Bill had gone under the knife a week ago, so it was surprising he was coming back to work so soon. He had a heart valve replaced with that of a pig; highly unkosher for this proud Jew. But Bill was nothing if not a contradiction of expectations… just like his return to work a week earlier than planned.
We were gathered in the largest room in the building, and we filled it– there was standing room only, as the saying goes. While we waited for the man’s entrance, we enjoyed various bits of light entertainment and food. There were jugglers and close-up magicians… there was Indian bread and churros. The man next to me was half-way through a three-scoop ice cream cone when another one was passed to me. I was not sure where I was to put this second cone, but the man found room and took it. One in each hand.
The carnival atmosphere of the party was getting to me, so I went outside into a lobby area. Quiet at last. Bill came walking out of the elevator, head lost in thought. I looked at him and I was amazed– he looked like a new man. He was tan, tight and fit. And none of those three terms are ever used to describe Bill. He walked forward, in his own little world.
“Bill, you look amazing”, I said to him as he passed by.
He just grunted a reply, not so much from rudeness, but because he was used to sycophants; he expected everyone to say nice albeit untrue things to him always, so he was used to passing such comments off.
“No, I mean it”, I continued as a trailed behind him. “You look like a new man. You look healthy as an ox.”
Again, he could only grunt in reply; I was not getting through to him. I looked at him, I tried to look deeper than the tan. His eyes were more alert, the wrinkles gone from his face. And he had hair across the crown of his head. It was thin, but it had color, but it was real and it was resident on his scalp.
“Bill”, I continued, “Do you realize you have hair? Your wrinkles are gone. You look…” I had to pause here; how did he look? Mentally, I thought his skin; the age of his face looked similar to mine.
“…You look 45 or 50 now. This surgery has done wonders for you.”
Finally, Bill turned. He looked at me, his eyes clear and direct. “Thanks kid”, was all he said before he turned and walked into the auditorium, and the roar of his coworkers welcoming him back to work.
I went back to work in the newsroom. I had not really been hired yet, but no one told me not to work, either. I looked in the inbox of one of the producers, and there was a stack of applications. Maybe I should fill one out, just so my status here had a little bit more legitimacy.
I shuffled through the apps. The stack near the bottom, the stack held together with a rubber band, had already been filled out. Those were other applicants. So I figured the stack near the top would be blanks… but they weren’t. They were half-filled-out applications; forms unfinished and abandon for misspelled words and messy hand writing.
I found one that had only the applicants’ name on it; this one would be easy to erase and use. As I started to fill it out, one of the news room phones rang; I answered it. It was the new guy, the reporter we hired just yesterday. He wanted to know if he should come in today… and he had mistaken me for the news director. This would be fun I thought, and I put on my best authoritarian voice.
“Well Jim”, I told him, “Things are working out fine today. I think we have all the coverage we need. In fact, I am not so sure we will need you in this week.”
I paused, for effect.
“Maybe not even at all this month. Maybe we did not do either of us a favor when we hired you. I am not sure we need another reporter.”
By now, the executive producer was standing next to me. He did not know whether to laugh or cry– she loved a good joke, but she needed the reporter in, too. She grabbed the phone from my hand and set Jim up right, and told him to get his ass in, pronto.
I could hear Jim’s voice from the phone. “That was Dave, wasn’t it?” he asked.
I woke up.