The International Writers
a health researcher for the State, was not in the best of moods
when he arrived back at eight PM on a Friday evening in July, still
hot in Sacramento, from a meeting in San Francisco. The committee
of doctors he'd met with had again dithered around about giving
the go-ahead to a project he'd been pushing for six months.
On the drive back, the ten-year old State car he'd been given for
the trip had over-heated and then the air-conditioner had given
out. So, besides the usual irritation that yet another pointless
State meeting aroused in him, he was tired, hungry and hot.
The first thing
Paul's wife Sally said to him when he came through the door was, "Jack
has another problem."
Jack, 20 years old, was their younger son, in his
third year at the local college, Sacramento State.
"I suppose its money again."
"Yes. Remember when he changed apartments?
He had a repair bill to pay but didn't have the money so he just ignored
it. Now the landlord has turned the bill over to one of those
collection agencies and they're threatening him."
"Great. How much is it?"
"What? What did they do to the place?"
"I don't know. You know how it is with Jack.
I couldn't get a straight story from him."
Paul shook his head. Although Jack was
going to a local college, they'd decided to let him move out to his
own apartment. Their older son, Ken, 23, had gone out of town
to college, so this seemed only fair. It had been a mistake.
Within a year, Jack had run up credit card bills which eventually they'd
had to pay for him. Now this.
"Well, I guess we'll have to pay up for him
again," said Paul. At least its a lot less
than that credit card bill. But this will be the last time."
"I told him you'd call,"said Sally.
"Not tonight. I haven't eaten since lunch.
Do we have anything?"
"I'll make some eggs. Is that all right?"
"Fine. I'm going to take a shower."
Paul went through the living room, throwing
off his jacket and tie on the way. Their son Ken was sprawled
on the living room sofa, watching some insipid game show on television.
Paul stopped. "How's the job-hunting going?" he asked.
Ken, after getting his college degree and then a teaching credential
had decided he didn't want to teach and was supposed to be looking for
Ken looked up, startled, as if some alien presence had crossed
his field of vision. "Okay," he said.
"Well, did you look anywhere this week?"
"Not really. There was nothing in the paper."
"How about the temp agencies. Did you try any of them?"
They'd had a long discussion about Ken going to employment agencies
that specialized in temporary jobs. In the present recession that
was then gripping California, many experts had said that this was the
best way to get a foothold in the job market.
"No, it was too hot to drive around today."
At this, Paul exploded. "It was too hot! What
the hell do you plan to do all summer? Sit around all day and
watch television? Do you think we can go on supporting you forever."
Seeing the remote on the coffee table, Paul grabbed it and switched
off the TV. "At least, do something else than watching that
crap. Work on your damned resume."
Paul stomped into the bedroom, stripped off
the rest of his clothes, and went into the shower. The cool water
felt good. He sighed deeply. What had he done to deserve
two sons like that? Maybe he should had stayed overnight after
the meeting. Like many Easterners who'd been shipped to California
while in the service, Paul had returned there afterward, getting a State
job in San Francisco. As always when he visited there, memories
of his first few years, when he was in his twenties, came rushing back
He remembered the thrill of getting his first
job, his first car, his first apartment, all to himself. He remembered
the Friday nights and weekends going to bars and parties, trying to
meet girls. Then came the time when the research firm for which
he worked had gone under, at the same time his girl, Ellen, had gone
back to the Midwest because her father had a terminal ill-ness, and
he found himself without a job or a girl. He'd now worked almost
20 years for the State in Sacramento. He was a family man, with
a house, a mortgage, two sons. Sometimes it seemed that his early years
in San Francisco happened to another person.
Paul turned off the water and got dressed.
He felt almost human again. He went into the kitchen, where Sally
had his eggs ready. He recounted the travails of his meeting to
her. Then he went into the living room and picked up the morning's
paper. Ken had retreated to his room, because Paul could hear
him talking on the phone. It sounded as if he was talking to his
"I don't know. What do you want to do?"
Paul was reminded of the classic movie, "Marty," he'd
seen as a kid, in which Marty and his friends were trying to decide
what to do on a weekend night. "What do you wanna do?"
"I don't know. What do you wanna do?" Nobody in
Marty's gang had a girl friend.
"I'm not sure," he heard Ken say. "Dad's
pretty sore at me."
"Yeah, maybe we'll just hang out."
A few minutes later, Ken came into the living
room. "Do you think I can use the car tonight? Jack
and I want to hang out. Maybe we'll go to a movie. I'll
go to those temp agencies on Monday. I did re-write my resume
"Okay. Take the key. Drive carefully.
And tell Jack I'll talk to him tomorrow."
When the went to bed, Sally said, "We can sleep late tomor-row.
Maybe we can go to a movie in the afternoon."
"That sounds okay."
"Someday they'll grow up and be on their own."
"Yeah. Good night."
© Martin Green July 2007
in the office
Uncle Pringle and the Witchs
Are you all right? she asked.
Yeah, just another little accident. Theyve been
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