Blood trickled down the man’s face, mixing with dirt and grime. The flick of the tongue grabbed onto the liquid and brought it into his mouth.
The taste of it was satisfaction for Stan Bernal.
For 23 years, he worked for a large manufacturing firm in the big city across the river from his hometown. It was a good living, making cardboard and paper boxes for a variety of companies and firms. The job was perfect for the man with only a high school education, with one exception:
Blaine was a co-worker, who took an instant dislike to Stan. Every single day, for 23 years, Stan had to deal with at least one insult coming out of the mechanic. For 22 years and 364.25 days, it was business as usual. Stan would walk in, he’d get hit with two insults from Blaine, and he would go to his post like nothing happened.
July 15th, 2011 was a day that would go down in history at the company.
Stan arrived at work like clockwork. Old habits died hard, as they say. He walked in and awaited the first two barrages of insults from Blaine.
They never came.
Stan, shook by the lack of insults, looked around and walked into the lunchroom. Putting away his lunchbucket in his refrigerated locker, he got his safety equipment on and started moving out to the floor for the start of his day. He asked one of the other boys if Blaine was around. Getting past their remarks about him wanting to be insulted, they indicated that they didn’t see him that morning
The first part of his shift passed with no trouble. He fed the machines the new sheets of rough paperboard, which later became cardboard. The tedium nearly got to him, until he walked over to turn his machine off. As he pressed the button to turn it off, a sudden ka-THUNKbrought him back to reality. As did the searing pain in his arm.
His machine had pinched his arm in between two metal plates, and the pain was intensifying with each set of seconds. As he screamed out in pain, others came around to pull his arm out of the jam. He sat down and the medic looked at his arm, declaring that he was lucky and that it was only flesh wounds. He would be going home for the first time in 23 years.
Stan walked to the lunchroom, and was just about to walk in, when he heard a cackling sound around the side of the modular lunchroom. He walked around to investigate, and looked in shock.
Jack Blaine was cackling.
And holding two bolts that were from his machine.
Stan’s face suddenly started boiling red, his eyes went white, and with a mighty cry reminiscent of Adam Sandler’s “waterboy”, he leaped upon the laughing gentleman.
Stan’s leap made his arm go into a pain spasm, but with the amount of adrenalin going through his system, he didn’t feel any of it. He pulled Jack down onto the floor and started raining blows with his good arm.
It looked like it would be a one-way fight until Jack flipped Stan over and into a water cooler. As the machine spilled it’s contents over Stan, Jack rushed over to pick him up. Jack lined up for a punch, and connected with Stan’s face.
Yet, Jack suddenly felt a pressure upon his nether regions, and started screeching in pain.
At the same time as Jack connected with Stan’s face, Stan’s foot crunched Jack’s nuts.
Both men went down, Jack howling in pain and Stan lolling about. The fight was now about time, and how much time it would take for either man to get the initiative.
For a moment, it looked as though Jack would be able to get up and take the lead. However, Stan stumbled over to Jack and smashed his foot into Jack’s face. Repeating his blow a few times, Stan lowered himself down and grabbed Jack’s work shirt. He pulled him up and spat in his face.
He then threw two punches. One connected with Jack’s nose and made a sickening crunch. The other blow landed on the side of Jack’s head. The last punch was the last thing Jack would see for two whole days. His body became limp, and fell out of Stan’s hands.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OVER HERE?!?!” a bellowing sound echoed throughout the warehouse.
Nobody moved, while Stan turned to look at the incoming foreman.
“Stan! What the hell are you doing?”
Stan looked up at the foreman, and gave him the two bolts that were in Jack’s hand.
“Jack tried to kill me. I was about to leave for home, and I heard him laughing about it. I wanted to make sure that I was the last one standing.”
The foreman looked at the unconscious form of Jack Blaine and sighed.
“It took 23 years to finally get you two to get your differences ironed out.”
“I’m still standing, boss. Better than I ever did. I feel like a true survivor, though no longer like a little kid.”
“Well, I can guarantee one of you two will not be here on Monday morning. And more than likely, it’ll be him. It all depends on you.”
Stan smiled, looking down at Jack’s still body.
“We’ll do the paperwork now. I’m still standing. I just may need the next couple of days off to recover from the near death I got today.”
Yeardley’s Club was a place for lovers to visit, to eat, and to spend time with their mates. The owner, Bill Yeardley, had a habit of saying that Yeardley’s “is the place where parents can be married again.” Night after night, the main dining room would be packed with the soft sounds of dinner being served, the light sounds of a jazz piano or jazz ensemble playing in the background while parents relaxed. No expense was spared when giving the parents a time to rest.
There were some nights when it was tense, with some parents that didn’t end up relaxing all that much and ended up in an escalating argument. For those times, Yeardley himself came out to the table and helped get them to a private table in a soundproof room where they could mediate their issues and still enjoy dinner. The atmosphere was still the same in these rooms, with microphones around the restaurant piping in the sound.
Most nights, however, were a delight for Yeardley and his staff of 25. They did all that they could do to make the patron’s experiences enjoyable. Not only would this get them to come back again, but it would continue to set their reputation as “the place to get away from the kids”.
This night, Yeardley sat back in a chair in a hidden area overlooking the restaurant floor. He would be able to see if there were any issues, and still enjoy his time. Since the staff were pretty well policed, he didn’t have to worry about major problems. About an hour into the Friday dinner “rush”, he decided to take a walk around the floor.
He walked around the tables, stopping every so often just to make sure that things were alright, and quickly moved on. As he was about to finish his walkaround, he heard the sounds of what appeared to be a couple in distress. He looked around and spotted the table. The closest waiter to him was summoned, and briefed him on what was going on.
“Alfonse, what’s going on at Table 15?”
“Looks like marital problem. I think it’s an affair from what I am understanding.”
“Get the special wine, do NOT charge them for it, and ready “the crystal”. I’ll go over and do the recon and see if we have to deploy.”
Alfonse did so, and Yeardley went over to the table to get more information.
“Good evening. I’m Bill Yeardley, the owner of the restaurant. Is everything going okay for you tonight?”
The young mother looked at him with a look of disgust on her face.
“We came out here to have a night away from the kids, and he decided to tell me he’s found someone new.”
The young father grumbled. Yeardley turned and looked at him with the usual kind eyes.
“Is that so?”
“It’s not that I found someone new, it’s that I’ve been contemplating it because we aren’t in love anymore.”
Yeardley chuckled at this. The young man did not look amused at the chuckling.
“My dear young man, one of the things to remember is that love isn’t a fleeting feeling. Sure, there’s the feeling of eros; the type of love that makes you all gooey inside and makes you put the wrong key in your door. That’s a form of love. But those who are married, and who have kids, it’s more than just that emotional and primal state of love.”
The young man just huffed at this notion, as Yeardley turned his eyes to the young woman.
“My dear lady, let me ask something. When you are at home because of the kids, and your husband walks through the door, what do you ask him first?”
She thought for a moment, and replied, “Can you help me with dinner?”
Yeardley looked at both of them, with a small bit of shock on his face at the obliviousness of the couple, and promptly snapped his fingers. Within seconds, Alfonse and two of the other waiters were at his hand.
“Deploy “the crystal”, Alfonse.”
“Right away, sir.”
Yeardley looked down at the couple, as Alfonse approached the stage.
“I want you to listen to the song that will be played first. Take the lyrics and apply it. I think you’ll understand things.”
Alfonse went up onto the stage, and smiled at everyone.
“If I may have your attention please! There are some points in time where live music is going to be necessary for increased ambiance. Sometimes, it is also for people to listen to something that may give them aid in issues that they may have. In these times, that is when we bring on a few of our better players to join in and play something for a certain couple who may need a little more assistance. For that, we bring on our resident jazz siren. Please welcome, Sugar Ruby!”
The applause from the people was strong, yet respectful as Sugar Ruby, the jazz/standards singer for the house, walked onto stage. With a count of four, her and the house band started into a nearly note for note rendition of Crystal Gayle’s 1978 classic “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”.
As the couple listened to the song, the young man looked at his wife and sighed. He shook his head at himself, and he reached over to hold his wife’s hand. The wife looked at him and bowed his head slightly as she covered his hand with her other one.
Yeardley looked down at the couple again, and gave a satisfied smile. He waited back a ways from the table while they enjoyed the music.
After the song was complete, a couple of minutes of just plain, soft, piano music played as Ruby got herself some water.
Yeardley slid back over to the table and looked down.
“My good man, your wife loves you. Sometimes it may seem like there’s a lot to bear, being the man of the house. But remember something, she’s the one you’re supposed to protect. She’s your life. She isn’t disposable, and she loves you dearly. Try to work with her on things, and see how things can go.”
He looked back at the young woman.
“For you, young lady, the biggest thing that you can do for your husband when he comes home is to give him a kiss. It’s a small thing, and it may take two seconds, but instead of giving him a command that may turn him off, it’ll ignite his fire and maybe want to help you with cooking dinner.”
They both nodded at this.
“Your dinner for tonight is on the house. Stay as long as you like, order up a slice of “two-person cheesecake”. But promise me that when you get home, you’ll spend more time with each other.”
“We promise,” they said, in unison. They giggled as they looked at each other.
“And have a good night,” Yeardley finally said, completing his job for that time. As he walked from the table towards the kitchen, he looked at Alfonse, who was grinning from ear to ear at what he had seen.
“Al, this is what Yeardley’s is all about. Making sure that parents have a chance to get together, work whatever issues they have out, and to enjoy themselves while doing it. If I ever retire, I want you to remember that.”
“No chance I’ll forget, sir,” Alfonse replied, with a smile and a salute.
Yeardley laughed at the awkward pose, as he swung through the kitchen doors.