May I Place You On Hold While I Investigate Further?Submitted by Tom Sorrell at 2014-08-16 01:20:02 EDT
Rating: 1.87 on 10 ratings (11 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
The sundial on my desk tells me it’s nearly 11. To my left I hear Bob arguing with someone. Finally he exclaims, “OK, that’s enough. I need you to hold, please.”
Bob jabs the button, closes his eyes and rubs his temples.
“I’m an asshole?” he grumbles. “Whatever, lady.”
“Mr. Jones,” I say into my headset microphone, casting a sidelong glance at my young friend. “Something's happening, but I don't know what it is. May I please place you on hold while I investigate further? I'll only be a minute or two.”
The caller mumbles something about birds and whether they should be bought or smoked, then shouts, “All right!” I chuckle, press the button and roll to Bob’s cubicle.
“What’s got your goat, kid?" I ask and Bob just stares at his computer screen. I check the number – it says 08061999.
“I’m over 30, Virg,” Bob sighs, and I grimace because no one calls me Virg. “I’m not a kid.”
He runs his hand through the mop of brown curls on his head and casts his eyes to the ground.
“You look like a kid,” I say.
“Everyone tells me that,” Bob chuckles. “I get carded every time I buy alcohol and people ask how I look so young. One lady even calls me Peter Pan.”
I raise my eyebrows and look over.
“How do you stay so young-looking?” I ask. “Because seriously, you look like a kid. In fact, you kind of look like Billy the Kid.”
Bob scrunches his face like I’m an idiot. I shrug.
"Seriously buddy, what’s up?” I say. “You seem more frazzled than usual.”
Bob shakes his head.
“This lady just said I was the Anti-Christ, then she called me an asshole. Can you believe it? An asshole.”
“I’ve been called worse. You can’t let it get to you.”
Bob slumps down in his chair.
”This place sucks,” he whines. “I miss The Post.”
He means The Cincinnati Post, one of two news rags in the greater Cincinnati area, circa 1995 or so. Bob thinks he worked there and lost his job after The Post went belly up. I give him a look, pause for a moment, and say…
”Hey man, I miss my farm. I’m telling you, that was the life: crops, spirits, poetry ... nature. It was wonderful, Bob. Paradise, even … and then they killed Caesar.
Bob turns, a frown on his face.
“Why do you say things like that?” he asks. “You were born in the ‘70s.”
“Yes I was,” I reply with a smirk, because this is technically true. I was born in the 70s – 70 B.C., to be precise. Bob did not specify the 1970s and words matter, or at least they used to. I lean back in my chair and sigh, thinking fond thoughts about my life prior to damnable Dante.
“You’re not ‘The Virgil,’” Bob says. “You know that, right?”
I roll my eyes and exhale. Bob needs a history lesson.
“After they assassinated Julius all hell broke loose. Everyone picked sides. Marc Antony went native with Cleopatra and they ended up fighting Octavian at the Battle of Actium on the high seas. Luckily for Octavian Agrippa was on his side.”
Bob’s eyes light up.
“Agrippa?” he asks.
"Yes,” I say, a bit impressed. “You know of him?”
“Of course," Bob chuckles. "It’s from The Princess Bride, when Inigo’s fighting the man in black.”
Bob pretends to hold a cutlass and speaks in an terrible English accent…
“I find that Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro,” he says. “Don’t you?”
I stare, blankly. Bob chooses to continue, this time in an even worse Spanish accent.
“Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa,” he says, swinging his fake sword, and people start to look. Bob, meanwhile, finishes his fencing maneuver with a flourish and says…
“Which I have.”
Then he grins, goofily. I sigh, loudly. Bob has this effect on me.
“Agrippa was Octavian’s son-in-law,” I sigh. “And Caligula’s grandfather.”
“Caligula?” Bob asks, his eyes lighting up.
I nod. Bob takes off his headset, stands, puts his right arm out, raises his thumb and struts around the cubicles. More people look at him. One woman, dressed all in black, grabs a pack of Camels and heads for the exit. I notice Gertie notice her, then Bob, so I grab him and pull him into his seat.
“Are you nuts?” I say. “What the hell was that?”
“Caligula,” he says, with a stupid smile. “Malcolm McDowell. How awesome is he?”
I nod, because Bob, for once, is right, and in case you’re wondering how I know about Sir Malcolm McDowell, the answer is great art is timeless, and so are the great artists who reside within it. I know everything about everything. Bob, on the other hand…
“Still,” he says. “After Clockwork the guy scares the hell out of me. I watched a movie about Bobby Jones the other night and McDowell was in it. I kept waiting for him to cut a woman’s clothes off with a pair of scissors and start singing Singing..."
“Ahhhhhhhhh!” a man yells from across the cavernous space. “Ahhhhhhh! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”
Bob turns to look. After a moment he laughs. I look his way.
“It sounds like someone just found a horse’s head in their sheets,” he mutters and I chuckle.
We turn towards the action across the way and watch the screaming man stand up and run around the building for a moment like a headless chicken. A few moments later the man crashes into a wall and the on-site paramedics are called.
“Greatest movie ever,” Bob says, still watching the carnage. "It's perfect."
I look at Bob and scoff. Bob looks back and frowns. Both of us look back at the drama on the other side of the building. There’s a moment of silence.
“Back to Agrippa,” I say. Bob looks over and raises an eyebrow.
“He was Nero’s great-grandfather,” I finish.
“Nero,” Bob says, rubbing his chin. “Is he the one who slept while Rome burned?”
I sigh, loudly.
“Yes Bob,” I reply, with an eye roll. “But I’ll tell you what Nero didn’t do.”
“What’s that?” he asks.
“He didn’t play a fiddle. He played a lyre … and he played it poorly.”
I sit back and smirk, quite satisfied with myself. Bob stares for a moment, nods politely and turns back to his computer. I shrug, look around and see a supervisor named Rex approaching.
“Be careful just sitting there,” I say, nudging Bob. “Rex is near.”