Thursday, June 26, 2008

Short Story

It was John's first day at the new job and his supervisor, Tony, brought him around the shop. Tony had a vignette for each worker. "That's Trevor. He's good, but he gets really drunk over the weekend and doesn't make it in two Mondays a month. Over there's John, another John, not you, used to own a place just like this, I don't know what happened to him, but he's here now."

Our John trailed behind Tony, nodding and uh-huh-ing with each tid-bit. Toward a darker corner of the shop, a tall, thin man was filling out paperwork on a smooth wooden table. The lamp over his work area put his already angular face into high-relief, his deep eye sockets void of all but black.

Tony, pointed with a wave to the man's direction. "That's Frank. Frank keeps to himself. You probably won't have to mess with him. He's not been much fun since he lost his wife." John said, "That's too bad. How did she die?" Tony looked directly at John and said, "Oh, no, she didn't die. They went to Disney Land, Epcot, in fact, he went to take a leak and she just plain disappeared. Poof. There one minute, standing in line, gone the next. Strangest thing, you know." John looked at Tony with knitted brows. "What do you mean, 'She just disappeared'? What did the police say?" Tony replied with a shrug, "They told Frank that she was a grown-up and that if she wanted to leave him, she could at any time, any place. They agreed that the circumstances were strange, but things like that happen all the time. People just 'poof' and that's it. Know what I mean?"

John had never heard of such a thing. Is that what really happened? She just found her moment and walked away? No abduction, no foul play, no plotting or planning? Women could do some pretty strange stuff, he admitted to himself, but he'd never seen something like this, up close, at least.

Tony said, "That's pretty much the tour. I showed you your locker, you have your passcard. . .. What else? What else? Oh, uh, we just instituted black-out dates for vacations during the busy season, but that doesn't affect you this year. That should be about it. Anything you want to ask me?" John couldn't thing about much else other than the idea of Frank's disappearing wife. "I can't think of anything, but let me ask you one thing." "Sure," Tony said, "go ahead." "You mean to say Frank never heard from his wife again, at all?" Tony looked him squarely in the face and said, "Look, I probably shouldn't have gossiped like that. What happened is this: after he got back from Florida, Frank was major-league depressed. He was off the job for like two months. After he came back to work, he started to, you know, come to terms with what that bitch did to him, excuse me, but, that's how I feel, okay? So, anyway, after Labour Day, he really started to get back into his work and was doing okay. During the busy week just before Christmas which was the same week he went on vacation with his wife the last year, it was him and me and John working late one Friday. The phone rings in the shop and he picks it up. He didn't talk but I could see his face and he looked like a ghost and like he saw a ghost, too. He hung up the phone, turned to me and I said 'what, what?' and he said 'that was Amelia. That was her.' I said, 'oh, god' where is she' what did she say?' and he said 'nothing, she said nothing, she just laughed and laughed and then she hung up."

John was rivited to the story. "Then what happened?," he asked, desperate for an ending. Tony shrugged again, "Nothing happened. But the next year, it happened again, down to the same minute. And every year since then, for twenty-two years. Can't trace the call, the police can't do anything and he won't retire, which he should have done three years ago because, I don't know, I think because he doesn't want to miss that call." John shook his head slowly, "That's the craziest thing I ever heard, Tony." "Yep," Tony agreed, "it's pretty insane. Well," he extended his hand,"welcome to the company."