By Jeannie Perry
Alan’s true major in college was partying. He rarely went to class, unless one of his dealers was in it and he needed to score. He eventually dropped out sometime in his second year, although credit-wise he was probably still a freshman. Alan held a number of jobs throughout the next few years, each one no longer than the last.
When he was twenty-three, he was hired as the operations manager of a sporting goods store just ten minutes by bus from his tiny apartment. After only two months, Alan’s manager, Mr. Bedwell, reviewed his job performance and gave him a raise of $.50 an hour. Everyone he knew was encouraged to see Alan take an interest in something besides dope, and truth be told, he enjoyed selling shoes and sporting equipment to suburbanites. He was a good salesman because he naturally held a confidence that others were drawn to.
One Friday, after work, on his way to the bank with the store’s deposit, Alan realized he had been employed for exactly twelve months and he decided that was cause for celebration. Alan dropped the deposit in the Night Deposit Drop Box and turned left instead of right on Dahlia Street, heading towards Jimmy’s Bar & Grill to check out their happy hour.
The next afternoon Alan woke up with a piercing pain in his head, a rolling, unsettled feeling in his stomach, and the taste of cat shit in his mouth.
“Ohhh God,” he moaned as he sat up in bed and immediately curled over on his side to put his head in his hands. His skull felt as fragile as a Christmas ornament as he slowly got up and made his way to the bathroom and closed the door.
Later, Alan gingerly made his way to the kitchenette, where he started a pot of coffee and put some bread in the toaster. He spent the remainder of the day on his sofa, eating mix-matched left-overs from the frig, watching golf, and half-napping. Lounging in his sweat pants, pipe in one hand, lighter in the other, Alan’s eyes surveyed the small room: an old pair of sneakers lying on the dirt-colored carpet next to a cheap tv perched on a cheaper tv stand. Faded blinds—closed, next to a poster of Bruce Springsteen tacked up on the wall. An empty twenty-gallon aquarium sitting on the floor underneath the standing bar that separated the kitchen part of the room from this, the living part. The inhabitant was long gone, just like his last girlfriend.
“I should get a pet,” Alan thought. “Maybe a bird or something…”
Sunday passed a lot like Saturday and sometime around 2:30am Alan turned off the tv and made his way back to the bedroom.
Monday morning the telephone was ringing while Alan waited in line to buy some Muppets and a beer at the carnival. He stood there patiently, looking around for the person whose phone was ringing and ringing. As he awoke, he realized the ringing phone was the only part of his dream that was real.
“Hello?” Alan said through a yawn.
“Alan?! Alan! Is that you?!!” Mr. Bedwell was yelling so loudly that Alan jerked the phone away from his ear.
“Yeah, it’s me. What’s the matter?”
“Where the hell is Friday’s deposit?!” Alan still cautiously held the phone a few inches away.
“What? What d’ya mean? I dropped it in the Night Deposit Drop Box.”
“Are you sure, Alan? Think this over very carefully. Are you sure?”
“I’m sure, Mr. Bedwell. I dropped it after work, on my way home.”
“Well, it’s not in the bank.”
“Alan?! Can you hear me?”
“There must have been a mix up at the bank.”
“You better get your ass down here.”
“Yes sir. On my way.”
Alan threw on some tan cords and a striped button-down shirt and grabbed his shoes on his way out the door. He ran around the corner to the bus stop just as the bus was pulling away.
Mr. Bedwell was on the phone in his office when Alan showed up beltless, sockless, shirt untucked— major dress code point deductions. He gestured for Alan to come in and sit down in one of the vinyl chairs across from his desk. The office reminded Alan of his great uncle’s office, which he once visited with his mother. Although this office was much smaller, with no room for a sofa or a bar in the corner, and the view of the sales floor did nothing to compete with the skyline in Alan’s memory. He must have only been five or six at the time, but he could still recall the smell of lemony wood and pipe tobacco, and he was eyeing the cut crystal bowl on the coffee table filled with those little individually-wrapped caramels; oh! how he had wanted to reach out and take one—
Mr. Bedwell hung up the phone loudly, breaking into Alan’s reverie.
“I’ve been on the phone all morning with the bank, Alan. I don’t know what to say.”
“They can’t find it?”
“Cut the crap, son. Just tell me what you did with it so we can figure out how to get it back.”
“I dropped it in the Night Deposit Drop Box, just like I told you.”
“Look, if you don’t own up to this, and we don’t figure out a way to replace it, the company’ll have to take appropriate action.”
“Like you’re fired.”
“So, you’re telling me, either I have to lie and replace cash that I didn’t lose, or I lose my job?”
“How much?” Alan tried to sort through weekend haze for the amount.
Alan sat there, blinking. He looked nothing like the preppy college kid he represented when Mr. Bedwell had hired him. He just sat there with his blood-shot eyes, wrinkled shirt, and flat part of hair he had slept on.
“I’m sorry, Alan. You’ll have to leave. Immediately. George will take you down to your locker for your things. Don’t come back. And don’t give my name for a reference.” He got back on the phone, this time telling his secretary to send George, the heavyset security guard, up.
Alan left. He didn’t wait for George and he didn’t go to his locker. When he reached Dahlia Street he turned left, walking slowly.
Five years later, during a remodeling of the bank, a construction worker found a bank bag that had slipped down between the edge of the Night Deposit Drop Box and the drywall. Inside was cash totaling $6,380.48, and a deposit slip for a local sporting goods store.
Jeannie Perry is a writer, philosopher, and do-gooder. She lives in the Roaring Fork valley, where she writes fiction like she takes up running- sporadically and mostly because she likes the outfit.