Fiction: Welcome To The Team
|Brian Joseph Johns|
This picture isn't here because I'm
egotistical (I'm not). It's here to associate
an image of the author with the story to
prevent other people from wearing it
as their own creation or life.
The former stood in front of the latter, who was seated behind a cheap desk, wearing an equally cheap business suit. Mr. Rook's office was a cacophony of clutter with sticky notes littering every inch of space on the sides of his computer monitor and his phone. Each note contained a scribbled mess of cursive, decipherable only by him with most pertaining to active projects under his guidance. Works in progress or WhIPs, as he'd often refer to them.
Mr. Rook was a man in his mid-forties, his dark gray hairline receding as much so as his time left in this mortal coil. By looking at him it was difficult to tell which would win that race. He wasn't especially fit nor was he particularly unhealthy despite the fact that his waist protruded four inches out and over the belt on his trousers. Eager is the adjective he'd have used to describe his mid-section.
Mr. Muggins, by comparison, was a decade and a half his junior having just crested the hill to become thirty only a few weeks prior. Standing at five feet and ten inches, he was lean, with a full head of dirty blond hair which was cut neat and short. He was dressed much more casually than Mr. Rook, though his attire was more brand name than a brand counterfeit. He liked having nice things and was motivated to work so that he could acquire them. Thus far in life, he'd always been an employee rather than an employer. He preferred to have concrete tasks and goals assigned him rather than having to figure the logistics out for himself.
"Just happy to do my part, Mr. Rook," Mr. Muggins responded honestly and modestly.
"Please, call me Ray." Mr. Rook replied.
"Only if you remember to call me Braden," responded Mr. Muggins.
"Alright, Braden it is. Now that we've down away with the formalities, I'd like to welcome you to our team. You've earned it." Ray Rook leaned back in his chair behind the desk.
"I thought I was a part of the team?" Braden confirmed.
"Yes, in the professional sense. You very much were but now you've ascended. You're like a real team member. An insider. Now we can really show you the ropes." Ray advised him.
"Its an honour Mr... uh, I mean Ray," Braden responded as eagerly as Mr. Rook's stomach.
"It's a bit easier now that Barker is out of the way. You see, Barker was like a thorn in our side. The one that got away and when they get away... well that's just bad publicity for us. We've been trying to get him for a couple of decades now. Your work on this... project sealed the deal for him and that's a lot of pressure off of my back, not to mention the pressure off of the rest of our team. They've definitely taken notice of you and want to reward you." Ray spoke earnestly to Braden.
"Reward me? I thought that my earnings were the reward." Braden said naively though anticipating something more.
"Recognition for a job well done. There's a lot of us on the team and we're going to let you know how much we appreciate what you did for us." Ray assured Braden.
"Thank you, sir. I could use the money," responded Braden.
"Oh no. These kinds of rewards don't come financially but once you've been rewarded, I'm certain that you'll try even harder because if there's one thing that I know about this team, that we love a good reward. A payoff for our hard work and we work hard 'cause we're in the long game. You really can be anyone you want to be, Braden. Always remember that." Ray folded his hands across his chest as he leaned back even further in his chair.
Braden had left the office, with his salary pay stub in hand, sealed in an envelope. He tore it open as he stepped out onto the sidewalk out front of the building that housed Ray's office. He eyed the net pay column, looking for any sign of a hidden bursary or payment that might indicate reward.
When he saw that there was none, he suddenly felt swindled by the faster-talking Mr. Rook. Like everything he'd done to help close the Barker project had been built up to being of great value to this so-called team by Mr. Rook, who was merely distracting him from asking for money. It took a few more moments and Braden felt frustrated and even angered that he hadn't stood his ground. He grumbled to himself as he stepped through the entrance to the subway.
He reached into his pocket pulling forth a pass and ran it through the scanner as he proceeded through the turnstile and then quickly made his way down the stairs and onto the eastbound platform. After a relatively short delay, the subway pulled into the station and came to a stop. Passengers disembarked after which he made his way through the sliding doors and to a backwards-facing seat near the end of the lightly populated car. Moments later the car pulled accelerated out of the station.
In the seat in front of him, an older man sat devouring a hotdog and he found himself reminded of Ray once again and how he'd been hoodwinked. He struggled with it for a moment before he found himself feeling suddenly exhausted. His eyelids slowly drew closed and he fell into a light slumber.
His thoughts quickly became abstracted into his dreams, which were of having found a large sum of money. He'd hidden this money in a stash. A secret hole that during his dream he'd dig into again and again for his imaginary spending sprees. When at last he reached into the hole only to find it empty, he awakened, slowly opening his eyes.
Where the man and the hotdog had been there sat a stunningly attractive woman. She sat cross-legged, her nyloned legs exposed through a slit in her skirt upon which she rested a book. Braden's eyes followed the curvature of her legs up to the hemline of her skirt. From there he followed the delicate fingers and hands, both of which clasped the book on her lap. He continued following her arms and waist, both of which were covered by the pink blouse she was wearing. His gaze fell upon her subtle buxom and then to the ellipse formed between her neck and her finely carved chin. There above were perched two perfect rubies, her lips. Tiny and slightly softened and shiny. Her bulbous cheeks bracketed her crafted bridge down to her nostrils, between which an artistically positioned bump broke the symmetry between the bottom and top of her nose.
When he arrived at her eyes, he was suddenly shocked to see that she was looking right at him. He immediately flushed pink and then full out red upon being caught in her brown-eyed gaze.
He sat paralyzed with stage fright, suddenly unsure of what to do. It was her that finally broke the tension.
"After that look, aren't you at least going to introduce yourself?" she said to him confidently if not sarcastically.
He stared into her eyes much like a deer might stare into the headlights of an oncoming train. His tension immediately eased when he saw her smile ever so slightly.
"I'm so sorry. Look, I was sleeping and I'm not even sure if I'm awake now... because I've never had a dream this good," he responded suddenly comfortable with her as much as himself.
"Well then don't let me wake you," she replied without losing a step.
"I'm sorry... I'm Braden. Braden Muggins." he introduced himself.
"Braden? That seems innocent enough. So you aren't a subway stalker, devouring women with your eyes for later use... doing god knows what in the privacy of your home?" she confronted him with a shocking sense of humour.
"No... No! That's not me. Not at all. I think..." Braden replied unsure of how to react to her accusation.
"So, if you were going to take me to dinner tonight, where would we go?" she asked him.
His face flushed again.
"You're doing that on purpose," Braden said.
"What?" she asked calmly.
"Making me blush." Braden accused her, doing his best to turn the tables.
"You're making you blush. I just asked you where you're taking me for dinner tonight?" she replied.
"Wait a second. Let's take this one step at a time. I don't even know your name. Ten minutes ago you were some guy eating a hotdog. Now you're the most incredibly..." Braden started as she interrupted.
To be continued...
Remember that thinking is NOT doing. You can't persecute someone for what they think and besides that, what I think personally isn't bad at all.
Writing is NOT doing, yet writing is work.
People who cannot distinguish between make-believe and reality are very dangerous, just as dangerous as the people who do not make a distinction between thought, words and action.
Brian Joseph Johns