Source: Damn—I Swear It’s OK
Didn’t we just notice spring arriving and how hot it got in July. New England got damned hot.
July-August, I was cutting tiles for our kitchen floor. Man, it was like standing in a hot oven as I cut tiles outside on a wet-table tile saw. No shade. The sun’s glare on a wet, shiny tile demanded sunglasses. It took several minutes to regain my vision as I stepped back into the house from each cut—many cuts.
August, we installed interior doors solid panel as well as french double-doors. Painting the woodwork and touching up was a joy. Uh huh. Right!
My easel is just beyond that doorway. Waiting.
One french door was too short. Fortunately, I had a remnant from another door, so with a little surgery and sanding and painting, I successfully ‘grew’ the too short door with a transplant.
I’ve seriously pondered such surgery. Three or four inches taller would be just right. I was ‘normal’ height in high school. I prayed I would continue to grow. Years later, I conceded that I was deluding myself.
Back to my door transplant. Hubby was impressed and promised to help with the installation. Once the paint was dry and the glass surfaces scraped clean, he helped carry the door upstairs. French doors may have less wood, but they are still heavy. Since Hubby was not home, I installed the door myself. Difficult, but doable. The light shines through the glass door and illuminates a dark hallway at the same time. Just what we need.
September, it was sheet rock and mudding. Then, I noticed the kitchen ceiling—cracking? Grab the step-ladder, tape and tools and keep mudding until it looks smooth. That took a while. And yes, sanding and priming and painting. My neck hurt from hours of looking up.
October, finish work with door molding and thresholds and ahhh—some more damned sanding, painting and touching up.
“But you’re an artist. You must love doing this,” said Hubby.
I don’t mind doing it a little bit. But this has been going on since I was a little kid helping my parents with each house project. Then my first husband proved inept with a hammer—to install little blocks of wood outside the window for drapery rod extensions he sunk the hammer head deep into a plaster wall. So, I became the architect/carpenter/painter, et al. I’ve constructed additions, designed homes, built homes and two-story, 4-bay garages, an eighteen sided home and now this. It is going to stop.
My manuscript is in my computer just inside my studio, reminding me to finish the editing I promised myself to finish last spring.
Summer is over there. In my kitchen, on the floor, the ceiling, around doors, in doors and thresholds. Oh yeah. Almost forgot. We cut trees and split firewood and I helped Hubby design and build a retaining wall to support the fire-wood in the basement. He feared the stacked wood might fall atop our little VW. I assured him it would not. Hubby worries about stuff like that.
Hope your summer was fulfilling as was mine. 😉
Well, I’ve recovered from the foot thing. Walking normal again. Meanwhile, I have been busy as usual.
I can’t imagine being bored. I don’t seem to have enough hours in a day. As a child, I remember Dad trotting off for a nap on the living room sofa after Sunday lunch. Sitting and watching him from the kitchen, I wondered why he chose to waste so much time sleeping at mid-day. After all, he slept at night as did the rest of the family. Even as a child, I felt the days were too short.
Today, sitting here, I am tired. I want a nap. But I’m too stubborn to do so. My eyelids drop every once in a while and it is mid-afternoon.
Last night, at about midnight, I awoke for a drink of water and returned to bed. The full moon illuminated my path so as not to bump into furniture. Soon after closing my eyes, a voice called, “Hello? Hello?”
Was I dreaming? I closed my eyes.
I got up and rushed to look down at the front door from the stairway. Closed. No one there.
Where? I call to Hubby, “Someone is here!” I rushed downstairs to the kitchen. No one there. I opened the cellar door to find the light on. It had been turned on hours ago to assist my company in maneuvering the stairs with a platter of barbecued burgers and rolls. If the light was still on, the garage door might be open as well. I sucked in a breath and answered, “Hello!” at the top of the stairs. “Hello?” came from below. A male’s voice.
Barefooted, I quietly stepped down the stairs, hesitating at the bottom. Should I go around the corner into the basement and see this person inside? Perhaps he was outside in the driveway. “Hello!” I called. “Hello” replied from outside. Stepping into the lit basement I walked toward the open garage doorway. A man of about thirty-five appeared with a flash light glowing from his smart phone. He seemed sober, standing about fifteen feet away. He stayed put.
“I’m sorry to wake you. But I’m not from around here and I’m lost. My aunt was driving and she was picked up on a DUI and the police told me to walk. I’ve walked over two miles and I don’t know where I am. I finally saw your light and thought I could ask for your help. Can you help me. I’m not used to all these trees and woods that are around here and I’m really scared of wild animals coming out. Don’t be afraid of me, I’m a good guy. I won’t do anything bad. I’m just scared and I don’t know where I am.”
Asking him to stay in the driveway for a moment, I returned to the stairs finding one of our guests at the top with a quizzical look. Hubby appeared next. “I need a man down here. Please,” I whispered. My urgent request moved Hubby and the couple visiting to descend and investigate.
Returning to my midnight guest, I grabbed a chair just outside near the garage door and offered him a seat. My goal was to have him in a position where he could not easily lunge at us. He accepted. Upon questioning, we debated what to believe and what to do. My male guest said, “Tell him to get out of here. Get going down the road.”
His name was Robert, He wanted to get back home after a day at the Lobster Festival. We determined he was about four miles from his destination. His phone had no service and displayed his eleven unsuccessful attempts at calling his wife.
Being the good Samaritan, I called 411 for a taxi. 411 was not available. We couldn’t find the local taxi in the phone book. So I called 911. I explained the problem. The officer asked what the emergency was. No emergency. “You do NOT call 911 for a taxi.” I apologized asking him who to call, he gave me the sheriff’s number and hung up.
Sympathetic to our situation, the sheriff’s dispatcher gave us a number. Meanwhile the plan changed. We decided to call Robert’s wife. After several attempts, she finally answered. She knew Robert. Handing Robert my phone, he spoke begging her to pick him up.
We suggested to that he walk along the road to flag her down. As he parted, I said, “Don’t worry about wild animals. The only thing you have to worry about are the cars going by. But they will avoid you.”
Thanking us, he then lit his way down our driveway into the moon-lit night.
Hubby and I found it difficult to sleep afterwards. Eventually, I sat up waiting for Hubby to be in deep sleep. Light awakens him. I only turn it on when necessary.
The door being shut tight, I gently and firmly turned the knob. No squeak. I returned the knob to its original position. No squeak. I pulled the door open. No screaming hinges. Upon exit, I gently pulled the door towards me without shutting it. Success!
Quietly making my way to the downstairs living room in the dark. I decided to read. As I fumbled around, a light suddenly switched on in the hallway. I walked to the stairs to find our male guest at the top step, bent over, struggling to quickly don his jeans. Was he planning to run down the stairs to grab a “intruder”? When I appeared at the bottom of the stairs, he stopped in mid-pose. One bad move and I imagined him tumbling down the stairs—head first.
“Jesus Christ, Jo. We thought someone was in the house! Why are you walking around in the dark?” Not waiting for an answer, he pulled his pants up, returned to the guest room in a huff and shut the door.
Chuckling to myself, and appreciating that he was ready to defend our home from an unknown intruder, I replied, “Sorry, I couldn’t sleep.”
Returning to the living room, I read for about an hour, then tip-toed back to bed where I finally managed to get four hours of sleep.
We were pretty tired this morning. Especially my male guest who had to catch a 6:30 AM flight.
Now I believe I will join Hubby for a little nap.
With folders tucked under her arm, Eve left Phil’s office. Her focus: be gone before he returns. She hurried down the main aisle acknowledging with a forced smile and quick nod those few workers who noticed her. Finally, she pushed the exit door shut behind her and breathe in the faint aroma of the familiar office chemicals used for reproduction.
Ammonia. Applied to light-sensitive paper to reproduce large blueprints of equipment manufactured in the plant. Three years earlier, she had worked with these chemicals in the copy room. By lunch time, she had felt faint and nauseated. That evening she had experienced a horrific headache. That was the first and last time she worked in the copy room.
Aware of the sound of telephones ringing and employees shuffling about from desks to file cabinets, she marveled at how two different worlds were separated by the mere presence of the heavy double doors. Then, her brow knotted as she chewed her inner cheek. What do I tell Betty?
Upon arrival, Eve exhaled a deep breath as she sat at the edge of her desk. Betty’s desk was strewn with papers and several lipstick-stained cigarette butts she had crushed amidst the ashes in the ashtray. Eve opened the window to air out the acrid stench. She could actually taste the horrid nicotine. She had read about nicotine in a health magazine. Second hand smoke was just as dangerous as actually smoking. Perhaps worse. The room, yellow with nicotine, had a terrible odor. It had to be unhealthy. There was talk in the office about a smoking room. But that had been discussed for over a year. Maybe to calm the health-conscious, non-smokers. Meanwhile, Betty smoked up a daily blizzard of smoke with windows closed.
Eve sucked in a deep breath of fresh air as she fanned the pollution out the other window.
How will Betty explain things to George? Get to work. She’ll be back. Or not.
“Eve, how’d your meeting go?” Betty asked as she returned to the office.
“Oh, fine. How did you do with George?”
“Well, not as good as I hoped. After all it is my first quarterly report. I could have used your help.”
“He wasn’t happy with it?”
“Oh. I don’t know, yet. We’re having another meeting ─ tonight.”
Betty smiled, “Yeah. What should I wear?
“What you have on now is fine. After all, it isn’t a date. No need to impress the boss, is there?” Eve frowned as Betty hugged her report to her chest and walked to her desk with a faint smile on her lips.
No report, the boss is not happy and she’s smiling! Eve suddenly saw this as an opportunity; a way out from Phil’s offer for a date. After all, George ordered her to teach Betty the ropes. “Want me to come with you?”
“Whatever for? No, George and I will do fine. Just fine.”
Eve wasn’t ready for a date just now. But when would be a good time? Who knew? “I could join you to explain things about reports. Along with George, of course.”
“I said ‘no’ didn’t I?” Betty snapped.
Humming a tune, Betty wrote on her notepad, flipped through her printout and reached for another cigarette.
Betty’s sounds happy. That “girl-friend” from California? That’s not it. Think she really met a boy-friend and now she’s lucked out not doing her work. Damn! How can she be so irresponsible and get away with it? I’d be fired on the spot! I’d fire her if I were George.
Later that evening, Eve arrived at Jason’s Grocery. As she pushed her cart to the meat counter, Betty brushed by in a black dress with a plunging neckline, fish-net stockings and silver, six-inch heels.
“Hey, Bet… .” Eve quickly puckered her lips. Don’t call attention to yourself. Where’s she going? Out. With? George? A date? A date. Geesus! You got to be kidding. No, no. She’s in a rush because she worked late with George. Must be. Going out with that friend from California. It’s late. Can’t be George. I’m sure he’s home by now.
As Eve drove home with her groceries, she pondered the plausible scenarios. What if there
is something going on? But with whom? George or California boy-friend? Don’t know it’s a man. She did say ‘girl-friend’. “Stop it. It is none of your business,” Eve yelled to her rear-view mirror. She arrived home, unpacked her cache of groceries then turned on the television to her favorite sit-com, The Carol Burnett Show.
Oh, to be a sit-com queen. To watch what goes on in each department would probably be as good a laugh. Life at the office… .
Get to bed. Quit obsessing about Betty and her shenanigans.
Phil. Forget about him. Don’t want to call. What about tomorrow? At work? Discourage him. He’s not my type, anyway. “I’ve created a monster and I’ve got to be rid of him.” Eve pulled the covers over her head.
At her usual time, Eve pulled into the parking lot. When she exited her vehicle, she noticed Phil parked next to her reserved spot. She quietly closed her door and inserted her key into the lock. With his nose in the newspaper, maybe he won’t notice. She hurried away from her car hoping to avoid him.
“Eve! Wait up. Been waiting for you. Hold up a minute.”
Eve squeezed her eyes tight as she grimaced. She slowly turned feigning surprise with eyes wide and a limp grin. “Phil. I didn’t see you there. Is that your parking spot?”
“Naw. Got to move the car before the owner shows up. I knew you always got here early, so I thought I’d wait for you.”
“How’d you know that?”
“Receptionist said you usually got here before she did.”
“I got to talk to our busy, little receptionist.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, I just need to tell her stuff, is all. We’re─we’re buddies. You must know that too since you know where I park.”
“You angry?” Phil asked.
Eve forced another smile. “Angry? Why would I be angry? It’s a free world. You can park anywhere you like. So. Why are you looking for me?”
“Oh. I thought we could have our meeting. You know. Yesterday. It hadn’t worked out then. So now I have time. Coffee in the café and a bagel? Bet you’re a plain-bagel gal.”
“The meeting is not necessary. I solved the problem and you don’t have to worry about it. But I’ll join you for coffee and yes, a plain bagel.”
“Okay. Forget the meeting. Meet you in the café after I move my car.”
Why did I do that? Eve was surprised at her bold invitation. It was definitely bold. Didn’t she just decide that she was not ready for any relationship? Her shoulders drooped as she carried her L. L. Bean bag, into which she stuffed her purse, lunch, book, and other stuff. Stuff she kept forgetting to throw away until she grabbed her purse next time─usually when she rushed out the door or walked from car to office. Then she’d forget again. Until the next day.
Betty doesn’t have a problem dating─dating─and dating. Bet she dates lots of guys at the same time. Am I jealous? Nooo way. I’ll find someone nice. No lecherous men panting over me, no thank you. “Men!”
Phil arrived at the café with a broad smile and a flash of perfectly shaped, white teeth. He sported a fresh haircut and a crisp, blue shirt with a pen and notebook in his breast pocket.
Eve remained quiet as he made his way from the coffee dispenser, picked up a coffee stirrer to blend the cream and grabbed a napkin.
“How’s the bagel?”
“Fine. None for you?”
“Never liked pastries much,” he chuckled.
“That explains your great physique.” Eve’s cheeks warmed.
“Oh. You noticed. And you’re blushing again. I think you like me. Do you?”
Surprised at his directness, Eve choked on her bagel and her attempt to wash it down with coffee only made it worse. She grabbed at his offered napkin, tried to control her cough only to dribble and spray coffee onto the table and her blouse.
“Eve. You okay?” Phil’s brow knotted over his now sympathetic stare. He rose and tapped her back in a firm stroke. “Can you breathe?”
Eve choked as the bagel stuck in her air passageway. She grabbed her throat with one hand
and Phil’s shirt with the other. She couldn’t breathe. She sensed being lifted out of her seat and a pressure came up from under her rib cage. She wanted to breathe. Another jab under her ribs came up hard. Where was Phil? Breathe! Again, a sharp jab. She was unable to control her body. Her surroundings were no longer visible. Where was she? Breathe! Breathe! Her watery eyes opened wide at the next jab under her ribs and a tightness around her middle that came from behind. She crumbled backwards as a sudden whoosh of air finally entered her lungs. Her heart pounded then eventually slowed back to normal.
“Can you breathe?” Phil asked.
Eve turned to Phil now standing over her and stroking her hair. She nodded while she wiped her eyes and blew her nose into his napkin. “I think so. I can breathe now. How embarrassing. Thanks Phil. I need another napkin.”
“Here take this one. You gave me a fright for a few seconds there.”
“Seconds? It felt like forever. I thought I was going to die. I had these sharp pains under my rib cage,” she coughed and blew her nose again.
“I gave you a couple of Heimlichs to make you breathe. This happen often?”
“What? Oh. You mean do I choke often? Never happened before,” Eve breath in a large gulp of air and emitted a squeak and a snort. She giggled into her napkin, “Sorry. I seem to be a mess at the moment.”
“Well, you were practically unconscious. I had to grab onto you so you would stay upright while I pushed up under your rib cage to force that bagel out. You had a pretty good sized piece in there. I kept going at it until it came out. Receptionist investigated the commotion and called 911. They should be here in a few minutes. You’re lucky I trained as a para-medic. Been one for years.”
“Oh. Thank you for saving my life. It was very disorienting to lose control like that.”
“I never knew my physique would affect women so drastically. I must have a hell of a good-looking body. Now you’re blushing again. No more bagels when we’re together. Okay?”
Eve laughed as she wiped her face and dabbed at her blouse. I need to go home and change. “I’ll be late for work after all.”
“No. Stay until the ambulance gets here. Company policy. Liability stuff and all. Gosh, hope I’m not a liability with this physique of mine. Think I could lose my job?”
Eve smiled, “I don’t think so. I promise no bagel from now on.”
Phil sat opposite Eve, cupped her hand into his two large, warm hands. “I think you do like me.”
Eve smiled as her cheeks got very warm. “Do I?”
Eve’s heart pounded as she walked through the main office, leaving Betty behind to struggle with her self-imposed mess.
Several clerks looked up and smiled or nodded. Without making eye contact with them she quickly made her way to the factory. What will I do? Just look busy—like I’m supposed to be there.
Two large metal doors automatically swung open at her approach. The plant layout of large columns, rows of work stations and one hundred and twelve employees sporting required safety glasses as they rushed between stations and ante-rooms was like another planet to Eve. The din of manufacturing bounced from metal walls. The air reeked of cutting oil and she rubbed her forearm to ward off the stale air. She scurried to the visitor station to grab a pair of glasses.
With a deep, long sigh, she slowly walked the main aisle and several of the workers looked up with surprise and expectation. Each time she quickly grinned and looked to the next station. She pulled out a sheet of paper and pen to ward off any curious or friendly chatter.
What in hell am I doing here? Okay—okay, think! Ask questions? What questions? Damn. Here comes Phil with someone. “Hi Phil. Can I speak with you a minute?” Eve squeaked.
Phil’s eyes widen as his bushy eyebrows moved up. “Sure, Eve. What’s up? Just finishing with Joanie, here. Be with you in a sec.”
“That’s okay, just a few minutes with you. Sorry, Joanie.”
“No problem, Eve, Phil and I just finished anyway. Got to get back to my station. Bye.”
Phil gestured toward his office and Eve obliged by leading the way. What am I doing? Her heart beat faster, her hands trembled and she tripped over the threshold. Phil grabbed her waist to prevent the fall, but the folders she carried dropped to the floor and papers spilled in a scattered pattern in front and under his desk. “Damn it!” Eve blurted out loud.
“You okay? Your face is red. You want to sit down?”
The flush quickly crept from her cheeks to her neck. “No, it’s all right. Like a fool, I—I just tripped. I am a jogger—joggers don’t fall—you know.”
“You’re no fool. A runner are ya? Well there ain’t too many women joggers I know of. I used to jog. Been thinking of taking it up again. Work around here has been pretty strenuous lately—need to do something ‘fore I get myself a heart attack.”
“Oh. Well running helps me solve problems. Kinda,” Eve mumbled as she eyed the remnants of the paper storm. She quickly squatted to reach for the folders. Phil knelt to rescue the papers from under his desk.
“Where do these go? Don’t want to shuffle your papers. Then you’d have to start sorting over again.”
Phil’s a nice guy. Pick up your papers and—take your time. “Thanks Phil. Sorry about this. You, ah, probably have lots of things to do?”
“Well, I can help for a bit. Got to get ready for 11:30. Supervisor meeting with the front office. You can sit at my desk if you need to sort things out.”
“Thanks. I’ll do that.”
“So. What can I do for you?” he asked.
“What do you mean? Oh—yes. You know, maybe this is not a good time. Let’s do this later,” Eve’s brow furrowed.
Phil stood up, paused a few seconds, checked his watch. “Well, if you want to. Ain’t too important I suppose. Let me know next time. Make an appointment, and I’ll be all yours,” he smiled broadly and winked as he walked to the door. “Better yet! How about lunch? We can talk then.”
“Uh, sorry, I’m booked up then.”
“Tell you what. Let me take you out to dinner. My treat. Been wanting to get all gussied up and go somewhere nice to eat. Say yes or I’ll be hurt.”
“For what? Not accepting a date? Bet you don’t go out much. You’ll be sorry you didn’t accept, won’t know what you’re missing. You’ll have a good time. I’ll see to it.”
“What do you mean?”
“A good meal, dance, a movie, a jog… . Whatever you like. We can talk. Get to know each other. Be friends. What do you say? Change your mind?”
Eve’s brow furrowed deeper as heat crept from her cheeks to her neck. “I’ll think about it, Phil.”
“Be back at 12:45. You know how to reach me,” he smiled, lingered a few seconds then walked away.
Eve quietly shut the door, picked up the papers then re-sorted them at Phil’s desk. Supervisors meeting. Betty will be there with her report. What report? Why is Phil stressed about work?
He’s kinda good looking—bet he’s been with Betty… . No. Don’t think like that! He is handsome.
Eve smiled. Thanks Betty.
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“ !” 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 toabout 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.
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!”
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?”
“Are you from around here?”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The weather is gloomy, rain comes in showers, thunder now barely audible as it travels West. Thud, thud. What was that? I swung around and stepped to the large, glass, double-door in my office. It has to be a bird!
On the ground, a tiny figure with colorful feathers lies motionless. The cat! Where’s Charlie? Inside. That’s good. Main Coons are great hunters. Lucky for my feathered friend it was raining. Coons—all cats—prefer dry homes to wet forests.
One wing is spread open as it covers most of the bird. As I pick it up, its heart beats rapidly and delicately against my palm.
I coo, “Are you okay?” No answer—what did I expect? Around me a dozen or more ‘yellow’ birds hover and flit from branch to branch. “Your friend flew into my window. I’m so sorry.”
It silently opens and closes its beak. Its eyes do the same. It must have a painful head. I cover the poor bird with both hands as a precaution for panic or another fall. What can I do? The other birds are calling to their friend. I’ll help your friend! I’ll ice her little head to stop any swelling. Maybe that will help. Stay, don’t go away, we’ll be back. I step inside with the bird as Charlie steps outdoors. The bird doesn’t move. But she (I feel it is a she) is still alive. She opens her beak. Gasping?
My free hand rummages through the freezer, I settle for a small bag of ground coffee. It’s very cold, perfect as an ice pack for the bird’s head. After about a minute, I remove the pack and make my way back to the door. Oh darn! The others have gone. Did they give up on her? The bird opened its eyes wide and seemed to be recovering. I try my hand at bird calls. “Tweet. Tweet?” I can hear them in the distance. Are they watching? I open my hand a little more. The bird becomes excited and panics. I close my hand a bit and whisper, “It’s okay.” As I pat her feathers and head, she relaxes. I slowly open my palm again, she adjusts her foot, perhaps to be comfortable. Such tiny feet! Does she feel safe inside my hand, which provides a familiar cover from the elements?
After several minutes, the bird sits and is more alert. She watches my other hand as it moves. A mosquito finds my arm, she cocks her head to watch it bite. With a breath, I blow it away but it returns. I bring the bird’s beak to the mosquito to possibly feed her. Nothing happens. The mosquito is annoyed and leaves.
It is about fifteen minutes since the incident. I must either cage the bird or return it to nature. Perhaps a tree limb, away from Charlie. The cat! He is still outside! It has begun to drizzle again—he’ll come. I call, “Charlie! Kitty come.” Good, old Charlie comes running, unaware—I think—of the bird in my grasp. I step out, shut the door and whisper to my friend. I reach up high with palm open. She sits. “What’s the matter Felicia? Felicia means happy. You are a happy, little bird, able to fly thousands of miles with your friends. Felicia it is! So. Felicia, will you sit in the crook of this limb?” I gently move her tiny feet. I reach up high again to encourage her to climb into the pine tree.
Felicia suddenly and smoothly glides down into the brush four feet in front of me. She is hidden by a blackberry bush and small saplings. I reach for my camera. As I stoop and focus, she busily scratches under her wing, flits back and forth on the branch, looks at me, then at the ground. She jumps into the deep of ground cover and away from my lens. No picture—can’t complain. We spent over fifteen minutes sharing a crisis, a moment and a recovery.
I hope Felicia will be okay. Will she find her friends? Can she call out to them? Not sure.
Take care Felicia. Come again on your next migration. Next time, a gentle tap, tap will do.