Phil had found it far easier to just sit back and think about finding a job than it was to actually go out and get one. Winter had been cold and dreary and after the uplift of the holidays the highlight had been watching his granddaughter perform in Giving Tree Theater’s production of “Babe” over in Marion.
Because Ruth had purchased seats up close to the stage all six Mordans watched the play from a comfortable, over stuffed couch. Ruth sat next to Josie and the two women oohed and cooed over baby Joe, the latest addition to Kyle and Josie’s family. Six year old Kayanna sat between Phil and her father, seemingly very content to nestle closely with Dad and Poppy.
The theater had a very eclectic layout with overstuffed sofas and love seats up close to the stage,. Comfortable chairs paired together next to small cocktail tables sat directly behind the mishmash of fabric on foam luxury where the Mordans sat and were followed by traditional, lightly padded seats bolted to the floor in columns and rows.
“This place is packed,” Phil said to his son before the lights dimmed. “Is it always like this?”
“It has been for this show,” Kyle responded. “Pretty sure the folks who run this place chose a show with lots of kids because that just about guarantees a bigger audience. I mean, the only reason I’d ever heard of this place was because somebody I work with was in “The Miracle Worker” late last year. That had a lot of kids in it too. Putting kids in the show means parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins- you know, the whole extended family thing- shows up. Keeping a theater open takes a lot of work and a lot of know how; I hope they make it.”
“Interesting set up with the seats.”
“Yeah,” Kyle said, “that’s what I thought at first too but this way they get to charge more for the premium seats up close and they’re not shy about suggesting a glass of wine or bottle of beer. Can’t make magic if they don’t keep the lights on.”
“No, I guess not.”
The show had been fun to watch and most of the kids did okay. It seemed to Phil that Cindy had really stood out in her role but then he had to admit that his was hardly an impartial opinion. There was a short intermission and as the Mordans filed toward the lobby and the promise of a drink Phil saw a couple sitting toward the back that he knew. “Dan! How you doing?” he called out. “I haven’t seen you in forever. And it’s Lori, right?”
“Phil Mordan! Wow. I don’t think I’ve seen you since we moved down to Swisher. You remember Phil don’t you, Lori? Works at Grilcar.”
“Sure,” Lori said smiling and nodding. “How are you?”
“Okay. Here to see my granddaughter, Cindy. She’s playing Fly.”
“Oh, she’s darling,” Lori said. “Granddaughter did you say?”
“Yeah. This is Kyle, my son, Josie, his wife, Kayanna, their little girl and the little guy there is Joe. You remember my wife Ruth?”
“Hey, Dan. Nice to meet you,” Kyle said, extending his hand.
“Ruth, good to see you again. We were going to head out to the lobby. So how’s Grilcar treating you?” Dan asked as they made their way to the back of the theater.
“Actually I took an early out the end of the year,” Phil said. “They kind of swept most of us old guys out.”
“Oh, wow. Sorry to hear that. I guess I did hear something about that right after the new year. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll find something and they gave us a pretty good severance. What brings you out this way?”
“Oh, our daughter is good friends with the mother of one of the other children. The little girl who’s playing Ma? They went to school together all the way until graduation.”
“Oh. That’s nice. Well, it was real good to see you. You going to get in line for a drink?”
“No, I need to get in the other line to get rid of a drink. Great seeing you. Good luck with the job search. Great to see you, Ruth, nice to meet you everybody.”
Spring had blossomed into BMX season and Kayanna had gone on to rip up the tracks in the quad state area the way Kyle used to before he’d lost his leg in the motorcycle accident; and of course Joe was growing faster than a weed.
The severance pay from Grilcar and the occasional cash work that Phil did supplemented Ruth’s pay from Transcor enough that they were making ends meet. Josie was let go from her graphic design job and decided to transition her love of knitting into a business which she christened Dyed In The Wool. She’d found a storefront close to Giving Tree Theater near the Marion business district and gone about creating a space of her own.
Phil had helped with some of the light construction which kept him plenty busy and both Kyle and Josie knew lots of people who worked with their hands. Quite a bit of the remodeling was done with donated labor and one of the guys who showed up regularly was a fellow named Tyson who worked with Kyle.
Every night Tyson drove over and not only lent a hand with constructing the yarn displays but he’d also had some creative solutions for working around some oddball pipes and columns that protruded awkwardly into the old storefront. His contributions in creating a retail space capable of highlighting the yarns and tools Josie would be selling was incalculable and Phil had taken a real liking to him.
One night Kyle showed up without Tyson and Phil had asked, “Where’s your buddy?”
“Hmm,” Kyle said shaking his head. “Couldn’t make it. Got a call out of the blue that his dad died. They hadn’t spoken in years. Lots of unresolved crap between them and it hit him pretty hard. He wasn’t even sure if he’d go to the funeral.”
“Wow. That sucks. I know how he feels. When your grandfather died I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to cry or light off fireworks. I tell you what, he was one mean SOB.”
“You’ve kind of said that before. He died when? Right about the time I was born?”
“Yeah, and thank God. I swear if he hadn’t gone he’d of been the death of your grandmother. When I was little I used to hear him smack her around and there wasn’t anything I could do. Cops said he fell down a flight of stairs going down into a basement bar in Cedar Rapids but I always wondered if somebody pushed him. Did the world a favor if he did.”
“Christ, Dad, that’s harsh.”
“He was a piece of crap. Anybody ever tell you how my parents met?”
“No, nobody ever said much about your dad and Grandma sure didn’t talk about him.”
“No, she wouldn’t. Someday maybe I’ll give you the whole story but here’s the sickest part. Before Gary Mordan met my mother Phyllis Benesh was a respectable woman. She worked at the Lisbon courthouse and from what I’ve seen over the years nearly everybody liked her.
“Mom met Dad at work. He was on trial. For rape. He was acquitted but rape was a different charge back in the fifties than it is today. Harder to prove. For the life of me I don’t know why a great woman like your grandmother would go for vermin like him. I’m just glad she had a lot of years without him. Meanest son of a bitch I ever met.
“In any case, I know what it’s like to have a distant relationship with your father and I know what it’s like to lose him at an early age. For me it was a relief. You think I should talk to Tyson about it when I see him?”
Kyle stood motionless for a few seconds before answering and then cocked his head to the side and held out his arms to his father. They embraced quickly and then Phil said, “Okay, enough of this horse crap. We need to get to work.”
“Okay, Pops. You know you’re alright, right? I did pretty good in the dad department.”
“Yeah, yeah. Thanks. It means a lot to hear you say it. Now what did Josie leave for us to get accomplished tonight?”
“Boat load, as usual,” Kyle said. “And unless you get a real opportunity to talk to Ty about your dad maybe you should just give him your condolences. You know?”
Dyed In The Wool’s grand opening a few weeks later meant that Phil didn’t have any more ready made excuses concerning his unemployment and that he should start looking for that job. At 54 he was too young to just sit around but without financial pressure finding the motivation to again be a wage slave was a problem for him. Maybe after the holidays.
Like a lot of folks Phil loved the fall but wasn’t a fan of winter. Thanksgiving was approaching and, like most of the country, Cedar Rapids had experienced a warmer than usual autumn. “Hell, if it keeps up like this winter might not be so bad,” he’d said to Ruth before she headed out the door to work.
“Yeah, sure. And if wishes were horses we all could ride. I’m looking forward to the time when we can retire and move south. I’m telling you, I’m about finished with the ice and snow after last winter.”
“Yeah, it was cold, wasn’t it? Better get to work, woman,” he said with a wink. “Somebody has to bring home the bacon.”
“Oh! Speaking of which, be sure to take the turkey out of the freezer and after you put it in the sink fill the sink with cold water. You’ll have to change the water about every half hour or so. Don’t forget or we won’t have anything to bring to Kyle and Josie’s.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it. Now go,” he said gently swatting her behind with the Gazette.
“Don’t forget,” she said, grabbing her purse and closing the door behind her.
“I won’t forget,” he said, getting up from the kitchen table, pouring another cup of coffee and taking the turkey from the freezer and placing it on top of the kitchen counter. “I’ll get to it as soon as I’m finished with my paper,” he added, sitting back down and looking at the front section. “Such as it is.”
The second cup of coffee had his bladder reminding him to get up from the table before thoughts of the turkey did. He looked at the big bird in passing and said to it, “I’ll be right back for you,” and after relieving himself he put the stopper in the sink, squeezed the turkey in and turned the water on until it was a couple of inches from the top. Fiddling with his phone he set the timer to chime every thirty minutes. “Every half hour she said,” he intoned as he checked his phone for emails.
Just after one his phone rang. Looking at the screen he said, “You really don’t trust me to remember to put that stupid bird in do you?” and then after swiping right to answer the call added, “Bird’s in the sink. We’re all set.”
“Good,” his wife said. “That’s good. But that’s not why I called. Transcor announced huge RIFs today. They’re doing the same thing Grilcar did only more so because they’re bigger. I’m being forced out.”
“What?” Phil said, the smile vanishing from his face. “But you just had a great work review and you’ve been at the job for years. I mean, it’s not like they can just throw somebody new in to take your place.”
“It’s company wide, at least in Cedar Rapids. I don’t have to take the offer but if I don’t they’ll probably let me go. Another turkey of a Thanksgiving. You’d almost think they want to ruin people’s holidays, huh?”
“Christ I’m sorry. You coming home or are you going to finish the day?”
“I’d better finish. I need to see how much PTO I have coming to me and maybe I’ll start looking for a new job. I hate using my phone for that sort of thing because the screen’s so small but at least they don’t block that. I just wanted to let you know.”
“Did you tell Kyle?”
“No, you’re the first. Transcor won’t announce officially until Monday, after Thanksgiving and all that, so nobody’s officially let go yet. In fact, nobody’s being let go, officially. Let’s not ruin Thanksgiving. Maybe I can find a job in North Carolina like we talked about.”
“Yeah. Maybe. You okay? Want me to come over for lunch?”
“No, I’m okay. Sort of. I’ve always said there’s a lot good and bad that goes with working for a huge company. Nameless, faceless people deciding my future’s just part of the bad. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Yeah, I’ll see you. Hey, Ruth? You know I love you, right?”
“Sure, sweetie. I know. Love you too. We’ll be okay.”
“Sure we will. You take care. See you in a bit,” Phil said as he disconnected the call. “Son of a bitch!” he added, shaking his head and wondering what would happen to them now.