Cathlin had declared herself “having a day off” that morning, so Wilom decided that he would have been rostered for an afternoon shift that day and met her at the breakfast table. He brought their coffees, and they said goodbye to Jilli as she headed out the door with Sarit and her father for their day at school. Cathlin waved to Jilli from the breakfast table, and Jilli made two excuses to give Cathlin and Wilom extra hugs before heading out the door.
As the porridge boiled on the stove, Cathlin got bowls while Wilom set the table with spoons and honey. When they were sitting down and eating, and Cathlin had folded and pushed aside the newspaper, Wilom said, “Cathlin, may I ask you something?”
Cathlin looked up from her spoon. “Sure. What’s wrong?”
Wilom took a breath. He’d been thinking through how to make the ferryman’s offer sound like an actual job proposition, but he was still nervous about actually broaching the subject.
“I’ve been talking to some people at work about moving up in the company,” Wilom said. “And I think there’s a position I could aim for. But I haven’t decided whether I want it or not.”
Cathlin nodded, and picked up her coffee cup. “Tell me about it,” she said.
Wilom turned a spoonful of porridge over in his bowl. “It’s not … a much more senior position,” he said. “But it does have a few more responsibilities. The problem is, it’s very hard for them to find new people for the position, so if I take it, I’d have to stay there , and I don’t know when I’d be able to get out of the position.”
“I thought you’d settled down,” Cathlin said, but she sounded almost reasonable. Wilom had expected the question, yes, but he’d also expected it to be pointed.
“Well, yes,” Wilom said. “For the moment, at least. But once things aren’t so dangerous anymore … I didn’t really intend to stay in the Capital. But if I take this job, they’re going to make it extremely difficult for me to leave.”
Cathlin nodded slowly. “But it’s a good job, right?”
Wilom nodded. “I think … I think it’s the one they want me to take. And I might have indicated that I was interested in it, so they’re really expecting me to take it.”
“That’s not what I asked,” Cathlin said.
Wilom winced. This was the part of the question he always had problems with. “I … can see it being very rewarding. But I’m still not sure if the benefits outweigh the downsides. I liked it a lot for a while, but now I’ve looked more into what it actually requires, I’m not so sure anymore.”
Cathlin took another sip of coffee while she thought. “That’s difficult,” she said. “And you’re confident that they wouldn’t fire you in your current job if they needed to let people go?”
“Fairly confident,” Wilom said. “There … aren’t that many of us left. They need everyone they have.”
Wilom waited for a moment, and Cathlin chuckled suddenly.
“What?” Wilom asked. “What’s wrong?”
“You,” Cathlin said. “You’re expecting me to harrumph and tell you a stable job is better than no job, and you’re lucky to have the job you’ve got now, right?”
Wilom shrugged. “Well … I had hoped not. But it was sort of in the realm of possibility.”
Cathlin gave him the smile she sometimes gave Jilli when Jilli was explaining a character she’d based on Cathlin or Marc. “Well, I suppose I have harped on you on that a little.”
Wilom shook his head. “You weren’t wrong.”
“Still,” Cathlin said. “It was a little uncharitable. I know what it feels like to chafe at a job you don’t like.” She set her spoon down. “Listen, Wilom, everybody takes jobs they don’t like. And any job is a good job if it’s stable and it pays for you to live. But you aren’t obligated to never look for something better. People might look down on you for moving jobs too much, but all that matters is that you’re still in a job, you’re still earning your keep, wherever you’re living.”
“So I wouldn’t advise trying to move again now,” Cathlin said. “But when you can, if you were to look for a different job, you might find something more to your liking. Then …” she shrugged. “Who knows.”
Wilom nodded slowly. “Well, thank you for the advice.”
“I hope it helped,” Cathlin said.
Wilom smiled, and finished his coffee. “It has. I still don’t know what I’ll do, but that did help. Thank you.”
Cathlin smiled back. “You’re welcome. Here, as thanks, you can take my things to the sink.”
Wilom held out his hand for the bowl, and Cathlin handed it over.
Later that afternoon, as Wilom went to his “afternoon shift”, he reflected that Cathlin hadn’t really been that helpful. He had no idea how any of her advice applied to a ferryman’s job. But at least he’d been able to talk things through a bit.