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Miss Communication was prim, proper, perky and poised. As I entered her tiny office the twenty-something rose from her desk, strode the two steps required to traverse its length, greeted me at the door, introduced herself and shook my hand with a hint of grip. She nodded to her desk, her impeccably made face produced and then lost a sunny smile as she intoned, “This way please.”

Her knee length, dark blue skirt would have greatly restricted her ability to walk were it not for the nine inch slit that split it just below where the good Lord split her. As she ushered me to her desk her seventy-five millimeter heels produced their tell-tale clickity-clack; they also produced a pleasant wiggle in her walk. We sat, she behind her desk, me facing.

She had buttoned her shimmering taupe top to within two buttons of the triple decker pearl choker that adorned her smooth, young neck. The blouse shimmered like satin but may have been a synthetic material. Based on it’s clinginess it certainly contained some Lycra/Spandex in the weave. My mind went to Leviticus 19:19 and its prohibition concerning mixing fabrics. My mind also went to my upcoming 4/19 birthday. I told my mind to focus. It told me to F-off, except it used a word my mother asked me not to use, may Dog rest her soul. 

Miss Communication smiled as she confirmed my basic information. “Your most previous employer was Suncoast?” she asked.

“Correct. Well, other than CSH, of course,” I said with a nervous cough of laugh.

“Of course,” she replied nodding politely. “So, let’s see, you’ve worked in eight bike shops-“

“Eight organizations. I’ve worked in eleven bike shops.”

“Come again?” MS C asked.

“I’ve worked for eight bike shops but two of them were multi-location? Challenge Schwinn in Atlanta and BGI in Indianapolis? They both had three locations and I worked at two of them. Out Spoken has two locations as well but I never worked in the Tampa store. And BGI moved locations while I was there so that made three locations where I worked.”

“Okay?” she said, left eyebrow raised.

“Sorry,” I replied, getting the hint but not acceding to it. “Sometimes I talk too much. Especially when I’m nervous.”

“You really don’t have any reason to be nervous,” she replied.

“Oh, I agree. Doesn’t stop ’em though, does it? The nerves I mean.”

“No, I suppose not. Just relax.”

I snorted.

“Something funny?” This question rated both eyebrows to the ceiling.

“No, It’s just that I frequently expostulate on the inefficaciousness of telling a nervous person to relax. It’s not really a voluntary response; is it?”

“Inefficaciousness?” Miss C’s perfectly plucked brows now danced above her pale blues.

“You know, efficacious? Something that works? Inefficacious? Something that doesn’t work? Is inefficacious not a word?”

“I have no idea,” she replied with an adagio triple nod, her smile gone.

“It’s like telling a new skier to relax as he goes down the slope. Easy to say, hard to do.”

“Sure,” she replied, pointing at her computer monitor, “shall we return to this?”

“Please.”

“You started working in bike shops in 1986?”

“Yes. College Park Bikes, back when Larry Black ran the place. It was a Trek store. Not corporate, of course!”

“Of course. And you’ve worked in bike shops continuously since then?”

“Pretty much. Not exclusively. I have an EE degree, that’s elementary education, not electronic engineering! That’s a little joke of mine. My best man, Jack Reitwiesner, was EE so I said I was too. They both start with two e’s? I taught elementary school in Atlanta for a while. Between the Challenge Schwinn job and the North Fulton? I also substitute taught in the off season in Cedar Rapids; when I worked at Northtowne?”

“Teaching has an off-season?”

“What? Ha! Good one! Yes, at least most schools still close for the summer, but I meant mostly late fall to early spring. Cedar Rapids is a lot like Waterloo, Wisconsin except they don’t get quite as much snow in CR. I’d cut back on my hours when we were slow at the store and then bump em back up as needed. Worked well for everyone.

“Do you like Wisconsin?” I added.

“Pardon?” Miss Communication asked.

“Wisconsin? Do you like it there?”

“Oh! I don’t live in Wisconsin. I travel quite a bit for my job. I live just outside DC.”

“Really!? Maryland or Virginia? I used to live on the Maryland side.”

“Yes. I see that from your record. Virginia, by the way. Shall we continue?”

“Sure, sure. Sorry. I always look for granfalloons. It’s a nice icebreaker.”

“Granfalloon?”

“Kurt Vonnegut? Bokononism? Tenuous ties that make people feel like they’re part of a group?

“No? Don’t worry about it.”

“O.K.” MS C’s placid face seems to have lost its p and l. “So, you definitely have a lot of experience. And you’re looking for part-time work?”

“For sure. I have no desire to work full-time. I’m willing to surge when we’re busier and to cut back when we’re not but zero desire to slog it out for forty plus a week.”

“Must be nice,” she said under her breath.

“I’m sorry?” I asked, doing an eyebrow raise of my own.

“Oh, did I say that out-loud? I apologize. It’s just been hectic and the travel can be wearing. Shall we?” she asked, nodding at her monitor.

“Yeah. Life is hard to balance. People think more money is the answer but I’m definitely to the point where it’s more about more time; you know?”

“Yes, if you can afford it. You’re old enough for retirement benefits?”

“Are you allowed to ask me that? I guess I have a job! And, no. Uhm, I worked hard all my life. I was twelve when I got my first job with a social security number- can you imagine?! And lawn-mowing and baby-sitting too. I’ve been very lucky. And my folks passed and that made part-time work an option. I like to do things, you know?”

“Yes! I’m sorry about your parents. And technically I didn’t ask your age. How long ago did they pass?”

“Mom was December of oh-eight and Dad was five years ago last month.

“One of the things I like to do is act and I was in a play where one of the actors has a line that goes, ‘Most honour’d Timon, It hath pleased Athena to remember my mother’s age, and call her to long peace. She is gone happy, and has left me rich!’

“Bobby Callaway, the actor, delivered those lines on the anniversary of my father’s death. I about lost it. I really loved my dad and I’ve often said I’d much rather have him than the money. Really bad timing, which is also funny because the play was Timon of Athens? Kinda punny, don’tcha think?”

Timon of Athens? Is that recent?”

“The production or the play? We literally wrapped up less than a week ago; March sixteenth? but it’s a Shakespeare play, so definitely not what most people would call recent.”

“You do Shakespeare? Aren’t we impressive?”

“Pretty small role, but a lot of fun in a dark humor way. That was my fourth Shakespeare play; I started rehearsal on Monday for a fun comedy called Four Weddings and an Elvis. I’ll take my pants off on-stage, a first for me!”

Miss Communication raised her eyebrows and the right corner of her mouth. “Really?” she asked, drawing the word out.

“Yep. Nothing risque! We’re actually editing the script and taking out most of the minor cursing and any derogatory terms toward my character. Bryce Cannon! I’m gay and he’s called a fruit and something else. We need to PC it up. I’m really looking forward to it. My wife’s not a big fan of Shakespeare and I did two Shakespeare shows back-to-back. Light comedy will be great.”

“Wait- Didn’t you just say you were gay?”

“Oh! Old habit. I tend to talk about whatever character I’m playing in the first person. Bryce is gay, I’m just theatre gay.”

“So acting is really big for you?”

“Yes. That’s my biggest outlet and it’s essential to my mental health, that’s why we need to dial in my work expectations.”

“Got it. Well, really, it’s probably mostly going to be about more money versus more time; right? Your previous experience is great, you’re a ninja, Steve recommends you very highly so it’s probably a question of how much do you want to work, in what capacity, when, and how much do you want to get paid; at least until we can access your talents.”

“Yes. And to be blunt, the more I’m paid the more I’m willing to work, with the caveat that at least seven or eight months a year we can accommodate my acting. And keep me part-time. I’ll bump up when we’re busy but it better be a pretty rare event when I hit a forty-hour week.”

“Well,” MS C replied, “let’s see, shall we?”

“Yes,” I said nodding, “let’s.”