The Employment Offer, a story by Todd Hogan
Nicholas didn’t know how long his father had been waiting for him to get his ass out of bed. The cabin’s view of the mountains and lake must have cost his father, or his corporation, more than Nicholas could make in the next five years. The sun was bright, and Nicholas blocked it with his hand until his eyes adjusted. A hawk corkscrewed high overhead, floating on pine-scented winds. Suddenly, it fell as though the unseen wire suspending it had snapped, disappearing over a ridge. Nicholas wondered when it would rise again.
When Jerome saw Nicholas, he ended the business call he was on. He stretched his arms full-length while inhaling deeply.
“Beautiful, right? Did you see that ferruginous hawk? Very rare. Savage.” Jerome then asked, “Have you considered my offer?”
Nicholas stood at ease. His own phone didn’t get reception up here. One more reason to be moving on, as if he needed another one.
“Thanks for inviting me here, sir, but this isn’t for me.”
Jerome smiled while looking at him from head to toe. “I prefer ‘Dad’.”
“Tell — what’s her name, Amanda? — I’m sorry I missed her.” Nicholas extended his hand for a farewell handshake. “Dad.”
Jerome pulled Nicholas’s hand, and embraced his son.
Nicholas allowed the hug, and gave him a few pats on the back in return. After breaking the embrace, he shuffled his feet.
“I get it, Nicholas. I remember the eagerness for adventure, for great distances, for combat, even. Before you go, you should know that all this could all be yours.”
Nicholas looked around.
“I’ll mentor you. We’ve never spent enough time together.”
“That was your choice. Mother made excuses for you, so not to worry. She covered for you on birthdays, Christmas, graduation.”
“That’s not fair, Nicholas. I would have been there if I were able. I always sent presents. But a man has to work.”
“She even covered for you during the divorce. She cried when you remarried, though.”
Jerome’s eyes hardened. “She made out okay. You and your sisters had everything you wanted, right?”
“We got by. You know, she didn’t cry when she found out you’d married Amanda, though. So, I guess we’ve all moved on. I’m being deployed on Thursday.
“Anything can be undone, for a price.”
“If you change your mind, come to see me, son. This job would be perfect for a hard-charger like you, but I can’t force you. It’s just that…”
Nicholas waited for him to continue, but it never happened.
“I”m not your only kid, Dad. Offer the job to Jane or Annie.”
“Will I have better luck with them, do you think?”
It was Nicholas’s turn to laugh. “Probably not.”
Neither of them spoke for a while. Jerome ignored three beeping calls. Nicholas scanned the horizon, hoping to see the impressive hawk again.
Behind them, the sliding door opened. Amanda sipped steaming coffee that fogged her sunglasses beneath a broad straw hat. Wordlessly, she settled into her chaise longue, tipped her hat, and opened her cover-up so the sun could tan her bikinied body. She seemed made entirely of long, slender, smooth, tan angles. Amanda nodded to Nicholas, and smiled briefly at Jerome.
“Ma’am.” Nicholas had met her only twice. Today for the first time, he grasped that she was closer to his age than to his father’s.
Jerome bent to kiss her proffered cheek.
“You were late getting in last night,” he said.
“I stopped to see some friends on the way. I lost track of time.” She sipped again, and settled back. “What did I miss?”
“I offered Nicholas a job with the corporation. Lots of responsibility, challenges, the ability to make a difference.”
“Money?” she added.
“Of course, money!”
“And he turned you down. He wants something else. I understand that.”
Nicholas looked at her, but couldn’t read her eyes behind the glasses.
“He hasn’t decided yet,” said Jerome. “He’s holding out for more.”
Amanda hooked her sunglasses in her bikini top. She rose, standing on one cocked leg, her hand on an exposed hip, the other holding the coffee cup. She seemed untamed, which must be why his father desired her.
“So, offer something more, Jerome.”
Jerome scoffed. “What more is there? You name it, Nicholas, and I’ll work it into the package.”
The sun beat hotter now. Nicholas felt off-balance in this conversation, an observer not a participant. “I’ve turned down the offer, ma’am. He has nothing more that I want.”
Amanda considered what Nicholas said, and then turned to Jerome. “It’s not that easy, darling.” Then she glanced at Nicholas. “It’s not that easy for you, either.”
Jerome rolled his broad shoulders. “This is getting us nowhere.”
“I forgive you,” Amanda said, “for thinking that way.”
Jerome and Nicholas looked at each other, then at Amanda.
“Maybe only women forgive,” she mused. She leaned her hips forward against the railing, and looked at the shimmering lake below.
Jerome’s hands gripped the railing on either side of her, but without touching.
“Right. ‘Only women forgive’,” he said.
“So,” she said, “You say those simple words. For example, would you forgive me?”
“For anything. For nothing. For everything.”
“Do I have to know about this thing?” he asked.
She laughed blithely. “No. Of course not.”
“Do you have something to tell me?”
Amanda flung the coffee dregs past the deck. She faced him, and their eyes searched the other’s face for a few long seconds.
“Are you sorry?”
Amanda gave Jerome a quick, angry kiss, and ducked past him. Her shades re-covered her eyes, and she collapsed onto the chaise.
Jerome looked relieved to take an incoming call in private.
Amanda said to Nicholas, “Could you get me something harder, darling?”
As Nicholas went to look for some liquor, he noticed the hawk circling, looking for any prey impudent enough to be exposed.
“And some ice, darling.”
Copyright © 2016 by Todd Hogan
The image “Sunset at Kucherla Lake” is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
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