It was a catastrophic failure. The entire team stood motionless; in shock. Their faces reflecting utter disbelief. Two months of hard work was history. Two months of their lives, their sacrifices, hopes for the future…of possibly mankind itself, were reduced to wet walls, ruined files, and a large puddle of sticky liquid taking up a good portion of the floor. All because Fred used a cheap keg disconnect. “We can save money,” turned, undoubtedly, the world’s best new beer into flotsam and jetsam.
The group had decided to become brew masters during the office Christmas party. Kathy suggested using a small company supply room, “Hell, when’s the last time Old Man Richards went in there?” Bill researched brewing kits, while Terry looked for instructional aids. It was Fred who proved to be the weakest link; he talked the group into buying used equipment. Yet it was Kathy who took the brunt of the geyser that erupted just as she was checking the temperature of the keg. Thankfully for Fred, who had taken the day off; as Kathy did not appreciate an impromptu wet tee-shirt party.
The team set about cleaning up the mess. The walls were wiped down, the floor was mopped, and files that were in the open where either salvaged or trashed. Bill had the task of emptying several boxes of files that had resided in the room’s back corner since long before the brew masters were employed at D. Lawrence Hymaster and Dranzel.
He placed the orphaned files on Terry’s desk while he worked. The file marked ‘PRIVATE – Tin Plate October 12, 1971’ in large red letters had resided in one of the boxes for 36 years. Had Bill not lifted a bunch of files off the pile, thus exposing Tin Plate, no one would have noticed the file and it would have no doubt been returned anonymously to the now dry box. But Terry noticed the file.
Tuesday, October 12, 1971 was an interesting day. Gene “Be-Bop-A-Lula” Vincent died in California; the Baltimore Orioles lost game three of the World Series to the Pittsburg Pirates 5 -1; and Jesus Christ Superstar opened at the Mark Hellinger Theater in New York. Tuesday, October 12, 1971 was also the day Old Man Richards got married.
Marriage in itself is no big deal, thousands get married every day, and Old Man Richards was ‘young man’ Richards in 1971. Ok, younger than his current age of 73. However, for Richards marriage was a necessity of convenience; her father said it was necessary, and it was convenient not to be the dead father of the expectant baby. So a Tuesday wedding, no guests invited, took place at City Hall. As Richards waited he read the newspaper and wondered who would win the World Series. The soon to be Mrs. Richards discussed the pros and cons of Mexican weed with the couple sitting next to them. While her father waited outside the chambers listening to a news commentator on the receptionist’s radio.
The Judge said they were now married, the happy couple kissed and then made a hasty exit to waiting daddy. A swift car ride back to daddy’s house, lunch with a distraught mom, and then the newlyweds drove to their love nest, his apartment. One year later Richards is a vice president in daddy Lawrence’s business. But what does this have to do with Tin Plate?
The file itself was not organized in 1971; it was actually 1974, the date simply referred to the wedding day and a pie plate that was left over from lunch. A store bought pie. Yes, sad to say, the Deford Lawrence Hymaster household had resorted to a store bought pie; with Hattie being off, and neither of the two wives knowing how to bake. Richards was, as the lowest ranking male, taking the plate to the rubbish bin when he noticed that the pie had been purchased at the local bakery. ‘Odd,’ he thought, ‘when did his new wife have time?’
A few weeks later Richards, in the vicinity of the bakery noticed a young man sweeping in front of the shop. Curiosity getting the better of him, Richards inquired at the Druggist; the young man was the owner’s son, home from university. A few nights later at cards, he mentioned seeing the young man. Bill replied, “Likes the ladies.” George seconded. Richards became suspicious. Richards also had noticed that the pies had suddenly stopped appearing. Thus, in June, the new baby’s blond hair started to make sense; and not ‘Oh, honey, lots of babies are born with blond hair.”
On the first Monday in August 1974, Richards took the baby to the doctors, not his regular doctor mind you, and had a paternity test. Richards was not the father. A private detective later, fatherhood was determined, but kept a secret. Richard’s livelihood was a stake; and besides, he had a girlfriend. But one can never be too sure, so the Tin Plate file was placed in a safe location; moved, several times, but safe. That is until a catastrophic failure.
The brew masters read the file with great interest. “So, Young Mr. Richards is not the son Old Man Richards,’ surmised Fred. “Sounds like a BBC comedy,” injected Terry.
“Sounds like what?” asked a coworker who was passing by. “Like a…,” replied another. And soon the entire building was abuzz with gossip about the Richards situation.
The firm of D. Lawrence Hymaster and Dranzel would never be the same. Old Man Richards unconditionally retired. Young Mr. Richards was henceforth referred to as ‘the Bastard’, and he would avoid being in the office. Thus, resulting in promotions; to include Bill, who decided to turn the small storeroom into their permanent brewery. Of course they had to buy some decent equipment.
On October 12, 2011, the young brew masters held a keg tapping at Kathy’s house. They raised their glasses to the birth of a new beer, which was appropriately named ‘1971 Tin Plate Bastard’.
(Catastrophic Failure, is a work of fiction, copyright Steven S. Walsky, 2010-2012, all rights reserved.)