I was desperately looking for some clues to the unfathomable, unreasonable dismissal from a job I loved and dedicated twenty-four hours a day to in the sardonic smile on my childhood friend’s face. Why would a newly-appointed managing editor fire me without a personal interview or evaluation or reevaluation of my job performance?
I knew nothing about Panax Corporation and I was positive they knew little, if anything about me and my past, for certainly the idea to terminate my employment would not have originated with Mitch.
I had been writing all of the stories for the sport pages every week and was responsible for police and court news in the cities of Wayne and Inkster. Mitch wasted little time rolling out his grievances.
“So, you’re married now. Right, Mr. Mooradian?”
Okay, so apparently we were dealing in a business and professional environment and that could be the reason for the “Mr.”.
“Yeah, Mr. Kehetian, I am married.” So, what was he driving at?
“A blonde with blue-eyes. Beautiful…young lady, right?”
“Yeah…and beautiful and rational. I respect her very much. She was my editor at the Dearborn Guide.” And in my mind I am wondering what’s going on.
He paused and took another look at me, “Oh, by the way, thank you for that wedding invitation.”
O.K., Mitch, I thought, I see where this is all going… “We didn’t have a wedding, the mayor in Dearborn Heights officiated for the exchange of vows. And Jan and I went out to Botsford Inn afterward. Marge and Roy Webster, you know, the publishers of the Dearborn Heights Leader were our witnesses.”
Mitch finally broke into his Wallace Berry smile and I thought that was the end of it.
No, not Mitch…he wasn’t going to allow me any relief; he went for me with a punch right straight to the heart.
“Hell, for two years that high school gang of ours sat in the sweetshop after every damn football, basketball and baseball game and the talk would eventually turn to you – and for two years after you had left for the Soviet Union I watched a sweet, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, young lady come in and sit where you two usually sat. I would walk over and speak to her and ask her if she had heard from you, and she would shake her head and the tears would fall…you remember, don’t you. You know, of course, who I am talking about – the girl who waited with a ring – the ring that you gave to her with a promise that you’d be back in “a year or two to marry her…” There were plenty of guys, even some of your friends, who wanted to “hit” on her, and I would warn them if they tried they would have to deal with me!”
Mitch’s depressing depiction of past events churned my stomach and my face probably reflected my feelings. I knew I had done wrong – and felt guilty that I had paid a high price for my mistakes. But those were my mistakes. How could I ease the pain of the inflicted – the one who is in pain and suffered for my errant ways?
Fortunately, Mitch would leave this line of questioning for another day. As if he got something off his chest that had bothered him for years, he broke his silence with a deep sigh for what appeared to be a request, “How’s the coffee around here?”
“Not bad,” I answered quickly, happy to get away from the previous topic. “But, if you really want some excellent coffee, we’ll have to go across the street. There’s a Greek restaurant and they not only have the best coffee, but they make a gyro sandwich to die for.”
“And I’ll bet the owner’s name is Nick,’ Mitch said, amused at the quickness with which I got up from the chair and was ready to get out of his office.
As we left the newspaper offices and paused at the curb to cross Michigan Avenue, I asked Mitch about our families getting together for dinner, adding that I would like to meet his wife and the kids. “I really would like to meet your wife,” I said.
He paused, glanced at the oncoming traffic, then turned to me with an enigmatic grin, immediately putting me on the defense with, “But, Tommy, you have already met her.”
“Well, it seems that you and I were attending some large political rally and the host introduced you to her as Tom Greene. She told me she had met this good-looking odar (non-Armenian) and she was very impressed by this Mr. Greene because he spoke pretty-good Armenian.”
“Crap!” was the only word that I could think of – but, if shit happens – there is more…
After ordering breakfast at the restaurant with Mitch enjoying his coffee, he turned to me and asked, “Does management know that you’re working at another newspaper, and holding down this job.”
“I don’t think so…”
He paused, then asked, “Do they know that you are the Tom Eaton who also covers council meetings for the Royal Oak Tribune?”
“Don’t Mitch me…”
“Let me explain.”
“It better be good…”
And I so I began…
“As married life went along and we had two kids and a mortgage, I approached the co-publisher of The Associated Newspapers and asked for a raise. He said that he would gladly raise my salary, but then I would be getting more than the Managing Editor. He said that he knew Marge and Roy Webster, publishers of The Leader, and they were looking for someone to handle the police beat and off I went to talk to them. They immediately put me on their payroll. Then, I got a call from The Royal Oak Tribune, asking if I was interested in some free lancing, and I grabbed it…”
Mitch atypically interrupted me and asked, “When the hell do you sleep?
“I don’t. Hey, all I’m trying to do is make sure that all the bills are paid and catch up for those lost thirteen years.”
He replied amicably and understandingly with, “Well, welcome to the rat race.”
We looked at each other and I asked, “Then, I’m not fired?”
“Aaah…you know I would never fire you.” Then, in a tone that turned serious and somewhat odious asked, “What do you know about the Panax Corporation?”
“Nothing really, nothing.”
“How many on staff know about your past – your life in the Soviet Union?”
“I don’t think anyone knows anything – we’re too busy putting out a newspaper.”
“That’s fine – Panax is a very conservative group, and I don’t think you’d last very long if they knew that you had spent thirteen years in the USSR, living with the Communists.”
Mitch, I would learn later, was at Associated to help in the reorganization of the staff, and shortly after he returned to resume his work on The Macomb Daily, I was fired by the new administration.
This time, my job wasn’t saved by my long-time friend, rather the support of the community who rallied around me. But that’s a story for a later time.
Read the full “Mitch and Me” series:
Mitch and Me: A Posthumous Tribute to a Childhood Friend
Mitch and Me: The Years of the Great Depression
Mitch and Me: Iconic Moments of Friendship
Mitch and Me: Challenges in a New World
Mitch and Me: Explaining the Inexplicable
Mitch and Me: A Divergence
Mitch and Me: The Final Chapter to an Epic Life
Mitch and Me: The “Contract” is Null & Void