Tuesday night at Leno’s Bar & Grill.
Henry Holt sat on the third stool from the right, where he sat every night of the year, except Christmas Eve, which he spent with his mother, with whom he lived.
Henry swiveled on his stool, stepped down, and walked outside the bar. He felt light on his feet, airy; as if he could float had he a mind to…
A cool summer night. He walked to his home under streetlights and a couple of twinkling stars. A sickle-shaped moon.
His mother had left a light on for him in the living room. Henry hung-up his jacket and checked in on his mother who was sleeping. He sat on a couch in the clean, tidy room and looked around at all the familiar objects. The telephone rang, a shrill scream, and he snatched it from its cradle so it would not wake his mother.
“May I speak to Henry Holt, Junior, please?” A rich baritone voice. Plaintively forceful.
“Mr. Holt, allow me to introduce myself: my name is Joseph P Santorini of the Organization Santorini and I want to be the first to congratulate you and wish you luck should you chose to accept the offer I am about to make.”
Henry sat up straighter. Was it a gag, he wondered. A rip-off, and scam?
“We have been watching you, Henry—if I may—and have become aware of your outstanding abilities and of your potential which we, of the Organization, believe to be considerable. I and the rest of the board members feel that you are the right man to work for the Organization, even, possibly, run the Organization.”
The man went on talking; he stated a salary that, to Henry’s mind, was huge.
The whole thing was unbelievable, Henry told himself, and yet—and yet—he had always known, or suspected, that one day something big, something like this call, would come—that his true ability would, at last, be recognized and that he would rise to some position of power and prominence. Some nights, at the bar, while staring into the mirror between the bottles of booze, he had fantasized about occupying such a position; had seen himself clearly in such a role, though unclear exactly what the position consisted of, except that it was commensurate with his, to this point in his life, hidden abilities, which—even if he did say so himself, were considerable.
The man went on, the smooth suave voice describing the Organization and the position Henry was offered; the voice, finally, giving a local address that Henry, first having to go to the kitchen for a pencil, wrote down.
The next morning, after Henry awakened, got out of bed, shaved, and put his best suit on—his only suit, he walked out to his car (his mother’s car) and drove to the given address.
A bright red door on a busy street of office buildings. ‘The Organization’ in gold lettering on the door. Funny, Henry thought, that he had never, in all the times walking along this very street, noticed the red door. He touched the knob and the door seemed to swing open of its own accord. He stepped inside, into an office both chic and dazzling, a place of sparkling cleanliness with cream-colored walls and stolid yet stylish furniture and sparkling plate glass.
A smartly dressed woman approached: a classy broad, Henry could see at a glance. She held out a white immaculately manicured hand. Her lavender-colored blouse, Henry noted, was sheer—the kind of material you could look through at all the works, and brother, Henry told himself, this babe had the works!
“Mr. Holt, I assume?” Her manner pleasant but with cold business-like efficiency. Her thick red lips parted, and a plump pink tongue flopped out between walls of straight white teeth. The tongue wiggled a few times before slipping back into the mouth.
She turned and sashayed, her can swinging side-to-side in a skirt that looked as if it had been painted on.
Henry, following, sat in a comfortable leather chair that held him up like a hand.
As the woman bent over her desk, Henry gawked at her cleavage. He could not follow whatever she was saying—some kind of speech, that went on for a long time, which he did not understand a word of.
He watched her red lacquered fingernail shoot out and descend upon a button on a desk-top contraption.
“Send him right in, Miss Puckerbum,” commanded a voice.
Henry snapped out of his inexplicable stupor. He stood, as the woman commanded, and held out his hand to her. “Thank you, thank you,” he gushed, “Miss…”
The woman reached and cupped Henry’s balls in her hand; she playfully tugged on the tip of his penis as if feeling for girth and heft.
Henry turned his head aside and coughed twice.
The woman pointed to a door, labeled THE ORGANIZATION.
Henry walked to the door and entered into an office. He told himself it was going to be great working for the Organization. He knew, somehow, that he was going to like his job.
A mid-sized broad-shouldered man stood in the middle of the plush-carpeted office floor. His stance and features exuded a sense of awesome power and distinction. A man’s man, who looked to have been carved out of stone. A nimbus of gold surrounded his leonine head. He smoked a foot-long black cigar. Each puff of smoke formed a sculptured cloud overhead. His face, like a walnut polished; his immaculately combed chocolate hair shiny as Plexi-glass. He motioned with a sweeping and histrionic gesture out of a plate glass window. Henry looked down at hordes of workers moving with fervid purposefulness in and around a multitude of buildings and through yards and cordoned-off areas of grounds that stretched for miles.
The sight took Henry’s breath away. How it could be, he wondered? He had lived in the town all his life and never had he even suspected the existence of such an organization. How had they, the Organization, managed to keep themselves hidden, from him, in plain sight?
The rich voice, Henry realized, was droning on and on in mellifluous certainty and complete sentences, like someone reading from a book, Henry thought, awed by the loquaciousness and sheer force of the man’s demeanor.
Henry felt the man’s hand on his shoulder like a sudden intrusion. Like a vice-grip of iron.
“Henry!” the man said, “Henry! This Organization…HENRY!
Henry came-to; lifted his head up off the bar.
“Wake-up!” John the Bartender scowled. “We are closing!”
One thought on “VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Wayne F. Burke”
Very enjoyable read… I got lost in the “works” as Henry did, of the receptionist! Great writing, true classic style.