“I really should be getting home to Jess.” Harold motioned to the bartender for two beers as he settled into his seat at the bar next to his newest friend. “Not that she keeps a leash on me but I don’t think I need to place myself in the doghouse either.”
“It’s a beer man.” Antonio wanted to bring his mentor out for a reward drink. “I still owe you one from the machine.”
Truth-be-told, Harold really did not need a real reason to want to get a beer. He just had to make sure he did not get carried away. He promised Jess that he would not be one of the drunks acting stupid in public. He had to worry about his family. Any arrest related to alcohol, meant he would most likely be searching for a new job. One brush with the law because of alcohol with him behind the steering wheel, would lead to rock bottom, Harold knew it. He had witnessed it among some former drinking buddies.
“So how long do you think this place has left?” The new hire was asking a valid question. The tire industry was disappearing off the domestic product list at a fast rate.
“I figure, since they hired you and a couple other guys, we are in good shape.” Harold spoke between sips. He drank a cheap beer when it was on his coin. When another was buying, he could splurge on the better stuff.
“Good, I would hate to think what would happen to everyone if it didn’t.” Harold did not know much about Antonio, but he did worry a lot. The new guy worried enough that others would lose their own confidence even with fate written on the wall. “What would you do if things went away?” Worry seemed to be Antonio’s nature.
“Well, I have a good decade under my belt. I am sure someone will want that kind of experience. Besides, if I had to go elsewhere and start again that is what I’ll do. There is too much riding on me to not bring an income home.” The enjoyment of the high end beer was diminished.
“Yeah, I have too many mouths to feed as well.” Antonio dropped his head in understanding. “This job and my co-workers were a pleasant opportunity when they came around.” Neither Harold nor Antonio ever really discussed their family. The friendship was still somewhat new. They had started it with work. Eventually sport team preferences came in, and finally they were sharing a beer.
“How many kids do you have?” Harold felt it was only respectful to repay the beer with conversation.
“At times, it seems like too many.” Antonio responded with a laugh, followed by a long gulp of the beer.
“I understand how that goes. Just yesterday, I came home to one ‘helping’ her mother cook.” The fingers shot up to place quote marks around the word helping. “Another one decided, it was time to see how the television worked. Amazing how inspired they get when their mother is busy bathing the baby.” Harold forced through a chuckle.
“I am sure those are the types of memories we will cherish one day.” Antonio consoled him.
“Yeah, that is what the salesman at the electronics store said when we had to get a new T.V.” The comment followed a smile and rolling eyes.
“Sounds like you have an engineer on your hands.” Antonio said in a congratulatory manner. “One day she is going to make her parents proud.”
Harold felt a pang of guilt, knowing before he had gotten Jess pregnant, people said the same thing about him. “Yep, one day,” he did not want to curse the child with expectations or the shame of failure.
“I am sure you will move up the ladder there and be able to pay for college.” Antonio wanted to reassure Harold that the kids would not suffer a fate he felt trapped in.
“I have a good life.” Harold said reassuring himself more than his drinking partner. “I only want them to have better.”
“Isn’t that what every father wants for his kids?” Antonio knew it was cliché but firmly believed it coming from Harold.
“Stanley Tire is a family in a way for me.” Harold confessed.
“Do you think they will always be there for you?” Antonio had not worked there long enough to form a solid opinion. He had heard rumors that some older management went above and beyond to exceed even the union’s requests. He did not imagine a loyalty such as the one he was hearing at the bar.
“Well, there is that. There is also the part where I feel we have been together for so long, we are considered in the same breath.” Harold was philosophical for a moment.
“I do notice there is a serious amount of pride people take there.” The beer chased his words.
“It is a mutual respect knowing you are there for each other. Just like a family.” Harold grew serious before smiling, releasing the growing tension of a serious conversation over the beers. “And just like a family we have our good and bad.”
“You mean like Nathanial?” It did not take too many days working there for Antonio to learn who the plant did not like. “Is he the evil uncle we don’t trust?”
“Nah, I picture him more the one we lock up in the attic and pray we never hear from again. I don’t think he is evil. I think he is selfish and arrogant. He does it without a care to harm others. It is purely coincidental that his plans cause others to lose their stability.” Harold had been with the company long enough to watch the work of Nathanial. “Evil means he does it on purpose.”
Antonio smiled. “Is that how you define evil?”
“Yeah,” Harold had never given much thought to it before. “That is what evil is. Causing others pain just for your pleasure.”
“So what if you find someone is evil?”
“It is their judgment that awaits. As long as they don’t bother my family, they are the ones who have to pay.” Harold wanted to let the small stress pass by. He had developed a lifelong philosophy through all the hardships.
“What if they do harm your family?” Antonio was an eager student to the philosophy.
Harold took the last swig of his beer. He stood knowing it was time to get home. “Then they will burn for it.”