This story is very enjoyable to write. It’s totally different than any of my previous writing, but it is heavily influenced by one of my favorite authors, Stephen King. I’m not sure how things will turn out for Joe as he ventures back in time to change his present and his future.
I have a feeling it will be a series of positives and negatives, but, if you take this journey with me as I continue to write this story, we’ll find out together.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments, you can click on these links:
Joe’s list was fairly simple based on his first visit to the past. He had regrets over his split with Beth. He believed that he truly loved her and could have made it work if he had been more attentive to her when he had the chance. Also, after talking to his parents, he realized that he might have helped them both avoid death by making them aware of their impending health problems. Finally, there was his career. He was firmly under the thumb of his employer. The Provenzas were never going to give him the respect he deserved. They would never recognize his hard work. They would certainly not acknowledge that, more often than not, Joe covered the sloppy work that the younger Provenzas performed. He always fantasized about starting his own firm and putting them out of business. He may actually be able to realize that fantasy with his new found capabilities.
What’s the right way to do this? Do I start with the easiest, warning my parents, or the hardest, winning Beth back?
Joe analyzed his options and decided to go back to the earliest point and work his way forward from there. Joe had graduated in 1992 and had immediately gone to work for the Provenzas after passing his CPA exam in 1993. His intent was to work at the large firm for a couple of years to gain experience and then break out on his own. He often wondered what would have happened if he had just decided to go out on his own from the start. It would have been tough for a while. Joe had a great knack for quickly recognizing areas where clients could realize savings and improve their financial position. He often thought that if he could convince a few of his abilities, the referrals he would get would help him build up a healthy list of clients.
Like many other things in his life, baseball games were pivotal. He was offered his job with the Provenza’s while sitting in their luxury box seats at the baseball stadium. He remembered the day and had framed the program book. The framed book still hung on the wall in his living room adjacent to the television. He would go back to the game and turn down the job offer. When he came back to the present, he would see where that path had taken him. It was a big gamble, but it was one worth taking. His fall back was, if things didn’t work out, he could return to that same game and accept the job offer as he had originally. It was time to take this step.
How could things possibly be worse than they are now?
The issue with questions like this, sometimes they are better when they go unanswered.
Joe retrieved the framed program book from August 14 1993. He remembered the day well, as if it were yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day at the end of a heat wave. He was the guest of Provenza’s in one of the enclosed luxury boxes, built 30 years after the stadium was constructed, on the third baseline. The Chiefs were playing the Toledo Mud Hens, an I-90 rival. He went to the stadium seat and sat down. Again, he felt the electrical charge pass through his body. The charge pulsated through him, but simultaneously caused him to drift off to sleep. He no sooner dozed off, that he was awakened by the sound of thunder.
Thunder? Is this the wrong game?
Joe woke up and looked around. He was in the luxury box. As he looked out the window toward the field, it was raining. The tarp was on the infield. The scoreboard indicated that the game was in the fourth inning and was under a rain delay. Joe was taken aback by the weather. He was so sure it was a sunny day. Just as he began to think about it, a voice brought him out of his stupor.
“So you’re young Joe McLean. I hear good things about you.”
John Provenza had a booming voice that filled the luxury box. He could have been the announcer for the team without a PA system. Joe looked toward Provenza who, then 20 years younger, was a handsome, tanned man in his early 50’s. He saw his thirteen year old son Johnny at the buffet table just beyond his father. Joe rose from the overstuffed leather chair that he was sitting in and shook Provenza’s hand.
“It’s great to meet you Mr. Provenza,” Joe said quietly. “Thank you for inviting me to the game. The view is great from here.”
“The view of the rain,” you mean. “It was supposed to hold off until after the game, but you know how fickle the weather is.”
“Yes…it is,” Joe replied, his thoughts still a bit fuzzy.
“So, let’s cut to the chase. You were a straight ‘A’ accounting student in one of the best programs around. When can you start working at my firm?”
This was the pivotal moment. The first time around, Joe had accepted as quickly as a member of the A/V club would accept an invitation for a date from the head high-school cheerleader. This time around, he had a 42 year old’s sensibility in a 22 year old’s body. He was calm and collected.
“I’m sorry Mr. Provenza. While I appreciate your generous offer, I have to turn it down.”
Provenza’s voice dropped to a much lower, but somehow more ominous tone.
“Turn it down? How the hell can you turn it down kid? Are you moving?”
“No sir, I’m not. I thought I would start my own business”
“Well, my firm is the only game in town. We have every business, and most residents, as our clients. Who’s going to come to you? We even do your mom and dad’s taxes.”
“It’s something that I want to do. I want to take a shot on my own.”
Provenza broke into a crocodilian smile.
“Well, you take that shot. In a year when you don’t have a job, you can come and work for me at a lower salary than I’m offering you now.”
At that moment, Joe saw the true colors of the elder Provenza. He also saw some of the traits that had found their way into Johnny Provenza, though he lacked the charisma and ability to hide them like his father.
“I don’t think that will happen Mr. Provenza, but thank you for today anyway.”
Joe didn’t much feel like staying in the box to see if the game would resume. He also was concerned about going home to tell his parents that he had turned down the job. He wasn’t sure they would think he made the best move in refusing a sure thing. He walked out to the parking lot. He had worn khaki’s and a sweater to today’s game which was also strange to him. He distinctly remembered dressing for warm weather the first time around.
He got to his old hand-me-down Honda Civic and made the short drive to his parents house. They still lived in Langerton at the time and he still lived with them. Joe’s dad was watching television and his mom was in the kitchen. He felt a complex set of emotions wash over him. In his future world, his parents had been dead for a while. Now he was going to see them after all of that time, but in this present, he had just seen them and now he had to deliver some disappointing news to them for the first time. It was very confusing. He sat down on the couch next to his dad.
“You’re home earlier than I expected. Did the game get washed out?”
“It was under rain delay, but I think it was going to end up getting rained out.”
“I’m surprised Provenza didn’t keep the party going. Did you get a chance to talk to him about a job?”
“Yea Dad. He actually came up to me and offered me one.”
“Well that’s great Joe. When do you start?”
“Listen Dad, I, um, I turned down the job.”
“Joe. You did? The pay might be low to start, but it’s a stable company.”
“I know Dad, but I don’t want to work with the Provenzas. It’s a family business and that means I’ll only advance to a point. I want to start my own business and build it up. I know Provenza has a lock on this town, but maybe I can reel in some of the small fish.”
Then Joe’s Dad surprised him.
“Joey, if that’s what you want to do, your mother and I will back you one hundred percent. We will help you build that business up.”
Joe felt himself welling up. Not just from the surprising response from his dad, but also from just physically being with the younger versions of his parents. In his 2014 world, they were both gone.