the true stories
My second posting during training for bank manager was to a branch on Main & Broadway. I am not a downtown type of guy and I was somewhat dismayed at being placed in this milieu. The weekend before my first shift, I drove over and scouted out parking and eateries. Fortuna smiled on my mission and I came up with a dandy spot for parking next to a small post office. I also found a wonderful deli, an espresso bar and a Chinese lunch place where a man could fill up on healthy food for small change.
I would miss my cedars and raccoons but I knew things were going to be alright. I was single after having had a thirty month marriage and this neck of the woods was chock-full of the prettiest girls I had ever seen. I managed to show up on time the first Monday.
My program consisted of being trained at each and every position within the branches and then doing them solo for a month or so afterward. I had performance reviews each month with my assigned training coordinator and was offered free university level schooling in pertinent subjects at UBC. I took up the Fundamentals of Accounting.
My manager at this branch took the course with me and I remember her and I being angry to learn that even if a former student gave you last years text, it was unacceptable to the university. Although the book itself hadn't changed in any material way in twelve reprints, this was the rule. The fact that accounting hadn't changed since ships laden with purple dye sailed out of Tyre and Sidon was moot. The books were ridiculously expensive and I had already located two perfectly good copies from a used bookstore. When I told Mario at the espresso bar he said, “What they doin', teachin-a school or sellin'-a god-a-dam books?”
At this second branch, I was started on the Foreign Transfers desk. One of my first teachers was a crusty old Russian woman who used to really be a contender back in her day. She was sharp as a razor, had a sarcastic wit and wore make-up like it had been applied with a palette knife. During one of the many wine and cheese soirees that banks are wont to indulge in, she told me that she had been through the war.
When she found out I was from Texas, she became very excited, the sarcasm evaporated from her demeanor and she related a fascinating love story. She had been bombed out of her own childhood farm and had been staying for a protracted time in a bomb-shelter. One combat day, an American pilot had been shot down in the wheat fields. The young frozen Texan from Houston came to stay in the shelter and fell in love with a fetching farm-girl he found within.
All she knew was that he had talked of returning to Texas if he lived and had spoken of wanting to be a dentist. Tamara Nikolov never saw Rick again. I slapped my leg and grinned. It happened that was born in Houston, Texas and that I was going to be there in a few months time. I told her that I would tell him hello for her. She wrote the name down and I could tell that she held out no hope but rather was indulging me.
At an old neighbor's house in Houston three months later, I flipped through the twenty pounds of the Houston Yellow Pages to “Dentists.” I looked up the name on my scrap of paper. I found it easily. He had an orthodontic practice in Pasadena.
“Hello, I have an important message for Richard.”
“Are you a patient, Sir?”
“No Ma'am. It's a personal call. Please tell Rick to call Mike back at this number as soon as he's able to. I have an important message for him from an old, old friend.”
“Alright Sir. I'll tell him. It'll be about twenty more minutes, I imagine.”
I told my friend the story and before I was done her phone rang.
“Hello, I'm returning a call from Mike. This is Richard.”
“Hi Richard, this is Mike. I'm calling to deliver a greeting from Canada from a very old friend of yours.”
“Canada? Son, I don't know anyone in Canada. Who is it from.”
He sounded quite old but obviously still going strong.
“Rick, best you sit down before I tell you. Alright. I am from Houston but I work in a bank up in Vancouver Canada and I work with a lady who says she used to know a mighty handsome fighter-pilot name of Rick. Tamara Nikolov is the one who wants to tell you hello.”
“Son...”, his voice cracked, “Son, that was a mighty long time ago.”
“Yes Sir, It sure was. She's doing real good. I see her everyday.”
“Mike, you tell her Rick said hello and that he's doing just fine. She was a fine young woman, she sure was. Excuse me a second. Holly, cancel the rest of my appointments today, sweetheart. Mike, that was a barrel-roll but I'm glad you called, Son. I'm real happy she made it through the fire. I'm going to have to go home now and pour myself a drink.”
When I told Tamara later, she got a wonderful look in her eyes, that I'd never seen. It was look someone has when they know that someone they care about is safe and sound. It was as if a piece of something missing had been replaced after forty years of concern. I felt privileged to have been a simple messenger to carry this precious news. When she got done wiping off all the colours running down her face and put back her glasses, just for a second I saw that farm girl. She came next day and gave me a whole carton of Собрание cigarettes.
“Here cowboy, for you.”
Copyright © 2015 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.