The Lay-On

by Ken Grout
Copyright 2011

He is beautiful.

There – among the lacquered bamboo and dewy succulents, the burnt sienna pendants and the hum of familiarity – stands this man I have never seen. Steel-blue suit, steel-blue eyes, steel-blue hair. A superhero without the letter shield. I try not to stare.

My cell phone buzzes. “When you get in, go straight to HR Conference Room A.” A text from my boss. Hmmm. Conference Room A. The one with the real mahogany table, reserved for lawyers and guests. My mother used to have a dress like Conference Room A; she only used it for people she didn’t know.

I glance up from the glow-screen and he is looking. I flush. He turns and orders. There are two people in line between us. I decide to forego my usual blueberry muffin and just get a coffee. He goes to the side bar, stirs in some milk.

“Medium black and a blueberry to-go?” She is already reaching into the muffin case. “No,” I pat my stomach. “Just the coffee.” She nods. He is by the window sipping and smiling. At me. For me. About me. I freeze a little, melt a lot. The phone buzzes. My boss asking if I saw her last text and how far away I am.

I write back, “Yes. HR Conf Rm A. Ten mins the max.”

I pick up my coffee and manage to both drop my cell phone and kick it under a table. He bends down, hands it to me.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” His voice is oiled leather and coconut milk. “I’m Carter.” He extends his hand. Of course he is.

“John.” We shake hands for too long for it to be anything else. I push some hair behind my right ear. My hand smells good enough to suck.

Carter is a business consultant, he tells me by the window. A company flew him in from Memphis for three days. He asks if he can buy me a drink after work. He offers his cell phone number; I give him mine. It feels easy, natural, true. I can see him in my future. I know he has won awards for kissing. His mouth looks like food.

Suddenly, the time is upon us. I promise to call, as does he. We shake hands again and then, spontaneously, embrace. He leaves and I go to the bathroom to splash myself and pinch something. I say his number out loud. My phone buzzes. The boss, in all caps this time. WHR R U? HR RM A.

And then it hits me. I am about to get laid off. Rumors have been flying about the place for weeks. And I am elated. New vistas. Do for me, please, what I have had neither courage nor funds to do for myself. Give me wings before I am too old to fly.

I will not squander this opportunity; I promise you that, Jesus. Just please, please.

I zip up and go, spring in my step, sixth floor, left out of the elevator, HR. And I know it then before I know it. I see it before I look. I smell it on my hand and in the air. I open the heavy glass door and step into Conference Room A. He looks up with a ready steel-blue smile and actually gasps. The big office-yellow envelope with my name tattooed across it sits in front of him.

“Turns out you should have kept this.” I toss my company-issued cell phone across the mahogany. “Did I mention that I might take a couple of days in Memphis? I have some unexpected time off.”


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Moneytubes – my first film, a short absurd-comedy written and directed by Nick Carlisle.

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