Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
September 5, 1975
It was 9:30 at night and they had just finished cleaning the office buildings. They’d had to let their regular crews leave at their normal time, which had dumped all of the work on the backs of Benny, Tim, Cathy, Sandra, and Terry. They were tired and hungry. They were at a chain restaurant waiting for an overworked waitress to show up and take their orders.
Benny and Tim had to admit defeat. There were too many lawns to mow and not enough time or people to mow them. They had twenty lawns to mow every day for five days of the week. In summer, that had meant a morning’s worth of work for each team. Now that school started, there wasn’t a morning’s worth of time for them to mow all of those lawns. They had an hour and a half between the time school ended and when they needed to show up at the office buildings.
Benny, Tim, Cathy, and Sandra were getting out of school two hours early because of the work study program. Working alone, they each could only get two lawns done in those two hours. That still left 12 lawns needing to be mowed. Even with five teams, they couldn’t mow that many lawns in an hour and a half.
Today been worse than usual. It had started raining at 4:00 that afternoon and didn’t stop until after 6:00. They had ended up mowing lawns in the rain, and then had to stop because of the lightning. They tried waiting in the hope that the storm would end, but it didn’t. They had shown up at the office buildings an hour late. Rather than getting finished at 7:00, they had finished at 9:00. There were still five lawns that needed mowing.
Even worse, the previous weekend had been a holiday so they hadn’t mowed the normal Monday lawns. That put them 20 lawns behind at the beginning of the week. With what they had failed to do today, they were in way over their heads.
Tim sat in his chair rubbing his temples with his forefingers. He could ease some of the tension there, but he wasn’t able to do much about the tension around his neck. For the first time since they had started Two Guys Working, they had failed to live up to a promise to their customers. Five houses had not been mowed this day. He was not happy about that. Sure he could put forth excuses, there was a holiday, it rained, school ran a little late, and the lawns were a little taller than expected.
Cathy said, “Tim, I’m sorry. I’ve had enough. I can’t keep up this pace anymore. I’ve got to pass my classes. I’ve got to take care of Mrs. Parker. I need some time for myself.”
“I understand,” Tim said tiredly.
It wasn’t just customers of the Two Guys Working who were being let down, it was the people who worked for it as well. He glanced across the table at Benny. Benny was edgy and uncomfortable, a sure sign that he wasn’t spending enough time thinking. Then he realized what it meant, Benny hadn’t had a chance to visit Carol for a while.
He said, “I’m calling all of the property owners, and letting them know that we’re going on an every other week schedule, starting now.”
“That means we’ll only have to mow ten lawns a day,” Sandra said.
Cathy said, “We do four lawns before school gets out and then the after school teams can get one lawn done each. They will definitely get done before 5:00, but we’ll be down a lawn.”
Sandra said, “We’ve got to figure out what we can do in the available time and then schedule our work within limits. I’m afraid that we’re going to have to accept that some things aren’t going to get done.”
Terry said, “I’m glad to hear you say that. There’s no way I could continue working this late and do well in school. I know this is the first week of the school year, but I woke up in class wondering what they had been talking about for the past hour. I had no clue. That’s not good.”
“What are you thinking of doing about it?”
“I was going to tell you that I need to cut back my hours, but that’s what you just decided to do.”
“We kind of let things get away from us. I’m kind of surprised that you were able to keep it up as long as you did,” Tim said.
Cathy said, “Sandra and I were looking for a nice way to tell you that we needed to cut back the hours.”
“As far as I can tell, we can mow two lawns, get to the offices, and finish cleaning them at our normal time,” Sandra said.
“You can’t bump it up a little and do more?”
Sandra said, “My mother has been getting worried about how much time I’m gone every day. I slip out before eight and I don’t get home before eight. If I keep it up much longer, she’s going to tell me to quit. She says that school must come first.”
“Mrs. Parker has been worried about me, too. To be honest, I think she has a point. I have been struggling to turn in my homework on time.”
The waitress finally made her way over to the table. She was oblivious that she had interrupted a discussion. She flipped over the top sheet of her order form and asked, “What do you want?”
Coming up with the first thing that crossed her mind, Cathy said, “Chef Salad with Thousand Island.”
“I’ll take the same,” Sandra said not really wanting to think about it.
Tim went through a mental checklist of ingredients in the salad. A little meat, some cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce. It sounded pretty good to him.
“Me, too,” Tim piped up.
“Same here,” Benny said.
“That sounds good to me,” Terry said.
“Five chef salads with Thousand Island dressing?”
“It’ll be just a few minutes,” the waitress said before she walked off.
Tim said, “The weather this weekend is supposed to be nice, but we didn’t get the envelopes out to the houses today.”
“I guess we have tomorrow off?”
“More or less,” Tim answered although he wasn’t pleased. “We have a couple of lawns to mow that were missed this past week.”
Benny said, “You look upset, Tim.”
“I am. It bothers me that we didn’t get the envelopes out. We lost at least a $1,000 this weekend.”
Sandra said, “Benny, what do you think?”
Benny said, “I haven’t given it much thought.”
Cathy frowned. Tim asked, “Are you okay, Benny?”
“I’ve just been a little distracted.”
That did it as far as Tim was concerned. Benny had been too busy to take care of his horniness. He need a chance to visit Carol. Tim said, “I understand. We’ve got to back off on our schedule.”
The quick arrival of the salads surprised everyone. They dug into the food, dropping the conversation for the moment. In fact, the conversation was dropped for the evening at least as a group. What did follow was a rather awkward conversation. Terry was not a part of the core for Two Guys Working, despite the fact that he was managing crews. It wasn’t intentional, it was just that the relationship never developed into friendship. Terry didn’t mind and accepted it. His goals were different.
The conversation descended into a discussion about school. There wasn’t all that much to say since this was the end of the first week of classes. Still, there was enough material there to occupy forty-five minutes.
Terry was the first to finish eating. Without much fanfare he left, stating only that he want to get home and rest. The others watched him leave after wishing him a good evening. Later, Tim paid, but Cathy walked off with the receipt. It was a work meeting.
Cathy and Sandra left together. They stood together in the parking lot between their two cars. They were tense since their chances to be together alone had actually decreased even though they were spending more time together. They wanted to touch, to kiss, and to hug, but they were in a public place and the consequences of expressing themselves, would be horrendous.
In a false whisper, Sandra said, “I miss being with you.”
Cathy said, “Tomorrow we can go to the office and spend some time alone in our room.”
“You know they’ll come by the office. They’re always there if they aren’t working somewhere else,” Sandra said giving voice to her frustration.
“I’ll ask them not to stop at the office. They’ve got enough to do that doesn’t require them to go to the office.”
“Call them and make sure. I just want a little alone time with you.”
They stood there looking at each other. When they heard someone coming, they turned away and got into their cars. A minute later they had both left.
Tim and Benny came out of the restaurant in time to watch Sandra and Cathy get into their cars. They paused to watch them leave. Although they weren’t close enough to make out the details of their faces, their body language spoke volumes about their frustration.
Benny looked down at the ground and then asked, “When was the last time we had a fake date with Cathy and Sandra?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Cathy doesn’t need a fake boyfriend now.”
“Yes, she does. As long as society disapproves of what they do, they need us to provide cover for them.”
“Okay. You know better about this stuff than me,” Benny said.
“I know that you need to visit Carol.”
“It’s been too long since I’ve had relief. I can’t concentrate. I can’t think. And the only problems anyone has been giving me, are those that deal with people. I don’t like those kinds of problems. People problems don’t have clear cut elegant solutions. They’re always messy.”
“I know, Benny.”
“I need some alone time. I need to think.”
Tim looked over his friend. Normally if Benny needed alone time, he just walked away and hid himself. Saying that he needed it meant that he was really feeling the pressure of the company. His need to be alone was battling with his acceptance of his responsibilities to Two Guys Working.
“How much time?”
Tim did his best to keep his expression neutral. For Benny to take a couple of hours wasn’t unusual. A day was something to start worrying about. A week? He’d never known Benny to want a week alone. Something was really bothering him.
“Okay, Benny. You say you need a week, I’ll figure out a way to get you a week.”
Tim had no idea how he would manage to do that, but Benny needed it so Benny would get it. He guessed that tomorrow he was going to have to get on the telephone and cancel all of the lawn mowing agreements. That was the only solution he could see. For Benny, he would do it.
“I don’t want to be a problem.”
“Benny, you aren’t a problem. You’ll never be a problem,” Tim said.
“I’m letting everyone down.”