I walked across the street and stared at the sign in the window at Jensen’s Hardware.
I have dyslexia, so it’s a challenge to read most of the time. I got the message, though. They wanted to hire somebody. Maybe that somebody could be me. I straightened my leather jacket and entered the store.
“Why, if it isn’t Martin. How are you, son?”
Mrs. Jensen knows me from church. I go there with my parents, even though I resent it. I figure I’m too old to be seen with them. I’m nearly eighteen.
“I’m fine, Mrs. Jensen. I wondered if you’d consider me for the job you’re advertising?”
“Why, of course. I’ll need you to fill out an application, though. Can you do that?”
“I could. Would it be okay if I take it home and bring it back later?” I asked because my mom would help me fill out the form. Like I said, I’ve got dyslexia.
“Sure, Martin.” Mrs. Jensen reached in below the cash register and brought out a sheet of paper. I took it from her and promised I’d bring it back soon.
I folded it up and stuck it in my jacket pocket. I left the shop and walked down the street, in the general direction of home.
Then I got waylaid by Kate. She was carrying a bag from WalMart. She grinned and asked me what I was doing.
“Nothing much. Wanna hang out?”
“Sorry, Martin. I’ve got to get to work. C’mon with me. We can talk while you walk me over there.”
It was about two blocks to Mayer’s. I joined Kate and we talked about the party on Friday night.
“You are coming, aren’t you, Martin?”
“I might. Then again, I might have to work.”
“Really? Did you get a job then?”
“Not yet. But I have a lead.”
“Good. Mom says you’re lazy and we got into a fight about it.”
Kate laughed. “No need to apologize. My mom and I fight over all kinds of things.”
By this time, we had got to the coffee shop, and I said goodbye to Kate. She went into the building and I walked home. The leaves were crunchy beneath my feet. I liked the noise.
When I arrived at our house, a big ranch style that was built in the fifties, I went in and called for my mom. She wasn’t home.
Probably off to play whist, I thought. She and dad retired a couple of years ago. Did I mention that I am a late baby? My mom and dad were both over forty when I was born. They’ve always seemed old to me.
I knew mom would help me fill out the application. I needed a job. Not because I needed money. Dad made sure I received a generous allowance every week. I wanted to work because I wanted to feel normal. Other kids I knew had jobs, why not me? I was going off to college next year, and I wanted some work experience of some sort to add to my college applications. I already volunteered to help special needs kids through our church. If this job panned out, I’d be all set, I thought.
Just in case I couldn’t get into college. My dyslexia was a problem.
I went into the kitchen and made a peanut butter sandwich with extra jelly. I put it on a plate and headed to my room, leaving the application form on the kitchen table.
My room was my sanctuary. Mom and dad trusted me to clean it when required, and neither of my parents ever went in there. It was my place.
I switched on my radio and listened to the news and then some music. I was really too excited over the possibility of getting this job. I wasn’t sure why. I must be an idiot to be this worked up. Anyone my age already had worked a couple of different places. I was the only one I knew who hadn’t. Maybe I had a right to be excited then.
I finished my sandwich and put the plate on my night table. Then I called Lainie.
Most of the kids at school thought we had something going on, but we didn’t. I wouldn’t mind though. I had hopes that something would bring us closer together.
We met in third grade, when I moved here, and we’d bonded over a stray kitten we found walking home from school. Lainie had taken it in, and I knew she’d taken some comfort in doing that. After her mom died, she had only the cat. Her dad did nothing but yell at her, it seemed to me. I avoided going over there unless there was no choice. Most times I’d come to the door, and we’d leave right away. We’d go out to Mayer’s and have coffee or a soda and talk for hours. We were lucky that the owners didn’t mind us staying so long. They were an older couple, who loved their work.
“Hello,” Lainie said when I called.
“Hi there, Lain. Wanna go for coffee?”
Lainie said, “Can’t Martin. I’m in the middle of making dinner right now.”
“I’m in the middle of thinking you’re the cutest girl I’ve ever known.”
“Oh, Martin! You are funny!” Lainie laughed and I thought it was the nicest sound I’d heard all day.
“I got big news,” I told her.
“What’s that Martin?”
“I’m going to apply for a job tomorrow.”
“At the hardware store.”
“Oh, Martin, not there!”
Lainie sounded less than happy.
I asked her why not, and she told me. She was after that job.
I knew she needed the money.
I asked her if she wanted to get together after she was done dinner.
“Sure, Martin. Wanna come over?”
We settled on a time to meet up at her house.
I put down my phone and sighed. No way was I going to try and take that job now. I supposed I’d have to go out tomorrow and start at one end of Main Street to the other, asking at every shop if they needed help. Might come up with something.
I took a shower and changed. Mom was home by the time I went downstairs. She greeted me and told me she’d won at whist. She was beaming. I knew she wasn’t that good a player and she usually lost, so I gave her a hug and congratulated her.
“Mom, I need your help to fill out an application for a job at the hardware store. Can you help me with it? Not tonight, though. I gotta meet Lainie.”
Mom told me that was fine and then Dad came home. Before I left, he offered to help Mom make dinner. He was a bit miffed that I wasn’t going to be there for dinner. He likes our “family time”, he calls it. I left the house.
I got to Lainie’s and rang the bell. Her Dad answered the door, and glared at me. He’d once accused me of laziness and being “spoilt”, which in some ways I knew was justified. Still, there was no need to be rude about it. I didn’t tell him so, though. I wanted to stay friends with Lainie.
Lainie came out of the house and we walked along the street. She stooped and picked up some dried leaves and tossed them at me. The rest of the way to Main Street, we took turns throwing leaves at each other. Then we got to Mayer’s.
There was only one table left, off in a corner near the kitchen door. We didn’t mind. We sat down and Kate took our order. She grinned at the two of us, but kept her distance. The Mayer’s don’t allow their staff to gab with the customers.
Lainie and I drank coffee and shared a cinnamon roll. We talked about the job opening and I managed to convince her to apply the next day.
“As long as you don’t mind, Martin.”
“Nope, not at all. Next job opening’s mine to apply for though.”
We laughed together.
Lainie’s dad walked in. He strode over to our little table and pulled a chair around from the next table. He sat down and glared at me.
“Hello, sir,” I said.
“Sir? Are you trying to be smart with me?”
“N-no, I’m not.”
“Well, don’t keep my girl out to late, eh? She’s got housework to do tomorrow. Hasn’t done the laundry all week. Lazy.”
Without waiting for either of us to speak, he got up, turned away and joined some of the other old guys at a table in the back.
Lainie was quiet. She stared at her coffee mug. I reached over and put my hand under her chin, so that she was forced to look at me.
There were tears in her eyes.
“It’s okay, Lainie. I’ll take care of you.”
“Don’t need that. I just need a good friend and you are that, Martin.”
Small comfort. I felt like I loved her, and she thought I was a good friend. Still, I would settle for that, for now.
I have no idea yet where this story is going to go. Be patient. We will figure it out as time goes by….