The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes story about
in our office was on edge waiting for the axe that we knew sooner
or later was going to fall. Still, it was traditional that
we all go out to lunch on a birthday. Someones
got to stay to cover the phones, announced Tom Crusher,
our assistant manager. All eyes immediately turned
to Henry Cooper.
do it, said Henry. You guys go and have
a good time.
In the car with
my buddy Jack Reynolds on the way to the restaurant, I said, I
feel a little guilty about leaving Henry behind again.
Why? said Jack. Henrys a born loser.
When they cut our budget, Ill bet hes the first to go.
Our office was part of the agency that handled state income taxes.
We had a dozen professional staff, called agents, and four clerks.
Henry was one of the agents. I suppose every office had its patsy
and Henry was ours. He was a small man in his 30s,
with sparse brown hair and wide innocent eyes behind thick glasses.
He looked pretty much as youd imagine someone who peered at tax
figures all day long would look. If there was any dirty
work to be done, such as staying behind to watch the phones, Henry was
always the one to do it. He made the coffee, went out to get lunches
and got the cases nobody else wanted to do.
At the party, conversation turned to Henry and Crusher echoed Jacks
statement that Henry wouldnt be with us that much longer.
Ill miss old Henry, said Crusher, who rode him unmercifully.
He had Henry run errands for him almost every day, even to picking up
his laundry and dry cleaning. He also constantly kidded
Henry about his love life, or lack of one.
Have you seen the budget yet? asked Jack.
Not yet, answered Crusher, but we may soon have to
start making our own coffee.
Sure enough, two weeks later, the announcement came. The
agency director assembled everyone in the office and said that through
cutting such things as supplies and travel, wed avoided a major
layoff. But one agent had to go and, as wed all expected,
it was Henry. Im sorry, Henry, said the
Director. These things happen. Well
give you a good reference, of course.
Later, on coffee break, Jack wondered aloud what would happen
to Henry now. Maybe he can catch on with some other agency,
Not a chance, said Crusher. Everyones
being squeezed, just like us. And I dont see him going
out and getting a job someplace else. I remember when we hired
him hed been on the street for almost a year. He was so
grateful to get a job it was pathetic.
He does do some tax work on his own, I said.
Yeah, but thats not going to pay the bills. Henrys
in for a hard time. I wouldnt be surprised to see him ending
up in some homeless shelter. Hell, hes a loser.
Id told Henry to keep in touch and when I hadnt heard from
him in a month or so I called him at home and then took him out to lunch.
Across the table, he looked small and forlorn. As Crusher
had predicted, he hadnt been able to get another job. He
was doing some tax work but the season was almost over.
I picked up the check and again told him to keep in touch.
But when I called him after another month had gone by I got a message
saying his phone had been disconnected. I stopped by his
apartment building and the manager told me Henry had left without leaving
a forwarding address. Eventually, I kind of forgot about
him, although every now and then Crusher would make a joke about some
homeless guy coming up to him in the street and his thinking it might
But Henry hadnt become homeless, as I would find out only it was
almost two years later. My wife Ellen and I had taken a
short trip to Los Vegas. We went to a lounge show, whose
featured act was a flamboyant one-named singer, Roxanne, who belted
out country songs with a relish. She had red hair and a
voluptuous body. I gathered she was pretty well-known in
country music circles, although maybe less for her singing than for
her other assets.. After she finished, the lounge lights
came on and a small man approached our table. He wore a
maroon jacket and velvet pants and had several gold chains around his
neck as well as a gold earring. But he was unmistakably
I invited Henry to sit down and introduced him to Ellen.;
I was on the point of asking what he was doing here when the singer;
Roxanne, appeared and sat down next to him. How was
I, baby? she asked him.
Great, as always, he said, then he introduced Roxanne
as his wife.
I must admit my jaw dropped. The last time Id seen
Henry hed been broke and unemployed and now he was married to
this red-headed bombshell. Roxanne put her arm around
Henry and said, This here man saved my life.
He did? I said.
He surely did. My taxes were in a mess, my agent was
cheating me and I didnt know what to do until I found Henry.
But how did you find him.
I went down to that State tax office and there he was.
It was that day everyone else went out to lunch for somebodys
birthday, said Henry.
Thats right, said Roxanne. He was
the only one there. Of course, I didnt know hed
saved my life then. I left him all my papers and went on
tour for a couple of months. When I came back, Henry had
everything figured out. So I fired my cheating agent and
hired him. Then I figured I better not let him get away
so I married him.
The next night, our last in Las Vegas, Henry and Roxanne took
us out to dinner and we were treated royally. I had a great
time but I was looking forward to an even greater time when I got back
to the office on Monday and told everyone about Henry the loser, especially
my friend Jack and Tom Crusher.
© Martin Green April 2005
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