G?” There wasn’t a reply but he heard her breathing. “Grandmother?”
SCENE DRAFT—THE D’ARKANE FILES— EXCERPT ENDS