by Martin Maenza
A well-built African-American man with a thin mustache and beard, the latter graying slightly near the chin, sat behind a large wooden desk. The office was well-decorated with plush forest green carpet. The bookcases were filled with varying business texts and square-bound reports. It looked very much like any industry executive’s office might.
The man at the desk scratched his bald head, glanced up at the clock on the wall, and sighed. The day was dragging on, as a lot of them seemed to do lately. Sometimes it seemed like eternity from the start of the day to lunch, and even many of those meals weren’t something to look forward to. Working lunches often gave him indigestion.
He got up from the leather chair, brushed the few wrinkles out of his dress trousers, then stood tall. His necktie swayed back and forth due to the sudden movement. He just shook his head. “Never did think I’d end up working as one of the suits,” he said softly to himself. He strolled over to the window that overlooked the downtown area. Crossing his hands behind his back, he just stared at the city for a few minutes.
From his office, he could see down to Lake Erie if he stood at the right angle. Of course, one had to look over the urban sprawl past the industrial sectors that belched out smoke and the crowded inner-city neighborhoods teeming with punks and thugs who plagued the good people trying to make it one day at a time. He never thought he’d miss those things, but he did. Life in the corporate trenches was slowly wearing him down.
But he continued to press on out of obligation. Long ago, he made a promise to a good friend. He promised to watch over his buddy’s newborn son if anything happened to him in Vietnam. It wasn’t too long after that he had to make good on that promise, one that would have a guiding force on his life even to this day.
There was a knock on the door.
“Yes?” Dale called out, turning toward the portal.
A young man, still in college and working here on the cooperative education program, poked his head in the door. “Your morning business news, Mr. Gunn,” the youth said timidly. The boy knew his business coursework but was still getting the hang of the real world.
“Thank you…” Dale Gunn began, then froze with uncertainty. The young man had only been here for a day or so, and Dale struggled to recall his name. Tom? Ron? Rod? “Todd!” He managed to remember. He moved over to take the newspaper. “Thank you, Todd.”
“Can I get you anything else? More coffee, perhaps?” the brown-haired youth asked.
Dale recalled the incident from yesterday, requiring him to change into his spare suit and shirt. “No, thank you, son,” Gunn said. “I’m good. Thank you.” The young man nodded and dismissed himself, closing the office door as he left.
Grabbing the paper, Dale flipped it half open as he walked back to his desk. All the while he glanced at the headlines on the front page. “WayneTech’s announced some new portable computers,” he said. “Interesting.”
He plopped down in his seat and flipped over to page two. Another headline caught his eye, one about a local company in Detroit. The company name gave him pause. “Plasticorp, Plasticorp,” he said over and over, trying to jumpstart his brain, which had been droned into complacency this last year and a half. “Why is that so familiar?”
Then it came to him. “Of course,” he said to himself. “Now I remember!”
And his mind began to wander back to a time a little less than two years ago.