September 13, 2011

George Mentes ordered himself a drink and an appetizer.  With him at the table were two junior accountants, sharply dressed in navy and gray suits, respectively, and the new guy from human resources, a portly man with thinning hair and a bad taste in neckties.  They finished their first orders and looked around the restaurant, each waiting for one of the others to say something.  The junior accountant in the gray suit finally spoke.

"How about Melanie and those box stamps today?  Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s a sweet lady and all, but sometimes I wonder if she’s got any brains in that head of hers."

The guy from human resources nodded indifferently, staring down at a black speck next to where his utensils had been placed.  It was quiet again at the table.  After a few minutes the drinks arrived and George took a sip and cleared his throat.

"You know, the brain is a pretty funny thing," he said.  He took off his suit coat and hung it behind him on the back of his chair and loosened his tie.  "I once met this guy on a business trip," he continued, "must’ve been some ten, twelve years ago, by the name of Al Simmons.  I’d left Calgary and was heading back home to Spokane, where I lived and worked at the time, and decided to stop at the national park that’s in Montana, I think it’s called Glacier or Glacial National Park or something… Anyway, I drive through the park and it’s really lovely.  I get hungry so I stop at a burger place to eat, and while I’m eating my lunch at this place I feel someone tap me on the shoulder.  I turn around and this gentleman who was about my age excuses himself and asks me how I got the scar on the back of my head - well, I mean you’ve all probably seen it, it’s pretty conspicuous.  So I tell him that I fell off the bleachers when I was at a college rally and split my head open and had thirty-four stitches.

“‘Ok,’ he says to me.

“‘Why do you ask?’ I say.

“‘Well,’ he says to me, ‘I used to be a brain surgeon and was just curious if you’d had an operation.’

“‘Nope, just stitches,’ I tell him.  ’And what do you mean you used to be a brain surgeon?  You don’t seem very old.  Have you already retired?’ I ask.

"He says to me, ‘Well, let’s just say that something happened a few years ago and I can’t practice medicine anymore.  I’ve got a new job out here now that I enjoy and that keeps me busy.’  I assumed he had some kind of important job because you have to be pretty smart to be a brain surgeon, so I asked him what it was they had him doing out there in the park.

“‘Well,’ he says, ‘I’m on a crew that digs ditches, basically.  You see, they don’t want to bring in heavy equipment up here in the park if they don’t have to, so, when there is digging that needs to be done, they call on me and my crew to go in and do it.’

“‘Gosh,’ I tell him, ‘that sure seems different than poking around in someone’s skull for a living, if you ask me.’

“‘That’s true,’ he says, and here is the good part of the story, ‘but digging is a great thing to do if you enjoy your own thoughts. I’ve spent more than enough time up to my arms in other people’s brains, but out here I get the quiet of the country and the pleasantness of my very own thoughts and imaginations.’”

The guy from human resources nodded his head indifferently and continued to stare at the black speck.  It was quiet once again at the table until the junior accountant in the navy suit spoke.

"Well now, that’s something to think about, isn’t it?"

The waitress came back to the table and asked the men if they were ready to order.  They said they were.  She began with the guy from human resources.

"What can I get you, sir?" she said.  "And by the way, I think that’s a really fabulous tie you’re wearing."

  1. shortstoriesbybradley posted this