It was a quiet week. The officers were in a state of high anxiety; our collective failure to “make our numbers” due to the crappy economy, the unlikelihood of year-end bonuses and the visitation of Capital B, all hanging over their heads like some poisoned Sword of Damocles. I, myself, was unusually quiet following the “No one talks to you because…” debacle, and my self-imposed exile.
The “drums”—Twitter, and the text messaging that kept us informed and a half step ahead of leadership—had also been uncharacteristically quiet.
The strain caused TWO to call a special production meeting—the second in less than two weeks—to strategize about how we would handle the inevitable visitation of Capital B and Brett.
“They’ll be here all day,” TWO was saying when I zoned back in. Generally nothing worthwhile happened at these impromptu meetings of hers so I typically used the time to think about other things. “So we should probably plan on going out to lunch as a group.”
This caused everyone to tense. TWO was notoriously cheap. And group lunches were always a sore point because she would insist on divvying up the tab at table and collecting cash from each attendee. TWO would seize the bill, scan it and pass it to Diana—who once was a waitress and thus naturally disposed to tip calculation—to calculate the tip and do the necessary division. Then there would be the usual riot of digging in purses and wallets for cash followed by the inevitable: “Do you have change for a twenty?” This was especially embarrassing for the underfunded and uninitiated who assumed that because TWO had invited the group out to lunch, she would pick up the tab as a departmental expense.
It didn’t matter who invited whom for what reason, or where you went, you still had to pay.
Diana said, “I vote for The Chinese Restaurant,” referring to the overpriced Chinese eatery with which we shared the lower lobby. Its chief recommendation appeared to be the possibility of catching a glimpse of the chef-proprietress famous for throwing miniature corn at the head of the sous-chef for displeasing her in some small but crucial way, and so mean she was once arrested for punching a pregnant meter maid.
“We could always order in, I suppose…” This brought groans as it conjured images of limp lettuce, soggy vegetable wraps and small bags of potato chips, each containing approximately six chips.
Barbara the first suggested an Italian place in town. Now, we work in a small suburban village which grandly calls itself a town—imagine Mayberry but with overpriced houses and snobby entitled women wrestling premium baby strollers from the backs of massive SUVs then pushing said baby strollers from one over-priced baby store to another. Add to this a “main street” two lanes wide with a stoplight on every corner and no turn lane and you can probably imagine what it was like driving from one end of town to the other at lunchtime.
Walking was equally out of the question as sidewalks were scarce and where they actually existed they were narrow and crowded with determined aggressive women maneuvering massive strollers as if they were tanks, forcing you to step off the pavement into the gutter—muddy patches at the edge of the road where the unfortunate carcasses of road kill could be parked until the parks service could be contacted.
“No! If we go somewhere on Main Street we’ll have to drive. And I don’t want to get stuck in a car with Capital B.”
“That’s why I suggested The Chinese Restaurant,” Diana, the very voice of reason, said. “It’s downstairs—so no driving anywhere. The menu isn’t bad and it’s not all Chinese food so everyone should be able to eat something.”
“Maybe they’ll leave before lunch,” one of the Cerberus offered hopefully.
“Oh, fat chance of that happening,” another Cerberus countered.
Okay, we were officially stymied over lunch. I, myself, was desperately trying to think of which of my clients I could persuade to call an emergency last minute meeting so I would have an excuse to miss lunch.
“Oh, you know what?” TWO finally said, “Let’s just let them decide when they get here. Hell they’re just gonna do what they want anyway.”
“Good point,” one of the Cerberus said.
“You’re so right,” the second Cerberus said.
“She speaks the truth!” the third Cerberus proclaimed.
Nigel rolled his eyes.
Barbara the second stifled a yawn and addressed TWO, “So do you know when they’re coming?”
“No,” TWO said bitterly. “Why should Capital B tell me anything? I’m just chopped liver!”
I thought of that old doggerel about the Boston Brahmins—the Cabots and the Lowells: “…the Lowells talk to the Cabots, and the Cabots talk only to God.” Evidently when you were Capital B you only had to talk to …the devil.
“Is there an agenda?” Barbara the first asked, “I mean I assume they’ll want to meet with everyone…”
“I believe they want to meet with the officers first then we’ll meet with everyone to introduce Brett. You should expect to tell him a little about yourself and your experience and the kinds of projects you’re currently working on.”
“What if I can’t think of anything to say?” the third Cerberus asked.
TWO glared at her but said nothing. Nigel, a “touch texter,” always kept his hands in his lap out of sight so he could text at will during meetings. When my phone wiggled in my pocket, I knew he’d tweeted.
Surreptitiously, I withdrew my phone and glanced at his message:
Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
Just do what you always do: repeat what the person before you said
I almost laughed out loud. The effort of restraint caused my cheeks to swell and my mouth to twist with suppressed mirth.
“Are you okay?” Barbara the first, all keen observation and caring, asked.
Shit! “Yeah, fine,” I gasped.
Nigel smirked quietly.
Just before the end of the day a tweet came through putting us out of our misery or perhaps only moving us out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Marta Harry @dblagent
DEFCON 1: The eagle will land @ your location tomorrow morning
Immediately following this tweet was another:
Nigel Gale @MannequinMan
Fasten your seat belts—it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Missed Episode 6, Cactuses &Tears? Read it here.
Next Episode Friday, July 15.
Next Episode Friday, July 15.
Copyright © 2016 Larry Benjamin
D I S C L A I M E R
The characters and events described in this blog post exist only in its pages and the author's imagination.