THE CHUGGING OF TRAFFIC. The banging and buzzing of carpenters at work. The humming of numerous people holding innumerable conversations. The city was busy and noisy. That was background for Kevlin as he sat at his desk.
Sometimes he thought of his job as pushing papers from here to there; moving this sheet from that pile to another one. Other times he was as excited about his occupation as when he first started. He was responsible for designating where the funds would be used for the schools in his district. In the cases where money was appropriated with condition of use attached, Kevlin oversaw that it was utilized as specified. Whenever he passed a school he was pleased that its attractiveness and efficiency could be traced back to him. Everything about the school started from his office: textbooks, desks, even the lunchroom.
Today it seemed particularly noisy outside. It gave him a headache. Those builders must be employed on the structure right next door, at least it sounded like it. Maybe they were using extra large hammers and saws. Kevlin clutched his head, ran his fingers through his dark blonde hair. His boyish face wore a frown, an expression he didn't often use. Kevlin was young enough to want to enjoy life, old enough to know he couldn't conquer the world by himself.
Even inside the level of din had increased. The telephone rang incessantly. There were enough calls to distract him from doing anything useful. The clack-clack of keyboards, the soft noise of talking, even the constant opening and closing of file cabinets got inside Kevlin's head.
After hanging up the phone following the tenth useless call he said to himself, 'What I do is important. It'll help keep Mondo's school functioning in top form.' Mondo was Kevlin's young son. He'd only been in school for three years. It still amazed his parents that he was old enough to attend. Neither he nor Grevy could conceive of little Semta being almost ready to follow her brother. Year after next she'd start. Seemed like children got older faster than their parents.
Someone dropped something heavily. The crash drew Kevlin out of his reverie and renewed the memory of his headache. Before he could even pick up a folder of paper the telephone rang again. Sighing he picked up the receiver.
It seemed like forever until Kevlin approached his car, ready for the trip home. Just as the office environment was particularly noisy today, so the drive was more annoying than usual. The car was temperamental, the traffic heavy and surly. As he pulled up to his house he just missed a car careening around the corner.
Grevy greeted Kevlin warmly. With a shout, "Daddy's home!" Semta launched herself at him. He swung her around, delighting in her squeals before he put her down. Mondo came forward more gravely, big boys didn't scream and jump at their fathers. But he wasn't too old to want a hug himself.
After a few minutes the children wandered off to resume whatever they'd been doing. Kevlin and Grevy had a few minutes to themselves while she finished preparing dinner. "How was your day today? Any more positives to report?"
He shrugged his shoulders, his lips tight. "I'm trying to talk myself into remembering the job when it was new. I remind myself that I'm helping Mond's school too." He shook his head. "Today was particularly bad. Somebody was building or repairing something nearby. Sounded like they were using a hammer three times the usual size. Even the office was extra noisy. And that phone never stopped ringing."
Grevy turned from her preparations to face her husband. Her brown eyes reflected her concern. Her shoulder length brown hair was tied back to keep it out of her face and away from the food. "Doesn't seem that long ago when we were happy and optimistic about our futures. What happened?"
"I don't know Vee. Sometimes I think the problem's all in my head."
"No Kev, I feel it too. Mond gets on a bus first thing in the morning, doesn't get home until late afternoon. I'm beginning to feel I don't know him anymore. And what'll I do once Semmy's going to school all day? It's only a second from now. Should I get a job?"
"I suppose you can if you want to. Not that we need the money, though of course every bit helps." He smiled, lighting up his whole face. "You could go back to school and study to be a teacher. Then we'd both be helping our kids' school."
She kissed him. "We'll see what happens. I was always good in Physical Education, maybe I could be a gym teacher. Though it's not what I'd call an essential subject."
"Exercise helps kids stay healthy. I'd say that was important."
"Well, we'll see what happens. I've got a few years to think about it. Meantime dinner's ready, let's call the kids."
Kevlin enjoyed the meal. He liked almost anything he did with his family. After dinner they played a board game. Semta was too young to understand the rules but she had her own marker. When it was her turn she spun the dial like the others, moved her piece. The only thing she cared about was that she was 'playing' like her older brother.
After the game Kevlin got out his sketch pad. "Who wants to pose tonight?"
"I do, I do!" Semta rarely said anything that wasn't punctuated with an exclamation point.
"Dad sketched you last time, it's my turn."
"He's right Semmy. Mond, how'd you like to be drawn?"
"Something different. How about if I pretend I'm throwing a baseball?"
"Can you hold that pose for a few minutes?"
"I'll try. Be back in a minute, have to get my ball."
"What'm I gonna do?"
"You can help me, hand me the eraser or pencil sharpener when I need it."
"Oboy, I'm gonna help Daddy!"
It wasn't long before Grevy was also kibitzing.
As usual, by the time Kevlin got ready for bed he felt refreshed. It made getting up in the morning all that much easier. It also reminded him why he put up with everything at his job. His family was worth it.