Shelter from the Storm

While Pat Sajak was spinning his big Wheel, and Alex Trebek was finished shaking hands, a slightly quivering Michael Callahan was having some free-wheeling problems of his own --each time he took off when the lights turned green. Michael could not wait to get home out of this "Winter Wonderland" mess, which just a few years ago would have been a white ticket out of school. He was stressed-out enough at work, let alone driving in this crap, trying to please so many bosses with his foot-in-the-door job as "Administrative Office Assistant." "Let's face it," he thought, even though the pay here was better than he would have received in Maple Grove, "he was really just an Office Boy!"

Finally, the Zietgeist Building was looming ahead between the worsening flecks of the blinding onslaught, like some lighthouse beckoning him to comfort and safety. His mind then raced to what one secretary had told him earlier, "Mike, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone, if you ever want an epiphany in your life."

"Mind your own friggin' business!" he would have liked to have said, but he knew hitting the pavement again for employment would be a torture zone.

He was helpless to retort to their joking, especially the mocking last words of one of the vice-presidents, "The Five O'Clock Shadow knows!" He felt more like Marilyn Manson on a bender. But, a hot dinner, a good book, and hitting the sack early sounded like a plan, as he pulled into the underground parking garage.

"Hi Frank! He said to the attendant, as he flashed his permit out of habit, "Good thing you live where you work, ya don't wanna be out in this slick-as-eel-manure night." He parked and walked to the elevator, which still continued to amaze Michael in its Art Nouveau brass and pewter framing. He thought of Bob Dylan's song, "She belongs to Me," and the line " are a walking antique." Well, riding, maybe.

Just about all his paycheck went to paying the rent on this place, but, when he opened the heavy metal door to his apartment, he was reminded how cool it was to have one big room (save the bathroom) with all hardwood floors in this converted industrial building. The stories these plastered walls could tell. The 15th floor afforded a pretty good view, if watching a satellite's eye of the alley was your thing. He locked his door behind him as he stepped into the sparsely, but tastefully decorated loft, throwing his coat, a dripping bundle of London Fog, onto the tile of his roomy bathroom. He knew what water did to wood, his father, "Big" Hank Callahan, was a furniture restorer back in Stockton County. He headed straight for the fridge, and was dismayed to see that something had caused the freezer door not to close completely, and once again, he had to play the role of Nanook, chipping crusty, hard, cold stuff again, just to get to his "Hearty, Healthy Hunk" meal to cook it in the most important invention of the past century: his forty dollar microwave. Potato chips from Sam's would have made his meal a balanced one.

Life was pretty good, so far. "Chicks," he mused stoically, "would all be there for him after he made the big-time." He knew that old girlfriend, Valerie, leeching on him back in small-town America, would love to know where he was, and what he was doing. Though he had more open sky back home, he felt less suffocated even in the foreboding canyons of the metropolis. Sitting at his fake rosewood table to eat his kilo of mystery meat, he was not lonely, or sad, just frustrated that his vision of success was too much in slow motion. Slo-Mo was fine for freezing the action in football games, though he preferred to read now; and these were books written by those guys who climbed financially to the pinnacle. That Mick Jagger song popped into his head at that very moment, "I'm gonna make it to the top, baby."

But, something started invading the edges of his mind -- it was Sam --his face had taken on a strange visage, unexplainable, really, when those 'hoods,' as his Dad used to call them, threatened him. He shouldn't have made up that story about a waiting roommate of the female variety; but refusing Sam's hospitality for the excuse of coming back to a true bachelor pad, not even he would dare to use. Something could be wrong for an old guy like Parizzi, stuck in a decaying part of the world. Now he experienced something relatively rare, he began to feel guilty.