Worked Up

“But I don’t want to go into seventh grade!” I whined. “It has bigger hallways, more classes, and combination locks! I can’t do that!”

“What if you like it?” my grandma asked. “You’ll make lots of friends.”

“No I won’t,”  I told her. “Everyone in junior high is mean.”

“Oh,” the corner of her mouth turned upward into a smile. “Sorry, I didn’t know.”

I slouched deeper into the kitchen chair, slapped my palms onto the table, then dragged my hands down my face. Peeking out from between my fingers, I mumbled, “I just know I won’t like it.”

My grandma leaned back into her chair, smiled, and took one elbow in each hand.

“Did you ever hear the story of the man who needed a jack?”

“Wha– no,” I huffed. Discouraged, I put my head down on the table and buried my face in the crook of my arms.

Grandma thoughtfully tapped the table with one elegant, almond shaped fingernail. Finally, I looked up.

“What’s the story?”

“Well,” my grandmother began. “There was once a man on a long drive. He had driven for many miles when– POW!– his tire blew out. Grumbling, he got out of the car to repair it. He pulled out his spare doughnut, loosened the nuts, and was prepared to pull the tire off– when he realized he had no jack. By now it was getting late, and the sky was becoming a darker blue every minute. Looking far off into the distance, he saw light from a farmhouse. He trudged towards it, his spirits lifting as he began to think.

“‘I just quickly borrow the jack, fix the tire, and drive right back to the farmhouse to return it. Then I can be on my way, quick as can be.’

“The light was still far away, and his mind began to wander.

“‘Suppose the farmer is mean, and gives me a hard time about it.’ The driver frowned. ‘Suppose he’ll be rude and won’t let me borrow the jack until he yells at me his fill.’ At this he kicked a pebble.

“‘I bet that’s what’ll happen. Boy, who wouldn’t let some poor stranded man borrow his jack for just a minute? The meanest man alive, that’s who.’ His feet were beginning to hurt, and he had a blister forming on one heel.

“‘Jeez, what a rotten thing to do. Not letting a guy borrow a jack. I bet he’ll laugh and slam the door in my face. I bet he’ll kick me right off his doorstep.’

“The driver turned and stomped up the gravel walkway to the house.

“‘His answer’s sure to be no,’ he muttered. ‘I just know I won’t like it.’

“Rapping on the door, he glared sourly at the peephole. The knob rattled and the door swung in, as a balding man in his pajamas stepped out. ‘Well, howdy, neighbor! What can I help you with–‘

“‘Oh, I don’t want your old jack anyway!’ shouted the driver, and stormed off, back to his car.”

Grandma turned to me, settling her crossed arms on the table, and speared me with her gaze.

“Don’t be like the driver. You have no idea whether you like it or not. Don’t get all worked up in your head!” She smiled and nudged me. “You’ll do great,” she told me quietly, “I can’t wait to hear about it.”

Kari pulled me aside after lunch one day. I was headed to my cubicle, to pound away at the keyboard once more.

“What’s up,” I joggled papers and shoved them into my OUT box. “What can I do for you?”

“The Big Boss wants to see you,”

I sucked in a breath. “Oh.”

“It’s nothing. She’s been calling in everyone one by one, it isn’t just you,” she reassured me. I tucked a piece of hair behind one ear.

“Cool,” I said. “It’s probably nothing.”

“Go get ’em!” punching my shoulder gleefully, she ushered me out of my work space. I headed to The Boss’s Office.

“I bet she’s angry,” I thought. “Why else would she call me in? It could be nothing. She’s so intimidating, though! She’s the boss! I bet I’m fired.” my mind raced to find some justification for my termination. Slowly my grandma came to my minds eye, smiling with one eyebrow raised and a finger pointing at me. ‘Don’t get all worked up in your head. You’ll do great! I can’t wait to hear all about it.’

I took a deep breath and knocked on her office. “I don’t want your old jack anyway,” I thought, and smiled to myself. The door opened.

“Oh, Carmina, I called you in to give you your Christmas bonus.”

I grinned.


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