Flash Fiction: The Best Shirt Ever

Having the ability to reflect on the bigger moments of your life is one of the millions of things that makes us uniquely human. Of all the creatures that exist on this psychotic green and blue planet, waxing nostalgic on a specific time that helped define us and who we have become plays largely on the person we continue to be. Jason remembered the Spring of 2009 as a tumultuous period in his life. However, taking cues from his family history helped him get through it and allowed Jason to exit a tunnel of despair to find himself in the much greener pastures that waited for the man that he was now.

Jason was 17 going into the summer before his senior year of high school. He had pissed the first few weeks of it away, further enraging his family as he was enjoying the balmy days of June while contributing absolutely nothing to society. See, he hadn’t yet had a real job in his life, but it looked as though he was being forced to get one. After having lunch with his legendary Grandpa Karl up at Riverview Country Club, he went back to his grandparents’ house over in West Riverview. Karl was the most intuitive and giving person that ever lived for all anyone knew, and he had a modest gift waiting for Jason on his kitchen table.

His hotel was closing down, and all the signs of a property in dire financial straits were there. Whether the employees chose to recognize those signs and do something about it was up to each individual that wore a GoldSong uniform. Jason wasn’t going to just think happy thoughts and pretend that all was well and rainbows emitted from all corners of that resort and spa on the hilltop. There was an inner-pressure he put onto himself and started a feverish job search. It didn’t help that unemployment in the city was now synonymous with crowded intersections and bad drivers. It used to be that such a word wasn’t ever uttered in this ever-sprawling metropolis of ours. However, this was the unfortunate reality.

Jason took it off the hanger it rested on, and brought it over his head while protruding his arms through the short sleeves. It was the most perfect-fitting golf shirt in the history of fitted textile. This truly was the “shirt of all shirts”. As a teenager of six feet and 175 pounds, describing how it felt on me wouldn’t do it justice, especially since the shirt came out of his Grandpa Karl’s desire to see him gainfully employed. He sent Jason off and back home, where the young man would plot out his course of action in attaining the first legitimate bid at employment that he could experience. A few days went by, and more than a dozen completed job applications were dropped off along with about as many managerial hands being shook along the way.

So Jason went out and made his personal brand known with the dressing-up, resume-presenting, and application-filling…and it sucked. Weeks went by with nary a callback or a returned email. Desperation was setting in, but then there was such a unique confluence of events that characterizes “a moment” in someone’s life so very well. The morning where he learned of the immediate closing of his hotel and the afternoon where he was offered a lucrative position on the other side of town were both of the same day. Honestly, it was purely marvelous to experience such a wide spectrum of emotion that it humbled me to his very knees and brought me back a decade before: to the time he got his first real job.

The shirt and Jason got some good, sweaty mileage out of the 110-degree afternoons that God was spoiling them with. It certainly helped that each day after he came home, there was a kidney-shaped swimming oasis in his backyard. Ned’s was located right on the corner near his house, and it was the last stop before some seriously refreshing pool time in the late part of that June. Along with the decent job interview and coherent math skills presentation (a ridiculous 20-question quiz that even a mentally-challenged primate could score at least a “B” on!), Jason believed that his new, incredible shirt put him over the top of getting the coveted position of “Sandwich Creator”. Walking out of the shop that day, with a nametag in his hand, Jason couldn’t help but feel like he had just nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer. Jubilation was his.

The GoldSong closed down with a giant whimper as its 80 employees were shunned out unto the unpredictable and anemic job market. Jason just thanked his lucky stars that it all worked out in the order that it did. Ultimately, had that lucrative position not been offered to him, he would singing a much different tune. The turning point had come and gone, and he found himself with two weeks before his new position started. He could mope around town, or he could go do something mentally constructive: head on a long and winding road trip and be with the spirit of his legendary Grandpa Karl, who had passed away from this life the very day Jason was hired for that first job back in the Summer of 1999. Never before did driving a cathartic 3,827 miles of this great country’s highways ever feel so fulfilling. The only thing that made it better was the fact that his grandfather was somehow riding shotgun with him the entire way.

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