Friday, February 8, 2013

A Request

John looked around the room once more.  His first thought was, "That woman couldn't be named John."  His next thought took him to the note left on his car.  "Someone is stalking me."

He saw that there was a rolled up piece of paper in the bottle.  He popped the cap off and fished it out..

It read, "John, I need you to work for me.  I need an open minded journalist.  Call this number.  I will pay you handsomely.  555.231.4545."

"I didn't know you took pills!"

Cindy was back.  She saddled up on her stool and gave him a smile.  As if from a above a waiter approached the table.

"Another round?"  He asked.

"Yes!  Thank you!"  Cindy replied.  The waiter walked away pleased as a clam in sand.

"Sorry, I was distracted.  I found this on the ground and tried to find who dropped it."  John shook the the see through orange container.

"You don't need to make anything up, John.  I used to take pills.  After I lost my job as a weather reporter I didn't think I would like working for a newspaper.  I had a heavy dose at first, oh ha ho!  I can't even remember those days!"

She kept on with her story until it finished with her sleeping with her boss.  That was the only part John heard.  John sipped his drink so not to make a funny face.  It was hard for him to listen and not think about Cindy naked, and if there was one thing John knew about women, they usually knew when a man was thinking about them naked.

"It must be their sixth sense."  He thought.

But his thoughts kept wandering.  "Who keeps giving me these notes?  What type of work would it be?  Private journalism?  Why me?"

He could use the money though, if this was real.

"Maybe this isn't real.  I have been drinking a lot.  Maybe this is ironic."

John realized he was staring at Cindy's breasts.  He looked up, right into her eye.  She was talking away like she hadn't noticed.

"She had to have noticed.  But she didn't act like she noticed.  She must be used to it and like me enough to give me a mulligan."

John finished his drink and told Cindy about the time he was chased by an All-Pro offensive tackle for breaking a report that the footballer was a cross dresser and danced at burlesque shows.

"My photographer and I were parked outside his house.  He drove up to park and got out in a full feather coat and boa.  My photographer took a photo and the football player saw the flash.  Before I could start the car and drive away he had the door open and dragged the photographer out by his hair.  The only thing I could think of doing was to throw my cold coffee on him.  When I did he yelled that I ruined his coat.  He chased me for three blocks.  I have never seen a 300 pound man run that fast for that long."

She laughed into her glass and finished her drink.

"You ready to go?"

"Yeah, I'm ready."  Cindy said.

They walked to the door and like magic someone had her coat hung in the air for her to slip on.  They drove back to her place as the radio played softly.  Cindy sung along when Stevie Wonder's, "My Cherie Amour" came on.  She didn't know all the words and she sung out of tune but she was smiling the whole time and it was quite endearing.

John pulled up outside her house.  Cindy smiled and thanked him for the ride.

"I"m glad it's Friday night," she said, "because I'm sort of drunk."

She and John chuckled.  She looked right at John after a slight pause and said -

"Goodnight, John."

"Goodnight, Cindy."

They smiled and she got out.  John thought that maybe he should have opened her door and walked her  in.  But he hadn't.  He drove home thinking about the note again.  When he went to bed it was his last thought.

"Who the hell is stalking me?"

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How About Drinks?

After spending a week traveling to dog shows and candy stores with Cindy, John had taken a new meaning to life:  he had begun to realize why having a mid life crisis could be fun.  He would wake up at 7, shower (he was shaving every other day now), dress (he was now wearing ties because he felt it would look ironic), and drive his new Benz to work.  Then Cindy would give him his marching orders (and boy would he march) and they would be off for their story.

Then right after lunch he would take a few swigs off of his flask (he had never been a heavy drinker but it took the edge off the afternoon assignments and the hangover) and Cindy and he would go to dog show number two, or the new donut store that sold beer and was open to midnight.

At first Cindy and John would take her car to get to get to the locations.  That was until John realized what a bad driver Cindy was.  It wasn't just that she would talk on her cell phone and do her make up while driving (at the same time on a few occasions) but she just couldn't drive.

John didn't want to be driving Cindy around in his old car.  She was the type of woman that may sleep in high heels if it meant she would have a high class dream and he knew she wouldn't step in his old ride.  Buying a new car was something he had said he would do when he retired and now that his career was on the brink he decided to do it anyway.

So now when a cat would get stuck in a well and John and Cindy were rushed off to report on it, they would be driving in style; Cindy in her short dress and stilletos and John wearing sun glasses and a tie loossened under his neck.

After the day was over John would type up an article between sips of bourbon.  Usually this is when Cindy would tell him goodnight.

"John, I was thinking maybe it would be a good idea if we let loose a little.  We have been working together for a few weeks now and we haven't much about each other.  Want to grab a drink?"

She must not have known John was already a few fingers deep and had been steady faded since after lunch.

He grinned.  "I don't have any plans."

"Good.  Pick me up at 8.  I'll text you my address."

She handed him a piece of paper.  John watched her leave.  He knew it wasn't a date but he didn't mind having drinks with such a good looking woman.

John finished the article - something about 21 Things Successful Women do Everyday - left, went home, changed his shirt, poured himself a full drink (probably his fourth of the day), and went to Cindy's.  He arrived about 5 minutes before eight, knocked twice, and waited a minute.  She answered the door with a smile.

"You were early and I was still not dressed.  Wait a minute while I put some earings in, would ya?"

John nodded.  He looked around.  She had a nice place.  The walls were not cluttered, a few paintings were hung up.  There weren't many pictures and she wasn't in more than two of them.  She walked out into the living room where John was waiting with a big smile.  She had her hair down, she usually had it up, and she was wearing a tight dress.

"You ready?"  She asked rhetorically.

"You betcha."

They made their way to a restaurant that was very popular on the Beltway.  Sam's Clubhouse was an old fashioned joint.  It was dimly lit and had big round tables on the sides, but also had high tables and stools in the middle of the room.  The big tables took reservations, but the high tables had a high turnover.  Many people would meet for drinks at Sam's and move on to other bars.  John and Cindy took a seat in the middle of the room.

They ordered drinks and started talking.  Cindy did most of the talking.  Then they ordered another round.  Cindy talked some more.  She had been talking so much that John realized he wasn't paying any attention to what she was saying.

"That's when all the girls pulled me out of the lake and sat me by the fire.  I don't remember much before that!"

John  nodded.  He was actually curious what had happened.  John looked around the room.  Men in Brooks Brothers and women with Yves St Laurent purses were everywhere.  John realized he might be having drinks with the best looking woman in the room.  He smiled and took another drink.

He looked across the table.  She was still talking.  He realized that he was nodding and smiling in cadence with her body language.  She was very easy to be around.  He didn't even have to hear her words to enjoy her.

"Then the cat jumped out of the tree and landed ON the cameraman!"

John laughed and finished his drink.

"Another round?"  She asked.

He nodded with lips pursed.

"K.  I'm going to use the ladies room.  Be right back."

He watched her walk.  So did everybody else in the room.  John didn't know that covering the latest in "style and fashion" could be so enjoyable.

"Excuse me, do you come here often?"  A woman said, standing right behind John.  "Excuse me?"

John turned around.  "Oh, sorry, I didn't know you were asking me.  Ah, not often, no."

"Do you have a smoke?"  She asked.

"Ah, no, I don't smoke."

"That's ok."  She said.  As she turned around she looked through her purse and something dropped out.  It was a pill container.

John got up, bent over, and grabbed it.

"Hey!  You dropped this."  He said, but she was gone.

He looked at the container.  It had "John" on a piece of tape written with a sharpie covering it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Means to an End

John arrived to work the next morning like he always did.  He wore gray slacks and a navy blazer, neither fitted.  He parked his old Toyota Camry in his numbered spot and walked from the garage into the office.  First he went to the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee from the instant brewer.  One of the things he told himself he would do when he retired would be to buy himself a nice coffee maker and keep a budget that allowed him to buy African coffee from a free trade supplier.  As it was he couldn't pass up free coffee nor the convenience of having it made for him.

John said his good mornings and settled down in his cube to read his new assignments and look over his edited ones.  John looked over the papers in front of him before checking his email in habit.  His first email made his heart skip a jump.  It was from his boss who wanted to see him in his office right away.  John didn't like this news because he and his boss hadn't ever got along but the relationship was worsening and there is no way his boss wanted to congradulate John for a job well done.

John almost got up right then but another email caught his eye.  It was titled "Be Nice".  John's heart skipped two jumps as he remembered the note left on his car.  He clicked to read the body of the email and all it said was, Be nice.  He didn't have time to think about this targetting of what could very well be either a stalker or spam or a joke from a friend who was pranking him.  John took a deep breathe and walked to his boss' office.

His boss sat in his big chair with his black dress shoes on his desk while he talked on the phone.  John knocked on the door which was slightly open.  His boss looked through the crack.

"Just a minute, John."

He wrapped up his conversation in a hushed tone, put down the phone and his legs, and asked John to come in while keeping his seat.  John sat down across the desk while his boss looked at him for a few seconds before speaking.

"John, your articles have been sloppy lately, you know we think that, but now they are turning into sloppy opinion pieces.  We aren't paying you to write poorly and we sure as hell aren't paying you to write opinion pieces."

The conversation of sloppy writing had come up once before.  John was asked to cover a press conference about a cheating Congressman and misquoted an aide.  At least that is what the aide said, and the paper took the aide's word and rescinded the quote and made an apology.  That was strike one against John and since then his boss had handled him like a hot frying pan.

"Do you know how many writers want to write for us right now?  It isn't like a journalist is hard to find when every paper in America is laying off  half their workforce.

His boss leaned forward and continued, "Honestly John, you are one of the worst writers at the paper and I don't know if we should keep you.  You misquoted an aide in an important report and then you decided to write about your love and worship for guns....I just don't know if we should keep you."

His boss reclined, and John tilted his head to its right and sneered.  The first thought that came to mind was to belittle his boss; tell him how bad the paper stunk under the boss' guidence.

"What story will you run today?"  John wanted to say.  "What article will you choose over mine?  Another article about cute cats on the internet?  Or one about the local who was in the running for the Miss America pagent?"

John wanted to point out in the paper's desperation to sell copies it had become a hybrid of sensational news stories and a tabloid.  Never did the paper question the ongoing wars, or overt gun control.  No, they would print a picture of troops in Afghanistan, remind everyone the US was still there, and then give an article outlining what type of flowers would be used at the President's ball that evening.  And this was a national newspaper!  This was the hope of the media.  Cats and flowers.

But there was something in the back of John's head telling him not to give the boss another excuse to fire him.

"Be nice," he thought.

"I'm sorry.  I'll do better from now on."

John's boss winced.  He seemed upset by John's apology.

"I'm taking you off of government and I'm pairing you with Cindy.  You will report with her from now on."

John nodded.

"You can go....and John, remember, you are at the end of your rope."

John stood up and left.  He felt half humiliated that he couldn't express himself and half relieved that the meeting was over.

"Cindy.  Great.  I am paired with the reported that runs the cute cats on the internet pieces."