2007 Rodney Cox

Stan Morris sat his desk and brooded almost on the verge of giving up. He had known Bill Peterson for years, rooming with him at college. Back then, Bill was a fun-loving fellow who liked to socialize. Stan couldn’t remember the number of parties the two had given. Bill was very clever with his hobby of building model planes and boats, racing them against other enthusiasts. He had been a very interesting person.

When they got jobs at the same company, Stan thought that they would be able to continue as they had in college. At first, things were okay, but Stan watched as bit by bit, Bill became more involved with his work. It seemed that Bill just tuned out of the world around him, working late hours, not to be particularly productive, but rather because he forgot to go home. It just didn’t seem right. As far as Stan knew, Bill worked, ate and slept with nothing else to occupy his time. Stan noticed the change just as they started their new jobs. Bill had been dumped by his girlfriend and was taking it rather hard. Bill just lost himself in his job after that.

Stan realized that Bill was not truly living and vowed to help his friend to wake up to living. To do this, Stan began organizing after work get-togethers with his co-workers; going to a local bar for a few drinks mostly. Sometimes he would host barbecues or parties at his house. He always made a point to invite Bill, who always declined. It hurt every time Bill claimed to have more work to get done and couldn’t make it.

Co-workers would often ask Stan why he kept asking Bill to join them after work, when it was clear that he wasn’t interested. Stan always defended his friend, telling them what a great person Bill was. Most didn’t believe Stan since they could see for themselves what kind of person Bill was from working with him. To Stan’s co-workers, Bill was very dull, without depth or character. On the surface this would seem true. Bill came to work, did his job for ten hours and went home. He interacted only as much as work demanded.

Stan felt like he was banging his head against a wall, and he felt very frustrated. Maybe he couldn’t get through to Bill. He had been trying everyday for three years with no luck. He was getting tired of defending Bill to his other co-workers. Maybe I should just let it drop, he thought. It would make his life much easier, and he would avoid these feelings of helpless frustration that plagued him. Yes, perhaps that would be easier.

Stan sat back in his chair, trying out his new resolve. He immediately felt a sense of relief. He would just quit and forget the whole thing. That’s the ticket.

But, slowly, as he thought about it, he began to feel bad. It was a small feeling at first, but grew steadily. Memories of his friendship assailed him. The new sense of relief was replaced with dread and anxiety. Finally, he could stand the pressure no longer. All right! All right! he thought. He wouldn’t give up on Bill. He would keep on trying.

Stan kept asking Bill everyday if he would like to go out and everyday Bill would decline, saying he had too much work to do. A co-worker asked him one day why he bothered. He told her that Bill was an interesting fellow, and used to build model airplanes and boats back in college. She couldn’t imagine Bill being interesting at all and said so.

Later that day, Stan noticed Bill acting unusual. He was being even more introspective and closed than usual. Had Bill overheard the conversation with their co-worker? Bill wouldn’t look at Stan, and soon left for lunch, something he never did. Normally he just worked through lunch. Stan had a feeling that Bill had heard the conversation about him. Well maybe this is what was needed to get through to his friend.

It was a couple hours before Bill came back to work, and he seemed to be a bit chipper. Stan didn’t say anything, but would definitely invite Bill out this evening. He spoke with others and planned a get together at the usual local bar for drinks.

At quitting time, Stan went to Bill’s cubicle and looked in. There was Bill, head bent over his paperwork, busy as usual. Stan’s heart sank momentarily. There didn’t seem to be any change in Bill now. Should he bother asking him? Stan didn’t think so, and was on the verge of going away, when he changed his mind and spoke up.

“Bill, you want to go out for drinks?” Stan asked.

Bill looked up and hesitated. Here it comes, thought Stan. He’ll say he’s too busy as usual. I must be crazy to be this persistent.

“I’m afraid I have to finish these reports. They’re due before Monday,” replied Bill with a smile. Stan tried to hide the disappointment in his eyes.

“Okay, next time then,” Stan said.

Stan went to the bar and found his co-workers. One asked if he had asked Bill. He mentioned that Bill had some reports to do before Monday. Then he told them a story from college about his friend that had them laughing.

After about a half hour, a figure showed up at their table. It was Bill. Stan couldn’t believe his eyes. After all this time, Bill finally was here. He handed a package to Stan.

“You left this at the office.”

Stan was a bit disappointed. Bill was only dropping of the package then probably heading home. “Bill, you saved me. I had completely forgotten about that. Say, would you like to stay for a beer.” He didn’t think Bill would accept, but he had to make the attempt.

“Well, I should be going-” Bill started to say, but stopped. “Actually, I’d love to.”

They made room for him at the table. Bill sat there looking out of place and uncomfortable. Finally a co-worker asked Bill about his models. Bill mentioned that he used to race them and launched into a story involving a near disaster that had his co-workers laughing hard.

Later on, Bill stopped to have a quiet conversation with Stan.

“I wanted to say thanks for your persistence. I always appreciated your efforts and the fact that you never gave up on me.”

Stan smiled at his friend. “I almost did a few times. I’m glad I stuck with it.”


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