Bob jumped when the door slammed behind him. “Who’s there?”
He turned to see his brother standing in the doorway of his living room. “Oh. It’s you.”
“Who were you expecting? An angel perhaps?” His brother, Jack, laughed as he sat on the brown couch.
Bob returned to washing the dishes. “I thought you would be at work by now.”
“I would be, if it were not—”
“You didn’t get fired again, did you?”
“I wouldn’t call it ‘fired’ exactly.”
“What would you call it, then?”
“More like, violently thrown out.”
Bob shook his head. “So you were fired.”
“That’s one way to look at it.”
Bob wiped his hands on a towel before turning to face his brother. “So, what happened this time?”
Jack smiled. “They wanted me to clean the toilets! Can you imagine that? I was hired to cook, not clean dirty toilets!” He held up this hands. “I can’t soil my gifted cooking hands with such dirty tasks.”
“Jack, that’s part of the job. You were suppose to work you way up to being a cook.”
A knock sounded from their front door. Bob sighed, then went to open the door. Before him stood a man with a goofy looking grin on his face and a younger girl. “I don’t want any. Thanks.” He began to shut the door.
The older man said, “What? You don’t want help with job-placement assistance?”
Bob froze. “Did you say, ‘job-placement assistance’?”
“Yes, I most certainly did.” The man held out a hand. “My name’s Joel, and this here is Holly.”
Bob shook each of their hands and welcomed him in. “If you don’t mind me saying, strange but cute costumes. Going to a Renaissance festival after this?”
Joel laughed. “No, more like we just came from one and forgot to change.”
Holly started to say something but Joel waved her off. It struck Bob how an unlikely that a pair like them would be from a job placement agency. But, whatever. “They sure are working people young these days.”
“Oh, she’s just my, ah, daughter is all. Sort of, anyway.” Joel looked up to the ceiling before facing Bob again. “Well, it’s complicated.”
Bob nodded. “It will all be good if you can get my brother, Jack, a job . . . that he will keep!”
Jack waved at them in as they entered the room. A grin creased his face. “I don’t suppose you’re gonna place me as a squire or something?”
Josh and Holly both smiled. Joel said, “Only if you want to go back to a time when those jobs were plentiful.”
Jack laughed, but it quickly died off when Joel didn’t join him in his merriment. “Are you serious?”
Joel pointed a finger at Jack. “The question isn’t whether I’m serious or not, but whether you are serious?” Joel turned to Holly. “Is he serious?”
Jack’s eyes lit up. “How would she know?”
Holly gazed into Jack’s eyes. “Yep, he’s serious. Serious about not doing anything with his life.”
Jack rose from the couch. “Hey, I resent that remark.”
Holly continued to stare into his eyes. “Because it’s true.”
Jack turned to Bob, who had remained silent. “Aren’t you going to defend me?” He turned back to see Holly still staring at him. He stuttered a bit, “I . . . you.” He pointed at Joel while looking at Bob.
Bob asked, “Jack, is it true that you have purposefully sabotaged every job you’ve received?”
“No, no. Don’t be fooled by these charlatans. Anyone can see they aren’t from a job placement agency.” Jack faced Joel and Holly. “I bet they don’t have any credentials either.”
Holly smiled. “You want credentials? Boy, do we have credentials. Show them, Joel.”
Joel wrinkled his forehead. “Credentials?”
Holly winked at him. “Yeah, you know,” she waved her arms. “Our credentials.”
“Oh, those credentials. One moment, let me think of something good.”
Jack laughed. “See, I told you they aren’t from an employment agency. You either have credentials on you to show or you don’t. You don’t need to think of something.”
Joel snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it!” They all disappeared in a blinding flash of light.
As Jack’s eyes recovered, a breeze blew against his skin. A jungle came into view, complete with thick underbrush and tall trees towering above them. Jack’s mouth hung open as he took in the scenery. “How did I get here?”
Bob, also displaying a shocked expression, said, “You guys aren’t from a job placement agency, are you?”
Joel grinned. “Let’s just say, not from any agency you are familiar with.”
Jack, still with his mouth hanging open, stared intently at Joel. “Not only how did we get here, but where is ‘here’?”
Bob added, “And I most certainly hope you can get us back to where we belong.”
Joel held up a hand. “All in good time. Your second question is the important one, Jack.” Joel spread his arms wide. “We’re in the jungle!”
Bob threw up his hands. “Duh! I would have never guessed.”
Joel laughed. “Of course you wouldn’t have. Like, it’s a jungle out there. Ever heard that phrase?”
Bob nodded. “So, aside from the word jungle, what are you getting at?”
Jack put his hands on his hips. “Yeah, what is this about? Out with it man. I demand to be returned to our house, now!”
Joel shook his head. “You don’t see the point, do you? Okay, I’ll spell it out. The reason they call the job world a jungle is because to survive, you have to struggle each day to work. You have to do things you don’t like. Like the real jungle, where people spent all their time hunting for food just to live each day. There was little time for other activities.”
Jack shrugged. “I fail to see what this has to do with me. I don’t live in a jungle.”
Joel smiled. “You do now.”
“You can’t be serious.” Jack peered into Joel’s eyes. As far as he could tell, he appeared serious.”
Ben cleared his throat. “I don’t like this idea. I demand you take us both back.”
Joel shook his head. “You have prevented Jack here from experiencing the consequences of his actions. Or inaction as the case may be.”
Ben’s face became red. “Look here. You may think you’re God or something—”
Joel laughed. “No, not God, but sent by him to you.”
“—but this isn’t funny. He could die out here. He knows nothing about survival in the wild.”
“And why is that, Bob?”
“Because . . . because . . .” Ben hung his head. “Because his parents and I, none of us have taught him.”
“Exactly. Bye, Jack. I’ll come back to check on you soon.” Joel snapped his fingers and they all left in a flash of light, leaving Jack alone. For the first time in his life, he feared for his life.”
Jack cringed as the beast was about to strike. This was the end. After the strange man didn’t return as he had promised, Hunger pains had driven Jack to search for food. Had this Joel guy forgotten all about him? So he worked to survive. And much to his surprise, he did survive.
In the six months he’d been here, though time tended to blur so he wasn’t exactly sure just how long it had been, he had grown proud of himself. He had built himself a makeshift house to shelter himself from the elements and wild animals while he slept. Yes, he had done quiet well. He would show that Joel guy that he could survive.
But now, that it appeared his doom was sure, that Ben’s prediction would come true, that he would die here, he closed his eyes and waited for the beast to strike.
“Jack! Are you going to stay cringing like that on the floor for long, because I’d like us to fix something for dinner.”
Jack opened his eyes. He stood in their old apartment! “What happened? How much did I miss?”
Joel turned to Holly. “Well, how is he now?”
She gazed at Jack, standing as a smile filled his face. “I think he’s fixed.”
Ben scrunched his face. “Fixed?”
Holly cleared her throat. “A poor choice of words. I meant he is ready to work.”
Ben laughed. “How? We just got back ourselves. He couldn’t have experienced anything much.”
Jack glanced at the clock on the wall. “What day is it?”
Ben pointed at a calendar. “May 15th, 2019. Wednesday.”
Jack shook his head. “But this is the same day and time we originally left. How can that be? I just experienced months alone in that jungle!”
“Well, Holly, looks like our job here is done.”
“I agree,” she said,
Joel snapped his fingers and they both vanished.
Ben shook his head to clear out the cobwebs. “Like I was saying, you were supposed to be working you way up to being a cook.”
Jack dropped his head. “I know. I blew it. I sabotaged that job.”
Ben said, “You’ve got to be . . . what did you say?”
Jack rose from his seat on the couch. “I said, I blew it. But I know a place where I can apply and they are desperate enough for help that I can probably get the same deal there. I’ll go apply right now.” He stepped toward the door and reached his hand out to grab the door knob. Before he did, he turned to Ben. “By the way, what just happened? Why do I feel so different now?”
Ben shrugged. “I have no earthly or heavenly idea.”
Jack thought for a moment. “Oh well, time to go earn a living.” He stepped out the door and shut it behind him.
Ben returned to washing dishes and shook his head. How long would this last? He had no idea. But he hoped it would be more permanent.
And so it was.