Side Story: Henry 1

The ringing phone jarred Henry awake, stripping him out of his dream and forcefully into the land of reality. He groped blindly for the persistently chittering device, knocking his lamp to the ground before his hand finally encircled the familiar shape.

“Mrmph,” he mumbled into the speaker.

“You’re going to be late,” came a stern male voice from the other end. “Again.”

“I’ve got plenty of time,” Henry lied, eyes still unopened.

“You have ten minutes. If you’re late again then I’m docking your pay.” An audible click signaled the end of the conversation as well as the phone call.

“Asshole,” Henry grumbled as he pulled himself out of bed. Mr. Tavish wasn’t the kind of man who made empty threats, so Henry knew if he didn’t hustle he really would be getting less on this paycheck, and he had already mentally spent most of it. He stumbled around his apartment, rooting through the clothes lying around until he uncovered a brown shirt and pair of jeans that seemed at least moderately clean. He slipped on a pair of sandals and then went to attend to the matter of breakfast.

Henry’s apartment was actually quite large, especially for a twenty-year old college dropout living on his own. It was poorly cared for though, not unlike Henry himself. His brown hair was perpetually messy, he might have shaved once a week, and showering was a “when I damn well feel like it” timed event. He was handsome though, if only because of his exceptional height and the willingness of society to look past such an unkempt attitude when worn by youth.

Rooting through his fridge, he realized he’d forgotten to buy milk yet again. He could have popped down to the corner store, but he only had about four minutes left and Mr. Tavish hadn’t sounded like he was in a mood to cut much slack. Instead Henry plucked a beer from the refrigerator, then selected a grain cereal from his pantry, and combined the two in a large bowl. He grabbed a spoon, took a few bites to make sure it was too his liking, then popped into the office.

“Two minutes left,” Mr. Tavish said as Henry materialized and took a seat at the conference table already occupied by about ten other people.

“Pretty sure that makes me early. Technically,” Henry replied as he munched on his cereal.

Mr. Tavish sighed loudly, and then took his place at the head of the conference table. In contrast to Henry, Mr. Tavish was always impeccably dressed. In another form of contrast though, Mr. Tavish was short, balding, and had put on several inches to his waist in the past few years. He and his wife’s third child had added considerably to his stress level, and his past forty face was showing those signs. There were laugh lines too though, and other indicators that while he may be bearing ample stress, he was doing so with a grin and appreciation for the life he had.

“I’ll it brief today folks, I know we’ve got a busy workload,” Mr. Tavish said as he gathered up his papers. “We’re going to be a little short on the international front since June is off touring Africa to increase her locations, so I expect the rest of you to be working hard to cover her so that our customers don’t experience and lack in service. Aside from that please remember that we’re still taking suggestions for our company Christmas party, though Danielle has put in a request that we avoid Morocco if at all possible. It seems the food and water there perpetually disagrees with her.”

There was some light chuckling and a blonde woman in a business suit blushed.

“I’ll also be taking nominations for employee of the month until Friday,” Mr. Tavish continued. “I think that’s pretty much everything. Oh except a few of you are forgetting to sign out at the end of the day. I know it’s a pain to come back here for some of you, but we really do need that confirmation of time worked. You guys are on salary anyway, so finishing early won’t hurt your pay, and it will help us out a lot with our records.”

The collected employees nodded in agreement, some forgetting their commitment to assist before their necks had even completed the movement.

“Well that’s it for today,” Mr. Tavish told them. “Go pick up your location packets from Jeanine and have a great day.” The employees rose from their seats and began the gentle shuffle out toward the reception area where they would pick up their assignments for the day.

“Henry,” Mr. Tavish said as Henry pulled himself out of his chair. “Would you mind staying a moment?”

Henry shrugged and sat back down. Once the rest of the employees had left the room, Mr. Tavish walked over and discreetly close the door. He then moved to the table, but instead of taking his seat at the head Mr. Tavish sat down directly across from Henry.

“How many times are we going to have this talk?” Mr. Tavish said.

“Well the smart money says at least once more,” Henry quipped.

Mr. Tavish began to respond, then noticed a distinct smell wafting into his nostrils. “Are you drinking on the job?”

“Beer-ios,” Henry replied. “I was out of milk.”

“You know Henry, I just don’t get you,” Mr. Tavish said, placing his hands against his temples. “When I was a kid I would have killed for an opportunity like this. I mean come on, you work three days a week and you make an excellent salary along with full-benefits. Plus I give you two company vacations a year where we pay you just to go around to locations you’ve never been so you can expand your areas. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me, but I want to hear from you. What’s missing in this job that you can’t seem to take it seriously?”

“Nothing I guess,” Henry said, shifting uncomfortably. “Some days it’s just kind of a drag. I mean yeah I can teleport all over the place, but I just work for a courier service. It’s hard to take that too seriously.”

“I’m sorry to head that Henry. I’m sorry that you don’t find this job meaningful enough for you,” Mr. Tavish said.

“It’s not like that. I mean this is all I really want. I just want to be able to do it without so much hassle. Like I said, it’s just a courier service. I pick up shit and drop it off. Yeah it’s across continents but sometimes, but really what am I besides an ultra-postman,” Henry said, finishing his cereal and setting down the bowl.

“I realize it’s not glorified work Henry,” Mr. Tavish told him. “I really do get that. When I started this company with the idea of hiring teleporters to create instantly fast deliveries, I never knew if I’d be able to find enough of you willing to do it. I get that it can be a dull job, but it’s a good job. It’s a job that is reliable, pays well, and lets you live the lifestyle you seem to enjoy. So I’m sorry this doesn’t fulfill you on that level Henry, and if that’s how you feel maybe you should be going after something a little more substantial. I know the new semester at Lander starts in a few weeks. Why not apply for the Hero Certification Program?”

“I don’t want that,” Henry hurriedly objected. “I mean Supers who can teleport rarely become more than just transport for the real Heroes. Besides, all that danger and responsibility and shit, that’s not me. Not every Super wants to be a Hero. Some of us just want Beer-ios.”

“I want you to really think about that Henry. Think about what you want in life. You’re a bright kid, and one of the most powerful teleporters I’ve ever met,” Mr. Tavish told him sincerely.

“I’m not that great,” Henry denied. “I still have to have been to a place to teleport there.”

“Yes, but you can go to any of those places in one jump,” Mr. Tavish pointed out. “Your range is tremendous. As for being able to teleport to a place you’ve never been. I’m not sure I believe any Super is that strong. Sure there are legends, but I don’t know of anyone of that caliber, and knowing about teleporters is kind of my business.”

“You could be right,” Henry admitted.

“I think that statement is the most cooperation I’ve gotten from you in the years you’ve worked here,” Mr. Tavish chuckled. “Let’s go ahead and end it there, I don’t think there will be a higher note in this conversation. Go ahead and get your packet from Jeanine.”

Henry nodded and got out of his chair, heading for the door. As he twisted the handle, Mr. Tavish called to him.

“Don’t forget what I said. Think about what you want in life and go for it, even if it isn’t here. You know I’ll support you no matter what.”

“Fine, but don’t forget what I said either,” Henry called back.

“Beer-ios?” Mr. Tavish asked.

“Beer-ios,” Henry confirmed, opening the door and making his way toward Jeanine’s desk to pick up his day’s work packet.

Mr. Tavish pulled the abandoned bowl over to his side of the table and sniffed tentatively. The smell that reaches him was of cheap beer and ancient, forgotten cereal that by no rights should have been consumed by any person with a pulse. It took an earnest effort on Mr. Tavish’s part not to gag. He set the bowl back on the table and made a mental note to have the cleaning service take care of it.

“Beer-ios,” he said with a smirk and a light shake of his head.