The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Flashback Friday!

This is the Flashback Friday! that almost wasn't (when I lost it last week). I’m not sure it’s better or worse than the last time I wrote it all down, but here it is. For what it’s worth...

It began (last week), as an homage, of sorts, because Highlander and I were both having pretty crappy work weeks. Consequently, it prompted me to recall another Tale of Previous Employment. And so (even though it’s attempt #2), let’s set about getting a few things 'reported'.

I’d only been working for Yunger Construction for a couple weeks when the receptionist quit. She didn’t give any notice. She just didn’t show up one morning. Over the next few months and years, I’d get a much better understanding for just what a consistent issue that was. At the time, all it meant was that I was moved to the front desk to "fill in" until some new girl showed up. It was the first of many such engagements while I worked there.

Being new myself, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the field personnel. So, as the guys would call in to speak with someone, or ask a question, it gave me the opportunity to get to know them a little better.

I have found that most construction guys flirt at every opportunity. George was certainly no exception there. The first time I talked to him on the phone, he was very friendly and let me know that I’d be hearing a lot from him. He was the most experienced superintendent we had. Though he was thirty years my senior, he was likeable and knew his business.

For the next several weeks, I found myself answering the phones and each day when George called, we’d exchange pleasantries long distance. He was building a gymnasium at a high school in the far eastern part of the state. Having just started the project, he was getting the appropriate permitting arranged and setting up a trailer and then ordering materials.

It got to the point where George would get himself a cup of coffee each morning and then he’d call me. We’d go over his progress from the previous day and discuss what he’d be doing that day. I’d issue him any purchase orders he’d need or look up phone numbers for him or send him paperwork.

With December looming, George’s mission was to get concrete poured, framing up and the roof on before the snow came. It was a push, but not impossible. He’d scheduled an early concrete pour, for footers, so, I didn’t think anything of it when he didn’t call one morning. I’d assumed he was busy with the concrete pour and would catch up with me later. No biggie.

About 9AM that morning, I got a call from a woman who refused to identify herself. She asked if George had called in that morning, or if I knew where he was. Not knowing who she was, I was reluctant to give her any information. The panic in her voice was unmistakable, however. "Something had happened," she alluded, but gave me no details.

This was the early nineties, so our guys had pagers, not cell phones. The caller was insistent that I page George, and advised me that she’d “call back” momentarily.

Becoming a little nervous myself, I paged George, and then, while I waited for him to call back, I went to my boss and let him know about the call. He told me to keep him apprised, but he wasn't terribly worried. Like me, he assumed George was busy pouring concrete and didn’t want to be bothered. It made perfect sense, of course. But something inside me wouldn’t accept it.

I found myself torn between watching the clock and watching the switchboard lights…waiting for some information that would allow me to move beyond my anxious state.

It was nearly two hours later when she called back. The panic was no longer evident in her voice. It had been replaced by a numb calm. I remember thinking it was the same sound of defeat I’d sometimes get after I’d “cried it all out”. She asked if George had called back and didn’t seem particularly surprised when I told her he had not.

She gave me only the sketchiest of details about how her husband had found out, the night before, about a relationship that she and George had been having. Her husband had threatened to hurt George and, well, she couldn’t find George and her husband had never come home either. It had, apparently, been a pretty sleepless night for her.

I never did get her name, but she did give me her husband’s name and the type of vehicle he drove and where he worked. I’m sure she was as afraid for herself as she was for George. At the time, given the way she was reporting the information, it seemed as though she was getting ready to go away for an extended trip. Since I never heard from her again, I couldn’t say whether that feeling was founded or not.

When she hung up I briefly spoke with my boss and then called the state police to give them the information I had. (The information I’d received about ‘Mr. Pendleton’, as well as information about where George had been staying and where the jobsite was located.)

None of us in the office got a great deal of work done that day. Each time the phone rang it filled us with dread. It was just after three when the state police called back. Despite the fact that I’d been the one to originally contact them, they wanted to speak only to my boss. So while he spoke to them, a couple of us in the office were waiting nervously for the call to be concluded.

The look on his face as he emerged from the office was pretty clear. He asked me to call everyone together in the conference room. And then he told us all how the police had found George’s body.

He’d been dead since the early morning. His death caused (presumably at that point, though it would later be confirmed) by three gunshot wounds to the upper back. They suspected, given clues at the scene, that George had just started getting things going on his concrete pour when he’d been surprised by the murderer. They couldn’t say whether he’d slumped into the footer of the building as he’d been shot, or if his body had been put there after the fact, but that they'd found him there, covered in wet cement. They might not have found him at all, had his pager not gone off while they were there looking for clues about his whereabouts.

Despite the voice I’d been hearing all day, I, like everyone else in the room, sat there in shock. My boss said he’d have to find someone else to go down and finish the job, and that he wanted George’s personnel file so that he could call his ex-wife (who would be charged with the unenviable task of notifying George’s teenaged son of his father’s murder). In the meantime, he, himself, was going there to collect George’s things and make sure things were being handled appropriately.

For weeks afterwards, little things would remind me of George. There’d be a delivery ticket that would have his signature on it, or someone would call and say they hadn’t been able to reach him, and I’d tear up a little, missing the morning banter I’d grown so accustomed to.

I’d start thinking about all kinds of crazy things. Wondering whether George had loved Mrs. Pendleton...or whether she’d been a convenient piece of tail in a temporary town. Curious about whether Mr. Pendleton had announced himself and told George why he was killing him...or if he never saw it coming at all. I’d think about what would have come next for him in life had he not been killed. Sometimes, I’d even wonder if Mrs. Pendleton had run away somewhere.

Your mind can find all sorts of mazes sometimes. And, yes, trying to resolve questions to which you will never find answers is definitely in that category. As someone who’s been known to overthink things from time to time, I’m not sure how to keep myself from heading down those paths. But time and distance have helped.

It’s been more than a dozen years since George died. I hardly think of him at all anymore. In fact, before I started this Flashback, I don’t think I’d thought about him in several years. But I don’t think, even though I never saw his face and only "knew" him for a few months, that I’ll ever completely forget him.

Now, finish up what you must and head off into your weekend. I hope it’s a most excellent one. For my own, I have a few things on tap. Dress shopping with my girls on Saturday afternoon and then a cheesecake tasting and decorating meeting with a couple friends on Sunday. In between there somewhere, the kids are having some friends over and there is likely some laundry and grocery shopping that will beg my attention. Oh yeah, I think there’s football on sometime on Sunday, too...;)



Blogger Highlander said...

Wonderful post, baby. I love the way all the emotions come through the fabulously understated way you're explaining these events. What a horrible day that must have been, for so many people.

Uh... yeah... there's some football game on Sunday, I think...

2/02/2007 6:16 AM  
Blogger MJ Norton said...

Nicely done. Even the unpleasant items are always a pleasure to read here.

These tales always leave me a little adrift, as I find myself noticing where my sympathies honestly and naturally -- and perhaps harshly -- go.

My heart goes out to George's teenage son most of all, as the most blameless one who had the most (among the survivors) taken from him. To be perfectly honest the next wad of sympathy goes out to Mr. Pendleton, both for what drove him to do what he did and for how much of his own life he threw away instead of simply taking the information he had and trying to get an attorney to get him a divorce that would leave George's special friend as high and dry as possible. George's ex certainly gets my sympathies, though I can't help but wonder if this was simply the last in a series of griefs smooth-talking George had brought her.

As you may suspect, I have no sympathy for Mrs. P, and hope she has just enough humanity to not have gotten a truly pleasant night's rest in the years since.

Certainly, I don't and can't know the people and all the details, and it's those personal connections that tend to veer us away from reactions as absolute as what I'm offering above. Still, given what led up to it I can't help but see George as another example of how gregarious a person is isn't necessarily the best measure.

Now, what's this about football? I have a post in mind concerning that, but I don't know if I'll get to it.

2/02/2007 10:38 AM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

H -

Thanks, Sweetie!I always appreciate the feedback from someone who's writing I deeply admire.

Mike -

A bit of information that came out much later was that George's wife had left him because of his history of philandering. I hate to equate them to rockstars, but construction guys travel away from home quite a bit. And, well, it's more the rule than the exception that they loosen up on their marriage vows when they do. I'm not saying it's right, nor making any excuses, I'm just saying it's been my observation for the past twenty years.

While I understand your empathy for Mr. Pendleton (and I'm not saying he had no reason to be pretty fired up), I can never see infidelity (as upset as I'd be myself) as a justification for murder.

Gregarious is not a word I'd have chosen to describe George, but he most assuredly was a smooth-talker.

2/02/2007 11:01 AM  
Blogger AaA said...

Mmm, guess I'm with Mike on this one.

They're wedding VOWS, not 'wedding non-commital grunts of possible fidelity'.

2/02/2007 7:00 PM  

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