The Projected Income of Matthew LaRose

Projected Income of Matthew LaRoseYou wouldn’t describe Matt’s head as “held high” as he’s plodding the steps to UltraTemps, nor would you flag him with pumped-up catch-phrases like “eye of the tiger” or “eyes on the prize.”

Dead on his feet. Ill-at-ease. Low-spirited. Those are the ones.

If you popped into Matt’s cranium, squishing forward through grey matter to peer out those eyes (the ones that are not on the prize and are not of the tiger), you’d just see stairs, scrolling. Salt-encrusted Hush Puppies are poking into view left-right, left-right.

Slink your essence south to inhabit the rest of his body, and those feet are aching like hell, sure, but something far worse has taken up residency. Despair, the maudlin squatter. His dark trench is splayed out beneath him as he reclines, picking bits of meat from his teeth, muddy boots kicked up on poor ‘ole Matt’s heart.

I reckon you wouldn’t spend much time in here. It’s downright incommodious, and Despair is the worst of company. I bet you’d pop right back out and hover at a safe distance, zooming in and out when it suits you.

Wise move. You can hover next to me.

We’re tracking with Matt now, floating a few feet over his left shoulder as he manages the stairwell to UltraTemps, making the task look seriously monumental.

He’s been to four agencies already – ManPower, KNF&T, SpectraTemps, Pro Staff. The drill’s a drag. Typing test. Word. Excel. PowerPoint. Mock interview. But, you see, the economy’s so recessed. So depressed, so timid, so scared! They don’t have anything right now. Which is unfortunate, because Matt needs anything, and he needs it right now.

I’ve been with Matt since….well, since the beginning…just waiting for something interesting to happen. Something remarkable. Relatable. Tell-able.

So far, nada!

Sure, he got fourth place in that spelling bee…and he farted in the dentist chair that one time…but…those aren’t really…there’s not a lot of substance there.

Let’s just say, after thirty-three years as Matt’s Omni, I’m starting to lose my sparkly aura.

Me!

Don’t worry, Reader. I’ve spared you the boring stuff. It’s kinda my job. I brought you in now because, well, soon, the interest factor spikes.

Ack! Matt got away from us while I was jabber-jawing. Don’t worry about the stairwell door, we can pass right through it. There’s our man! He’s pushing…pushing…now pulling the glass door into UltraTemps. Wow. Nice lobby. Fancy fancy. Bright white. Minimalist. Clean lines. Severe angles. Stainless steel fixtures. Can you see it?

Matt’s shuffling to where a receptionist presides at a semi-circular desk. More of a kiosk than a desk, wouldn’t you say? Like the ear-piercing place at the mall. Watch what Matt does now. There it is! Head up! Shoulders back! Did you see the face snap from dismal to cheerful? Guy’s a real artist.

“Hi!” exclaims Matt to the receptionist. “How the heck are ya?”

Brisk enthusiasm! Folksy!

“Name.” Miss Thing is lacking a sizeable chunk of brisk enthusiasm on her part.

“Pleasure to meet you!” proclaims Matt. “I have a 3:00 o’clock appointment with Brad Landerfin!”

Benevolence! Earnestness! Friendship!

“Yup,” monotones Jessica (that’s Miss Thing’s name. She’s not gonna tell him, so I figured I’d let you know.) She swivels, pulling a clipboard from a mound of clipboards that have paperwork and pen attached. You know the type.

“Fill this out and bring it back to me.” She tilts the clipboard, feathering the pages. “It has two sides. See? Don’t forget to fill out the back.”

“Sure thing!” says Matt.

“I’ll let Mr. Landerfin know you’re here,” she says.

“Thanksmuch!” Matt’s tugging at the clipboard, but it’s not giving. Jessica’s still holding on to her end.

“You’ll remember what I told you?” says Jessica.

“I’m sorry?” says Matt.

“The back?” says Jessica. “You’ll fill out the back before you bring it to me?”

“Oh, yes!” Matt puts up two fingers. “Scout’s Honor!”

Jessica’s squinting at him over her Warby Parkers. She releases the clipboard. Matt retreats, taking a seat on that chic lapis chair in the corner.

Watch this. Matt’s a whiz at the clipboard thing by now. Look at him fire through that paperwork! Let’s time him on that stainless steel wall clock. It’s…oval? Wha? Damn thing has no numbers! How are you supposed to — ? Wait. I think I got it. Forty-five seconds…a minute. Come on, Matt! Woo! A minute and thirteen seconds!

Matt launches from the lapis chair to the reception kiosk, flaunting the clipboard for Jessica.

“Here you are, young lady,” he flirts. “I think you’ll find everything’s in order!”

Attention to detail! Proactive! Pride in work!

Jessica arches an eyebrow.

“Did you fill out the back?”

“Yes, m’am!”

“You forgot to sign here…and here.”

“Oh, heavens!” says Matt.

She shoves the clipboard back at him. “Sign it and bring it in to Mr. Landerfin when you see him.”

“Will do!” exclaims Matt.

Inter-personal skills! Ability to navigate difficult personalities in the workplace!

Matt reprises the post-modern, uncomfortable-looking chair. Jessica stares at him dully. Resentfully. Un-impressedly. Sheesh. What did Matt ever do to her?

Suddenly, a disembodied voice booms from the hallway.

“Mister LaRose!”

Matt rises from the en mode chair. Ack! Did you see him wince? The lower back is acting up. Good thing we’re not inhabiting or we’d be feeling that ouchie, too. Tell you what. Let’s agree to go in only if it’s really worth it.

“Mister LaRose!” That disembodied voice is barking, but no one’s materializing. Matt looks to Jessica for guidance, but she’s nodding into her nail polish.

“…yes?” says Matt to the dark hallway.

“Approach!”

“Uh,” says Matt. “Ok.”

I’m glad you’re with me this time, Reader. This hallway’s spooky. Seems they forgot to post-modernize this part. Dark offices brood on the left and right. Matt creaks over antique floorboards, crunching over paint that has chipped from the Victorian trim onto the carpet runner. If we were ghosts, we’d be quite comfortable here.

Of course, we’re not ghosts.

At the end of the hall, fluorescence outlines a door. Matt heads to the light, as it were, pausing just outside the door.

“Mister L-Landerfin?” he says.

Come on, Matt! Where’s that confidence? It’s showtime!

“Enter!” commands the voice.

Matt hesitates into the office. It’s awash with unnatural light. A red-faced hulk of a man in an ill-fitting silver suit sits at a desk. Guy’s massive! Neck’s like a tree trunk breaching out the straining hole of his black collared shirt.

“Pleasure to meet you!” Matt offers his hand. “Gorgeous day, eh?”

There it is, boy! Look him right in the eyes! Firm handsh –

Ack!

Did you see Landerfin pull his hand away?

Matt must have a case of the ‘ole Fish Hands.

“I’m Matt LaRose!” he beams.

“I know who you are,” says Landerfin. “But do you?”

“Uh,” says Matt.

Landerfin sweeps his hand toward a triangular-backed chair.

“Sit down, genius.”

Matt angles into yet another designer-chair-with-uncomfortable-design. He offers the clipboard across the desk.

“Here’s all my info,” says Matt. “I even filled out the back! Ha!”

Landerfin snatches the clipboard and tosses it into the metal trash can.

“That’s not how I do things,” he says.

(Now, at this point, I was thinking oh, wow, this could get interesting)

“No worries,” says Matt. “Whatever works!”

Ability to adapt in a fast paced, changing environment!

“Oh, it’ll work,” says Landerin.

“Uh,” says Matt. “I sent my resumé by email, but I have an extra copy with me here if you –”

“Already saw it, my friend,” says our hulk in the silver suit. “Let’s just say I was impressed. Damn impressed.”

“Oh, wow!” says Matt.

“So, Matthew –”

Matt raises a generous hand.

“Please,” he says. “Call me Matt.”

MANAGEMENT POTENTIAL!

“So, Matthew,” says Landerfin. “Tell me something. Where do you see yourself in a thousand years?”

(Here I was like I should really go get Reader).

“Gosh,” says Matt. “A thousand years? I really can’t say. I think there’s a chance I’ll be dead! Ha!”

“Exactly right,” says Landerfin. “You nailed it.”

“Uh,” says Matt.

“So!” says Landerfin. “Considering you’ll be worm-food, what do you want.”

“Well,” says Matt. “I’m looking for data entry or admin positions…hopefully at a good company where there’s a chance I’ll be able to move up. To have a career path.”

“Haha,” says Landerfin. He’s rummaging around in his bottom desk drawer. He just came up with a Stop&Shop bag.

“Matthew, I’d like you to tell me.” He hands the bag to Matt. “What items would you put in that bag that represent you?”

“Uh,” says Matt. The heater kicks on, making the bag crinkle-wave in his hand. “Items?”

“Items.”

“That represent me?” says Matt.

“Precisely,” says Landerfin.

“Uh,” says Matt. “Probably my cat?”

“Your cat?”

“I’m sorry,” says Matt. “Am I saving things?”

“No!” says Landerfin. “Personality traits that represent you. Perhaps we’ll tackle the post-apocalyptic question later…nuclear holocaust, zombie virus and the like…for now…personality traits.”

“In the bag?”

“Where else?” Landerfin is leaning in, chin-on-palm.

“…Proactive?” says Matt.

“Well…” says Landerfin. “…put it in the bag…”

Matt pulls Proactive from the air and puts it in the bag.

“Excellent!” says Landerfin. “What else?”

“Good at typing?” says Matt. “Fast typer?”

“Great!” says Landerfin. “Go ahead and put that in the bag, too!” His eyes follow Matt’s hand as Matt puts Fast Typer in the bag. “What else?”

“…Courageous?” says Matt.

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

“Well,” says Matt. “It just seems weird that –”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” says Landerfin. “Do you have a problem with my questions?”

“Oh, no!” says Matt. “I’m just trying to understa –”

“Fine!” Landerfin swipes the bag out of Matt’s hands.

Wha?

He’s sticking his head into the bag.

“Tssk tssk tssk!” he says into the bag. “Here kittykittykitty! The robot apocalypse is over! The zombies won! I’m sooo sorry, Matthew didn’t make it! Not enough useful personality traits! But Landy promises to take care of you! Kittykitty! Landy’s got a little treat for you!”

Landerfin jams his pinky finger into his ear, twisting.

“Matthew,” says Landerfin. “Did you know that cats like earwax?”

(Ok – Here’s where I rewound to come grab you, Reader, so everything from here forward is new to me, too.)

“Uh,” says Matt. “Earwax?”

“What’s your cat’s name?” asks Landerfin.

“Tyrion,” says Matt.

“Here ya go wittle Teeweeon!” Landerfin sticks his pinky finger in the bag. “Licky-licky, Teeweeon! Licky-licky!”

“Ha,” says Matt. “Ha!”

“It’s important to laugh!” says Landerfin, discarding the Stop&Shop bag. It catches the heater’s draft and floats across the room, no easy feat of physics, considering it’s carrying Proactive, Fast Typer, Courageous, and Tyrion. “Don’t you think?”

“Oh, definitely,” says Matt. “They say. Er. They say you can even cure…like it would help with cancer, or it’s like medici –“

“A highly underrated quality!” says Landerfin. “Laughter! You should have put that in the bag, dum-dum!”

“Uh,” says Matt.

“So!” says Landerfin. “Have you found Jesus?”

“What?” says Matt. “I didn’t think. Would they –?”

“Matthew,” says Landerfin. “You’re too easy! Just kidding!”

“Oh! Ahahaha!” chokes Matt. “Kidding!”

“Let’s get back to the real questions, shall we?” Landerfin sits back, interlacing his fingers. “These could come up in a real interview, you know. I’m just trying to prepare you.”

“Absolutely,” says Matt.

“M-Dog,” says Landerfin. He flips his palms to the ceiling. “I’m on your side. We’re a team here!”

“Thanks,” says Matt. “I appreciate it. It’s been really difficult since –”

“So, M-Dog,” says Landerfin. “Are you down with UltraTemps placing you in a position in which you’ll undergo regular cavity searches?”

“Ha!” says Matt. “Ha ha!”

Landerfin’s just staring at him.

“Oh,” says Matt. “I guess…well, maybe if it’s not super often? Or not too deep or whatever? I’m not sure how deep they — Do you know if they…I mean. Where and how often and…is that the type of information you –”

“I’m sorry, M-Dog,” says Landerfin. “I can’t divulge those kind of details. You understand. It’s yes or no.”

“Well,” says Matt. “I guess it would be ok about the cavity search.”

Searches.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Cavity searches. Plural.”

“Oh, right,” says Matt. “Well, ok. I guess that might be all right.”

“So that’s a yes?”

“Uh,” says Matt. “Yes.”

“Perfect!” Landerfin takes a pen, checking off a box, then flips the page. “Have you ever in the past, or are you ever planning in the future, to systematically gun down everybody in your workplace?”

“No!” says Matt. “Oh my god! Definitely not!”

“Well,” says Landerfin. “Why not?”

“I’m sorry?” says Matt.

“What if – hypothetically speaking, of course – they deserved it?”

“Deserved it?”

“Like, what if they were wicked bad people. Major jerks! Like, Hitler-types. Or Stalin-types!” He cocks his head to the side. “Would you systematically gun them down then?”

“Well,” says Matt. “I guess if they were like Hitler-types…then…”

Landerfin leans in intently.

“…maybe yes?” says Matt.

“NOW YOU’RE COOKING WITH GAS!” exclaims Landerfin.

“Wow!” says Matt. “Thanks!”

“Just one more that I find really helpful,” says Landerfin. “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”

“Well,” says Matt. “I think I’d like to be an oak.”

“You’d like to be,” says Landerfin. “Or you would be?

“I would be?”

“You would be?” says Landerfin.Or you are?”

“Are,” says Matt. “Am. I am?

“What?”

“An oak.”

“Well?” says Landerfin. “Say it, dammit!”

“I am an oak tree.”

“That’s right!” says Landerfin. “Just quickly…what kind of animal would you be?”

“That’s easy,” says Matt. “A cat!”

“Wrong!” says Landerfin. “Cats are lazy butt-lickers. You wouldn’t be a cat.”

“Uh,” says Matt. “Maybe a cheetah?”

“Correct!” says Landerfin. “Nailed it!”

“Aren’t cheetahs sorta like…aren’t they related to –”

“Yes,” says Landerfin, “but they’re wicked fast.”

“Yeah,” says Matt.

“M-Dog,” says Landerfin. “Did you know that Andy Warhol said that the highest form of art is business?”

“Interesting!” says Matt.

“It is,” says Landerfin. “But not as interesting as the line of B.S. you’ve been feeding me since the moment you walked into my office.”

“What?” says Matt. “I didn’t…I mean, I was just trying –.”

Landerfin takes the interview checklist. He’s crumpling it. He hands it to Matt.

“Matthew,” he says. “You want to really show me something? Truly? I want you to eat this.”

Matt’s staring down at the crumpled ball of paper in his hand.

“Eat it, M-Dog,” says Landefin. “Devour your duplicitous soul and be reborn!”

“Uh,” says Matt.

“Eat it!”

“Definitely,” says Matt. “But maybe put it in the bag for later?”

“Devour your soul!”

Matt’s tearing off a scrap of paper. Are you kidding me? He’s putting it in his mouth! He’s chewing!

Landerfin is looking pleased.

“I’ve seen your resumé, killer,” he says. “But me? I specialize in reading between the lines. And between the lines, Matthew? I read that you’ll be worth ten million dollars in the span of five years.”

“Really?” says Matt, still chewing a scrap of soul. “Wow!”

“On this point,” says Landerfin. “I have no doubt. Ten million dollars. At least.”

(Sorry to interrupt, Reader, but I know from experience…the look on Matt’s face…that this is a great time to do some inhabiting. Pop in with me! Ahhhhh…you feel it? The glimmer of warmth…softening in the chest…the mind becoming expansive, like anything is possible! The only evidence of that prick Despair is the muddy boot he dropped in his haste out of here. Tell you what. Let’s hang in here for a bit and soak up this fantastic feeling. You take his left eye socket, I’ll take his right.)

We’re across the desk from Landerfin now. He shoves out his chair and it catches on the rug, tipping onto the ground.

He doesn’t pay it any mind…he’s grabbing colored markers from a stainless steel canister…lumbering over to a large pad of paper standing on a tripod.

He pulls the cap off the marker and huffs some fumes…now he’s drawing on the pad…an X/Y Axis…

On the X axis, he’s writing something in blue pen:

TIME

On the Y axis, in green:

I

N

C

O

M

E

He’s back on the X axis, scrawling in black sharpie:

20082009201020112012

On the Y axis:

$1 MIL

$3 MIL

$5 MIL

$7 MIL

$10 MIL

At the top of the pad, he writes, in thick red letters:

MATTHEW LAROSE: PROJECTED INCOME

Another huff from the pen fumes for our hulk in the silver suit. He raises his left hand skyward, flipping up an index finger. He’s grinning at us as he drags the marker in an ascending arc from $1 Mil to $10 Mil over the years 2008 to 2012.

Did you feel that burst of warm adrenaline in Matt’s chest?

Hoo boy!

Love it!

“There it is, Matthew!” Landerfin’s stabbing the marker at the chart. “Ten. Million. Dollars.”

“Wow!” says Matt. “Sounds like you’re confident I’ll…even in this recession? That I’ll be able to get something great! When you said you liked my resumé I had no idea you thought –”

“Your resumé is a piece of shit,” says Landerfin. “There’s no way you’re going to get anything in this shitty recession.” He flits a finger at the financial district. “Have you seen it out there? The economy? It’s hopeless!”

Ack!

Pop out and hover!

Quickly!

That warm feeling is fading…fast!

Matt’s shoulders slump. “Oh, ok,” he says. “I guess I’m a little confused.”

“Of course you are, M-Dog.” Landerfin picks his chair off the floor and pours himself back into it. “You’re gonna have to hear this a lot for it to sink in.”

“Ok,” says Matt. “Well, gosh, I hope you’re right.”

“I am,” says Landerfin. “Matthew. Can I tell you something?”

“Sure,” says Matt.

“I was going to be a priest, but I decided I liked cussing and women too much.”

“Ha.”

“Do you want to be a priest, Matthew?”

“I don’t think so,” says Matt. “Just looking for a job so I can…eat I guess?”

“I’m not offering you a priest job, Matthew!” says Landerfin. “Goddamn it, man! Think bigger! You are massive! Monolithic! You’re a goddamn titan! Can’t you see yourself?”

“Well,” says Matt, “maybe I could shoot for something a little higher up…like office manager?”

“Bah!”

Wait.

Do you hear that?

There’s a rapid clicking coming down the hallway. Is that Jessica? It’s going ‘click, clack, click, clack’…I guess it’s more of a click-clacking than a mere clicking. But it’s coming fast. Like, jogging speed.

Landerfin’s eyes go wide. He’s looking at the door. Weird. He looks afraid. But he’s grinning?

Let’s head out into the hallway to investigate.

It’s a man. Skinny. Bald. Click-clacking desperately down the hall in fancy man shoes, zipping up his pants.

Rude bugger just rushed right through us!

Makes you feel cold when they do that, doesn’t it?

Let’s zoom past baldy back into the office.

Matt and Landerfin are looking at the door as the click-clacking gets louder and louder.

The bald man just burst in.

“Foster!” shouts the man.

Landerfin backs up his hulking body, raising hands. His heel trips a tripod leg, sending the large pad of paper crashing to the floor.

“Foster!” says the bald man. “Really?”

Matt’s just sort of staring back and forth between the men. Have you heard of cognitive dissonance, Reader? I’d say Matt’s in a state of cognitive dissonance. Can’t say I blame him. Even an Omni can experience it.

There’s the skinny bald man, all zipped up now. He’s giving Matt a pleading look.

“I am so…terribly sorry,” he says. “You’re Matt LaRose?”

“Uh,” says Matt. “Yes.”

“I’m Brad Landerfin,” says the man.

Matt looks over at Landerfin. The guy he thought was Brad Landerfin. Who we thought was Brad Landerfin!

“Nice to meet you?” says Matt to the bald man (come to think of it, this thin bald dude in business-casual looks more like a temp agency rep than our silver-suited hulk). He goes to shake the man’s hand, but he pulls his away.

“I didn’t wash,” says the man. “I thought I heard my brother and rushed back.”

The large man is doubled over, stabbing a finger at Matt.

“I had you going!” he says.

“Please,” says New Landerfin. Real Landerfin. Brad Landerfin. “Please accept my deepest apologies.”

“Well, ok,” says Old Landerfin. New Foster. Foster Landerfin. “I forgive you.”

“Not you!” shouts Real Brad Landerfin. “I should…I don’t care if you’re my — Get the hell out of here!”

“Ok, ok!” says Foster. “Just stopped by to see if you wanted to hit Centerfolds for a liquid lunch.”

“Well.” Brad Landerfin slicks back spindles of hair over his moist head. “Wait in the lobby then!”

“Bro,” says Foster. “I got you covered for a lap dance.”

“Out!” says Brad Landerfin.

“Geez!” says Foster Landerfin. “Sorry.

Foster sidles past his brother, flinching when Brad raises an arm to swat him. “Good luck, Matt!” Foster says as he ducks out of the room.

Landerfin (Brad) puts his hand to his forehead.

“Oh, boy,” he says. “I am so sorry about that. My brother, Foster…he’s…he’s a character.”

“It’s ok,” says Matt.

Landerfin (Brad) picks up the tripod and rests the large pad of paper back onto it. He traces fingers across his desk, surveying the scene.

“Allrighty then!” he says. “Did you bring your paperwork?”

“I did,” says Matt. “But the man…Foster…he –” Matt gestures toward the metal trash can.

“—Right. Of course he did.” Landerfin rescues the clipboard. “Now, I did get a chance to look over –”

“M-Dog!”

Foster’s bulbous head has popped back in the room.

“Can I just say something?” he says. “I can read auras, M-Dog. I wasn’t lying about the ten million. Seriously, my man. Your aura is blazing! You’re a goddamn titan and you don’t even realize it!”

“Out!” says Brad. He’s pushing the door closed on his brother.

“Also!” Foster manages as he’s being shoved out the door. “There are two ghosts following you! Or angels! Or something!”

Brad holds the door closed on Foster.

He turns to Matt.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “That probably seemed…weird. My brother’s a – well, he claims to be…he reads palms down on Revere Beach.”

“Oh, I see,” says Matt.

Brad Landerfin takes a deep breath, letting out a profound sigh.

“Now!” he says, suddenly perking up. “My checklist? I know it was –“

Matt hands the crumpled ball of paper to Landerfin.

“Let me guess,” says Landerfin. “Made you eat your soul?”

“Yeah,” says Matt. “I only ate just a little bit though.”

“Oh boy,” says Landerfin. “Let’s just start over, shall we? As I was saying, I did get a chance to go over your resumé.”

“Ok,” says Matt.

“And it’s great!”

“Wow!” says Matt.

“I should have no problem getting you a data entry or admin spot!”

“Excellent!” says Matt.

“DON’T DO IT, M-DOG!”

Foster is shouting from behind the door.

“Heck,” says Landerfin. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I can place you at a financial institution in a receptionist position!”

“Woah,” says Matt. “That would be amazing!”

“NO!” comes the muted yell from Foster.

“I’m sorry,” says Landerfin, picking up the phone. “Would you excuse me for a moment?” He pecks a few buttons and swivels in his chair, barking hushed imperatives to someone on the other end. A few seconds later, outside, there are firm tones and protestations. Foster’s voice is distant now as he yells:

“DON’T TAKE ANY OF HIS CRAPPY JOBS, M-DOG!”

Landerfin swivels back, smiling.

“Now,” he says. “Where were we?”

“Uh,” says Matt. “You were saying you could get me a receptionist position at a financial institution?”

“Ah, yes. Definitely. The only problem is –”

“Yes?” says Matt.

“The only problem is,” says Landerfin. “You know, I just don’t have anything right now. With the recession and all. We’re dealing with some significant financial headwinds. We just really don’t have anything at the moment.”

“…Oh,” says Matt.

There go the shoulders.

“I promise, we’ll call you the second we have something!” says Landerfin. “There’s just really nothing right now. The economy –”

“—I understand,” says Matt. “Well, thanks for letting me know.”

Landerfin stands. So does Matt.

“Have a nice day,” says Matt.

“Have a wonderful rest of your day,” says Landerfin.

Unwashed Hands shake Fish Hands.

*                    *                    *

I wouldn’t describe Matt’s head as “held high” as he crunches his way toward Government Center, would you? Downcast. Downtrodden. Knackered. Buggered. Wolluped. Wiped. Spent.

Seems Old Man Despair may be setting up permanent operations after all. He’s probably in there right now, cackling as he slides on his dropped boot.

ACK!

Wha?

What just flashed past us?

Barely missed us!

Matt ducked (good thing).

Something from the sky.

There it is.

An enormous paper airplane.

Crash-landed in that mound of grey city-snow.

Matt’s looking up from where the plane came.

There’s Foster.

He’s waving down from the open office window. What the hell is he doing? He’s gesturing wildly. At the paper airplane.

Matt leans down.

Picks up the plane.

It feathers out into a large sheet of paper.

Oh, of course. It’s the chart. An X/Y axis with a curved red arc extending from one million to ten million dollars.

At the top, it says, in bold red marker:

MATTHEW LAROSE: PROJECTED INCOME

Matt’s just standing there, staring at the paper.

Presently, he shakes his head.

He clutches his belly.

His chest is convulsing!

Oh, my god!

Is he ok?

What can we do?

MATT!

Wait. Is he grinning?

Wha?

He’s laughing!

Matt comes back up, face flush. Smiling. Sanguine. He takes a deep breath.

Head up?

Shoulders back!

Foster’s still hanging out the office window. He’s giving Matt an enthusiastic double thumbs-up.

“REMINDER!” he shouts down.

Matt holds up the chart. He returns the thumbs-up to Foster. Now he’s saying something.

What was it? He mouthed something to Foster.

Did you catch it? I didn’t.

Thingy…do?

No. Rewind! What did he say?

That…dude?

Nope. Rewind again!

Thatched…roof?

Duh. No.

Tell you what. Let’s put it in slo-mo.

Ah ha!

Got it!

It’s so obvious now!

Did you catch it?

Matt said “Thank you”.

 

[centup]

 

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