Then there’s my father, Frank—he’s the muscle. The intimidator. He’s a man of few words, which means when he speaks, your ears better f**king be listening, because he’s saying something worth hearing. And he has no problem firing people. My dad makes Donald Trump look like a pu**y. Doesn’t matter if you’re the sole family breadwinner or a pregnant woman in her last trimester—if you’re not getting the job done, you’re out on your ass. Tears don’t move him, and second chances are rare. Ever since I was a kid, he’d say, “Matthew, family is family, friends are friends, and business is business. Don’t confuse them.”
Even though he’s a hard-ass, he’s always fair. Honest. Keep your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed and there won’t be a problem. I always make sure my i’s are dotted and my t’s are crossed. Not just because I prefer to keep my job, but because . . . I’d never want to disappoint my old man. Sadly, that attitude’s become scarce. So many little ass**les running around today give no thought to making their parents proud—but it’s what Drew, Alexandra, Steven, and I were raised on.
Anyway, back to the real story.
After lunch with the guys, I spend the rest of the afternoon at my desk, drafting a contract and making nice with clients on the telephone. Around six o’clock, I’m packing up when Steven comes breezing through my door.
“Guess who spent their lunch break surrounded by rabid gamers in line for the latest fix?”
I slip a folder into my briefcase for some non-enjoyable reading before bed. If you don’t want to live life chained to a desk? Time management is crucial.
I answer, “That would be you?”
He smiles and nods. “Damn straight, brother. And look what I scored.”
He holds up a square cellophane-wrapped package.
Back in my father’s day, guys would occasionally get together for a fishing trip or drinks at the local pub to unwind after a long day’s work. But what Steven holds in his hands is more addictive than alcohol and a hell of a lot more fun that baiting a hook.
It’s the latest edition of Call of Duty.
“Sweet.” I take the disk from his hand and flip it over, checking out the updated real-to-life graphics.
“You up for a mission tonight? Around nine?”
In case you don’t already know—Steven is married. And he’s not just married—he’s married to Alexandra-formerly-Evans, also known as The Bitch. But you didn’t hear that last part from me.
If a regular wife is a ball at the end of a chain? Alexandra’s a Sherman tank. She keeps Steven on a short leash—doesn’t let him come out to the bars on Saturday night, only allows him one poker game a month. Even though Steven’s not the straying kind, Alexandra thinks hanging out with us carefree, single friends would be a bad influence on her husband. And . . . she’s probably right.
But, like any good warden knows, you can only restrict the inmates so much. You can lock them in a cage ten hours a day, ban yard time—but try and take away their cigarettes? You’ve got a major revolt on your hands.
Xbox is Steven’s one permissible vice. As long as his playtime doesn’t disturb their daughter, Mackenzie, after she’s down for the night. One time, Steven got a little too loud during an ambush and woke Mackenzie up. He was on lockdown for a week. Lesson learned.
“Yeah, dude, count me in.”
I hand him the game back and he says, “Cool. See you at twenty-one hundred.” Then he salutes me and heads out the door.
I pick up my briefcase and gym bag and walk out a few minutes later. On the way to the elevator, I swing by Drew’s office.
He’s bent over his paper-covered desk, making notes with a red pen on a document.
He glances up, “Hey.”
“Xbox tonight, nine o’clock. Steven’s got the new Call of Duty.”
With his attention back on the paper, Drew says, “Can’t. I’m gonna be here until ten, at least.”
The people I mentioned who live for the job? Drew Evans is that kind of people.
But it works for him. He’s not a bedraggled, stressed-out clock puncher—he’s the exact opposite. Drew genuinely enjoys the grind; he gets a rush out of negotiating a deal, even if it’s a hard sell. Because he knows he can close it, that he’s probably the only one who can.
Well . . . at least until a certain dark-haired woman joined our ranks.
I look across the hall to Kate’s office. She’s at her desk, the mirror image of Drew—but way hotter.
Leaning against the chair, I say, “Did you hear Kate’s close to signing the Pharamatab account?”
Still not looking up, he mutters grumpily, “Yeah, I heard.”
I smirk. “You better step it up, man. If she makes that deal, your old man’s gonna be so psyched I wouldn’t be surprised if he wants to adopt her. And incest—even between adopted siblings—is illegal in New York.”
Busting balls is what friends do. It’s the equivalent of women giving those half-cheek half-air kisses to each other. A sign of affection.
“But I guess incest wouldn’t be an option anyway, with the way she keeps shooting you down.”
I chuckle. “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.” Then I walk toward the door. “Have a good one.”
After leaving the office I hop on the subway, like I do every day after work, to go to the gym. It’s in Brooklyn, a real bare bones kind of place. Some would call it a dump, but to me it’s a diamond in the rough. The floor is hard and dirty and worn red punching bags line the back wall. There are weights stacked in front of a cracked mirror, a milk crate filled with jump ropes beside the lone rowing machine. There aren’t any spandex-wearing, bored housewives looking to hook up or show off their latest cosmetic enhancement. There are no elliptical machines or high-tech treadmills like the ones that can be found in the workout room of my building. I come here to sweat and strain my muscles to their limit with time-tested calisthenics. And most of all, I come for the boxing ring in the center of the gym.
I was twelve the first time I watched Rocky. It takes place in Philly, but it could’ve been in New York. I’ve been a fan of boxing ever since. I’m not going to quit the day job to train for the heavyweight title or anything, but there’s no better workout than a few rounds in the ring against a decent opponent.
Ronny Butler—the fiftyish, stubbly chinned guy in the gray sweatshirt with the thick gold crucifix around his neck who’s in the ring’s corner, yelling out critiques to the two sparring partners dancing around each other—he’s the owner. Ronny’s no Mickey, but he’s a good man, and an even better trainer.