Robo sat in the car turning the ignition key. Weeer weeer click click went the starter motor. Weeer weeer click click. Click click. Robo’s head throbbed from a hangover, it started raining, he banged his hand down on the steering wheel several times.
He tried again. “Come on, come on,” he said. The engine made a grinding noise and then stopped altogether. Temptation whispered into Robo’s ear, “Take the day off.” Any other day he would have consider it but the blue folder in his briefcase reminded him of the many hours spent preparing for this morning’s presentation. Finally his big opportunity was waiting for him at the office this morning. He hadn’t had a pay rise for years now the damn car wouldn’t start.
Robo liked to run. He often put on his running shorts, t-shirt, addidas and goes running along the storm water drain which came from the water reservoir where there were some nice trees and a lake. It was only four hundred yards to the railway station and he still had ten minutes.
Wet, breathing heavy, head splitting, work shoes’ rubbing the skin of his feet and sweat running down his back, he entered the car park with a minute to spare. No train in sight, too easy. He bent over, rested his hands on his knees and tried not to throw up. The rain stopped.
A bright red coup was parked just outside the station, it looked familiar. Robo couldn’t make out the driver through the tinted windows but as he walked behind the coup he noticed the engine was running.
“Robo, where’s your car.”
Robo jumped as Bill walked out of the railway station.
“Wouldn’t start this morning.”
“You need to get rid of that old Ford,” said Bill.
“After I get that promotion,” said Robo.
“You got it then,” said Bill.
“Dick told me it was a sure thing. He says the assistant managing director got it from the managing director that Mr. Fotheringgale likes me for the position, all I have to do is make a good presentation today and I’m in. I’ve got a great presentation”
“Good luck,” said Bill as he hopped into the coup. It took off and Robo noticed its Aston Martin logo and the name “Vantage.”
The railway station ticked office was unattended and the platform was empty except for an old man sweeping, he didn’t seem to be making any difference to the platform which was dusty and had rubbish lying around. Just killing time thought Robo. What a lousy job, poor old man.
“When’s the train getting in,” said Robo.
“No train today,” said the old man, “Been an accident up the track, hasn’t anyone told you.”
Running home Robo was thinking about his promotion and calling anyone who might lend him a car. His feet were bleeding, he stank like a skunk and it was very hard to run and speak at the same time. Everyone was so busy, no car. In desperation he phoned the petrol station mechanic and offered him two hundred dollars if he could get to his house in ten minutes. The mechanic was waiting for him at the car, its bonnet open.
“There’s a short somewhere draining current out of your battery. You said you needed the car urgently so I’ve connected some jumper leads from my truck to your car, that will get it going ok but don’t turn it off or you’ll never get it started again.”
The mechanic pulled out a card scanner from his truck and Robo punched in his code. As they were waiting for the transaction approval the mechanic was smiling and said, “Life’s strange isn’t it, I’ve made more money today then I made yesterday and it isn’t even nine o’clock.”
“I only gave you two hundred dollars, you mustn’t make very much.”
Staring at the ground with a sheepish look the mechanic said, “This is my second emergency job for the day. I’ve already made seven hundred bucks.”
Soon Robo was speeding down the highway doing a hundred and talking to his secretary, Betty, on the mobile when a cop car behind him flashed its lights. He pulled over. As Robo waited, waited, waited for the cop to write out his ticket the phone rang. It was Betty calling back.
“I’ve just been talking to some of the girls and my friend Fiona, who works for the managing director, says there a two presentation scheduled for today.”
Robo’s head was spinning, two presentations today. He’d been told his was the only one, who’s was the other one?
The red car kept popping into his head and without knowing why Robo said “I don’t suppose you’ve seen a bright red Aston Martin Vantage go past have you?”
“You mean Mr. Maynard’s car,” said the cop.
“You...you know Dick Maynard,” said Robo, “How do you know Dick.”
“My relationship with Dick is none of your business, here’s your ticket and if I catch you driving so fast while talking on your mobile again it won’t be a speeding ticket you’ll get, understand.”
Dick and Bill are driving around like buddies in that bright red Aston Martin, thought Robo. I’ve known them for years they never used to hang out together, it was always professional. Driving down the freeway doing a hundred, with visions of his promotion flying out the window, a loud car horn startled Robo back to reality. Up ahead road workers had blocked one of the lanes, the bottleneck was backing cars up for three hundred yards, on the overpass he noticed a bright red Aston Martin coup go past.
Where did they come from then Robo noticed a pair of road workers standing by an off road up ahead, one of them waved to him. Slowly the old Ford inched forward, he was banging his hands on the steering wheel and rocking in the driver’s seat as he tried to force a break in traffic, “Move damn it move,” but the off road passed him by. His muscles strained and his teeth clenched, he told himself he needed to be more aggressive, he should push harder. What a wozzie he was, he always let other people walk all over him.
Finally he made it to the blocked section of the road and thought it unusual, no flashing lights, just a man waving a red flag and another with a sign saying please slow down. ‘Men at work’ said a sign and white planks with red stripes formed a boundary.
Zooming past everything driving down the freeway doing a hundred he punched the selection on his mobile and got his mother, cut her off, got his brother, cut him off and finally reached Betty.
“Everything hangs on this presentation. I’ve got the get there on time. The train cancelation this morning is sure to cause a parking shortage so go find me one and guard it with your life.”
“What train cancelation?” asked Betty.
“The morning commuter train was cancelled because of some sort of accident.”
“I talked to Joanie earlier, she travels on your train doesn’t she. Joanie said it was delayed for about fifteen minutes but they made it up as they got near the city. It arrived on time.”
“Please just find me a park Betty, I really need a little help this morning.”
B level near the elevator Betty had said, Robo was driving around and around, he hadn’t been in the underground car park for ages.
“Where the hell is the elevator.”
He finally saw her waving, she ducked into her car and drove out of the parking space, right next to it was a bright red Aston Martin vantage. Robo was tempted to put a great big scrape on it with his front bumper bar but he park without touching it. As he got out he made sure to bang his car door hard into the door of the Aston Martin, it made a nasty scratch.
Nine o’clock, he was late and repeatedly jabbing the up arrow on the lift, he kicked the door several times then kept pushing the button.
“Come on, come on,” he said.
When the lift came he stepped in quickly and starred at cars as the lift doors stayed open.
Five minutes late, hair on the back of his neck wet from sweat and droplets running down his back, feet bleeding, Robo tried to look calm and professional as he approached the receptionist at the conference center.
“Mr. Johnston you’re late,” she said, “Lucky for you the presentation has been cancelled. Mr. Fotheringgale was called away on urgent business. The CEO and the committee can’t make any final decisions on major appointments without him, the board has cancelled today’s presentations. Rescheduled for tomorrow morning Mr. Johnston, we’ll see you then. Thank you.”
Robo turned around and walked out without saying a work. The lift had several people in it including Dick Maynard and Bill.
“You back stabbing bastards,” said Robo and everyone pretended not to notice.
“You didled with my car, arranged with the old man at the station to tell me the train had been cancelled, had your policeman friend pull me over and give me a ticket, and paid those road workers to delay traffic. You told me the position was mine and all the time you were trying to make me look bad and planning to give it to Bill.”
“What on earth are you talking about,” said Dick.
“There were two presentations scheduled for this morning and you know that,” said Robo.
“Rob, Rob,” said Dick, “You are such a creative genius but you always tend to stress out and wind yourself up so, that’s what is holding you back in the company. Your vivid imagination is your best quality Rob but Didled with your car, really. At the station the old man told us the same story that’s why we rushed off. We were speeding along the freeway and a policeman gave me a ticket, is that what you’re talking about. I noticed some workers along the side of the freeway clearing away some rocks which must have come down the embankment, an emergency job by the look of it, so I took the exit road.
“Where on earth did you get the idea that Bill and I would conspire against you, I’m disappointed Rob, even for you this is a bit much. Haven’t I looked after you all these years? Company by laws requires at least two applicants for the creativity development manager’s position but Bill isn’t the other prospect, it’s some young prate from downstairs and he hasn’t got a hope.”
Dick put his arm around Robo’s shoulder and said, “Don’t sweat it Robert the jobs yours. Take the rest of the day off, relax, have a few celebratory drinks, come back fresh in the morning.”
Dick and Bill got off at the next floor. Robo felt everyone in the lift staring at him even though they were looking at the walls or having mundane conversations.
The car park had a vile smell of petrol fumes, his briefcase felt heavy and the light seemed all wrong as he shuffled to his car. He dropped down heavy into the driver seat and starred at the white paint on the wall, sometimes he shook his head. Automatically he put the key in the ignition and turned it, wheeer wheeer click click went the starter motor, wheeer click click...click.
Robo rested his head on the steering wheel. Bep bob a lu ba, Bep bop a lu ba, Bep bop a lu ba, Robo answered the phone, it was Betty.
“I just had to tell you the most amazing gossip going around the office. Bill, your friend Bill, got down on his knee and popped the big question to Katrina, they’re getting married.”
“Well I hope they’ll be very happy together,” said Robo, “Who is this Katrina girl, I’ve never met her.”
“Why she’s Dick’s daughter,” said Betty, “Dick Maynard, the creative manager.”
Robo smashed the driver side door into the Aston Marten again and again. Paint chips flew off as the dent grew larger and larger. Finally he tried to shut his own door but it wouldn’t close so he slammed it hard and it stayed shut.
Bep bop a lu ba, Robo answered the phone.
“Mr. Robert Johnston, this is Mr. Fotheringgale.”
Mr. Fotheringgale was calling him to tell him he didn’t get the job, thought Robo. His mind screamed, stand up for yourself, tell him the truth, tell him what Dick and Bill did to you. Don’t let people walk all over you. But, “Hello Mr. Fotheringgale,” was all he said.
“I’ve been talking to Dick and I have some bad news and some good news for you,” said Mr. Fotheringgale, “The bad news is you didn’t get the job as creativity development manager. The good news is Dick Maynard and his soon to be son in law, Bill Hathaway, are moving to our New York offices. Dick will move onto the board of directors and Bill will be going to help him.”
“I’ve been looking at your work, its fantastic, and I don’t understand why you haven’t received a promotion. Dick leaving means the Creativity Managing Directors job is vacant and it’s yours if you want it. What do you say.”
“Thank you very much Mr. Fotheringgale, I’d love it.”
“Great,” said Mr. Fotheringgale, “And don’t worry about any presentation or the Board or the shareholders Robert. I hold a controlling interest in this company, the jobs yours. Come to my office tomorrow morning sometime and we’ll finalize the details,” and Fotheringgale hung up.
Robo starred at the wall for a while then looked at the huge scraping dent in the Aston Martin. He put the key in the ignition and turned it. The engine went wheeer, wheeer then spluttered and roared into life and he drove home.
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