"I'll pull up near the employees' entrance," Joe said, as he wheeled the Sebring through the parking lot of Stanadyne.
He still had a few minutes before he had to be in Brian's office for the morning production meeting, Joe wanted to stay with Andrew as long as possible. Joe felt a certain pride in sitting in his fancy car with Andrew. Out of the corner of his eyes, Joe would watch for people he knew and give them a nod or a smile as they passed his car to enter the large factory.
Most of Joe's intimate work friends knew he was gay, it wasn't something Joe hid, rather it was something he was discreet about. Joe knew he was gay, but could never quite shake the shameful feelings he had been taught to have. He never attended Gay Pride Parades, he wore no ribbons, and he didn't have a rainbow bumper sticker on his car. No, Joe tended to be private with his sexuality, he only confided in people he felt safe with, people he knew he could trust, people like him.
For the most part Joe was pretty popular at work, especially with upper management. It had been the same for him when he was in the Army, he was always thought of highly by his superior officers. Joe had an infectious smile and warmth about him that others seemed to like. He would remember little things about people, the kinds of things that others would share. If Joe was in a meeting, and someone mentioned an ailing mother's health, Joe would make a point to ask the person at a later date about the mother. It would be the simple joys of others that he would remember and ask about too, like the graduation of a child from pre-school. It was his personable nature that most found fascinating about Joe.
Joe gave Andrew one last look as he got out of the car. Andrew got out too, and walked around the front end of the cae. Before Joe walked away the two shared a quick embrace. It wasn't an overly done hug; it was the kind that anyone would give another friend or relative. Andrew didn't mind getting the hug, Joe was the one that felt a little hurried and anxious. Joe knew some of the people in the shop could be cruel and uncaring.
"I'll call you at ten, and let you know if I can get out early. I love you."
"Thanks, Joe, I love you too."
Joe watched as Andrew drove the sporty looking car away, he thought about how happy he'd been since Andrew had come into his life. His only concern lately was the fact that his grandparents were due home the following week. Joe didn't look forward to his grandfather's arrival. The two had already had words on the phone about Joe's `friend' living with Joe in his grandfather's home. Joe's grandfather had made it quite clear to Joe years ago that he didn't approve of homosexuality. The older man often told Joe it was just a phase, making it known to Joe that he hoped he'd hurry up and grow out of it.
As Joe walked into his workplace, his mind wandered back onto the meeting he was about to attend. The shipment to North Carolina was due to go out, but several thousand parts were being held in Quality Control. Not just any parts, but parts that were in Joe's area of responsibility. Joe ran the automatic line's production, it was him that decided what parts were run and when. It was Joe who had to make sure the production schedule was met and the shipments went out on time.
He had delved into the issue the afternoon before. Joe had been to Engineering, hoping for some answers, and a quick remedy to the problem with the housings. The aluminum castings, that housed the pumps Stanadyne manufactured for John Deere, were crucial. The Connecticut plant manufactured the parts, and sent them to the North Carolina plant for assembly. North Carolina was at a three-day inventory, the Inventory Control (IC) report, showed the housings as projected shortages that could cause line shutdowns. This made the housings `hot,' a term used throughout the industry, notifying everyone of the importance of the part. The housings were Joe's main concern as he walked to Brian's office, as he thought of ways to make the deadline.
Brian Leonard walked around the large oblong table, setting packets of papers at each of the eight chairs. Brian was a slim man in his early forties, and Joe's boss. His reddish brown hair always appeared unkempt as he often ran his hands through it in a nervous type habit. Brian was suffering a little more apprehension that morning, he had gotten a call from upstairs the evening before, and Don Campbell was attending the meeting.
Don Campbell, VP of Manufacturing, was attending Brian's morning production meeting, just the thought of it caused Brian to become unnerved. Brian had become aware of the `housing problem' minutes after Joe had discovered it. Brian was thankful Joe was on his team, he knew Joe would solve the day's crisis and be there for the next. More than once in the past several months Joe had rescued Brian.
Brian knew Joe's grandfather, and the two had been friends for over fifteen years. Joe's granddad was the former Chief of Metrology for Stanadyne. It was through his friendship with Joe's grandfather that Brain came to know Joe. Brian had been most impressed with Joe's military background, especially with the stint in the Gulf War. Brian was a vet too, of the Viet Nam war; he immediately felt a connection with Joe when he had first met him.
Oh, Brian had heard the gossip about Joe. Rumors and innuendoes were a way of life in the factory. Everyone seemed to know something dirty about someone, or their families that worked in the plant. Brian didn't care; Joe was a vet and deserved respect for what he had done for the country. Brian remembered when he first came home from the service how many people seemed to shun him. It was Joe's grandfather that finally gave Brian a job when it seemed to Brian that no one else would have him. The two had been friends ever since and Brian felt as he owed something to Joe's grandfather.
"Morning, Bossman," Joe greeted Brian.
"Hey, guy. Campbell's gonna be here this morning. Any news on the housing?"
"Yeah, talked with John Flynn up in Engineering, he thinks we can re-tumble them and remove the burrs. I met with him late yesterday, I brought Charlie in from Time Study, Charlie says if we take them to Ronnie Howland we should have all the pieces tumbled and back into Quality for lunch," Joe said, pleased with his results.
"You son-of-a-bitch you, you kept my ass out of the fire again. I'll let you tell Don, it's your victory. Thanks, Joe."
Within a few minutes, the small room with the glass panels on the upper portion of the walls became a flurry of activity as the other attendees shuffled in. Brian quickly brought the others up to speed with the announcement that Don Campbell would be down shortly. The clearings of throats, and shuffling of papers, were the only sounds heard, as they all awaited the VP. Brian had managed to quit fidgeting, and settled in a seat near the head of the table, leaving the head chair empty for Don.
A few moments later in walked Don Campbell, a distinguished looking gentleman with silver hair. Don stood just over six feet tall, but carried himself as if he stood ten feet, his posture always erect and his shoulders back. Don too was a veteran, the spit and polish he had learned while serving the Navy in the Korean War had not been forgotten. `Stomach in, shoulders back, chin out, and head held high' were words that reverberated often in his mind.
"Gentleman, Ladies. Good morning," Don greeted everyone.
A round of voices calling out pleasantries echoed around the small room with the huge table, in response to Don's greeting. The sixty-something year old Vice President nodded his head at each and every person before he took his seat at the helm of the table. Don reached his long arms out to the edge of the table, grasped at it with his fingers, and drew his body closer to it as he sat in his chair. He kept his line of vision equal to the eyes of the others, and shifted it from one to another. He casually nodded his head a few more times at different ones seated at his side.
Brian called the meeting to order, and then read through the reports that were left by the third shift. He repeated the same tasks every morning in his Production Control meeting; first came the night before's activities report, followed by the shortage list, and finally onto the daily activities forecast. The only difference to Brian's morning meetings were on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they were the two shipping days, and they required more attention, because of the IC's report projected shortages. The meeting that Don decided to attend was a Thursday, and to Brian it was the worst of his meeting days, because nothing could be done to correct a problem until the following Tuesday if they missed it on Thursday. Don quickly interrupted Brian, as Brian was diligently reporting on a machine breakdown from the night before.
"Brian, excuse me, but I only have a few minutes. Can someone tell me if the housings are going to make the truck today?" Don cut to his chase.
"Yes, Sir. I've handled the problem at Brian's urging. We're confident that we can ship all five thousand housings on this afternoon's truck," Joe quickly stated.
"You know, people, that's why I'm here. I'm here to let you all know that Joe's tenacity has not gone unnoticed. I am pleased to announce that Joe is being placed on `Fast Track Management Training'.;" Don fixed his steel blue eyes onto Joe.
Joe felt the blood rush to his head and his face become warm, as he knew his face became flushed. Joe's brown eyes glanced into Don's and quickly averted them, shuffling the papers Brian had placed on the table in front of his place. Joe never seemed to take praise well.
Don quickly rose to his feet; he walked towards Joe and offered him his right hand. Don looked commanding in his navy blue suit and white shirt. He certainly held everyone's attention as he congratulated Joe on his promotion. Carol Ramono, the manager of Inventory Control, seemed to take the most interest.
Carol had been with Stanadyne for almost twenty years now and had never risen above the manager's position like so many of her male colleagues had. The fifty-something year old divorcee wanted desperately to be a Director. She needed the money, her trips to the casinos were too costly and she was feeling the pressure. What Carol hated the most about Joe was the fact that he was gay. It ate at her, everyday, she saw how others liked him, and she deeply resented him. Don's announcement was just another blow to her already frail ego, and one she wouldn't sit idly by and let happen.
Joe was speechless.
Don told everyone that Joe would be going to North Carolina for a month, then to Chicago. He never asked Joe if it was OK, he just announced it like it was a done deal. Don was beaming with pride as he made a small speech about Joe's accomplishments in his short tenure. He invited everyone at the table to share in Joe's good fortune, and the company's too.
All Joe could think about was how he was going to tell Andrew. His worst fear was whether his newfound love would follow him around the country or leave him for a younger model. It had all happened way too fast for Joe.
There is more to come; let me know what you think. The address is Justin69SK@aol.com