“I heard from Chrissy today,” Joanna says to Matt as they both freshen up before heading to Stenny’s.

“Who?” Matt asks.

“Chrissy. You know. That young woman I got friendly with when I placed her at that call center.”

“You recruit for call center positions? How awful.”

“It was an account management position. Client services. I said she reminded me of me, ten years younger. You remember.”

“Vaguely,” Matt says.

“Well, she texted to say hi and I asked if she was free to stop by Stenny’s tonight. She said she would. She doesn’t live too far from there.”

“That’s nice, I guess. Will she fit in?”

“She’s very personable. Just like me. I think people will like her.”

“Remind me. Is she married?”

“No, but I think she’s dating someone. Maybe she’ll bring him. I sort of hope not. I want to be able to catch up with her. Can’t do that if she brings a guy. She won’t want to leave him to fend for himself.”

“If she’s like you, she’ll just throw him to the wolves,” Matt says.

Joanna, not offended, says, “That’s true. We’ll see what happens.”

What happens is that Chrissy arrives, with a guy, about an hour after Joanna and Matt. Joanna, happily loose on two Leightinis, leaps off her bar stool and gives her a tight hug.

“Chrissy! So good to see you! It’s been way too long. You look adorable.”

“Ahh, you must be drunk,” Chrissy says affectionately. “I’m a mess. Long week at work.”

“Can’t wait to catch up. Who’s this nice-looking guy?”

“Chris, meet Joanna. Joanna, meet Chris,” Chrissy says.

“Hey, Joanna,” Chris says. “I’ve heard a lot about you. Chrissy idolizes you.”

“As well she should. Very nice to meet you too, Chris,” Joanna says. “You seem like a good guy. This is my husband, Matt. Please talk to him so I can talk to Chrissy.”

Matt extends his hand. “Good to meet you. Let’s go down to the other end of the bar. I’ll introduce you around. These two won’t come up for air for a while.”

“Suits me,” Chris says. “This place has a great feel.” They head off to a join a cluster of regulars, including Ben, Ed, Long Haul, and Bullshit Billy.

“Chrissy and Chris?” Joanna says, laughing.

“I know, right? It’s so fucking cute.”

“Is he the one?” Joanna asks.

Chrissy shrugs. “Maybe. We’ve only been dating a few months. He’s pretty terrific.”

Joanna introduces her to bartender Stephen; they exchange pleasantries and establish that Chrissy will have what Joanna is having.

“Tell me what’s happening at Pharma Connection Resource. You guys still use the initials?”

“Yes, Ph-C-R,” Chrissy says. Ficker for short.”

“Who came up with that and what were they thinking?” Joanna asks.

“Consultant, gone now. Not thinking about much other than cashing his fat checks.”

“Things good with you there?”

“Yes, actually, they are. There was a big shake-up and all the dead wood is gone. My friend Lisa was made CEO. Finally, someone sensible is in charge. The previous CEO, Tom, was a big bloviator and knew nothing about call centers.”

“They are a world unto themselves, from the little I saw,” Joanna says.

“For sure. Did I ever tell you about Trevor?”

“I don’t think so. Who’s he?”

“He’s an agent, assigned to one of our client’s programs. Pharma company that makes an anti-depressant that has compulsive behavior, like gambling, as a side effect. You and Matt like to gamble, right? Not that you’re compulsive.”

“We’re on a moratorium right now,” Joanna says, while thinking Shut up Joanna, do not tell her you and Matt just won over $400,000.

 “I think I’ve heard that from you before,” Chrissy says.

“Probably. Continue with the Trevor story.”

“Oh right,” Chrissy says as she takes a sip of the Leightini that Stephen had served her three seconds earlier. “So the program provides support and resources for compulsive behavior. Trevor is quite good with his callers; kind and empathetic. But in real life, off the phone, he’s a sociopath.”

“How so?” Joanna asks.

“He never talks to his colleagues, won’t even respond when they say hi. He exudes pure rage.  And it all came to a head a few months ago when his supervisor tried to coach him on a call.”

“He didn’t take it well?”

“He went out to his car and got a baseball bat. Came back in and hit his supervisor with it.”

“Oh, ouch. Did he kill him?” Joanna is thinking of Salome’s boyfriend Gordon, recently murdered by his brother-in-law with a golf club in Stenny’s parking lot.

Chrissy doesn’t yet know that story (Joanna will tell her before the evening ends) and is a bit taken aback. “No. I guess it would be a better story if he did. I heard it was a glancing blow.”

“It’s a good story, Chrissy. Continue.”

“Well, the best part is, Trevor didn’t get fired. The call center director, a guy I hated, found a way to blame the supervisor.”


“The program Trevor worked on was understaffed. Jack—that’s the call center director—said we couldn’t afford to lose him. In call centers, it’s all about butts in the seat.”

“You said you hated Jack, not that you hate him. Did you make amends? If so, good girl.”

“Fuck, no,” Chrissy says. “He was fired in the shake-up. So I don’t have to actively hate him anymore.”

“That’s funny. I have a work enemy named John. Your Jack’s name is probably John.”

“Yeah, it is,” Chrissy says.

Joanna fills her in on her various contretemps with John, and Chrissy tells her more PhCR tales. After a bit, the conversation segues to Stenny’s, and Joanna tells Chrissy about the murder-by-golf-club of Salome’s Gordon, about the bartenders, and about Ben, Ed, Long Haul, and Bullshit Billy, to whom Matt and Chris are amiably talking ten bar stools away.

“I need to come here more often,” Chrissy says, and they agree it’s time to join their guys.




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