He stood in the edge of the alley and hummed the tune the band was playing as it paraded by. If you saw his face you would know he wanted so much to be out there, to be a part of it, playing his trumpet. But alas that was not his lot for kismet had dealt him a different hand. So he stood alone, away from everyone, hoping no one would notice him there.

Then came the team, two players in each convertible, waving, cheering, really enjoying the night. Their night, for Caulderville had won the state championship, the two A state championship. The high school ROTC unit was the last by so he turned and headed home. As he entered the small single story house he called home, he remembered the pain of school and the ensuing pains of life.

He made a cup of hot chocolate and sipped it as he put a CD on and sat down with the Sudoka book. Sixteen years ago. It had been sixteen years since he graduated from high school, top of his class and it had been sixteen years that he had worked on the loading docks at the Double JJ trucking company. He despised the work, so menial, so meaningless, load a truck with this and that, unload a truck. But the people down on the docks, the people he worked with did not care. Oh once in a while someone would say something but they accepted him as he accepted them. They were a heck of a mix with all of the ex-cons, the tattoos, the pierced ones, the odd haircuts, they drug addicts; they just accepted him as a guy who always pulled his weight and did more work than most others. He did about two hours of study on his on-line course then went to bed.

It was Tuesday and as usual it was pandemonium, as every shipper wanted their goods on the road and hopefully delivered by the close of business on Friday. He and the crazy Mexican had just finished loading a Frisco bound double trailer when the dock boss came by. “Get up to personnel and see a Mrs. Trawler!”

He was shy about going up there because everyone looked at him and when he was not looking they made fun of him. “Mr. Minner, room three down the hall, just take a seat," a middle-aged woman told him. She had an arm full of folders.

He did as he was told.

It was a small office, very neat, and with a small table and four chairs. When she entered he stood as he had been taught to do.

“Care for a cup of coffee or some instant tea? I am afraid that is all I can offer you,” she said as she placed the stack of folders on the corner of her desk. He had heard about her, she was a psychologist.

She opened a folder and quickly scanned three or four pages. “You have been here sixteen years and your attendance has been perfect. You have remained accident free and everyone likes you because you pull more than your own weight,” she said.

He wondered what this was about. He hoped he was not being fired. “I try to earn my pay,” he said.

“First, we would like to promote you to dock boss or dock foreman,” she said. She watched his reaction. Then before he could reply she again spoke. “Mr. Minner, Grady isn’t it? First, you and I must delve into your problem, the problem that has kept you working here among the menagerie we have. Move your hand, stand up and face me,” she said, and she spoke like a Drill Sergeant.

He did as she asked, wanting to pull his shirt collar over his face.

“Mr. Minner you have a strawberry birthmark. You were born with it and unless you have lots of money you will die with it. You are smart. You have a lot of potential but you cannot slink away and try to be invisible.”

She nodded and he sat down. “I will just work as I have been,” he replied. He looked at her and then added, “All my life I have had people make fun of me, calling me names. I guess I do have a curse on me.

“You have a lot to offer and letting those ignorant bastards get you down tells me you are a quitter. You do not have the guts to do anything or go anyplace because you are afraid your feelings will be hurt.”

His eyes opened for she had given him both barrels. He said nothing, however, He sat up straight and awaited for the time he could go back to work. “We are bogged down today and I must get back to work,” he said as he stood.

“Sit down and talk to me," she said. "Tell me why you cannot be a dock foreman.” Her face told him she was dead serious. “You ain’t giving this fat old woman that crap," she added. "You are going to have to fight me, to out do me before you leave here. The dock will be here long after we are dead and gone. Now talk to me!” Inside she smiled for she saw that he had resented what she had said. She could see that he wanted to fight her.

“I can do any job this company has to offer and I can do it well," he replied. "But I don’t like people making fun of me and saying things to me."

She smiled for she had gotten him to speak. “Are you ashamed of the human body or anyone else’s,” she asked.

He shook his head no.

“Well let me show you something that I have lived with. You have your strawberry on your face. How would you like this?” She walked to the door, pulled down the shade, and faced him. She pulled her sweater up and his eyes opened wide. One one side, from her neck to her navel, she had a strawberry birthmark.

“Now look at this she added." She reached up, undid her bra, and as she opened it he saw that she had a nice full breast on her right side, but on her left side she had a small brown bump.

When she saw him look, then look away, she put her clothes back on. “I too have a handicap," she said. "Would you like to go to bed with a woman who has a big strawberry birthmark and one brown lump for a breast. Not very sexy is it?” She raised the shade. “And if you ever tell anyone about this little show and tell you are long gone from here.”

“I did not know," he said. "You seem so normal to me.” he said.

They talked for nearly an hour, she trying to build his ego and trying to instill some pride in him.

Finally, she looked at her watch. “Come with me. We need to meet the Corporate personnel director and have lunch with her.”

They went to the front of the building and saw Mr. Tillis, the terminal manager standing in the door.

“Hi there Mrs. Trawler. Mr. Minner, you are doing a great job,” he said. About then a car drove up to the front door and he dashed out and jumped in.

In a minute a black Mercedes pulled into a visitor slot and they went out.

The lady who alit from the sedan was maybe fifty with salt and pepper hair, Eva Madson. When she turned he saw she had nearly half of her face covered with a strawberry like his; only her’s was larger. The three of them went to Seafood Sally’s. It was the first time in his life he had drunk a martini and wine at lunch when he was working. Neither woman spoke of the birthmarks, but chatted, laughed and told silly stories. When at three fifteen they got back, the woman looked at him, “I enjoyed our luncheon and know you will make a great dock boss, but since I am staying here tonight could a lady buy you dinner?”

His eyes lit up, “I have a beef roast with potatoes, onions and carrots slow cooking today and a batch of sourdough bread that I am baking if you would like to come to my plain abode, I would love to have your company.”

Both women could not believe the smooth line he had just given. “May I bring the wine and where do you live; oh what time, yes oh I love home cooking and beef,” she said.

“If you wish, I would have served you water and coffee but to be honest I know not what wine goes with what,” he said as he was all smiles.

Mrs. Trawler winked at him, “I will see she knows where to go and she will be there about six, if that is OK?”

He went straight to the docks and his boss, “They kept me and that personnel lady said I must go to lunch with them. Are you leaving or something,” he asked.

The foreman replied, “Something like that; tomorrow morning you will show up dressed like me, slacks and a nicer shirt and no brogans.” The foreman smiled. “Now get that shipment on bay 16 and 17 straightened out before quitting time.”

When he got home from work he looked at his small house. He had bought it after it had sat for years and had done all of the remodeling and improvements himself. He made sure everything was neat as he made gravy to go with the beef and made three pans of sour dough rolls. He was antsy and shaking for he had never had a woman, well strange woman come to his house. He went outside and began to pick up trash and get some air as he still had about a half hour.

Just as he got an arm load of trash from the gutter the big black Mercedes pulled into his driveway. He headed for the car as the woman alit wearing not the business suit she had on earlier but a sweatshirt, jeans and sandals. “Need some help, that really makes me mad that people litter like that,” she said. She began to pick up little pieces of paper and for the first time he could remember they just chatted and ended up out back at the trash can.

She was older than he but it was so funny, he did not notice her birthmark and he really enjoyed their chit chat. Finally they went inside. She washed up at the kitchen sink as she remembered and ran back to her car and came back with three bottles of wine. “Lets try all three and see which one we like,” she said. He had set the table with him on one end and her on the other end; she moved her place setting to the corner by him. It turned out she was divorced and had no children and twice a year she visited each terminal and went over their operation. “Thirty two terminals means 64 visits a year,” she had said.

After dinner one bottle of wine was gone and about half of a second one by the time the two of them cleaned up and did the dishes. He had classical music playing but had changed to romantic jazz after dinner. All at once he found himself dancing with this attractive woman and loving it. Their bodies pressed tightly together and he did not know what to do since his manhood was standing up. She pressed harder and before he knew it the alarm had gone off and it was five AM. She jumped up, “I must go, I am supposed to have breakfast with your boss at seven.” Quickly she was dressed and came into the bathroom, “Oh I enjoyed the evening, can I come back tonight and eat leftovers with you?”

“Oh yes, oh yes and I do thank you,” he said as they lightly kissed and he felt her firm bottom. He fixed his breakfast and packed his lunch as he put on Dockers and a polo shirt with a pair of sturdy hiking boots.

He got to work before the foreman and found he felt different as the other workers kidded him about his new work clothes. Everyone spoke and by noon he was into it. “In ten days you will be doing my job as I am going to Salt Lake to run that terminal; so ask every question you can think of and remember, we are supposed to be in charge and know what is going on, even if we do not.”

When the visiting big whig came around with the terminal manager he looked at her and how nice she looked, not at her strawberry birthmark. She was beaming as they shook hands and both acted as if they had never met; although the terminal manager knew he had lunch with her yesterday. That night was even better than the night before. The following week he asked the big boobed blonde for a date and took her to dinner. Then Mrs. Trawler called and asked him, “Would you like to escort a one boobed woman to a Professional Women’s dinner?

Oh he heard nasty comments but overall he found people, well most people treated him like a man, not a geek and Mrs. Trawler was such a woman who cared about her birth mark and mismatch.

© By Tom (tomWYO@aol.com)



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