© Copyright 2016 by Sara Jacobelli
At first I thought he was one of the dads. Dads nowadays are so involved, you know, compared to our fathers who just went to work and went out drinking and playing cards and shooting pool and figured taking care of kids was women’s stuff.
He was just sitting there, staring off into space. Figured his kid was playing on the swings or slides. Then this girl runs up to him and I think it’s his daughter. She says something to him, hands him what looks like several pieces of paper and runs over to a parked car. She jumps in the car and the driver, a woman, starts the car and takes off.
Must’ve been her mother in the car. The funny thing is, he doesn’t react at all. Just stuffs the papers in his briefcase. So then I figured it’s not his kid. He’s not watching and waiting for his kid on the playground. He’s just sitting there with his briefcase.
Then I figure he’s one of those people who lost his job and is getting up and going to work and pretending he still has a job. You hear about them. The displaced folks. Funny thing is, I can’t figure out where folks like that get their money. You get on a bus, you get off the bus downtown and buy a coffee and a newspaper, you go to the movies and you go to lunch. That all costs money. Maybe they get unemployment.
Then I think maybe he’s got brain damage.
Or maybe he’s waiting for a woman.
I have a lot of time to think because I’m always walking dogs. I walk Rich People’s Dogs for a living. I make between forty and a hundred bucks a day, depending on how many dogs I walk. And I charge extra for the wiener dogs, you ever walk one and you’ll know why. I walk them and I play with them and I feed them and yeah, I scoop their poop. You gotta, The City gives you big fines if you don’t. I don’t mind scooping the wiener dogs’ poop but the Great Dane, whoa. Those are some big logs. But all in all it’s not a bad way to make a living and it’s all cash too. Beats waiting tables. And the people-watching is fun. Just wish I made more money, living with four roommates and taking the subway from the Bronx gets pretty old.
That’s how I started watching this guy. I call him Bond, like James Bond. Just Bond. I figure maybe he’s a spy. Or maybe he’s having an affair with some exotic woman. They’re both married to other people, and they rendezvous every day in this park. That’s their bench. They meet, go to a hotel. Someplace expensive like the Plaza or the Waldorf. Order room service so no one sees them together. Me, I’ve never stayed in a place that fancy. Never had room service. They sure don’t have it at Motel Six.
Funny thing is, I never see the woman. I pass by with my first dog in the morning and he’s there. I pass by with several more dogs at noon and he’s still there. I pass by in the late afternoon with more dogs and there he is. I see him again at my last round after dinner, when I take a trio of wiener dogs out for their evening stroll. It’s always just him.
So last night I got up my nerve to approach him. Used the wieners as an excuse. I let Suzi off her leash and she ran wild in circles while I try to hang on to Stella and Sylvie. I run up to him and ask him if he can help me catch Suzi. He grabs her and hands the squirmy sausage dog to me.
“Thanks! She’s a mess. I don’t want to get fired for losing a dachshund. I need this job.”
“I bet you do.” He has a slight accent. Can’t put my finger on in. Canadian? Australian?
“You must be a fellow dog walker. But I don’t see any critters.”
“No. No critters.”
“Are you a nanny then? Never seen a male nanny before.” I pointed at the shrieking kids on the playground. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
He shook his head.
“You’re a devoted dad then. Well, good for you. It’s nice to see a man take his kids to the playground. Dads nowadays are so involved.”
“No. I don’t have any kids. If you must know, I’m what you call a Recruiter.”
“For jobs? What kind of jobs?”
“It’s like this.” He motioned me to move closer to him. I attempted to sit on the bench and untangle the wiener dog leashes while they yapped their hearts out. “I keep an eye out for kids under ten that look smart. Smart, fast, agile. Ten’s too old, by then they just want to play games and watch TV. We don’t want them playing video games, for Christ’s sake, we want them designing the games. I give them a brief IQ test. They turn in their answers, and if they are what I’m looking for, I recruit them. With their parents too of course. Then the whole family moves into our Compound, out in California, and the kids go to work.” He sipped his coffee and winked at me. “One bright kid, say seven or eight or nine years old, can be trained to be better at software development, video game and app design, even IT security, than any adult. We used to recruit at the colleges, then the high schools, then junior high. But the playground is by far, the best spot I’ve found.”
I looked at the snot-nosed kids chasing each other around the playground. “How much can one like that make?” I pointed to a chubby boy in a striped shirt using a stick to draw in the dirt.
“Two, three hundred grand a year, easy. His parents, they’ll never have to work again. They’ll never have to pay rent or buy food either. Everything’s provided for at the Compound. Medical, dental, vision care. They don’t need a car, we have everything delivered, or we can take them in our bus. They don’t need to pay for summer camp for the kids or a family vacation, we’ve got it all there. Swimming pools, bowling alleys, movie theatres. When they get old they just stay there and move into our Assisted Living Center. We’re even working on a way to use the old folk’s brains somehow. There’s theories that when the memory fades, you can actually reprogram the brain to perform new tasks. Like a second childhood. We might be able to get the old folks to design more apps, who knows?”
“Do you give any finder’s fees? If I find a smart kid and you hire him or her, do I get a percentage?”
He opened up his briefcase and took out a business card. “You just get a flat fee. Two thousand, if the referred child passes all the tests, the parents sign the life-time contract, and the while family moves into the Compound.”
Two thousand a pop! Dollar signs started multiplying in my head. I looked at the card. “That’s you?”
The wiener dogs were getting hungry so I left the park to finish their walk and bring them home and feed them. I’m always looking for more ways to make money. If I find a few smart kids every month, I can ditch the roommates. Maybe get a little pad of my own in the Village. Take taxis instead of riding the subway. Eat sushi instead of off the McDonald’s dollar menu. Things are definitely looking up.
Fiction (or is it real???)
Photo Credit: “Briefcase.” Pixabay copyright-free images. Public Domain. https://pixabay.com/en/briefcase-handbag-bag-case-luggage-1316308/