“Missing those long weekends in Haven yet?” Pete, their new Yellow Key Waiter, signed to Paul and Reid over their evening meal of casserole and potatoes.
“What I wouldn’t give for a walk out in the cool of the night right now after being cooped up in here for so long. This place is making me claustrophobic,” Paul responded.
Pete went on, “Yeah, I miss my weekends with Olivia… You know she’s just ‘Waiting’ for the right guy to come along. They’ll turn in their Green Keys together and run off to a fairy tale perfect life. I guess I wasn’t the one for her after all.” He shrugged and smiled. “Did Miles get over his fiancé leaving him yet?”
Reid looked over to see Paul snickering.
Pete continued, “Yeah, Miles came to the Plant with his fiancé. Rumor is, they planned to do Green Key together, then go home with their shared experience. Only she really got into this place. After getting here, she quickly signed up for Yellow Key promotion without telling him.” Pete chuckled. “He’s just been a sad sack ever since. They will probably send him home or promote him. Can’t have anybody depressing all the new recruits!” Pete laughed and took a bite of his dessert.
Reid signed, “I have a hard time feeling bad for the guy. And I don’t know which of them is really to blame. His fiancé for leaving him, or Miles for being self-centered enough to take advantage of the Plant without really committing. He’s a total jerk, and it sounds like he got what he deserved. Anyway, I’m just happy to be here. It isn’t about us anyway. And we all chose to be where we are. I think Dawson has been very gracious to leave the operation of his Plant in the hands of volunteers, like us. Sure, the longer hours we have in Yellow Key give us less personal time. But, we get to give more life to our families, and the others outside, by preparing the Soil. And those short work days and long weekends in our Green Key weren’t going to last forever. Now we’re into the real work! I’m eager to see what good I can do once I’m in Red Key!”
“Ever the optimist, Reid! That must have been right out of the brochure. Do you even have bad days?” Pete signed with a bite in his mouth.
“Not nearly enough, but I try to help him out.” Paul replied in kind. “Sides, we’ll all be into our Red Key soon enough. ‘Give as much as you deserve,’ right? That’s our slogan!” He signed with a cheesy grin.
“Well if you guys are interested, my roommate and I have some movies actually worth watching. The stuff they make now just doesn’t have any kick.” Pete said this with a gesture toward the television in the break room. The tv silently aired success stories from the latest Lottery winners. The mix of emotions as the child is united with a caring family always left Reid a little tearful.
Pete went on, “I mean, it’s great and all. But in the last twenty years, people on the Soil lost taste for real danger and thrills. Or mystery…”
Reid signed with an understanding tone, “Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll be fine with the programming I’ve got. Besides, Dawson really does an amazing thing here.” Reid felt unsettled by the entire conversation about Miles, Olivia and Pete. How anybody here, of all places, would have such a pessimistic view of Dawson and their own work. Or how they could possibly be so self-centered this far into their time at the Plant.
Paul carried on the conversation, his interest clearly piqued by Pete’s invitation, “I didn’t even know those movies were still around. My Dad would tell me bed time stories about some of those classics, when my mom wasn’t around. He would tell me he was the hero in the story, as if all those movies happened to him. Even still, Dad was happy to make sacrifices of his own for the betterment of society…. You wouldn’t happen to have one of my Dad’s favorites? It’s the one with my ‘Dad’ and the commandos fighting an invisible ‘predatory’ monster in the forest.”
Pete chuckled to himself. “Yes, and more. Your father has great taste! The collection has been passed down through the years by the tenants of my room. It’s a little unspoken tradition for each individual Waiter like me. One person will Wait for a self-determined period of time, while the rest of our group continues to the next level, which at this point is Red Key. The Waiters serve to orient the newcomers to their surroundings. My chosen time is nearing its end, and a new Waiter will soon take my position, and accompanying Quarters. I’ll leave the collection with the next Waiter as I am promoted with you guys. I’ll also pass down the tale of a crazy guy who totally lost his mind and killed himself in the elevator…” While Paul was paying rapt attention, Reid felt distracted. His weary mind wandered.
Reid noticed he had only eaten half of his meal. His sense of taste had already been spoiled due to the strengthened peachy scent of the Soil in Yellow Key. Nevertheless, Reid’s appetite had gone. He felt oddly confused, and mildly offended, by the conversation of the others. He excused himself from the conversation, making his way to Quarters to read a book for the evening. The long days at work really were getting to him, especially by the shortened reprieve of a one-day weekend.
“I’m here to make my difference.” Reid told himself. He smiled, remembering his Father standing at the graduation celebration with his glass raised, “You are going to do great things at the Plant. I am so thankful to rest easily at night knowing my son is living his life right. I could not be prouder of you. Go out there, son, and do your thing.”
“This is my place. And this is my time.” Reid sleepily told himself, letting the rhythmic thumping of machinery lull him to sleep. His bed trembled slightly as he slipped to sleep.