October 20, 2014
Brandon called Amy McCoy at noon and was asked to meet her at McNally’s in two hours. He loaded his printer with nice heavy stock for his resume, which consisted of his educational background and his experience at two Portland bars. He made a second pot of coffee and thought of witty lines to explain his situation but came up blank. He brushed his teeth, washed his hands twice and at a quarter to two he walked out of the loft wearing a black wool suit and blue Royal Oxford shirt and silk tie. It was an outfit his last girlfriend picked out so they could attend a wedding.
Amy sat at one of the bar’s corners with a clipboard and her second glass of rye. She had just called in the week’s order to the distributor. Her reddish blond hair was pulled up in a bun and little white wisps flared out from the nape of her neck.
“You don’t plan on working in a suit, do you?” she asked
“I could if you need me to.”
She laughed. “What are you drinking?”
“I’m okay, but thank you.”
“Rule number one, always say yes when a woman asks if she can buy you a drink.”
“Okay. Jameson on rocks.”
Amy ordered the drink, and Brandon took his resume out of a leather portfolio.
“You even brought a resume.”
“Who doesn’t bring a resume?”
“Look, I know you can bartend. I just have a few questions I need answered, but I don’t want to interrogate you, either, so we’re going to hang out for a while if you’re okay with that.”
They went outside and smoked cigarettes, picked classic rock and 80s pop on the jukebox and split an order of hot wings.
“Three things you never talk about in a bar?” Amy asked.
“Religion, politics and music.”
“Fanatics and zealots.”
“Do you want to work days or nights?”
“I prefer days but don’t mind either.”
Amy waved over George Franklin. He was the head bartender, a large man with a large brown beard and friendly disposition.
“George is going to train you a couple days this week unless you’re busy. The register is a touchscreen and pretty self-explanatory, but I’m sure there are some quirks.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“We don’t currently have any openings, but you’ll be on call and hopefully be available to cover.”
Mrs. Fair walked around the class room with a box of sandwiches. Peanut butter and raspberry jam or turkey and pepper jack cheese. It was the weekly lunch meeting for the College Prep Club, and almost all the juniors and seniors preferred the turkey because it was more sophisticated by their estimation. Besides the underclassmen, the only student who regularly had the other sandwich was Saan Saeteurn, and he usually had two or three of them. He was president of the club for the second year running and also the school’s star quarterback. Saan’s older half-brother chartered the club a few years ago and when he graduated, the club members naturally voted for him, and it seemed prescient when the club figured out his SAT scores from the previous spring and dubbed him “Mr. Perfect”.
Saan spent most of the lunch period going over different thought processes for how to find the answers for tough verbal analogies and word problems, but when he was done he spent the rest of the time talking with the underclassmen about their various interests and the different paths they might take to do something they would enjoy. However, Mrs. Fair knew the kid had no idea what he wanted to do himself. She remembered a conversation they had the previous year when he was her student and asked for help on an essay that was already better than you could hope for from someone his age.
“Aren’t you going to play football or basketball in college?” she asked as she looked over the paper.
“If I’m good enough.”
“Saan, all those schools are giving you scholarships to do just that.”
“But what if I get there and I’m not good enough.”
“Well, what do you like to do? Besides football and basketball.”
He thought about it for a while. “I don’t know. I like to compete.”
“You’re still young, and that’s exactly what college is for. I have no doubt you’ll find your calling.”
“But I’d rather find it now than later,” he said with a look of desperation.
“It’ll be soon enough.” She put a hand on his shoulders.
When she had her surgery and chemotherapy that winter, he brought her flowers and get well cards signed by her students and the kids in the club. And even though she never wished to have Brandon replaced, she was overwhelmed by guilt the moment she imagined Saan was her son.