Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
"What the hell are you trying to do with those boxes, Gordon?"
She noticed. "Sally-one-eye," noticed everything.
"Just trying to get through the damn door."
She jumped up and held the door for me as I struggled with the empty cardboard containers.
"Tony fired me. Just needed something to put my stuff in." I started pulling personal folders and papers from my drawers and dumping them into the boxes. I was careful to take only what belonged to me, and nothing that belonged to the company.
"He can't fire you. The place will fall apart without you."
I didn't bother to answer her. Without being asked, she started to help me gather up my things. She noticed when I grabbed the picture of my wife, Laura, off the desk and then threw it into the trashcan.
"Sally-one-eye" worked as my secretary for two years. I was going to miss her. She had one glass eye that never seemed to fit right. It looked like it had a mind of it's own. For some reason, it teared up a lot, so she was constantly wiping it and putting in eye drops. Three years ago, Sally was in a car wreck. She lost her husband and her right eye. Now she was stuck working in this dank room to support her two young sons: Brian, who was eight, and Greg, two years younger.
"Gordon. What the hell happened? All you did was go home to get another pair of glasses. He can't fire you for that."
I was done gathering up the few things I had. I only needed one of the boxes. "Tony Monsano and Laura were in our bed when I got home. They were not doing anything at the time, but they were both naked."
"He fired you because you caught him sleeping with your wife?"
"Not exactly. First, I told him to get the hell out of my house, and then he fired me."
"He didn't leave?"
"Laura and Tony were still in our bed when I left. Tony was laughing as I walked out the door."
"Sally-one-eye" put her hand on my shoulder. She didn't say anything. I smiled and walked out of the building. Monsano Mowers would have to do without Gordon Livingston. I don't think they were worried about it.
My brother, Shelton, wasn't home, but his wife, Joyce, was more than happy to offer their spare room. Shelton worked an early shift at the tire plant and would be home after noon. Joyce kept me happy with coffee and a warm shoulder to cry on, until Shel got there. After a quick lunch, we headed over to my place to get my stuff.
Tony was gone and Laura was sitting in the kitchen with a drink of some type.
"What the hell were you doing coming home in the middle of the morning like that Gordon?" I couldn't believe she asked me such a stupid question.
"I was afraid that Tony might run out of condoms. I was just bringing him another dozen."
"Don't be a smart ass. It's not that big a deal and it's nothing new."
"What does that mean?"
"Tony was going to fire you two years ago. He agreed to keep you on if I would have sex with him. I did it, so that you could keep your job."
"Are you trying to tell me you have been having sex with him for the last two years?"
Laura looked at me with a slight smirk and finished her drink. "Well it wasn't all that bad. You got to keep your job and I got to spend time with Tony."
"Now that I lost my job, are you going to stop seeing him?"
"Don't be silly. Why would I do that?"
I couldn't believe what she had just said, but it sure did clarify a lot of things. I looked at Shelton and we both went to the bedroom to pack my stuff. There wasn't much in the house that I wanted, so it didn't take long. Since I wasn't much of a handy man, there were not a lot of tools or power equipment. The last thing I carried out was the desktop computer.
Laura sat at the kitchen table the whole time. Somehow, her glass got refilled. She didn't say anything else while we were there. Laura was not aging well. She wore her hair long and dyed it a freaky black color. It looked sort of Goth or witchy. She had an olive complexion, but her face was thin, making her look hard. Her lips were tight as she stared straight ahead at the opposite wall, so that she wouldn't have to meet my gaze. I couldn't tell if she was pissed at me for leaving or for catching her cheating. It didn't matter.
Shel and I stopped and had a quick beer to celebrate the successful completion of the move. It was a pathetic excuse to have a drink in the middle of the day. The house was a rental. Thank God for the little things. It took about an hour to arrange to have all the utilities disconnected. I even got a few deposits back. The bank accounts and credit cards were next.
I left half of the savings and checking accounts for Laura.
Joyce had a great supper waiting when we got home. Later that night, Shelton helped me get drunk, and put me to bed.
The hangover was the first one that I had in years.
I wasn't counting on any severance pay from Monsano Mowers, but I had enough from the saving account to last a few months. Unemployment compensation was out of the question, so I would have to look for another job. I decided to start the divorce paper work first. That took the whole morning.
After lunch I went to the State Employment Office, on the slim chance that they had something.
"Hi Gordon. Fancy meeting you here."
"Sally-one-eye" was standing in front of me with a clipboard.
"Did you quit?"
"No. I was replaced by some big tits and big hair."
I just shook my head. That was a mean thing for Tony to do. Sally didn't have anything to do with the whole situation and it wasn't fair to let her go. "What exactly happened?"
"You were replaced with Tony's brother Carmine and I was replaced with Carmine's girlfriend. I was gone before the end of the day."
"Sorry. What can I do to help?"
"Can I use you as a reference?" We both got a little chuckle at that.
"Sally-one-eye" and I sat together and filled out the mustard colored employment history forms. I don't think either one of us had any confidence in the system, but we felt like we had to go though the motions. Before we left, I gave her a couple hundred bucks and my phone number. She resisted a little, but finally took it with a meek 'thank you.' A single mom with two young boys and no job was going to have it rough.
I spent the next week trying to find someplace in the area that might be interested in hiring me, but had no luck. After getting a scathing phone call from Laura concerning the disconnected utilities, I changed my cell phone number.
Simmons Farm Equipment was about three miles outside of town. Most of the farms in the area had been sold off to developers. Ranch houses dotted the landscape where corn used to grow. Everything about the place indicated that it was past its prime. It needed paint and new signs. The parking lot was in worse shape than the buildings. Even the windows needed washing. As dismal as it was, it was my last chance.
Earl Simmons was well over sixty and quite overweight. He sat behind his desk like Santa Claus with no beard. I was dressed for an interview, so he knew right off the bat that I wasn't interested in buying any farm equipment.
"If you're not buying, you must be selling. I am not interested."
"I can't argue with that. I was just looking for a free cup of coffee."
My flip answer was rewarded with a hardly laugh as he pointed to the coffee urn in the corner.
I sat down across from my host and lifted my Styrofoam cup like a mock toast and nodded. "Thanks. It's a pleasant end to a bad week."
Earl Simmons gave me a quizzical look. "Don't I know you? You're that Livingood fellow that works for Monsano. Am I right?"
""Livingston. I used to work at Monsano. I'm not working anywhere right now."
After a short pause, "I never did like that Monsano guy, or his brother."
We both sat there for a few moments, neither one of us saying anything, just enjoying the coffee.
"Are you sure I can't sell you a Harvester. I can give you a good deal on last years model." There was a twinkle in his eye. Maybe he was Santa Claus.
I found myself looking around the room. Outside the window I could see a large warehouse and a larger storage yard. There seemed to be an absence of merchandise. The showroom was totally empty. I assumed he let the inventory die down because of the slow sales. I didn't know a damn thing about farm machinery, but something didn't seem right. I was brought out of my reverie by his booming voice.
"You look like you are thinking of buying the place. Are you going to make me an offer?"
"In my dreams." Simmons leaned back in his chair and smiled.
"Seven or eight years ago, Monsano's operation was crap. He didn't start making it until he hired you. Is that right?"
He was right, but there was no way I would admit to it. I knew what I did for Tony and apparently other people noticed also. All I could do was smile, as I tossed my empty cup into the trash container. I was still smiling as I got up to leave.
"Don't rush off Mister Livingood. We might be able to work something out."
"Livingston. Gordon Livingston."
Two hours later, Earl Simmons and myself had come to an agreement. He had some big plans, but needed somebody like me to make them work. He was a thrifty man, so money was no object. I was willing and able to help him, with one stipulation: I could hire my own assistant. "Sally-one-eye" was going to be a happy woman.
I took Shelton and Joyce to the Red Lobster that night. The misery that Laura had caused was disappearing fast. I think Sally was happier than I was, after I called her.
When we got back to the house, Laura was waiting for me. She spent twenty minutes trying to convince me to come back to our place. It appeared that Tony was not very excited about supporting his wife, family, and Laura. I politely listened to her complete argument, smiled and walked into the house. I did not say a word.
The next few weeks were busy. The main building was all concrete block. The second floor was a three-bedroom apartment that had been used as storage for the last twenty years. Earl was more than happy to let me use it to live in: rent-free. "Sally-one-eye" helped me find a stove, refrigerator, and washing machine. Sally and I cleaned and painted the inside of the office and the apartment. I hired a couple of high school kids to paint all the out buildings. Earl never squawked about the cost.
It was a lot of fun, but eventually we had to start doing productive work.
Laura called Joyce and told her she got the divorce papers and signed them. It was pretty cut and dry since we didn't own the house and had no kids. I had already given her half of the assets. Not much for twelve years of marriage, but all she deserved.
"Sally-one-eye" was a skinny little thing with bad teeth and a fake eye. Her hair was dirty blonde and it appeared that she had never been in a beauty salon in her life. She definitely lacked make-up skills. She always appeared to be clean, but needed some serious maintenance. All this was compensated for by a telephone voice that dripped honey, and a work ethic that put me to shame. Her computer skills were extraordinary as well as her accounting ability. To me, she was a dream come true.
One nice thing about working for a guy who thinks he's smarter than everyone else is that he usually isn't. Monsano Mowers had no confidentiality clauses or proprietary agreements. Tony didn't need any of that crap because he was the man. Unfortunately for Tony, that also meant that Sally and I had an open playing field. Sally sent letters to all the wholesalers that we had dealings with and all the retailers that we worked with. All she did was explain that the two of us were no longer with Monsano Mowers and were not available to provide service to them any longer. She was very careful not to solicit any type of business.
In the mean time, I was calling all of Earl's contacts to see if any of them were still viable. Most of the accounts had died a slow death over the years, and some of them actually went out of business. As far as Earl was concerned, the farm equipment operation was dead. He had no desire to resurrect it.
I fell across a Korean manufacturer who was trying to get U.S. distributors for gang mowers. They weren't very sophisticated, but sturdy and cheap. It was an ideal item for small municipalities and school districts to consider. After thirty minutes on the phone, I had fifty units coming from California, on a consignment basis. We had the room to stock them and it cost us no money up front. They sent a box of sales brochures, by Overnight Express, and "Sally-one-eye" was right on it.
We had six orders before the first load arrived.