Length: short story
Genre: gay romance, recent American history
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
Rob was the one who got away.
Trent stumbles upon him during a trip to San Francisco…
Right before a deadly earthquake…
EVEN BEFORE my butt touched the hard chair in front of his glossy desk, I sensed the interview was going to be a disaster. We didn’t get started until four o’clock. He’d summoned me to his office half an hour late without apology, saying he’d lost track of time with his prior interviewee. I’d seen him giving her his business card outside his office. He’d eyed her the way fraternity brothers eye a perky new little sister.
Now, as I bumbled through describing my senior project on accounting for nonprofits, he coughed, shifted in his cushy swivel chair, and slid my resume to the side, revealing his day planner. It was open to October 17, 1989, but he’d already put a big red X through the day. I felt my face get hot and my mouth go dry. He might as well have yelled, ‘Shut up already! I want to leave.’ At the corner of his desk, his Far Side desktop calendar displayed the single-panel comic for tomorrow. Gary Larson had turned his cartoon world of snakes, cows, dinosaurs, cavemen, Frankensteins, and suburbanites topsy-turvy. Over some of the strewn characters, Larson had taped a note that read ‘Out of Order’. I imagined the cheap-suited legs protruding from one side of the note were mine.
Someone rapped on the window beside his office door. I glanced over my shoulder. Another ex-frat guy in an expensive suit mugged at the one behind the glossy desk and put on a San Francisco Giants baseball cap. He tapped his watch and disappeared down the hallway.
“Trent, you do realize our clients are for-profit corporations.”
“Given your interests, I recommend getting in touch with Goodwill. We’ll keep your resume on file. Thanks for coming in.”
He swiveled out of his chair and ushered me to their sleek lobby, where his suited coworkers had gathered, all of them wearing black and orange baseball caps. Frigging Giants. I hoped Oakland kicked their butts tonight. Not that I gave a damn about the World Series or baseball. Gymnastics was the only sport I really liked.
I exited their offices feeling spat upon. I should have known that San Francisco yuppies would want nothing to do with a West Phoenix yokel like me. Why in the world had I let their corporate recruiter from Dallas coax me into flying here for an interview? He’d flagged me down at the tail end of Arizona State University’s career fair for summer grads. When he found out I was graduating with an accounting degree, he lit up. He had one more open slot, and I was just who he was looking for. He’d schedule me an interview if I’d figure out a way to get to San Francisco.
Having no other offers, I was tempted. My boyfriend, Jonathan, had broken up with me in May, right before he graduated. He’d landed a dream job in advertising in New York and told me not to follow. He’d left me stranded in Scottsdale with a pricy two-bedroom apartment. I’d had to empty and clean it up on my own and move back in with my parents. Every morning that blistering summer, I left their small stucco box of a house in shabby Maryvale and cursed Phoenix’s million stop lights and lack of freeways as I drove to ASU to earn Cs in the last of my accounting courses. Every night, I returned and lay awake miserable in my tiny, stuffy bedroom. I missed Jonathan even though we’d never been well matched. With his 3.93 GPA, he was destined to be a flashy ad exec. I, however, still had doubts I’d achieve the humble status of mild mannered accountant.
I missed my best friend, Peter, too. He’d loved me in spite of my average GPA. I’d loved him. When his decline worsened last fall, I abandoned studying for my courses. Jonathan was horrified, but I didn’t give a damn. I’d wanted as much time with Peter as I could get before the pneumocystis pneumonia took him from me forever.
By the time August came around, I wanted nothing more than to escape my scorched empty life in Arizona. After the recruiter penned me in for an interview on September 19, I maxed out my only credit card buying a dull gray, poly blend suit and a round trip ticket to Oakland International Airport. I let myself dream of a cool new life under foggy skies in the Bay Area.
Then I’d received a curt call from an unapologetic secretary at the San Francisco office. They were rescheduling my interview. She didn’t care about the penalty I had to pay to change my airline tickets. The new date—take it or leave it—was October 17.
Now, as I trudged toward the elevators of this slick Financial District high rise, I cursed myself for being cowed by the snakes.
The glass doors to a law office swung open. “Trent?”
My heart thumped hard in my chest. Gazing at me was a man I thought I’d lost forever.
“Rob, what’re you doing here?”
OUT OF ORDER is also a part of the STRANDED Anthology
- In 2014, ERIC GOBER won three Reader Views literary awards for his debut novel,Secrets of the Other Side, including Best Fiction Book of the Year.Eric’s short stories are featured in Wayward Ink Publishing’s anthologiesEncore, Stranded, and A Likely Story. He has written for other publications and anthologies, including First Time for Everything and Best Gay Romance 2014. He earned his MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University.Eric grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, the setting for his award-winning debut novel. He has lived in Arizona, Kansas, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Today he makes his home in Los Angeles, where he is at work on a new novel.
ERIC GOBER can be found at: