“Why would she though?” I inquired. “Spin things, I mean.”
They gave me looks that suggested I were struggling with a steep learning curve. A rare shadow passed over Ran’s face. “Sometimes there’s no—I mean this place can just be—never mind. You’ll find out if you work out here long enough,” he said at last. “So anyway,” he went boyish, “tomorrow Jason has to report to Kate from QA. She’s hot. We’re jealous, man.”
“You should be, I’m the sexiest fat kid I know.” Jason spoke as if his appeal were as incontestable as his girth.
“She actually does her job too,” I added in defense.
“Maybe,” Ran said. “It’s too early to tell. She just graduated from somewhere. Bachelor’s or master’s in psych and a minor in business. Got the quality assurance position just a few months ago. You need job experience she doesn’t have to get the higher-power positions up in admin.”
“Hey, I may not really know her but it seems like she’s sincere about her job and wants to do it well,” I insisted.
“But you don’t know her,” Ran pressed.
“He was in the same orientation class she was,” Jason observed.
“That’s right. You haven’t been out here in paradise all that long yourself.” Ran punched me in the shoulder. “And don’t pretend you don’t notice.”
“Look, we’re a bunch of guys in our mid-twenties—”
“Early twenties for you, brother,” he interrupted.
“So of course we notice,” I went on, “but we’re here to work. Fraternizing with our superiors—nothing but trouble.”
“We’re not talking about fraternizing.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just talking about noticing. Talking about talking.”
They continued their discussion in low tones. They knew my tolerance, or lack of it, for that kind of conversation.
“Come on, guys, what is this? Frigging high school?”
Ran donned a look of mischief. “Oooh, someone has a crush.” He knew the untruth of his words, however.
“Pretty weak defense,” I called his bluff, keeping my sarcasm light.
They ignored me and went on talking.
* * *
After we finished the final chores and I came up front from the latest of the hourly bed checks, I sat on the living room sofa and watched Ran in his natural environment. He sat at the desk by the time clock. He hit a few keys on his laptop then poked the touchscreen of the smartphone that was wired to it.