Continued from the previous chapter, here.
Asa Pemewan, having printed out some copies of his CV and some more copies of his professional–It’s a stretch to call it that, really; I’ve only been teaching for the last few years, and we all know what Shaw says about it–resume, returned to the main bulk of Pronghorn. This time, he parked on the 100 block of North Main, where an older, squat building still housed the city offices and plaques from the local and state historical societies marked specific moments in the town’s past. After putting up a sun shade–I’m not about to make that mistake again today–he walked into the offices and asked at the reception desk if there was a job application he could fill out.
“There is, but we don’t have any openings at the moment. I don’t believe the county does, either.”
Asa nodded and thanked the receptionist for the advice. He then headed across the street, seeing if any of the businesses on the other side of it were looking for workers. A restaurant that clearly meant to be upscale and just as clearly showed it did not know the meaning of the word was the first to be hit; the manager on duty looked at Asa and shook her head. “You’re not the kind who’ll do well here.” Asa thanked her and went next door, to a leather goods store. Asking at the counter about jobs available, he was met with another shaking head. “Ain’t hardly got enough work fer me right now, son. Couldn’t take on ‘nother hand if I wanted t’ do it.” Asa thanked him, in turn, and went to the last business on the block, a printing shop, asking the same question again. This time, at least, he got a “We might have a spot for a press worker. You have any experience?”
“Well, we’ll take a look at your resume, and we’ll give you a call if we want you to come in.”
“Alright, then, thanks.” Asa handed over a copy of his resume and left.
Asa proceeded afoot down East First, then, passing the city offices and stopping at another small cafe–“We could use a busser. Would that work for you?” “Yes.” “Alright, then. We’ve got a few other applicants, so we’ll review the applications, and we’ll get back to you.”–before stopping at an antiques dealer’s store. In it, he found an older gentleman, rangy and balding, with a receding jawline. The man stood and shook Asa’s hand. “Rufus Hochstedler. Now, what can I do for you?”
“Asa Pemewan, sir, and I’m looking for work.”
“Now, son, I’m gonna have to stop you there. Now, I’m not really looking for workers; it cuts into my margins, you see. But I might be able to help you; a friend of mine recently died, and his wife will need some errands done and the like. So I’ll pull up her phone number and give her a call and send you over. Now, if I can just find it…”
He trailed off, and Asa sat with him as he hunted-and-pecked his way around his computer, muttering to himself for a while. Then he said “Maybe I’ve got it in the Rolodex,” and he reached into a desk drawer. From it, he produced a pistol, placing it on his desk with the barrel towards Asa. Asa’s eyes followed the weapon, and Rufus saw them. “It’s a Browning 1911-380, and it is locked and loaded.” He then pulled a Rolodex tray out of the drawer and began to thumb through it, the weapon still on the desk with its barrel towards Asa.
Asa said nothing as the muttering continued and until it stopped. “Well it seems I can’t find the number. But when I do, I’ll give her a call and let her know to look for you.” He stood and offered his hand. “Have a good one, son.”
Asa stood and shook the hand. “Thanks,” he said, and he left.
Once outside, Asa looked at the sky, squinting against the Hill Country sunlight. Why did he feel the need to pull that thing out and leave it there, pointed at me? He shook his head. I ought to have said “Thanks for telling me you have a micropenis” or something like that. Another head-shake. He’d’ve shot me. I should go.
He walked on, then, following the street further east, passing a tax office–open only on Wednesdays–and a furniture rental place–“No, we’re not hiring right now. Sorry.” A small mom-and-pop hardware store was next, offering a similar answer, and the air-conditioning service at the end of the block proved the same. Asa crossed to the other side of the street to head back towards his car, but he fared no better. A convenience store turned him down, as did a small novelty shop Asa had not recalled seeing before–“We’re still trying to get established, and we don’t have the business yet to bring anyone else on.” Another law office asked him about paralegal training, and another restaurant, brimming with staff, said “No openings now, sorry.”
Asa slowly made his way back to his car, getting in it and turning it on. It shuddered to life, and cool air from the air conditioner began to wash over him. I figured it’d be like this, he thought, that I’d not get a lot of traction from pounding the pavement. I don’t know why I did it, other than to say that I did. At least I can say that, though, that I am trying, and that I am not turning up my nose at most any work. He smiled. Except the head-shop. But I think I can be forgiven that one.
He took down the sun-shade, folded it, put it away, and put his car in gear. I suppose it’ll be time to try the schools, then, he thought as he began to drive off again.
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