DIFFERENT STROKES

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

UNUSUAL, CHANGE, NEW PERSPECTIVE, CONTRADICTIONS, JOY

An unusual good-natured man takes a different road of life. While rejecting the “American Dream”, he helps others find it.

DIFFERENT STROKES

A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

 

I suppose you could say Mason Johnson gave the iron ore company the best years of his life. By any rational—or irrational—standards, it was not, to most people’s thinking, a hell of a whole lot of life. They channeled him into the one-office department of special accounting, a hollow title that fooled no one. Mason began and ended his working life as a widget counter.

Surprisingly, Mason preferred it that way. He was a man of middle height and weight, who usually carried a look of friendly expectation. He was clean-shaven and wore his brown hair short. His large blue eyes possessed a searching look, an eagerness to learn. To friends and strangers alike, he was unfailingly cheerful and kind.

Mason slipped behind his metal desk barely two days after finishing his three-year degree at the U. All his friends were taking on the last year of their four year courses while Mason was pounding his metal desk with his fist; sometimes in  triumph, but mostly when disaster came creeping round. Mason never did get the right mix of reaction to address those two imposters, but they had no distinction for Mason.  ‘What the hell; they’re both a pain in the ass in their own fashion.’

When management received a letter of resignation ‘for the purposes of retiring’, Mason had put in the whole forty with neither sick leave nor complaint. Over those forty, his metal desk bowed to oak. Oak stepped aside for cherrywood. Lastly, cherrywood surrendered to a mahogany snooker table with a covering piece of the finest wood available.

In the absence of visitors, Mason would quickly remove the cover and play snooker, sometimes for hours in a week. When his work was finished for the day, he played against himself or a new recruit who had a passion for the game.

Mason would often come to the office on the weekends with a sleeping bag, an ice chest packed with fine dark brews from Germany, and six star French cheeses. Plenty of French loaves in a Bread Humidor joined the food scene. Added to these bodacious treats, were many bottles of well-chosen wines from the Napa Valley or Bordeaux. Occasionally, the same new recruit—or some other budding enthusiasts—joined Mason for snooker and all he—or she—could consume, while continuing to manage a bend over the table to set up a dynamite snooker with the cue ball snuggled behind the yellow and a mandatory red nowhere easily to be struck. 

When the adorable generously endowed Valerie, joined him on a few weekends, he would bend her over the baize somewhere between the blue spot and the pink spot and have at it for hours. As Mason grew older, this practice became less frequent, as in most marriages, even though Mason never married.

He had no time.

Between snookering and bonking, the man barely had time for a kip, let alone a sleep-in.

Mason never bought a house, declaiming to one and all, buying a house was not the American Dream but an orgiastic climax for corporations and banks, a mere fable fabricated by the advertising purchasing complex. To one and all, he would declare, You never own a house, it owns you; or they do.”

He never bought a car, only a Vespa. In a pinch—in the rain or for a date—he would tap Uber or Lyft. Occasionally, Mason took a weekend rental off into the hills or along the coast with some good looker for company.

By avoiding mortgages and car costs, he managed to keep a substantial amount of his steadily increasing salary. With expert help, Mason tagged a couple of extraordinarily good investments—Amazon at eighteen dollars and Apple at twenty-two dollars. A few years later, Mason had a boundless amount of money; money which he proceeded to donate or invest in some worthy cause. Perhaps that explains the constant good cheer of this American ‘contradiction’; he was always a step ahead in doing the right thing, using his money wherever he thought it could do the most good.

Although an atheist, Mason resolutely believed that Churches—or any holy place—comprised the only ‘deeply inspired’ architecture in the world; the result of unbridled bliss and devotion.

*

As the years arrived and departed, Mason’s tastes in wines and cheeses, as well as women, upgraded conspicuously. His stroke became a praised element of both ecstasy and rapture, not necessarily in that order. To some, the stroke was the naked truth.

 As with all things temporal, age and fatigue infiltrated Mason’s life as easily as wood smoke curls into the air from a winter cabin’s chimney. Life remained immensely enjoyable, but he was running out of kindling, to say nothing about the drastic reduction in his log supply.

Everyone acquainted with Mason formed the same opinion: he was the all-around ‘good guy’. Some said ‘the good soldier’. Mason deeply abhorred that novel and took the remark as an insult. Mason was slow to anger. On the contrary, everyone loved him for his good humor as well as his good deeds. Mason sat on several boards of charities as well as participating in serious fundraising for a wide spectrum of worthy causes.

On every second Saturday, he would hold a free ‘open learning’ class in Richmond, where anyone of any age was welcome. Mason would assist them, tutor them, mentor them—answer their questions as best he could, or refer the questioner to his best reference. “Life is motion; and timing. Optimism is the first ingredient of luck.”  “Age is a social construct that crushes dreams and prohibits accomplishments.” were his Saturday learning mottos.

Most of those Saturdays ended with Mason taking the group—whatever the number—for a good dinner; pizza occasionally, but usually something more complex. He viewed the dinner choices as a means of expressing taste, culture, and the texture of life for his guests.

Somehow, Mason found time to coach both men and women’s high school lacrosse, an undertaking he enjoyed beyond imagination. His teams usually won, as well.

Most of the workers, who encountered Mason over the years, were shocked at the news of his retirement. He was there so long, the majority thought he already retired—a handful assumed he was dead.On the other side, were those who believed Mason was beginning to work for the company. This thought came about because of his lowly station and the size of his office.

Despite the intermittent upgrading of his desk woods, management elevated Mason only one time on the office-size chart, twenty years ago. That was when he planted the snooker-desk in his office, leaving  no room for furniture. Guests or fellow employees were encouraged to lean on the table covering, where, in front of their gleaming faces, they would find assorted delicacies, a choice of libations, and a world-class assortment of cheeses and pastries. Mason kept the alcohol under the table on his side where he sat in a small but high chair, providing him with all the space he required. This allowed any player to bend and cue without nutting another player, employee, or client.

At the time of his retirement party, Mason, a continuing roguish ladies man, (he was only sixty) had led the life of the confirmed bachelor who preferred to milk the cow through the fence rather than buy one, thereby avoiding  catering to all its needs twenty-four /seven. The cow metaphor summed up Mason’s idea of marriage.

Rather than a watch, a cruise, or tickets to the Warriors games, some of his intern players and new hires, (along with the fading flames of yesteryear) suggested a John Parris snooker cue, a set of Aramith snooker balls, a portable fridge, and a life membership in the premier French Cheese Societies. Mason was unable to stanch the tears of joy.

After the Friday night party, he packed up his few possessions and shipped them to Sheffield, England. The next Friday, he threw an-open bar wing ding for all his past friends, lovers, bosses and their significant others (mostly trophy wives); a bash everyone raved about for decades. The party lasted from Friday evening at 5:01 pm until Sunday evening at 10.pm.

The next day, Mason flew to London, took a commuter flight to Sheffield, and set up in a very fine room in an old cottage. He parked his stuff before hitting the baize of a professional snooker table the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield delivered following the latest World Championships.

Four years later, Mason Johnson was the oldest World Champion of snooker, besting two previous world champs on his road to fame. All the while, Mason continued to be a draw; not all that surprising since he was an American, sixty-four years old, and went running almost every day with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

  He quickly began to delight everyone in his ‘New World’, as he delightedeveryone during his forty years in the ‘Old World’ with the iron ore company.

  The media loved him, interviewers wanted to chat him up, and the French CheeseAssociation made him an honorary member.

THE END.


Submitted: March 28, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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