Brad was standing the curb, lilies in hand ready to move when the taxicab splashed him from head to toe. He just stood there and dripped for at least a minute incredulous. He wanted to scream. He wanted to yell. He wanted to just sit down on the curb and cry.
This was just the last straw. First he had been late getting started, he had gotten stuck in traffic and then the suit he wanted to wear had been late coming back from the cleaners. Digging through the dirty laundry that he had left behind he was trying to find something that would not disgrace him on his first day at his new job.
It was the damndest thing. He had been sitting in a bar, fired just two hours before due to “downsizing” his boss had said. A one word explanation that explained nothing and wiped away five years of his life. His belongings placed in a box, that he had placed on a stool beside him when he ordered a double bourbon, cola back and started working on forgetting all the things he couldn’t remember anyway.
That was when Venus appeared.
Well, that is what she called herself anyway. She plopped down on the stool next to him and opened with a line that even now he attributed to Mr. Beam and his golden take on life.
“Stop screaming so damned loud, wouldja buddy? I am here already!” He blinked. “I was busy too, mind you. Being a goddess is more than just sitting a friggin cloud all day listening to a harp. I don’t care what the myths all say!” Brad blinked again, tracking about every third word. So she came off sounding something like this: “SO–WOULDJA—HERE?!”
Brad’s whiskey struck mind determined that she was soliciting him…he was being hit on by a prostitute…a prostitute with an attitude, come to that. He had the where withal to blink at her again.
His brain was telling him that he needed to explain that he could not afford her services even if he were interested because in a few weeks he would likely be taking his belongings out of the box beside him and trying to live in it. He opened his mouth, but never had to test his whiskey laden tongue to translate the processes of his mind.
“I said I AM HERE. SHUT UP ALREADY!!!” If there had been other patrons in the bar at 9:30 in the A of M they might have been upset by her display…but it was 9:30…and other than Brad those who where there had BEEN there since the night before. The snoring from the corner barely hitched. But “Venus” was yelling so loudly that her well displayed cleavage was heaving with exasperation.
Brad started to lose the small train of thought that had been holding him together ’til this point. As often happens with an intoxicated person he started to lean his whole body the way of his gaze. Sure enough, next thing he knew his nose was buried squarely in her cleavage…. and it was still heaving.
“Oh, come on!” she said pulling him out of her bosom and sitting upright again on the stool. “Here’s the deal so listen up. I got another half a dozen stops to make before I can hit the nectar tree and I have no time for sloppy admirers!” Brad blinked again.
“You were screaming so loudly about the injustice that you felt had been done to you that Fate called me up and asked if there was anything I could do to help. I checked the roster and sure enough here in your very own home town I am down a White Knight.” She paused and looked at him, perhaps waiting for another blink, but even that was beyond him at this point. “The gig is simple. It’s a union job, out the local D&D 2032. That stands for Damsels in Distress, just in case you were wondering. They banded together about 200 years ago on me and now nothing short of an act of Zeus will get them off their Union platform…the bastards.” Venus rolled her eyes and waved in disgust.
“Anyway, full benefits, vacation, dental, the whole shebang. Effective immediately. Well,” she looked him over, “Let’s make that effective tomorrow after you sleep bender off. The hours will vary and you will be on call sometimes, but for what you will be making that is to be expected, right?”
“Making?” Brad was repeating the English language at this point, but there was no barometer that could truly measure his comprehension level.
“Yes, making. Salary starts at $125K per year. Annual raises profit sharing all the perks. Here’s the information packet, HR orientation and the name and number of your assigned mentor. When you sober up call him. He will get you started, and the only time I better be seeing your face again is at eval time when I am giving you a big shiny gold star for a job well done. YOU GET ME??!” Thunder rolled inside the bar and Brad ducked under his arms, as if that would save him from the wrath of goddess when her dander was up.
He felt his alcohol system starting to downshift as the blood in his veins gained in quantity over the Beam. Venus was mumbling and picking imaginary lint off her gossamer gown. “Call down the Heavens will you? Mortals are so much more presumptuous these days! I remember a time when it was ‘Oh, yes, Venus, it’s only my FIRST born you want?? I got these other two right over here goin’ wantin’ to be sacrificed…Unions…BAH!” and then in a blinding flash of light Venus was gone.
So he had called the number and met up with Hephestus to get the run down. Apparently he would be called upon to walk around the city and help people who needed helping. Each day he would be given a designated starting place and a rough map of directions for the area he was to cover. Sometimes there would be special instructions, sometimes not. His first day he had been told he needed a bunch of lilies. No specific instructions as to what he was to do with them exactly, and when he had asked his mentor had rolled his eyes.
“For what you are making, I would think you could do a little creative problem solving on your own there, Brad.” Afraid to press it too far on his first day, he had just nodded and set out his designated starting place. “Call if you get into trouble.” Hephestus had said, with a tone that clearly indicated he had better not get into any trouble.
So, here he was dripping on the curb, lilies in hand, feeling soggy and lost and more than a little sorry for himself, despite his seemingly incredible good fortune. He was just trying to convince himself that it was all some kind of scam when he heard a voice behind him.
“First day?” Brad jumped and looked around. There beside him was a beautiful young woman. She was waiting for the light to change so she could cross to the other side. Brad, falling back on a solid skill set, blinked at her. She smiled again. He was transfixed.
“You’re the new guy, right? The White Knight addition?”
“Uh…yeah. I guess so. Erm…. how did you know that?” She motioned to his lapel where he was wearing the red button Hephestus had told him to wear. He had not asked why at the time. “I recognize the badge.” He looked at the badge as if it could explain this latest turn of events for him. The badge remained mysteriously silent. She reached out and touched his arm pulling his attention back to her and the blue pin that she had on her lapel.
“D&D Local 2032.” He nodded. She was union, too. She was a Damsel in Distress. How did Hephestus say that worked? That the Damsels fulfilled the needs of people who needed to help others? And White Knights fulfilled the needs of people who needed to be helped? Yeah, that was the gist of what he had said. Brad kept nodding, ever the wordsmith.
“You look a little lost here, Sir Knight. Would helping me help you? I mean we really are not supposed to mix while we are on the clock, but just this once to get you started would probably not be a big deal.” Brad nodded again. The girl blinked her eyes and scrunched her nose and her heel broke off her shoe.
“Oh!” she yelled, reaching for him to catch her balance. Brad caught her and managed to not squash the lilies in the process. She smiled at him and he smiled back. Maybe this was not such a bad gig after all. When the light changed he helped her across the walk and when they got to the side she looked around. They were the only ones on the corner so she scrunched her nose again and her heel repaired itself. Brad laughed.
“Nice trick!” he said.
“Yep, always works like a charm.” She smiled again and stepped back. “I have to get going, I have to be down the street in just a few minutes where the ATM machine is destined to eat my card, and the bank teller wondering what the meaning of their life really is will rescue me. What about you?”
“I don’t know. I was supposed to be here, but beyond that I have no clue.” She smiled at him again.
“Well, the biggest part of this job is trusting your instincts. Listen to yours and you will be fine!” She was walking away now hurrying to meet her appointed destination. Suddenly, she turned around continuing to walk backward. “Hey, my name is Katherine.”
“I’m Brad,” he yelled back.
“See you at the union meeting Tuesday? It’s my turn to bring the punch! Starts at 7:30!” yelling louder as she got further away.
“I’ll be there!” he yelled back. Wondering how he would find the place, and then remembering that he could ask his mentor.
Brad looked around the corner he was standing on, lilies still in hand and wondered what he next move would be. Whatever it was it was ok as long as the path he was walking took him to that meeting on Tuesday. The meeting where Katherine was bringing the punch. He was whistling as he walked away to meet his appointment with Fate.