Chapter 78

“Deep fear of failure
can freeze you in neitherland,
settling for far less.”

 

“This is what you’ve called me for? This is what you’ve got for me?”

“Uh, you said to get back to you when I had any news. I just felt it important to let you know I’m still coming up dry on this…”

“Listen to me, I’ve heard from Josh again. It isn’t just holiday goodies in that package, all right? He discovered that New Years fire up at Das Kapital destroyed everything in his recording studio, including master tapes for The Tracers’ new album. He calls it double platinum material, and was mentsch enough to gift me with a Dolby cassette of the tracks and some outtakes, like—for old time’s sake or high school vindication, one or the other, I don’t know. But it turns out that cassette is all that’s left after months of their studio work, and his label is hammering him on the release date. They need those tracks for mixing reference. This is serious business, where is that cassette?! We’ve got to have that package!!!”

“Yeesh, I can’t find it for anything…”

“Where’d you sort that branch packet to?”

Well past Labor Day, skies began regularly clearing, thankfully so, change of seasons, such as it was. When the fog pattern initially started breaking down, it was all I could do to wipe out what felt like a lifetime of unseasonably lousy summer weather in one long bumathon of Midwestern body clock-bending proportions. Non-stop midday sessions on the old army blanket to warm up, dry out from the nightly whine press my head had been going through. But just when it felt like time to sweater up and head back to campus, the Central Valley cooled down, that marine layer teeter-totter leveled off, and coastal temperatures began to rise. A placid autumn and Indian summer appeared to be descending on the Bay Area, minus flyover country cold snaps or nimbo-stratus reservations.

“Where are you now, Kenneth? Good god…”

“Just downtown,” I said, pushing around a table top of papers. “But I’ll keep looking…so, how’re you doing these days?”

“You do that,” Syd fumed, rattling some acrylics jars and sable brushes in the background, Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’ on her deck. “Otherwise, I’m fantastic, where to begin? My painting’s going gangbusters, the commission’s right on schedule. Oh, and Daryll Loupan? Absolutely amazing—he’s been lining me up gallery dates, a one-woman show in Langwell’s on Sutter Street. Then he’s getting me installed down on La Cienega in L.A., even on Broome Street in the Village—Big Apple City, can you believe it?!”

“Where’d you say it was?”

“L-N, it’s in the bin marked G-K,” I said, palm over the receiver. “Really, that sounds great, Syd, full speed ahead, huh? Cream rises to the top…”

                “Exactly…where did you say you were?”

“Financial District, picked up a little work, that’s all…”

“Can’t be in G-K, they checked.”

“Try L-N Abstracts, then, Jesus.

“But the L-N branch packet doesn’t belong in L-N Abstracts…”

“Sorry—uh, do you mind? I’m still on break, this is kind of a personal call here…”

“Hey, we’ve only got another hour until pick-up…thought I explained about company time.”

I’d blow off afternoon hours moping on my stomach about Marina Green lawns, just as many on my back, cranking up a fuller body tan to charcoal broil—thawing out in cut-offs, counting masts and seagulls and racy Marin-bound imports, watching ships of the world on parade. At that rate, mass dermal peeling had set in by day ten. My upper torso became so tender and inflammed, the scorched Green hardened to Astroturf or painted concrete against the skin. Gone with the recurrent fog were delusions that Marin’s hills remained any greener than the Marina lawns, particularly in a drought year like this. The Headlands were as burned and parched, sharp-set as I was, with San Francisco Bay flat dead in the water. Meaning it was time to get away from the parking lot anyway, even if that involved joining the ranks of the underemployed.

“What kind of work, Kenneth?”

“At a bank,” I hushed, sifting through piled envelopes and folders. “Just temporary, no big thing…”

“Really? Wouldn’t be at Pacific Bank and Trust, would it?”

“Yeah, but only in their…”

“Wow, what a coincidence! I’m working for PBT, you’re working for PBT—we’re all working for PBT!”

“It’s not the same, believe me…all?”

It never was. From that first day I answered the call, I had been hooked on a cheap slave labor lotto euphemistically called temporary placement, a game whose rules favored the dealers, odds the house, where execution was tedious and stakes niggardly low. Yet one seldom shy on players, because for a certain peonic caste of thousands, this was the only game in town. But at least it promised to be an escape hatch out of all that Battle of the Sexes bickering in Marina Green’s parking lot.

As advertised, most of Able’s assignments were in the steno pool—one humongous steno pool, which seemed to cover San Francisco’s entire downtown commercial sector. But now and again, something came up that someone with my tenuous capabilities could undertake, sink my rotting teeth into—something simple and obscure, preferably of modest duration. I’d call in to Mrs. Hingman, or the pay phone would ring like a two-bell Westclox all over the parking lot. I’d spring from the Volvo’s sleeping bag wrapped in an 82ndAirborne blanket to scribble the client company address and supervisor’s name on any scrap of trash I’d stooped for along the way to the booth.

That set in motion a frantic, stupefying sequence of ablutions, making the Y Hotel the Downtown Hilton by comparison. This involved re-grouping the Dopp kit that had spilled all underneath front seats when I’d semi-consciously kicked about the dash and floorboards on the darker side of 4 a.m. Then momentarily airing and Arriding out a last surviving blue oxford button down that stank like a corpse flower; although it could hardly get much ranker that it was the morning before. Said ritual consisted of flying the rag like an ensign off a topmast for however long it took to slog over to Marina Green’s cinderblock shithouse and reclaim myself to within one evolutionary stage of civilization. Which might have been for less a compelling/significant biological breakthrough had it not been for the…complications.

“Of course, he’s with PBT too,” Sydney said, rather gleefully. “Which is the best news of all.”

“He, who?”

“The new man in my life…”

“Whoa,” I mouthed closer to the pay receiver, as a crush of clerical workers trudged toward the snack room. “What new man?!”

“Tsk, it has been a while since we’ve talked, hasn’t it,” she chortled, as if feeling my cheeks pucker all the way to her end of the phone lines. “Laine Blakely, who do you think?”

“Not that guy at the reception.” Syd was right, about the pucker and about which cheeks. I clenched so tight I kept stepping all over my toes. “The jerk who stiffed you in front of all the bank honchos—the one you said was so anti-Semitic, for crissake!”

“Oh, that all went down the chute ages ago,” she replied. “Blaine cleared it up, told me he couldn’t afford the bank brass thinking some fix was in on the commission, so he had to play it real cool.”

“Like I said,” taking satisfaction wherever I could, hearing the Dan’s ‘Peg’ skip to ‘I Got The News’ in Syd’s studio background

“We reconnected the following weekend, at Henry Africa’s. He swept up out from behind one of those big motorcycles—you know, above the palm trees along the windows? I was there with Daryll, and Laine tapped me on the shoulder, just like that.We talked it all out on one of those cushy sofas surrounded by ferns and Tiffany lamps…until the piano player shut down, seemed like for hours…”

“So where’s it stand,” I grumbled, fully cupping the mouthpiece when a middle-aged clerk/housewife set up with a Fresca and Cheese Doodles one pay phone over.

“Well, we’ve been full-time ever since…you sure you really want to hear all the little details?”

“Out with it.” This was the next best thing to picking an elbow scab, which was also going on as we spoke.

Complications such as how I’d have cranked in and out of the semi-outdoor john if the sombreroed, cigar stub of a groundskeeper had not neglected to unlock the outhouse gates. If I hadn’t spazzed out, climbing over the gate, nearly leaving my re-evolutionary tools kabobbed on its restraining spikes, causing me to overlook the fact that I’d left shaving soap in the Volvo. Or that it hardly mattered since the aloe-vera Barbasol had exploded in therm-mentholated mushrooms under my driver’s seat in the previous afternoon’s heat.

That I had to sneak up on the sinks, anyway, wary of what the local night life had left caked, freeze drying on the stainless steel before closing time. And how even if I could stomach the basin for X amount of time, it took X2+ 4 to scrape what passed for sleep off my stubbled mug because the push-button faucet refused to offer forth for more than X minus 58 seconds at a crack. So that by the time I vaulted over the stiffs in and around the stalls, towel dried back to the car, a detachment of sea gulls had rained terror over my dress shirt, most notable around the collar and cuffs. Which detracted from the hefty whisker patch I’d missed just behind my right jowl, having had no mirror image to speak of or to, but that was better left unsaid.

Put together, as it were, I’d strap hang on the 41 Union MUNI bus with all the dour Barron’s and Wall Street Journal readers down to the Financial District, or simply dangle off the rear platform of an inbound cable car, which was a breath of fresh, more hang-loose air by comparison. For at least I knew the sweat I’d broken sprinting over Fort Mason’s ridge and Funston playground could only be offending the gripman—who had generated a ripe air of his own, between wrestling with the hand brake up and down California Street hills, whirring cables and clanging bells juking our ears like pile drivers.

“He happens to be a wonderful man, I mean underneath the polish and refinement. Blaine’s so considerate, and totally supportive of my work…” In her background, the Dan jumped from ‘Aja’ to ‘Deacon Blues’.

“Like, I haven’t been,” I groused, ready to pounce on the junk food machines myself. “He holds your brushes for you, or what?”

“No, silly—it’s hard to explain, but he, you know, brings me things while I’m working in my studio. Beautiful things, sometimes even kinky things, expensive things. God, he must rake in the bucks…but I deserve deserve nice, don’t I?”

“So you’re sleeping with him then, huh?”

“God, Kenneth, what do you want from me?! I mean, I don’t know what you’re into these days, but I’m not into solitaire, that’s for sure.”

“R-r-right, gotta have those kinky couplings…”

“Well, at least I’m not into torture, not like you.”

Thermopaned, hermetically sealed downtown office towers were not nearly so forgiving. Which was invariably to where Mrs. Hingman would dispatch me. Once I’d futzed bleary eyed through another battery of pre-placement attitudinals, she was soon eager to spread me thin as the cream cheese on a convenience store bagel, particularly once performance reviews began came back to Able in the affirmative. New drones kept filing in, she would remind me , always plenty of fresh competition, so keep calling and she’d do what she could to keep Mr. Reliable in her ‘front five’ pages of her scratch sheet. Otherwise, it would be fade phase for me—meaning backlisting to the inner depths of her database, roughly the equivalent of residential banishment to a housing project somewhere between Milpitas and San Leandro. Fortunately, she knew a haunted, hard-up feebag when she saw one.

Early on, it was your basic fill and file. Fill in for the well-meaning housewives who’d finally had their fill by morning break, and migrained themselves back home to the soaps. The pill and pot heads whose concentration failed them irretrievably between lunch and afternoon break. Or the angry young duds who’d filed out collectively with the insurgent slave labor agitators promising justice to the temporarily oppressed, complete with picket-line placards for the six o’ clock news.

“What…torture,” I wasn’t fully grasping or copping to that concept, but my imagination did start running while. “That’s a total…”

“You’re torturing yourself right this very minute, Kenneth,” she spouted. “It’s like you’ve got this persecution complex or something. Look, Laine happens to be this incredibly tender man who’s in charge of his life—totally together. He knows what he wants and goes for it, like my daddo—even has one of those newfangled 401k retirement plans. If you must know, I find that awfully refreshing.”

“So you love him, and everything?”

“Please, Kenneth, sometimes your naiveness amazes me. Really, what does that mean anymore? So don’t go trying to paint me into one of your corners.”

“Just answer me that, at least do me that,” I pleaded, Moon’s voice deep-dish rising in my ears.

“Lets just say Laine and I are extremely…close right now, especially with the commission and everything. Our lives are pretty well…how does he put it? Synergized, no innerfaced—I’ve even made gourmet meals for him, me, and go with him when he buys his suits and stuff.”

“Interfaced, interfaced…” The woman next door glanced up from her Fresca over that one.

“You get my drift, Kenneth,” she chafed. It sounded as though she was stirring a pigmentation mixture, maybe approximating a sundown sky or International Orange. “I just hope you can accept this, for your sake.”

“Accept what? That one minute you’re raving about independence, next you’re selling out to the first fat-cat flashing plastic!”

“Total distortion, totally unfair. I have complete freedom in this relationship,” she said. “It’s not just my work, Laine brings a whole fantabulous new dimension to my life—we go places, share things…”

“What, coke lines or credit lines?!”

“No, damn you—experiences. Like the PBT banquets, or drives in his 450SL—god, what a car. One time we ride along Seventeen Mile, Del Monte Forest—stopped for cabernet in Carmel. We even went to Yosemite—it’s so very Jewish-welcoming, you know, Yo Semite, come on in! Plus Laine’s so hip to everything, world-wise. We talked all about Israel and the peace process, what that oily Iran is up to.”

“Spoken like true Hallmark or McKuen…”

“I thought we were going to be friends…”

Soon enough, I moved from utility grub to special assignment: Building out storage shelves for a basement textile sweatshop south of Market, glowing in the terminal cathode rays of a credit bureau’s VDTs. Re-labeling disclosure mailings by the thousands which a savings and loan had misprinted by a factor of three zeroes. Reinventing the reference library at some Valley Farmer newspaper with a long adulterated Dewey decimal system.

I wanted career changes? They were staggering. One day, I’d be setting up executive luncheons at a Montgomery Street securities house. Next day, I’d be helping cook the books at a California Street oil and gas outfit just in time for the quarterly reports. Trouble was, the aroma of fat city was about as close as I got. Scuttlebutt among the temp grunts was Mrs. Hingman’s pay periods seemed fiscally linked to the diminishing returns of her menstrual cycle, with no friendly discharges in between—but she sure seemed to trust me to come through by now. So I monkishly recorded my hours, scrounging MUNI transfers for the daily commutes and feasting on what I could on the job, which ranged essentially from famine to worse. Hiding out behind the cubicles and modular work stations at that ailing cargo company, for instance, feeding on the hypoglycemic/cyclamate buzz off instant Swiss cocoa, just logging time, enabling the office manager to protect his manpower allocation, if not his own skin, from further budget cuts.

Powdered coffee, powdered milk, powdered sweet rolls—even powdered chicken soup: got to the point where I’d work it among the assignments based on the quality of the pre-mix comestibles. Inevitably, my stomach bloated with liquidity, and all the granules re-congealed along my stomach lining like a semi-sweet vermiculating sand bar.

“Right, just friends,” I sulked, biting hard, taking it out on a Cheese Doodle.

“Then get behind me on this, will you please? Like you did with the proposal. For some reason, it’s really important to me that you approve, almost as important as Josh’s package. I’ve entered into this new phase of my life wanting everything clean, resolved. I want you should be okay with this.”

“Sure, Syd,” I sighed, “must tie up all those shabby little ends…it’s just too bad we got off on the wrong foot.”

Prior to this, I had settled into a comparatively long-term temp stint at Cal-Oil. That meant badges, security checks by red-blazered lobby guards still shaky from the urban guerrilla bomb blast that took out a third of the 23rd floor. Everybody blamed the Weathermen, but the oil conglomerate’s security knew better: they were fingering mercenary temps, counter-insurgent temps, enviro-Symbionese temps waging war on the Aramco-American Way in two-to-three hour quasi-clerical sorties.

No matter that the bathroom bomber had struck some five years earlier, there was still temporary hell to pay. On the other hand, Cal-Oil plaza was now deemed bomb as well as earthquake proof, and its corporate cafeteria actually trafficked in solid food again. It was much of the petro giant’s other traffic that seemed from my fly-on-the-file cabinet perspective so miasmic.

“Well, I’m afraid there is no right foot anymore. Really, I worry about you, Kenneth. I mean, I can always find happiness and security, maybe I have right now. But you—what’s going to come of you? I think you had it going for a brief minute there in Chicago, but then, poof, gone—I still can’t figure that one. But you’re here now, so you might as well…stay put.”

“Try using differential division,” I caught the department supervisor approaching through some orange swinging doors. “Although I can’t believe it’s keeping you awake at nights.”

“Hey, temp—break’s over, let’s do it to it.”

“Uh—gotta go, Syd…I wish you well…” I pulled away from the pay phone as far as its coaxial steel cord would allow.

“Take care of yourself, Kenneth—oops, doorbell, must be Laine now,” she hurried. “Busy lives, busy lives—stay in touch on Josh’s package, will you please do that for me? Happy new year, by the way!” CLICK.

From the first day, I I.D. decoded my way through Cal-Oil’s data processed detector, I was befuddled by the place, sleep deprived, addle headed. Not that the tasks were substantially different: refiling tax statements, cross-indexing disbursements, de-voweling words for seven-digit computer entry, bursting and decollating continuous forms in some airless, sanitized mainframe center. Just the standard numbing rote, dehumanizing, disk-driven tasks everybody temps were slave to down here in Manhattan West.

Maybe it was the clenching silence, the hum and whirr of hardened information, but something…  calculating was going on. I grew especially curious upon running into inner-office correspondence through the engineering department in a corporate shopping basket fitted with conveniently squeaky wheels. Petro engineers and their petro secretaries hushed their petro conversations soon as my cart came squeaking by. Inside Cal-Oil’s bunker-like command center, trackers plotted tanker movements on a global scale wall, moving and shaking them by WATs lines, fax and telex as though positioning the Pacific Fleet for Wake and Midway Islands. Their plot pins made nosense to me, and even less sense by the day. So wasn’t long before I started asking questions, like, why were supertankers treading and retreading, circling the Bering Straights and Prudhomme Bay, or hitting the Straights of Hormuz empty and leaving the same way? Queries crude enough to force a call to Mrs. Hingman, who summarily redeployed me to Pacific Bank & Trust’s basement mailroom of all placements, evening shift, at that. 

The 4 a.m. grappling with my gearshift knob, the rude awakenings in the Marina toilets and ruder confrontations with MUNI drivers over recycled transfers, or deboarding an outbound 55 Sacramento to help push the old overheated red and cream GM diesel bus up Nob Hill. Feeling my game face of relentless sunny optimism wearily teeter-totter into darkly cloudy moods again. Once the all work and low pay, sub paranoid mindset of my fellow drones; the time-burning, mindless tasks, the thoughtless, number-crunching, microprocessed anonymity of this cold steel, smoked glass corporate conglomerated carrousel leveled me, I’d callowly caved in, punched up Syd’s number and rang her chimes.

“C’mon, we’ve got tons more branch packets to sort.”

“Ready—just had some personal business, that’s all…”

“Yah, we’ve all got problems,” the supervisor said drolly, flipping through a misrouted spread sheet. “Whole world’s got problems, doesn’t mean it stops.”

I shook my head and fell in behind him, down the Employee Relations bulletin boarded over, brown-tiled hall, left through double swinging doors marked Inter-Office Postal Services. “Why don’t they just call this place like it is, mail room?” Yet another stab at corporatemp small talk.

“Why doesn’t anybody call anything like it is anymore? Why can’t San Francisco cops just be cops anymore? No, now the cop cars have to say Police Services. Everything’s smoke-screened right? Mailroom’s the same thing, mail persons…you get my point.”

“Uh, right—sorry I asked…”

“No problem, just get that branch packet the hell out of L-N Abstracts.”

“Why not,” I sighed, watching the opened necktie middle manager mutter off. “We’ve got all night…”

Well, not all night, but we did have until 9 p.m. That was when Friday temps turned our bins and brown manila mailers over to the graveyard zombies—genuine old-line bank employees legendary for nickel-a-point pinochle and crazy eights marathons known to have played on through Monday’s first airmail drops. Thus the Friday Night Follies were charged with clearing the decks for the workweek, which involved moving two tons of recirculated bank correspondence around the room with the same deliberate process a balding oil futures trader used in strategically positioning his combover of what hair was still there.

Roll in the mail carts, reroute all those bilious brown envelopes by the thousands, from one bin to another, then load up them up again and roll out baskets, floor by floor. After a while, there was a rhythm to it, two channels in fact: Channel A ranged from the Ohio Players to Commodores; Channel B, Andele Con Dios Disco live from Ceasar’s South of the Border Salsatorium, down deep in the outer Mission. Temps picked their pleasure by majority vote, faves blasted across three rows of steel-bin counters like rival PA systems at a Warriors-Lakers game. The concept was fusion, camaraderie; the reality was confusion, confunktion, the result being static ear drum perforation.

For the Friday Night Follies was just that kind of scene. Meaning Vince, the supervisor, had a few studly temp peacocks, heavy into bleached locks and chains, just macho enough to keep him and his mailroom on edge. But mostly women—some young, some not so—umbilical hooked on Mrs. Hingman’s pay periods, with few hot prospects beyond this particular evening. One clear advantage to the boomboxes was they effectively muffled the muddle of languages that settled over the mailroom like polyglops of sour cream. Early into the shift, I could overhear the different huddles of Korean, Canton, Spanish, Portuguese, Upper Jersey street and southern drawl, not for what they were exactly, more for what they weren’t: discernible. But by the time a second wave of canvas sacks hit the countertops, I was hard pressed to discern even that.

“Hey girl, what you be wantin’ with Rosita’s eyeliner?”

“The Palladium, Denise, for after we bust outta this place,” Tina smirked, pulling her long, curly red hair back off her face, rebanding the split-ended bun tightly against her head. “Gonna go dancin’, ain’t got no clubs like that back in ’Bama.”

“Alabama where,” I asked, catching the acne patches on her chalk white freckled cheeks. Just then a flat-topped flunky with one short arm tossed another dolly full of canvas mailbags up onto the counter.

“ ’Bama’s ’Bama—Roll Tide,” Tina drawled as she handed the bag draw strings my way. “But Mobile, if you gotta know…point is, this little lady beat that rap.”

“Can’t blame you, spent a little time in Dixie myself.” I simply left the bags to Dante and Marcello, who were sorting as if their family lives depended on it, because it probably did. I finally located the missing L-N Branch packet, pulling it gratefully, as though it were Josh’s package, then re-binned the L-N Abstracts. “Kentucky, North Carolina, courtesy of Uncle Sam.”

“Well, ain’t you the cracker,” she said, in a Sissy Spacek sort of way, tapping my forearm. “Say, darlin’—you care to do me a big one, real big? You’re almost done there, right?”

“Yeah—uh—I guess, until…”

“Then how ’bout you finish these watcha callem, fund statements for little ol’ me ,” she smiled, moving and grooving to some Stylistics on channel A, as if caught somewhere between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Muscle Shoals.

“Well, what if Vince has…I mean, we’ve only got about a half-hour to go…”

“C’mon, be a sweetie, me and Annette and them got a hot ticket goin’ at the club,” she looked me over, chewing an index finger cuticle on her thickly freckled hand. “Just take a whiz brain like you a couple of minutes…”

“Ah, why not,” I leafed through the small remaining interline stack rather than dogging her swaying, sugar-bunned, sun-dressed behind crossing the mailroom to the ladies’ head.

Annuity outlays for AL through AN, retirement credits for GE, capital gains non-managed, no-load long-term rollover receipts and disbursement for PE to PI: I was getting compound P.O.ed just thinking about everybody else’s capital accumulation. That’s when I turned up an open-access trust statement earmarked for MA through ME.

“Find it yet,” Vince snuck up over my shoulder.

“Huh,” I muttered. The folder read, new transfer account number 591-210-35909-7421, balance as of September 1, inclusive of interest accrued: $516,489 and change, address for Syndey Mendel, trustee for the estate of Sophie Mendelberg. Had to be her bubbie, hit me like a sack of gold bars across the knees.

“The missing branch packet, L-N,” Vince shouted, fixing on the statements. “Hey, what’re you doing with…that’s not your assigned stack…”

“R-r-right, I, uh, Tina,” I sputtered dazedly.

“Where the hell…she pulled that one on you too, huh?”

“I was just about caught up, anyway,” I closed the Mendelberg folder, tight as a Mint vault door.

“I swear, I’m gonna call Able, fire that smart-ass skank first thing Monday,” Vince seethed, kicking at the bins with his scuffed cordovan wing tip.

“It’s all right by me,” I handed him the long lost L-N Branch packet. “There’s no point busting her for…”

“Have her canned once and for all,” he ranted, stuffing the packet tightly under his arm, then turning toward his office. “She’s been pullin’ that crap for two weeks now.”

“Wow, you’ve really got it in for her,” I said, noticing Tina and Annette choreographing a trifle early exit, slipping out the mailroom’s double doors, mega purses slung over their shoulders, bound for the elevators and Palladium.

“Useless temp tramp—redheads are nuts,” Vince turned back, getting in another word. “Her whole act, sliding through work, shaving the clock, southern grits tryin’ to sound so black and everything. But she’ll be out with a snap of my fingers—just like that.”

“Sooo, what about this mail, it’s getting pretty late…” Who was I to say anything about that? I guess I sort of knew people down here after a few nights, yet didn’t really know them. Who knew anybody down here?

“Aww, hell with it, give graveyard something to do besides pinochle,” he seemed to relent some and ease his reins as the clock closed in on shift’s end. “It’s Ken, isn’t it? What say we punch the hell out of here, go get a couple of belts?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I’ve some things to…”

“I insist, just down the block. You seem like a straight-up guy and have been working pretty hard, so I’ll pop for some firewater. Let me flag this jacket in the office, and I’ll set up the shift change.”

“Maybe just one round,” I said, factoring punch out and snapped fingers just like that, into the equation, sorely needing another week minimum to pull down more remedial cash for the Volvo, and the bank’s cafeteria to pick up some long-lost poundage.

“That’s the PBT spirit, go sign out on your timesheet, I’ll meet you at the elevators…”

“Right,” I muttered. Couldn’t rightly say I wasn’t in the mood for a pop, here in the shank of the evening, with so much more to sort through, rank and file…

Care for more?

Chapter 79. Retreating to darker
places, some deeper dives are
right around the corner…