Chapter Two: The Friend

6 Apr
BTW when you are done reading this chapter. If you think thinking is fun; if you think philosophy should be for everyone try reading  TheMapThinker.com

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BTW when you are done reading this chapter: If you think thinking is fun; if you think philosophy should be for everyone, try reading TheMapThinker.com

Second week, second chapter, as promised

Chapter Two:  The Friend

Peter Johnson was relieved to see his friend Billy walk in the front door of the restaurant. Why he was relieved he wasn’t quite sure. There was never any question in his mind about Billy showing up. Billy had always been there for him, just as he had always been there for Billy, although Billy had not always been aware of exactly what Peter had done for him. Or even that Peter had done anything at all. For some things the less Billy knew the better. The restaurant was long and dark, built of thick, rich wood with spacious booths padded with green stuffed leather cushions. There was just a hint of ribeye steak and eggs being cooked to perfection coming from the kitchen. It was the perfect place for quiet business conversations that were not meant to be overheard. The waitress was unassuming and intruded as little as possible.

Billy slid his briefcase in the seat first, then sat next to it.

They were dressed as they were expected to be dressed. Expensive black suits meant to impress and intimidate. Men who worked for corporations that produced nothing but controlled the companies that did. Men who told those that were involved in the actual production of real things what had to be done to meet corporate goals and  achieve the profit margins. Men who could quell the complaints of plant managers with a single glance if the manger complained, “But it can’t be done.” Because if the plant manager didn’t do what he knew could not be done he would be replaced with someone who would do it anyway.

The two men had been friends since high school football. Peter was considered uncle by Billy’s daughter, and Billy was the favorite uncle of both Peter’s children. In college they had backed each other, cheated on tests together, and helped bring the team to state victory. Billy was the one person Peter could count on without any need for persuasion. Right now that was what he needed.

“What is happening?” Billy asked, a worried frown on his face. He knew there was a problem or his friend would never have asked to see him on his way to work in the morning. The waitress came up, Billy glanced at her, “Coffee for now.” And she disappeared.

Peter shoved his own cup of coffee to the side, clasped his hands with the two index fingers extended, much like the position a policeman uses to fire a pistol. “When I went home last Friday I had a nice job, a cushy retirement fund, a huge house with a payment I could easily afford on my salary, a good chance of a promotion in about six months, and not a single worry in the world.”Billy accepted a cup of coffee from the waitress. When she left Peter resumed. Billy did  not like the way the conversation was starting out.

“I made one stop. By the time I arrived home forty five minutes had passed. As I entered the foyer the phone was ringing for me.” Peter stopped. Took a deep breath. “I was informed the company was no longer owned by Crisptech, Stoddard, and Scrates. It is now owned by somebody else, I was so shocked I didn’t get the name of the new owners. I was further informed my services are no longer needed. Very sorry, nothing personal. I was told to stop in at security Monday morning where I was escorted to my desk and allowed to pick up my personal belongings. I wasn’t even allowed to check the computer for emails.”

There was a long silence as Billy absorbed that. Unfortunately Billy could see himself facing the same position, if not today, then tomorrow or next week.

“Why you?”

“Not just me. If it were, I could do something. I’ve called everyone I have any influence over. They were all let go plus a bunch more. As near as  I can tell it is a clean sweep.” Peter did not mention that “everyone he had influence over” meant everyone he had something on. He normally used the J. Edgar Hoover approach to friendship. He believed that the more he had on someone the more he trusted them. Except in the case of Billy. Billy had always been the one person he could count on without so much as a hint of blackmail.

“That is horrible. What are you going to do. Surely with your experience you can get another job in your field.”

That would be simple. Billy would get him a job with his company. It wouldn’t matter how menial. With a little applied research Peter would move up in the company. Soon he would pass Billy and he would take Billy right up to the top with him. Of course he would never tell Billy just exactly how it had happened. Billy did not need to know everything.

“I tried. Nobody is hiring. Everybody is cutting back. The only job openings are ones I’m overqualified to do.”

“That is unbelievable.”

“I figure you can get me on where you work. Doesn’t matter what. You can push past the ‘over qualified’ part. Once I get a foot in the door I’ll make a spot for myself.”

“That’s bad. There aren’t any jobs where I’m at. I was actually thinking if I got cut I would come to you. But if you are out we are both out. Other than that the only thing I can do is front you a couple of thousand till something comes through for you.”

Peter felt a cold shock pass over him, like getting hit by cold water in a shower where you expected comfortable warmth. “Couple of thousand dollars isn’t going to help right now. If I get to that I’ll have to unload a boat or the cabin or something else. I’ve got a few stocks. What I need isn’t a hand, it is an income.”

“The cabin?” The memories of so many things, mentioned and unmentioned, that had happened there entered his mind. “That would be a shame. You’ve had it forever.”

“What I need is a job. What about your wife. Where she works.”

“They put her to looking into cutbacks and laying people off. Layoffs there mean fired. They just won’t say it outright.” Billy looked into his coffee cup as though it were the dark future itself.

“So nothing?”

“Nothing. I’ll keep looking for you. I’ll have my wife keep an eye out too. Right now I think it is a good thing we put a big chunk away for Peaches’ college fund or she might not get to go.”

Peter nodded.

There was not much left to say and after some small talk Billy went back to his job.

Peter stayed for a long time, thinking.

The one time he really needed Billy, the only time it had been a matter of real life and death, Billy let him down. Flat. And then have the nerve to brag about his daughter’s college fund. Peter had never set one up for his children. It had never dawned on him he wouldn’t be able to pay for it out of pocket when the time came.

That was okay. Billy would pay for this betrayal. Peter would see to it.

 

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