Pronghorn, Chapter 23: A Tuesday

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa Pemewan woke with his head on his laptop’s keyboard as the alarm on his cell phone rang him to wakefulness. His neck and back were stiff, and the smell of himself in the clothes he had worn the day before struck him as strange and unpleasant. A need to visit the toilet struck him in the crotch with great force, and he hustled that way as quickly as his body, suffering the effects of poor sleep in an uncomfortable position, would allow him to go. As with the previous day, though, he found the bathroom occupied when he arrived, and he soon found himself standing with legs painfully crossed, hoping to hold back the flood he knew would soon come.

Asa’s father emerged from the bathroom, and Asa pushed by him, more brusquely than he had perhaps intended, almost not reaching a safe place in which to let go of what he was carrying. But he did reach his goal, and he avoided incident in doing so, albeit narrowly.

That done and Asa having restored himself therefrom, he skulked back to the bedroom that had been his and was again, gathering together a new change of clothes and returning to the bathroom. After a shower and a shave, he felt better, and he dressed swiftly. Thence he grabbed a cup of coffee while he toasted bread to eat for breakfast, and when the toast was done, he ate it swiftly. All the while, Al looked on, and Matilda emerged, and both of them looked at their son with concern. For he spoke little who was normally prolix, and his replies were terse and flat, one or two words each delivered in a monotone. None were rude, as such, but none were engaged or engaging.

His breakfast eaten, Asa cleared his place and returned to his bedroom to gather up more copies of his resume; he said nothing as he did so. When he left the house with them in hand, he said only “Goodbye” to his parents. He remained taciturn as he got into his car and drove into Pronghorn to apply to more jobs. He drove past the Chandlery, slowing down only in response to a traffic light and to the traffic just returning to motion at its changing. He pulled in and parked on East Water and began to make his way down it as he had North Main and East First the day before. And he had much the same results, visiting small restaurants and shops and having his resume taken but no offers made in earnest, and not even much talk about them. Bars still closed taunted him as he walked, and the manager at the Red Eye, the one bar actually open at that time of the morning–near the college, it catered to rowdier students and third-shift police and hospital workers–took one look at Asa, no look at his resume, and said “I can’t use you, and I don’t think any of the other bars can, either.”

A small grocery store in an old building, one that seemed to cater to tourists–well-heeled tourists, to judge from the prices Asa saw, did much the same thing as the bar had. But where the manager at the Red Eye was gruffly sympathetic, the manager at the store with the incongruous name of “L’Epicure” was strangely angry. Looking over the tops of her glasses, she said through her nose “I really don’t think that you have the skills to do what we would need done. I mean, it’s clear to me that you don’t have the experience serving our particular clientele that you would need to be successful here, and I can’t take on anyone who can’t already be successful. I have a business to run, you know, and I can’t be bothered by someone who wasted his life getting degrees nobody cares about. I mean, I bet you think your’re some kind of smart guy, Mr. ‘I Have a PhD; Look at Me, Special Me,’ but you’re clearly desperate, or you wouldn’t be trying to work here–as if this were just some grocery store. If you want that, go to the old market off of Fourth.”

Asa smiled woodenly. “Thank you, ma’am,” he offered, and he left.

Asa pressed on the rest of the way down the block, calling on each of the businesses along the water that were open; many were still closed on the day or closed for the day entirely. Each that was open looked at Asa–dressed again in slacks, button-up shirt, and tie, despite the warmth that was already again sliding into being heat–and at his resume, and as they scanned down the latter document, past the skills list and details about freelancing, past the teaching positions, and down at last to the education entries, they shook their heads and said some variant of “No” or “We’ll get back to you”–which might as well be “no,” given how few seem to get back to those they say they will.

Asa walked back up the street to retrieve his car. He could feel his armpits sweating into his undershirt, and he could feel moisture gathering in his crotch as he went, the sunny Hill Country day working on him through layers of clothing. He crossed North Main when traffic and signals allowed, walking over to the beginning of West Water and trying to put in for work at the few businesses there. Most of the buildings were empty, though, or houses instead of the businesses they had been built to be. But the Hochstedler Saloon still filled one large building, despite being closed, and the Chandlery doors were wide open on all sides.

After pausing in front of it for a few moments and looking up and down West Water Street, Asa shrugged and went inside.

Did you get as much out of reading as you do even a small cup of coffee? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!

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