Everyone hates Mondays. It was the first day of the work week and six years ago I rode the F train from Brooklyn with shudders of trepidation. My boss Richie Boy was especially abusive on Friday. We have been friends for decades, but he was no long who he was, since he wanted to be someone else.
Rich, successful, respected like many of his wealthy clients.
Our relationship consisted of tattered memories, but I had an out.
A job in Europe.
The Old World.
My kind of place.
Class and history.
47th Street was devoid of the first and steeped in the second, although mostly through tales of bad luck.
After exiting the train at 49th Street, I entered Rockefeller Center and ascended to the ground level via an escalator. Outside on 48th Street I grab a coffee at Indus Express. The countergirl knew my order. Coffee – milk one sugar. I arrived at the diamond exchange 25 minutes late. Not bad considering that the world had survived a threat from the Jesus Freaks.
Manny had opened the safe. His son was MIA. Manny was 82. He came to work on time every day. He hated that I was late every day. I tried to come at 9:30, but I hadn’t received a raise in three years. Manny and Richie Boy were masters of demotivation.
Kara, our Korean assistant salesperson, was setting up the inner showcases. My job was to put the jewelry in the front window. I positioned my IPAd 2 on the shelf and listened to Ultimate Spinach’s BALLAD OF THE EGO.
In many ways I remained an old hippie.
I looked back into the store. Ava, my religious co-worker, had not come to work.
“Have you heard from Ava?” I asked Kara.
She was never late and I checked my phone.
“Strange.” I called her cell phone.
I hadn’t heard from her since Saturday.
The day of the ‘rapture’.
>Ava was a severe church-goer and believed in doing the right thing according to the Bible. She obeyed all the commandments. Her daughter was her treasure. The both of them were without sin and I regarded her empty chair. Kara noticed my staring and said, “Are you thinking the same thing that I’m thinking?”
“Yes, that Ava was taken by the blue angels.”
“Bullshit.” Manny was a firm non-believer for many more years than me. “There are no angels of any color.”
“Then why isn’t Ava here?” While the leader of the May 21, 2011 movement had remained on Earth, no one was counting the MIA on Monday morning.
“Her bus was late. She got her tongue stuck in the microwave.” Manny motioned for me to return to the window. We had a busy week ahead of us. Richie Boy showed at 11. He stared at Ava’s desk. “Where is she?”
“The goy thinks the angels got her.”
“Really?” Richie Boy belonged to the same lack of faith as Manny and me.
“No SMS. No call. That’s not like Ava.”
My cellphone buzzed in my pocket. I checked the message. It was from Ava. She was sick with bronchitis. The angels had left her on this planet. She would be to work tomorrow along with the rest of the wage slaves on the subways, trains, buses, and cars. There was no salvation from work.