DIFFERENT STROKES

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man rejects 'The American Dream' but helps others to find it.

Submitted: March 27, 2016

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Submitted: March 27, 2016

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DIFFERENT STROKES

A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

 

I suppose you could say that Mason Johnson had given the iron ore company the best years of his life, which, by any rational—or even irrational standards—wasn’t a hell of a whole lot of living . . . to most people’s thinking.

He had been channeled into the one-office Department of Special Accounting; a hollow title which fooled no one. Mason began and ended his working life as a widget counter.

However, Mason had preferred it that way.

He was a man of middle height and weight, and usually carried a look of expectation on his face. He was clean-shaven and wore his brown hair short. His blue eyes had a searching look but still managed to display an eagerness to learn. To friends and strangers he was both cheerful and kind.

He 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 years with neither sick leave nor complaint.

The metal desk had bowed to oak and then oak stepped aside for cherrywoodand, 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 against himself, or a new recruit who had a passion for the game; sometimes for hours in a week.

Mason would often come to the office on the weekends with a sleeping bag and 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, he arrived with a number of bottles of well-chosen wines from the Napa Valley or Bordeaux.

Occasionally the same new recruit—or some other budding enthusiasts—would join Mason for snooker and all he—or she—could consume and still 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 and very 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 became 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 had barely time for a kip, let alone a sleep-in.

Mason never bought a house, declaiming to one and all, that buying a house was not the American Dream but the corporations and the banks’ dream.

“you never own a house; it owns you; or they do.”

He never bought a car, just a Vespa. In a pinch—in the rain or for a date—he  would tap Uber or Lyft;  and he occasionally took a week-end rental off into the hills or along the coast with some good looker for company.

As a result of avoiding mortgages and car costs he kept 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.

Suddenly, Mason had a considerable amount of money; money which he proceeded to donate or to 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 and using 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 joy and devotion.

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

Nevertheless, 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’; however Mason abhorred that novel so deeply that he took the remark as an insult.

However, Mason was very slow to anger.

On the contrary, he was beloved by all 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 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.

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.

“Life is motion; and timing. Optimism is the first ingredient of luck.”

Somewhere , Mason found the time to coach both men and women’s high school lacrosse, an undertaking that he enjoyed beyond imagination.

His teams usually won, as well.

 

Most of the other workers, who had encountered Mason over the years, were shocked at the news of his retirement.

He had been there so long that the majority thought he had already retired—and a handful had assumed that he was dead.

On the other side, were those who believed that Mason had just started to work for the company, simply because of his lowly station and the size of his office.

Despite the intermittent upgrading of his desk woods, Mason had only been elevated on the office-size chart once; twenty years ago.

That was when the snooker-desk was planted in his office and left no room for any other furniture.

Guests or fellow employees were encouraged to lean on the table covering, where, in front of their leaning faces, they would find assorted delicacies, a choice of libations and a world-class assortment of cheeses and pastries.

The alcohol was kept under the table on Mason’s side where he sat in a very small but high chair that provided him with all the space he required, which translated into any player being able to bend and cue without nutting another player; or 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 and have to attend to all its needs twenty-four /seven.

The cow metaphor summed up Mason’s idea of marriage.

 

Rather than a watch; or 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 and a set of Aramith snooker balls, a portable fridge, as well as a life membership in the premier French Cheese Societies.

Mason was unable to staunch the tears; the joy.

After the party on the Friday night, he packed up his few possessions and had them shipped to Sheffield, England.

 

On the following Friday he threw an-open bar wing ding for all his past friends, lovers, bosses and their significant others (mostly trophy wives); a bash that everyone would rave 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 where he parked his stuff and then hit the baize of a professional snooker table that had been delivered from the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield following the latest World Championships.

 

Four years later he was the oldest World Champion of snooker, beating two  previous world champs.

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 withRonnie O’Sullivan.

He quickly began to delight his ‘New World’, as he had all who knew him during his forty years of Old World with the iron ore company.

The media loved him; interviewers wanted to chat him up; and the French Cheese Association made him an honorary member.


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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