Fat Linda. That’s what Jim said out loud enough for God and everybody to hear. He stood from his desk chair, grabbed a framed photograph of he and his father, then walked past his colleagues and out the door. Ted, his friend and CEO, had just informed the office that the company had been sold and everyone was being laid off. Everyone. Ted said something about being so sorry, that it had been a good run, a great run even, but it was all over. He kept saying so sorry.
Fat Linda is a character from one of Raymond Carver’s stories. She’s really not a character per se, no speaking lines, not one scene directly involving her. She exists as an off-screen name holding ominous power, kind of a something-wicked-this-way-comes presence. For Jim she was a symbol standing for anything that comes in rather unexpectedly and puts an end to something good. It didn’t have to be grand of scale, like the end of a job. It could be running out of propane midway through grilling burgers. Of course, it could be something weighty, like the aneurysm that suddenly ruptured in Jim’s father’s brain on Christmas Eve two years ago. Jim’s father was the one who introduced him to Carver’s writing. Jim had hated his father prior to the summer before that Christmas Eve. But that summer saw forgiveness, old wrongs slightly righted. Neither Jim nor his father knew exactly why they moved toward one another, maybe it was simply time. Then, not a handful of months later…Fat Linda.
In addition to so sorry, Ted had also mentioned severance pay, enough so that long-timers, like Jim, wouldn’t have to scramble to find another job for at least the immediate future. As he walked out the door of the building, Jim did what he always did in times of trouble. He called Kit.
“The severance is nice, Kit. But it’s of little consolation in this moment.”
“It’s zero consolation right now big brother The pigeons of life just shit-stormed you Give yourself time to rage God that’s Ted’s a bastard and a half.”
Kit was right. His kid sister was always mostly right. Ted hadn’t started out that way, but he quickly devolved into a corporate cretin. And while raging was more Kit’s speed, Jim couldn’t deny the lure to swing away.
“Listen your schedule’s suddenly open I’ve got tickets to the church service this afternoon Pick me up in an hour No discussion I love you bye.”
Jim couldn’t help but smile at Kit’s habit of run-on sentence talking, plus her reference to the only church that truly feeds the soul. That last summer of their father’s life had been nothing short of redemptive. Jim found common ground with his father in the stories of Ray Carver. But his father and Kit reunited over baseball. They went to every game they could find in driving distance, from the majors to little league. And they watched Bull Durham together a total of nine times. In fact, Kit quoted Crash’s “I believe” speech at the graveside service for their father. As she spoke the final line – “the last three days” – Kit broke, and grief came tumbling down. Jim too.