April 29th, 2019

Venus

LJ Idol Prize Fight: "On The Job"

On The Job
idol prize fight |week 22| 1880 words
Open Topic

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It was still dark when Jack got the call to come into the office, but he was surprised to find that someone else had beaten him in.

"Hey, Cole, how're you doing?" he said.

"Jack! I haven't you in a while. How long's it been? Last summer? Or maybe last fall?"

Jack grinned. "Sounds about right," he said. "I like the look—black suit, red tie. It's really sharp. Have you been here long?"

"Nah, I just flew in from the back forty not too long ago. Say, you're looking trim these days."

"Thanks! I've been changing up my nutrition—trying more turkey instead of beef." Jack patted his stomach. "I think it's helping. Now I've just got to work on my blood pressure…"

"Yeah, I'm always trying to shed a few pounds, get down to that optimal size. It's all about making the best impression you can—camping gear's a competitive business. One thing at a time, though." Cole looked around the room. "Have they remodeled in here? It seems bigger."

"It does. There's definitely more light. Can't say the furniture looks any different, though. Are they ever going to get more chairs?"

"Seriously. With this many employees, you never know who's going to get called in, or how many of them you'll need for the job." Cole looked past Jack's shoulder. "This guy looks familiar. Do you know him?"

Jack turned to look. "Oh yeah, Hank? He's great. Super easy-going, very dependable." He waved Hank over. "Hey, man!" he said. "What's it been, about five years?"

"Naw." Hank ducked his head. "It can't be that long, can it?" He nodded to Cole. "Hi, I'm Hank," he said.

"Cole. Pleased to meet you."

"So, I see you're still going with the classic all-white look. You keeping fit?" Jack asked.

Hank shrugged. "As much as I can. You know how it is—you start to sag a little, and pretty soon people think you can't do the job. Then you're out, like yesterday's news."

"I hear you," Jack said. "Are you seeing many customers these days?"

"No, not really." Hank's shoulder's drooped. "They don't ask for me as much as they used to. I'm just your basic tube-sock rep, and it's all about custom patterns now, silk this and merino that. Most days, I just sit in my cubicle and wait."

"Aw, Hank." Jack bumped him softly with his shoulder. "You just have to keep selling yourself," he said. "You know how it is. Look at the market, look at your skills, work on your brand… Maybe it's time for an image makeover? Find a way to, uh—hey, what's the phrasing I'm looking for here, Cole?"

"A way to stay relevant?" Cole asked.

"Yeah, that's it!" Jake said. "We can talk about it later if you want, Hank. I'd be glad to help out."

Hank smiled shyly. "Thanks, Jack. You want some coffee? I'm going to get some."

"Yeah, that'd be great, thanks buddy," Jack said. He watched Hank wander off. "Poor guy…"

Cole was still watching the door. "Looks like the Tech guy is here too," he said. "Look at all that gear! Damn, he's intimidating." Cole shook his head. "I've never talked to him, though. His name's Victor, right? Didn't you room with him on a couple of trips?"

Jake nodded. "Victor? Oh, yeah. But he's a complicated guy, hard to get to know. Really capable, but he kind of closes himself off from everyone else…"

"Oh. I see." Cole twisted uncomfortably. "You know, it might not be on purpose. Some people are just really self-reliant, and they don't always look outside themselves… Doesn't mean they're not friendly."

"It's okay, don't worry," Jack said. "Nobody thinks of you that way, you've always been awesome."

Hank was back. "Here you go," he said, handing Jack a cup of coffee.

"Oh, thanks." Jack took a sip. "Hmmm, not too bad."

"It's better than I remember," Hank said, "but I haven't been here in a while, so who knows? Hey, I'm going to go sit down."

"Okay. Save us a couple of places, would you?"

"Sure thing." Hank shuffled off across the room.

"Kay's here now, too," Jack said. "Did someone call a meeting? Have you heard anything?"

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The cast of characters