Tuesday, January 19, 2010

120: Meeting

The fat man wiped the sweat from his brow and banged the table with his fist.

"Order!" he shouted and then repeated it a second time trying to sound more forceful and authoritative than he felt. He glanced nervously at the people sitting on either side of him.

The card table shook as he pounded it, pencils jumping the air, papers sliding to the floor and water sloshing from small clear plastic glasses.

It felt as if all the air had been sucked from the room and the lights were growing strangely dim and he gasped for air.

The man on his left in the plaid shirt glanced for the door and wondered if he could make it to the door without being accosted. The woman on his right sat prim and proper, hands folded in her lap, with almost a hint of a smile (or a smirk?) on her thin, pale lips.

Another bead of sweat rolled down his forehead, onto his nose and then off the tip. He watched as it fell, in slow motion before finally splashing onto the torn vinyl table top.

He lept to his feet, ready to shout again but found that he had no voice. His throat was dry and he tried to yell, but no words came forth.

The meeting was not going well. They were never popular, often only attended by the most cantankerous lot, the ones with a score to settle, a beef to pick, the malcontents who only came because it was a chance to gripe. People who felt unrepresented, left to die.

And tonight they had learned that despite all their hard work, all the money they had invested, the developer had taken off with their money and all they had to show for it was this unfinished room with not nearly enough windows, no air conditioning and temporary work lights strung along the unfinished ceiling. They started in on each other, but Frank, Merle and Francine knew it was only a matter of time before the crowd turned on them.

At that exact moment, three things happened. The door opened and two police officers ran in, Merle decided he'd had enough and bolted for the door, and an assortment of cookies and water glasses were launched into the air by several in the back row who'd have "enough talk." There was a loud crash as Merle collided with the two officers, bounced off and then fell to the ground, taking out part of the first row of folding chairs and then even more commotion as the cookies and water glasses rained down on the stunned officers. It took every fiber of their being not to draw their guns.

The site of the two officers, water dripping from their caps, one of them with a cookie resting on the top of their caps, the cool blast of summer air and the sunlight changed everyone's perspectives immediately and they all suddenly stopped what they were doing and closed their mouths.

Frank sank into his seat, slouching. His large arm outstretched, he motioned to the police officers. "These officers are here to collect copies of our paperwork with Hesslet & Associates and to talk about what our next steps are."

The officers were shaking the water off their hats when Merle sheepishly stood and apologized, "I think those projectiles were aimed at me."

"Alright, will everyone please take their seats so that we can hear what these fine officers have to say?"

"Gentlemen, if you will," Francine finally spoke up, gesturing to two empty folding chairs at the front of the room. Two men slowly made their way forward, eyes down, carrying cups of water and plates of cookies which they set on the wobbly card table in front of the officers. Try as they might, they could not avoid Frank's glare and they each mumbled "Sorry" as they shuffled back to the hall and took their seats.