by Terry Wynne
Harry finally got a call for a job. His white-collar network was tattered and frayed, but his blue-collar friends on the softball team had some ideas. Only the strong survive in Brooklyn – these guys had it in their blood.
“Think you could be a doorman?” said Victor, the softball coach from his team. “You stand around and look like you are paying attention. You gotta smile and cater to the rich people. The rest of the time you sit on your ass reading the paper.”
“I am in deep shit, here Victor. Thanks for thinking of me. What’s the deal?
“Swanky upper east side co-op. CEOs, titans of Wall Street, famous authors, publishers, and trust fund babies. Think you could handle it? I know I couldn’t. “
“What choice do I have? We’re buying groceries with the credit card.”
“Just call Harvey and he’ll set you up. One thing – I hope you ain’t smoking weed or have a rap sheet. Gotta pass a drug test and they go over your record from the day you were born.”
“I once stole a Mad Magazine from the drug store, but I brought it back after I confessed to the priest, but nothing else.”
“That’s just like you. Stupid fuck to bring it back.”
Harry passed all the tests and his interview. That was the most embarrassing encounter he had had in a long time.
“Mr. Moran – We’ve never had someone with your credentials apply for us before,” said Parker Worthington. “I mean, you were communications director for three worldwide ad agencies. I’ve never seen this before. Beyond my comprehension.”
“I was getting weary of that world,” said Harry, lying through his teeth. “I must say, though, that the communications experience will be good in handling your special tenants, whom I know expect the best of everything. I worked with the very same type of person who lives in the building, CEOS and such.”
“We shall see – OK – We’re going to give you a four-week trial. Not everyone can handle it. And one more thing – I know you are older than me, but please call me Mr. Worthington. Can you do that?”
Harry didn’t say anything for a long moment. He desperately needed this job and there would probably be further humiliations. Better get used to it. In another place in time, he would have torn this weasel a new one.
“I’d be glad to call you Mr. Worthington. I’m looking forward to giving my all to this organization.”
That first day was excruciating. He had the seven AM shift and was on the train to Manhattan two hours ahead. Harry used to look down at people who had panic attacks. He considered them weak. Another hard lesson. He could feel one coming on as he waited for the R train. Claustrophobia, shallow breathing, hard pounding of the heart, and the dark feeling that death could be looming right around the corner. The damn thing wasn’t going away. As the subway threaded through Brooklyn and into Manhattan, it held strong. It ebbed as he approached the luxury tower but not completely. He was holding up a tiny bit, enough to bluff his way through the first hours.
Harvey, a jovial, happy-go-lucky friend from the team who played next to Harry in the right field, greeted him with a hug. He was the main doorman. He showed Harry the ropes. Dispense the mail and newspapers, keep an eye on the red light for tenants who want you to hail their cab, clean the lobby and hose down the front entrance, memorizing about a couple of hundred names. The tenant is always right, but 99 percent of them are OK. Watch out for one or two. You will know all about them right away. Mrs. Frazier. She is the daughter of the late publisher of World magazine. Craziest loon in the building and vicious as a rabid cat. Watch out – she bites.
Delivering fucking mail, newspapers, cleaning the lobby. Wow, how low have I fallen? Damn, he needed some money. It wouldn’t last forever. Something good will come along and all this will be a distant memory. Anyway, the panic attack had faded and was almost completely gone. What more could you ask for?
Harry had a good three and a half weeks. Most of the uppercrusters were polite and more than a few were fine people. He found he could read his paper most of the time. He was amazed at all the famous people who strolled by the entrance. Art Garfunkle, Norman Mailer, Charlie Rose, Carolyn Kennedy, and even Mayor Bloomberg, greeted him with a smile and a hello. It was surreal that he was seeing all this as his career was nosediving. At least he had health insurance for his wife and daughter.
Harvey was dead on right about Mrs. Frazier. She was quite fetching and alluring in her physical appearance and little else. Harry sensed some sort of psychosis was in play here. The tone of her voice was imperial and condescending. She snapped commands at him like he was a despised spouse. Harry missed the damn red light when she wanted a cab and she reported him. She was carrying on relationships with three suitors who probably didn’t know about each other. Harry was witness to all this since he was the swing man, the only one who worked all the shifts. One for the skeleton shift, two others for various afternoons and evenings. One thing they all had in common – well-heeled. Perhaps he was getting to know too much about her personal life. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
The Puerto Rican Day parade passed one block from the building and Harvey asked Harry to come two hours early to ensure that the walkers would not interfere with Lady Frazier as she brought her rack of gowns from her weekend at the Hamptons. He cautioned Harry to be extra careful with the gowns because they were her pride and joy.
Her limo got caught up in traffic and would be arriving as the parade was in full force. Thousands of Latinos were passing the front of the building. The call came on Harry’s cell that she was approaching the building. He jockeyed his way through the throng and stood right in front of the building with the clothing rack, at the ready. The noise from the throbbing music was deafening.
The precious gowns were certainly worth thousands of dollars. Harry was careful as he delicately hung each one of the racks. But there were almost a dozen and she scolded that he was not working fast enough.
“You better speed it up or the Puerto Ricans will steal my dresses. You heard me – Get going!”
Harry froze. He could not say a word. He ceased working altogether. So he just stared at her, silently. No one had ever spoken to him like that in his life. And the sheer hypocrisy of the publisher of the” World” renowned for its liberal sentiments and one of the most highly respected magazines in America, showing her true colors.
Right at this moment, Andre the manager came out and surveyed the pathetic scene. Harry standing still and not helping her. Her hissing at him like a cat. Harry could see he was in trouble by the contempt in Andre’s eyes.
Harry finished the shift a few hours later and was punching out when Andre took him aside and told him his services were no longer needed. It wasn’t only Mrs. Frazier. Others complained that he missed the red light for the cab service. He was caught dosing on the couch during the skeleton shift a few nights back. Harry did not even bother to plead his case. He was quietly relieved.
The next day, Harry relayed the story to his friend Patrick at Yellow Hook, his watering hole in Bayridge, Brooklyn.
“Maybe you should have made a pass at her. You could have been the fourth man on her roster. Imagine you out at the Hamptons with her, sipping daiqueries and hob-nobbing with the elite of Manhattan. You might have pulled it off. I think you missed your one big chance in life.”
Harry looked him straight in eye. He was about to take issue with the obscene idea. Then he changed his mind and the grimace on his face slowly softened into a barely perceptible smile.
“If she and I were stranded on a desert island, I swear I would swim to another island – as fast I could.”
“That shows how dense you are,” said Patrick. “I would stay on that island and try to explore her hidden charms.”
“You can’t explore something that isn’t there. That never was there. That never will be there.”
“It’s not all for naught – That four weeks of employment gets you back on the unemployment check cycle,” said Patrick. “I think you are good for another six months.”
“Mr. Worthington,” said Harry under his breath. “Let’s have a round to celebrate Mr. Worthington and all the Mr. Worthingtons in the world. May they rot in hell with all the Mrs. Fraziers.”
“They already in hell,” said Patrick. “A living hell with all the modern conveniences and comforts. But a hell nevertheless.”
He said this with absolute conviction. He peered right into Harry’s eyes then shifted his gaze to the ballgame on TV.
After a few minutes, he said – “I guess you can cancel your subscription to “World’ magazine.”
“ I wouldn’t use that rag to wipe my you know what.”
About the Author:
Terence Wynne is a freelance cartoonist whose cartoons have appeared worldwide. He lives in Camillus, New York with his wife, Noghma, his daughter, Gabrielle, and his mother, Marianne. His work includes sight gags, comic strips, children’s books, political cartoons, and caricatures. He devotes his time to cartooning, charity, golf, and softball.