Six slips on a bulletin board.
Six lives to be cared for.
Damian reviewed the list: a hair stylist, a construction worker, a history professor, a pro cyclist, a gardener and a baker.
He should have been ecstatic – not one of them a Dilbert-style cubicle worker, politician, or anyone in sales.
He should have been thrilled. At first he was. “I am sick of us managing things for people who don’t give a fig for anything real,” he told Naomi, his life-partner and shared custodian of the list.
Naomi had shrugged. “Let’s get a bagel before we start Phase 1,” she said.
Naomi was always thinking of the next gastronomical event, Damian thought morosely. She didn’t see things on a grand scale like he did. To her, a life in custody was a job. To him, it was a calling. He’d been waiting for an opportunity like this for years. For years. This was a cohort of doers – not a paper pusher or glad-hander among them.
Still, a strange thing happened after they started Phase 1 – positive affect. In Phase 1, he and Naomi would provide small good events to each member of their cohort. Things designed to put people in a good mood more than to change their lives. Hitting all green lights on the way to work, having a particularly delicious latté in the morning, seeing a delightful Spring sunrise on a Sunday morning.
Damian was really looking forward to the pleasure of helping people who deserved it for once. This time their work would not be wasted on Philistines who only took advantage of the next guy or who, worse yet, were so deep in apathy that they didn’t even notice they were in Phase 1. But it seemed this cohort were like the others. They didn’t seem to notice or to change their outlook one iota, in his opinion. He complained to Naomi, “It doesn’t seem worthwhile. No one is noticing!”
“Relax,” Naomi told him. “You are such an overachiever. Chill out! As long as we do our job, who cares if anyone in the cohort notices? By the way,” she added, “what about that new Indonesian place for lunch today? I heard they make great satay.”
Well, Damian told himself, he was an artist. And what good was having an artistic inclination if it was not recognized by those whom it benefitted most? He glumly fulfilled his portion of the contract for Phase 1, then submitted a request for a transfer to Records. If he wasn’t going to make a difference, why try to make a difference, he thought.
He saw Naomi a few months later when they crossed paths at the annual company picnic. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, birds singing . . . the whole nine yards, so to speak.
“You were wrong about that last cohort,” Naomi reported. “The pro cyclist washed out, but the others made the cut. In fact, the baker was just assigned as my new partner. You remember Cole?”
She introduced him. Damian shook hands, but inwardly he refused to believe that Cole or any of that last cohort were worthy of the Life Custody calling.
As he moved toward the buffet table, Naomi called after him, “Wait ’til you taste Cole’s chocolate soufflee! You’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven!”
I already have, Damian thought. Bummer.