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Getting Down To Business

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He takes the El to the business district, one train early just to avoid being late. He buys coffee and a newspaper from an Espresso cart, and sits on a bench trying to relax for the next twenty minutes. The headlines blare reports of budget cuts and cloned sheep, and he makes his leg stop jiggling as the words skitter across the page uncomprehended.

Fifteen more minutes. He looks at the playoff scores—the Bulls close to dropping out now—and skims the Dow Jones briefly, but the numbers carom off his brain like fireworks and this is the worst possible way for Michael to deal with nervousness. He forces himself to take deep breaths and focus on a flowerbox across the street for the next thirty seconds. In. Out. Purple. Red. It’s better, definitely better. He locates the comics, feeding his secret love of “Dilbert” and “Bizarro,” and this is helping because it’s a mindless distraction and sometimes that’s the best kind.

This will be his first real job—not like the Summer Intern gigs where you go in hoping to learn from the bigwigs and wind up making photocopies and taking attendance at corporate functions.

He’d never had a job before college. He was a gawky teenager, not filling out until after he’d graduated, and he’d never have been hired for the construction work that Lincoln did to pay their bills. He’d never have passed for old enough either, but that was beside the point. By the time he had grown enough to have those options, his hands had become too important to risk crushing under rebar or grinding against concrete. They were good for skillwork—he’d taught Lincoln about plumbing and basic electronics—but not for the iffy jobs that thrived on machinery and strength.

His ten minutes are up, and he folds the newspaper carefully and leaves it where someone else may find it. He throws out the coffee cup, and picks up his briefcase with its heavy burden. He has a scientific calculator, a notebook, a supply of the mechanical pencils he loves so much, and his copy of “Brodeur’s Materials and Structural Reinforcement.”

He will step through that door, and face the challenge of creativity-on-demand on a daily basis.

One more deep breath, and he straightens his tie and sets his shoulders.

He is ready. The adventure begins here.

 

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