Charles Rammelkamp, 1/4/2016
Current Occupation: Retired
Former Occupation: Technical Writer and Teacher
Contact Information: I am the Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books, in Baltimore. Also I edit an online literary journal called the Potomac – not that I make a dime from either of these activities, so they fall into that limbo of hobby/work. I always thought of work as something you were paid for. Speaking of which – I've sold a few copies of my latest book, MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY, published in June by Apprentice House (Loyola University) so I guess that sort of counts.
Mother’s Little Helper
What a drag it is getting old…
How old were the Stones when they wrote that, Geldon wondered, listening to the song on the car radio as he headed home from the gym. Twenty-two? Twenty-three? True, it was supposed to be in the voice of an anonymous, depressed middle-aged housewife, but still…Mick Jagger had just turned seventy-two a few weeks earlier, he reflected.
Geldon had retired a year before from the State Revenue Department, but here he was about to enter the workforce again, all because he’d panicked three months after retiring and inquired about teaching a class at Downtown University. The program director, Mona Terry, had been encouraging but warned that there probably wouldn’t be an opening until the next fall. Still, Geldon, who had taught composition and rhetoric as a part-time instructor at one of those for-profit outfits whose television commercials typically featured beaming, inarticulate kids and middle-aged men and women re-tooling for second careers in information technology and refrigerator repair, went about submitting a resume, getting references, completing online forms.
Now, over a year into retirement, he’d received an e-mail from Mona asking him if he were still interested. What could he say? Yes, he wrote back, he was still interested. Mona sent him a 50-page course outline for Downtown University’s composition classes, and said she would be back in touch when the schedule became a bit clearer.
Geldon remembered his mother back in Potawatomi Rapids, Michigan. She’d worked until the day she died, practically, cleaning other people’s houses. In her mid-seventies, cleaning old Mrs. Ahmogamp’s home, fixing her breakfast and doing her laundry, Mrs. Geldon had acted as if she’d had her whole life ahead of her, and then bam! pancreatic cancer, and she was dead after a brief but agonizing illness.
When Geldon had left Potawatomi Rapids for college and a life in the city all those years ago, he’d vowed never to return. But wasn’t he just repeating his mother’s mistakes? Mother’s little helper indeed.
After two weeks, when he hadn’t heard from Mona, the new semester looming – Geldon had already had a nightmare about going to the first class without a syllabus prepared – he wrote to her and asked if the schedule was any clearer now.
Mona! It seemed like such an old-fashioned name, a name that would never be a top-ten baby-girl name, a girl-next-door name. It had a primordial ring to it for Geldon, from deep down in the Mississippi Deltas, or from the far-flung Appalachian hills and hollows, the bleak western deserts. The moan in the name was both erotic and threatening, savage and sublime.
And now, from the ping! on his iPhone as he’d driven away from the gym, he saw she’d responded. Yes no yes no yes no. What kind of class did she have to offer him? Daytime? Night? Once a week? Three times? Could he ask for a sample syllabus this late in the game? What about the pacing of assignments? He’d read about the “portfolio” the students were to submit at the end of the semester, with assignments sheets, original drafts, revisions. Geldon groaned inwardly. Fuck! Hadn’t he escaped this bullshit a year ago?
When Geldon got home, he tossed the soiled gym clothes into the hamper, poured himself a cup of re-heated coffee, fired up the computer and prepared to meet his fate.
Dear Mister Geldon:
Thank you very much for following up with me about this. I am emailing to let you know that we have just completed our fall staffing, and we have no need of additional instructors, after all.
I sincerely appreciate your interest in our program, and I'll be happy to keep your application materials on file in case openings arise in future semesters.
Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, Mona! Geldon thought, relieved. He felt he’d dodged a bullet. Keep my application materials as long as you want! He took a triumphant sip of his re-heated coffee, only to feel the soot of coffee grounds on his tongue.
What a drag it is getting old.