The Resignation

Meg had asked me to tell the girls they could get out of their beds but I’d told her I couldn’t, “Because I don’t work here anymore.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” she said.

Still sitting under the pine tree, I said, “I quit. I’ll turn in my resignation in the morning.”

“Are you insane? You can’t quit!”

“Watch me.”

Meg stood there staring down at me for a long moment, then said, “Okay, let’s pretend I believe you. Why are you quitting?”

Why?” Didn’t you see what happened back there?”

She turned and looked back at the yard as though something might still be going on over there, then she said, “Sure, I saw the whole thing. Earl and Eddie got into it and you stopped it. So what?”

Stopped it?” I said. “In the first place, I was drunk while I was supposedly supervising the kids. I’m still drunk. In the second place, Earl had Eddie in a neck-lock and I idiotically tackled Earl – that could’ve snapped Eddie’s neck like a twig! Then I hit Earl so hard I thought I’d killed the poor kid!”

“Well, Eddie’s neck isn’t broken and Earl’s still alive last I looked, so what’s the problem?”

I shook my head in disgust. “I’m not cut out for this kind of work, Meg,” I said. “I’m a lousy supervisor and I need to get out of here before something really bad happens.”

Meg paced back and forth in front of me for a minute, then stopped, looked down at me, and said, “At least we see eye to eye on one thing – you’re a lousy supervisor.”

“I’m glad we agree.”

“In fact, I could stand here for an hour listing all the dumb things you do as Supervisor of Male Residents.”

“Don’t bother.”

“But instead I’ll just give you a couple of for-instances.” Meg held up one finger. “In the first place, no matter how mad you get at these kids you do not call them cretins or morons or idiots. These kids have a disability and it’s not their fault.”

I shrugged. “They don’t mind.”

“Who cares whether they mind or not! It’s unprofessional.”

Meg held up a second finger. “Also, you are the Supervisor of Male Residents. You are not the Supervisor of Female Residents. But you’re always telling the girls what to do and what not to do, like I wasn’t even there! You need to respect my authority.”

“I never do any such thing.”

“You just did it! I turned my back for five minutes and the next thing I know you’ve ordered the girls up to their beds!”

Meg held up a third finger. “And here’s one you can never seem to get your mind around: You” – she pointed at me – “are staff. They” – she jerked her finger back over her shoulder – “are the Residents.

“But no matter what dumb thing the kids are doing, you’re right out there with them! Kicking around some dumb ball? Playing grab-ass? Having a belching contest? You know, it’s just not a good idea for the Supervisor of Male Residents to be VA’s belching champion.”

“Actually,” I said, “I came in second.”

Meg threw up her hands in exasperation and turned her back to me, staring across the yard at the house, shaking her head. But then she said, “Okay, I know I’m being a jerk, even if everything I said is true.”

She turned back to me and plopped down on the ground facing me. She was sitting cross-legged and so was I and our knees were only an inch apart.

“I shouldn’t tell you this,” she said, “but what the hell. After you’d been here a couple weeks you were doing some dumb thing with the kids and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I went storming into Rich’s office and told him what you were doing.” Meg chuckled. “Rich didn’t even look up from his paperwork, he just said, ‘I wish I had ten more supervisors like him doing dumb things.’

“So after that I had to admit that, despite all the dumb things you do, you’re actually a pretty good supervisor. Not as good as me, of course, but pretty good. But I couldn’t figure out how you did it because you seemed to be doing everything wrong!”

Meg leaned toward me and said, “Do you know when I figured it out? It was that day Mikey’s mom never showed up. The poor kid was inconsolable, none of us could do anything with him.

“But then you walked out here and sat under this very pine tree with him and …”

“No,” I said, “it was that tree over there.”

“Whatever. And the next thing I know here you and Mikey came across the yard, holding hands and chatting up a blue streak! It was like the thing with his mom hadn’t happened!

“Not like it hadn’t happened,” I said.

“Okay, maybe not. But he was his old happy self again. What in the world did you say to him?”

“It didn’t matter.”

Meg’s eyebrows went up but then she said, “Yeah, that’s right, it didn’t matter. Because, you see, that’s the secret to your success around here. You love these kids, you love them like they were your own kids! I’ve worked here a lot longer than you and I can say for a fact that some of these kids are flat-out unlovable. But not to you.”

My eyes had suddenly watered up and I was terrified I was going to cry. I held my face as still as possible, but as soon as I blinked two fat tears rolled slowly down my cheeks. Meg reached over and gently flicked them away.

She said, “You calmed Mikey down because Mikey knew you loved him. His own mom might not give a damn about him, but you did. And that was what mattered.”

Tears were now streaming down my face unchecked. When was the last time I’d cried about something, I wondered? When I was ten?

“So you see, that’s why you can’t quit – it would break these kids’ hearts. And I’ll tell you something else – it’d break your heart, too.”

I sat there for a long time, tears running down my face, then I said, in a very small voice, “Maybe you’re right.”

Next up: VA, Part 18

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