he had lost fenderson - one of the company’s oldest accounts.
it had been a hard struggle to try to retain it, but he lost it in the end.
mike barber, his supervisor, had been sympathetic. the loss was on mike too.
now it looked like they would not meet their goals - for the third straight month!
what could you do?
but no matter how tough things were at work, larry was always glad when the day was over.
in this as in many other things, larry was like most people.
now, as he strode into the gathering dusk toward the railroad station where he would board the 6:20 train, larry felt a pleasant twinge of anticipation about the grilled cheese and tomato sandwich he would make for himself at home, and about the reruns of star trek and the twilight zone and the golden universe he would watch.
and the coors light or two or three he would gratefully savor.
he heard a voice behind him - “billy! billy jensen!”
as larry’s name was not billy jensen, he did not turn around.
the voice got a bit louder. “billy! hey, billy!”
but, again, as larry’s name was not billy jensen, he did not turn around,
suddenly his right arm - the one carrying his briefcase - was seized from behind. not roughly, but decisively.
larry turned and looked into the eyes of a man he did recognize - a white man about his own age, a little heavier than himself, but if possible even more ordinary looking.
and with the slightest hint of thuggery in his eyes, which, however, seemed to fade as he addressed larry in a friendly enough tone.
“billy - don’t you recognize an old pal?”
“i am sorry, sir, but you have made a mistake. my name is not billy.” larry assumed that when he looked the ordinary-looking man right in the face he would realize his mistake.
but he did not. “come on, billy, don’t be that way. i’m not blaming you for anything that happened back in the day. that’s all over with.” and he jabbed larry in the chest in a friendly way.
larry was not disturbed by this encounter. he thought it mildly amusing, if anything. although night had fallen, they were surrounded by people - mostly white people in suits leaving their jobs in the office district, the older ones headed home and the younger ones headed for the well-lit dating bars and sports bars that filled the area around the railroad station.
larry laughed, politely. “i don’t know what to tell you, my friend. i am not billy, and that is all there is to it.”
the stranger looked a little hurt by larry’s rebuff. “all, right, if you insist.” he moved a little closer to larry, but that could be because so many people were streaming by on either side of them. “but if you are not billy, who are you?”
ah-ha! thought larry. this is just some scam. does he think i am going to give him my social security number or credit card number?
aloud he said, “my name is lawrence miller. i work for the taj mahal title insurance corporation. “ he took a card from the pocket of his overcoat and handed it to the stranger. “if you are ever in the market for some title insurance.”
the man took it and glanced at it. “thank you.”
“and your name?” larry asked politely.
a little bit of the mean look came back in the man’s eyes. “mitch. mitch philips.”
“nice to meet you, mitch.”
“and it’s nice meeting you - lawrence.”
“larry. everybody calls me larry.” with a little wave, larry turned and walked away.
when he had gone a block and a half, he looked back.
mitch philips was nowhere to be seen.
larry settled back in his seat on the train.
what a day!
not one, but two things - not exactly exciting things, but two actual things - had happened in one day!
he had lost the fenderson account - of which he would hear more later, so no use thinking about it now.
and then the strange encounter with “mitch philips” - of whom he was sure he had seen the last.
he took the newspaper out of his briefcase. he never read the news, not even the sports news, he just did the crossword and the other little puzzles.