Summer came shyly that year.
The sun wasn’t too hot, come June 21st, like the boy was used to. He looked at himself in the small mirror hanging on the wall of the small dorm room and wrinkled his nose at his reflection. His brown curls were messy, as per usual, and his ears still stuck out more than he liked. That one curl in the back was still sticking straight up, no matter what he did to try and make it lie flat. Stepping back to look at himself fully, he realized that sometime in the last two years he’d grown into his clothes, which now felt just the right amount of loose around his shoulders. He smiled, despite himself, and seeing his reflection smile back at him only made him smile wider. He grabbed his book bag and keys and left the dorm with a spring in his step, locking the door behind him and triple-checking the doorknob to make sure it didn’t spring loose. Keeping his head down in an effort to remain for the most part unseen, he made his way to his truck. One iced coffee run later, he was on his way to the town center to see if there were any new job listings.
This early in the morning barely anyone was up and about, and the boy liked the peace of driving through an almost empty town, watching it slowly come to life around him. The town center was busier than the rest of the town, the shops around the traffic circle having opened almost 45 minutes before. The boy saw some students from his classes, whose names he was unsure of, sitting in the small café and browsing through the bookstore on the corner. He parked a ways away from them, to avoid any awkward interactions with these people he barely knew, and jogged across the two lanes to the island in the center. The island was populated sparsely with well-maintained grass and a few low bushes, but in the very center was a bulletin board. All the news from the town was there, plus exchanged gossip from the weekend’s Red Hat Society meeting, and random tidbits that people had pinned up out of necessity or desire.
Today, among the job postings and newspaper clippings was a pink scrap of paper with a poem on it. Despite having other reasons he was at the bulletin, the boy stopped for a moment to read it.
through the road dust
a figure shrouded in technicolor
for his singular moment
but he is known
by the women in hats
by the shopkeepers
by the students
by the teachers
he is known
we wait for him
wait as he walks
through the road dust
that figure shrouded in technicolor
for he is Fate
The boy smiled and turned his attention back to the rest of the board. The same job listings as before cluttered the board. Wanted: Strong Young Man - Report to Brian at the factory for inquiries. He’d tried that one a few months back. “You? You’ll get crushed by the brake pedals! Gimme a break. Daryll, didn’t I put STRONG on the posting?” Yeah, definitely not that one. The seamstress was looking for an assistant, also not for him. Most of the board was that way: listings he wasn’t qualified for. Then, just as he was about to lose hope, he saw a listing tucked away under last week’s newspaper. He lifted the sun-bleached paper to see the new listing, the paper crisp and cold with possibility. Wanted - Radio Station assistants. First come, first serve. Must be over 18. He could almost feel his face light up with excitement and relief. He quickly checked for traffic and jogged back to his truck, feeling the pep returning to his step, and let a small, hopeful smile spread slowly across his face.
The radio station was a half-hour from the town center in the direction of his dorm, which was an added bonus. The building was small and mostly unassuming, cramped between an old shoe store that looked like it had been abandoned for generations and a mechanic’s shop. On the roof of the black station building was a tall broadcasting antenna that reminded the boy of the alien movies his dad loved so much. Parking with a sputter, the boy pulled down the small sun visor and flicked open the mirror, trying desperately once again to smooth down his curls. Upon having no luck whatsoever, he put the visor back in place and took a steadying breath before hopping out of the old truck and nervously walking into the station.
The radio station was filled wall to wall with CDs and old Vinyl records. Bookshelves stretched from floor to ceiling and carts with more music were scattered around the room. As the boy’s eyes adjusted to the dark interior, he saw a sound booth on the second story, accessible by a thin walkway that ran the circumference of the building. Faint music that he didn’t recognize was playing from a set of speakers on the lower level and he swallowed hard, heading for the ladder connected to the walkway. As his head popped over the balcony ledge, he spied a boy around his age filing vinyls in the far corner. As he began to walk over, the boy saw him and turned. He was a satyr, with deep brown eyes that looked used to cracking jokes and causing mischief. His dark brown hair was even curlier than the boy’s own, and almost black in the low light of the station, but his bronze skin seemed to glow with a warm golden light projected from inside his soul. The satyr smiled, a smile that told of a lifetime of mischief and pranks, and stuck out his hand.
“I’m Leo. You must be here about the job?”
The boy took the proffered hand and shook it. “I, uh, yeah. Yeah. Hi. I’m Markus.”
“Nice to meet you, Markus. Derek’s in the box, but he’ll be out in a second.”
“You’re still in school, yeah?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah.”
“Thought so. I think I’ve seen you around campus.”
“Oh, yeah, maybe.”
“Quit bein’ so nervy, would ya? Derek’s gonna love you.”
“How do you know?”
“Derek’s friends with my big bro. I’ve known him my whole life. Trust me, he’s gonna like you.”
The door behind Markus opened with a slight rattle and both boys turned their attention towards it. A muscular elf who Markus assumed was Derek leaned on the doorway, giving him a once-over. Markus shoved his hands in his pockets to keep himself from trying to fix his hair. Derek pushed off the doorway and walked over to them, towering a full head and shoulders over Markus. Markus swallowed hard and his nose twitched, as it did when he got nervous. Derek looked at him for what seemed like an eternity, then smiled and extended his hand. Markus shook it, and Derek’s smile turned into a soft chuckle.
“I take it Leo already told ya not to be so jumpy?”
Markus nodded sheepishly.
“Well, he was right. Don’t be nervous, we don’t bite. What’s yer name?”
“Good name. Strong. I’m Derek. It’s good to meet you. Ever done any radio work before?”
“Don’t sweat it, you’ll mostly be sorting all this stuff with Leo,” he gestured around, indicating the carts of unshelved music, “Don’t be late, you start tomorrow at 10.”
“W… I’m hired? Just like that?” Markus’s head spun.
“I like your vibe. Besides, first come, first serve.”
“Oh, oh okay. Thank you.”
“Here’s my number, and here’s Leo’s. In case you ever need anything,” Derek handed over a card, indicating both numbers marked with a D and an L, respectively. With a wave over his shoulder, he jogged back to the booth and shut the door. Markus turned, slightly stunned, back to Leo, who was grinning.
“See? Told ya he’d like ya.”
“Yeah, yeah I guess you were right, huh?”
“You doin’ anything around noon today?”
“I, uh, no. No, I don’t think so.”
“Whadya say we grab lunch? You and me? Get to know each other?”
“Yeah, sure, why not?”
“You got a car?”
“Yeah.” Markus gestured to the old truck out the window.
“Nice. Pick me up here at 12?”
Markus smiled, despite himself. “Yeah. I’ll be here.”
“Nice!” A loud knock resounded from the glass of the booth behind Markus. Leo’s eyes got wide and he made a ‘yikes!’ face, turning back to the shelves. “I should get back to work. See ya at 12?”
“Yeah, see ya then.”
Markus waved over his shoulder as he descended the ladder and jovially walked back out to the truck.