The Promotion – part 2

“How do you like my new hairdo, Eve?”

Platinum? It had been a different blond with streaks of other coloring. What is that called? Frosting… . No—frosted! Coloring to cover little grey hairs. Grey hair? Hair turns pure white, not shades of white.

“Looks nice, Betty. The color is perfect for your complexion. Nice cut too—makes you look— younger.”

English: An office chair that can swivel and b...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Betty’s eyes widened as she smiled. She reached for her compact mirror from her new sequined purse, fingered a few locks and tilted her head side to side with eyes fixed on her reflection. “I been wanting to do this for years. After my promotion, I took the plunge to have it done. It nearly took a month to get the appointment at Chez David’s. She glanced at the clock and wriggled in her padded, swivel chair. “I wonder when George will be in.”

“Is he expecting you? Is there a problem with the report or your computer? If there is, maybe I can help.”

Oh! No, Eve. Everything is fine. But since you mentioned it, there is something I’d like you to do for me. I want you to analyze the hard copy, verify the information and tell me what it says and stuff. You know—what you think about it and the recommendations I should make to George. Stuff like that.”

“What?”

“I said, I want you to… .”

“I know what you said.”

“Oh. Then just do it and let me know what you come up with. I have to go. I’ll be back in a little while.”

“When?”

English: : A mirror, reflecting a vase. Españo...In a little while!” Betty frowned as she stepped to the mirror, which she had installed near the office door her second day as supervisor. She slowly pulled her shoulders back, raised her chin, tugged her sweater down over her chest and walked out the door.

How can she ask me that? Do her work too? When will I have time to do my job? And she’s paid as a supervisor? She’s been here three months. Her performance is dreadful. Most of the time she talks about her ex-husband who works in the other office. They’re friends—so she says. Not from my perspective. What did he see in her? Well, she probably was a looker when she was young—still is, I suppose. And she works that to her advantage. Stop it! Get to work—your work. Betty can go to hell!

George arrived late and suited for a party or a barbecue. Loud, colorful shirt, open collar, sandals, great tan, new haircut.

What is this—new haircut day and no one told me? No briefcase. Maybe he isn’t staying. Vacation with his wife? Maybe entertaining a new client at the beach. We are near the ocean and that makes sense.

Soon Betty returned to the office with a broad smile. As she reached for a cigarette from her desk drawer she giggled, “How are you doing on the report?”

“Betty, we have to talk about that.”

“I know, but I forgot to tell you, I have to leave early today. So we’ll talk after I get back. I’m meeting an old girl-friend I haven’t seen in years! Flying in from California. We just have a ball together. Can’t let her down. You know what it’s like. So, we’ll talk after.”

Just then, George rushed by, smiled, waved, spoke with the receptionist and left the building.

Ashtray

Ashtray (Photo credit: @ARRGch)

After I acknowledged his greeting, I turned to Betty who quickly picked up her purse, pulled a large L.L.Bean bag filled to the brim with packages and what appeared as a champagne bottle from under her desk. She dropped her unlit cigarette into her ashtray, now filled to the brim with old butts, and rushed toward the door. “Got to go or I’ll be late. See you Monday!”

“What? See me Monday? That’s—five days.  A five-day weekend!” I stared at her desk reflected in the mirror. An old girl-friend? Bet they’re drinking buddies! Does George know about this? She waited for him to leave so she could skip out. That’s why she wants me to do her work so he won’t find out and fire her. She should be fired. I’d fire her. No, George, I don’t want to help Betty that much.

“We gotta talk, Betty, we gotta talk!”

The Promotion – part 1

Ashtray

Ashtray (Photo credit: @ARRGch)

Betty? Promoted? She never worked in an office. She doesn’t understand computers. Heck! She probably never saw one. This is 1979, the age of computers! Telecommunications and computing.

“The black phone is not for personal calls, it’s a modem.”

“Oh,” Betty hacked a smoker’s cough as she sat at her newly assigned desk—the former supervisor’s desk. “What’s a modem, Eve?”

Harry up and left for what? A better job? Left me here to manage. I managed for three weeks. I can do his job—Harry’s assurance as he balanced his heavy box of stuff out the door. He had a degree in business and experience in data analysis. Betty’s credentials? Production work in the plant for how many years? How old is she? Her generation never used computers. She’s looks 40-ish.

Eve inhaled, smiled and touched the black phone sitting on her desk. “Modem is an acronym for Modulator/Demodulator. It’s a phone line dedicated to communicate with another modem connected by a network.  We send digitized bits of data from a computer to the mainframe at head-quarters through this dedicated phone. The signal is modulated into electrical signals for transmission over phone lines and it is then demodulated by another modem at head-quarters to receive the digital data.” She sipped her coffee to hide a smirk.

Betty coughed “Oh—I see.  Headquarters. That’s New Jersey. All the way from Maine over to there? By phone? Without talking to anyone? Hmm. It can’t take too long for me to understand all of this computer stuff. I been working production for fifteen years here.  Done some quality control and shipping too for about six years. So I’ll be able to learn how that acronym equipment works. You agree?”

“Ever work with computers?”

“Never.”

“Are you from around here?”

“Yep.”

“So you graduated from a local high school?”

“Uh, not quite. Well—yeah.”

“What is it? Yes or no?”

“I quit when I was sixteen—going on seventeen!”

“So you quit in your junior year?”

“No—freshman,” she mumbled, pulled out a cigarette then reached for the ashtray. Betty bared her teeth as she grimaced. “You didn’t clean the ashtray.”

“I don’t smoke—I don’t do ashtrays.”

“Never smoked, Eve? Or quit?”

“Never. A waste of money. Bad for the lungs,” Eve paused as the plant manager rushed by the door heading for his office.

Betty stood up quickly, “So it is. So—it is. Uh, excuse me, will you? Gotta wash this out before I use it. I hate filth.” Betty pulled her shoulders back, lifting her chin high as she daintily held the offensive ashtray with forefinger and thumb and sashayed out of the office.

“Don’t you think we better get started first—Betty?”

Betty disappeared around the corner.

Eve’s smirk changed to a sneer.

So Harry had a falling out with the manager. Two strong-willed men and the subordinate makes a bad move. Never argue with the boss, Harry.

See what you’ve done to me, Harry? You got a new job, and I got… Betty.

Compose yourself!

Eve used the free time to re-arrange her desk and organize files for Betty. Twenty minutes later, she groaned as she began the day’s data entry due by 2:00 PM, transmitted by 3:00, received and verified by New Jersey by 4:30 then printed on the line printer before 5:00. She gritted her teeth, Where the hell is Betty?

As Eve focused on keying data Betty and the plant manager entered the room. The clock indicated fifty-eight minutes since she left.

“Hello George. Betty. You forget the ashtray?”

“Oh. Uh… I put it somewhere. Maybe I left it in your office, George. Did you notice it?” Betty coughed a chuckle as she placed her fingers over her lips and smiled with chin up and chest out—pointing to the plant manager.

“Oh, bother,” Eve mumbled and returned to the keyboard.

“What, dear?” Betty patted Eve’s shoulder.

2010-02-04 09-42-53 Office Wall Clock - IMG_1560

2010-02-04 09-42-53 Office Wall Clock – IMG_1560 (Photo credit: Degilbo on flickr)

George glanced at the clock and out the door, “I have to go. Eve, teach Betty everything she has to know. She’s got lots to learn. Make it quick. Let me know if you need anything to make it happen.” He dashed back to his office. Betty’s hand rose slightly as if to touch his arm, but she immediately retracted its movement and stuffed the errant hand in her silk, slacks’ pocket.

“I’ll be back. Got to find that ashtray so I can wash it.”

What on earth… ? She’s been here for two hours and hasn’t done a thing. “We got lots to do,” Eve shouted as Betty disappeared around the corner once more.

Damn—I Swear It’s OK

I’ve written my first YA manuscript and a scene comes back to me now and then. One of the characters is angry for good reason, why not let him swear?

Listen to me. I, the writer, give permission for a character to swear? I write the narrative, but the characters seem to have a life of their own. Perhaps they can swear because they really, really feel like it.  Perhaps they dictate the narrative and I just type it.

At first it was a children’s story? Naw. That didn’t work out. I tried different iterations  and each time, it was just too—corny.

English: Cartoon depicting little girl on beac...

English: Cartoon depicting little girl on beach talking to her mother. Caption: Her First Pair of Jumpers — “Am I a little boy now, mama?”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then one day, I just started writing. I had a sad scene and lots of sobbing—the protagonist, not me. It seemed okay. But how was I to make this work? First there were two characters ages 6 and 12 and their moms. Add another kid, a girl this time. My own motherly instincts took over. Lots of love and gentle ideas, well brought up kids. The works. Make all mothers proud.

Then one day, it sounded too—corny.

No one is this nice and able to deal with adversity at a young age without blowing a gasket. Young ones have to get mad sometime. And when things just don’t go as planned? Well, they get angry like everyone else. Wouldn’t they want to express it and feel in control? Feel grownup? In their angry sort of way.

SwearI am convulsing on letting little ones swear? Mothers would be not proud.

Then one day, I made the children older: 12 going on 13 and 15. But it had to fit. Chapters, many chapters written and I had to make sure the change would flow through. The protagonist had to sound and act his new age as did his friends. Then I created a diagram and a timeline for each character to make their stories fit.

Karakasa (parasol) in Japan

Karakasa (parasol) in Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember my first swear—whispered in anger—in my second floor bedroom. I arrived home from school, went to my drawer to fetch a small, silk umbrella. A gift from my uncle. A souvenir from his last naval trip to a land I didn’t know existed. It had a painted picture on the orange silk. I know now it was a parasol, not an umbrella.  I opened the drawer. The parasol was gone! I was aware a distant cousin visited while I was at school, I knew she had absconded with my parasol! In anger I whispered “Dammit” to the bureau drawer. A voice at the bottom of the stairs said, “I heard that. Don’t you swear in this house!”

Why not? My space was violated. I was robbed! I stomped down the stairs and asked my step-mother where the parasol was. “I gave it to Rachel. She visited with her mom this morning, so I gave it to her. You don’t need it.”

I felt devastated. This was not the first time Rachel went home with my toys. My step-mother seemed to enjoy giving away my things without asking me. I swore and I felt, even to this day, justified in swearing. It was my relief valve.

That one swear did not convert me to daily swearing. I survived. As a young girl, I never swore again. Weeks later, a friend kind of swore when she nearly missed the after school bus. She said it in French, but changed the pronunciation a little.  “Maudine!”

I found the word fascinating, but never used it for fear of retribution at home. I knew my  parents were old enough to decipher ‘maudine’ as a play on ‘maudite’, which is French for ‘damned’.

The things one remembers.

Swearing? I do believe it is okay to let my character use one swear. Actually, I may have him say it in French because… . Now here I am enabling him. He is old enough to decide.

So I’ll continue editing my MS and see what happens. He’ll let me know what he wants to do.