Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Interview

            “Grim Incorporated, please hold,” repeated Salindra. She placed the call in the hold queue and answered the next phone line with the same, tired, phrase. She continued in that fashion throughout her day. “Grim Incorporated, please hold, Grim Incorporated, please hold, Grim Incorporated, please hold.”

             Ted approached the reception desk and tried to get her attention. He was there for a three thirty interview. Salindra pointed at the waiting area seating and waved Ted off in that direction. Ted shrugged and sat patiently in the waiting room as Salindra continued to answer call after call. Ted adjusted his tie and tried to keep his hands from getting too sweaty. He really needed this job and he hoped he would get it. He had been building up his confidence the whole train ride in and was pretty hopeful his skills would be appreciated and considered an asset to the team.

             Salindra snapped her fingers over her head to get Ted’s attention. She was still answering phone calls as she pointed toward the side door. Ted rose from his seat and nodded a thank you in her direction, but she had already returned her attention to answering the constant flow of calls. He opened the side door and stepped into a bustling cubicle-ville. The employees were rushing all over the office, answering phones, opening filing cabinets, stamping papers, typing, it was all very frantic, but somehow orderly.

            “Mr. Charles,” asked a young man.    
            “Yes, that’s me,” said Ted.
            “Please follow me to our conference room. Mr. Grim will be with you in a moment,” said the young man.
            “Thank you,” said Ted.

             Ted followed the young, smartly dressed, clerk to a large conference room. Ted was shown to a large black leather swivel chair at the end of the long dark wood table. Ted sat down and the young clerk nodded and rushed out of the room. Ted looked about the well-appointed conference room. It was the nicest he’d ever been it. It was trimmed in dark wood and reddish wallpaper. Ted was impressed with the elaborate wall sconces and the fine looking crystal chandelier. It wasn’t what he had expected and started to wonder the he might not be quite qualified for the position.

             The rear double doors of the conference room burst open and Mr. Grim entered. He was tall, middle aged, slightly out of shape, but that sort of out of shape that was really actually in shape but not obsessively in shape. He had a manila folder in his hand and stepped toward the head of the table. He pulled out his large black leather chair and sat down. He opened the manila folder and looked down at its contents. Ted wasn't sure what to do so he just stayed quiet.

             Mr. Grim looked up from the manila folder and the papers therein and smiled at Ted. His smile was warm and Ted felt instantly comfortable.

             “Mr. Charles, may I call you Ted,” asked Mr. Grim.  
            “Yes sir, Mr. Grim, Ted is fine”.
            “Excellent. So let’s begin. As you may have noticed we’re very busy around here these days. Although, we’re almost always busy. And that’s why we’re looking for the right sort to perform this job. Based on what I have seen in your resume, I’m not sure you have the right chutzpah we’re looking for,” said Mr. Grim.
            Ted swallowed hard and cleared his throat. Mr. Grim held up his slender hand to pause Ted’s defense of himself.

             “However, we do need the help. With all these shootings, wars, bombings, genocides, diseases, and natural disasters; we are in real need to find the right employees to help those people,” said Mr. Grim.
            “Well, Sir, if I may, I’ve always been about trying to help people. As you can see from my resume, my background in the insurance industry has certainly provided me with the right sort of temperament and empathy for those in need of assistance,” said Ted.
            “I imagine it would. Insurance is quite a business of the people, as it were,” said Mr. Grim.
            “Yes, sir. Quite.”

            Mr. Grim leaned back in his chair and steepled his long fingers.  He rocked back forth gently and stared at Ted.

            “This is a lovely conference room by the way. I’ve never seen the like,” said Ted.
            “Thank you Ted. We spent years getting it just right,” said Mr. Grim.

            Ted shifted in his chair. He was trying to sit up straight. He’d read somewhere that sitting up straight in your chair during an interview conveyed a sense of confidence, and he wanted to seem confident. Mr. Grim continued to stare at him.

             “Do you have any children or family Ted,” asked Mr. Grim.
            “Well, you know, the normal family, like a Mom and Dad. But I don’t have a family of my own, no.”
            “I see. So let me pose a hypothetical question to you. What would you do, if say, your assignment was to handle the remains of a child, say, a newborn or even a regular baby,” asked Mr. Grim.
            “If you were assigned to, how can I put this delicately, remove the breath of life from an innocent, how would you handle that,” said Mr. Grim.

            Ted sat open mouthed for a moment. He’d had strange hypothetical questions during interviews before. One potential employer once asked him what cartoon character he wished he could be, but this was something different.

            “I thought this was an insurance examiner’s position,” said Ted.
            “It’s the ultimate insurance position Ted. It’s insurance for the entire human race,” said Mr. Grim.

            Ted fumbled with his tie clip and wiped his forehead. He tried to remember the add he’d applied for. He remembered thinking it was a bit vague but he’d applied for so many jobs he couldn’t be sure.
            “I’m afraid I don’t understand Mr. Grim… wait…,” said Ted.

            It then occurred to him. It was of course too obvious. He should have known it from the moment he walked into the lobby. He should have realized it from the damn name of the company.

            “…you’re the Grim Reaper aren’t you,” asked Ted.
            “Of course I am,” said Mr. Grim.
            “Great. That’s great,” said Ted.

            Ted covered his eyes with his hand and shook his head. He let an exasperated sigh escape before looking back up at Mr. Grim.

             “Your job posting is a little vague,” said Ted.
            “I really don’t handle that side of things. Not really my concern. I have other things to focus on, I’m sure you understand that,” said Mr. Grim.
            “Of course. I mean, the way I read it, I really thought this was just another insurance job. You know, handling claims, reviewing policies, on and on…,” said Ted.
            “I suppose that explains why I had some lingering doubts about your resume,” said Mr. Grim.
            “Yeah,” said Ted.
            Ted thought of excusing himself, cutting his losses, finding a bar on the way home and just forget about the whole looking for a job thing. He’d been to so many interviews without hearing anything. He’d applied for hundreds of jobs without even a call back and now he was interviewing with death himself. What luck. What dumb stinking luck. He really needed a job.

             “You didn’t answer my hypothetical though,” said Mr. Grim.

             Ted looked up at Mr. Grim’s charismatic smile and sort of chuckled to himself.

             “To answer your question…at this point…no. I don’t believe I’d have a problem with it,” said Ted.
            “Excellent. When can you start?”

             Ted felt a lump in his throat, but not a nervous one, it was an excited kind.
He felt himself smile.  


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Growns

I’m unsure of when it happened,
It came from out of nowhere,
This moment when everyone
I know, was grown.

We used to drink together
in dark secret places,
joking and giggling at
the absurdities of being grown.

“I don’t want kids, I don’t want
that life, a house, a wife. I want to tour Europe,
go to China, see things, do things,
drink in Amsterdam, screw in Israel,
I want that elusive marrow from the bones of
a life spent in amazing pursuits,” we’d

Then they met them, other growns,
and started these lives of purpose,
with marriage, children, homes,
family vacations, pictures of
babies cuddling with puppies.

They had picnics and parties,
that ended too early, they had
traditions of family to adhere.
They grew and grew and were
just suddenly, grown.

Now I drink alone, out of touch,
out of the loop, with misty eyes
looking backwards at once was.
Somehow feeling left out, of what
it’s like to be grown.

Friday, July 18, 2014

In Space, No One Can Hear You Reminisce

             On July 20th Americans will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the first men to land on the moon. I wasn’t around in 1969 and only have the TV fueled memories or firsthand accounts of my forbearers to describe this incredible moment in human history. We made it to another celestial body through sheer grit and determination. (Although my brother in law would beg to differ, he is a moon landing conspirator believer. He thinks it was staged which makes me sad).

            However, I fully and wholeheartedly believe that we landed on the moon on July 20, 1969 and managed, for a short time, to view the world from a very different perspective. Men stood on the moon and looked back at Earth. A single planet floating in a sea of darkness, so isolated from the rest of the universe, so small in comparison to the vastness of the void around us. There was a moment that reminded us, the inhabitants: we’re all in this together. There is no other Earth to toddle off to. It seemed that an age of reason and science might prevail over the darkness of human pettiness.

            45 years later and we’re still squabbling over what nation owns what land, and who’s border goes where. We’re still fighting among ourselves over the very things that make us who we are and what we endeavor to become. We can do better than the whole God, no God, many Gods, a Flintstone history, an evolutionary history or the fart of an all-powerful space lord debates consuming the minds of the passengers of our little blue planet. Does it really matter? Does any of this squabbling and in-fighting in any way work toward the progression of our species? I don’t think so.

            The United States once had a President that challenged a nation to be greater, to be more, and to stand up to the challenges of that age and overcome them. The people listened and learned, evolved, changed and made something amazing happen. We went to another space body. We landed on our moon, live, on TV, with the world watching and I think in that moment an incredible future seemed possible. It was in our grasp as long as we didn’t get sidetracked by the shortsighted goals of the few. The few, the closed minded, the fear mongers, the war hawks, the deniers, the liars, the scandalous, the ignorant and the childish, that almost always seem to wrangle their way in and start mucking up the joint.

            The bar was set very high and flying cars and rocket packs never came about, frankly I think those things are really impractical. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of you drive after a few cocktails and I wouldn’t trust you with a damn jet car. The shortcomings of those never to be had inventions should not limit or diminish our creative spirit. As a people, as a species, we’re capable of the most amazing things and our only limits are the limits we put on ourselves.

            We limit ourselves with armed conflicts, crime, religious arguments, policy issues, poverty, selfies and we have only ourselves to blame. We went to the damn moon. We did it because we knew that as we got older as a species, as technology improved, as old world barriers broke down, we’d have to rely on each other more. This is our only home, we’re stuck with each other and we have to remember that all time, even the Earth’s time is fleeting.

            It’s not important in the long run that you have the best new cell phone or the most land near the Red Sea, or how much anti-abortion money you can raise. It’s important that we recognize the challenges ahead of us and not the saddle burrs of the past. We can do better; we can see what those first Astronauts saw, a unified planet floating peacefully through the cosmos.

            I’m getting a little dizzy on my soapbox, I’ll get down now. Whew, I better sit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Making a Mess

She’s all over my thoughts,
She’s all over my brain,
She builds it,
She wrecks it,
I let her.

I stumble through it,
I make it through it,
I trudge, I shuffle,
I sway, I duck, bob, and

I spill my ashtray,
I spill my drink,
I stare off into the
lost distance of

I made a mess,
I clean it but the
mess still remains
no matter the wash,
no matter the scrub.

There’s still a mess in
here. It’s just not clean,
it’s just not easy, it never
is. Why should it be?

Watch your step,
mind the mess,
the puddle,
the crud,
the curls of my frown.