Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scene 3

Myron works at the O P & Q Company, a wholesaler of machine parts. One day, along with a big shipment of aluminum rotators, comes word of changing circumstances. The floor guys are rumbling. The company’s up for sale. “The old man, he’s got a fish on the line,” says one.

A mysterious black truck has parked behind the building. Sharp-looking men in dark suits have been spotted. Lawyers.

“If he sells out to one of these big outfits, we’re on the street,” says another.

Outwardly, Myron isn’t having any of it. “Mr. Q. would never sell this company.”

O P & Q was founded by Osborne, Packer, and Quinn, three paratroopers who came back after the big war and went into business together. They got a warehouse and and a loading dock and some trucks.

Understand about Mssrs. O P & Q: they are virtual Homeric Men. In Europe, they hurl themselves of out airplanes and float down over Belgium without getting their dings shot off. They overrun Germany. Now they carry super-heavy equipment up six flights of stairs. They tolerate big jolts of electricity casually. They make handsome money. Golf handicaps in single digits. This at the height of their powers.

But hey, nothing lasts forever. Osborne, the sales guy, is the first to go. He gets bored, cashes out, and moves with the wife to Nevada. Then goes Packer. He’s at a fishfry in 1979, eating beer-battered perch at the VFW, when Alma his wife goes to the bathroom. Suddenly Packer goes blue and flops over. WHAM. Fries everywhere. Chokes on a masticated fishball. Dies.

Myron comes on after this point.

Q is a man with white hair and big forearms. Q has an actual surname, “Quinn,” but everyone calls him Q.

Q hires Myron to keep track of where things are. At first, the system involves a great many index cards, and then it changes, to an inventory software package with an awkward name. Myron learns the program. He does well, in a limited way. He works in the outer office at a desk with a computer, behind milkily windowed walls that separate the clerical area from the shop floor.

Today, on the day of scary rumors, Myron’s getting worried. He can see several silhouetted figures in Q’s office. The white-haired Q is seated. Myron broods over his data. Q’s phone line blinks from 8:30 on.

Finally, near lunch time, the door opens and Q comes out of the office wearing a casual shirt. “Good morning, Myron,” says Q. He’s accompanied by two men in dark suits. They’re carrying fat brown accordian file things. Q introduces them, perfunctorily, to Myron.

“We’re from legal,” they say. Myron nods.

“Would you get on the intercom,” Q asks Myron, “and call a meeting?”

Everybody. Immediately.

Myron obliges, feeling sick. The company staff assembles out on the shop floor. Q makes a brief announcement that O P & Q has, in fact, been sold. But--he stresses--But. “Everybody’s job is going be safe.” The guys from legal smile thinly.

Q shakes a few hands, wipes an eye, and strides across the greasy endblock wood floor to the freight elevator. He yanks on the nylon strap and opens the gray slab door, virile as ever, then, at Friday noon, disappears into the elevator. He’s joined by Viv, the office manager, who’s got broad hips and a nice leer. Word is the old man turns up in Naples.

Florida, not Italy.

Nobody blames him but a small-minded driver named Newbauer. And Myron.

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