Quot;disorderquot; and 7.., p.3
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       "Disorder" and 7 Other Flashes of Character, p.3

           J. Timothy King
 
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“But don’t let that stop you. If you want to get him, I’ll stick up for you.” There’s just a drop of vitriol in her voice.

  No, the girl shakes her head. “He hasn’t done anything to me.” Sadly.

  A pause.

  “He’s probably intimidated by you,” Dawn says. “You’re too good looking, out of his league. He’s probably afraid your family has an army of lawyers or something. I wouldn’t mind that,” without missing a beat, “seeing him taken down a few pegs. I don’t even know why Tom keeps him around. He does drugs, doesn’t work. He’s probably out back toking up right now.” Stares at the ceiling, thoughtful. “Don’t think he’s related. Tom must owe his family or something.”

  The girl laughs. Something about the way Dawn said it must have struck her funny. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I didn’t mean to laugh.”

  “No, that’s okay,” Dawn says. “You gotta maintain your sense of humor around here.” Dawn is smiling.

  “Actually, the job isn’t that bad. It’s just Samson, that’s all. I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong idea. I didn’t mean to unload on you.”

  “What’s so wrong about that?” the girl asks.

  A customer arrives. But before serving him, Dawn says, “Would you like to grab a bite after work?” Then almost as an afterthought, she adds, “You know, you’d make a good shrink.”

  Perhaps to Dream

  Head down in the middle of her solid mahogany desk, eyelids blocking the mid-morning sun from the searing pain behind the bridge of her nose, the expanse of her office morphed into a loosely packed suburb of rich greens and blues. A month of late-night facts and figures melted into the insanity of random imagination. Her Starbucks dark-roast tasted like Kahlúa. The bottle of store-brand ibuprofen became a mailman in sexy shorts, delivering packages of happiness.

  “We finally made it!” she bragged.

  He wrapped strong hands around the back of her shoulders and her aching neck muscles, and firmly massaged. “Mmm,” she groaned, and stretched and relaxed her neck.

  “I’ll pick up the kids and meet you at six?” he said.

  She nodded, laid back on her mahogany deckchair, closed her eyes again, and sipped her Kahlúa. A long, deep sigh.

  Then thunder boomed from the overcast sky. “What the hell do I pay you for?!” The voice pierced through her brain.

  “Ssh,” she mumbled to the intruder, with his doughnut gut, hulking shoulders, and close-cropped greying hair. “Inside voices, please, Bart.”

  “Hey, you do the wine, you pay the time.” His voice remained as loud as before.

  “I’m not hung over, and that doesn’t even make sense,” she said.

  “Right!” The thunder felt like it was getting closer. “Look, I don’t care what you do on your own time, just don’t let it affect your work performance.”

  Breathe deeply. Jackass. “What do you want, Bart?” “We need to move Project Limerick up another month. I need an updated schedule by five this afternoon.” He smirked.

  “Half my staff is out with the flu,” she said. “And I don’t even know what we can trim to do it a month faster.”

  “We aren’t trimming anything. You’ll just have to rearrange the schedule and work faster.” He turned to leave.

  “In what universe?” Pang! A burst of pain shot through her left eyeball, and she squinted.

  “Look,” he said, “I don’t care what you do in your free time, but when it starts interfering with your job performance, I begin to get concerned. You can sleep at home, not at work, or you can find a job that doesn’t interfere so much with your personal life. Got it?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I’m leaving at five, so get that schedule to me.” He slammed the door on his way out.

  A tear appeared at the corner of her left eye. She sniffled.

  When was the last time I had “free time”? Anger. She couldn’t remember.

  Nausea tunneled through her torso.

  When was the last time I had a personal life? She remembered the last boyfriend she had lost. He was nice. Not every man is a jackass.

  That thought consumed her last bit of emotional energy.

  Now on automatic, she walked through through the cubicle passageway toward the exit. Bart stood in an employee’s cube-office, and she took just enough time to shoot him a “Fuck you!” on her way past.

  She slumbered for over 18 hours, and dreamed sweet dreams.

  The next morning, over craigslist and coffee, the company CEO called her. He said most of the department had walked out the previous afternoon, inspired by her act of defiance. Her fault.

  Then he said, “So Bart’s not with the company anymore. Can you take his job? At least for a little while?”

  Baby Boy

  Ted Jackson reclined on a park bench at lunch thinking about what it was like to turn 30.

  The overcast sky had provided him a brief respite from the drizzling rain, and so he decided to stroll through a nearby park during his lunch hour. He wasn’t much hungry, because his mind was full of thoughts, about Clydene, about love, about progress, about failure, about meaning.

  When he had sat on the bench, he felt its moist coating leech through his pant legs. Normally the feeling would make him jump up in disgust, but today, he just didn’t care one way or the other. He didn’t suffer the chill breeze that gusted in his face. Neither did he enjoy the moist, fresh aroma of a late summer day cleansed by the rain. His mind was too full of other thoughts.

  Ted didn’t usually feel discouraged, because he didn’t allow himself to feel discouraged. But sometimes life’s frustrations mounted and built inside of him, until he did something stupid, and that’s what had happened today.

  He blew up at a client, a wealthy, important client whom he was representing in an ongoing criminal case. He almost lost the firm the case, which was only saved by removing Ted from it and promising to discipline him severely.

  He was never going to make partner this way.

  And it wasn’t like he really did anything wrong. Yeah, maybe he did overreact a little, but it’s not like the guy didn’t have it coming to him. This jerk-wad was guilty as sin, wanted a miracle acquittal, and refused to level with Ted, withheld fundamental information about the case. Ted should have just told him to get lost, but his boss wouldn’t have heard of it.

  Ted shook his head at the stupidity of it all.

  Then his mind wandered to Clydene. He had met Clydene last month, packing envelopes for a political campaign. Ted usually didn’t have time for such activities, but there were some causes he was passionate about, and he made a little time once in a while for them. That particular weekend, it paid off, because he met Clyde, long, fiery hair, curly, sweet-smelling springs of red silk, running down past her shoulders, with a pale, freckled complexion and brown eyes, delicate, arched eyebrows, and a voice that struck like a cutlass into his soul. Even now, Ted longed to reach out and touch her, because she had touched his soul as no other woman.

  When they went out that one time, she seemed to understand his mind. She spoke the words he thought, which he would never say. He had never met someone with whom he had connected that deeply. It excited him with a whole new series of thoughts and feelings.

  But that was over.

  They hadn’t broken up— Hell, they had hardly dated! And they were still friends. But Ted had his career to think about, as did Clyde, along with her community work. That’s where their priorities were. Neither one of them was ready to become attached. So they decided to go their separate ways.

  That was another decision that didn’t seem to be working out as it should.

  Today, Ted turned 30, and he really thought by now he would have made partner and gotten married. But he wasn’t, not even close, and he even felt his life slipping backward. He actually considered giving up on what he had, changing direction completely, because he did not feel as though he had accomplished anything worthwhile. Thirty years, a milestone: if not an accomplishment, then a setback.

  Eve
n so, if one were to regard him, one would not be able to discern the myriad thoughts swirling within his mind, or how much they disturbed him, because though Ted had no trouble telling others what to do, he rarely revealed to them the inner sanctum of his mind.

  Ted’s attention was suddenly drawn to an elderly Jewish gentleman, wearing a kippah, who came hobbling along the path, with each step supporting one side of his body with a cane, which made a clacking noise as it hit the asphalt, then dragging the opposite foot as he unsuccessful tried to lift it. C-Clack, scrape. C-Clack, scrape.

  He stumbled up to the bench on which Ted was reclining. “May I sit for a moment?” he asked with a smile.

  Ted nodded. “Sure. Help yourself.”

  He collapsed on the bench, and before he hit the seat, he began making small-talk with Ted. He spoke in a gentle, soothing voice that mesmerized, like the voice of a hypnotist. He talked about the weather, the rain, the sun, the flowers. Ted nodded, hardly aware of what the man was saying, but also no longer thinking his own thoughts.

  “Everything all right, son?” the man said.

  “Huh?” Ted must have drifted off.

  “Am I boring you?” He chuckled.

  “No, but nothing in my life is working as it ought to.” Ted had already spoken the words before he realized what he was saying.

  “Hmm.” The man paused, his hand resting on his cane.

  He continued. “We have a story like that in our tradition.” “Yeah?” Ted asked.

  “There was a man named Elkanah, who had two wives. One of his wives, P’ninnah gave him
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