Mr Wayne slowly perused every photo. Larry stood before his desk trying not to fidget. This was unbearable.
"Yeah Appleton you did good you did real good," he eventually smiled.
Larry let out a breath of relief.
"Thank you sir, it's an honor to put together this portfolio for you. It took me days to get that final photo..."
"And it's very good Appleton." Mr Wayne came round his desk and put a hand to Larry's shoulder.
"You keep taking photos like that and you won't be working in a two bit store for long. Just keep sending me your best pictures and I'll see what I can do for you buddy."
Mr Wayne was in fact showing him out. The door was closed after him and Larry watched through the glass panel as the young man went back to his desk and carefully leafed through the pictures again. A smile of satisfaction grew on Larry's tired face. It had been so worth it. Surely now Mr Wayne would include his name in the credits.
Larry was tired from the inside out. Between working all day at the store and running to get exclusive pictures for Mr. Wayne he was exhausted. He came home most nights just wanting to veg on the couch.
"Cousin, I have such a good day. I meet with Mary Anne for lunch and we find restaurant that make nearly authentic Myposian food. Mary Anne really liked it. She want to go back next week. Isn't that great Cousin?"
"That's wonderful," Larry said without much enthusiasm.
As much as he loved Balki, his constant exuberance for life was lately grating on Larry's nerves.
"I know, why we not go to cinema tonight. There is new film called the Breakfast Club. Why they want to make a film about a lot of people sitting around eating breakfast I don't know but if we eat first it won't make us hungry."
"Balki, I'm not going to the cinema, I'm tired. You'll have to go by yourself."
"But Cousin, you have not been out of the house except to go to work. All work no play makes Larry...cranky as hell."
"Balki, I'm not going to argue tonight. I'm tired and I just want to watch television. You'll have to do something else."
Balki was disappointed. Especially considering he had foolishly bought the tickets in advance. He knew Larry would be tired and wouldn't want to join a queue. He took the tickets from his top pocket and for a moment contemplated going alone but where was the fun in that. He couldn't talk to Larry about the picture afterwards in the coffee house like they usually did.
"Why don't you go with Mary Anne?" Larry asked without looking at him.
"She's flying tonight to Bangkok with Jennifer you remember?"
"Yeah," Larry rubbed at his left eye. He felt tired from the inside out. Things must be good though because Mr. Wayne was demanding more and more photos, ringing him up, calling on him exclusively. Larry touched on the subject of writing an article on the upcoming election and Mr. Wayne seemed genuinely interested. It would all be worth it.
"I might go to bed then," Balki was saying now.
"I have to read book for my English class. Far from the Maddening Crowd."
"Far from the Madding crowd." Lar corrected.
"Madding crowd, that make no sense cousin. There is no such thing as a Madding Crowd. It's maddening."
"Too right it's maddening. Ok Balki, whatever. Enjoy your book."
As time went on Larry continued to run errands for Mr Wayne of the Chicago Press. It was becoming more difficult as he was called upon at times when the store could be really busy. He had to leave Balki in the middle of one of Twinacetti's end of month sales. It was bedlam. Two women fell out over a waffle iron ending in one woman bursting into tears. All Balki did was ask her if she was having her change of life, he couldn't understand why the big reaction. But he took her aside and made her a cup of coffee and she calmed down eventually.
It wasn't much fun for Larry either. Mr. Wayne was sometimes not as pleased with his pictures. Larry tried to take his criticism as constructive help but had to ponder the fact that he wasn't getting paid a penny and was having to juggle this with his real job. In one such exchange argued that he hadn't gotten close enough to Bruce Springsteen. Anyone could use a zoom lense, there's nothing to beat that shot when you're up close and personal.
Larry tried to point out the many bodyguards surrounding the star and the briefness of his appearance outside the hotel.
"Appleton, I ask for a top reporter and I get excuses. I expect that from the rookies here. I expect more from you. Don't give me that. You have more class than that Appleton."
Larry fumed. He'd done his level best. Gotten a perfect shot, so he thought.
None of this was helped any by his home life.
"Balki, where are my car keys?"
"I hung them up on the hook by the door."
"I've been searching for half an hour."
"Why you not ask?"
Larry gave him a sour look. "They were happily situated in the pocket of my sports jacket. There was no need to hang them where I couldn't find them."
"Cousin, they were on the floor," Balki told him honestly.
"I'm not going to argue with you, I have to go down town and take some pictures at a wedding. I'll be back later."
"But cousin, it's past ten o clock at night and we have an early start in the morning."
"This is a wedding exclusive. They wouldn't allow pictures before now. I'll just get a few shots of the final few dancing sets and hopefully bring back something Mr. Wayne can use."
"Cousin...you're working too hard and this Mr Wayne..."
"Balki, this Mr. Wayne is going to help me further my career."
"Are you sure because I don't see your name on any of those articles in the press and I looked."
That hit a nerve. As tired as Larry was he wrongly thought Balki was making fun of him.
"Look pal when you can take professional pictures and differentiate between lenses and choose just the right white balance then come back with your comments until then keep a lid on it."
"Cousin I was just concerned,"
"Do me a favor Balki, keep it to yourself."
Larry spoke with an edge to his voice that Balki was now growing familiar with.
As the door slammed shut Balki frowned to himself. He didn't know what was wrong. Lately he couldn't seem to please Larry no matter what he did. And he was making the silliest mistakes, making Larry angry. He vowed each time to do better but still he managed to break his favorite mug or time the heating wrong so there was no hot water or burn their dinner. Lately nothing he seemed to do was right.