Flash fiction piece. For the fun of it.

The Men’s Club, by Scott Bell

Javier Lazano arrived earlier than expected, but later than he planned. The door hissed open and he stepped inside.

Men packed the waiting room. Wall-to-wall males, configured in every shape, color, and size, all stuffed into a place the size of a breadbox with the décor of a post office and the charm of a skin rash. The air smelled stale, and a little rank.

Javier squeezed himself into a seat between a silver-haired, square-jawed gent in a three-piece suit and a roughneck sweating in the same stained overalls he’d worn to work that day. The former poked at his phone with a frown, muttering about service, while the latter shaved grunge from under his nails with a clasp knife.

He marveled at the variety of guys filling the room, from the richest to the poorest, handsome, average, and bone-deep ugly. Small clusters of interviewees chatted like they were in a sports bar. Others held their phones up as Do Not Disturb signs. A few stared into space. One man cried.

The interior door opened. Even at seventy-two, a spark of appreciation flickered through Javier when a woman of Amazonian build stepped through and surveyed the room over a pair of black-framed glasses. Tall, brunette, green-eyed, with classically beautiful features, the young lady wore a skirt that terminated just short of heart-stopping, and the deep V-cut of her blouse plummeted into midnight fantasies. Every eye in the room was drawn to her—even those of the men Javier suspected were gay.

The lady consulted a clipboard. “Charles Gamble?”

A man in a bright-colored Spandex bicycling outfit cleared his throat and stood. “Here.” Tucking his broken plastic helmet under one arm, the man entered the far room at the woman’s gesture. She followed, closing the door behind her.

The roughneck stirred. “Damn, if all the help looks like her, this might not be so bad. Better than the book promised, anyway.”

A man in Arab garb smirked.

One by one men disappeared into the interview room. Occasionally the outer door opened and new arrivals filtered in. Many seemed very surprised. At one point three soldiers in matching fatigues marched in. They looked very young to Javier.

When his turn came, Javier was surprised by the tremor in his legs and the egg lodged in his throat. The doorkeeper flickered a professional smile and waved him into a bare-walled room with two metal folding chairs and a card table. Not so much as a picture or water stain adorned the bare, bland, off-white walls.

The doorkeeper scraped up a seat, gestured to the other chair. “Thank you for coming.”

Javier smiled. What was the line? All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.

“I just have a few questions,” the green-eyed beauty said. She consulted her clipboard, which Javier realized was really a tablet of the kind his grandkids used for their games and internet things. “Most of your life data we have already compiled,” the woman continued, “and your admission looks favorable. We do like to have these one-on-one chats though. To assess a client in a more personal setting.”

“Ah—of course.”

“To verify, your name is Javier No-Middle-Name Lazano. Most recent occupation, janitor. High school graduate, no college. Total income after fifty-seven years’ employment: six-hundred and forty-thousand dollars.” Green eyes fixed him in place. “Not much, huh? Tell me, Javier Lazano, what have you accomplished in your life?”

Javier blinked. His mind went blank. “Um…nothing really.”

“Did you save anyone’s life?”

“No.”

“Did you build anything of significance?”

“No.”

“Fight in a war?”

“No.”

“Start your own business? Win accolades in sports at the professional or college level?”

“No.”

And on it went. With every question, Javier sank a little lower in his chair, each no forcing its way past his lips with greater effort. It was dismal really, how small and insignificant his life had been.

“All right,” said the woman said with a sigh. “How long were you married?”

“Forty-two years.”

“Cheat on your wife?”

“No!”

“How many children?”

“Three.”

“Grandkids?”

“Four.”

“And did you raise them right?”

“I…Did I…?” Javier blinked rapidly. “What?”

“It says here,” the woman read from her screen, “Javier Lazano worked at various jobs, sometimes several at once. His children had food, love, discipline, and his unfailing attention. Though not perfect, Lazano showed deep commitment to his wife, his children, and his community. Is that it?”

The woman’s green eyes knifed into Javier’s heart, stealing his breath and killing the words in his head. He had never been good at speaking, and now, with everything on the line, he found he had nothing to say in his defense. For it was true. He had never accomplished anything of note. Never done anything that would make a difference. Never got on TV, or made a speech, or rallied people to a great cause.

He managed to say at last, “Yes, it is true. That is all I ever been. I have worked hard to be true to my wife. Struggled to put food on the table and shoes on my children’s feet. Just a man, nothing more.”

“You have shouldered the burden of a decent man. Ungifted. Unrecognized. Rewarded only with love.” The woman’s full, red lips curled in a warm smile. “And that’s all we ever asked of you, Javier. Congratulations, you have the highest rating today.” She gestured to a door in the back wall that Javier had not noticed before.

A golden door, glowing with the light of love.

“Please go through,” said the woman. “And be welcome.”

With a body that no longer ached, Javier stood and shuffled past the woman, who encouraged him with another smile. His steps growing stronger and his back straighter, Javier Lazano went through the door. And was rewarded.

 

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Comments
  1. Susan Stuckey says:

    nice!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Adams, Michael says:

    Painfully close to the truth…

    Add one man’s name to this (As the example Javier followed) and you have 80% or so of the United States. This of course is less controversial and more in line with the Good Works manifesto.

    Love the way it begins…

    [PCBC]

    Michael J. Adams, CPP
    Director of Security and Life Safety
    Park Cities Baptist Church
    214.860.3957 l http://www.pcbc.org

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Melissa Anderson says:

    Wow – makes you think…

    Liked by 1 person

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