Dropping out at grade eleven, Luke found a job working in a factory that made weather stripping for cars. He was stationed at a long drill press, run by four other people. Edith, with sixteen years of on the job, was told to show him the ropes.
Edith gave him a discriminating look. “They’re sure graduating ‘em young nowadays. What are ya, twelve?”
Luke glared back at her. “I’m eighteen.”
“Sure ya are. Don’t matter to me. As long as ya keep up,” said Edith.
“I’m a fast learner,” said Luke.
“If yere so smart, why’re ya here? Shouldn’t ya be in university? It’s better than bein’ stuck here yere whole life.”
“Whatever,” said Luke as he rolled his eyes.
“Yeah? You think so? Look at that guy over there. Hey Rufus. C’mere. The kid here thinks education’s a waste,” said Edith.
“I didn’t say that.”
“And ya rolled yere eyes at me, ‘cause why?”
Rufus left his vulcanizing station and joined them at the drill press. “Education’s great. Who says education’s a waste?”
“I didn’t say waste. It’s just not everything,” said Luke as he leaned back against the press.
“Rufus here’s workin’ on his PhD,” said Edith.
“What are you doing here?” asked Luke.
“I have to pay for school somehow. It’s not free. I’m finishing my dissertation,” said Rufus.
“Whatever that means,” mumbled Luke.
“Education’s a gateway,” explained Rufus.
“To what, debt?”
“A better life,” said Edith.
“I dunno,” said Luke skeptically.
“Listen. I’ve got opportunities. Choices. When you’re thirty and stuck here, I’ll be doing something I want to do,” said Rufus.
“Yeah, but I hated high school. Who wants to waste more years getting their PhD?” said Luke.
“You don’t have to do it my way. I got my Bachelor’s in Music. Nothing opened up for me right away so I went back for my Masters. Again, nothing better presented itself so I went for my doctorate.”
“That musta cost a bundle,” said Luke.
“Worth every penny,” said Rufus.
“Huh. What kinda job will it get ya? You play an instrument?”
“Oh yeah. My doctorate’s in harmonica. I’m studying it’s effects on popular music.”
“So, what, you can teach lessons?”
“I’m hoping Juilliard.”
“You’re not sure?”
“No. I have to finish first, then apply,” said Rufus.
“So what happens if Juilliard doesn’t open up? At least I already got a job,” said Luke.
Rufus looked uncomfortably at Edith. Edith glared at Luke.
“It’s time to earn some pay,” said Edith.