“You have a very nice home, Roger. It’s a little cluttered and could use some cleaning, but, then again, this house is quite small,” Glenda said. “I noticed that you have four bookshelves and possibly a couple of hundred books.”
“Actually, I have a lot more book than that. My eyesight is not as good as it used to be so I now purchase all my books in the Kindle format. That way I can adjust the fonts and the brightness levels so that reading the text is comfortable for me,” Roger explained.
“You certainly are a well read man.”
“For sure. I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I also like listening to audiobooks when my eyes need a break.”
“You are right though. This house is a bit too small, but it was even more cramped when my wife was still alive. We accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. I still haven’t given away much of Beatrice’s belongings. I get too emotional when I’m around her stuff.”
“I’m sorry to hear that your wife passed away. How long has it been now?”
“Over a year.”
“Are you over your grief now?” Glenda asked moving a little closer to the front of the couch. Roger was a little uncomfortable with how Glenda made him feel. He wished that less of her skin was exposed. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, Roger did find this strange young woman in his house to be somewhat attractive. It couldn’t be a sexual attraction. That was ludicrous. After all, Roger was sixty-five years old and this girl was only twenty-two. He was not a dirty old man. Roger had not even been sexually active with Beatrice during her last few years as she was too exhausted from her cancer treatments to have sexual relations with him. There was something else going on.
“Are you still grieving, Roger?” Glenda asked.
“Yes, it’s getting better with time, but at certain times of the day I still get very sad and will start weeping. Sometimes an old song that we both loved will be playing on the internet radio. That will have the same effect upon me. Beatrice and I had a very happy marriage. I can’t say that we did a lot of exciting things together. We didn’t do much travelling as we didn’t have much money. Beatrice was not healthy enough to work so we mostly relied upon my income. As we both liked our creature comforts and I have several hobbies we ran up a lot of debt. I had to take out a second mortgage on this house. This caused a great deal of stress in our lives, but we both enjoyed each other’s company in a quiet sort of way.”
One day in August Rick walked to the Canada Employment Center to see if he could get some help finding a job. He was two credits short from attaining his high school diploma and realized that with this small amount of course work he would need to at least, get a part time job. At this time he did not think that he would return to playing hockey for another season. Last year had been much too stressful for him and now he would have a lot of free time on his hands. Rick felt that he would need to get a job to keep his parents happy.
As he entered the employment center Rick was nervous. He had worked one summer at his dad’s printing plant and had a very negative experience while working there. Rick did not yet realize that he lacked the manual dexterity, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning required for most factory jobs.
Rick walked up to the reception desk and was told to pull a number out of a machine. He was directed to take a seat in the waiting room and wait until his number was called.
Rick found an empty seat and took a look around the main floor of the employment center. It was a very drab place that rendered a rather depressing mood. After waiting approximately fifteen minutes Rick heard his name called and was greeted by a young attractive female who asked him to take a seat in her work area. The employment counsellor did not have a closed in office. Her office space was separated from her co-workers by grey rectangular partitions. This arrangement didn’t give the client any feeling of privacy as one could hear what people in other sectioned off work areas were saying.
The employment counsellor shook hands with Rick and said, “Hello Richard, my name is Arlene Johnson. What can I do for you today?”
“You can just call me Rick. I’m here to find a job.”
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
“I’m not sure,” Rick answered. “I don’t know what kinds of work are available to me.”
“Well, that all depends upon your education and work experience.”
“I’ve got my grade 11 and I’m just two credits shy of my high school diploma. I worked at my dad’s printing plant one summer and I used to have a paper route.
“Do you like working with your hands Rick?”
“Not very much. I’m not very good with my hands.”
“I have to be honest with you. Most of the jobs you could apply for require a grade twelve education and manual dexterity or fine motor skills. We occasionally get referrals from employers for manual labor jobs, but I don’t have any referrals right now,” Arlene said.
“Rick was now feeling very uncomfortable. “So I guess you really don’t have anything for me today?”
“Not really. What do you do in your spare time?”
“I play hockey, watch tv, listen to music and read.”
“But you don’t do much work with your hands?”
“No, not really, but I read a lot,” Rick said feeling insulted.
“Listen Rick. Can I be blunt?”
“Yeah,” Rick replied feeling annoyed.
“You need to get your high school diploma and you need to take up a hobby where you have to use your hands. After you do that come back and see me.”
“Thank you for your time,” Rick said as he got up to leave Arlene’s work area. When he got outside Rick lit up a smoke and said to himself, “So that’s that. I’ll go back to school to get my two credits and I’ll play hockey for one more year.”
“Not that many people know that I read a lot too. As I just found out you and I have very similar interests. Look, Rick I really want to get to know you a lot better. Why don’t I give you a call tomorrow? Maybe we can go out for lunch. Right now let me introduce you to some people at the party. I’d say let’s go talk to Peyton and Sabrina but it looks like they are holding court right now.
Rick really enjoyed the rest of the evening, He thought that several of Misty’s friends were really cool. People kept going over to Peyton’s record collection and put on their favorite albums. The record that got the most play was Led Zeppelin III. Although the music critics of rock journalism didn’t give the album very positive reviews, the people attending the party seemed to love it. The new Led Zeppelin LP got by far the most plays. Rick especially enjoyed the songs, Gallows Pole and Celebration Day. As Rick smoked one of his Old Port Colt cigarellos he thought about how much his social life had picked up in one day. He agreed to have lunch with Misty at The Black Top Restaurant. He was so excited about it and the way his whole day had played out that he knew he wouldn’t get much sleep tonight, but being only eighteen years old Rick knew he’d still feel great in the morning.
After the party ended Rick and Misty got a ride home from Misty’s friend Carol. Misty actually kissed Rick goodnight which surprised but pleased him no end.
Rick was right. He didn’t get home until near 3:00 AM but he only managed a couple of hours sleep until he needed to get up to ready himself for hockey practise. This was Rick’s third year playing for The St. Vital Cougars. He didn’t play very well during last year’s play off run and he still felt bad about it. Last season Rick felt more stressed than a seventeen- year- old should have to be
. He had a very demanding coach who expected his team to win every game even if it was only an exhibition contest. Coach Reynolds would often yell at his players when they made a mistake or didn’t play up to his expectations. Rick often took the brunt of his coach’s wrath as he was the Cougar’s number one goalie and was often blamed if his team lost a game. Rick would burn with shame and humiliation whenever he was publicly called out by his coach. Rick had a very sensitive temperament and would be upset for days after a loss. He never questioned his coach or his tactics. The truth was that Coach Reynolds terrified him and he would have quit the team if he wasn’t so afraid of what the coach would do to him as a consequence. The amazing thing was that the majority of the team remained loyal to him in spite of the abuse. The one thing that could not be denied was that Coach Reynolds always produced a competitive hockey team.