“Mike, how are you today?”
“Oh, not bad,” the old man answered, not shifting his gaze from the worn ledger in front of him.. “A little gout in the toe, but I guess it could be worse,” He cast a stern look over his glasses at Jim. “I heard you and Rawley at it again.”
Jim nodded and his voice was barely a whisper. “He always gets to me. I can’t help it”.
“Jim, I understand the man, and yet, I need him. You don’t have to defend me to him. Rawley and I have come to terms in our own way. I admire your loyalty, and you know I love you like a son, but you won’t better a man like him if you spend a lifetime studying how to do it. A creep like him always comes out on top, just like he said.” His white hair softened his lined face somewhat, but his twinkling blue eyes and ruddy complexion revealed his Irish ancestry.
Jim blushed slightly. “Why do you keep him on jf you know what he’s really like?”
“Because we need him. He came well recommended, so I gave him six months to show what he could do. In the beginning we were getting jobs at a good rate. Try not to antagonize him, Jim. It galls me to pay him his full salary since he’s been a slacker, especially when you have so generously agreed to cut back on yours, but this foundry can’t operate without work and he does get us jobs. Try to understand my position, son.”
“The puny jobs he brings in won’t save us, Mike He’s got to come up with a government contract. He’s sitting on his tail,” he said hotly.
““What else is on your mind, Jim?”
The younger man was silent.
“I know you better than you think. There’s something else bothering you. It isn’t a foundry problem, is it?” He sat back in his chair and stroked his chin,. He hadn’t taken time to shave this morning. Since Gertie died he didn’t care how he looked.
Mike leaned forward, “Not sick, is she?” He considered them family and was immediately concerned,
“Mike, you know better than anyone that Jenny and I have been thorough a lot of troubled times, foundry work being what it is. Ordinarily she would clam up and go along with whatever was expected of her, and a lot that wasn’t. But this time it’s different.”
“Yeah, how?” He picked up a half smoked cigar and tried to get it lighted.
“Her brother was on a quiz program on t v the other night and he won a lot of prizes. The fur coat he gave to Jenny. We all know Ted isn’t capable of a generous act, so there had to be a hitch, right?” He didn’t wait for an answer as Mike tried match after match without success. “It turned out Ted was trying to get out under the tax on a full length sable fur coat worth about $25,000”
Mike jumped in, “And she wants to keep the coat,|”
“You guessed it.”
“Well, sometimes women need to have nice things, special things. It helps when they’ve been through it with us.. I remember Gertie want a fox wrap so bad, I finally broke down and bought it. It helped,” he smiled.
“I’m sure it would, but we’re talking ten grand in luxury tax. I can’t raise that kind of money.”
“Jenny is being stubborn. She knows perfectly well there’s no way.” Jim crossed his arms.
“Why don’t I see what I can raise? It won’t be much but it might help.”
“No way are you going to stick your neck out when it’s already out by a mile. The whole thing is impossible.”
“There’s another side to this, too, you know. You may not want her to have it because it came from Ted, instead of you. Think about it.”
Jim’s face was unreadable. “Guess I’ll go out in the shop. Nobody tells me what I want to hear today.” On his way out of the building he called to Rawley. “Get off your ass and get out there and bring in some work. I don’t want to lay anyone off this week.” He ducked as a book went whizzing past his head.
At another desk in a corner of the office, a red haired secretary stopped typing and glared at Rawley. He stared at her until she blushed and turned to the sheet of paper in the typewriter carriage. Miss Carson typed a few words, then ripped the paper from the roll, balled it, and tossed in the wire wastebasket. When Rawley had long since left the office, she puffed on a cigarette and held her head in worried silence. When she looked at his desk and the chair where he had been sitting, her face held contempt.