(Read previous portions in “Love, Joy & Miracles” in “Past Posts.”)
He eyes the carafes, pondering whether to have Constant Comment or coffee, when a familiar voice shouts: “Christmas!”
Ira Rubin, Wendell deduces without taking his eyes off the table. Salesman from Akron; south wing; wife died years ago; son never visits; the man is obnoxious as the day is long.
He drops his tea bag into the mug of steaming water and faces Ira. Racing toward him in a motorized wheelchair, green oxygen tank clanking like an alarm bell on a destroyer, is a bespectacled man with close-set eyes. Strands of hair sway like Kansas wheat, and his over-the-ear oxygen tubes accentuate his wrinkled face.
“Christmas,” Ira fires at close range.
Same old Ira! Manipulates you into a conversation you never want to have. Lately, the topic is religion. But since it’s almost Christmas, I guess I can humor him…
“What about it,” Wendell asks as he stirs his tea.
“Does it bring you joy?”
“No. But I hear the cafeteria’s serving fried joy, sautéed joy, joy ala mode…”
“Very funny.” Ira sizes up Wendell. “Seriously, what’s your answer?”
Wendell sips his tea. “It’s the same as it was yesterday and the day before that: no.”
“I figured as much, which reminds me, did I ever tell you about the Christmas I made the sale of a lifetime?”
“As a matter of fact–”
“Coldest December Akron’s ever seen. Sales were down, China was manufacturing for less, and Christmas was a few weeks away. In my business, Christmas was the valley of death for sales.”
“Just like the cave in that Tarzan movie.”
“Remember that old Johnny Weissmuller film? The one where he follows those elephants behind a waterfall?”
Ira shoots a finger into the air. “Yeah, I remember that one! They go there to die and poachers try to steal their tusks. Well, it’s just like that only worse.”
Wendell swirls his tea. “Naturally.”