“Hello there, welcome to Halperts’!” the young man at the back of the store announces, walking toward the patrons that just so happen to walk right in, not even two seconds earlier.
He’s young--old enough to be working there, yet not old enough to be mistaken for any of the older customers that come through the store each day. Donning a maroon polyester sweater, black pants, and a haircut that many older folks would deem too “hippy-dippy” for them, versus the women his age who find it attractive, many know him as the “young salesman at Halperts’ Appliances.”
But to everyone else, he’s Jim Halpert.
“What can I do for you ladies?” he attempts to charm them, schmooze his way into making a sale on a vacuum, a record player, a black-and-white television set, a washing machine, anything their store sells.
His job is simple: talk to customers, make sales, and do bookkeeping after the day is done.
And keep his father happy. After all, it is his father’s own business.
The women patrons end up purchasing a new stove and a new refrigerator from the store, thanking Jim’s smooth-talking for the significant purchases before leaving. And not so soon afterward, another patron comes in for Jim to persuade a sale from. It’s constantly like this at Halperts’, making the days feel fast.
Jim finds solace in his breaks between the customers by chatting with his mother, Betsy, behind the cash register or messing with his younger sister, Larissa, on the show floor. It isn’t often he’s able to do such, but it’s nice when there’s downtime during the workday; and with Halperts’ located on Wyoming Avenue, directly in the middle of Scranton, there’s rarely a dull moment.
And as soon as he knows it, the working day is done. Gerald, the family's patriarch, and sole owner of their business, sends the women home around 3:00, leaving him and Jim to finish the last two hours of work each late afternoon. At 5:00, he hands the keys over to his son, with a pat on the back for a shift-well-done.
With a “Lock us up and shut the lights off before you leave,” Gerald leaves the store in Jim’s hands for the night.
Upon locking up the shop, Jim makes his way behind the counter to grab the notebook full of sales for the day and makes his way down to the basement of their shop.
It’s dark, cluttered, what one imagines the basement of the commercial section of Scranton in the mid-1960s to look like. New inventory coated in cobwebs, old signage for products not sold or recalled, a desk up against the wood-paneling hiding the hideous 40s-style wallpaper behind it, a record player with a milk carton containing multiple ‘45’s. And lastly: a mysteriously large-item coated in a faded-white sheet.
Jim, dropping the notebook on the cluttered desk, walks over to the item and removes the white sheet, revealing the shiny brass of the cymbals, hi-hats, toms, snares, and bass drums.
He walks over to the record player, taking a ‘45 out of its sleeve and putting it on the player: “Time to Blow” by Darryl Philbin. Sure, jazz typically isn’t music a man of Jim’s age would be listening to, but his response tends to be, “He is such a talented piano player. I wish more people would play his music.”
Grabbing a pair of drumsticks from his full-set, Jim takes a seat as the first song from the album plays. His sticks hit the snares and cymbals with ease in between Darryl’s immaculate ivory chords, as if he were born to be a jazz drummer. He practices every night with this album, perfecting his craft if he were ever to play for Darryl if asked.
The album continues to play, Jim’s hands becoming more calloused by each song’s passing until the last note on the final piece plays. Then, he finds himself bookkeeping as promised after restarting the album and becoming immersed as a listener rather than a fellow musician.
In-between calculating sales on their SCM Adding Machine, the phone next to him rings. Unusual for this time of night, but regardless, Jim answers it.
“Halperts’,” he announces, sleepily and in-boredom.
“What’s going on down there?” Jim hears through the receiving end of the handset. He knows that voice exceptionally well and knows that the man’s tone is not too thrilled.
“Dad?” he asks, already knowing the answer to the question.
“Mrs. Priestley just called you mama. Her husband drove by the store, and the lights were still on. What are the lights still doing on?” Gerald responds as Jim sits up in his chair and thinks of a smart-aleck remark for him. I mean, his father already puts so much pressure on him during their workday; why does he need to take more stress during his downtime?
“I’m cooking the books, as usual, dad. I do this every night, like you asked, remember?” Jim chooses to respond with.
“The sign, Jim. The sign is still on. Are we open for business all night now? Go turn them off right now before I go down there and throw your behind out of there and call Tom or Pete to drive down here and do your job better, you understand me?” Gerald demands in an angrier tone than before. Well, Jim did it now, didn’t he? Involving his older two brothers into this argument just made Jim even more frustrated, but the last thing he needs is to add more fuel to this fire.
“No, dad. Uh, sorry, I’ll go turn them off right now,” Jim states in a more nervous tone.
“Is that music playing on one of the store’s hi-fis again? Turn that off while you’re at it, too,” Gerald adds, knowing that Jim should already know not to do such.
“Yes, Dad, goodnight,” Jim states before placing the handset back on top of the base of their rotary phone and walking up the stairs to shut the front signage lights off.
Jim never saw this as part of his plan in life: being a salesman for his family’s appliance store. He always dreamed of moving out of Scranton to New York or Los Angeles and trying to make it as a jazz musician. He has dreams of leaving his small town, having a life of his own. He never thought it was fair of his brothers to go right off and join the army reserve, leaving him and Larissa to be the only of the four siblings to work at the store. He resents his brothers due to this, and any time his father uses his brothers’ successes against him, it irritates him deep to his core. Not to mention that because of his brothers, it’s already in Jim’s planned-out future that he become the future owner of the store when his father decides to retire. He, and whomever he takes as his wife, will own, and run the shop and will eventually pass it on to his children and continue this ever-long cycle his family has put on him. But, what else can Jim do? If he says no, he’ll be happy but condemned by his family for the rest of his life.
So, Jim is sacrificing his dreams for the sake of the family business.
Still downright peeved, Jim completes the bookkeeping for the day and readies himself to leave. He walks out the basement door to the back driveway, where all store employees on Wyoming Avenue find their vehicles parked. Jim finds his black 1961 Jaguar XK-E with ease, being he is the only car left parked in the driveway.
Pulling out of the driveway, he turns onto Ridge Street to make his way to his apartment. Sure, he’s unmarried at the current moment, but he knew that moving out of his parents’ home was the wisest decision he had made. With his salary from the store and his savings from birthdays and holidays, he’s able to afford his place close to in-town Scranton. He turns the radio dial to find the theme song to “Mr. Downtown” playing. He turns it up and sings along to it as he drives.
After cranking the volume up, he looks ahead of him at a highly familiar car about to pass him, honking their horn toward him.
“Aw, shit,” Jim gripes as he slows down, allowing the car to pull up next to him. A familiar face, indeed. Her long, wavy brown hair draped over a fuchsia dress, matching bauble earrings, and bow in her hair would make her desirable to honestly any man in the tri-county area, let alone her naturally olive skin and natural flirty nature. Yet, she chose Jim Halpert, somehow. He parks his car, leaning against his driver-side window.
“Hey beautiful, where you headed?” he asks, watching as she attempts to bat her eyelashes toward him. Jim could tell she’s hiding her annoyed mannerisms right now in an attempt to play his cat-and-mouse game of flirting.
Messing with her hair, she looks away from him for a quiet second before returning her gaze toward his, now visibly annoyed. “You forgot all about me, didn’t you?” she queries, more than aware that this is a redundant question to ask of her boyfriend.
“No, I promise, I was on my way right now!” Jim pleads, pointing in the direction of the Tupperware party he feigned interest in attending.
“You liar,” she howls, rolling her eyes to his blatant disregard of her interest in showing her boyfriend off toward her friends. “Jim, I caught you. Just admit that you didn’t want to go.”
Sighing, Jim looks back at her, irked. She most definitely caught him, alright, and he didn’t want to admit it. “Fine, Kare. I didn’t want to go. Happy?” He tilts his head back onto the padding of the driver’s seat.
Smirking, Karen primps her hair while looking at the road ahead of her instead of looking at Jim. “Well, if you don’t want to go,” she starts, looking over at him as she bats his eyes, yet again. “Then let’s go to your place and talk about this.”
That last statement rings in Jim’s ear like cymbals from his drum. He sees the look in her eyes, the tip of her pointer finger nestled between her front teeth. This isn’t the first time she’s asked to go to his apartment, physically shown the sides that she wanted to spend quality time with Jim, and, as the warm-blooded human he is, Jim would not mind at all doing nothing else but such.
“Alright then, let’s go,” he answers, winking as she smiles, taking her car out of the park and making her way down Ridge Street. Jim, doing a sedy on the road, turns around and follows her toward his apartment.
With a record player on, playing a random LP, along with the television set on mute, Jim’s nestled in-between the crook of Karen’s neck, his lips peppering kisses up and down as his hands lay against her waist. Her lips meet up with his, placing soft, sweet pecks against him. He inhales the same “Evening in Paris” perfume she dons each time they go out on dates, the one that he only tolerates. They find themselves here, in this state of teenaged making-out on either’s couches, maybe twice or three times a week nowadays. Jim would be lying if he said he was entirely content with the pace of which their relationship was going in, intimacy-wise, but would never mention it to Karen. Honestly, he’d rather keep his mouth shut and have Karen as his than not have her at all.
“Hmm,” she moans in a whisper, removing her lips off of Jim’s, “You know what I was thinking today?” Her hand starts running through her hair, her bottom lip between her front teeth.
“What?” Jim responds in confusion.
“We’ve been together for almost a year now. Remember? We met at Brisbane’s party two Christmases ago, and then we had our little flirting period until you finally asked me out. So, almost a year total!” She smirks, running her hand now through Jim’s hair.
Well shit, Jim thinks to himself. He hadn’t realized how long they had been a couple, and he’s genuinely surprised they had been together for this long, honestly. He enjoys Karen, enjoys dating her. Sure, her side of the story was different than his: she being the one to give him a shot after he had tried flirting with her for months on end at various parties. Yet, part of him always worries about her getting bored with Jim and moving onto somebody new. He likes Karen in more ways than one, but Karen’s not one to stay attached long to a man of his caliber. Hopefully, he can be the one to change that.
“Well then, happy anniversary Kare,” Jim jests, as their lips meet again, his hands meeting the arch of her back, before one slides up to find the white strap of her brassiere, toying with the fabric between his fingers.
And before he could even get a good grip on the strap, Karen moves her shoulder up, his hand flying off of her and back onto the couch. “Down, boy. Not going to happen,” she asserts, seating herself up onto the couch and adjusting her dress and hair. “I have to get home,” she answers as Jim continues to lay on the sofa. “I have a dentist appointment with my new doctor in the morning, and I do not want to be late.”
Jim, practically shaking his head, begins to sit up himself, shaking the possible thought of going any farther with his girlfriend tonight out of his mind. “Right, new dentist. You’ve mentioned that to me before,” he groans.
“I know. And this way, you can finally mention those ideas about the business to your father tomorrow morning, that you’ve been meaning to tell him but never do,” she retorts, somewhat angrily.
Karen has been very adamant lately that Jim proves himself as a great storefront manager of their appliance store and mentioned some ideas that would benefit the family business and make them more profitable. The downside? Jim knows his father and knows that whatever ideas he has that involves change will be denied before Jim could even finish speaking. His father hates change; why should he mention the new ideas to him?
“Alright, alright. I’ll talk to him tomorrow morning after breakfast, alright?” Jim mutters, turning the television set off and walking her over toward his apartment door.
“Jim,” Karen sighs. “Is it good business to let Tele-Mart’s sales get in the way when the sign on the shop finally says ‘Jim Halpert Appliances’? No!”
Jim sighs before opening the door to let Karen out. “Halpert Appliances, but I get what you’re saying. I’ll talk to him tomorrow,” Jim states, placing one last kiss onto her lips as she leaves. “Night, Kare.”
Tomorrow, Jim thinks to himself. I fight for this job or let it slip out of my hands. Only tomorrow will tell what happens.
Jim finds a spot in the front of the Wyoming Ave Drugstore, the closest luncheon on Wyoming Avenue to the appliance shop. Unfortunately for Jim, his day is starting on a sour note. Forgetting to set his alarm overnight, he woke up around 8:56 AM, around the time he designated to leave to go to the drugstore for breakfast. Instead, it’s now around 9:27 AM, already almost a half-an-hour after his shift at the store began, and he’s only getting to breakfast now.
And to make matters worse? He bumps into the car parked in front of him as he parallel parks.
“Dammit,” he says under his breath, backing up so he can park correctly and assess the damage to the other car. Putting the vehicle in break and kicking the engine, he gets out to see a dent he caused in the back of the familiar, powder blue Chevy.
He’s seen this car before, and upon looking inside of the luncheon section of the drugstore, he knows exactly whose car it is.
Walking inside, he hears that ever-so familiar voice discussing something with a group of equally as friendly gentlemen around her.
“But I thought you already decided on the Herdsmen?” She asks, Jim eavesdropping on their conversation while searching for the daily paper at the front desk to purchase. He’ll know her voice anywhere, one he has heard almost daily since elementary school: Pam Beesly.
For years, Pam was Jim’s neighbor until she moved to the other side of town with her family right before they started their freshman year at Dunmore Senior High. Every night, after homework, of course, he and Pam would find themselves playing in his backyard on the swings or riding their bikes through their cul-de-sac and beyond. She, always in a poodle-skirt of some kind that her amiable mother would put her in, playing any games with him outside for hours on end. She quickly became his best friend, both in and outside of school. She was someone he could confide in, telling her about how difficult he found it being in the family shop each and every day and never judging him or making him feel bad. She was there to listen, and he did the same for him.
Plus, his favorite pastime with Pam was making her laugh. He’d joke about the most minor things, and she’d smile and chuckle and everything he would ever say. She was his best friend.
But, by the time she moved and they were off to senior high, their friendship tapered off. She’ll come by the appliance shop with my mother now and then, and they’ll crack some old jokes, but that’s the moot point of their friendship.
“No, some band up near Erie is called the Herdsmen. Plus, I wasn’t a fan of that name anyway,” a larger, more masculine voice responds to her question, his arm wrapping around her shoulders. Roy Anderson is his name, someone Jim has met a handful of times in the appliance store. He’s always come in for a new amplifier for his guitar, claiming to “blow them out” at least once every three or four months. Roy is a great guitar player from the gossip on the street and has been songwriting for the last few years.
He’s Pam’s boyfriend, something Jim’s known about for a while now.
Next to the lovebirds are three other gentlemen Jim knows from school: Ryan Howard, Andy Bernard, and Dwight Schrute.
Ryan graduated with Jim from Dunmore, a pretty quiet and lanky individual. Andy was a good friend of his during school. Dwight, however.
Dwight Schrute has been a thorn in Jim’s side for years. Throughout school and even now into adulthood, Dwight openly despises Jim. He calls him names, criticizes his family’s business against his family’s own (a local beet farm, which hails no comparison to the appliance store).
An odd bunch, seated here at breakfast.
“Well, why not call us the ‘Band You’re About to Hear!’?” Andy retorts as Jim pays for his paper.
“Andy, why would we do that? That sounds stupid,” Dwight interjects, taking a sip of his coffee.
“Right, right. Sorry, Dwight,” Andy apologizes before taking his sip of coffee.
Jim walks past the counter, unbeknownst to the flocks of women patrons of the luncheon eye-ing him with desire and fascination.
“Wait, is that Tunes Halpert?” Andy blurts as Jim walks over toward the group. Andy, since their days at Dunmore, has called Jim ‘Tunes.’ For one, it makes sense since Jim played percussion in the band when Andy played trumpet; two, because he threw a tuna sandwich over at Jim during band practice, and he caught it in his mouth.
He’ll never be able to live that down.
“Hey everyone,” Jim announces to the group as they say their hellos in response.
“Oh look, it’s Scranton’s lone beatnik. How’s the hippie life treating you, Jim?” Dwight states as Jim rolls his eyes to him.
As mentioned previously, Dwight and Jim don’t have the best history.
“Pam, I…” he begins, as she looks up at him. Her mirroring green eyes to his, curly auburn hair, and a slight concern in her face masked by a smile. He missed her smile. “I just dinged your bumper; I’m so sorry.”
Pam’s eyebrows knit together in a concerted manner. Her mouth, opening to attempt to say something. Shit, I made her angry, Jim thinks to himself. But, before he could apologize again, her smile returns, and she chuckles. “Eh, it’s my sister’s car, Jim. She’s already put enough dents into that; she’ll think she did it. Nothing to worry about!”
Jim relaxes, sighing with a hand on his chest. He should have known better than to take Pam Beesly seriously in these types of scenarios. She was the last person to ever get mad at someone for an accident: something he’s grateful has never changed about her.
“Well, regardless, Beesly,” he responds, awakening an old nickname of hers from years ago, back when they were still friends and not just the occasional acquaintance. “I’m buying you breakfast.” He offers her a smirk, believing that paying for her breakfast would be the least he could do in this scenario.
Pam’s face lights up; a ‘thank you’ she mouths as she attempts to contain her shock and happiness.
“I’m buying all you kids breakfast; how about that?” Jim explains to the rest of the group, the four men now cheering.
“Aw man, I could have gotten steak and eggs?” Andy jests.
“Hey, you can run into my girlfriend’s car, anytime Halpert,” Roy also jests, while Jim takes a seat at the breakfast bar, getting a glimpse into his morning paper.
While flipping the pages, he hears and sees someone taking the seat next to him at the bar from the corner of his eye. “The boys are in a band together,” Pam sighs, Jim, realizing now that she was the one who occupied the seat next to him. “They’re trying to settle on a good name for themselves, which has been a tedious process.”
“A band, you say?” Jim messes with her in a silly, sarcastic voice.
“Yeah, a band. Roy and Andy are on guitars, Ryan’s on bass, Dwight’s on drums,” Jim watches as she rolls her eyes toward the last statement. “Dwight isn’t horrible, but he’s been bragging a lot.” Pam turns around to look at the guys, Jim following suit, eavesdropping yet again.
“What about the Tempos?” Ryan offers. “Like, tempo in our music?”
“No, no. I was in a band already called the Tempos, and we were…terrible,” Andy responded, in a more serious tone than Jim is used to. Andy, the fellow jokester that he is, is never serious. I guess he was in a band with that name then, Jim says to himself.
“Hey Jim, weren’t you the drummer for the Tempos?” Dwight bluntly asks, laughing to himself.
“Heard that, Dwight,” Jim retorts, turning back around to look at his newspaper, specifically turning toward the advertisements for his family’s rival company: Tele-Mart. The commercialized version of their family-owned business.
“Hey,” Pam turns back around to look at him as the men behind her finish up their breakfast. “The boys are playing at the Lackawanna College talent show tonight. It’s their first time playing together in front of a crowd, and I’m kind of nervous for them.”
Jim groans, shaking his head at her. “What do you, Pamela Beesly, have to worry about? If they make a fool out of themselves, you can just pretend as if you don’t know them! You’re not the one going up on stage, are you?”
She starts chuckling, bringing light to Jim’s eyes. “No, no, I’m not going up on stage,” she continues laughing.
“Thought so, so you have nothing to worry about then, Beesly! Relax, they’ll be fine,” Jim reassures her, placing his hand on her shoulder.
“Hey, Tunes,” Andy interrupts us from behind Pam’s shoulder. “You should come to see the show tonight; it’s gonna be hilarious!”
Rolling his eyes, Jim responds. “Oh yeah? Is Dwight going to solo on Wipeout like he tried to at Dunmore?”
Andy scoffs, “Man, every song to Dwight is Wipeout. I’m so tired of it. Come on; you should come to check it out tonight.”
“I have to pass,” Jim states, a subtle sign of disappointment waving over Pam’s face that Jim somewhat takes notice of. “But if you guys need a new amp or any new strings, you know where to find me.”
Roy, grabbing Pam’s hand and walking her toward the door, inevitably ends their conversation. “Thank you for breakfast, Jim, enjoy yours!” she states as she hurries over with Roy.
“See ya, Beesly,” Jim responds, somewhat saddened to have ended his conversation with her so soon. “Yeah, sorry, Andy. I Gotta pass on this one. But good luck!”
“Alright, more co-ed girls for me then. Later, Tunes,” he states, walking out with the rest of their crew, leaving Jim alone at the counter to finish his cup of coffee, before leaving toward the shop.
“I keep coming back to the Roy-als,” Roy states, holding his notebook out for Pam and Andy to take a look at. “It’s my name, and al’s at the end; it makes total sense!”
“But Roy, you’re not the only one in this band, you know,” Andy argues, making a solid point.
“I know I’m not the ‘only one in this band,’ Andy. But I’m the one who wrote all of the songs, so I should get some recognition, right?” Roy interjects angrily.
Pam, fed up with the arguing, walks over toward the other two men, who are jumping the parking meters.
“No, not like that, Ryan!” Dwight announces, pushing him out of the way. “You’re supposed to run up to it and then jump over it.” Dwight backs out of the way. “Go ahead, try it now.”
Pam and Dwight watch as Ryan attempts to jump the parking meter but chickens out at the last minute.
Scoffing, Dwight moves him out of the way. “You’re such a coward, Ryan. Matches your last name. Here, let a professional show you how it’s done.” Walking backward a bit, Dwight runs up to the parking meter and jumps over it at a weird angle, his body maneuvering to the left and falling onto his arm on the street.
“Ouch!” is heard from Pam’s right, she and Ryan running over toward him, wincing in pain. He’s grabbing his arm, rolling back and forth in pain, while the two look at each other, unknowing what to do.
“Roy,” Pam calls over to her boyfriend to no avail as he continues to argue with Andy. “Roy!”
Ryan, in utter concern, walks over to the two gentlemen. “Guys, Dwight fell and hurt himself,” he announces, as Andy runs over to Dwight as well.
“Roy, it looks dislocated,” Pam yells over to Roy, who finally walks over and assesses the situation.
“Goddammit, Dwight,” Roy states, putting his hand over his head and pacing. “You just had to hurt yourself hours before we perform. How the hell are we going to play the talent show now?”
Unable to speak, Dwight continues to lie on the ground in pain.
In a panic, Pam takes charge of the situation. “Ryan, can you drive Dwight to the hospital? See what he did and let us know when you can?”
Ryan nods, staying over with Dwight and attempting to help get him off of the ground.
“Great,” Roy states. “We’re going to have to forfeit the talent show, all thanks to Dwight.”
“Not necessarily,” Andy responds in a calming tone. “We just need a fill-in for the night, someone to play for Dwight until he’s either back from the hospital or whatever happens.”
“Yeah, and how on God’s Earth are we going to find a drummer who could fill in for him? He was the only drummer we know!”
And at that moment, it came to Pam. She, and Andy, knew a drummer, a perfect one at that. One who could fill in for just one night and pick up the song they were to perform quickly.
That is if Roy allowed it.
“I know,” Pam states, smiling at both of the men. “I know who could cover for Dwight for tonight. But only if you’re open-minded about it, Roy.”
Roy, sighing in distraught, shakes his head. “Do I have to be?” he responds.
“Do you want to perform tonight?” Andy asks him.
Sighing, Roy nods his head in agreement. “Fine, we can ask whoever this person is, Pam.”
Pam, all smiles, is proud, happy that she could get Roy to cooperate. “Great, follow me then. I know exactly where he could be.”