Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
On Wednesday morning, Jerry was sitting behind his desk going through paper work when the telephone rang. Picking up the handset, he said, “Hello. This is Jerry Smith at the Auto Parts House on Main.”
“Jerry, this Al,” was the answer over the phone. Jerry sat up straighter at the introduction knowing that an early morning call from Mr. Sinclair was not a good sign.
“Oh, Mr. Sinclair. What can I do for you?”
“I was going over the Employment report that you sent into the Federal Government and noticed that you now had a woman and two blacks working for you.”
Puzzled, Jerry replied, “That’s right.”
“That’s great. We’ve been wondering how to improve our diversity numbers and you came through for us,” replied his boss in a voice that indicated surprise at the accomplishment.
“Mike’s wife was looking for a job and I hired her. I offered the job to the two kids that live next door and they accepted. Didn’t really do anything special other than make the offer when I found people who were looking for work.” Jerry was confused by the conversation.
There was a long moment of silence on the phone. Finally, Al asked, “How are things going with your employees?”
“Karen is learning how to manage the inventory. Martin is still learning where all of the stock is and how to look parts up in the book. Abe is a real good kid and has taken to being a stock boy without any problems. Sammy is doing good, but he’s a senior this year so we may only be able to keep him for one more year. Mike is learning his responsibilities as Assistant Manager. I’m still looking for one more full time salesperson, but I don’t think that will be a problem.” Jerry was sure that there was some reason why Al was so interested in the employees.
“I meant. How are you doing with them?”
“Fine. Better than ever, I would say.”
There was an awkward pause as his boss tried to figure out how to say it, but there wasn’t a nice way. He said, “The last employee that left complained about your temper and threatened to testify on behalf of anyone that sues us concerning your treatment of employees.”
The news struck Jerry like a fist to the stomach. Speechless, he didn’t know what to say as he envisioned his future at the company coming to an abrupt end. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he finally said, “I guess you’ll want me to leave.”
“Nothing like that, yet. I’m going to come down to your store this afternoon and talk to your employees to find out how things are going. We’ll have to see what we can do to improve things there,” replied Al.
Things had been so nice the day before. He had talked to his son for the first time ever and helped Abe get a scooter. The house he was renting was nice even though it was run down and he actually liked the neighbors. Jerry shook his head and replied, “Do you want me to make sure that everyone stays here until you come?”
“If you wouldn’t mind. Once I get there though, I’ll have to ask you to leave so that they won’t be intimidated by you.”
Jerry sat there considering what he had been told. Suddenly, he realized that his boss must have flown in last night, to be able to come in this afternoon. This was far more serious than he first thought. He replied, “Okay. Everyone is scheduled to come in today except Sammy. I’ll have to call his mother to let her know that he is needed this afternoon. I can’t make any promises about him showing up though. He may have other plans.”
“That’s fine. I can always stop by his house later this evening,” remarked Al.
The call ended shortly after that, leaving a stunned Jerry sitting at his desk. There was nothing to do except to tell everyone what was happening. Walking out to the front of the store, he found everyone working. Mike was on the phone, Martin was pulling orders, and Karen was going through the purchases of the previous two days. When Mike hung up, Jerry said, “Take the phone off the hook for a minute.”
Surprised, Mike did as he was asked without asking a question. Jerry shouted out, “Would everyone please come to the front of the store?”
It took a minute, but everyone was soon gathered around him at the front of the store. Looking down at the floor, Jerry said, “My supervisor is coming here to interview everyone that works in the store. I hope that you will be brutally honest with him, as he needs to have a clear picture of what is going on inside this store. Don’t sugar coat your answers or try to hide anything. I want you to know that no one here is in any trouble. Okay?”
Everyone looked at each other in concern, wondering what would bring the district supervisor to the store. It was Mike that broke the silence. “What’s going on?”
“He wants to find out what kind of manager I am. As I said before, please be brutally honest.” Jerry didn’t want to say that, but he knew that if he did anything that might even hint at intimidating them, he’d be gone before the end of the day. Looking around the room, he said, “Now, I want you to get back to work. It’s just a normal day around here, but please don’t leave until Mr. Sinclair comes.”
Walking a little faster than he intended, Jerry went back to the office. Once there, he picked up the phone and called Sammy’s mother at home. It only took him a minute to convey the message and get word that Sammy would be by the store around lunchtime.
He sat back in his chair and waited, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to concentrate on his work. Outwards, he looked calm, but on the inside all he wanted to do was to track down the rage and strangle it once and for all. For a change, the rage had retreated and was hiding, leaving him feeling weak and uncertain.
There was a knock on the door and his stomach dropped. Taking a deep breath, he said, “Come in.”
Martin stuck his head in the door and flashed a smile as he said, “That pretty lady from the other day is here.”
Confused, Jerry followed Martin out of the office and to the front of the store. Once there, Martin grabbed the order that Mike was holding up in the air and headed to the back to pull the parts. Jenny was standing in front of the counter with her hands on her hips in an angry pose. Nervous, he licked his lips expecting to get the kind of lecture that his wife would give him.
Terrified, he said, “Hello, Jenny.”
“The roses were nice, but I didn’t like the note that came with them.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to ruin your life and figured that it was better that way,” replied Jerry looking down at his hand rubbing the callous that had formed on a knuckle from fixing the car.
“You figured it was better to dump me after telling me that you would be there today for lunch?”
Stepping forward with a single awkward step, with his heart breaking and voice trembling, he answered, “Listen, Jenny. You are a wonderful woman. I’ve got a terrible rage inside me that I can just barely control. You don’t need me messing up your life.”
The awkward and scared man that was standing before her was nothing like the angry man that had scared her the previous Monday. She could see that every word he said was hurting him. She turned towards the door and called out over her shoulder, “I expect to see you at the restaurant, tomorrow, for lunch.”
Raising a hand, he watched her leave unable to come up with a reasonable answer. Turning to head to the back of the store, he noticed that everyone was watching him with curiosity in his or her eyes. In his normal gruff voice, he shrugged and said, “I guess I’ve got a lunch date, tomorrow.”
“You can say that again,” replied Martin shaking his head and returning to work.
When Martin and Karen stepped out of the way, Jerry saw his boss standing there. He didn’t know if his boss had seen the entire thing, but he didn’t want to ask. Looking at his boss, he said, “I’ll get out of the way now. What time do you want me back?”
“I’ll call you at home,” replied Al.
This was another awkward topic. “I don’t have a telephone at the moment. You can tell Abe or Martin any messages that you need to send to me.”
Al looked surprised at Jerry and then nodded his head as he said, “Okay. I’ll swing by your place after I’m done here.”
“Yes, Sir,” replied Jerry as he headed towards that back of the store.
At the house, Jerry had nothing to do except clean. There were two bedrooms that he hadn’t cleaned yet, although his son’s bike and his tools were stored in one of them. After changing into jeans and a work shirt, he went to work. For the next couple of hours he picked up the trash and put it into the plastic trash bags; swept floors; and cleaned windows. When he took a break after scrubbing down the first bedroom, he heard the unmistakable sound of Abe’s scooter coming down the street. He went to the front door and waved to Abe.
Surprised to see Jerry at the house, Abe pulled up and stopped the scooter. Removing his helmet, he beamed as he said, “This is incredible. I really love this scooter.”
Laughing, Jerry replied, “Really? I couldn’t tell. You look as sad as if your dog died.”
“Hey!” Abe knew his neighbor was kidding. Still curious about why Jerry was at home, he asked, “What you doing here?”
“Got an unexpected day off. However, they need you at the store. You might want to get there early and earn a little money,” suggested Jerry.
Smiling, Abe put on his helmet as he said, “I’ll go up there and see what I can do to help. Have a nice one!”
The young man didn’t wait for a reply from Jerry. As soon as he was on the scooter, he was driving it down the road. Watching him weave around the potholes, Jerry knew that Abe was happy. At least the kid had a better looking future than Jerry did at the moment.
Returning to the house, he went to clean the last bedroom. He had already done a little to clean up the room, but it was still a mess. Lots of old clothes, papers, and other debris was scattered around on the floor. The closet was empty except for the photographs of Sharon.
Once everything was bagged and the floor swept, Jerry sat on the floor looking at the pictures wondering what he should do with them. He was concerned about throwing them away. The bag might rip and some of the kids in the neighborhood might find them. It didn’t feel right to keep them. Shaking his head, he put them back on the shelf.
The next quarter hour was spent carrying the trash bags out to the curb for pickup. He wasn’t sure what day they picked up the garbage, but the bags would disappear after a day or two. Finished cleaning, he checked his watch and saw that it was lunchtime. It would be irresponsible for him to leave the house when his boss might be coming by, but he needed to eat and there was no telling what time his boss would be done at the store. Frowning, he headed to his truck and went to the local burger joint to get some takeout.
Back at the house, he sat on the floor rather than his futon. He didn’t want to get any food on his bed. The burger and fries satisfied his appetite, but the uneasiness brought about by waiting for bad news left the meal sitting heavy in his stomach. He almost went out for some of the pink stuff to settle his stomach.
With nothing better to do, he unfolded the futon and lay down on it thinking about his life to this point. There was very little doubt in his mind that he had screwed up royally. Leaving his wife was the only bright spot that he could find, but he didn’t know how he would support himself and his wife without the paycheck that came with this job. Getting fired for being abusive to employees would keep him from getting another job with the same kind of pay. He laughed and said aloud, “I’ll have to ask Sharon about a job as a maid at the hotel.”
A knock on the door shocked him awake and he scrambled off of the futon. It took him a second to fold it back up so that it looked like a sofa. Getting control of himself, he went to the door and opened it. To his surprise, it was Sharon instead of his boss.
Seeing the look on his face, Sharon said, “Every time I come over here you look surprised. Is it me or something else?”
He blushed as he recalled that the last time, he had been heading to the bathroom to jack off from looking at naked pictures of her. Stuttering, he replied, “I was expecting my boss to come here to fire me.”
Surprised, she looked at him for a moment trying to figure out what kind of response was appropriate. Smiling, she said, “That sucks.”
Recalling the discussion at the DMV, he relaxed and said, “Yes, it does. Would you like to come in?”
“Sure.” She came in and looked around the room, noticing the lack of just about everything that one normally found in a house. She said, “You want to show me around the place?”
“Ah, I think you see everything there is to see. I basically live in this room.”
Raising an eyebrow, she said, “You’ve got a chair, an air conditioner, and a bent bumper on the wall.”
“Yes. I’m afraid so. Are you ready to be overwhelmed by the kitchen?”
“Sure, lead on.”
She looked around the kitchen spotting the coffee maker, mini- refrigerator, and microwave. At least the kitchen was spotless. She asked, “Is this it?”
Nodding, he said, “I have two bedrooms. One is completely empty and the other has a couple of things in it.”
“I’ll look at the bedroom.” Trying to figure out what kind of crazy white guy had moved in next door to her. She figured that he must have put everything in the bedroom.
He unlocked the door and showed her the room. She saw a pile of his clothes, some tools and the scooter. There was nothing else in the room. Even the closet looked empty. Looking over at Jerry, she said, “You have too much junk. You need to throw some of this stuff away.”
Laughing, Jerry said, “I was thinking about having a garage sale.”
Returning to the living room, Sharon sat on the futon and stared at the bumper hanging on the wall. There had to be a pretty interesting story behind it, but she was almost afraid to ask. For all she knew, it was some sort of crazy white man art and he’d think she was stupid for not recognizing it.
Jerry stood at the door of the bedroom debating about the pictures. Coming to a decision, he went in the room and picked up the stack of photographs. He came out and faced her sitting on the couch. Licking his lips nervously, he said, “I was cleaning up the bedroom and found some photographs; and, ah ... well, I think that you might want them.”
Puzzled, she asked, “Why would I want some photographs?”
Turning his head so that he wasn’t looking at her, he thrust the pictures out to her. Confused, she took them from him and started to look through them. Not knowing what to do, he stepped away looking everywhere except at her.
When she reached the end, she burst out laughing as she said, “That ‘holier than thou’ bitch.”
Surprised by her reaction, Jerry looked at her and, in one of those moments when all of ones vocabulary leaves them, said, “Huh?”
She laughed at his obvious confusion and said, “You thought these were of me. I can understand why you were so embarrassed yesterday.”
“Aren’t they?” asked Jerry confused. The woman in the picture looked exactly like Sharon.
“No. That’s my older sister.” She laughed and slapped her thigh as she pointed at him enjoying his discomfort. “I have an idea that you might have enjoyed looking at these pictures. Am I right?”
Jerry stood there for a moment embarrassed and then said, “Well...”
She placed the pictures back in his hand as she said, “You can keep them.”
“Why?” Confused, he looked at the pictures in his hand. The top picture was again the spread open vagina. Embarrassed, he turned the stack over.