His unspent energy and the low Saturday morning traffic conspired to get Joe to work in less time than usual despite his out of true front wheel and he cruised to the store’s service entrance with a healthy temporal cushion. “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about being late today.”
Joe tried the door handle and finding it locked, knocked. After a pause of a minute or so he pounded a bit harder and heard J.T. vociferate, “Hold on! I’m coming!”
He opened the door wide for Joe and Joe sang, “Don’t you ever feel sad, lean on me when times are bad! When the day comes and you’re down, in a river of trouble and about to drown. Just hold on, I’m comin’! Hold on, I’m comin’!” His loud but off-key version of the Sam and Dave song filled the room as he rolled his bike in.
“Well, you’re certainly in a good mood this morning. Welcome on board, by the way. John told me about your job situation. Sorry, but their loss is our gain.”
“Thanks, J.T. Oh, hey, how’s the tooth?”
“Okay. I got a temporary crown on it and it feels much better. I go in for a permanent one on Thursday.”
“I’m glad you’re feeling better. I’m going to get changed before Zakerey gets here and beat the rush.”
“Oh, right. Uhm, Joe, uh I spoke with Pete over at Buckhead this morning? You know, how we do every morning to confirm inventory and all? Uhh, he told me something very interesting. You see, he said their drawer was twenty dollars short yesterday and John left me a note telling me that ours came up perfect. I just wanted to reiterate what we said the other day about the missing money and that you were no longer a suspect because we’re pretty sure we’ve got it figured out. I hope to know for sure later today.”
“Oh, good. I’m glad you’re getting to the bottom of the mystery. Anything you can tell me?”
“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to elaborate, just suffice it to say that you’ve been cleared and we’re pretty sure this other person was setting you up as we suggested. Oh! And John wanted me to tell you that he has a store key he wanted you to have. That way you can get in on your own and lock up if need be.”
“Okay, great! That’ll be nice. Uh, J.T.? Uhmm, just because I’m getting a store key doesn’t mean that you’re making me any kind of manager or anything, does it?”
“Huh. Now that’s an interesting question. We are going to need a store manager after Chris Moles moves to Indiana and we did toss your name around a bit but we really didn’t consider you too strongly, what with you’re being new and not planning to stay on and all. Is that okay? Did you think that you were moving into that sort of a position?”
“No, no! That’s perfect! I appreciate the confidence of the key and all but I really hope to get a teaching job for next year.”
“Uh huh, that’s good. Why don’t you go ahead and get ready and we’ll see about the key when John gets here, uh, okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. That’ll be great. Thanks!”
By the time Joe was out of the bathroom and ready for work Frankie and Brad had arrived and were ready for their day to begin. “Hey,” Joe greeted them as he grabbed the front wheel from his bike and applied spoke wrench to true it.
“Hey back,” Frankie said. “What’s up with John? He got here early, made a bee line for the office and told me to send Zakerey in the
minute he showed up for work. Do you know what’s going on?”
“No, I don’t. Maybe it has to do with that manager’s position Zakerey’s been talking about or maybe the missing money. I don’t know.”
“What missing money?” Brad asked.
“Oh, I don’t know for sure,” Joe mumbled. “I just heard talk about some missing money. I thought you guys knew about it.” He took his wheel from the stand and replaced it in the bike fork.
“Not me,” Frankie chimed. “You know anything Brad?”
“Uh, uh. What about the manager position? You know anything about that?”
“Yeah,” Joe said. “I asked. I know I’m out and was never really considered. Beyond that I don’t know any more than what you told me the other day.” He punched the time clock, ready for his work day to begin.
The back door that lead to the service department opened and Kidd sauntered in. Frankie checked his watched. “Holy guacamole! It’s only 8:58! If you hurry and clock in you’ll actually be on time this morning. How ya doing, Kidd?”
“I’m good. How you guys? What’s new?” Kidd clocked in as the time clock made a heavy “clunk” which it did at the top of every hour.
“Wow, look at that! Right on time!” He slid the time-card into the metal card holder that was screwed to the wall next to the device.
Brad nodded four times. “Hey, uhm, I’m sorry you didn’t get that teaching job you wanted but I’m glad you’re going to stick around a while. You’re a goofy guy but I kind of like your goofiness.”
“Uhm, thanks? No, really, I appreciate your saying so. I think it’ll be good here for a while.” Joe had grabbed a new bike build ticket for a green Schwinn Cimarron that had to be assembled by noon. The boxed bike had been brought over by Darrell that morning as he made the rounds for inventory shuffling and was marked with the customer’s name. Joe brought the box over to his bench and cut the top off with a box knife.
“Teaching job? When did this happen? What are you guys talking about?” Kidd exclaimed.
Frankie laughed. “Kidd, Kidd, Kidd, when are you going to get your head out of the clouds? If you miss a day, you miss a lot. I’m heading up front before I get in trouble, good to have you firmly on board.” The little bell that hung from the shop’s front door chimed and in the distance Frankie was heard saying, “Good morning! How you-all doing today?” as a family walked into the store.