Turning Loose
Melissa Howell

I was in my seat at the front desk painting my toenails when all heck broke out behind me. The most important rule was to push the red button under the desk if trouble started. A whack job shows up all the time asking for the collector that’s been calling them, and those people are red-button material. Guns, knives, hand grenades – I see them all in the course of a week. One guy came in carrying a razor blade. But I had no idea what to do when the commotion was with our own people.

It started when Mr. Snee, the boss, called Crazy John to his office. Crazy John stood up real quick. His chair scuffed along the floor and then it fell right over. The noise got everybody quiet.

Mr. Snee let out a big sigh. “Come on, John. I just want to talk to you about Saturday.”

“I ain’t going!” Crazy John bellowed.

“The lady says she’ll press charges. You can’t call and threaten to hurt people.”

Desk drawers rattled and there was the most awful clanking sound you ever did hear. Mr. Snee kept at him. “We can talk right here. You don’t have to come to my office.”

“You know Crazy John cain’t play that game.”

Mr. Snee said, “I just have to understand your side of it.”

Pretty soon Crazy John came out to the front, with his trash can up under his arm. A picture of a young man, probably in his thirties, was sitting on top of all his junk.

Crazy John spun around and got right up in Mr. Snee’s face, and I put my fingers on that red button. He sprayed the boss’s glasses while he yelled. “Mr. Snee, I just want you to know you’re the best dadgum boss I ever did have.”

Then he turned around and left, thank the Good Lord.

Mr. Snee stood and looked out the front door for a while. Finally, I felt like I had to say something. “Thought for sure I was going to have to push that button.”

“Not for John.” He turned around and I could swear he wiped a tear out of his eye. “Old-school military. Would never challenge authority.” He took off his glasses and wiped them on his shirt. “Son was killed in Iraq, early. No matter how big a storm he stirs up, he’ll never turn himself loose from that one.”

First published: May, 2008
comments to the writer: doorknobs@iceflow.com