Chase walked in the museum, showed he had nothing, no bag or anything, to the security folks, who nodded, and told him to keep going. He walked into the gift shop and straightened his tie. They were to wear suits here, his had seen much better days, but from a distance it looked okay. He looked around the small shop, at the things that were always there. If anything changed, it’d be where they were and not what. Berry Beale, his boss, came up to him just as he was about to pretend to wipe down the toy section, over priced junk, which Chase thought probably broke when taken out of the box.
“You have a minute, Chase? I’d like to talk to you about a few things. If you wouldn’t mind, I had a few things to say.” Berry motioned for his office and Chase followed him. “Alright well,” Berry said, walking around his desk and taking a seat, “go on have a sit, man, I’ll be brief.” Chase sat down and looked at Berry, the guy used to be overweight and you could tell, because he didn’t get different clothes when he lost it. Nothing fit the man well at all and Chase couldn’t figure how the guy didn’t want to treat himself to a new wardrobe, at least a shirt or two that fit. “How are you?” he asked.
“Well,” Chase said, although that was only the start, he was going to say, well I’m alright or well I’m here, and maybe Berry would think he was just saying well…it didn’t seem to matter much, so he left it at that, and he was right, if Beale noticed, he didn’t care. Usually people don’t care how you are when they ask, anyway, especially a boss like Berry Beale.
“Alright, here’s the thing, Chase, your memberships…I’ll start there. We try and sell memberships here, you know, to the magazine the museum puts out every few months. That one? We try and sell a year membership to everybody who comes in here, I told you that when I hired you. Ring a bell? Well you don’t sell any, basically zero, maybe one or two, every so often, but usually nothing at all. And that’s not good, man, it’s not. It doesn’t help the museum when a ton of folks stop by this shop and don’t leave with a membership. I watch you, if you bring it up, you don’t press them about it at all, and they leave hardly having heard a word about it. So there’s that, which is already not good, not at all. Then we have you going to the bathroom a lot, now I’m not suggesting you’re doing anything weird, some people have to go a lot, I guess, but you go and you’re there a long while. It seems a long while, anyway. You’re late almost everyday, I try and call you about it and your phone is usually dead. When you decide to show up, you don’t even say you’re sorry about being late. Not a word. On top of all that, you don’t make an effort to talk to any of the coworkers during breaks. Nobody feels a camaraderie with you here, Chase, it’s like you don’t want to be here or around any of us, and you just sort of do your job and go home. Now that all might be fine, not mingling with anybody here or going to the bathroom a lot, even coming in late, but you don’t sell any memberships. Which brings me to where I started. I’m going to have to let you go, man, I wish you luck and all but it’s just not going to be here. There’s something I can’t figure out about you but that’s not my job, I make sure you guys do what you have to do, sell the merchandise and the memberships and if you get a long that’s great, but you really don’t do any of that, except maybe sell the merchandise, but that stuff sells on it’s own. Oh yeah, and there’s also whatever is going down with you and Lloyd, the parking guy, he complains you make his job difficult and we all like Llyod a lot. So yeah, I wish you luck but it won’t be here. Alright? Your attitude is wrong, I mean you’re nice, you are, I see you’re not rude to customers, but your work attitude is off. Like indifferent in every other area. I know it’s Monday and I’ll pay you what you would’ve worked through Friday. Hope you figure something out, but it can’t…”
“Be here,” Chase finished for him. “I get it Mr. Beale, I do. You take care. I’m not torn up about this.” Chase said and got up. “Alright if I have a look through the museum one last time?” he asked. “That okay?” “Yeah, man, go ahead, take your time, check it all out one last time. Sure, it’s nothing personal, it isn’t, you know, nothing to get torn up about so I’m glad you aren’t, it’s just business. Just do not piss off Lloyd on your way out, alright? When you’re leaving don’t make him mad. We’ll be hearing about it for weeks if you do. See ya.”
Chase looked around after leaving the gift shop and decided not to check out the museum. He walked around it enough and just didn’t feel like doing it again. Instead he stood outside in the rain and waited for a taxi. It started light enough but got heavy fast. When the taxi pulled up, the driver was mad.
“Jesus,” the lady said. “It’s raining cats and dogs and you didn’t decide to wait in there?” He lied and told her he couldn’t have. “Well you’re all wet, dude, just drenched.”
“Happens when it rains, sometimes,” he said and sat in the back. On the way out he told her to slow down and she pulled up alongside Lloyd’s booth.
“Leaving already? That was a short shift,” gatekeeper Lloyd said.
“I’ve been fired Lloyd, won’t see you again, unfortunately. I did just want to say, you’re a real birdtit Lloyd, an absolute asshole. I hope they automate your job, man.” When the taxi got to driving again, she looked at him in the rear view mirror, and Chase could tell she didn’t like what he said.
“He’s all wet and he’s rude as hell,” she said slightly under her breath, loud enough, though, because she wanted him to hear. She must have known he wouldn’t defend himself. It was not worth the risk of being kicked out into the rain, or the trouble of calling another taxi.
Chase thought about Nowhere People. They probably couldn’t make friends in cheap gift shops, fought with parking attendants, and got fired by guys like Berry freaking Beale.
“What do you mean fired? Now you don’t have a job?”
“I always get back up,” he told his Ma.
“You’ve never gotten back up, what are you doing to do?”
“I’ll go back to something like my old job,” he told her.
“Picking up dog shit? You’re a grown man and you’re going to being picking up dog shit? Just followin’ ‘em along waiting for the plop? You went to college! You didn’t get a degree in bagging dog shit, what the hell?”
“Ma, that is an old job, my first job if I’m going to be specific. But no, that’s not what I was talking about. I was thinking of the book store.”
“They wouldn’t hire you back! You walked in there drunk as shit at one in the afternoon. You burned that bridge, too!”
“I like books, Ma, there are still other book stores around.”
“Hardly, Chase! The world barely reads anymore. Kids certainly don’t. They don’t have video shops and hardly music shops these days and you want to find a bookstore. So you can work a week before it closes down because the last of their customers died of old age? This is ridiculous, you find a job, and quick. No picking up dog shits and forget your paper world. Get your life together.”
She went upstairs and he heard the television come on loudly. It was something about the ever-expanding universe. He thought, because it sure sounded like it, anyway.
Chase was grocery shopping, not necessarily because he needed to, but he had an urge to get out of the house and see people. He stood where the cottage cheese was and couldn’t remember if his Ma liked the stuff.
“Chase Aldan?” he heard from behind. “Are you Chase Aldan?”
“That really sort of depends,” he said, grabbing hold of the cottage cheese and turning to see a girl he didn’t recognize. She was tall, with short hair, and wore glasses too big for her face.
“Hannah Gains,” she told him. “Elliot’s sister, you remember Elliot, right?”
“Sure,” he said, “yeah I remember Elliot. I remember him, yeah. How’s Elliot?”
“Elliot’s dead,” she said in a way Chase hadn’t heard anyone announce someone was dead before.
“Well shit. Uh, what do you think of cottage cheese?”
“I don’t like the stuff,” Hannah said.
They ended up grabbing coffee, although Chase didn’t touch his a long while. He watched it while it went cold. His gaze shifted between the coffee cup and Hannah, who seemed to want to talk a lot.
“You know I never thought of you again, I mean not until I saw you,” she told him. “There are people I think about, just to think about them, even if I hadn’t in a long while and I know they forgot all about me. I’ll spend a little time, anyhow, just wondering what they’re up to and if they weren’t good then if they’re better now or worse. But not you, even though you were Elliot’s friend, it wasn’t until I saw you. That’s sort of weird.”
“It’s weird you want to tell me that, sure.”
“Have you thought about me?”
“I’m sure I have,” Chase said, although it didn’t seem true. He put the Elliot business away, a long time ago, he was a guy that was a friend until he wasn’t, they had a falling out, and it was a bad one. So thinking at all of his sister was probably unlikely. “I think about a lot of people, too, sometimes. I’m sure you were there.”
“I don’t think you’re being honest,” Hannah told him. “But that’s alright, it’s okay to lie like that. I could’ve, too, but I didn’t. With Elliot, you know, I don’t even like who he was before he died. He lied a lot, bit of a loser, lot of a loser, really, drank too much, still did the drugs, and said things to get a rise out of people. People where it’s like, why do you want to see them mad, what’s the point? But I remember who he could’ve been. I’ve been thinking about who he could’ve been a fair amount, lately. Dude did have gifts. He just didn’t do anything with them and just banked on the bad stuff.”
“How long has he been dead?”
“It’s going to be three years on March 1st,” she said and sounded detached again.
“Well I’m sorry for your loss, I honestly didn’t know. Haven’t kept up with any of those people from the past, really, never been good at it, Hannah. So I wasn’t told, but I am sorry.”
“Do you remember what you used to call me sometimes?”
“You called me Hannah Gains Nothing.”
“I don’t think that was me,” Chase said and pretended to think on it. He really didn’t think he did. That wasn’t his style.
“It was you, sometimes, anyway, it was you. Other times it was Zeke Prachett. You remember that prick?”
“I think Zeke is a pastor now.” And Hannah laughed. Though Chase didn’t say it to be funny. “I heard something like that a while back, anyway. Zeke probably said it, and if I did, I don’t remember that at all. Years late, but I wasn’t always nice I guess, went about it the wrong way to try and fit in. Hannah Gains is a nice name, Hannah Gains Nothing is just mean kid stuff. I am sorry.”
“You were a junior in High School,” she said.
“That’s still a kid. Maybe less mature than a kid should be as a junior, but still a kid. Maybe not a small piss your bed, or pick your nose and eat it type of kid, but looking back, I’d say that’s a kid.” He took his coffee and drank it despite it being cold. He almost forgot that, really. Chase needed to do something to end this conversation. “You know Hannah, I’m not so big on getting into past stuff like that. It’s, uh, it’s just sort of, it doesn’t have much of a point. You’ll remember what you’ll remember, I’ll remember what I do, and it’s not even close to all of it. We’ve all got things we’re not proud of. I’m sorry if I partook in calling you Hannah Gains Nothing. I don’t think I did, but I’ll say sorry, anyway. Already have a bunch. I’m also really sorry about Elliot. I’d like to have thought of him doing something right now, you know, anything, instead of being three years dead. You take care of yourself. I’ve got to be going.”
“You visiting or are you still here?”
“I’m undecided in that,” he said, not wanting to tell her he has always been here.
“Well maybe I’ll see you around. If I don’t, I’ll try and think about you from time to time, now that I remember. Maybe doing nice things, you know, not calling people Nothing or getting brothers into doing drugs and they throw themselves away, and um, things like that.”
“I really don’t like what you said, really, I don’t. But I’ve got stuff to do, so bye Hannah.” Chase got up and threw the coffee away in the nearest bin. “Is he buried around here?”
“Yes,” she said, and told him where.
“I didn’t get your brother into doing drugs, for what it’s worth, that’s not the way it went. You don’t have that right,” Chase said before leaving the coffee shop.
Chase went to where Elliot was buried. He had a time finding his headstone, but when he did, he looked around, saw no one, thought what the hell, and began talking.
“You know, I ran into your sister, yep. That was, well, uh… She seems stuck, man, she does. Stuck in things that don’t matter, stuff she’s remembering wrong, stuff that mostly got lost in the shuffle, and didn’t matter a whole lot even then. But she’s stuck, Elliot. She apparently hasn’t forgotten the person you could’ve been, can’t shake it, I guess. I thought you were gonna be somebody, too. I’m surprised finding out you didn’t get to be anything, if that holds any weight. You’re dust by now, I’m sure, or well on your way. But if there’s any place after this and you happen to be there, how about you look out for her? Point her the way you should’ve gone, before she’s next to you, or something. I am sorry you’re dead, though, man, and I do mean that.”
When Chase looked around again, he saw an old man watching him from a few spots away. How long the bloke had been doing that, Chase wouldn’t know. He didn’t have to explain shit, really, he’d seen people having lunch in graveyards before, jumping rope, laughing even with music going. So he unloaded some stuff on a dead guy, big whoop, he wasn’t digging him up to smack his dusty skull, and he wasn’t kicking around to have a picnic with his remains. Chase shrugged at him. The older man looked away slowly. As he left, Chase only felt sort of okay about the whole thing.
He wasn’t religious, didn’t believe in an after-anything, really, but what the hell, maybe to just put it out there meant something. His encounter with Hannah really bothered him. It’d been a few days and he had thought about it a handful of times. If he was a Nowhere Person, he didn’t want Hannah to be, too. It just didn’t seem right. Chase didn’t want her company.