Monday, January 18, 2010

Harter Union: Part One, Chapter 3

I had finally reached the top of the ladder and faced the diving board that jutted out over the blackness. I slowly stepped toward the edge of the board and looked toward the inky darkness. I did a couple of stationary jumps and dived over the edge and fell. My arms outstretched and the darkness and silence surrounding me. For what seemed like hours I just fell with the ladder and diving board in the background. Finally, I was reaching the bottom but instead of hitting…
I awoke sitting up and not remembering when I sat up but that was the most annoying dream I ever had, and I had it often. I never understood it. “I hope this is sweat…” I said as I patted the moist parts of the bed. I leaned over and looked out the window. This sun was just starting to rise so I figured the time to be around 6:30. I got up and removed my clothes. I went over to the curtained off area to take a shower with the hose that protruded from the wall. I reflected back on my first night at Baker, recalling the odd foreplay between Jason and Chrissy that involved 120 degree water and nearly the entire football team hitting on Alyson and Maggie, who actually accepted a date with one of them: Darnell Tompkins.

After my crappy shower, I got dressed in pretty much what I wore yesterday and the day before. I didn’t bring very many regular T-shirts or jeans. I brought all my suits and just a small box of your regular clothes. When I left Topeka, I had basically thrown my life away. When I first got hired by Manhattan-Rooks Publishing to be one of their new editors, nothing could’ve brought me down. I had proposed to my girlfriend, Melissa and she said ‘yes’ but within a week or so she came to me, gave me back my grandmother’s ring and moved out. I never saw her again. I had a huge garage sale to get rid of my stuff and what was left, I donated to charity. My grandmother’s ring, however, is lying at the bottom of the Kansas River after I got mad and threw it off a bridge but that wasn’t Melissa’s fault and I never blamed her for that but she never gave me a good reason why she left me. All she said was that she didn’t love me anymore.

Darnell threw the covers off of him and sat on the side of the bed. He looked around the room, stood up and started grabbing his clothes off of the floor and began putting it back on.

“You leaving?” asked Maggie, waking up, still laying in bed.

“I should probably get back to the dorm but I did have a fun night though…” Darnell pulled his shirt on as Maggie sat up. “I’ll see you in the lunch line.” Darnell leaned in and kissed Maggie who wrapped her arms around him and tried to pull him back into bed.

“One more time…” Maggie whispered in his ear.

“I need to get back, girl. Go back to sleep,” Darnell kissed her forehead and left. Maggie sighed and got out of bed. She grabbed a gray tank top and a pair of sweats off the floor and put them on. She walked out to the front room and turned on the TV. She sat on the couch, pulled her legs close to her chest and hugged them.

Jason pulled himself out of Chrissy and she pulled off his protection. “We’re buying condoms tonight!” Chrissy complained, holding up a wadded up piece of plastic.

“Hey, it’s not everyday you get to make love wearing a sandwich bag held on by a rubber band,” Jason argued.

“Good point but either way, we’re buying condoms tonight. No ifs and or buts.” Chrissy got out of bed and stretched. Jason reached over and slapped her butt. Jason lived in his parent’s basement and it had its own bathroom so it kind of seemed like his own apartment. “I’m gonna take a shower, honey,” Chrissy bent down and she and Jason kissed.

“All right, I’ll be in in a little bit.”

Wendy had fallen asleep with the TV blaring and awoke on the couch surrounded by spilled popcorn and a bowl of now-melted ice cream. Her robe had become untied and revealed a plain white cotton T-shirt and boxer shorts underneath. She slowly rolled off the couch, knocking the rest of the popcorn onto the floor and turned off the TV. Wendy got up and placed the bowl of popcorn and ice cream in the kitchen sink and headed down the hall to the bathroom. She took off her robe and turned on the shower, got undressed and got in under the stream of water. She slowly washed her hair and took her time.

“Okay, Wendy, where is it?” screamed her sister, bursting into the bathroom.

“Where is what?” asked Wendy, pulling aside the shower curtain and looking at her sister.

“My dildo. It was in the top drawer of my dresser and I just got up to use it and it was gone.”

“Okay, well, first of all, ew. Secondly, you have a boyfriend, why do you need a dildo? And thirdly, eww!” Wendy went back behind the curtain to finish her shower. “Don’t you have any other toys you can use?” she asked, shouting over the water.

“Just my pink vibrator and I’m not in the mood to use that,” Wendy’s sister complained.

“Look, I didn’t take it nor would I want to. It’s disgusting and what you do behind closed door is fine with me as long as you don’t drag me into it,” Wendy explained, giving herself one last go-around with the shower water.

Wendy’s sister left the bathroom and went back into her bedroom and slammed the door. Wendy turned off the water, grabbed a towel and wraps it around her body.

I arrived at the Union about 8:30, two hours earlier than I was scheduled. The cafeteria was serving breakfast and barely anyone was there, only about five students. Darrell was standing at the Line and talking with a couple of elderly women.

“Jeff, what are you doing here this early?” asked Darrell.

“I was up…and bored so I decided to come in a little early. Hi, there,” I explained then politely smiled and waved to the two ladies.

“Jeff, this is Hilda and Amanda; this is Jeff our new supervisor,” Darrell introduced. “Hilda and Amanda just work the breakfast and lunch shift along with Scott and Karlene, who are in the Dish Room.”

I smiled and nodded with respect to Hilda and Amanda who barely made any expression toward me and I went behind the Line and got a plate of eggs and bacon. “I’ll be in my office, Darrell,” I said, chewing on a piece of bacon. I laid the plate down on my desk and saw the delivery order sitting there. “I have to do stock orders today? Oh, man…” I whined.

The lunch shift was moving extremely smooth with Nathan, Jason, Chrissy, and Scott in the Dish Room; Hilda and Alyson on Line 1 and Amanda and Maggie on Line 2; and Aaron on Beverage. I was alone in the stock room looking at things we needed to order and what we had plenty of. It took a long time because I didn’t know where anything was and it was only my second day and this was my first major supervisor duty.

At about 1:00, I went back to my office and sat down and looked over the form. It looked all right to me but I was still going to have Darrell go over it before he left today. Soon, two girls came into my office and put their purses in the bottom drawer of the unused file cabinet. “Hello, I’m Jeff the new supervisor.”

“Hi, I’m Jenna Delphos and this is Karla Kincaid. We work downstairs in the Grill on weekends and evenings,” Jenna introduced. Jenna was cute with short brown hair and glasses. Karla was very skinny with long blond hair, glasses, and huge breasts. I was more drawn to Jenna because of her eyes and lips. I was never one to look at a girl strictly for their body; I noticed eyes and lips a lot. I don’t know why, maybe it was my upbringing.

“We’ll see you around, Jeff,” Jenna smiled and waved her pinky at me.

“See you girls,” I said. “This job is getting better everyday,” I smiled and chuckled. I glanced at the clock above me on the wall and got up, heading toward the Dish Room. I stood in the doorway and watched everybody work. “Hey, you guys can take a quick lunch if you want. Just make sure at least one person stays back here.”

“But we already had lunch…” Jason said, curiously.

“So? You guys work hard and you deserve a break. Now get out there before I change my mind,” I left and headed toward the Line. Everybody from the Dish Room followed except for Scott.

Hilda and Amanda began freaking out that nearly everyone was not in the Dish Room working. “What going on?” asked Hilda.

“The Dish Room crew is having lunch,” I answered.

“Did you clear this with Darrell? They’ve already had lunch,” Hilda argued.

“Yeah, three hours ago. They’ve been working hard and they deserve a break. Hardly anyone is even out there,” I explained referring to the thirteen people that were still in the cafeteria eating.

“Well, you should really check with Darrell before initiating such a radical change in procedure,” Amanda came over and scolded me.

“Radical? I said they could have lunch! I am their supervisor and I am not going to run to Darrell every time I make a decision, no matter how big or small.”

“Well, we’ll see about that!” Amanda huffed and she and Hilda walked off toward Darrell’s office.

“Ah, damn it! My second day here and I’m gonna be yelled at,” I said.

“We’re sorry, Jeff, we’ll go back to the Dish Room if you…” Chrissy began but I interrupted her.

“No, that’s okay. Thanks anyway but enjoy your lunch. I’m gonna go talk to Darrell,” I squeezed through the small crowd of people behind the Line and went to Darrell’s office. I poked my head into the office and saw Hilda and Amanda talking to him. “Darrell?” I asked softly.

“Ah, Jeff, come on in. Amanda and Hilda were just talking to me about your decision.”

I stepped fully into the office and went up to Darrell’s desk. “All right but let me tell you why I did it. We open for lunch at 11:30 and close at 1:00. Everyone is scheduled to come in at 11:00 which leaves thirty minutes to eat, if the food is ready; and besides, law require a fifteen-minute break for every two hours worked and one lunch for every eight hours. Have to comply with OSHA, don’t you know,” I kidded.

“You’re right. I’ve never really thought about it before. Wow, for somebody who’s hasn’t even been here a full day, you are on a roll.” Darrell’s praise noticeably made Hilda and Amanda upset.

“What? Well, thank you, sir…” I said, uneasily. “I finished the stock order if you want to see it and make sure I did everything right,” I said.

“All right, bring it in when you think of it. Thank you, Jeff.”

I left Darrell’s office with a smile on my face, went back into the cafeteria and sat down with the staff. “…I am just getting sick of her losing her stuff and blaming me just because she can’t face the fact that she’s a numbskull,” Wendy complained.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Oh, my sister lost her dildo and she thinks I stole it,” Wendy explained hastily.

“Mm. Sorry, I asked.”

“How’d it go in Darrell’s office?” asked Aaron.

“Pretty good. He actually liked the idea of having lunch now so it looks like it’s here to stay.”

Everyone applauded. “You are the best supervisor we’ve had in a long time…” said Maggie, who reached over and slowly rubbed my leg.

“Thank you,” I said, making eye contact with her and removing her hand from my leg. I smiled and mouthed ‘don’t’ at her and discreetly shook my head.

It was about 4:30 and everybody was sitting in the cafeteria but I was sitting in my office listening to a crappy radio that I found in the back of the desk drawer under some extension cords. Darrell poked his head in. “Jeff, I’m heading out. Could you do me a favor and when the Grill equipment is washed, put it downstairs? The Dish Room should put all of it on a red cart and leave it in front of the elevator.”

“Yeah, I can do that,” I said but wondering why Darrell was having me do it but also not wanting to argue. “See you tomorrow, Darrell.”

“See you, Jeff,” Darrell left out the back door and I went back to staring into space and listening to the radio.

“Jeff? Are you all right?” asked Maggie, slowly entering my office and sitting down in the extra chair.

“I’m fine. You?”

“Me, too. I’m fine…” Maggie looked either nervous or worried, I couldn’t tell which.

“How was your date with--what’s his name?--Darnell?” I wanted to keep our conversation light and unobtrusive, which I apparently failed at.

“Do you think I’m attractive?” she asked me.

My eyes involuntarily got wider as I stared directly at Maggie. I have always, luckily, avoided that question and any horrible conversation that went with it. Here, I was trapped! I liked Maggie and thought she was very attractive but due to my current predicament, namely my job, apartment, demeanor, among other things, I did not want to get into something I couldn’t get out of. Besides, for a question like that, there really is no right answer. I cleared my throat and spoke: “Why? Is something wrong?”

“Well, after my date with Darnell, we went back to my place where we commenced making-out and then had sex…” she began. I was never comfortable with hearing about other people’s sex life because I never asked about it and I frankly didn’t care. “So after he finished, he rolled off and fell asleep which isn’t unusual but the next morning me and the guy usually go another round. Darnell didn’t do that, he just got his clothes and left with barely a good-bye,” Maggie seemed to be holding back tears.

I was confused. This really had nothing to do with her being attractive, just used, so I didn’t know what to say. “And?”

“It was completely dark when we made love but the sun was shining in the next morning so it kind of got me thinking…”

“To put paper bags next to the bed from now on? Look, just because Darnell didn’t have sex with you this morning it suddenly means that you are a hideous, ugly, mutated freak?”

“I wouldn’t go that far…”

I stood up, stretched and popped my back as I spoke and Maggie looked at me. “Look, Darnell got what he wanted last night and you shouldn’t look into it as much as you are. You are one of the most attractive and charming girls I have ever met and just because Darnell didn’t want to have sex with you during the day doesn’t mean that there aren’t hundreds of other guys who wouldn’t,” I said, in a low whisper.

“Even you?” Maggie smiled.

“Especially me,” I left the office and headed toward the Dish Room, patting Wendy on the back as I walked past her in the kitchen.

“Jeff, could you put this pan on the rack next to the Dish Room?” Wendy asked as she passed a six-inch pan in my direction.

“Sure,” I said grabbing the pan and continuing to walk toward the Dish Room. I placed the pan with the others on the rack. The pan rack was right next to the Dish Room on the right side. I glanced to the right of the rack and saw a small room hidden by carts and the pan rack. “What the hell’s this?” I called over to Wendy.

Wendy came over and stood next to me. “That’s the mop room,” she answered.

I stepped into the confined space and looked around. There was a sink attached to the wall with mold and mildew on it and a mop bucket sitting in it. There was a ladder that led up to the roof with mops hanging on the rungs. There were huge buckets of soap and bleach on the floor with hoses running from the buckets to a small metal device on the wall with a green button and a red button. “What’s this?” I pointed to the device.

“That’s how we fill the mop buckets for the Dish Room and kitchen. It pumps the soap out and fills the bucket,” Wendy explained as I took a closer look at the box which had ‘start’ above the green button and ‘stop’ above the red. “To start it, press ‘start.’ The rest of the controls you can figure out for yourself,” Wendy said, smiling.

We walked back together to my office and sat down. I groaned and rubbed the back of my neck. “Oh, I’ll be glad when today is over and I can just lie down and go to sleep,” I moaned.

“I’m just killing time here because I don’t want to go home. My sister will start yelling at me about her missing dildo.”

I shuddered and gritted my teeth. “Can we please use a different phrase? I hate the word ‘dildo,’” I said.

“Sorry. Do you have any brothers and sisters?” Wendy asked me.

“Nope, I’m an only child.”

“Parents live around here?”

“My mom lives in Topeka.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

“I was on my way to New York and my car broke down so once I save up enough money to fix my car and a little extra for emergencies, I am out of here.”

“I’m sorry. Trapped in Baldwin. It could be worse I guess,” Wendy sighed and both of us remained silent for a couple of seconds. “Girlfriend?”

“No. I was engaged up until a month ago but that obviously didn’t work out.”

“You were engaged? What happened?”

“She came to me one day, gave me back my ring and said that she didn’t love me anymore,” I explained.

“I’m sorry…But don’t worry, you’ll find somebody, I promise.”

“Sure, whatever, you can’t promise that,” I stayed seated but Wendy got up to leave. “Oh, and Wendy? What I told you stays in the office, capische?”

“Everything except ‘capische,’ Wendy smiled at me again.

“Just get out of here…” I shooed at Wendy.

The elevator arrived on the bottom floor and I unlatched and opened it. I pushed the red cart out and slowly headed toward the seating area of the Grill. The Grill was in the basement of the Union and served greasy hamburgers and fiery hot fries to the college students in a nearly dark and dusty hole-in-the-wall. The Grill was once Darrell’s pride and joy until the university all but forgot about it. I pushed the cart into the kitchen area behind the counter and headed back to the elevator to go upstairs. I stopped in one of the small computer rooms where there was also a TV set up and playing music videos. The video that was currently playing was kind of strange: It had a guy swinging from a chandelier in the middle of the rain forest and native tribes running around. I loved everything about the song and video and waited for the title and name of the band.

The song was “Don’t Drink the Water” by Dave Matthews Band and as I headed upstairs, I was humming the tune to my new favorite song.

Jeff works his first night with Kathryn.