Cover image courtesy of Belinda: http://www.fiverr.com/belchis
Anthony noticed the building was taller than any in his neighborhood. A sense of relief sank in. He would be away from his family for several hours. His uncle, James, arranged everything. Anthony was not in acquaintance with anybody from the working world but he assumed his new boss, Mr. Wilson, would be someone with whom he could get along.
The law firm of Mitchell, Dickey & Burgess seemed initially imposing to Anthony when he had previously passed it while walking but now, as he entered the front door, the surroundings were humble. He could understand how David Wilson had been friends with James Morris, Anthony’s uncle. White walls, with no paintings, and several desks made the ambiance. Perhaps the firm did not do a lot of business. Maybe Mr. Wilson’s income was better than James’ by a few dollars only.
Mr. Wilson stood up from his seat at a desk, approached Anthony, and extended his hand. The handshake was not more than one second but had a lasting impression. Anthony reassessed his opinion. His new boss had a confidence bordering on creepy. He nodded. “Anthony Morris, I presume.”
Anthony said yes.
“Are you the nephew of James Morris?”
“You already know I am. Why are you acting like I’m a stranger.”
Mr. Wilson frowned and raised his voice. “This is a job interview. I ask the questions and you answer. It’s inappropriate for you to correct me. If I did not promise your uncle I would give you a chance, you would be on your way out now, guided by security. Do you understand?”
“Yes. I apologize. I have never had a job before and I never was in a job interview either.”
“In that case, I understand. We’ll go to my desk. I’ll sit at my seat and you can sit at the other seat. I will be asking you questions and you will provide me with the answers appropriate to each question. Was that clear?”
“You gave an appropriate answer that time. If I ask you about your favorite hobbies and you respond by telling me what time it is, that will be an inappropriate answer. Is that clear, also?”
Anthony held back his irritation. “That is clear, Mr. Wilson.”
“Okay.” Mr. Wilson smiled. “I like the prospect of you working for me. As I understand, James told me you needed guidance.”
Anthony kept quiet.
“I hear that your mother, Mary, and your other uncle, Kevin, have very little faith in you as a worthwhile person. You bother them at various times during the day and you refuse to do any of the small chores they ask of you. James is the only member of your family who thinks that you are worth more than a penny. He said I needed to instill discipline in you so you could stop being a stupid brat and become a respectable individual.” He stared, frowning.
Anthony nodded. “I will do whatever job you ask of me, sir.”
“Hmm. You did not give a rebuttal. That puzzles me. When someone insults you like that, You ought to defend yourself. Am I correct?”
“On the other hand, it’s a good thing you did not tell me off. I really would have had security send you packing and I would have told them to use brute force. But, enough with the preliminaries. You passed the test. By the way, your family did not really tell me those opinions. I wanted to observe your response. You did well. The job I’ll have you do is simple. There are other lawyers here and some secretaries and they will need help. If someone asks you to look for a certain document or go across the street and buy him or her a cup of coffee, you’ll do it. You won’t need to clean the toilets because we have people who work for the city to do them. This is a city owned building.”
“I’ll show you around.” They both stood up. Mr. Wilson walked quickly through the hallway. Anthony followed. A woman passed, from the opposite direction. Anthony noticed she wore her blazer tucked into her trousers. His heart beat faster. He remembered telling his family he preferred the look of a tucked in shirt on a woman if she and he were on a date. His reason was so his family would understand appearance mattered. If they ever understood his point, they did not say or act so. They would never believe him if he said a woman tucked in a blazer.
They entered a room with a sink and refrigerator in it. A coffee maker was on a nightstand. There was a table in the middle of the room, with four chairs surrounding it. Another man was sitting on a chair and reading a book.
Mr. Wilson said, “Anthony, this is Mr. Karr. He is one of the lawyers here. Mitchell, Dickey and Burgess don’t come into the building anymore unless for an extremely rare occasion. If you meet anybody here with one of those last names, chances are you have met one of their nephews or sons who might stop by to report how everything is going. Anyway, Mr. Karr is one of our best lawyers. If he asks you to do something, you’ll need to stop any other task and attend to him.”
Anthony said, “I understand.”
“I have an urgent business situation which will take up the rest of my day. You can ask Mr. Karr if there’s anything he needs you to do. If he says no, you can leave for the day. You can consider tomorrow to be your official first day. But if he needs you to do something, then today is your first day. Goodbye.” He walked away.
Mr. Karr said, “I want you to look in the refrigerator.”
Anthony asked, “What would you like?”
“I would like you to look in the refrigerator. That’s self explanatory.”
Anthony opened the refrigerator. He looked inside. “Okay. Do you want anything from here?”
“If I wanted something from it, I would have said so. You may shut it.”
During the next twenty minutes, Mr. Karr told Anthony to do various things like wall up and down the hallway and look in various file cabinets in the office. Anthony thought that Mr. Karr wanted to show his power over the new guy. However, he would not complain. His job was only part-time, two hours a day, five days a week. If the job had been full time, he would not have considered it at all.
Finally, Mr. Karr said, “I’m going back in the office. I need to make a phone call. If I need you later, I’ll have you do something.”
“I’m only here for two hours today.”
“If I need you before your shirt is over, I’ll have you do something. I don’t know how you could think I wasn’t speaking English.” He walked out of the room.
Anthony figured that, for now, he was on a break. He would have preferred sitting in the office room but he wanted to avoid Mr. Karr. The man might think of something else meaningless for him to do. Anthony looked again in the refrigerator. He noticed a small bottle of mineral water. He figured he could take that. He would not take juice or someone’s lunch but water was replaceable, especially in a room with a sink.
The woman he had seen earlier now returned. She entered the room and said, “Hello. I’m Belinda.” Her black blazer, with a very low neckline, and yellow button shirt underneath, complimented her appearance. The blazer was tucked into gray pants with a brown belt and the sleeves of the shirt and blazer were rolled up. She was someone who took her time to look good, as opposed to Anthony’s family, all of whom were extremely overweight and wore loose sweatclothes with stains on holes in all their pieces. Their friends, neighbors and many of the store cashiers looked similar. Belinda was a refreshing change of pace. She was as unique as a celebrity sighting.
Anthony told her his name.
She looked at him for a while. She smiled as if she was trying to hide the smile. Then, she said, “I haven’t seen you here before. I might have seen you somewhere else but not in this building. Is this your first day?”
“Yes. I haven’t had a job before. I figured I would do something part-time so I could get out of the house and away from my family for a couple of hours.”
“I see. So, you’re not a lawyer, I gather. I could tell by how you’re not wearing a suit.”
“I’m just an assistant. I guess I could wear a suit if I was asked to do so.”
“You could do that.”
He said, “I like your suit. I like how you wear it.” He was not sure if he should have said that but he took the chance anyway.
“I like to make no mistakes in uniform protocol. I always tuck in the blazer. The shirt is always tucked in. That’s a given. But most people stop there. If a blazer can be tucked in, I say it should be. At home, once in a rare while, I’ll wear a loose T-shirt and jeans but not in public. I am very much concerned with appearance.”
Anthony was surprised she mentioned so much about her fashion philosophy to him. He did not mind it but he never met anyone else who talked like her.
She nodded. “I have a feeling you will do well here. If Mr. Wilson tells you Mr. Karr is an important man here, I would not give it too much credibility, if I were you. Mr. Karr is the grandson of Jonathan Dickey. Mr. Dickey pays Mr. Wilson to let him work here but he does not really do any work. He calls people on the phone or he stays in this room. But I think you will like it here. Congratulations on being one of the team.” She extended her hand.
He gave her his hand and she proceeded to shake it for a few seconds and then a few seconds longer and then for what seemed like a minute and she was still shaking his hand. That hidden smile returned to her face. He was nervous. He tried pulling his hand out of hers but she tightened her grip. She stopped shaking but kept holding on. He asked, “What is happening?”
She nodded. “We will work well together. There’s a lot of things I need you to do for me and I’ll be right with you to make sure you do them properly.”
“My shift ends at noon.”
“Time doesn’t mean anything.”
Was this a dream? How long would she hold on? He tried pulling free again, using all of his strength and using his other hand to try prying her grip open but she used her other hand to push his other hand away. Somehow, he was in an alternative reality where everything he thought was true proved fluid and changing.
From the office, Mr. Karr yelled, “Anthony, come here!”
Anthony could not escape Belinda but he did not want to ignore Mr. Karr. Regardless of what she said, Anthony’s boss told him to do whatever anybody requested of him. He started walking and Belinda accompanied him. For now, he would focus on his job. When they entered the office, Anthony asked, “What would you like for me to do?”
Mr. Karr shrugged. “I’m trying to think of something. You’re supposed to keep busy. I figure that you’d be spending all your waking hours with Belinda instead of working. We need to fix that.”
Belinda said, “I work here too. I need him for something.”
“You’re not the boss. The boss told Anthony to do as I say if I need him to do something. If you interfere, I’ll get Anthony fired and you’ll be to blame.”
“You won’t be able to fire Anthony and Mr. Wilson won’t really listen to you. He’s playing a game and trying to make you feel like you’re more than just an apparition taking up space meant for someone who could do some real work.”
“I can get you fired, you know.”
She shook her head. “You cannot get anybody fired. Your grandfather is paying for you to be here. If it weren’t for him, you wouldn’t be here at all. You wouldn’t wear a suit and you’d be scared to enter the building. You only come in here because your father needs you out of the house so you won’t be munching on cotton candy all day and watching old movies on television.”
Anthony said, “That sounds a lot like my family.”
Belinda said, “I can help you get free of your family.”
Mr. Karr said, “You’ll get him free of his family but you won’t let him free of you.”
She said, “You don’t understand the universal connection existing beyond time. You’re not on the next level. This is just the beginning of something bigger. This does not have an ending. This is infinite.”
“I know what I need for you to do, Anthony. I need you to get me a cup of coffee. I don’t care if you need her to accompany your lazy ass but you need to get me my coffee now.”
Anthony said, “What size coffee and do you want regular or decaffeinated?”
“Give me a medium coffee. Large is too large and I drink it right away and regret it later and small makes me want to get another cup so you might as well give me medium and if you can tell them to make it half regular and half decaffeinated that would be great. I need a little bit of a boost so I can continue doing my work. Regardless of what Belinda says, I do work here. I need to be alert but not so completely buzzing that I become manic. I like cinnamon on top and, instead of regular cream, I like vanilla flavored non dairy creamer. I’m not against dairy but I like the flavor of vanilla.”
Belinda said, “Are you going to give him the money to get the coffee?”
Mr. Karr shrugged. “I could if that was what I wanted to do but I’m thinking I’d prefer that he use his own money.”
“That’s not right.”
“Mr. Wilson is going to pay him for today’s work anyway. He can give him two dollars extra for work expenses.”
“I still don’t think it’s right.”
Anthony sighed. “Right now, I feel like I need a cup of coffee myself. Isn’t there coffee in the back room with the coffee maker?”
Mr. Karr said, “There is but I am asking you to get coffee at the café across the street.”
“Fine. I just want to get out of here.” He walked quickly outside, accompanied by Belinda.