Dancing with the Wall
By Mike Stevens
A Johnny Ray Wray Tale
Johnny Ray Wray was back! S***-canned by his sponsor, Chassen Rainbows Fine Foods, he had found a new sponsor, Peaceful Glen Mortuary. The irony of being sponsored by a mortuary was not lost on him, but he was in no position to pick another sponsor, for there were none. He was driving a brand-new car, and boy, was she ever a beauty; gleaming dials told him everything about how the car was performing. Everything was brand new, and he’d gotten a say in what he wanted. He had it all. This was the culmination of months of uncertainty, months of wondering if he’d ever get back on the track. He had all but given up, when Blaine Dour, the owner of the Mortuary had called. At first, he thought he was calling to try and sell him a plot, but he had told him he had been thinking about ways to rev up his company’s image, and would he be interested in having his company sponsor him? Would he, he had almost screamed, “yes!”, into the receiver. Then, he had met with Dour, and helped design the racecar in which he was returning to racing.
He was currently running in 2nd place, but was about to pass the lead car, and take over 1st. He swung wide to pass, both cars were even, and then he was all alone, with nothing but open pavement ahead. He was in 1st place!
He was on the last lap. Nothing could stop him from winning the race. In the past, something had always happened at the last moment, such as mechanical failure, or something spilled on the track, such as motor oil from another car, but this was a new car, purring like a kitten, and the odds of hitting something spilled were astron---suddenly, he had had to swerve to avoid a deer, running across the track. He tried to correct his turn, but over-corrected, and the car spun out of control, veered straight into the wall of the final turn before the finish line, crumpling the fiberglass body, and sending 1 wheel bounding down the track, and across the finish line. Johnny Ray sat inside his ruined race car, stunned and in shock, due to his unbelievably bad luck. A deer?
“Hi Mom, hi Dad.” Johnny said as he stopped by their house to pick up his suit. He had lived here until 2 years ago, when he’d moved into his own place. He’d just come from a briefing, where race track officials had explained that the deer he had almost struck had apparently gained access onto the race track via an unseen hole in the security fence. Well, a lot of fricking good that explanation did him! As a result of his misfortune, Peaceful Glen Mortuary was no longer going to sponsor him, and he was forced to look for other employment; hence the need for his suit. This latest bit of bad luck had not only cost him his employment racing cars, but now he would be subjected to the scorn and ridicule of his father. He had briefly thought about buying a new suit and having no need of going to his parent’s house, but he was broke.
His mother greeted him warmly, but all his father did to acknowledge his presence was to nod ever-so-slightly.
“Dad, how goes it?” Oh, he cringed inwardly, for his dad’s list of complaints was endless.
“Well, not to good. My doctor says I have an infection in my leg. It’s draining pus everywhe—”
“Glad to hear it, Dad, I’ll just get my suit and be on my way.”
Then his father said, “You know son, when you called and said you needed your suit to go out looking for a job, your mother and I were so relieved. You weren’t cut out for the racing deal. You had such a bad attitude; it’s a good thing you got out of it. Now you can get a job where your negative attitude won’t affect your job performance, like Letter Carrier.”
Johnny saw red. “I have a poor attitude? What about yours, dad. You sit around here and complain about everything. I’m afraid to ask you what’s new, because you’ll bitch about this, you’ll bitch about that, and you’ll keep on bitching until I cut you off!”
“Oh, fine, this is the kind of attack I get, from my only son. Well, you won’t have to listen to me bitch much longer; because I have a feeling my time is near.”
'Sure dad, lay on the guilt with a fricking knife', thought Johnny to himself. “I’m sorry Dad, but we can talk about this next time I come over.”
“Yeah, if I’m not dead by then.”
Johnny had found work driving forklift in a dinner ware plant’s storage warehouse. This was only his 2nd day on the job, and he was already bored. His job consisted of hauling boxes filled with new dishes, and either stacking them up, or taking them down and filling a customer’s order. A trained seal could do this job, for there was absolutely no creativity or independent thought required. That had been his state of mind, until Gary, a forklift driver for the Hobson’s Glass Wear, the other company that shared the warehouse, challenged Johnny to a race, down to the far wall, around the stacked-up boxes of dinner ware, and back. At last, something causing a little adrenaline! They each sat at the starting line, which was a piece of tape on the floor. Johnny sort of hated telling the guy he had, before this, been a race car driver. Gary Tallow sat in his forklift, ready to start the race. He had told Johnny that he wanted to race because he needed something to relieve the boredom, but in truth, he’d heard how what a terrible driver Wray was, and wanted his job. He had applied for it originally, or so he had thought, but unbeknown to himself, his application had fallen behind the filing cabinet, and had gone unseen by anyone at the dinner-ware company. He thought Johnny had been chosen over him, and couldn’t understand that, for the life of him.
The race had started, and as he’d fully expected, Johnny pulled steadily away. Just as he’d suspected, his racing savvy and learned reflexes were giving him a decided advantage. Tallow was no match for him.
Gary Tallow made a good show of trying to keep up, as he slowly let off on the accelerator. Just as he’d hoped, Johnny Ray Wray was going as fast as the machine would carry him, and soon he was bound to grow careless, and crash into something, which in this warehouse meant something fragile, and breakable.
There was no sign of Tallow. Johnny knew he should back off on the speed and take it easy, but racing was wired into his brain, and the only way he knew was to go balls out. He was about to head into the corner, and he was focused like a laser beam on the turn. Starting into the turn, he realized he was going too fast, and put his foot on the brake pedal. The fricking thing wasn’t slowing down; the accelerator was stuck open! It started to go up on two wheels, and Johnny knew if he didn’t straighten out the wheel a lot, the fricking thing would flip onto its side. He didn’t have enough distance when he straitened the wheel, and the forklift struck a glancing blow to a stack of dinner-wear boxes, then bounced off the wall, sending him like a sack of s*** wearing a jet pack, sliding down the concrete floor. Miraculously, he was uninjured, but when his forklift had bumped the bottom box of dinner-wear, it dislodged the top few, and they came crashing down, where they exploded pieces of shattering dinnerware; the fragile dinnerware; all across the cement floor.
Gary Tallow watched Johnny’s body crash into the boxes of breakable china ware, saw as the boxes came crashing down to the floor, sending razor-sharp slivers of broken china everywhere. He couldn’t believe the noise! His plan had succeeded, beyond his wildest dreams.
“Johnny Ray Wray!” the woman who worked at the Unemployment Office yelled, so she could be heard over the racket made by all the other unemployed people, who were milling around, talking, while they awaited their turn to talk to someone. Johnny slumped his way over to the woman who had called his name, sat down, and announced,
“I’m Johnny Ray Wray.”
“Hello, Mr. Wray, I’m Fern Walters, and I’ll be handling your claim,” the woman behind the desk said, without looking up. “If you’ll just fill out these forms, we’ll process your claim.”
An hour later, Johnny sat while Mrs. Walters looked through the information he had provided. “Oh, it says here you were a professional race car driver. How unusual! We don’t get a lot of those in here. Well, let me see. Oh yes, here’s a potential job you might be interested in. Vinny’s Italian Restaurant is looking for a delivery driver. Of course, it starts off at minimum wage, but there’s an opportunity for quick advancement.”
“Advancement to what?” he asked, rather sarcastically.
“Ah, it says here, to assistant cook’s apprentice.”
Oh, wow, to assistant cook’s apprentice! “That’s it? Don’t you have anything else?” he asked.
Fern gave him a withering look, and replied, “Mr. Wray, I’m only looking at driving jobs, as you may be able to apply your, ah, unique abilities. I’m afraid we don’t get many employers who are looking for a race car driver. I’m afraid we probably won’t be able to help you if you’re not willing to expand your range of possibilities.”
Johnny Wray knew he was wasting his time. In order to qualify for unemployment, he had to apply for work at 3 different businesses. Today, he was putting in an application to Wide Slim’s Patio Furniture Warehouse. Their ad in the paper said they were looking to hire a delivery driver. He opened the door to their showroom, wandered around a few minutes, and a man wearing a tailored 3-piece suit came up to him and said,
“And what can I help you with, today? You look like a man who’s in the market for an entire set of patio furniture!”
“Sorry, but I’m actually here in answer to your help wanted advertisement in the paper about the delivery driver wanted. Is the job still available?”
“Oh, no, I’m sorry, but that position has been filled.”
“Well, thanks anyway. Would you mind signing one of your business cards? I need to prove I came in and tried to find work.”
The man looked Johnny over and responded, “Well, that particular job opening has been filled, but I need a groundskeeper; that particular job entails some driving.”
Johnny looked distastefully at the acres of yard surrounding the showroom, switched gears on the riding lawnmower, and started up the hill, going all of 3 miles an hour!