"Why did I have to come to this forum?" Michael glanced around The Bar. Only a few hours before Michael had come home to his apartment with his high school friend sitting on the sofa. Charles had announced that the two of them were going to the environmental forum and waved Michael's invitation around.
"Because," Charles said, "it was invitation only and the only people that got invitations were the people in Winthrop. I don't live in Winthrop, so I'm your plus one."
"Okay," Michael turned to look at his friend. "Then why do you want to be here?"
Charles gestured around the entire mostly empty room. "Michael, this is where you come to meet characters."
"We're here so you can get inspiration for a book?" Michael sunk lower in his chair. It was all he could do to get Charles to sit in the back.
"Come on, it won't be horrible. Plus, you might learn something."
Glaring at Charles, Michael crossed his arms. "I suppose."
"I couldn't help but notice that I haven't seen you around before." A man sat down next to Charles. Michael sat up in his chair, correcting his posture.
Charles nodded. "I don't live around here. I'm just visiting."
"How are you liking Winthrop?" The stranger asked.
Michael remained silent and pretended to be looking for someone as if that ruse would work here. There was practically no one at the forum. It was getting closer to starting time, anyway. The man wouldn’t continue the small talk for too long.
After having a brief conversation with Charles, the stranger stood up and returned to his original chair.
"That was Paul. He's a reporter." Charles nudged Michael.
Michael remembered every interview he had ever done with a reporter and shivered, trying to make himself small again.
"He's a reporter for Winthrop Weekly not Channel 5. Apparently, it's a very important distinction... I like that. A reporter who is often mistaken for another person who works for a rival company." Charles pulled out a notebook and started jotting his idea down.
Michael tuned Charles out, glancing at the reporter a few rows up. He was sitting next to another man, with a dog between them. A few minutes later a girl joined them. Michael saw this without processing it.
The last reporter Michael had ever spoken with had asked him what Michael did every day.
Michael's response had been so easy then. Music, he had said. I practice an instrument every day.
Now he didn't even do that, not really. His music didn't matter anymore; it was simply the illusion of productivity, and he was near enough finished unpacking.
Michael needed something to do every day. Michael needed something... like a job.
"Charles, I think I'm going to get a job." Michael stared at the empty stage.
"Thought you would." Charles finished what he was writing in his notebook. "There was a Help Wanted sign at the laundromat next to your apartment building."