Mr Randowski

A year ago, almost to the day, I was hired at Haugen & Dahl. It's a sucky insurance company, and I quit a few months later. 

I've blown through some other jobs since then, and at present I'm halfheartedly looking for work again. Seattle is a big city but it's a small world, where occasionally there are big coincidences: a couple of weeks ago, I found a listing for a job at the same address. Same building, but a different company.

Two floors above Haugen & Dahl, there's the office of a vitamin wholesaler. The job sounds like ten dull jobs I've had before: file paperwork, send out bills and collections, do data entry, prep reports, solve random problems, answer the phone, etc.

So I sent my résumé and then forgot about it, until someone from the company called a few days ago, to arrange my interview with the boss — Mr Randowski.

Soon as she said the name, I was worried, intrigued, frightened, and apprehensive. There was a Randowski in my life long ago, here in Seattle, and it's not a common name. Chances are, this Randowski was related to my Randowski.

Yesterday I took the familiar and tedious two-bus commute from Burien to Millionaire's Island, and walked several blocks to the building where I used to work.

At the front desk I said, "I'm here about the job," and I sat and waited and noticed the name on the door: Kevin Randowski, which removed all doubt.

After ten minutes, Mr Randowski emerged from his office and beckoned me in. There was nothing familiar about his face, just another 50-something white guy in a suit, but it's been 40 years since I'd seen him.

He had my résumé, and asked all the expected questions, and me being one of the world's foremost authorities on me, I answered everything, but my mind was elsewhere.

When we got to the part where the interviewer says, "And do you have any questions for me?", yeah, I had a question. I'd had a question since two days earlier, soon as I'd heard the name Randowski.

"When I ask this," I said, "you'll rule me out for the job, but I'm gonna ask anyway." He made a wary face, and I continued. "Do you have a sister named April?"

He looked at me for a few seconds, then said, "Yes, I do," holding his head skeptically at an angle.

"Thought so. I dated April for five years, when you were about six to eleven years old."

He looked uncomfortable, and I couldn't and still don't blame him. I was supposed to talk about vitamins, not his sister. He probably thought, next I'd ask a bunch of prying questions about her, but nah. There's nothing much to ask. I've Googled her name a few times over the years, so I already knew April is married, has a different name, several kids and grandkids. 

"I'm sorry," he said, "but I really don't remember you."

"Well, we took you to see Flash Gordon at the Aurora Drive-In," I said. 

He looked at the wall behind me and mumbled, "I do remember seeing that movie from the back seat, with April and her boyfriend."

"Hello!" I said cheerily, tinkling my fingers at him. "We didn't want you there, but your dad found out we were going to the drive-in, and he insisted." Shrewdly, I didn't mention that his dad's strategy hadn't worked — little Kevin was asleep before Flash got to planet Mongo.

Big Kevin had nothing to say, so I rambled on. "And four years running," I said, "I went with your family to the Puyallup Fair. You puked on your sister in the whirligig ride — not April, your other sister, can't remember her name. April and I were in the opposite seats."

"Beth," he said. "I remember puking on Beth. Never heard the end of it."

Usually I have little to say, but when it's awkward, I say too much. "One year at the fair, we saw the Oak Ridge Boys in concert, and you sat on my lap." That was a stupid thing to remember out loud, but all of it's stupid. Certainly, it clinched the no-deal — nobody's going to hire a man whose lap they sat on when they were seven.

We talked for a few weird minutes, never again mentioning vitamins, and Kevin told me that their father had died several years ago, which I already knew. I'd read the obituary online, ten years back. Still, I offered condolences.

He told me about April, but not much, and nothing I didn't know. "She's married," he said, "with three children, all grown with children of their own."

Soon Mr Randowski nervously nudged me toward the exit, and on my way out I asked him to relay a message to his sister. "Tell April I sincerely hope she's happy with her life."

He said he'd tell her, and maybe he will, and then he whooshed me toward the elevators. 

Was my behavior creepy? Probably. But I'm old, almost certainly finished with romance, and not looking to break up April's happy home for a wrinkly affair.

But also, I'm finished with hesitation, with not saying something when there's something to be said. It's an astronomically long shot, but it's a small world, where occasionally there are big coincidences.

April was my first love, way back when the world was young, and you don't forget that. She was wrong for me, of course — too religious, too family-oriented, we had little in common, and she was intentionally shallow, smart but preferred playing dumb.

When she dumped me, oh man it hurt, but I'm glad she did. It began a chain of decisions that eventually led me to move away, where I met the love of my life, and found the only years of genuine happiness I've ever known. Getting hot-potatoed by April Randowski was for the best, absolutely.

But you know what else I remember? The sex with April was fantastic.


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  1. Ha, best job interview ever! Imagine the chain reaction! He calls April and tells her, who knows how she will react? Could be just the lil' memory nudge to force her to finally admit her life was a failure, and needs to change it before the sands of time run out. . .

    1. In my wildest dream she says, "Gee, Kevin... Could you give me his phone number?"

    2. A dream like that can keep a man alive for two, three years, easy.

    3. And he'll say, "Gosh, I would love to, but we have confidentiality rules, sorry."

    4. I keep accruing the sands of time in my shoes. Bunions are no fun in the long run.


  2. Good story, well told. This is the kind of writing that got you a national reputation among the zinesters back in the 90s. It manages to follow most all the unwritten rules of good prose construction while seeming to break all of them. I read it too fast and had to go back to read it again more slowly: a sign of very good writing. Thanks for the memories.


    1. When I break the rules of writing, it's usually because I don't know them. I'm not a rebel.

      Being a 'successful' zine guy in the 1990s is my only accomplishment in life, and re-reading the zine as I re-typed and posted it a while back, it severely cries out for a rewrite.

    2. I think you've improved over the years.

      I'm talking about stuff like parallel construction and surprise sentence endings. It's all there, not every day but more often than not. I just thought you hit this one out of the park.


    3. . . . and when I keep "cheating ahead" I know I'm reading a gem of a piece. It's a subtle experience but a very real one.


    4. I always figure looking ahead means what you're reading isn't holding your attention.

    5. It's what happens when I read Hammett or Raymond Chandler or Isaac Asimov or Carl Sagan. I'm entirely engrossed in what's happening in my paragraph, and I wonder what's going to happen in the next paragraph, so I end up reading both paragraphs at once. Both are holding my attention rather than neither. I'm not a very disciplined reader and certainly not a linear one. But it usually means the prose is outstanding. You don't hold my attention every day, but you hold it more often than you lose it, and not many writers do that. I've been an every day reader since I could read; I've never been without a book going, and not infrequently I have both a fiction and a non-fiction in progress. I'm also not a trained or untrained critic -- just a reader, but your writing at its best is outstanding, and from day to day is generally wonderful. You're not going to make it as a bowler -- but as a writer you're up there with the very good ones.


    6. OK, skipping ahead by a paragraph — I can understand that, if the writing is good. Had an old friend who would always read the last chapter of a novel first, and I *never* understood that at all. Psychopathic.

      I wonder sometimes what I'm missing, not reading nearly as many books as I used to. Like you, I always had two or three books in progress, reading whenever a few minutes or hours were available. Then came the internet, and snatched away all that time.

      Now I read a book at bedtime, maybe, maybe not, and that's about it. A few pages, and I fall asleep. If the book is so good it won't let me sleep, that's a problem, but that hardly ever happens.

      Nah, I really can't see myself as one of the very good writers, but I have fun with it, and it's a damned fine compliment when anyone follows along — thanks.

  3. Wow! It is so strange to me that people were sold on this idea of turning over their data to Zuckerberg to "catch up with old friends" because every encounter I have with long-lost friends from schooldays has been pretty bad.

    1. Zuckerberg never sold me. Most people aren't sold on turning over their data, they just want the fake connection with people and they don't even think about the data scooping.

      I remember a job a dozen or so years ago, where all the middle-aged ladies had Facebook pages. Man, if I'd had one I would've unplugged it then.

  4. Nice story man...are you preparing your swan songs for the ava? I've got about four to go so it will be a race till May, He should just ditch the dead guys for the last issues, and we can take up the slack..Do it! ...Eel

    1. No swan song planned, but I'm sad to see it end.

  5. Too much and not enough! Please keep us updated if she calls.


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