Good morning to you where ever in the world you are today. It’s Saturday here in the Coachella Valley. So, I have edited a little more of the story. It did bring back a few good memories. I did model a few of the characters after people that I knew. There actually was a Mike in my life. His name was Michael Hutter and he was an artist that used to do the art work for police shields. He was a regular customer at the Brass Elephant. I met him around 2000-2002 at the Brass Elephant at first when I was just a customer and then when I started working there, he and I became good friends. He did have a slight resemblance to writer, Stephen King. Mike gave out the best advice. Many people thought of him as just the drunk guy that sat at the bar. I knew him as Mike, my friend. Often, I would take him home as he never drove when he was out at the bar. He and I used to sit outside Gem City and smoke and bullshit. I hope that he did get to retire and enjoy that part of life, even for a little bit. He often talked about retiring as he used to say he was getting long in the tooth. He called me a year before he died and I regret not going out to Monrovia, CA to visit one last time. Anyhow, I started writing the story, long before he died and editing this morning, reminded me of him. I also used a bartender/momma that I met while working at the Brass, Phylis. She taught me so much about so much. With her training me, actually holding me up and cheering me on, I could only go up. She knew I needed to make extra money because of the kids and she was the one to suggest that I be a waitress as I could easily work that job along with my day job. Without her, I would have given up and not continued. Truly, being a cocktail waitress is not for the faint of heart. The customers were the least of my worries. My heart goes out to all those hospitality workers right now and all affected during these times. Anyhow, so here are a few more pages of the short story to help you pass the time. (Phylis character to come in next edit.)
If any of you are interested in collaborating, let me know. Thank you, dear reader, for stopping by. Where ever you are today be someones light. Cheers and be well!
Throwing Fire Into the Water
(This is a continuation from post: Throwing Fire Into the Water) Here is the link to that post.
“Janey”, said the other the other person on the line, “Please come to Mr. Foster’s office.”
I knew what this meant, and I looked up toward the ceiling and mouthed “Fuck”. I made the walk to my boss’s office. I started here in the mail room and worked my way into a staff accountant position. I had just finished training a new hire in our department. She was fresh out of college and had a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Me, like I said, I had worked my way up the food chain and was often told that I had more experience than the educated accountants. According to the last months P & L meetings, a few of the units were going to be shut down and restructured. Honestly, since the asshole and I broke up I had poured my heart and soul into this department. I took on more assignments, worked 60 to 70 hours per week and often took work home with me. I even got employee of the quarter and was awarded a $500 gift card and a choice parking spot for 3 months. Maybe I was overreacting?
I knocked on Mr. Foster’s door.
“Come in, have a seat.” Mr. Foster said as he smiled at me and reached out his hand for me to shake. I politely but firmly shook his hand and then took a seat.
“Janey, I have got to tell you I really like your work.” I relaxed a little. How could he let me go if he “liked my work”?
“Thank you.” I said.
“Well, um…as you know we have to restructure a few of the units. They will be closing soon.” He said this as he went from looking me into the eye and to looking at the papers in a folder he was holding that was slightly touching his desk. He then said, “I regret that we have to make cuts in all departments.”
Shot fired, direct hit to the heart. Ugh, I knew it. I just could not get my mouth to cooperate and speak.
He then explained, “Here is a check for 3 months of your salary and a letter of recommendation, your last paycheck and a check for your accrued vacation time. You must know that I fought hard to keep you, but your salary was not in line with your education but rather with your work experience. I know that you will have no trouble finding a better position. If there is anything I can do like give you a personal reference or anything, please do not hesitate to contact me…” All I could do was say, “I understand. May I pack my things? How does this work, do I leave now, am I going to get escorted out?” I remained professional but Mr. Foster had tears in his eyes. He stood up and walked over to me and hugged me.
“Mr. Foster, thank you for being so nice and generous.” And said as I hugged him back. I could not muster one tear. “You can contact me if you guys need anything like passwords and such. I think I will get my things and go, if that is okay with you?”
He held onto me a little longer and then released me.
“Honey, you do whatever it is you need to do. I have 10 more of these conversations to go through today.” He said sadly. I wonder if it was because he knew that his number was coming up soon well that in fact, the whole company was going to be put up for sale.
I moved away from him, smiled and said, “Thank you.” one more time. Went and grabbed a few things from my desk and left with a check for $17k – give or take a few hundred dollars and left. I went straight to the bank and made a deposit. Yes, I didn’t have a job or boyfriend or friends for that matter, but I knew that I had to find another job quickly as I managed to get the condo that the jackass and I were planning on moving into. Yes, I had no friends. In my pursuit of being a happy couple and the ultimate prize of getting married, I gave up the few close friends that I had. My life sucked and I had never felt so alone.
I noticed a bar and grill that was within walking distance of the bank and I thought, a drink or ten would be nice. I withdrew some cash and walked over to have a drink.
“What can I get you?” asked the man behind the bar. He was your typical looking bartender. Nice eyes, a few tattoos and a hot body. His face could sell the Brooklyn bridge.
“I will have a dirty martini on the rocks, extra dirty please.” I asked.
“Any particular vodka?” he asked.
“Yeah, make it Kettle One.” He then made my drink and it was tasty. It went down easy. There was one other patron at the bar. He was an older guy, kind of looked like Stephen King. He smiled at me and then got up from his bar stool and sat by me.
“Hope you don’t mind?” He questioned. He held out his hand and said. “I am Mike.”
I shook his hand and said, “Hi, I am Janey.” And with that, I had a new friend. He would become a close confidante, pseudo-father figure to me in the years that followed.
“How are you Janey?” Mike asked.
“Living the dream.” I said sarcastically before I took a drink of my Martini.
“Why you in here, not working?” he questioned.
“No, not working, I just got laid off.” I answered. “I shouldn’t be here; I should be out searching for work and I picked up my purse and got ready to leave.
“Going somewhere?” he said, “I will buy you another drink, just sit and chat with me, please.”
He didn’t seem creepy, but genuine. He then ordered me another drink and started asking me about my job and life and such. I must have felt comfortable as I unloaded a few months’ worth of grief into his ears.
“This is just a small set-back, you know.” He said in fatherly tone, “Tomorrow is another day. Have another drink.” Then he motioned the bartender over. Strangely, I felt at ease. This was the closest I had to having friends. I had just lost my job and I had not one person from my former workplace called me to see if I was going to be okay. At that moment, I realized that I would never let a man dictate how many friends I could or couldn’t have because at this moment, I didn’t know who I was anymore.
“Hey Janey, they need help here, how about working here? I know the owner.” Mike said.
“Uh, I don’t know.” I said as I shrugged my shoulders and looked down. That is when the bartender walked over.
“I hear you are looking for a job.” The bartender asked, “We need a waitress, do you have any experience?”
What I didn’t know is that he was also the owner. He then reached out his hand and said “Hi, I am Brett.” I shook his hand and smiled back.
“Yes, I do need a job and I do not have experience but have been out a lot so could probably wing it.” I joked.
“I like your smile. You’re hired. When can you start?” He asked.
“When do you need me?” I asked
“Right now,” he said and stared right at me. “Tomorrow works. You will need to get some comfortable shoes and I will get you a couple of T-shirts.”
“Just like that? Really? I have a job?” I questioned. “Do I need to fill out an application?”
“I guess, I am not into paperwork and I need help in the office, are you good with that kinda stuff?” he asked.
“I guess, I am a bookkeeper and I also worked with HR so I can help you with that.” I told him.
“Cool beans. My wife hates the paperwork stuff so she will be thrilled…are you going to hang out for a bit? I will call her to come down and meet you.” He said as he picked up the phone to call his wife.
“Sure. I can hang out.” I then turned to Mike and gave him a thumb up and smiled. Little did I know but my whole world was about to turn upside but in a good way. I was 33, a college drop-out and had been working at the same company for 11 years and didn’t know what I was going to do. What misfortune? Ha! Throwing fire over my shoulder! She was wrong, things were going to be okay. My infection cleared up. I had a job. I had enough to pay off my car and still have some money to sock away. Anyhow, I met his wife, I began my new career in the hospitality business. It got me and it got me good. 15 years later and I was still involved, although not with the same place, but what a way to get baptized into this industry.
…to be continued