Sunday, August 31, 2014

Late One Tuesday Morning - II

Bill finally made himself turn the knob.  He stuck his head through first with a questioning look on his face.  Allan, a slightly younger man than Bill, had a baby face with blue eyes and the kind of just slightly longish but neat boys haircut you see on senators and congressmen who are trying to sell their fading youth to constituents.  He was leaning his forehead on hands touching at the fingertips when Bill sidled through the door.  His white oxford shirt was opened at the collar and the tie was loose.  Kind of early for that, thought Bill.  Must be something major going on.

Allan looked up and pushed back in his chair with one arm, rubbing the fingers of his other hand on their adjoining thumb.

"Hey Bill.  Shut the door and take a seat."

No smile.  The drawl was still missing.  Bill, affecting an air of slight concern, sat down in one of the two plush guest chairs facing the desk.  He looked at the shelves behind the desk, replete with books on maritime topics and finance.  Allan liked to still think of himself as a man of the sea, even though his navy career had ended years ago.  Bill, thought about remarking on the books but casual bonhomie would've been a mistake, and he remained silent.

Allan just looked at him for a moment and briefly bit his lower lip.  He lowered his eyes to his desk, squared his chair up to the edge, folded his hands, looked Bill straight in the eyes, and lowered the hammer like an officer of the deck bracing up an unruly sailor..

"Bill, what's going on with Tina Boyle?"

Bill looked into the blue eyes and he involuntarily licked his lips to relieve the coppery taste of fear.  Part of his mind went blank, even as another part knew exactly what his boss was asking about.  He wiped his hands on his trouser legs and looked at the floor, mentally stalling for time, hoping that Allan would relent a little with a hearty "Come on now, man, out with it.  Tell me what's been goin' on."

Bill looked up.  Allan was still staring at him, unsmiling, his lips a thin fleshy slash across a face completely devoid of anything resembling compassion or the possibility of a knowing old boy wink-and-a-smile. 

"Well, uh, what do you mean, Allan?"

Allan just stared back, not blinking, not talking. 

Bill tried to stare back, but broke under the strain and looked all around the top of Allan's desk, but never at Allan.

"I was just trying to be friendly, Allan.  You know, a little harmless lunch date.  I mean, uh-"

Allan cut him dead.  "Bill, you and I both know that's a load of crap.  You've been dogging that young lady practically since we hired her.  The whole damned company knows it.  She's told me a couple of times you stare at her constantly when she's walking down the hall.  She caught you at it the other day on her way to the restroom and you just grinned at her even after she frowned at you.  She's seen you passing her door, staring in several times a day.  She heard you and Timmons talking about someone's ass the other day near the copy room.  What the hell!  Now you ask her out?  Did you touch her?"

"No!  Allan, look . . . I pass by her office going to and from legal.  You know that.  So I look in now and then.  She's nice looking gal and-"

"See there's your problem, man.  She's not a "nice looking gal," she's my personnel manager.  Get that through your thick damn' skull.  Listen, I pay you a lot of money and you're worth it when you stick to the job, but I don't pay you six figures to act like a goddamned dinosaur.  Shit, man, you're married on top of it.  Jesus!"

Allan paused, letting his temper subside.  He got up and strolled over to the window.  Bill just sat there, angry at being accused but with immense guilt and stupidity washing over him like a wave of dirty oil.  He tried to think of something to say to defend himself, but he knew it was useless.  Allan was an easy going guy, but moral to the hilt.  Bill knew he might explain away the flirtation, but flirting while married was beyond the boundary.  He stayed silent.

"Nothing more to say, huh?"

"Not really." Bill said with a heavy sigh as Allan returned to his chair and sat down again, leaning back and making a triangle with his finger and thumb tips.  He nodded as he stared directly at Bill, who stared at the tassels on his Italian loafers.

"Look at me, Bill.  Show some guts, fer chrissakes.  It's time for you to gather things up and take a break.  Take a two week break without pay.  Get your shit together.  Report back to me in two calendar weeks, at which time you will apologize to Miss Boyle here in my office, in front of me.  Got it?"

Bill nodded, but his mind was miles away.  Dark thoughts rolled through his mind.  He couldn't let on to the wife.  She'd never go for a casual reason of just taking time off.  She'd smell a rat immediately.  In fact her natural inclination was to smell a rat any time he broke the daily pattern.  He'd have to get on the train each day and ride in as though everything was normal, or his home life would be hellish.  He'd have to find somewhere to kill time and just lie low for the day then get home at the normal hour.  He noticed Allan was talking still.

"Bill?  Hey!  You there?  Finish off the morning, bring active cases here, and be out that door by Noon, and stay the hell away from Personnel.  That's all."

Bill rose quietly and went directly out without a look back.  He felt empty and incapable of speech.  He had the impression that someone spoke to him on the walk back his office, but he couldn't be sure who it was or if they had really spoken at all.  He walked in without a word to Jay, shut his door and sat heavily in his chair.  He tried his best to be angry with Miss Boyle, but his overriding thought was that there really was no fool like an old fool, and now he felt every inch that fool.  How had he not caught himself?  He was known in the business as a sharp negotiator and a great reader of people.  Clients asked for him because he never missed a detail, never missed an opportunity.  And now?  Now he was exposed as a flailing old horn dog who couldn't keep a midlife crisis to himself.  He leaned on his desk, buried his face in his hands, and dove deep into the self pity and self flagellation that swiftly took over his life. 


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Late One Tuesday Morning - I

Bill came as close as ever late one Tuesday morning.

It was a sparkling day in San Francisco, and as Bill strode briskly into work that morning he felt that sparkle.  His office near the Ferry Building looked out on the waterfront and every color, every shade of blue and green and even grey seemed to pulse in the early sunshine.  Bill breathed deeply through his nose until his nostrils burned and took a few minutes to lean back in his chair and take it in.  Life was grand.  His six figure salary seemed easily earned, his health was good, and even at 55 he still caught the occasional glance coming his way from the ladies.  He was particularly proud of the fact that Miss Boyle the Personnel Manager, seemed most interested.  She was about 30, with blue eyes, a mane of dark brown hair, darkly tanned and athletic and he couldn't keep his eyes off her at managers meetings.  His loins pulsed at the thought of her.  She was friendly, and that was all so far, but Bill thought he detected interest in the way she looked at him so directly and how she always stood up so straight in his presence, as if showing off her figure.  No problem, Bill thought.  She's just a little unsure since I'm married. 

Married.  Yeah, well, the wife was ensconced at her practice in Oakland most days.  No chance she'd get wind of a little harmless flirtation.  A lunch date here and there, and one never knew.  Things could develop and Miss Boyle looked like she might play along.  Bill sipped his coffee, thought of her playful smile and considered all the rich possibilities.  Thoughts of his wife evaporated as images of pressing Miss Boyle up against the wall of the copy room inflamed his senses.  He couldn't get out of his mind the meaningful, sensual semi-frown she'd given him just the other day as he'd watched her walk down the hall after saying hi to her.  She hadn't replied, just looked over her shoulder as she swayed down the hall in her tight skirt and those incredible shoes with the short heels and the straps above her ankles.  He pictured her small waist and tight, athletic a-

Bill's secretary, Jay, stuck his head in and asked for some advice and shattered Bill's reverie.  Damn!  Jay was a machine for work but Christ! his timing could stink.  He'd just started picturing what he'd do with her and was laying out his plans for asking her out when the efficient little bastard had to stick his head in remind him it was time to get to work.

So, the morning trailed by.  Case files came and went, and just before 10, Bill, spurred on by his early morning daydreams wandered down to Personnel to find out what the delectable Miss Boyle was doing for lunch that day.  It would be great to get her out to the pier with a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of wine from the Ferry Building.  No one from the office ever went over to the waterfront, and they could go way out to the bench on the end and discuss things.

Bill lit up his best "casual" smile as he approached her desk, careful to get close but not too close.  He was sure she could see his partial erection, born of his copy room fantasy, from where she sat.  It was a perfect set up.  A physical girl like her would definitely get a charge from what he was feeling, no doubt of it, he thought. 

"Hey Tina!  How's it going this fine morning?"  Bill thought she seemed slightly alarmed. 

"Oh, hi Bill.  Everything's great, umm...." and after a brief pause she looked at him questioningly and spread her hands apart, keeping her eyes elevated, which mildly disappointed him.  "Did you need some help with something?" That was a little disarming, but no matter.  She'd come around.

"Huh?  Oh no, just wanted to know if you'd like to have lunch today.  I thought we could get some sandwiches and a bottle of wine and go out to the pier.  It's a beautiful day." 

She smiled and blushed slightly.  Bill was briefly transported with success and his heart beat a little faster until she said, "I'm sorry but I'm going to lunch with the girls here today.  Sorrree!"

She kind of sang this last word, and tilted her head while shrugging.  She seemed like a coed; like a member of the swim team and Bill was even more enchanted, staring at the freckles on her nose but not noticing her two office mates sharing a look and and one shaking her head with a rueful half smile.   

"Oh, that's cool.  No worries.  Maybe another time."

Miss Boyle didn't say anything, just smiled.  Bill stood there for just a beat longer than normal, briefly thinking he'd been permanently rebuffed in the nicest possible way, but ultimately refusing to believe that even as the thought lingered.  He was about to suggest coffee when her smile disappeared as though she'd never smiled in her life and she swiftly rose from her chair and went to speak with one of her crew in the corner cubicle. 

Bill returned to his office feeling vaguely uneasy and disappointed.  His partial erection was long gone, and his confident stride slowed and shortened to more of a plod. He could feel his brows knit in a frown as he attempted to revive his copy room fantasy, but it was no good.  Something in her demeanor had robbed him of even the ability to fantasize about her, and that disturbed him nearly as much as her rejection.  He tapped his desk with a pen, stared out at the Ferry Building, watched a container ship pass under the Bay Bridge and began to get angry.  She can't do that to me, he raged inwardly.  She's been toying with me all this time and now won't go out with me?  No way.  This line of thinking continued for some minutes and eventually morphed into the notion that she was just playing hard to get.  She wanted to build up the heat, and get him angry so he'd really deliver when the time came.  He'd have to plan carefully and play a few games himself but when she finally came around it would be worth all the effort.  Oh yes.

So Bill finally talked himself into trying again, then forgot about it as realized he had a pile of work to run through and a couple of reports to finish.  He worked like a dog for an hour and a half then the phone rang.  It was Allan, the general manager, his voice devoid of it's usually easygoing semi-drawl.

"Bill?  Come on down to my office.  We need to talk."

"Sure.  What's up?"

"Just come on down."


That was kind of alarming, but it could be an emergency with a case, or perhaps there was an audit coming.  Still, there was something in Allan's voice that suggested something had really gone wrong.  Had someone died?  Was a coworker in trouble?  Had he done something wrong?  Bill nervously tried to imagine what it was as he relieved himself before continuing on to the "Throne Room" as they all jokingly referred to the GM's office.  By the time he was checking in with Jill the executive secretary, Bill was truly rattled, surprised at how powerfully his guilty conscience was reacting, but not able to remember anything he'd done wrong.  His hand shook as he turned the knob on Allan's door.