The Lunch Date by Martin Green

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SUMMARY: A recent retiree finds it difficult to cut his ties to his old job.

The Lunch Date (Approx. 1,100 wds.)

I opened my eyes. The bedside clock said nine AM. In the first few weeks after I'd retired I'd slept late, until ten and sometimes even later. I guess I was making up for years of getting up at six. I'd discovered that when you got up late the day was much shorter. More recently I'd been getting up earlier and the days had become longer.

Sun was coming through the blinds. It was a weekday morning in February. In Sacramento, we'd been having nice sunny days since the first of the year, or ever since I'd retired. My wife Sally was already out of bed. I could hear her in the kitchen talking to our two cats. I could also smell fresh coffee. I d awakened with a little feeling of anticipation I hadn't had in a while and realized that it was because I had a lunch date downtown.

After finishing in the bathroom, I entered the kitchen and said, "Good morning" to Sally. One of our cats, Mickey, was on the table, sitting on the morning newspaper. The other, Binky, was sitting in my chair. Both were intently watching Sally as she sliced strawberries onto her cereal. "What are you doing today?" Sally asked me.

"I'm having lunch with Patricia Barnes.." Pat was my old assistant, who'd replaced me as section head.

I'd retired, after 27 years as a research analyst with the State of California, at the end of last year, which was the same time as I'd reached my 62nd birthday. I might have retired a couple of years earlier as I'd been thoroughly fed up with the endless meetings, countless memos and stupid bureaucracy of the State, but then I'd transferred to the agency that oversaw children's health concerns and had actually somewhat liked what I was doing. I didn't really do any research there; my job was to try to untangle the agency's computerized data system, which had become hopelessly tangled up. I thought I'd managed to do so but in the weeks after I'd left Pat had called me at least once a week and I'd returned to the office to clear up loose ends.

"I thought everything was taken care of at the office," Sally said.

"I think things are in good shape, but I just want to make sure the system is running okay."

"Are you doing anything before your lunch?"

"No, I don't think so. The sprinklers are all working and I raked up the leaves yesterday."

"When are you going to call that editor?" Sally's friend Nancy, who'd been a fellow teacher, knew everybody and when I'd retired she'd given me the name and number of Tom Hoskins, who put out an alternative weekly newspaper called the Sacramento Gazette. She'd said that Tom was always looking for new writers for the paper, who were willing to be volunteers; the Gazette didn't pay anything.

"I'm a research analyst, not a writer. I don't think he'd be interested in me."

"You won't know until you call him," Sally, ever sensible, pointed out.

"Well, I don't have time to do it today."

"Hmmm," said Sally.

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