(Griffen McCandles – 1)
It was early June, which in Michigan meant one could almost count on summer being here to stay. The state was notorious for its”Indian winters,” which lingered forever. When the snows melted, it was all mud. When the mud finally dried, it was summer…maybe. One could never be sure when the warmth would come for good, if ever. Something about that thought resonated deeply with a young man whose life should be just beginning, but who had no idea where it would, or should, go.
Griffen McCandles, a recent graduate from the University of Michigan – by the skin of his teeth – was about to attempt something unthinkable, unimaginable, frightening. That is to say, he was out to get a job in the real world.
He was sitting in his uncle’s office in what was still referred to as Downtown Detroit. The office was impressive, as it was designed to be. As large as a hotel suite, it was plushly furnished for both business and relaxation. Light poured through one glass wall, which provided a view looking out over the tops of lesser buildings to the river beyond. It was a view that testified to and gloried in success, but Malcolm McCandles, the man who dominated the room and the company, ignored it, choosing instead to study his young visitor.
There might have been some similarity between the two in their tall height, light brown shade of their hair, or the strong lines underlying their faces. That was where the similarity ended. Griffen had boy-next-door features and a disarming smile. Where Malcolm seemed to dominate the scene, his nephew barely made a ripple in it. He sat in the pants and shirt from his one suit, tie but no coat. Choosing to look casual with family but coming off as slightly rumpled.
“So, Griffen,” Malcolm said at last, breaking the long silence, “what did you think of college?”
“To be honest
with you, Uncle Mal,” the young man said, leaning forward to speak earnestly, “I wasn’t that impressed with it. I mean, the theories and grand concepts were interesting and informative, but now that I’ve graduated I’m looking forward to learning the hard lessons you can only get from working in real life with real people and situations.”
Malcolm cocked his head.
“Cute,” he said. “Did you write that and memorize it in advance, or did you crib it from somewhere?”
“Excuse me?” Griffen said, blinking.
“Let’s cut the crap, shall we?” Malcolm said flatly. “I’m fully aware of your college career. I should be, since I paid for it.
“It is only by charm and quick wits you’ve managed to graduate at all. Not seeming to really care about your chosen major, you rarely attended your classes, but seemed to have a knack for writing essays and papers that were exactly what your teachers were looking for. If you’ve earned anything it’s your nickname, ‘Grifter.’ A name derived from the time you spent playing poker, at further expense of your studies. You seem to have an utter lack of ambition in any terms but the extreme immediate. Now that you’ve graduated, you’re suddenly faced with the horrifying possibility of having to actually work, and you’re hoping to land a cushy job with me to maintain your lifestyle with as little personal exertion as can be managed. Correct me if I’m wrong.”
The youth held his gaze for several long moments before shrugging and leaning back in his chair.
“As you said, Uncle Mal,” he said, “let’s cut the crap. You seem to know me pretty well.