Chase Bagnall saw no great virtue in confession, the endless parade of self-justification that announces itself on social networks, and over beer, and in emails with the subject line, “Can I just tell you something?” Whatever happened, he thought, to suffering in silence? Where did that go? Did it ever exist? Without question, he must have picked up this distaste from listening to his single mother complain about work, about how much she really loved people, and how infrequently that love was ever returned. “I guess that’s the way it is with givers,” she told her son. “You give and give and give and give and no one gives back.” As a child he saw his confessor status as necessary in their small family, but there was a point, as an adolescent when he realized his mother could confess all of this to a wall and she would be just as content with her monologue. He became a tad more sophisticated, as well, at seeing through her problem. She smothered men. The neediness came out large and early. She would bring someone home and start planning trips 18 months ahead of time, and then, within a month, he could hear his mother crying in the bedroom, or breaking things. And there would be another confession about being a “giver.”
As a manager, his contempt for confession proved an asset, because he could sense an excuse coming months ahead of time. If you worked for Chase, and you really felt there was a reason why your piece of the plug-in wasn’t ready, that you had valid grounds for needing more time, when you began to speak, that look on Chase’s face made your words feel fat and oily. “Why are you throwing up in my office?” Chase seemed to be saying.
“Right,” people said, correcting themselves. “I’ll have it for you.”
After a few years of meeting and beating deadlines, and making a butt load of money for the company, Chase had fifty people working for him, not counting the sub-contractors. He was making enough to buy a home, but his tastes were simple. The condominium worked. It was close to the office. There was no woman in the picture, no one to set up shop with. He had become a Puritan of the digital age. He worked, and he worked-out. He believed — if this weren’t too grand a conclusion — that he had found his place.
Until he began forgetting things. Misplacing things. Until he looked out the window that night and feared he was absolutely losing his mind.
The Twins — David and Derek Smallwood — were sub-contractors. Bright, lazy, predatory, irreverent — a kind of nation unto themselves in their indistinguishable biological conformity. Nathan Kennedy, who answered to Chase, and managed them, found David and Derek disturbing on some level — as though you had to audition for their mutual approval, an approval that was always withheld with eye rolls, one to the other . With the twins, you were always up against two minds working very quickly, finishing each other’s sentences, but breaking up the rhythm of the conversation in a way that was disorienting. They reminded Nathan of wolf clubs. Roman wolf cubs. “You’re thinking of Romulus,” David said. “..and Remus,” Derek chimed in– Romulas and Remus. That’s cool. We’re wolves. We’ll take that.” “But why is it?” Nathan asked them, early on in their professional relationship, “that I always feel like the mark in a con of some sort around you guys? I get this grifter vibe.”
“The twin thing,” David said. “People think we’re ganging up on them,” Derek said. There was a pause.
“And we ARE,” they both said in unison.
Julie Kennedy, Nathan’s wife, catered weddings, digital shindigs, dinner parties. She encouraged healthy choices, which limited her range of customers. “Everyone says they want healthy,” she complained. “But they don’t. I should just start in on the gross stuff. I don’t have to eat it.” “That’s right,” Chase said. “You don’t. If you want to get more gigs, give them some white flour.” Julie looked at the ceiling a lot. She was trying to see the future in the bright white ceiling of her condo. Med school maybe. The food thing wasn’t about healthy catering, was it? It was either about med school, or it was about a baby. She looked over at Nathan and suddenly felt a bad mood coming on.