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The Ultimate System - Chapter 8
David rolled over and answered the phone, the ringing was a somewhat annoying development as he had finally just drifted off to sleep. Nate Frazier was on the other line and he said, "David, you know you’re supposed to ask for a late check out, the answer will almost always be yes...but it’s bad form to assume. Anyway, if you want the room for another night as well as a few more buffets, I can probably pull it off for you."
David was thoroughly confused at this point, he didn’t understand why he was being admonished for asking for a late check out when it was only 8:--, he rolled to his other side and looked at the clock, 12:45! He only had fifteen minutes until he had to be at work, he must have actually been asleep for a few hours, as opposed to having just drifted off. Finally acclimated to both his surroundings and the reason for Nate’s call he responded, "Um...no. I’m afraid I can’t do that, I have to work today. I’ll be out of here in fifteen minutes or fewer, sorry about the trouble."
Nate responded cheerfully, "No trouble at all, give me a call anytime you need anything."
David didn’t think about his statement before making it, "I could actually use a ride to work...um...my car wouldn’t start last night, so I don’t know if it is going to today."
Nate was actually reasonably confident that David’s, ‘Car,’ was a figment of David’s imagination, but he didn’t want to make any such accusation. "David, I’ve got to tell you, I’m not really comfortable with that. I’d even consider having the sedan take you to work, but it’s on its way to the airport as we speak."
David actually considered the possibility of offering to wait on the sedan to get back, and it was a good thing for Nate that he didn’t because the sedan was not actually out. David was simply not a valuable enough player to justify having the driver give him a ride to work. Besides that, he could only imagine the scolding he would get from the brass if they found out he had the sedan go out not only to take a relative low-roller away from the casino to his job at a grocery store. It was probably only barely justifiable for David to even have a host, though he had been buying in for (and losing) some considerable amounts of cash recently.
David eventually responded, "No problem, I should be able to just get there in time." Even though it wouldn’t really matter to Nate whether or not David was late, at least, provided the latter didn’t lose his job, David still felt it necessary to save a little bit of face.
David mulled over the situation and decided the first order of business would be to call A Penny Saved and tell his boss, Deli Manager Nicholas Allison, that he would be late. He reached customer service and the call was transferred to the deli, Nicholas answered on the third ring, "Thanks for calling the deli at A Penny Saved, this is Nicholas, may I help you?"
David braced himself for what he had to do, while calling and asking for Nicholas was the proper thing to do, he was really hoping one of the attendants would answer and just pass the message along. Although, it then occurred to him, he was almost positive he would be dealing with Nicholas later anyway. "Hey, Mr. Allison," he began, "Listen, my car won’t start and I have to walk to work today because I can’t find a ride. I’m sure I can be there by three o’ clock."
Nicholas Allison briefly considered the situation, and it occurred to him he had seen David walking up to the store once or twice already, from the highway, so he wasn’t sure that David had a car, and if he didn’t, why David would lie to him about his reason for being late. Even though he wasn’t impressed with the fact that he was, quite probably, being lied to; he decided, late is late as far as the book goes, reason doesn’t matter, and said, "Okay, just get here as soon as you can. Would this have anything to do with your attendance bonus?"
David was perplexed, "How do you mean?"
"I’ve seen this happen before, which is why attendance should always be a requirement and not be incentivized," Nick began, "People have perfect attendance during such time that their attendance bonuses count on it, then once they have done that, BOOM, the attendance goes right down the toilet. I hope that’s not what is happening here."
Jesus Christ, David thought, thoroughly annoyed, for one thing, you would think they could always offer a quarterly attendance bonus for perfect attendance such that it was always incentivized. Secondly, David thought, this is the first time I’ve ever been late, how the hell does this constitute a pattern?
Instead of pointing out either of those things, David instead answered, "I assure you that is not what is happening here, I’ll be there by three o’clock."
David briefly debated whether or not to get a shower before checking out of The Golden Goose. On the one hand, he was going to be sweat-soaked by the time he got to work no matter what he did, but on the other hand, perhaps he would at least stink a little less by way of showering first. He took what was, perhaps, the quickest shower of his life and threw on the clothes he wore the previous day. He didn’t want to put on his work clothes because, even though he’d be putting them on a thoroughly sweaty body by the time he got to work, at least they would be mostly dry.
David hurried to the elevator with his two A Penny Saved bags, one for the dirty clothes that he had worn yesterday whilst walking to the casino, and the other bag for his work clothes. After what seemed much longer than usual, the elevator arrived at his floor and took him down to the casino level. He made his way to the hotel desk and checked out without issue. After that, he decided to depart by way of the exit closest to the table games because, even though the difference amounted to barely more than several feet, the side driveway leading into and out of the casino was technically a little bit closer to the grocery store than the front entrance.
As he walked past the table games area, he noticed that Sammy had started early that day and was at the craps table. Louder than intended, loud enough, in fact, that about twenty people who weren’t Sammy turned their heads, David said, "Hey, Sammy, good morning!"
"If you say so," Sammy replied, "What are the grocery bags for? Are they to hold all your cash?"
David turned pale as he thought about the actual contents of his wallet, "No, I’m saving that for another day. Hey, this would be huge, my car won’t start, do you think you can give me a ride to work."
Sammy suspected (correctly) that David actually had no car to speak of, but even so, he didn’t find that a reason not to do David a minor kindness. "Yeah, no problem, I’m losing anyway. Just let this kid finish up this roll and then we’ll be on our way."
The kid must have known that David was in a hurry, because he promptly sevened-out just two rolls later.
"See that?" Sammy asked, "That kid must have known you need to get to work because he threw that seven right quick, didn’t he?"
David smiled back, "He sure did. By the way, can I offer you anything in exchange for the ride?" David had asked the question hoping that Sammy didn’t realize that any non-zero amount of money that he suggested would be exactly that same non-zero amount of money that David didn’t have. Essentially, he was bluffing, but he wanted to save a little bit of face.
Even though he didn’t say anything, Sammy was a regular sleuth that day as he suspected (again, correctly) that David probably had either nothing or close to it to his name after the beating he took last night. After all, Sammy reasoned, the guy works in a deli, how much could he be good for? Much to David’s relief, Sammy had no interest in shaming him, besides that, he genuinely wouldn’t have wanted the money anyway. "No," he replied, "You’ll probably do me a similar favor one day, and even if that day never comes, I know you’ll be willing to."
"Absolutely," David responded, "Far be it from me not to return a favor if given the opportunity."
One could be excused for believing that nothing gave Sammy more pride than his thirty year old Mercury Grand Marquis, mostly because it was true. David’s mind wandered in and out of the mostly one way conversation that Sammy had been having with him about the vehicle for the last five minutes.
"...the store, the casino, of course, church, which I should go to more often. I don’t really take her anywhere else, probably only put one-hundred miles a week, or so, on her."
Absently, David inquired, "On whom?"
"The car," Sammy responded, he couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed by the fact that he was giving David a free ride and David barely had it in him to pay a modicum of attention to the conversation. "I don’t take it on long trips," he continued, "And, I’ve always kept it in the garage. I’d like to think it looks just as good now as the day I bought it."
"It’s a beautiful car," David offered.
"That it is," Sammy agreed, "I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if she outlasts me. I still do all the oil changes myself, at least, when my hands let me. The arthritis has been bothering me, off and on, for going on a decade now."
The two of them passed a high school girl standing by the road holding a sign reading, ‘Cheerleader Car Wash, Make Left,’ and Sammy mused, "Although, I do occasionally wish I’d be willing to let other people touch her."
David chuckled in spite of himself and everything he had been feeling since taking that utter pounding the night before, "You’re incorrigible," he said, "Do you even think she’s legal?"
Not that it really mattered all that much to him, especially since he was unlikely to attract a school-aged girl anyway, but Sammy did want to save a little face, "Aw, come on, she looked like she had to be a senior!"
David wasn’t really concerned with the girl or the car, his mind had wandered back onto everything he had done wrong the night before. The list of errors he had made kept piling up in his mind, and ironically, playing a negative expectation game with virtually all the money he had to his name was nowhere on the list of mistakes he believed he had made.
David turned his head this way and back the other surveying their surroundings, even though he couldn’t complain about getting a free ride as the result would be not arriving at work thoroughly soaked, it was not lost on him that Sammy drove at a consistent fifteen under the speed limit. Any number of other cars roared past them, a few of them honked at Sammy who, for his part, offered a kindly wave in return. David idly wondered how much faster Sammy was going to get him to work than he would have done simply walking.
Other than the fact that he was mildly perturbed with Sammy’s slow pace of driving, David literally felt hollow inside. He noticed that he had a nagging emptiness in both his chest and his head and it was as though his senses had been dulled substantially since just a few days prior. He looked around, once again, and it almost felt as though he was watching a television which happened to be set to whatever his eyes were looking at, as though he were looking at the world through a screen, more of an observer than an active participant.
He looked at one of his chubby hands and then placed it on one of his legs just to see if he felt...something. While he recognized the fact that he was putting pressure on his thigh, as well as feeling the pressure building up in his hand, there was something incredibly dull and surreal about it. The only somewhat solid thing he felt was a gnawing in his stomach, he was hungry, but he had no money with which to do anything about that. He would just have to be hungry until he got back home, and even then, he wasn’t sure that he had anything to bring to work with him for lunch over the next three days.
"Shit," David said, "I’m sorry, but you just passed the store!"
Sammy looked over to his right and realized that he had missed the turn, he had begun talking about the history of his Grand Marquis again and, much like David, had become somewhat separated from reality...though for a much different reason. While it may have been perfectly safe to execute a U-Turn, given that there was no traffic coming from the other way, Sammy instead opted to drive to the gas station a quarter mile down the road using it as a turn-around.
Sammy then pulled up to the front entrance of the store, but mulling it over, instead decided to park towards the back of the lot. "I hope you don’t mind," he explained to David, "But, as long as I’m already here, I might as well do my shopping for the next few days."
Sammy fished around in his shirt pocket, removed the chips from The Golden Goose, perhaps a little over $100 in total, and set them on the dashboard. David was flabbergasted, "You’re just going to leave those sit there!?"
"Of course," Sammy replied, "I’m going to lock the car and this is a pretty safe town, I really don’t see anybody busting into it to grab some casino chips."
David almost had a notion to walk with Sammy into the store, but then turn around and do just that. Of course, David hadn’t stolen anything since he was a kid, and he wasn’t sure he had enough power to break one of the windows to begin with…
David shook his head, dismissing the thought of stealing from Sammy, who had just given him a ride, or anyone else for that matter, as patently absurd. He couldn’t help but be surprised that the notion had even entered into his head. Even though it wasn’t a large sum of money, he’d be looking at jail time for sure, and there would also be any number of witnesses who would see him trying to break into someone’s car. It was also his place of employment!
David walked in with Sammy, and again thanking him for the ride, went to clock in.
David had momentarily forgotten that, even though he had called and spoke to Nicholas Allison, that he would have to get an override from the office in order to clock in that day. He went over and spoke to Jessica, the girl in her late-twenties with light brown hair and green eyes, whom he was also supposedly dating, and she swiped a manager’s card which enabled him to punch in.
David made his way back to the deli and was confronted, almost immediately, by Nicholas Allison. "David Landstrom," he intoned, "What a pleasure to see you today." Allison looked at his watch and noticed that it was just after 1:30, "Early, at that. Well, late, but not as late as you thought you were going to be. I take it you found a ride?"
"I did," David said, "Which is excellent, because I probably would have been soaked with perspiration by the time I got here."
"Speaking of appearance," Allison began, "What is it you have decided to wear to work today? Might I inquire what, ‘Dawg Pound,’ A Penny Saved purportedly represents?"
David looked down at one of the T-Shirts he had purchased from GoodWill, largely because it was one of the only ones that fit him, two months prior. "Oh, no, I’m sorry." David held up one of the shopping bags by way of explanation, "I didn’t know I was going to have a ride, my work clothes are right here!"
Nicholas Allison cocked his left eyebrow at David, "Can I assume that you are not clocked in since you do not have your work clothes on yet?"
David groaned inwardly and raised his eyes to the God he didn’t believe in. The day just kept getting worse and worse, in fact, David briefly considered just asking to turn it into a sick day instead, but there was really no illness he could reasonably claim to have. "No," David answered, dejectedly, "I am clocked in, I’ll go put these on as fast as possible."
David walked to the bathroom cursing his make-believe girlfriend Jessica under his breath, he muttered to himself, "You would think the least that woman could have done is told me that I didn’t have my work clothes on. Isn’t this just as much on her for letting me clock in out of uniform?" In spite of himself, David dismissed his logic as ridiculous. Jessica probably figured that David was going to make his way to the bathroom, on the clock, to change and that she was being kind in letting him get away with that minor indiscretion.
David went to the handicapped stall and quickly noticed that even those were not designed with changing clothes in mind. Eventually, he figured out a way that he could get out of his jeans and into his slacks as well as out of his T-Shirt and into his undershirt and button up without needing to have the stall door open. He cursed himself, once again, as he noticed that in his haste to pack and get back to The Golden Goose the previous day he had forgotten his name tag. Might as well add another one to the list, he thought.
On a normal day, there was little to no chance that Nicholas Allison would fail to notice an employee who was not wearing his or her name tag, and unfortunately for David, this was by no means a normal day as far as he was concerned. As David approached the deli, Allison said, "Please come into my office."
While Allison had interviewed David in a different office those few months ago, Allison’s personal, ‘Office,’ was nothing more than a small desk, similar to that of an elementary school student, open compartment for books and everything, that was located right beside the prep station. When people got called into Allison’s, ‘Office,’ those who were not dealing with customers in both the deli and hot foods could stand just behind the entryway to the prep room and listen to everything that was going on inside. Of course, that just added to David’s already considerable humiliation. He also knew that they were listening because he had seen them listen to the goings-on of other people, and as much as he hated to admit it, he occasionally listened to those same goings-on himself.
Nicholas Allison took a seat in his chair, also reminiscent of an elementary school student’s chair, and gestured David to take the stool nearest him. "Mr. Landstrom," he said with as much authority as his soft voice could muster, "We have quite a bit to discuss today."
David wasn’t particularly alarmed about the trouble he had gotten into that he was about to have formalized, he knew that was coming. Actually, David’s main concern was more along the lines of wondering just how long this particular bitching-out would take, to that point, he had decided already that he would just quit his job if it went past the twenty minute point. He looked at the clock, 1:46, and made a mental note that he was out at 2:06 if this meeting hadn’t concluded by then.
Nicholas looked at David and asked, "Do you know why we have to talk today, David?"
David couldn’t believe that he was about to get some bullshit quasi father-son treatment from this guy, "Yes, I believe I know why we have to talk."
Nicholas couldn’t have found a way to be more condescending, "Okay, David, might I ask why it is you think we have to talk?"
David couldn’t help but look at the clock again, still 1:46, "I’m going to go ahead and guess that it has something to do with me being late today?"
"That’s an excellent assumption," Nicholas continued in the same condescending tone, "Certainly partially correct. Unfortunately, we have a few other things to discuss, as well." With that, Nicholas got out his personnel file and flipped to the section housing, ‘Landstrom, David K.’
David offered, "I mean, if you’re busy, I agree to any write-up that you may have for me. If you want to fire me, go ahead."
Nicholas was momentarily taken aback, "David, I don’t believe, even in light of what has happened today, that I have sufficient grounds to terminate your employment even if I really wanted to. As it turns out, by the way, I don’t. I’ve never had any real problem with you until your closing shift on Tuesday."
"Okay," David said, "I suppose I appreciate that, please just let me have it."
"Please be patient, Mr. Landstrom," Nicholas replied. David couldn’t figure out why the constant switch between his proper title and his first name, and Nicholas probably wasn’t even entirely sure of the reason, "It is a matter of store policy that I formally explain each and every write-up and offer you the opportunity to contest. If you choose to contest, then we must address any contested write-ups with the Assistant Store Manager.
For God’s sake I don’t contest just leave me alone!!!
Of course, David was able to restrain himself from responding that way, barely, and Nicholas continued, "The first problem we have is that you used pre-sliced vegetables on the veggie tray you made Tuesday night even though it was not an express order. As you probably realize, pre-sliced celery stalks and broccoli crowns not only have a greater tag price, but they also actually cost the store more money than slicing those things ourselves. As a result, you’re only supposed to use pre-sliced vegetables if you have an express order, which is defined as an order that you have less than two hours to complete based on the time that the customer makes the order compared to how many hours the deli is open prior to the customer wanting to pick the order up."
"Right," David muttered, "I understand the difference between the two, of course."
"Even with that," Nicholas responded, "You proceeded to scan and tag in pre-sliced vegetables to make a non-express veggie tray thereby costing the store money. Can you explain why you did that?"
David answered, "I’m sorry, I forgot about the veggie tray until I only had fifteen minutes left in the shift and I knew you guys needed it to be ready as soon as you walked in Wednesday morning."
"Can I assume that you do not wish to contest this write-up?"
David could no longer fully hide his annoyance, "Did I not just admit to doing it?"
"Fair enough," Nicholas responded disapprovingly, "This is going to be a Step One write-up under, ‘Misuse of Company Assets,’ that can be located on Page Thirteen of the employee handbook and this undeniably falls under that purview. Do you agree with my interpretation?"
"To be honest," David replied, losing his patience even faster, "I haven’t read the employee handbook to know, nor do I necessarily have any intention of doing so."
Nicholas groaned, "Also, on your closing shift Tuesday, you left the slicer unclean. Technically speaking, since both events occurred on the same day, I could turn the second one into a Step Two write-up, but that is apparently at my discretion. While I might wish to advance that to a Step Two in light of today’s events, I had already decided to make it a verbal warning prior to your calling in late today. For that reason, I am just making it a verbal warning. The slicer wasn’t terrible anyway, but it certainly was not up to neither your standards nor mine. Verbal warnings, of course, cannot be formally contested, so that’s where we are on that."
David responded, "The slicer wasn’t cleaned as well as usual because, after I did the rush job on the veggie tray, I barely had any time left to do it."
Nicholas countered, "Please tell me that excuse sounded better in your head."
David had damn near had enough of Nicholas Allison’s bullshit, at this point, but he figured it was about half over and the clock only read 1:51. David looked back up at Nicholas and asked, "Have we made it to the tardy, yet?"
"That we have," Nicholas replied, "You have been found to be tardy without prior excuse today, a violation that you are certainly welcome to contest, though the timeclock will tell the story if you choose to do that. In order to have an excused tardy, you must contact your immediate manager, myself, no fewer than four hours prior to your shift and explain why you will be late and what time you will be coming. Because I didn’t come in until 10:00 today, that couldn’t have possibly happened, and I also made a note of the fact that you called me with less than a half hour prior to the start of your shift. Do you wish to contest this write-up?"
"No," David groaned. Again, he had no idea on what grounds he even reasonably could contest.
"Okay," Nicholas responded, "That’s going to be a Step One for attendance, which exists in a completely different category than performance, which is the category under which your other write-up falls. Of course, we now need to move on to uniform."
"Uniform!!!???" David was incensed, "Listen, Nicholas, I already told you why I had my regular clothes on. I’m sorry that I clocked in and cost the company the whole five minutes that it took for me to change my clothes on the clock. God forbid the company lose the, what, eighty cents?"
"I really don’t like your tone," Nicholas said, "Besides, the uniform write-up is not for that. It’s because you have apparently forgotten your name tag. Therefore, I am giving you a Step One under appearance and behavior, which again, is a different category than either attendance or performance."
"Okay, whatever, then," David responded.
"However," Nicholas continued, "I still don’t like your tone. Your clothes are badly wrinkled, probably from being transported in a grocery bag, and you are unshaven. You may recall that store standards call for all males to be clean-shaven at all times with the exception that males are allowed to have a mustache. You have a pretty clear three or four day beard. Therefore, I am giving you a Step Two write-up under appearance and behavior for that reason."
David rolled his eyes, "Sorry."
"I’m sure you are," Nicholas said, "You should also be sorry that you are receiving a write-up for insubordination given both your tone and the fact that you raised your voice at me. I’d be shocked if customers didn’t hear you, and certainly, the other deli employees did."
"Man, come on," David started.
"Don’t tell me to come on," Nicholas retorted, "I tried to show you some leniency when I just gave you a verbal for the dirty slicer. You have to respect the chain of command in this grocery store, and even more importantly, you have to respect the rules. I am giving you a write-up for insubordination which falls under appearance and behavior and is a Step Three. If you receive any further write-ups in that category within the next 180 days, you will be terminated immediately."
"Okay," David said, "Look, I really am sorry about everything. It’s been a tough couple of days."
Nicholas looked at him, "Given the fact that you have received so many write-ups in such a short period of time, I believe that it is necessary for me to inform you that, if you do have a problem, you can enter into a treatment program that the store will sponsor and you will not lose your job. However, if you are randomly tested and found not to be clean, then you will be terminated and there is nothing the store can do for you. With that in mind, do you have anything you feel like you should tell me?"
David could barely check his anger, he gritted his teeth and near-growled, "I. Am. Not. On. Drugs."
"Very good," Nicholas responded, "Finally, I must write you up for, ‘Misuse of company time,’ given that you had to use company time to change into your work clothes. Of course, that falls under performance and results in a Step Two in performance. Do you wish to contest that write-up?"
"No," David replied, "I do not."
"Thank you for your time, David," Nicholas said, "I can imagine that you are not very happy today, and I fear that may reflect in your performance. I am going to request that you clock out and leave the premises at this time and return, at one p.m. tomorrow, for your scheduled shift. Please go to the office and request an override. I will finish your shift."
Even though it would cost him money, David couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief that he was being sent home that day. He could only imagine what he might say, or perhaps even do, the second that a customer got on his bad side. Nicholas may or may not have believed that he was actually punishing David further, but whether he meant to or not, Nicholas seriously helped him out by dismissing him for the remainder of the shift.
"Thank you, Nicholas," David said, "I’ll be on time tomorrow."
"See to it," Nicholas replied, "I’m off tomorrow, but I’m going to have to put together some write-ups for you in light of today’s infractions. Please see to it that you are here promptly at one o’clock as I would prefer to come in, have you sign those, and then leave immediately thereafter."
"No problem," David replied, "I’ll be here."
David clocked out at 2:05, and though it felt like he had dealt with Nicholas all day, in reality, he had been clocked in for just over a half hour. He would make just a shade over five bucks for the day. It occurred to him that there might be some sort of law mandating that they technically had to pay him for a four-hour shift, but he decided he might do better not to press the issue if his paycheck only showed him for the amount of time he’d actually spent at the store.
David meandered out to the parking lot when he heard a voice call his name, maybe Nicholas had changed his mind about working a double and, instead, was telling David to clock back in. He turned around and saw Sammy walking towards him at as fast a pace that the old man could muster. "What’s going on?"
David didn’t want to admit to being sent home for the day, "Ha! You’ll never believe this one: I wasn’t even supposed to work today! I wanted to stay, of course, but they have a full house."
Sammy had his doubts, "If you want, I can give you a ride home, or maybe you live nearby?"
As much as David didn’t want to bum another free ride from Sammy, Sammy had offered. "Actually, I can’t imagine that you want to drive around all over the place today, if you could take me to Estonia County Bank, I would most appreciate that."
"It’s Saturday, David," Sammy responded, "I’m guessing the bank is closed."
David realized that Sammy was right and accepted the ride home.
Sammy continued to talk about the beauty that was his Mercury Grand Marquis and missed a few turns that David told him about well in advance. David absently wondered whether or not Sammy would be able to make it back to The Golden Goose, or home, wherever he was going after dropping him off. He wanted to ask if Sammy knew the way back, but decided that would be rude. Instead, he sat in silence as he listened to Sammy’s unbroken reverie about his car only chiming in when a turn was coming up.
The pair eventually arrived at David’s house, Sammy stopped in the middle of the road and let David out. "Hey, David," he said, "Good luck."
"Thanks, Sammy," David said, "But, I’m not going back to the casino today."
David walked into his basement, via the door that led into the backyard, wondering what the hell Sammy meant by wishing him good luck. After all, Sammy certainly couldn’t know that David had come within a hair’s breadth of being fired, or maybe Sammy actually believed that David had already been fired. Either way, David kicked off his shoes and had just taken off his button up when he heard his mother’s voice calling from upstairs, "David Kennedy Landstrom, get your ass up here!"
David went up the stairs rapidly wondering what the hostile tone was about, while his Mom was cared just enough about his existence to let him live in her basement, nearly rent-free, he certainly wasn’t used to being berated. As he made his way up the steps, he shouted back, "What’s the problem, Mom?"
"I’ll tell you what the problem is, Davy," his mother replied, rising from her chair, "The problem is: where were you last night?"
"I was staying at Jessica’s house last night," David said, "I told you that yesterday. You didn’t mention needing me for anything."
His mother scoffed. "As if I would get it if I did need you for something. You have now told me where you said you were going, would you like to tell me the difference between where you said you were going and where you actually were?"
David hemmed and hawed, looking at the floor, then back at his mother, then back down at the floor. He really didn’t want to answer the question not only because of where he actually was, but also because he didn’t know whether or not his mother actually knew where he was. The most prudent choice, it seemed, was to wait for her to reveal what she knew.
David’s mother apparently sensed the reason for David’s hesitation, "You know, one would think that a straight answer wouldn’t really be that hard, but it seems as though even that is too much for a mother to ask for." She paced back and forth across the room and finally looked David in the eyes and said, "Unless Jessica’s house, assuming there is a Jessica, is located inside of The Golden Goose Casino, then you weren’t at Jessica’s house."
David looked back and forth trying to come up with any legitimate reason whatsoever, besides gambling, to have been at the casino.
His mother again broke his train of thought, "Don’t even try it. I would hate to say that I was suspicious about the prospect of you having a girlfriend to begin with, and if I had been wrong I would have felt terrible about it and then apologized and told you what I did. But, I went to The Golden Goose last night, multiple times, in fact, and eventually saw you at the dice table."
David knew he was dead to rights at that point, and despite the fact that he was close to forty, he had virtually no choice but to listen to the lecture that was guaranteed to come. At least, that was true if he wanted to continue to have a place to live.
"Davy," his mother said in a sad tone, "We went through this exact problem just five or six years ago, now, and I was convinced that it was over with you and all of this gambling stuff. But, the second that you get a few dollars in your pocket you, once again, march right back to the casino. You’ve probably been going there for awhile now, and don’t even try to deny it, because it’s impossible for me to believe you anyway. Even if you denied it and were telling the truth, there is no way I could believe you."
David couldn’t think of anything to say, first he had lost virtually all of his money, then he had nearly lost his job, and now he had to contend with this. He wanted nothing more than to disappear, but instead he remained as his mother continued, "I understand that it is a difficult thing to quit, but you did quit, how did you manage to get right back into it?"
For the first time that day, David immediately told the truth, "I don’t know."
"Listen, Davy, I made an agreement with you that you could continue to live here provided you paid rent of $100 per month. That agreement, of course, has no expiration date. With that said, I understand that your money is yours to do with as you like, but you can certainly understand why I would hate to see you waste it all on gambling."
David couldn’t help but firmly believe he had stumbled upon the secret to winning, as long as he had the discipline to fully carry the system out, but his mother would obviously never believe that. "Are you saying I can go to the casino?"
"What I’m saying, Davy," she paused and then continued, "Is that you are free to do what you want to do, but you’re not well when it comes to gambling, not everyone can handle gambling, and I would strongly prefer if you didn’t go to the casino. With that said, you must handle the responsibilities, well, the one responsibility that you do have...if you are so much as one day late on your $100 monthly rent, I will ask you to move out."
"I understand, Mom," David dejectedly responded, "Thank you for everything."
"By the way," his mother said as though an afterthought, "I thought I told you to tell Evan not to come to the front door. He woke me up at about eleven o’clock last night."
"I’m sorry, Mom," David replied, "I haven’t spoken to him at any point between when you told me to tell him that and now. I’ll make sure to call him right away."
"No matter," his mom replied, "I told him you would be done at work at nine tonight, by the way, what are you doing here now?"
"I didn’t feel well, so I left early," David said.
"And got a ride?"
"Yeah, they actually had someone give me a ride home," David suggested.
His mom sarcastically quipped, "I wonder whatever could have caused you to feel so poorly today." She rolled her eyes, "Anyway, I made it clear to Evan that he is only to knock on your door from now on, either way, I told him that you could be found at the casino, I take it he didn’t meet up with you there?"
"Shit, Mom," David asked, "You told him what?"
"Well," David’s mom responded, "I told him where you were. He was looking for you, I knew where you were, so I told him. Is there a problem?"
The problem, of course, was that the lecture that David’s mom gave him was not going to be the only one he heard that day, and that wasn’t including Nicholas Allison’s lecture. Evan’s lecture, that David knew had to be coming unless Evan decided not to speak to him anymore, which a small part of David actually hoped for, was soon to come. In fact, David wouldn’t be particularly surprised if Evan came to see him immediately after getting done at work.
"No, Mom," David finally replied, "There are no problems. Thanks for passing the word to Evan, but he didn’t go to the casino last night, so I guess I’ll see him tonight."
"By the way," his mom said, "While this doesn’t quite rise to the level of an intervention, don’t even bother trying to lie to your only friend aside from me, I already told him that you could be found at the dice table."
In a way, David wanted to call Evan’s cell and try to arrange to meet Evan on his lunch break so he could get the inevitable lecture over with and be done being lectured for the day. He knew that nobody, aside from himself, would understand why the system had to eventually work if he just stuck to his guns and played in a disciplined way. He realized that he couldn’t expect them to understand that, but for the time being, he had no money and really just wanted to get the day over with. He might log into WizardofVegas to invent some story about how well his system went, but really, it was more likely that he’d crawl into bed and just wait for ten o’clock in the morning to come. He couldn’t be sure that he’d have a ride to work the next day, so he had to be prepared for the possibility of walking.
Evan did call on his lunch break, and David answered on the first ring. The usual pleasantries didn’t seem necessary, "Okay, let’s get this over with."
Evan Blake’s voice had lost a little bit of its usual chipperness, "Later on. I’m going to come by after work, I already asked for permission to leave tonight after the store closes without doing reset, so I won’t keep you up too late."
David inquired, "How about now on the phone?"
"No," Evan replied, "I’d prefer to talk in person. I would rather do it at your place than the casino, though."
"What am I going to go to the casino with, my good looks?"
"See you later."
The expected knock at the door came at the expected time, about half past nine. David promptly answered, he’d been waiting for Evan to show up so he could finally get his miserable day over with and get to bed.
"Okay," he asked, "What brings you here?"
"Aside from the obvious," Evan started, "I want to know where we are at on getting a place. I need to know if I am on my own on this one, for my part, I don’t plan on living with my mother for the rest of my life. I have to figure out whether I need to find a different roommate or get another job and try to live by myself."
David contemplated for a second and replied, "Look, I don’t know what to tell you. I think I have about twelve bucks to my name, at the moment, so any such plans you may have for us to get a place together would have to wait unless you really felt like fronting the first month’s rent and deposit. Aside from that, I still don’t recall having ever fully agreed to going half on a place with you."
"You didn’t," Evan agreed, "But, at the same time, I was hoping that you might be ready to grow up and get some semblance of a life started. I really don’t see what appeals to you about losing virtually everything you have in the casino."
"Who said I lost?"
"You just did," Evan pointed out, "Unless you want me to believe that you went to the casino last night with less than twelve bucks."
"I didn’t go to the casino last night," David replied, "I was already there and had been since Wednesday. I don’t feel the need to discuss the specific amount that I had when I went in, but it was certainly more than twelve dollars."
"You’ve been up since Wednesday!?"
Evan had asked the question genuinely, and it was just then that it reoccurred to David that Evan could be something of an idiot sometimes, "No, I had a room there for the last three nights."
"No way," Evan said, "I can’t believe that you paid for a room!"
"I didn’t pay for it," David pointed out. Amending his statement, David added, "At least, not directly."
Evan couldn’t begin to imagine the actual amount that David must have had, and lost, at the casino that would entitle him to a room for three nights. While he didn’t know much about gambling, he could put two and two together well enough to figure out that David must have went into the casino with significantly more than twelve dollars.
He shook his head, "David, I thought you weren’t going to do this again."
"I didn’t think so, either," David said, "It started out with me just wanting to get free play, but then I got offered a room for Thursday night that I accepted. While I was inside the bank Wednesday, I called my host at the casino and switched the reservation to Wednesday night. I seriously doubt if you’ll believe me at this point, but I honestly didn’t lose anything at all Wednesday night. I gambled. A lot. But, I didn’t lose anything."
"I believe that," Evan said flatly, "What happened Thursday?"
"Well," David started, "I lost a good bit of what I had brought with me Thursday night. It was probably nearly half of what I had on me after Wednesday. I think I might have won a little bit off of my free play on Wednesday, but I really don’t remember. It’s honestly kind of a blur, the only thing that is really clear to me is where I stood at the end of each night. I know I definitely didn’t lose anything Wednesday."
Evan concluded, "You must have won some amount of money on Wednesday, why did you stay again Thursday?"
"If you want to know the truth," David began, "The host offered me my room for another night as well as two buffets. The same thing happened on Friday. Technically, the same thing happened today, but I didn’t have any money to play with and had to go to work, anyway. I also managed to almost get myself fired today, but I kept myself in check...mostly."
"How did that happen?"
David related the story of his conversation with Nicholas Allison as well as a few of the things for which he had been written up. Even though he tried, he honestly couldn’t remember all of them. After telling that story, he looked at Evan and said, "See, but it’s not just about the rooms or the food. The food really isn’t that great. It’s just that the casino is the only place where I feel like I really get treated well, and all it takes is a willingness to play a little money."
"If you tip well at a restaurant and go there a few times," Evan countered, "You’ll find that the staff will treat you very nicely there."
David agreed, "Yeah, but if you go to a restaurant, you are guaranteed to spend money. Not only are you not necessarily going to lose money in the casino, but I believe I have found a way that all but assures that I will win money. The problem was that I got careless and deviated from The Ultimate System. Had I not done that, and if I had the proper bankroll backing me up, I would have been all but sure to win!"
Evan inquired, "What’s the proper bankroll, a million dollars?"
David answered, "No, not that much. Why would someone with a million bucks even want to gamble?"
"That’s my point," Evan suggested, "If you had what you call, ‘The proper bankroll,’ then you wouldn’t really need to gamble. If you need to gamble, then you don’t have what you call, ‘The proper bankroll.’ Whatever amount of money you have, there are better things that you could be doing with it."
"I can’t give you a solid number," David said, "But, the proper bankroll is something in between how much I had and how much it would take me not to want to gamble. I have to do some very complicated math to arrive at an exact number."
"What happens then?" Evan followed up with another question, "Do you just save up all of your money until you determine that you have enough to go after it? If you’re going to do that, why not just save up until you have such an amount of money that you no longer feel the need to gamble?"
"It doesn’t work that way," David responded, "It would take me an incalculable amount of time to save up such a sum of money that I would no longer feel the need to gamble, but it wouldn’t take very long at all to save up the sort of bankroll that I would need to arrive at that amount of money by gambling."
"How many dollars do you expect to get back for every dollar in what you call your, ‘Bankroll’?"
"I don’t know."
Evan answered his own question, "I bet that you are looking for more than two dollars for every dollar in your bankroll. I bet you are looking to at least double your bankroll. The best investors in the stock market, or in the anything market, can’t do that with any real guarantee. Why do you think gambling would be any different? Wouldn’t people already be doing what you are doing?"
David couldn’t know how ridiculous his statement was about to be, especially since he was just talking about a slightly modified Martingale System. Nevertheless, he replied, "I don’t think anyone has ever tried to do it this way."
"Maybe not," Evan conceded, "But they’ve all lost any other way they’ve tried to do it."
"I’m not them," David retorted, "And, even if I were, I only need to get lucky once."
"More than once," Evan countered.
"How do you mean?"
"I mean," Evan raised his eyebrows and said, "If you play a game that you are more likely to lose than win, and yet you win, it could be said that you are lucky. For what you plan to do, you need to get lucky several times. Not only do you need to be lucky, but also, what is supposed to happen actually has to fail to happen. Besides that, have you even decided at what point you stop, assuming you do get that lucky?"
"I haven’t thought about that," David admitted, "I mean, if you have a system that works, then when do you stop? How could you know when to stop? When you have enough money to last the rest of your life? When you have enough money to last for a year? If you’re supposed to win, if you have a winning system, then, why would you ever stop?"
"Do you have any proof that your system wins? Does your twelve dollars you have to your name prove your system wins?"
David was losing his patience, "Evan, I already told you that I lost because I deviated from the system, not because the fucking thing doesn’t work. It does work, I made a mistake and deviated from it, as a result, I lost."
While not a genius, Evan was intelligent enough to offer a psychological counter to David’s position, "Maybe you deviated from the system, like you said, because you believed that it was going to lose. Think about it: If you were losing and you got away from the system, then when you finally lost, you would be able to avoid blaming the system. You could actually transfer the blame from the system to yourself, it’s not the system, it’s a lack of discipline. The system didn’t fail you, you failed the system."
"I don’t know what to tell you," David responded, "Other than that is exactly what happened. I lost faith in a system that was all but guaranteed to win, failed the system, as it were, and lost all of my money as a result."
"By the way," Evan grew curious, "How much was all of it?"
"No comment," David said, "Listen, I think I might hit the hay. I appreciate you coming over to talk to me, really I do, but I have to be blunt: Am I walking to work tomorrow?"
"Listen, David," Evan said looking him in the eye, "I’m a very disappointed friend, but I’m still your friend. I’ll be here at twelve-thirty."
"Thanks, Evan, I really mean it."
Evan wanted to press David to promise to stay out of the casino, but David had been through a good bit that day, so it really didn’t seem like the time to come down hard on him. Besides that, Evan felt as though any promises made that day would be a lie. He decided that he would wait a few days and ask David then, it’s not like David would really have anything to take with him to the casino for awhile.
For his part, David appeared to have recomposed himself in some respect. Evan was kind enough to lend him twenty bucks so he would have money to eat something at work until he got paid again. Furthermore, David, realizing the importance of keeping his job, even broke out his Mom’s iron and freshly ironed his work shirt and slacks. He also made it a point to shave as near time to leave for work as possible.
As he walked into the deli, Nicholas Allison was waiting for him, just like he said he would be, "Before you sign all of this, David, I need to have another word with you."
Certain that Nicholas couldn’t see him, David mouthed the words, "Oh, Christ."
As Nicholas looked up at him, David said, "Sure thing, what’s up?"
"Listen, David," Nicholas said, "The thing is that you have been, mostly, an excellent employee here until Tuesday of last week. In fact, I want you to keep this between us, but even on that one issue with Mrs. Wilhelm, you weren’t in the wrong...I probably should have told you that before, but she orders a ton of stuff for her various organizations from here, so I had to make it look good. I really meant to pull you aside and tell you that the next time I saw you, so I apologize for forgetting to do that."
"It’s okay, Nicholas," David was actually impressed by the sincere apology, "It’s not big deal. I really had forgotten all about that."
"Yeah, well, I remembered it the other day when I made a tray for her that, of course, all of the different condiment containers had to be inside of. Let me tell you, it looked like absolute garbage. It looked like I had three of the fingers on my left hand cut off, and used only my left hand, despite the fact that I am right-handed. I was embarrassed to send a tray that looked like that out of here, but what can you do?"
"Nothing you can do," David agreed, "Have to do what the customer wants, but she’d really never made that request to me before that day."
"I know," Nicholas said.
"Was there anything else?"
"Oh, yes," Nicholas said, "Look, you got angry with me yesterday and I got angry right back. While I didn’t disrespect you or take a hostile tone with you, the fact is that I probably hit you with a ton of write-ups that I shouldn’t have because I was irritated. I’m going to use my discretion and not hit you with as many write-ups as I said I would yesterday."
"Absolutely," Nicholas confirmed, "I’m going to go ahead and chalk up all infractions related to your appearance yesterday, including the misuse of time, to the fact that you had called and said you were going to be late and were simply trying to get your shift started as close to your start time as possible. Therefore, your Step One for attendance must stand, and that’s blatant and non-discretionary anyway, but I am not going to have you written up for anything related to appearance. Besides, you have come back today more, ‘By the book,’ than I am. Though, granted, I’m technically off today."
"Thank you, Nicholas," David was genuinely pleased, "I probably don’t deserve all of that."
"That’s not all," Nicholas Allison continued, "The performance violation for the dirty slicer was just a verbal warning anyway, one that I actually don’t even have to document, so that still stands. I mean, it’s verbal, it happened, so there’s really no taking that back. However, what I am going to do is not write you up for insubordination, which is entirely a discretionary write-up, but you’ve been a good worker here, so I’d really like to make some effort for us to remain on good working terms."
"I appreciate that."
"I’m glad you do," Nicholas offered, "Of course, the original write-up, and what would have been the only write-up had you been on time yesterday for, ‘Misuse of Company Assets,’ and, of course, that’s not a discretionary write-up and must stand. I’m now going to ask you to sign that write-up as well as the attendance write-up if you, in fact, agree with both of them."
David hurriedly scrawled his name on both of the write-ups, surprisingly, he was actually somewhat contented by how well he was being treated and was eager to get to work.
"There’s one last thing," Nicholas said, "I am now going to make one final request."
"Sure," David said, hardly in a position to refuse, "What is it?"
"I want you to accept another copy of the employee handbook, and I will give you until the start of your shift Saturday, that’s three working days and three off days for you to read it. While I have no means to enforce it, I would like you to read it cover-to-cover and then come in on Friday and sign the form that says you have read it."
"I mean no disrespect," David began, "And, I’ll do what you ask, but why?"
"During our conversation yesterday," Nicholas said, "You led me to believe that you have not read the employee handbook. After your orientation, you signed a form stating that you had read the employee handbook. Your signature on that form is untruthful because you have not read the handbook, so I need you to do that."
David couldn’t argue with the reasoning, even if having to read the handbook was fairly stupid, "Okay, no problem."
"I have one last thing I want to say to you, David," Nicholas began.
Nicholas then went to the other deli attendant who was working, and upon seeing that there were no customers, sent her to produce to grab the stuff needed for a veggie tray that had to be put together that afternoon. "I was hoping we could get some privacy for this…"
Please don’t profess your love for me, David thought.
"David, I’m not here to be the deli supervisor for the rest of my life, and I’m sure you’re not here to be a deli attendant for the rest of yours. With that said, I want to tell you that I intend to be the Assistant Store Manager here one day, and perhaps after that, move up to General Manager and then, perhaps, even a District Manager or Regional Manager. Of course, that’s a long time from now, but if I move to Assistant Store Manager, then someone will need to become the supervisor back here. Honestly, you’re both a fairly intelligent person and not a kid, you’re also the only person, other than me, working back here that has both of those qualities. That makes you the obvious choice as long as you can keep a clean book, see what I’m saying."
"I think I do," David said.
"Right, but what you don’t know is that Aaron, the Store Manager, is retiring in about four months. I would like that job, but I presume that the Assistant Store Manager is a shoe-in, so that’s the job I’ll probably go for. At that point, as long as nothing gets added to your book from this point forward, you should be an obvious choice. I wrote in some specifics on, ‘MIsuse of Company Assets,’ so that it can’t possibly be mistaken with any form of theft and one tardy really isn’t that bad. I would also have some input in who I believe should replace me back here, although, that’s not a guarantee of anything."
"I understand," David said, "I really do appreciate you putting in a word."
"I probably will," Nicholas mused, "But, right now, I’m off today and I’m leaving."
David went out to the floor and cheerfully dealt with the next several customers, while he did not know what Nicholas made, he assumed it had to be some kind of raise. That much quicker for me to have enough to run The Ultimate System, he thought.
Go back to chapter 7.
To be continued in chapter 9.
About the Author
Mission146 is a proud husband and father of two. He generally fell quite a bit short of the expectations most people had for him, though happily so. Mission146 is currently a salary-slave in Ohio who enjoys documentaries, Philosophy and gambling discussion. Mission146 will write for money, and if you wish for him to do so, create an account on WizardofVegas.com and send him a Private Message with your request.