Charles Rammelkamp, 1/19/2015
Current Occupation: RETIRED
Former Occupation: ADJUNCT ENGLISH PROFESSOR and TECHNICAL WRITER
Contact Information: Charles Rammelkamp has published a novel (The Secretkeepers), two collections of short fiction and two volumes of poetry. A chapbook of poems, MIXED SIGNALS, was recently published by Finishing Line Press. A full-length volume of poetry entitled MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY will be published by Apprentice House in 2015.
“So how’s retirement?” Mark asked. It was Saturday and we were both at the gym. We’d met by chance in the locker room, changing into our togs.
“Not bad,” I said. “It’s been six months. I sure don’t miss Infodyne.” Infodyne was the company where I had worked as a technical writer for twenty-seven years. None of my friends or family knew exactly what I did, and I found it hard to describe. When asked, I’d allude to the “systems” Infodyne developed for various “applications.” But what I did was…well, I sat at a computer all day or in meetings, updated our “living documents,” as we called the user manuals. When I’d had the opportunity for an early retirement, I’d jumped at it. Infodyne, as the very name of the company suggested, was a soul-sucking waste of time.
“Man, I sure wish I could retire,” Mark said. Mark was a public school psychologist. He dealt with at-risk kids all day. “I mean, on top of all the regular bullshit, I get these…cases.” He paused, but before I could respond, he launched into a description.
“Just yesterday a teacher brings me this kid.” He shook his head in disbelief, remembering. “I mean, in an auditorium full of people you’d be able to pick this guy out. He’s fidgety, yes, but I mean, this is way beyond fidgety. Rolling his head around, punching walls. There must be some neurological damage. I wanted to know what medications he was on, talk to his parents, somebody, refer him to a hospital for observation.”
Just then a stranger interrupted our conversation, a burly guy at another locker in a windbreaker and ballcap. “Send him to City Psych,” the man said. “They’re one of the best places for kids like this. Look, it’s right here in the business journal, the ranking.” The man pulled a newspaper from his satchel and thrust it at Mark.
“Thanks. I’ve seen those lists before. Yes, City Psych, I’ve heard of them,” Mark said.
“Bill Toomey, he runs it,” the man said. “Me and Bill used to play ball together at Archbishop Spalding. He was quarterback. I played tackle. Bill was more of a fullback, really, but coach made him quarterback. I remember this one game we played against Saint Paul…”
I took the opportunity to leave Mark and this guy, went to the pool to swim my half-mile. After my swim, I came back to the locker room, and there was Mark again, likewise having just completed his workout. I resumed our earlier conversation.
“I have been thinking of teaching a course in the writing program at the university,” I said. “But just for something to do. On the adjunct faculty.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Mark nodded. “Have you taught before?”
“Years ago at the community college,” I said. “One course, at night. Your story about that kid made me remember this student I had who used to light matches in class. I’d have to ask him to stop. He wore a ballcap with Go to Hell on the visor, and in his first essay he wrote about how his grandfather drowned his grandmother in the bathtub on Christmas Eve, a mercy killing –”
“You teach writing?” I turned around and there he was again, the burly guy. It didn’t look as though he’d exercised. He still had his windbreaker and ballcap on, still held onto his satchel.
“Well, I – ” I started to explain, but the man had dug around in his bag and pulled out several sheets of paper on which he’d written in pencil. I could see a lot of words crossed out and inserted, signs of erasures.
“I’m writing this story for the business journal. Maybe you could take a look at it.” His hands trembled as he turned the pages over and over to find the beginning and then he started to read. “The new features of the marketing period,” he read and then paused, muttered the word “networking,” stopped, thrust the papers at me.
“I can’t read without my glasses,” he said. “Here.”
But I just grabbed my towel and headed to the showers. “Yeah, I need my glasses, too,” I apologized. “Besides, I’m retired.”