Author: Ken Carlson

“I’m sorry, Mister Bennett?

“Yes, Ronald Bennett, my first day.”

He pulled the tan card from his pocket that came in the mail the week before. The receptionist, a tall, pale woman looked down her glasses at him. She wore a pristine tan blazer like everyone else in this bustling lobby.

“Debbie told me something like this might happen,” Bennett said.

“Debbie?” she asked.

“My wife,” he said, smiling. “She’s always looking out for me. Ah, here it is. Mister Bennett, your application has been accepted… Temporal Resources, Class D.”

The woman frowned. “Oh, Class D, rare for this branch. Almost everyone here is at least Class C. You can sit over there. I’ll get to you when I have a moment.”

Bennett wandered to some chairs and ferns in a poorly lit area. He felt slighted, self-conscious, wearing a tattered, gray tweed jacket his mother bought for him at a thrift shop years ago. He knew accepting an entry-level position at his age was beneath the aspirations of many people, but Debbie said it was his time.

“Ronnie,” Debbie said, “when the farm fell on hard times, it drained the life from your folks. You cared for them the best you could. You’ve got to try something new. You’ll be great!”

Bennett felt flushed thinking about her. Debbie was short with dark hair, liked to wear overalls spattered with paint from her landscape artwork. She was starting to show; due with their first in August. Whatever he’d been through, at least he had her.

“Ron? Ron!”

Bennett looked up at hearing his name. There were so many people in blazers buzzing about he couldn’t focus. A waving figure approached him, a friend from school.

“Ron Bennett! It’s been ages.”

Bennett shook hands with Devin Cox, a smooth-operating, fast-talking guy born to sell.

“Hey Devin,” Bennett said, “you look great.” Devin had the hair, the smile, the blazer.

Devin said, “Are you joining us here in Temporal? I thought you’d be stuck on that clunker of a farm forever.”

Bennett stiffened. The farm was a disaster, could barely grow rocks, but it was his parents’ dream.

Devin snapped his fingers. “Ron are you in there?” Bennett was lost for a moment, but came back.

“Same old Bennett,” Devin said, “hey, you still going with that cute girl, Deb Crossczyk?”

Bennett smiled, “Deb Bennett now. We got married last year.”

Devin smiled his salesman smile. “Well, that’s solid! Good for you! Excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

Devin marched to a computer console across the lobby. People got out of his way, he had that power. Bennett rubbed his eyes, a little tired. Devin returned.

“Sorry, Ron,” said Devin, “It’s so busy here. Let’s get you set up.”

Cox walked Bennett to the receptionist.

“Marcie,” Devin said, “I’m bringing Mr. Bennett in personally. We can’t have a star B-7 recruit sitting here idly wasting time.”

“B-7?” Marcie was impressed. “Well, Mr. Bennett, it’s been a pleasure. If there is anything you need.”

“Yes, Marcie, that will be all,” Devin said, leading Bennett through security to the elevators.
“Some people, once you reach B-level, they can’t kiss up enough. Better get used to that as a B-7, just a rung below me. So, Ron, what have you been up to all this time?”

Bennett paused, “I’ve had some ups and downs. Happy to be here. Still single. You?”

Devin smiled. “Married. It’s great. Remember Deb Crossczyk from school? Real cutie. We’ve been married a few years now. We’re expecting our first this August.”