Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Human Resources

In which we see Ms. Bradstreet lead a cool man to lose his temper

The Maria Chronicles, #54

Maria is walking to her Prius, parked across the street from her apartment, when she is surprised -- and pleased -- to see Jack Casey's BMW pull up behind it. Jack gets out just as she tosses the bag of clothes on her back seat. They haven't seen each other since her cast has come off her foot. Maria was going to propose taking him out to dinner to thank him for all his help in her recovery, and while she generally doesn't like unexpected visitors, she finds herself in a mellow mood.

"Well hello, Jack. How are you?"

"Not so good, Maria."

"What's wrong?" She's never seen him so agitated.

"What's wrong is that I got a call from my friend Tony Romano this afternoon. He told me that you never returned the call he made inviting you to come in for an interview for the history department chair position."

"I just -- "

"I've spent a lot of personal capital on this."

Maria doesn't like the idea of his thinking of her in terms of trade and commodities, and she can almost feel her face darken. But she decides not argue the point, taking a deep breath. "Jack, I just --"

But he he cuts her off again. "You know, Maria, call me a fool, but I've had this idea in the last few months that I understand you. I think you've been a little too hard on me, but I've accepted it, not only because I know I've made my mistakes, but also because I felt like there was a part of you that liked and accepted who I am. I can believe that I was wrong about that, and I'm willing to understand and accept a decision on your part to reject what I have to offer. But I think you take it a little too far when this withholding thing extends to other people. Tony is a good guy, a real school person, and he doesn't deserve to be treated this way just because he happens to be a friend of mine. This is bigger than you and -- "

"I just got off the phone with him, Jack. I'm going in to talk with him tomorrow."

This shuts him up. He looks away, silent, not quite ready to stand down. Then he meets her gaze again. "Why did it take you so long?"

Now it's Maria's turn to look away. "It's complicated, Jack. But not quite what you think." She looks back at him. "You're right: I waited to long to call Tony back. I apologized to him when we talked, and I'll apologize to you now. I'm usually pretty efficient about these things. And yes, to some degree it was about not wanting to get a job through you, though less out of a sense of disapproval than a need for independence."

"Maria, you would never get the job just because --"

"I know, I know, I'd have to be able to stand on my own two feet. Blah, blah, blah."

Jack smiles for the first time. "I believe the correct post-Seinfeld terminology is 'yada yada yada.'"

"Whatever. But the truth is, the situation has become more complex. Turns out there may now be something happening at Hudson High."

"Really? Wow. Tell me about it!"

She's struck by his unfeigned enthusiasm: He really wishes her well. It's not about her getting a job through him; it's about her getting what she wants. This is the moment Maria Bradstreet falls in love with Jack Casey.

"Well, like I said, it's complicated. And actually, I'd like to get some advice about it. What are you doing now, Jack?"

"You mean other than arguing with you? Not much. I was planning on going home and watching the Mets lose to the Phillies."

"Well, look, what do you say I forget about my dry-cleaning for now and take you out to dinner at the Italian place around the block so we can talk about it."

"The Mets?"

"No, dummy, my professional prospects."

He looks at her slyly. "Maria, are you propositioning me?"

"Believe it," she says, grinning.

"All right, then," Jack says. And they're off.