The Reluctant Wrench 14: The Houseguest
“Is he awake yet?” Ted asked. He straightened his tie in his reflection on the microwave door.
“Not yet,” Andy replied, “at least I haven’t heard him.”
“Or the printer, you mean.”
Andy poured a bowl of scrambled egg batter into a pan. It hissed at him as he stirred it in. The sweet smell of onions and peppers caramelizing in the hot pan tempted Ted to call in late to work, but he had already eaten his usual oatmeal and was trying to keep his weight down.
“What did he say he was printing every morning?” Andy asked.
“Poetry. Said he writes one poem a day. Why can I never find my keys?”
“Because you never hang them on the damn hook I put up just for that purpose,” Andy smiled.
“Here. Gotta go.”
“Tell the junkies I said hi.”
“They’re not all junkies. Some are there for Plan B’s and flu shots.” As Ted walked out the door the morning whir of the printer started up from the office. They exchanged smiles.
“Dylan, breakfast is ready,” Andy announced to the closed door.
Dylan was disheveled and running late. Andy convinced him to stay for breakfast and use his car to get to the bike shop. He was working from home anyway. After Dylan pulled out of the driveway, Andy poured the last of the coffee into his mug and forced himself into the office to begin his mundane day of checking emails, responding to complaints, editing and re-editing the business and medical journals that, if not in electronic form, he figured would be piled head high and filling the office like model skyscrapers of neverending work.
He glanced over to the couch in the corner of the office Dylan had been using as a bed for the past six weeks. There were a few books, an ancient clock radio, and a couple of empty beer bottles on a milk crate he used as a nightstand. A pair of eyes glared at him from under the rumpled blanket. FrankenCat. He had been obsessed with Dylan since he started staying there. Sleeping with him, curling up on his dirty clothes, sitting on his lap at dinner. FrankenCat wouldn’t have anything to do with Ted or Andy anymore. Ted just shrugged it off, claimed it was because Dylan smelled worse out of the three of them.
“I wouldn’t complain so much if I were Dylan,” he said. “At least he gets to talk to people during the day. I just have you, ugly cat, and all you do is poop in a box.”
It was then that a paper dangling on the edge of the printer’s tray caught his eye. Dylan’s poem? He shouldn’t read it, right? That would be a breach of trust, a dusting of dishonesty…but Dylan was more Ted’s friend than his, he calculated. And Dylan knew he used the office during the day. Something like that, left out in the open, was fair game. FrankenCat quickly agreed.
It turned out not to be a poem at all, but a letter. The letter was dated for that day, addressed to the shop owner. It started in a fairly normal, generic tone:
“I appreciate the opportunities I have had, and also the gravity of losing an experienced employee when spring is around the corner…”
“It is never easy working side by side with the CEO of a company, not many low-level workers in large companies would understand…”
“I regret to inform you that I am no longer able to perform my duties and resign my current position effective…”
Dylan had signed the letter, which towards the end got a little more descriptive about Dylan’s qualms about The Boss and his shop than it needed to, then ended with this statement:
“p.s. Your dog’s face looks like an old man’s nutsack.”
It wasn’t as if Andy was looking for an excuse to shirk work, but the letter, being dated for that particular day, seemed prescient enough to warrant a visit to the shop. He called Ted, and they arranged to go at Ted’s lunch hour under the ruse of looking at fat bikes.
The shop, which was usually staffed with several salespeople and a mechanic (it had been three mechanics when Dylan started) was desolate. It had an air of abandonment that Andy thought disturbing, though Ted, having spent years hanging around bike shops, knew was just the calm before the spring storm. They glanced into the back room, where Dylan was cradling a phone in the crook of his neck and mounting a tire with his hands while balancing the wheel on his knee. Ted walked into the back room. Dylan was explaining to someone that if you mount a tubeless tire and let it sit for two months that yes, it will lose a lot of air. He rolled his eyes when he saw Ted, who held up the letter of resignation so that Dylan could see what it was, and set it on his workbench. They both smiled.
Andy was out on the sales floor, and was greeted by The Boss’s dog, henceforth aka Nutsack Face. The dog jumped onto him and smeared a dirty paw on his khakis before burying his nose forcefully into Andy’s crotch.
“God! This is why I have cats,” he told himself.
“Can I help you?” a voice said from behind. It was The Boss, dressed in sweatpants and a flannel. His hair was everywhere like a mad scientist’s.
“I’m looking for a shock collar?” Andy said.
“Get down,” The Boss finally yelled to the dog. He gave Andy a look. He hated people that didn’t love his dog’s face in their crotch.
“Actually, I ran into this brilliant young man named Dylan who told me this was the place to go for fat bikes. I was thinking maybe even a custom build?”
The Bosses eyes lit up. “I can help you, Dylan’s in the back.”
“Well, I just want to make sure I am talking to an expert, because I only ride the best of the best, you know?”
“Same here,” The Boss said. “I have been riding fat bikes for years.”
“But I don’t see any carbon frames here,” Andy said. He adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses.
“Oh, we can get them,” The Boss said. “Let me show you some options.”
“That’s alright,” Andy answered, “I have to get to the dry cleaners before they close. Thanks.”
The Boss’s face sank. Ted was standing a distance away trying to hold in his laughter. They gave Dylan a wave and a “See you later, the beers are on us.”
Back at the house that evening the mood was festive and tacos were constructed and topped with Andy’s homemade salsa. They sat at the table, FrankenCat sat on Dylan’s lap, and he produced a stack of folded papers.
“So I wasn’t going to quit today. I don’t think. I don’t know if I will ever know in advance.”
“But the letter?”
“I carry a letter of resignation in my pocket everyday. Just in case The Boss is in one of his moods, or I get one of those customers that push me over the edge. Every morning I change the date, give it a little tweak here or there, according to my mood. It helps me cope.”
“I didn’t get a chance to read it. Let me hear some,” Ted said. Dylan took a sip of beer to wet his lips and began reading selected lines from each letter in the stack.
“In the history of capitalistic endeavors, no one man has been as productive for a company as I for yours…”
“If I smell like tires to myself, how must I smell to others?”
“Until I met you I didn’t know someone could rock sweatpants all day and still remain married.”
“I once slipped on a chicken leg after you threw it at the trash can, missed, and didn’t bother to pick it up.”
“I know I don’t always act excited about new ‘technology,’ but that’s only because most of it is crap tech for yuppies.”
The guys were rolling. Between the salsa sweat and the tears of laughter, their faces shined with moisture.
“Dude,” Andy said, “read today’s. Oh Ted, you have to hear today’s.”
Dylan sunk his hand into his back pocket. Knocked FrankenCat off his lap to check his front.
“Dude, where did it go?”
“Did you leave it in the car?”
“I picked it up from my workbench, folded it, put it in an envelope…closed out the service register…” His face went blank, then his eyes widened. “I think I used the envelope to close out the register. Loaded it with cash, credit card slips, the Z printout. Put it on The Boss’s desk…”
They all stared at each other. Dylan sat back and took a long pull on his bottle of beer. Smiled. Shrugged.
“Dudes, I think I just quit my job.”