Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MM: Very Superstitious - Part 1

The prompt: You're in the backseat of a taxi.

What came out of my head:

"You're. In the backseat. Of a taxi." Cheri looked around as if there were others in the car besides she and Mandy.

"I know, I know, but I'm late Cher. Just help me OK?"

Cheri sighed as she gave one last glance around. The cab driver seemed oblivious but she was pretty sure he was sneaking peeks in his rear view mirror.

"Here," Mandy said, struggling out of her coat. "Take this and hold it up."

Cheri did as she was told.

"Miss? Miss! I need to be able to see," the cab driver said in a panicked tone.

"Excuse me," Cheri asked, sitting up even straighter, ready to defend her friend.

"Behind me? I need to see the traffic all around me," the cab driver said in a foreign accent, one hand sweeping around him.

"Oh, sorry," Cheri replied. Mandy rolled her eyes and scooted down further in the seat.

"Just hold it up a sec, I'll be done in no time," Mandy said. She had on a pullover sweater, which was easy but the new shirt was a button down and had to be lined up just so. "Did you know that clothes worn inside out will bring you luck?"


"Don't worry, I'm going straight here." Mandy continued fixing and tucking.

Mandy was never the shy type. She loved to take risks and she hated to squander an opportunity. Today was her chance to get the job of her dreams. She had heard from a former boyfriend who worked as a host at a posh restaurant that Turner Harrison, the editor-in-chief of her favorite political magazine, Intrigue, had a standing reservation at the place every Friday afternoon. Mandy had majored in journalism; written for all sorts of publications pre- and post-graduation; interned at a newspaper and a magazine for her junior and senior years in college; plus was on her high school and college debate teams. She was getting by with freelance work and temp jobs but it was killing her to not be in the thick of things. Politics and writing were her passions. She was determined to blend them together. This would be her chance to put her resume in Harrison's hands directly.

But she had to look the part, so she and Cheri had spent the morning hunting down the perfect conservative yet trendy top and shoes to go with the simple cocoa brown pants she already owned. She kicked herself for not changing in the dressing rooms once she found what she sought. She was just so anxious to beat Harrison to the restaurant.

"You're going to wow him, Mandy."

"I hope so."

"But even then, don't you think he'll already have candidates for the position already ahead of you?"

"I don't care. I've been watching the Intrigue website since senior year in high school. The Editorial Assistant position was last open when I was a freshman in college. We've been out of school, what? Two years now? Who knows when I'll get a foot in again!" Mandy brightened at a thought. "Besides, it'll be my first foray into the world of real full-time employment. Ever heard of beginner's luck?"

"You don't need luck. There's no one more on the ball than you, Mandy. That's for sure." Cheri dropped the coat in her lap and sat back as Mandy sat up and dug out a mirror from her purse.

"Thanks, Cher. It's all going to work out." Mandy fluffed her red hair and turned to flash Cheri her most confident smile. "You'll get that museum job you've been wanting and I'll work at Intrigue and then you and I together will be the most cultured, informed and beautiful women in D.C.!"

"That'll be us," Cheri replied with half the enthusiasm. Mandy dropped her hand in exaggerated shock. "Cheri! there are hundreds, hundreds of museums in D.C.! The Smithsonian has what? Like 19? 20? all by themselves! Give yourself a break. You've been working on your master's after all."

"I know, Mandy. But it just takes some of us longer than others, you know? You have been one lucky girl all these years."

"Nuh uh," Mandy snapped back. "Luck is just a part of it. I worked hard too you know. Just like you have." Mandy went back to her mirror and primping. "But it doesn't hurt to not tempt fate too much, you know?"

"You mean all your superstitions?"

"They aren't mine, per se. They belong to society and there must be some element of truth in there or else none of them would have gotten started in the first place."

"You are such an oxymoron."

"If I didn't know better, I'd swear you meant that two ways."

Cheri stuck her tongue out at Mandy and looked over the driver's shoulder to the street signs ahead of them. "What street did you say it's on?"

"Uhh, Middle and Main. It's heading into Virginia actually."

"And we couldn't have taken the Metro for this?"

"We're looking the part today, Cheri. Look the part. Beeeee the role you see yourself in." Mandy closed her eyes and raised her hands, her finger tips touching as she faked a meditative state.

"We could beeeee on a cheaper train ride to someplace near Virginia and look the part while we hail a cab from there."

"But we would not have gotten around to the stores nearly as efficiently," Mandy answered, scrunching her nose in a teasing fashion.

The cab driver slowed as he looked at addresses.

"I think I see it," Mandy said excitedly. She turned to Cheri. "OK, you stay here and hold the cab."

"What? We're taking the cab all the way back home too?"

"No, non, nyet, my cheap friend. I'll just run in, see if Evan has seen him yet, try to catch him before he sits down, tell him who I am, give him the resume and leave. That's it. Simple! We'll take the cab to the nearest Metro stop and then maybe we'll hit the Cheesecake Factory. How's that?"

Cheri tilted her head in consideration. "Welllll, I might be persuaded to spend more money with you today if the Factory is our ultimate destination."

"Success, Mon Cheri. That is our ultimate destination." Mandy looked in one of her bags for her folder of resume and writing clips. She had included it all on a CD as well so he'd have his choice of media and could share it with the other bosses if he desired.

Mandy breathed deeply. Cheri looked at her cell phone to see the time. "It's straight up noon. We made great time."

Mandy gave her an I-told-you-so smile.

"Don't even say it. The cab ride. Yeah yeah. Go on now. Beeeee the success."

Mandy winked and opened the car door, carefully placing one foot out on the sidewalk, lest she step on a crack and break her mother's back. "You sit tight with my friend here, Mr. Cab Driver. I'll be back and we'll have one last place to go."

"As you wish," he said, propping his arm on the open window. He loved a fare that bounced all over the city. No looking for riders and he still gets paid.

Mandy walked under an iron archway and looked around the outside of the restaurant. It was still a little too cool out for diners to be on the terrace. On on side of the terrace, there were large picture windows with sliding glass doors built in for when they wanted to bring the outside in. Right now, they were keeping it all in. She opened the single door with tinted glass that was the main entrance to the restaurant. Evan was at his post slightly ahead and to the left of the door, near the bar. He was talking to a waitress and smiled when Mandy entered. The waitress gave her the once over then threw back her head as she tossed her thick, black hair and left. Mandy pretended not to notice.

"Hey Evan," Mandy said quietly, to match the tone of the room. Hardly anyone was seated even though it was after noon. "Why so quiet in here?"

"Hey Mandy," Evan replied, taking both her hands into his own as he gave her a light peck on the cheek. "It's typical for a Friday. People are trying to get things done to leave work early. Mr. Harrison, though, enjoys the quiet so this is when he comes."

"Will he be here soon?"

Evan looked at his watch. "Yep. 12:30 on the nose. Every Friday for I don't even know how long now. You've got 15 minutes."

"Cool. I don't want to interrupt his lunch. Just give him the stuff and go."

Evan shook his head. Well, if you want to sit at the bar and wait, you can. Have a Shirley Temple on me."

"What am I, 12?"

Evan smirked and immediately straightened up when a couple entered the restaurant. Mandy sat with her resume in hand and order water to wait out the last few minutes. Before long, Evan was greeting another customer.

"Mr. Harrison," Even said a little louder than necessary. "A pleasure to see you sir. Let me see..." Evan looked around the mostly empty room, slowly scanning for an available seat. Mandy took her cue. She hopped off the bar stool and walked hesitantly over to Turner Harrison. "Mr. Harrison?" Mandy's hand led the way as she continued walked forward. Turner Harrison eyed her suspiciously then extended his own hand but said nothing.

"My name is Amanda Dawson and you need an Editorial Assistant." Before Mr. Harrison could reply, Mandy shook her hair and kept going. "I know this because I have been watching the Intrigue website and reading the magazine for eight years now, since I was in high school. I am an excellent writer, researcher, worker. I love politics, I was on my high school and college debate teams and you are not going to have to wonder if I have initiative and stamina. I have contacts, which is how I found you, and even though I live closer to the Intrigue building than I do to this restaurant, I wanted to show you I will go the extra mile."

Mandy paused to give Mr. Harrison a brief moment to reply but she didn't want to give him too much room to deny her. "Sir, I don't want to interrupt your lunch. I just want to give you my resume, entirely created by me, and leave you to enjoy your meal. I can be reached at any time." Mandy offered her hand again while Mr. Harrison looked slightly amused but still remained silent.

"Thank you for your time sir," Mandy said and left without looking back. She did not want to give the impression of desperation nor did she want to out Evan as her contact. Once she was out the door with dignity, she ran to the cab and waited until she had closed the door before she screamed with excitement.

It was three hours later, after Mandy and Cheri had eaten their just desserts at The Cheesecake Factory, that Mandy's phone rang.

"You're good. I like your style."

Mandy didn't even pretend like she didn't get it.

"Thank you, Mr. Harrison. Glad you like the writing."

"Well, I mean more your gumption. Need a lot of that in this business. But your writing is acceptable too."

Mandy put her hand over the phone and mouthed "acceptable" to Cheri who mimed back she didn't understand that comment.

"OK. When would you like me to come in for an interview?"

"It's a lot of hours, you know."

"I expect that, sir."

"And that may include some weekends in the beginning. Until you work your way up."

"Totally understandable sir. I'm not married. I'm childless. I'm able to marry my job right now."

"Good to hear, Dawson."

Mandy covered the phone and mouthed "Dawson" to Cheri who really was confused this time about Mandy's choice of words to silently repeat to her.

"What kind of money are you looking for?"

Mandy kept her cool and made the universal finger rubbing sign for money to Cheri whose eyes got wide in anticipation. Mandy had done her research for people at her level, in her town. She'd shoot for the middle and hope to catch at least $30,000.

"$40,000, sir."

"It pays $35,000. You take it, you're hired."

"I'll take it." Mandy did a little dance and shushed Cheri who had started to do the same a little too loudly.

"You start Monday."

"Thank you, sir," Mandy replied, keeping her composure as much as she could.

But Turner Harrison was already off the phone.

"Abrupt but I can deal with it. I've. Got. A. JOB!" Mandy did her best moonwalk while Cheri fell on the sofa laughing.

Monday was as bright a day as Mandy could have hoped for. She woke up and got up on the right side of the bed - literally. Superstitions said you had to do that or you'd have bad luck all day.

She found her way to the Carter building in northwest D.C. and strolled in proud of herself. She made nice with the guard who ushered her upstairs to Mr. Harrison's office.

The magazine took up 3 floors of the building though not in a row. There was one floor for editorial and the production staff, one for administrative staff and one just for the muckety mucks. The guard took her to the muckety muck floor first. The cool glass and designs in variations of brown weren't very creative to Mandy but it did feel soothing. Turner Harrison did not waste time sitting down with her.

"Dawson, this is Anne Connors. She'll take you to the editorial department. Good luck."

"Uhh, thank you, Mr. Harrison," Mandy said torn between shaking his hand and following Anne who had already started toward the door.

They went down one floor and into a much brighter and louder office area. The buzz was intoxicating and Mandy did her best to keep up with Anne as she took in all the activity. They speed walked past the receptionist.

"Liz, this is Mandy, Mandy, Liz," Anne said without stopping.

Mandy turned around, gave a wave and a smile, and resumed following Anne. Liz stood up in confusion and smiled back, shrugging her shoulders.

Anne pointed out key people as she passed, with no formal introductions being made.

"This is Keith, he's an intern and you'll need him. Get to know him."

"Hi," Mandy said. Keith looked confused but nodded his greetings.

"This is Roger, he's one of the writers. Get to know him."

"Umm, Roger. Yes." Roger smiled and gave a quick hand wave.

"This is....This is...Who are you again?"

"Peter? I'm the new copy editor?"

"You don't know who you are, Peter," Anne asked, arching one eyebrow in slight superiority. She turned back to Mandy. "This is Peter, he's a copy editor. Get to know him."

The brief stop gave Peter and Mandy a chance to shake hands before Mandy had to hustle away after Anne. Anne stopped in front of a white office door. "There are more writers over there," Anne motioned to the area that continued in front of them and to the side. "And a few more copy editors too. But we'll end our tour here and I'll hand you off to Rhonda Meyers. She's the one you'll report to.

"Wow," Mandy said. "I didn't even get a chance..." Mandy stopped mid-sentence as the door opened. Rhonda jumped slightly upon seeing the pair at her door. She put her hand on her chest, giving Mandy a quizzical look. Finding Anne, she focused her comments to her. "Anne, don't do that woman. What's your deal here?"

"Rhonda, this is Mandy Dawson. Your new Editorial Assistant." There was a hint of satisfaction in Anne's voice as if she knew something they didn't. But it seemed she did know something Rhonda didn't. Rhonda looked at Mandy in shock and then quickly readjusted herself.

"Umm, Turner hired you?"

"Yes, ma'am." Mandy put out her hand and gave Rhonda the best and least threatening smile she knew how to do without looking in the mirror. Rhonda looked at her hand, then back up at her face in slight disbelief. Mandy detected a flash of anger and looked over to see some smugness on Anne's face. She didn't know what she had just walked into, but she needed to make sure Rhonda knew that she knew her place.

"I'm here to help, Ms...." Mandy quickly looked at the door. She was usually good with names but so many at one time? "Ms. Meyers. I wasn't sure if I'd need to give anyone else my resume and clips so I have those if you needed an extra copy?"

Rhonda relaxed a bit at Mandy's face-saving efficiency. "Why don't you come on in, Mandy? I can take it from here, Anne," Rhonda said to Anne who had already turned and started walking away.

Sorry, dear readers, but I go where the story leads me and this one didn't warn me it was an overnight trip. I'm sure we'll get to our destination by tomorrow though - because I take Friday nights off - so don't get too comfortable. The plot thickens!


What's this about, Monica?

You don't know? Why, it's my own March Madness!

While you're here, the Start Up Nation Leading Moms in Business 2009 Competition is wrapping up this month and we are sure we're close to being in that top 200. Winning means major publicity - major for us, anyway. Have you voted for us today? Check it out here. We'd REALLY appreciate it if you vote and you can do it every day until March 31, 2009 PT. There's even a new meter there now to show you how hot we are! Go ahead. Vote! We wanna be hot, hot, hot! Thanks for your support!

1 comment:

Vérité Parlant said...

"You're an oxymoron." LOL.

Oh, memories of dressing in a car.

You've got the makings of a good beginning to a novel here, romance novel in particular with subplots. :-)

I've finally decided to jump back into posting fiction online (after removing my fiction work three years ago), so I've added a story to my blog under Flash Fiction News, and hope to keep it up weekly.

If you have time, please drop by and read.