Photography © Edward S. Gault
Nobody Had a Clue
It was a time of war, it was a time of innocence. Sort of.
The loop coming through the office speakers kept breaking out that tune about every twenty minutes. And he got to thinking what it must’ve been like, back then, before he was even born. Guys with long hair and head rags, VW buses painted psychedelic, girls clutching daisies with flowers circling their long hair, peace symbols everywhere, stoned hippies every time you turned around. His dad was a hippie for a little while but didn’t make much of it, just said everyone under the age of thirty was a hippie.
Of course he’d seen the Woodstock documentary. Who hasn’t? It looked sloppy. But the music was poking him. A wish to connect was strong but it all felt too remote. Besides, he needed to focus and make money.
Bianca, the office manager, got into the whole number. When Peter, Paul & Mary came over with I’ve Got A Hammer, she jumped on her desk and did this kind of up and down arm motion, like a monkey jerking off, making the computer screen sway.
Will Freedle screamed at her. “You’re crushing Turbo-Tax!”
A few days later she came to work sporting pig tails. Strange little brown sausage rolls that hung past her ears. Bianca had been on the conservative side, tweed jackets with slacks or pencil skirts, starched shirts, low heels, a good watch. Round pearl earrings. Lots of bling now in the form of colored beads choking her, running down her bare upper chest area. More beads and little colored mirrors pasted onto long, bright gauzy skirts.
“That’s quite an outfit,” I said passing her work station.
“Are you being sarcastic?”
“No. I like it. Really.”
“Yes I do. I think it suits you. Can I see myself in a little mirror?” I added.
Mistake! She turned cold, very cold. Became far too busy to chat with an enemy of the peace.
Me? I want peace as much as the next guy. As long as it doesn’t mean dipping early into my 401K.
That music set the whole office into a turmoil. Half wanted the music, claiming they enjoyed the nostalgia aspect. The rest said it was total shit and they wanted the old tracks back. “You can’t live in the past,” Will Freedle kept saying.
“Who decides anyway?” Lara, straight out of Doctor Zhivago, squinting under long blonde bangs, long arms crossed, toe of her high heel rat-tat-tatting the terrazzo floor.
He’d never seen lips so perfect. Was tempted to answer Doctor Zhivago then he let it slide. A hottie, this Lara, from the Russian hinterlands. Sarcasm would be an extremely stupid move. Giving her a most mysterious smile, he said, “I think it’s piped in from a large Euro-Industrial Complex.”
It seemed to satisfy some closely held desire. Lara returned his answer with her first friendly smile. Cheering him considerably. He wanted to own her. No fishing around. He wanted her in his bed, heart to heart, mind to mind.
Just then Willie Nelson came tripping magically over the loop with Georgia on his mind.
Could this Lara possibly be from the Russian state of Georgia? Naturally he’d assumed Moscow, having seen the film in re-runs. I’d have found a way of getting off that bus, he thought; even if it meant dying on the sidewalk at her feet.
“Would you like to get a drink after work?” he said.
“Not in this lifetime.”
“Oh. Well. OK, then.”
Bianca, meanwhile had upped her game. For casual Friday she came in a pink peace-nik T-shirt and bell bottom jeans. It saddened him. Though he couldn’t quite explain why.
The office had taken on the affect of a riot zone. Protesters to the left, protesters to the right.
Will Freedle started asking people individually: “Where do you stand?” Some were anxious to participate while others blew him off using over-work as an excuse.
Spring came banging in early. The loop changed. Nobody had a clue as to why.
Susan Tepper is the author of eight published books of fiction and poetry. Her most recent book just out in June is a road novel titled What Drives Men. It was shortlisted at American Book Fest Best Book Awards. Other honors and awards include eighteen Pushcart Nominations, a Pulitzer Prize Nomination for the novel What May Have Been (Cervena Barva Press, and currently being adapted for the stage), NPR’s Selected Shorts Series, Second Place Winner in Story/South Million Writers Award, Best Story of 17 Years of Vestal Review, Shortlisted 7th in the Zoetrope Novel Contest (2003), Best of the Net and more. Tepper is a native New Yorker.
Edward S. Gault is a poet and fine art photographer. He lives at Mosaic Commons, a co-housing community in Berlin, Ma. He has a wife Karen, and daughter.