Miras advises me to shave my beard. He says it’s not worth losing my job over. He tells me the parable of the oak and the willow in which the oak tries to resist the wind while the willow survives longer by bending to the pressure. I seem to be creating a political divide among the staff. Every day when I show up for my shift I receive praise from some and condemnation from others. I eventually lose my job at Beaver Lumber when Mr. Brown tells me not to return to work unless I have shaved.
Larry is a regular customer in the store, always seeking me out for conversation. I finally agree to go for a ride in his car. When we are on a country road north of the city Larry puts his hand on my thigh. I make it clear that he has misunderstood. “Then why did you agree to come for a ride?” he asks. “Because I thought you were lonely.” He asks me if I would paint him in the nude. I tell him I would not feel comfortable doing that. Larry never visits the store again after that.
He looks at me with hopeful anticipation as he names one person after another. While some names seem to tickle the fringes of my memory I am unable to recall anything concrete about any of these people. I was a boy; they were men. They bent to the pressure.