Sitting at her desk feeling sluggish well before quitting time, Linda opens her pen drawer to see what she can find to distract herself with. As she begins to rifle through the packs of gum, dried up highlighters, and stray rubber bands, she gets an urgent itch and grabs her letter opener - reaching down the back of her blouse to attack. The thought occurs to her that scratching a good itch is one of the best feelings in the world. Her eyes roll back in her a head a bit as she takes cares of it and then she chuckles at herself. She picks up her iPhone from next to her computer and sneaks a text to her best friend, currently at work at a miserable job of her own a few blocks away, saying "You know it's a long boring day when the highlight of it is scratching an itch with your grandfather's letter opener. Drinks later?"
"Texting again, Miss Langley," her boss hisses into the back of her hair. "You must be our fastest data entry person on staff if you constantly have the free time to be playing with your phone."
"Hey, Deb. New loafers? Finally found a way to get rid of that tell-tale squeak, huh? (Or did you float in on the broomstick stuck in your ass?)" Linda keeps that last part to herself, and makes a mental note to text it to her best friend Jodie once her boss moves on to sneak up on the cube in front of hers. "I was texting my friend, very quickly, about plans for after work."
"Well let's leave after work plans for after work," Deb says, with one hand on the back of Linda's chair. "And let's keep hands off personal devices during work hours. I'd hate to have to keep telling you this."
Deb gives a farty pat pat to the back of Linda's swivel chair and quite literally tip-toes to the cubical in front of hers, just like she knew that she would. Deb takes the opportunity to grip the letter opener she'd just had down her shirt in her right hand, making a series of stabbing motions at the air. Her co-worker Derek, seated in his station to the left of her, sees this and laughs. She whips her head over, turns red in the cheeks at first, and then smiles.
Opening her desk drawer to chuck the letter opener back in she pauses for a minute to look at the words monogrammed on the side of it. William Langley, Head of Sales, FS Agriculture. Beneath the name and title there's a phone number and before she knows what she's doing, or why, she picks up her cell phone and punches it in. For a minute, as it's ringing, she half expects her grandfather to answer, even though he's been dead for 13 years, and feels her heart sink a bit when a robotic voice clicks over to inform her "this number is no longer in service." She ends the calls and tucks her phone away before her boss can begin lap two of trying to catch people in the act of living their lives.
The letter opener is one of just two things that Linda took from her parent's house to remember her grandfather (papa, if you want to be specific). The other is his business card, also for his job at FS Agriculture, which she's kept in her own wallet ever since. She'd never known him to work anywhere else. It was FS Agriculture where, if she ever understood it properly, he put grain into an elevator? Unclear. And then nothing. Then no job. Full-time papa. She wishes that she would have taken more to remember him by like maybe a shirt or a hat. Something with his smell. His smell was so specific, a mix between cigars, moth balls, and tractor grease. She can get a hint of it just thinking about him. Sometimes she'll smell his smell during the day and take comfort in knowing that he's close by, hanging out, or checking in to see if she ever learned how to do math. Her papa used to call her "smarter than the average bear," after she'd say something wiser than her years when she was little, or catch a ball thrown to her what he considered to be an unusual amount of times, you know, for a girl. But she recollects several "fits" being thrown while he attempted to teach her the multiplication table in her grandparent's kitchen one summer. Going there every summer from the age of seven till, she guesses, around the age of 15 are her happiest memories of childhood. She tries to remember why she stopped spending summers there and can't.
At five-o-clock on the dot Linda grabs her purse, making sure to deposit her cell phone inside, and walks out the revolving doors of her office building. She told Jodie that she'd pick up cigarettes for them to share before she meets her at the bar, so she ducks into a bodega. At the counter she orders a pack of light blue American Spirits and then makes a quick add-on, grabbing two slim boxes of original Chiclets gum, and stacking them on top of the cigs.
"I think you're the first person I've sold this gum to in six months," the cashier says as he picks up her purchases and drops them into a small paper bag. "Is it good? I've never tried it."
Linda takes a box of the gum out of her bag and shakes it, causing the small white squares inside to come to life in a shikka shikka.
"It's refreshing. My grandfather used to carry it in his shirt pocket at all times. Bad for sneaking up on people though." She shakes the gum again to prove her point.
Headed towards the bar, super excited for her first red wine of the night. She laughs to herself thinking how she's gonna give one of the boxes of Chiclets to her boss at work tomorrow.
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