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Funny Coming of Age

In another life, I would live another life. Like a James Bond mirror cascade, one mirror overlaps another out into infinity. Or that Star Trek conundrum, two men fighting each other forever to prevent universes from colliding and canceling each other out. Or…

“Hey, dimwit! You’re on the call!”

What? I say silently as my Starbucks nearly collides with all the other coffees I pick up every morning when I arrive at the office. Too fast for me that one. I put the tray down and suck on my coffee-stained hand while balancing a clunky yellow phone receiver that the office had installed thirty years ago when landlines were still a thing. People must have hated using such stupid big phones thirty years ago.

“Hello?” Too amateurish. We’re not going to get money out of this one.

“Yes, I’m supposed to speak with Mr. Dunkin?”

I make a face at Darwin, who shrugs his shoulders. Who calls in so early in the morning? The office is so quiet, big bosses only roll in around ten, I put her on speakerphone. This will be fun.

“I’m supposed to pay twenty-eight dollars and sixty-two cents,” she crackles large and insistent, a whooshing sound in the background. “Now I don’t remember ever paying that amount before and I hate having my credit rating ruined! Furthermore, if you…”

I take her off speakerphone. “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you a few questions first. Now in order to identify you, I need you to answer the following question. What is your postal code?” I put my hand over the mouthpiece. “Definitely a crappy cell phone.”

Darwin shakes his head. “Subway!”

“Elevator!” I say. I wait a minute. She is off the line. Didn’t even tell me. Now she is back.

“Uh-huh,” I say. “No ma’am, we need your postal code for where you live now.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. “Ma’am?”

“Definitely a sad bad call,” Darwin smirks and grabs his coffee.

I rap his fingers. “That’s Victoria’s! This is yours!”

Darwin had this job down pat. Answer phones, go through the motions, and suck up to the boss of our boss who happened to be his brother-in-law’s uncle or something. I never asked.

“You’re covering for Victoria this time,” he says.

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.

I felt like throwing my coffee at him.

***

In another life, I would be Captain Kirk and Victoria would be my love interest, the only key to the plot, my adventuress, the answer to all my dreams.

“You know if you got to work on time, you wouldn’t have to microwave your coffee so much. Just saying.”

“What? Do you think this is some kind of joke? My cat was under my car! What would you do?”

 “Sorry to hear that,” I say. “Want to go to lunch?”

“With you?” She’s standing at the elevator, nursing a fingernail. “My cousin is bringing me popcorn. In another life maybe.”

Great, I think. I’m going to eat alone, in a park. With squirrels and birds. There must be another way to get more life into my life. This is just not cutting it.

***

It’s afternoon. “People are paying their bills too much!” complains Darwin. “There’s too much money floating around! Stare at this phone Duncan! Make it ring!” he shrieks.

But I’m not paying attention. Captain Kirk is dying in my mind. He’s going to save everyone by sacrificing himself. I enter the radioactive chamber and return all systems to nominal by kicking the warp drive core.

Oops! Not keeping a close watch. The dream team must be back from extended lunch. “Maybe we could see a little hustle, what do you say?” says our gray-haired boomer boss, already leaning over our desks. “What’s this?” He points at something that belongs to me.

“A Science Fiction novel,” I say.

“A what?” I don’t answer.

“Listen up carefully. We need big money right away. Now I’m taking the auto dialer offline for all of these.” He throws a folder down on our desk like it is a gauntlet. “Get your butts in gear you two, uh three. Where is Victoria?”

Beauty sleep, I rave inwardly. She’s the Borg Queen who is getting her nails done, waiting for Captain Picard to outwit her. Shiny new nails to claw us with. So crafty, so sure of herself. In the end, she will prevail, and we will be so sorry, until the second part of the season.

“Where is Victoria? Damn it!”

I couldn’t help myself. “She’s in the washroom. Do you want me to go get her?” Darwin coughs then he grins at me when the boss leaves. So worth it.

***

“I covered for you. A lot!” I said to Victoria the next day.

“No kidding.” Victoria, no cousin, or popcorn in sight, was sitting on a park bench, scrolling her cell phone at lunch.

“You know I could become an incel terrorist someday,” I said.

“Uh-huh.” She keeps scrolling and scrolling.

“Why don’t you go out with me?”

“You’re supposed to ask, not interrogate, Dunkin!”

“Then you will say no.”

“Well, ask first, then find out! Why are you so annoying?”

“Will you go out with me?”

“No, I already have a boyfriend.”

***

“Crash and burn, huh,” said Darwin. He was actually working. On the phones, making calls. We were only a quarter through that file folder, and it was dismal. A couple of thousand dollars, tops, and that was assuming that the payments went through.

“How do you know that it didn’t work out with Victoria?”

“By the look on your face.”

“What? It’s that noticeable?”

“Hey, I have bigger news.” Darwin lowered his voice. “Heads are going to roll around here. Not me of course, but either you or Victoria. And others too.”

“I need this job,” I said after I sat down. Then it dawned on me:  I was going to lose my job. I worked harder than anybody and I was going to lose my job.

What would Captain Kirk do? I had no idea.

***

I had a dream. After tossing and turning in bed for a long time, I dreamed I was at this big meeting in space. Captain Kirk was standing by in NCC-1701, photon torpedoes on stun. He always had a plan. Impossible odds, but he’s always thinking, always one step ahead. The captain, outnumbered by his enemies fools them once more.

“We’re going to have to let you go,“ echoes Darwin’s brother-in-law’s uncle in a faraway voice. He’s the bald even older boomer boss, older than my grey-haired boomer boss. He keeps rustling papers that look like money, falling away, under the table, and out the door. Will it be Crocodile Tears? I think. Or maybe it’s the big speech. How big will my severance be? The only question on my mind.

“Now, you’ve worked here a year and a half…”

“Three-quarters,” I interrupted. “Three quarters.” I don’t know why I said it twice, my voice sounds sparse and empty.  It’s important? Round up! Round up! Round up! I plead inwardly.

“So, we are prepared to offer you a year and a half severance pay,” says bald boomer. My grey-haired boss makes a weird noise. He’s whispering and half choking while pointing at my fading employment record.

The bald boomer boss clears his throat and snatches that paper, squinting under his glasses. “Oh, sorry, a week and a half pay, assuming you can go today.”

Hmm. That rhymes, “pay” and “today.” Such a special moment when I am facing down my chief tormentor, Khan of the super race. I make a face. “Excuse me sir, but if you want to do this fairly you would have to offer one and three-quarters weeks severance. How do you calculate three-quarters of a week?” Offer two weeks and we’re done.”

Bald boss harumphs. “You’re quite sure of yourself aren’t you, young man?”

“Yes sir!” I say.

***

I awoke with a start at 6:00 A.M. I’ve got to go to work, it might be my last day!

I’m riding a bus to work, trying to stop the inevitable. What do I do? I miss my stop. I keep thinking about the Borg Queen and how she masterminded the effort to assimilate all of humanity. Only Captain Picard could fight her off, even though they were attracted to each other, he had to finally destroy her. Late for work because I had to double back to the office, I arrive all breathless and upset. No coffee this time.

“Hey, you! Quiet Time!” chimes Darwin. He has his hands buried in that file folder.

“Look ma! No hands!”

I lose my temper. “I’m sick of it! Give me some of that.” I grab a sheaf of papers from the file folder and start dialing.

The big bosses came in early, but I don’t look up from my work. I pretend not to notice them. Darwin has a goofy look on his face.

“Where is Victoria?” asks bald Mr. Armstrong, the head of the company. Darwin shoots me a grin. He wants me to answer. I wait, then I looked Mr. Armstrong in the eye.

“Victoria is never here at this time in the morning,” I said.

***

Darwin, after work. “It was a snooze. Real. I’d shake your hand but…”

“Yours might fall off?”

“Something like that.”

“Good luck with working for real,” Victoria says. She turns to go. “See you in another life.”

April 30, 2023 16:17

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2 comments

Joe Smallwood
14:12 May 01, 2023

Hi Mary! Thanks for the comment. My wife didn't think this story was funny at all! She said she would reread it after I told her what you said. How did you make out with Grammarly? I'm thinking of buying it, renting it, whatever. Premium is 150 big ones a year. Anyway, I love how you comment on new writer's stories so much. Catch you around!

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Mary Bendickson
22:57 Apr 30, 2023

Definitely funny:) In another life we would all have the perfect job. Or none at all. He may have missed his golden opportunity to get out of there and study for his Captain Kirk position.

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