Henry sat dumbfounded. The phone receiver swung down from his hand. His mouth gaped open, and the wrinkles hung off the jaws of his seventy-year-old shocked face.
“Hello, is anybody there?” came the voice of the young woman with whom he had been speaking.
Henry blinked and put the receiver back up to his ear. “Yes, Becky. Did you say you have no record of me working at Richmond Defense?”
Becky’s voice sounded empathetic, “That’s correct, sir. What years did you say you worked at the company?”
Henry put his forehead against his hand and shook his head slightly as he talked. “I worked there from nineteen-hundred-and-sixty to nineteen-eighty-two.”
“I’m afraid that’s quite impossible, sir.” Becky now sounded almost condescending. “The company wasn’t founded until nineteen-eighty-one.”
Henry clenched his left fist and threw himself against the back of his chair in frustration. “I know when the company was founded, young lady, I was one of the first ten people John hired.”
Henry stood up and his knees popped with the pain that shot up his leg. “John Richmond, the founder. How long have you been with the company? They don’t teach you about its founder anymore?”
Becky’s voice grew tense. “They teach us each and every thing about Richmond Defense. I don’t like your insinuation that I don’t know how to do my job.”
Henry began to pace, “Fine, then what do they teach you?”
Becky’s voice grew a little more pleasant. “The company was founded in nineteen-eighty-one by Garcia Richmond who named the company after his father, John. He, and two friends, Richard and Jerry, merged their three companies one year ago to combine the might of their specialties. Our specialty is small arms. Do I need to tell you what models of guns we make as well?” Becky’s voice became flat, “I assume you already know that information since you worked here.”
Henry was dumbfounded. He stood there alone in his home office looking out his window. Was he going senile? He had begun to forget the little things, like his grandkids birthdays. Henry looked down at his desk. There, laying under his computer monitor was a stack of pay statements from his 401K. He was not going senile, but he could not figure out why the company would change its history. At least now he knew why his check was a week late. Henry cleared his voice, “Young lady, Becky, I have a stack of 401K payment stubs in front of me. I am looking at my computer screen and the screenshots I’ve made of my withdrawals from the company. I’m indeed a former employee, and I’m not confused. I would like to know why I’m no longer in the company’s systems.”
Henry heard Becky exhale loudly into the phone. He smiled because he knew he had her. “Please hold,” was Becky’s only response, and then a click and old muzak filled his ear before he could respond.
Henry paced his room, stopped and spoke to the ceiling, “What can be taking so long?” He continued wearing out the floor in his home office. A moment later Becky’s voice returned.
“Henry, I’ve been talking to my manager. We do have you in our system. In fact, I am sending someone over there right now to hand-deliver the check. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Henry was about to respond but the phone clicked, and the line was dead. He sat down in his chair. His old body ached from the stress he had put it through. She never even explained all those mistakes, thought Henry to himself. I still don’t know why I was missing, or why the company says I never worked there. A few moments later there was a knock at the door. Henry forced his sore, tired bones out of his chair to answer the door. He opened the door, and a man in a nurse’s uniform smiled and then stuck a needle into his neck. Henry winced, the room spun and turned black.
The rising sun met Henry’s eyes as they opened. His bed felt comfortable against his old body. The white linoleum appeared to be freshly mopped. Over next to the window his iPad and notebook sat neatly on his empty desk. Henry got up, stretched, and walked slowly to the shower. After his shower, there was a knock at his bedroom door. A young man dressed in a white nurses uniform stood before him. “How are you feeling this morning Mr. Smith?” asked the young nurse.
“Just fine,” responded Henry, and then he stopped and looked harder at the young man. “Do I know you? You seem familiar.”
“I’m Chuck, sir. Don’t you remember us talking about my son Lewis?”
Lewis, wasn’t Lewis who I worked with, thought Henry to himself. Yes, Lewis and I were testers together on the .50 caliber sniper rifle back in the early seventies. Henry replied, “I’m sorry, Chuck, the only Lewis I remember is my old testing partner.”
Chuck smiled, and then responded, “It’s okay, sir. This will help you to remember.”
A white cotton ball appeared from Chuck’s left hand. It felt cold and wet against Henry’s skin. Chuck’s right hand came up, and before Henry could move a Chuck sunk the needle end of a syringe into his small wrinkled arm. Henry felt dizzy, and Chuck helped him to his bed. “Just rest, sir. You’ll wake up in a couple of hours, and everything will be clear again.”
The bed felt comfortable against Henry’s body. It reminded him of home. “Home,” mumbled Henry as his world grew darker, “I want to go home.”