I bounce backwards, stagger, and hit the wall behind me. My phone hits the floor. Somehow it doesn’t crack, I don’t fall, and there’s no coffee on me.
“Hey! Dan! Are you okay?! Sorry buddy! I didn’t see you!”
Mr. Franklin’s shirt is looking like he lost a food fight. I suck up my shock, and remove the stunned look from my face. “Yeah. Yeah. I’m good. You? Are you okay?” I get my phone off the floor and put it in my back pocket. I walk towards him to check that he’s okay. I enter through the door he’s holding open.
“My fault Mr. Franklin,” I say. “I should’ve been paying attention. I know how busy this area gets.”
“Don’t worry about it buddy,” he says. “My wife will thank you. She’d prefer I have this food on me than in me.” His laughter lifts the room and sweeps the drab underneath it. “You’re an hour early,” he says.
“My Bible student wasn’t home. I figured I might as well come to work. In case you needed any help,” I say.
“Thanks buddy.” He pats me on the back. “But, we’ll cause payroll a bushel of heartache if you clock in early.”
“Oh Okay,” I say.
“I’ll send someone up to clean the mess,” he says. On the way out with his refill, he tells me not to let anyone else put in a call about the mess, because he’s taking care of it.
People are scattered about the school-cafeteria-hospital-waiting-room atmosphere of the break room. Traffic is always steady. But, people rarely stay longer than it takes to eat or clock in. I hang around to make sure things go okay with the cleanup.
I lift my time card from its slot to reveal the folded letter stored behind it. Reading it is all the caffeine I need.
Please remove Daniel Dell from the overtime pool effective immediately.
Uh! I’m focused man! Every time I see the words “effective immediately” I get a boost of adrenaline. Thank Jehovah for a boss like Mr. Franklin. Auxiliary Pioneering is the best thing I could be doing with myself. These last two months have been great. The “Don’t Give Up” convention definitely saved me from spiritual ruin. I attended two weeks after ours with some other friends. There’s no way I could miss it. Between my parents’ attitude, Ryan’s constant convention note references, and my conscience, I could barely show my face. I had to take control of the situation. Everyone goes through things. The end of a relationship doesn’t mean I have to let my life fall apart.
I remember I’m texting Ryan. I remember my phone is on mute. I hurry to put the letter and time card back into the slot. I reach for my phone. Ryan is texting me back. I step into the hallway outside the door.
Yes I am gonna DVR d game. Blev dat!
Kewl! We cn slomo ur teamz scrubby playz
Bro if d GB sent a DM 2 Ur doodz individually & collectively dey still wldnt find d right path. Itz jus a lost coz bro. LOST. Get it?? Haahaaaaa
I laugh out loud.
Bwahahahaaaaa!! U dumb!
I notice movement on my left side peripheral. The break room is on my right. I’ve ignored the door’s constant waving. This person is going to have to cross in front of me. I turn my head left. It’s Kim Sellers. I look back to my phone and type.
Bro itz her! De 1 I told U strtd in payroll a yr ago
Jet out! Stat!!!
Bro I cnt! Shez right ..
“Your name is Daniel, right?”
“Yeah,” I say.
She stops in front of me. A tractor could pop a wheelie in the space behind her. I continue typing.
here in my face!
“I hope you don’t plan on clocking in, because you’re not scheduled until 3 p.m.,” she says.
“Nah. I’m good,” I say.
You’re also rude,” she says.
Cough on her bro! Sneeze on her! Pretend you got bubonic plague!
I choke on my laugh and clear my throat. “Rude? How am I rude?” I’m looking at my phone waiting for Ryan to call.
“First of all, you’re supposed to look at people when they’re talking to you. Second, you never called me.”
Melting butter is more sturdy than me right now. I know for sure the wall is holding me up.
Bro! pray 4 meeeeeee!
I press send. “Oh. My fault,” I say. I glance up at her. Then, look to my left. I shove my phone back into my pocket. I glance at her. I review the traffic on my right. The janitor has arrived for the cleanup. I glance at her. I snatch my cell from my back pocket. Ryan sent a text.
I shove the phone back into my pocket. I glance at her. I fold my arms in front of me, then look to my left. I don’t look at her for more than five seconds at a time.
“So why didn’t you call?”
“Call?” I realize my folded arms create even less space between us. I move my position to the opposite wall where I landed from Mr. Franklin. I can see the cleanup happening through the door’s glass window. I have some place else to look. I fold my arms.
“I left my number on your car two months ago,” she says.
“Oh,” I say. I snatch my phone from my back pocket.
Bro witness 2 her! Dint U jus com frm service? Keep Ur time goin!
Right! Why didn’t I think of that? My usual go-to way of getting females to leave me alone.
“So why didn’t you call? And what’s so important on your phone? You keep checking it.”
“I was kinda expecting a call,” I say.
I’m going to blast on Ryan. He knows I need a rescue. I go to slide my phone back into my pocket. I freeze. I snap off the wall. I realize I have an opportunity right now. She might have a mission, but so do I. I say a quick prayer to Jehovah for strength and the right words. I feel my legs again. I look at her.
“Actually though, I do want to let you check something out,” I say.
I open home screen in JW Library. Scroll through my favorites. Hit “Why Did God Make The Earth?” and hand her my phone. She watches to the end.
“You a Jehovah witness?”
“Yep!” I nod my head.
“How long you been a Jehovah Witness?”
“My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was born. But God wants each of us to individually have a relationship with him. A close relationship like we’d have with father. So, I made my own decision to become one six years ago.”
“You like it? I heard there’s a lot of stuff y’all can’t do. My family is born again Christian, but I don’t go to church much,” she says.
I guess rudeness is contagious. She’s so busy scanning my home screen that she’s not even looking at me.
“I love it. It’s the best life ever. It’s true. There are things we don’t do. Things like celebrating holidays, voting, lying, stealing. Sex before marriage.” I pause. I check for a reaction to my last sentence. She’s still looking through the app.
“But the benefits far outweigh any restrictions,” I say. “Here. Let me show you our website.”
I navigate to JW.org. I open the online Bible, and read Psalm 37:10,11,29. I tell her about Paradise. She starts asking me questions about heaven. I show her how to search a topic on the website using the word “heaven.” I show her the link to request a Bible study. I tell her the JW Library app is a free download.
We talk for ten minutes until she excuses herself into the break room. She says she’s going to look at more videos, and let me know if she has any questions. I tell her I’ll bring a book for her to check out in the meantime entitled, “What does the Bible Really Teach?” She okays me to put it in her mail slot.
The sound of the door shutting behind her slaps me into a different kind of shock. I stare at the wall in a daze until a smile that could pierce my ears interrupts me.
I check my phone. The time reads 2:38 p.m. I turn on the sound and walk towards the exit. I start dialing Ryan’s number. His call connects before mine. I answer.
“Dood! I was about to call and my battery died!” he says. “What up?! What happened? Please tell me something good.”
“Well. Let me put it like this,” I say. “Somebody’s got a real nice experience to relate at tomorrow’s meeting for field service.”