Today's guest post....from The BillieGram. Enjoy!
Dad had driven down from North Florida to visit, and I pulled out all the stops making him a nice roast with browned potatoes, a really rich gravy, my gets-me-invited-places veggie casserole, a crisp Bob salad (BFF Bob makes a salad worthy of a name, so I picked his …), and a pineapple upside-down cake.
How could two people finish all that food? Ha! We couldn’t, so I invited Barry to come to dinner.
I’d met Barry years earlier, when I ran my coffeehouse. He’d come in to play guitar as part of my open mic. Nicest man you’d ever want to meet. Ran the window treatment/installation biz that his dad started back in 1950.
After the coffeehouse closed, we stayed in touch. I thought Barry and Dad would get a kick out of each other, and I knew that never-married Barry would enjoy a full-on home-cooked dinner.
Dad was on a roll that night, regaling us with stories of his misspent youth, when he rubbed elbows with businessmen who were best known by their underworld nicknames.
He tossed in stories of his most recent crop of friends down in the Keys: Bill the Cop, Paul the Hat, Larry the Loon (I’m making that one up for my sister’s amusement …).
Barry’s a good listener, so Dad was really eating up the attention.
Fast forward about 14 hours.
I’m at work, concentrating on putting an article together on deadline.
Another friend from the coffeehouse days, Paul, works in the office next to mine. We keep our doors open in case one of the dogs in our pet-friendly office decides to come visiting.
The place is pretty quiet—four writers, all writing away at our desks.
I have “Oh, look! Bright Shiny Thing” Syndrome, so I have my desk turned away from the door so all I can see is my computer monitor and the drab, grey corner. No eye candy.
Didn’t keep my ears from working, though. I heard the phone ring on our receptionist’s desk, was vaguely aware that she’d answered it.
“Billie? Yes, she’s here.” Ah, that got my attention. I was expecting someone to call in for his interview. “Who may I say is calling?
“You want …what?” Pause.
“You want me to say that?” Pause.
This did not bode well. God, had I offended a doctor or patient, who was now calling to say what a jerk I was? I heard the office overhead pager click on, and wondered for the life of me why Michele was going to go public with whatever this message was.
“Um … Billie. Barry the Drill is on Line One.”
Oh, Jesus. I knew Barry well enough to know that his brain parts sometimes go on vacation and forget to tell the rest of him. But this?
I could hear everybody in the building laughing as I reached toward the phone. Nobody except Paul knew who Barry was, but they rest of them knew a story in the making when they heard one.
I pushed the button on my phone, heard the call as it connected with my headset, and through clenched teeth pushed my words into the microphone.
“Barry. The. DRILL?” I said. “You called my office to say ‘Barry the DRILL’?” I could sense the crowd gathering at my office door. The door I’d left open in case the dogs wanted to visit. The door that was too far away from me to push it closed.
“Yeah,” said Barry, with what sounded like the world’s most self-congratulatory smile. “What do you think?”
“What do I think? I think you’ve lost your mind! Whatever possessed you to call me at work and say something like that?”
My coworkers—all of them, not just the writers, the whole damn office—were crowded into the space that belonged to my door. Hanging on my every word. Loving every minute of it.
Barry sounded puzzled that I sounded upset.
“Don’t you remember?” he asked. “Last night your Dad was telling stories about all those guys with nicknames that went with their jobs or their hobbies! Bill the Cop used to be a cop, and Paul the Hat collects hats … so I’m Barry the Drill, because when I do window installations, I’m always using my power drill. Isn’t that clever?”
By now I was massaging my temple with my left hand, thrumming my fingers on my desk with the right.
I took a deep breath.
“Barry, do you have any idea what everyone in this office is thinking right now? Any idea at all?”
He was thinking. I could hear him.
Ah! Comes the dawn!
“Oh! Oh! I’ll bet they thought … but wait! Who would think that? We’re not … you know.”
Yeah. I did know. The trick was going to be explaining where that nickname came from to my coworkers.
Billie Noakes is a freelance writer, storyteller, and children’s author living in Pinellas Park, FL. She also makes lace and is learning to garden. She blogs regularly at http://billienoakes.com/the-billiegram/ .