Friday, October 2, 2015

Creative Writing-Short Story: Owen

I got the idea for the this story from a friend. The facts have been modified for fictional purposes.

Owen

After an eight hour flight the only thing Robert wanted was a quiet place to stretch his legs and rest his eyes. At the United lounge the two agents manning the front desk seemed preoccupied with a troublesome customer. It always irritated Robert when a person held up the line, oblivious to waiting people.

As the line grew longer, the two agents were joined by a third and then a forth. Finally, the man left the counter and headed toward the door, his eyes had a fiery glow.  As he passed, Robert suddenly recognized him. It was Owen. Robert and Owen had briefly bonded as part of a high school foreign exchange program 15 years ago. They met intermittently at reunions but hadn't kept in touch as their adult lives rolled along. 

“Owen, it's Robert.”

Owen shot a quick glance at Robert and stopped. “Robert, how long has it been, seven years?”

“About that. What was the problem at the desk?” Robert asked.

“I lost my membership card and my name wasn't in the system. They wouldn't let me in. I wasn't going to pay the $50 entrance fee,” he replied with a faint hint of indignation.

“You can join me. I can bring a guest,” Robert said, placing his hand on Owen's shoulder. 

Inside the lounge, the pair found a quiet place to rest. “Would you like a drink? It's on me. I have these free drink coupons, Robert said. 

“Thanks, I'll have a vodka tonic,” replied Owen. 

They talked about Owen's life as a chef in Paris, and how he lost his job as a result of the economic downturn. He'd briefly lived with his girlfriend, but things didn't work out. As Owen put it, “We didn't see eye to eye on things. I needed my freedom.”

“Yes, it was a good life in France,” he continued, finishing his vodka tonic. “Mind if I have another one of those coupons, Robert?”
“Sure, I have plenty.”

As Robert prepared to leave to catch his connecting flight, he tentatively handed Owen his business card. “If you're ever in Portland, give me a call. I would love to have you visit.”

“I might take you up on that. Oh, by the way, do you need the rest of those drink coupons?”

“No, not all,” Robert said handing Owen the remaining coupons. Robert had been thinking of having another drink at his destination, but Owen seemed to need it more. As Robert walked through the terminal, he thought about how good it was to reconnect with Owen, but he also couldn't deny a feeling of relief.

A month later, as Robert sat in his office, he got a telephone call. It was Owen.

“Hey, Robert. It's Owen. I'm here at the airport. I'm passing through and decided to take you up on the offer. Can you come and pick me up?”

“Did I hear right, you're at the airport now?” replied Robert.

“Yes,” Owen said.

Portland isn't a 'passing through' city thought Robert. But Owen was in town, and he should be hospitable. He was always telling himself to loosen up, go with the flow, be spontaneous. 

“Well, it's 2:00, and I'm still at the office. I can't leave, but why don't you take a cab and come over. You can wait in the canteen.”

Thirty minutes later Owen arrived.

“Hey Robert. The cab is out front. I can't seem to find my credit card, and I don't have any cash on me. Could you lend me $40.”

“$40? Cab fair should be $15 tops.” Nevertheless, Robert handed Owen two twenties. 

Over dinner, Owen told Robert that he had spent a few weeks with his parents and then with his brother in New York. “My parents were great, and I love my brother, but we didn't see eye to eye on things. I needed my freedom.”

“I'm glad you decided to visit. I only wish you'd given me a head's up. I would have prepared the house and arranged my schedule,” Robert said, perplexed at Owen's sudden arrival and hoping for Owen to acknowledge that fact.

The first weekend went well. They went hiking at Wolf's Neck and explored Portland. But mid-week, Owen was still there and had settled into a routine. Robert, who was a bit meticulous, would arrive home to find discarded pizza boxes, beer cans, and fast food wrappers scattered throughout the house. Owen was usually watching re-runs of Emergency and the The Rifleman, a beer in his hand. 

“Hey, buddy, we need more beer. I kind of finished off the six-pack,” Owen said jokingly. “And that rotisserie chicken we had the other night was good. Can we have that again?”

Robert looked in the nearly empty refrigerator. Might as well add that to the shopping list, he sighed to himself.

A week later, Robert started dropping hints that Owen should leave. A week after that, Robert tried being more direct. “So when are you planning to leave?”  

“I was thinking of looking for a job in Portland,” Owen said, more interested in his TV show than talking to Robert.

Another week passed and Owen was still there. Robert didn't know what to do. His experience hadn't prepared him for this situation. As the forth week wore on, Robert realized that Owen didn't get hints.

“So, Owen,” he said one evening, in a friendly tone, “seems like it would be a good time for you to be moving on.”

Owen had a look of surprise and hurt. “I'm sorry I've been an imposition. I thought you liked having me here. You know, I'm waiting to hear from a four star restaurant in New York any day now. You wouldn't put a guy on the street would you?”

Robert was stopped again. “Well, if it's only for a few days, you can stay,” he replied quietly.

Another week passed. Owen was still there. Robert wasn't good at confrontation, but necessity is the mother of invention. On the following Thursday, Robert came home looking for Owen and found him, as expected, watching TV, a Subway sandwich in hand. 

“Owen! I have some great news for you. I've bought you a ticket to New York. Your flight is scheduled for tomorrow morning. I'll drive you to the airport. No need for a taxi. That's so impersonal. Where's your bag? I can help you pack.”

Owen was dumbfounded. It was the first time Robert had seen him speechless. 

Late Friday morning as Robert's drove from the airport to his office, he could feel the tautness of his face soften and his muscles relax. 

“So how's Owen,” asked Joan, the office secretary, with a knowing roll of the eye and a nod of sympathy. 

“Oh Owen, he left this morning. We didn't see eye to eye on things. He needed his freedom.” 

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