At midnight the rain hadn’t stopped and so another day would play like a bad song you couldn’t get out of your head. I wondered if I should pour another one or just coast as far as the last ones would roll me. It was a liquid idea that spread away before I could shape it into a decision. All I could think about was the job later today – all those needs and all those years I tended to them and now all I had to do was make sure I could add up beyond however many fingers I could still count with because that’s all that matters. All that adding and all those numbers. They didn’t have a teacher telling me how to do that when I became one.
Sometimes I think teaching is just like living in L.A. There are mornings when the sun comes up from behind the foothills and it’s like the Christmas lights have been turned on by god. The air can be as crisp and clean as sheets from the best Chinese laundry on the block. Mornings such as this and I don’t mind being paid like a waiter. It was a job where a client who just happened to be an honest dame could persuade you to drive her around town in a convertible, the sun shining down on the two of you like a couple just married and believing there was a future. And then it would rain. Thunder might warn you like a snitch on look-out at the street corner or just come up and hit you with brass knuckles. The gutters would fill and clog and the debris from one day would pile up to remind you the streets weren’t paved with gold, even on Hollywood Boulevard where the same rain filled the same gutters and soggy newspapers washed by writing the same sad lines about what happened every day.
All this thinking was giving me a headache. At least I hoped that was it. I didn’t want to give up my acquaintance with Mr Rye when I had shoes that still had miles I was expected to take them through. I was about to try very hard to go to sleep and pretend tomorrow would be more than a dream when the phone rang. I picked it up.
‘Excuse me, is that Mikey the Dick?’
‘Uh-huh,’ I said.
‘I’m sorry to bother you at this time of night, but I wondered if you could help me?’
‘Well, I have an umbrella but there must be someone nearer who could be of assistance.’
‘No, it’s not that,’ the voice ignored my wit and charm. ‘I have some questions to ask you about your job.’
‘I do get paid to answer questions but my night rate is over the odds so I try not to charge it. Perhaps you’d like to ring me in the morning after I haven’t slept and the rain will remind us that we’ve had this lovely if brief chat.’
‘You are Mikey the Dick,’ the speaker persisted and I could tell I’d have to hang up or say a few words only bums in a headlock growl at me before they faint.
‘Uh-huh. We have had that little dance.’
‘I’ve got some figures here that tell me you haven’t been doing your job properly…’
I hung up the phone before the voice could continue. I also managed to say ’Go --- yourself’ before I hung up to see what it felt like to be in a headlock and about to faint. It was more fun then I thought. I’d have to try something less amusing with lowlife in the future.
I didn’t know who it was. I didn’t care. The voice sounded like it was used to being in charge so I guessed it was used to being heard. I also guessed what it was trying to say about my job but I wasn’t going to listen to any of that. It had some figures. That said it all. Perhaps those figures appeared in a fortune cookie at some cheap Chinese joint where people like that eat and sneer and tip like aspiring movie stars in-between films.
I know my job. I know what I do. It may not be the most important job in the world, yet it’s all I’ve got and that’s still more than a dame dolled up in a fancy dress for a night on the town, saying hello but not having any conversation for later.