Jacob called Anna, knowing she would probably not answer. She didn’t. He could not describe the situation in a thirty-second voicemail, so he didn’t leave a message.
Work, for the rest of the day, would be animatronic, him doing things because he always did them and they required no thinking. Some days, he hated his job, just absolutely wanted out, to do something bigger with his life. Responsibility weighed upon him, though, because he loved Anna. Because he was a man. A husband. Some day, a father.
But, still, he often counted backward, hours and minutes, until the end of the day, today, until six. Then he could go home, and be where he wanted to be, with Anna, living the life he wanted to live, with her. Of course he knew life was bigger than just those things, because he believed in the Kingdom. Big things like his pastor-best-friend confessing a hidden sin, and tossing the blocks of Jacob’s world into motion reminded him that he lived a life bigger than working for Griffin’s Music Store to provide for his family.
Things like pastor-best-friends lying and overturning certainty reminded Jacob that he lived in the midst of a war, that there were casualties, and that he must fight and not die.
He pulled into the parking lot at Griffin’s, five minutes late, but he knew no one would notice. Wanting to be somewhere else pulled at him, somewhere where he didn’t have to try to sell music equipment and instrument lessons; where he didn’t have to listen to bored high school rockers pretending like they owned the stuff they played. Where he was responsible for nothing important and where the weight of Mark’s confession had not been shoved onto his plate. Where he knew what he ought to do other than shaking and yelling curse words in his car.
Somewhere, mostly, where dreams and reality could be cut into neat distinctions, and the gray world of sleeping did not somehow portend the world where people actually lived.
He prayed for a quiet afternoon.
Coming around the corner to the store front, he saw the familiar mess that was Jimmy’s cart.
He didn’t want to talk to Jimmy right now. He wanted to talk to no one right now.
Inside, he saw Jimmy sitting on one of the stools, plucking at one of $200 guitars they had discussed earlier that morning. Jimmy was looking down, at his own hands on the guitar, so that Jacob successfully slid past him unnoticed, not having to start any sort of conversation.
Acknowledging his co-workers, he did not give much attention to them or talk to them in any significant way. He wanted only to make it through, until six, when he could go home. He tried to occupy himself with the monotony of inventory control and ordering in the stock room where he would not have to interact with humanity. Because sometimes survival is victory.
He heard, however, raised voices from the showroom, and soon enough, Scott, one of the employees, came back.
“Jacob, I think we need you out here.”
“You guys can’t handle it?” Jacob said, frustration pouring through his tone. “I’ve got to get this stuff done.”
Scott, a teenage would-be rocker, with his untucked shirt and frayed-bottom pants, looked uncomfortably at Jacob, and Jacob immediately felt bad for his reaction.
“Um, I think,” said Scott, unable to look at Jacob in eye, “We probably do. There’s, um, some customers fighting.”
“Ok,” Jacob said, frustrated with himself and sick of crap happening, “sorry I sort of snapped man. I’ll be right out.” Jacob, caring almost nothing about whatever the problem was, wanting just to be finished, and done with this day, put down his clipboard and went to settle the situation.
Out in the showroom, he saw Jimmy – or, rather, heard Jimmy – railing loudly, in an almost-yell, cursing at two familiar-faced emo-rocker looking teenagers. One was a rail and the other a barrel, at least each compared to the other. They, too, bawled their own piece back into Jimmy’s face.
“Idiots!” Jacob muttered, intaking the scene, moving toward it quickly.
“Everyone freaking stop now!” Jacob thundered, uncharacteristically, feeling no room for immature or cracked-out antics from anyone.
The two kids looked to be about late-teens, pierced, plugged and tattooed, tight clothes and moppy dark-died hair.
“Man, these friggin’ punks came and friggin’ near knocked me over man,” Jimmy said, looking at Jacob, pointing at the rockers.
Jacob then realized that he had seen them around at Baseli, with that contingent — the rockers — some of whom he knew. These guys, however, he had never spoken to.
“Dude, it was an accident,” said the taller and semi-gaunt one.
“Man, that’s bullsh–!” Jimmy said. “Guys practically pushed me outta the way.”
“Jimmy, man, I’m sure it was an accident.” Jacob said. “There isn’t a lot of room with all the crap we have out on the floor.”
Jacob believed the rockers, for a few of reasons – like the church connection and the fact that Jimmy hyped up easily and was on the fringes of sanity (at least Jacob assumed so). Such reasons collided instantly in Jacob’s mind, so that he immediately pushed Jimmy onto the defensive.
“Man, that’s bullsh–!” was all Jimmy responded.
“Jimmy, man, I mean, I’m sure they didn’t mean to,” Jacob said, then, to the rockers, “It was an accident right?”
“Yeah, man, if we’d wanted to freaking push him over, we could have,” said the chunky one.
“Man, that’s bullsh–!” Jimmy protested, loudly, a third time. “Man,” he said, looking at Jacob, “I thought we were cool, man. But you’re here friggin’ against me. That’s friggin’ bullsh–!”
“Jimmy, just—” Jacob said.
“Nah, man, we are not cool, if that’s how it is man.” Jimmy said, with a tone Jacob had not heard from him, looking in some odd direction, then, right at Jacob. “You better watch out man.”
And, at that, Jimmy turned and left.