“Of course, Mr. Marlowe,” the receptionist said. “I can escort you back.”
“That’s all right. I know the way,” Jacob said. “Thanks for your help.”
Walking through the office, Jacob could feel the tension crackle around him. The women office workers stood in clusters whispering to each other. As he approached the owner’s office, a dirty-dishwater-haired woman darted in front of him.
“Mr. Marlowe! I didn’t realize you were here,” she said in a deep Wisconsin accent. Nervous, she pulled at her light pink sweater set.
“Hi, Darla,” Jacob said. “Mabel’s not here.”
Darla startled and shook her head.
“I need to speak with him. Is he in?”
“You have to forgive us. We’ve had a challenging day.” Darla smiled.
Smiling, Jacob let the silence drag.
“Really, sir. Today’s not a very good day to …”
Just then, the owner’s office door opened.
“Jacob! How the hell are you?”
“Great. Do you have a moment?” Jacob asked.
“I was just leaving for a meeting, but I always have time for my best customer.”
“This will only take a second,” Jacob said.
“Please, come in,” the owner said. “Darla, you stupid cow. I’m paying you. Can you work?”
Darla jumped and raced back to her desk.
Jacob followed the owner into his office. Ashforth indicated a chair in front of the desk, but Jacob continued to stand. A glance around the tiny office told Jacob that Ashforth was moving out. Ashforth shut the lid of a toolbox stuffed full of large pipe wrenches with a flip of his foot.
“I’m here to tell you that Lipson Construction will no longer need your services.”
Jacob turned to leave, but the owner said, “It’s because of that stupid, incompetent bitch. You should pay me for keeping her lazy ass here for so long.”
Jacob spun in place and moved toward the owner. Catching himself, he stopped walking. He backed to the door.
“You don’t want to make this personal,” Jacob said.
“Why should I listen to a little twerp like you?” the owner sneered. “Did you ask your daddy first?”
“I am Lipson Construction, you stupid fuck. DO NOT MAKE THIS PERSONAL OR YOU WILL UNLEASH A SHIT STORM YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR.”
Jacob stalked to the door. He felt the owner follow him but he refused to turn around. In his mind, he longed for the owner to touch him so he could let loose his rage and indignation at this pathetic excuse of a man.
But the owner never laid a finger on him.
“You make sure your last invoice is on my desk by the end of the week,” Jacob said. “You will hear from my lawyers.”
Yanking the door open, Jacob saw the office employees clustered around the door. He pulled a stack of cards from his pocket and gave them to the women.
“Give me a call when you need a job,” Jacob said. “Now, can someone show me the kitchen?”
“I’ll take you,” Darla said.
“Thanks. I hate to ask, but would someone mind boxing up Jill’s desk? She didn’t get a chance to do it.”
“Mr. Marlowe, I was doing that when you came in. I was going to drop it by her place tonight,” said a clerk. She shrugged. “She sits next to me.”
“Thanks.” Jacob smiled, nodded to the women, then followed Darla to the kitchen.
“Did you just terminate your contract?” Darla asked. She bent into the refrigerator to retrieve Katy’s medication.
“Yes,” he said. “We were unaware of the ownership change.”
The retelling of Denver Cereal, Volume 1, continues tomorrow…
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