Why Me?

Chapter Thirty-Four

Mike and I decided to leave early for work on Monday morning. We wanted to be sure to be there when Marty and Steve arrived. When we got to the shop, Jim Wheeler was already there, looking over the new office.

"Morning, guys! What do you think? The contractor did a good job, didn't he?"

Mike was grinning. "Yeah, I'm really pleased with the way it turned out. Dave and I moved the furniture in on Saturday morning. We wanted to see Marty's reaction; that's why we're here early this morning."

The front door opened and Marty and Steve walked in. Marty looked surprised. "Well, good morning! You beat us this morning!" Steve just grinned and nodded to us.

Mike was really excited; he's like a little kid that way. "Hey, Marty, could you come over here for a minute?"

She started down the aisle toward us, then stopped. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was shaped in a big 'O.' She just stood there for a few seconds, before she hurried down the aisle to stop in front of her new office.

Mike was looking decidedly nervous at the moment. "So, is it OK? Do you like it?"

She grabbed Mike in a big hug and planted a kiss on his cheek. Then she jumped back. "Oh, I'm so sorry! That was inappropriate! I was just so excited! I can't believe it's done already. Did you guys work all weekend on it?"

Steve was chuckling. "Someone should have warned you; when she gets excited, somebody's gonna get kissed!"

Mike was blushing slightly, but he grinned. "Well, at least we know she's pleased with the results."

"Pleased? I can't believe that you would go to all this trouble for a new employee! I never would have expected something like this!" She had tears in her eyes, as she turned to me.

"Thanks, Boss! This is just great! I've never worked any place where they cared that much about their employees."

"Gee, don't I get a hug, too? It was my idea!"

She almost knocked me off my feet, as she grabbed me in a big hug and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. Mike and Steve were both chuckling, and Jim Wheeler turned away, trying to keep from laughing.

Mike gave me a look like the Church Lady from SNL, and said, "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full." Then he collapsed against the wall, laughing. I could feel my face getting hot, and I really needed to change the subject.

"If the office isn't arranged the way you want it, Marty, just let me know. Mike and I will come in and set it up so that it will be convenient for you. And, by the way, I'll scout up a couple of side chairs for you. We should have extras around here someplace."

"Just one question. I don't see a phone in here. I don't need one often, but it would be nice to have, when I need it."

"Well, the phone jack is on the wall behind the computer stand. What if we get you a cordless phone? You can put the base on the computer stand, and leave the phone on your desk. And when you're working at your computer, you can put it back in the base to recharge."

"That ought to work. I just can't get over how much you guys have done to make things easier for me." She was smiling, but she had tears in her eyes.

"We want to be sure you're happy here, Marty. We don't want you leaving us. I've already discovered what a great asset you are, with your trusty computer!" I couldn't help grinning at her.

The day shift was already starting work, and Mike went out to get things rolling on the floor. Jim Wheeler went back into his office. Steve and I began moving the payroll files and all the things Marty would be needing into her office. The last thing to be moved was the computer. Steve did most of the work, with Marty keeping a close eye on him, as he set it up. As soon as he had it set in place and hooked up, she pulled the chair over from her desk and sat down. She booted up the computer and pulled up the program for the payroll. Then she turned and grinned at both of us.

"Welcome to the payroll office. What can I do for you gentlemen?" We both laughed and looked at each other. Steve muttered, "Give 'em an inch…" Marty threw a pen at him, but missed. He picked it up and handed it back to her.

"Come on, Boss! She's starting to get violent!" We beat a hasty retreat to our office. Through the window separating the two offices, Marty stuck her tongue out at Steve.

About ten o'clock, I went out to the coffee machine. My cup had just dropped and was starting to fill, when Mike joined me.

"What are we going to do about breaks and lunch times?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I feel a little uncomfortable, coming into your office with Steve there and Marty watching us through the window."

"Mike, you can come into the office, just like always. It's my office, and if Steve, or Marty, has a problem with you there, they can go somewhere else for breaks. I really don't give a damn what they think! You're my man, and I look forward to spending that time with you. So, there!"

"Well, aren't we getting feisty! But you know that I don't care if people here know about us; I was just a little worried that you might have a problem with it."

"Mike, if it would help, I'd be willing to put an announcement in the newspaper: 'Dave loves Mike!' I do love you, Mike, and I honestly don't care who knows it! Your family has accepted me; Annie, and now Mark, both accept us. Nobody else really matters, as far as I'm concerned."

That beautiful smile of his flashed, and he reached out and squeezed my hand. "Thanks, Babe! That's all I needed to know. Now, would you please get out of my way, so I can get some coffee?"

When we got to the office, Mike pulled a chair up to my desk and sat down. Steve looked up from the lists of suppliers I had given him to study and gave him a big grin.

"It looks a lot more peaceful out there, with just one shift working. I don't know how you guys managed it last week. The second shift is starting this afternoon, isn't it?"

Mike grinned at him. "Yep! They're Tom Mitchell's problem now! We'll probably have some small problems at first, getting the line to run smoothly, but I think it's going to be fine." He picked up his coffee.

I glanced over to see Marty at her computer. "Mike, do you think we could leave a little early for lunch today? I need to get a phone for Marty's office, and I think a cordless is the way to go."

"No problem! I'll just let Jim Wheeler know that we're leaving early, and why."

We finished our coffee, and Mike headed for Jim Wheeler's office, to tell him our plan. He had been gone about two minutes, when my phone rang. It was Jim Wheeler. "Dave, could you come over here for a minute? I've got a couple of things I'd like to talk over with you and Mike."

"I'll be right there." I hung up the phone and told Steve where I was going. He looked up from the files he was reading and nodded; then he went back to his reading.

Jim Wheeler looked up as I came into the office. Mike was sitting next to his desk. "Grab a chair, Dave. Now that the second shift is a reality, I think we need to make a couple of changes. They affect Mike more directly, but I really wanted your input in the discussion."

"OK, what's the plan?"

"With two shifts running, Mike's going to have to spend a lot of time coordinating their activities. I think we need a new line supervisor for the first shift. And with the increased number of parts we're going to be ordering, we need to look into getting a full-time man in the stockroom. How does that sound to you guys?"

Mike grinned. "I like that idea! It's a big enough job supervising one line, but having the overall responsibility for two lines would be a little much, I think."

"All right, then. Now, we need to get a good line supervisor for first shift. After Tom Mitchell, who do you think would make the best candidate?"

Mike looked at me. "What do you think, Dave?"

"I don't think I can be any help to you here, Mike. I really don't know the guys on the line all that well, and I'm certainly no judge of their abilities. About all I could tell you is their length of service, and their attendance records. And you already know those things."

"What about Dick Whitaker? He's been here almost as long as Tom Mitchell, hasn't he?"

"I'd have to look up his record to give you an exact figure, but I think you're right."

Mike turned to Jim. "I'd trust Dick in the position. He's skilled in all the operations. He's filled in for other guys who were out, if we needed him, and he's easy to get along with."

"You know the men and their abilities better than I do, because you work closely with them. If you think Dick Whitaker is the man for the job, I'll have a talk with him and offer him the position."

Jim turned to me. "Dave, you've been doing a great job, keeping the stock room up, so we have the parts when we need them. But it's not fair to you to have to deal with two shifts. We'll be ordering a lot more parts, and you have to do the ordering. You can't keep running to the stockroom to check them in when they arrive and make sure that the orders are complete. We need a full-time person to do that. I've already spoken about this with your father, Mike, and he agrees with me. We're running an ad in the paper this week for a stock clerk. We are insisting on experience; we don't have the time or the knowledge to train someone for that position. So, we'll see how that goes. It's probably going to be a strain on you two for a few weeks, but with a full-time man in the stock room and a full-time line supervisor on first shift, I think things will go a lot smoother, and it will give you two more time to focus on your primary responsibilities."

"Thanks, Jim. I hope you know that Dave and I are going to do everything we can to make things flow smoothly."

I couldn't think of anything to add, so I just nodded. Jim grinned at us.

"Now, will you guys get out of here, so I can get some work done? Oh, and be sure to grab the company credit card on your way out to get Marty's phone. And, Mike, I don't want to see a charge on it for your lunch!" He was chuckling, as we left his office.

Mike grinned at me, as we left the office. "I think I need another cup of coffee. I didn't get my full quota this morning, because we left the house early. Care to join me?"

"Sure, and maybe we should suggest that Steve and Marty take a break, too. They act as if they're afraid to stop for anything. I have to wonder what went on where they were working before."

We stopped and got coffee on our way back to my office. Steve looked up, as we walked in. "So, how are things going, guys?" Suddenly, he stopped and blushed. "I'm sorry! I shouldn't talk like that to my boss!"

I had to laugh. "Steve, if you think of me as 'the boss,' we're going to have a lot of problems here. I'm just Dave; we're just not all that formal here. Of course, who am I to talk? I've worked here for over ten years, and it was less than a month ago that Jim Wheeler finally convinced me to call him by his first name, instead of 'Mr. Wheeler'!" Mike was chuckling now. I just ignored him.

"Why don't you grab your sister and go get a cup of coffee; or you could pick up a couple of cups and go have coffee with her in her brand new office."

"Thanks, Dave! You guys just can't imagine how different it feels, working here, after working where I was before!" He closed the folder he had been reading and went out to the coffee machine. In a couple of minutes, he passed the door and grinned at us, as he went to Marty's office. She looked up, as he walked in, with a look of surprise on her face. He said something to her, and she turned toward my office and mouthed 'Thank you!'

Steve was back in a minute or so. "Could I borrow one of the chairs from here? Marty doesn't have any side chairs in her office."

"Damn! I was going to get a couple earlier, and I forgot all about it. You take that chair, and I'll look around to see if I can find a couple more floating around somewhere."

Mike looked up from his coffee. "There are four or five in the store room in back. I'll go get a couple." He headed toward the back of the building, and Steve took the chair from our office and went next door to have coffee with his sister. Mike was back in a few minutes with two chairs.

"They're kind of dusty; they've been there for years!" He set them down in the middle of the floor. I reached into the bottom drawer of my desk, where I keep a few cleaning products for emergencies. I found a dust cloth and a spray can of dust remover. I sprayed the cloth and put the can back in the drawer. Then I went over and dusted the chairs. When I finished the first one, Mike took it next door and set it in Marty's office. By the time he returned, I had the second chair cleaned and sitting by Steve's desk. Then we settled down with our coffee.

Mike looked at me over the rim of his coffee cup and grinned. "I think this might work out really well. If you give Steve and Marty their coffee breaks when we take ours, we can still have a little private time together. I can't hold your hand or kiss you, but I guess I'll live through it. Just watch out, when we get home, though! You'll be dealing with one frustrated and horny man!" He laughed.

"And this is different from every day, how?" I cocked an eyebrow at him. He just grinned. We sat and enjoyed our coffee and our closeness in silence for a few more minutes. Then Mike got up, tossed his cup into the wastebasket, and went back to work.

I was making up some orders for parts to go out in today's mail, when he returned. "Ready to go?" I looked up at the clock. It was eleven thirty.

"OK, whenever you want to go. Steve, you and Marty can go to lunch whenever you want to. We'll get together tomorrow and get some sort of schedule set up. We should be back by one, or a little after."

We checked out with Sharon Watson at the front desk. Mike told her that he had already talked to Jim, and that we were going to try to find a phone for the payroll office.

We went out the front door and around the building to the parking lot. It was a beautiful day. Mike was looking around, just enjoying the warm weather.

"It's days like this that make me want to play hooky!"

"Did you play hooky a lot, when you were in school?"

"You've met my Dad! Even as a senior in high school, I'd have been sitting on pillows for a week!" He grinned. "And anyway, if I'd skipped school, I'd have missed shop class, and I really loved that class!"

We found a phone for Marty, and Mike decided that he wanted to go to a little restaurant he knew in the neighborhood. We had a great lunch, and we weren't watching the time, so it was almost one thirty when we got back to the shop. I took the phone into Marty's office and set it up on her computer stand. She gave me a big smile.

"Thanks, Boss! You're just too good to me!"

"Marty, would you please call me Dave; I feel very uncomfortable, being reminded that I'm the 'boss.' We're more of a family here than an office."

"OK, Dave, I can live with that. But, thank you. You've done so much already, that I feel right at home here. And I just love my office!"

"I'm really glad to hear that, Marty! If you have any problems, or if you need anything to make your job easier, let me know, OK?" She went back to entering the payroll records from my handwritten copies to her computer.

When I went back to my office, I told Steve what Jim Wheeler had decided about hiring a stock room clerk. He could see where that would make our job easier. The stock room clerk could report to us when parts were getting low, so that we could order more, and he would be there to check the new orders in and make sure that they were within specifications. I also told him about the plan to hire a new line supervisor to take Mike's place. Since Mike would be floor supervisor, responsible for both shifts, he would need to be free to handle the new position. Steve seemed impressed.

"It looks as if the shop is growing fast!"

"We need to expand; we have a big order to fill, as well as the ones we already had. Allied doesn't have sales people to get new business. We have a reputation among the trucking companies, and they pass the word to other companies. We get all the business we can handle by word of mouth. Even before this last big order, our business has more than doubled in the ten years I've worked here."

Just then my phone rang. I picked it up; it was Sharon at the front desk.

"Dave, I've got a call for you; it's Tony Solano. Do you want to take it, or should I tell him you're busy?"

"What on earth could he want?"

"He didn't say. He just said he needed to talk to you."

"OK, put him through." There was a click, and I said, "Business office; Dave speaking."

"I hope you and your faggot boyfriend are happy now! You've got me blackballed in this whole fuckin' town! Nobody will hire me! I've got to move to Detroit. My brother works for GM there, and he said he can get me in. I just wanted you to know that you fuckin' faggots can feel real proud of yourselves! You've driven a real man out of town!" He slammed the receiver down.

I guess my face must have been a real sight. Steve was looking at me with concern. "Are you all right, Dave? What was that all about? I couldn't hear what he was saying, but I could hear him yelling, way over here."

"Steve, I've got to go talk to Mike. I'll be back in a few minutes." I left the office and hurried down the aisle to the production area. Mike was checking some assemblies at one of the stations when I got there. He looked up and smiled, as I came up, but his expression changed to deep concern, when he saw my face. "What's going on, Davie?" He must have been upset; that was the first time he had called me 'Davie' in the shop.

"Mike, could we step outside for a minute? I really need to talk to you."

He laid the assembly he was holding back on the bench and headed for the back door. When we got outside, he turned to me. "What's wrong, Davie? You look as if you'd just been hit in the head with a rock!"

"It feels sort of like that, Mike! I just got off the phone with Tony Solano."

"What? What the hell did he want?"

"He just wanted to let us know that he's moving to Detroit to work in an auto plant with his brother. It seems that the 'fuckin' faggots' got him blackballed, so that he couldn't get a job here in town. He's not too happy with us."

"Davie, don't let him get to you! He's not worth it. All I can say is 'good riddance,' and I hope he enjoys Detroit. He's one of those people who can't accept the responsibility for their own actions. We didn't get him fired; he did, by breaking the rules. So, now he's got to live with it. It's just easier for him to blame us than to accept the fact that he screwed up."

Mike didn't even look around to see if anyone was in the parking lot. He just put his arms around me and gave me a long and tender kiss. Then he pushed me back, holding my shoulders, and looked me in the eye.

"Now, we're going back in there, and you're going to forget all about this. It's not important. And we are going out for dinner tonight, just the two of us, to the Krebs!"

"Oh, Mike, that's so expensive!"

"Well, if you have to feel guilty about something, just think how much we're going to spend on a great prime rib dinner tonight! That'll give you something to worry about all afternoon!" He grinned at me. "All better, now?"

"I guess so."

"Good. Now, go in and call Annie at work. Tell her that she's on her own for dinner tonight, and that we'll see her later. Got that?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Good! Now get your cute little butt back into the office, and see if you can do something productive for the shop before we go home, OK?" He bent and gave me another quick kiss, then shoved me ahead of him, back into the shop.

I went back to my office and called Annie. She seemed surprised to hear from me. "Davie! I was going to call you in a few minutes. I won't be home for dinner tonight. Mark is taking me out."

"That's funny! I just called to tell you that Mike and I are going out for dinner tonight." I could hear her giggling, and I had to grin myself.

"Well, maybe we'll meet you in the restaurant."

"I doubt it, but we'll see you when you get home. And invite Mark in for coffee, if you get home early. I really like him. And Mike does, too."

"OK, we'll probably see you later this evening. Gotta go now. Some of us have to work for a living!" She hung up, and I looked over at Steve.

"My big sister's giving me grief again!"

"Ya know, I think there must be a 'Big Sisters' Handbook' somewhere. They're all alike!"

We went back to work. He was learning the order forms and getting more accustomed to the different suppliers with whom we deal. I started the month end reports. My next few days would be busy with those.

When Mike came to pick me up, I closed up the folder of reports I was working on and put them in the file cabinet. I sent Steve to get Marty pried loose from her computer, so that they could go home. Then Mike and I went out the back door and hurried home to change, so that we could go out to dinner.

Editor's Notes:

I knew that Tony Creep would return like a bad penny. I sure hope we have seen the last of him.

What with the money crunch, and companies cutting back, it would serve him right if once he moved to Detroit, his new company had to lay off a bunch of folks and he was one of the first to go, because he had such a bad attitude. I will be curious to see if we ever find out that he was let go, or for that matter, if he even gets hired. If it happens, he will probably still blame Davie and Mike. I can only imagine what kind of job references he would get if he tried to use the machine shop. He is definitely not a nice man.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher