Essence Churning – Fortune’s Folly

Quotes from Essence Churning short-story collection with The Companion Book sketchbook project – Post 22

A Rose has its Beauty, but so too the Thorn – Thistle on Snoqualmie Trail, July 19, 2009

“So we’re set on Karen?” Gina asked.

“I like her, and she’s well qualified,” Eileen agreed.  Hope smiled in the corner of the meeting room.

Brenda spoke up.  “I have a bad feeling about Karen.  I know that her credentials are there, but she dressed sub-par for interview standards, and she had bags under her eyes.” She paused and held her serious expression, as Despair mocked Hope with the same false face.

“Maybe she was just having a bad day,” Eileen offered.

“Well, I agree that Karen has the better credentials—and experience.  Emily’s fresh out of training..  Do you really think she’s the better choice?” Gina asked as Hope shifted.

Brenda smiled inside. “Emily’s energetic and bright.  She arrived ready to go.  I think she’d be a great right hand gal for you.”  She knew Gina appreciated gusto, and she herself could benefit from a newbie to mold to her will.

“I just want to make sure that my right hand knows what my left hand is doing.  Qualifications matter.”  Gina raised an eyebrow in challenge.

“But before you can know anything you have to show up.  I heard from Jeanne in accounting, who knows a friend of Karen’s, that she misses a lot of days.”

“There can be reasons to miss work,” Eileen put in as Hope beamed behind her.

Brenda smirked the gloating smile of Despair.  She had it.  Gina required dedication.

“Emily’s instructor did indicate perfect attendance.  We’ll go with her.  Thanks for your input, ladies.”  Hope and Despair stood down from the duel.

Brenda went back to her desk triumphant.  She’d gotten rid of that mousy, baggy-faced Karen.  From the moment she saw her, she thought she would be a drag, but Emily looked like a go-getter.

Emily reported to the Human Resources department.  Brenda had volunteered to get her oriented. She would need mentoring, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a new minion to champion her causes.

“Good morning, Emily!” she crooned.  Life came back to her like she hadn’t felt in many a nine-to-five.

“Good morning, um…” Emily replied.

“I’m Brenda.”  The cherry fell off her sundae.  She had interviewed the girl.  She should remember her name.

“Yeah, Brenda.  So where’s my desk?  I need to get set up.”

“Uh, right this way.”  The welcome-orientation speech dropped into the dumper along with Brenda’s mood.  She pointed to the desk and left the rude little thing on her own.  “My desk is right over there,” she threw back as she stomped off.

In about an hour, Brenda couldn’t stand it anymore.  Emily should’ve been at her desk asking for instruction.  She had held out waiting for the balance of power to force the girl to come to her.  But she hadn’t accomplished anything beyond working herself up to a lather!

She stormed over to Emily’s new station.  “Are you ready to work?”

“Oh, hi um…”

“Brenda.”

“Brenda.  I’m really sorry, I think I’ve got it now.  Well, um, not quite yet.  I was just getting my desk arranged, and I couldn’t decide where to put this last picture.”

“Did you read the employee handbook?” Brenda spit.

“Oh, is that what you want me to do first?” Emily replied sweetly.

“No.  I’d like you to put away your decorations—which by the way will have to come down per the ‘no personal effects displayed on the bulletin boards’ guideline—and work on your first assignment.”

“Okay, um…Brenda.”

The girl had the gall to beam at her for getting her name right on the umpteenth try.  Brenda could hardly speak she was so riled.  “Take this stack of resumes and cross check them with this list of preferred criteria.”  She stabbed the papers at the girl.

“Okay, Brenda.  Um, are you going to help me?”

“Did you cover resume screening in your classes?”  Brenda threw back over her shoulder.  She was seething as she marched to the break room to get some coffee.

There was a large fruit and chocolate bouquet on the center table. A thank you gift from Karen to Gina for granting her the interview and referring her to HR at Kensington Labs.  She must have got another job.  Too bad, since Brenda was considering a switcheroo.  This little Emily was not what she appeared to be.

“Hi, Brenda.  How’s your new protégé?”

Eileen’s innocent question just about made Brenda snort coffee through her nose.

“Did you get some of the fruit from Karen?  That was so thoughtful.”  Eileen grabbed a melon skewer and left without an answer from the fuming Brenda.

Not above free chocolate, Brenda chose one with two dipped strawberries. She chowed it down and went to check on the newbie.  Emily was inspecting one of the pages.

“So, how goes it?  Almost done?”  Brenda allowed for a bit of cheer.

“I don’t know which one to hire.  I read the checklist thing, but it doesn’t really tell me how to decide.  Aren’t I supposed to interview them first?”

Brenda’s irises buried themselves behind her forehead.  “You are not hiring anyone, nor will you be hiring anyone.  You are supposed to screen the resumes.  That means you put a check by the things that match the good list, and you put an ex by anything on the bad list.”

“Ohhh.  I remember this.  I think I got an ‘A’!”

“That’s promising,” Brenda murmured as she shuffled back to her desk.

Gina was standing at her office door.  “I didn’t want to interrupt. How’s she doing?”

So many words flashed through Brenda’s mind, and none of them were ‘grea-a-at’. The girl might be crap, but she was crap that Brenda had lobbied to hire. “Uh, okay so far.”  She forced a grin.

“Hmm.  In Brenda-speak, she sucks.”  Gina knew her way too well. “Whip her into shape, Calhoun.  By the way, be sure to get your share of the fruit bouquet before it’s gone.  There’s chocolate.”

Brenda knew Gina was making sure she saw Karen’s card.  It may as well have read, ‘Told you so’.  She went to get more fruit.

Jeanne from accounting was choosing a kabob from the bouquet.  “Wasn’t it nice of Karen to send this?  Especially when she’s between jobs.”

“She was referred to Kensington.  Didn’t she get it?”

“No.  I talked to my friend Katy about the whole thing.  Her son’s wearing her out, and she looks a mess for interviews.  It’s such a shame, because Katy says she’s the hardest working person she knows, and she’s got a heart of gold, but no one will give her a chance.  She spends all her money to keep his meds balanced.  Between doctor’s appointments and runs to the food bank, it makes her record look bad.  But she makes it all up.  She gives one hundred and fifty percent when she’s there.  If she doesn’t get work soon she’ll lose their apartment.”

Despair lurked over Brenda with a grim delight.  “What’re her son’s issues?”  Brenda asked. The crow she’d been served up by Gina was merely an appetizer to this news.

“They’re still trying to diagnose him.  He exhibits some bipolar behaviors, but it’s really complicated, Katy says.”

While Jeanne babbled on, Brenda withdrew into memory and stored emotion.  Her own son had killed himself during a psychotic break when he was thirteen.  She knew the all-encompassing crush of living with mental illness in your home.  But she had survived and worked and made everything okay—until it wasn’t.  As she thought back to the interview, she realized instead of listening and relating, she had been quick to judge and caught up in her own ambition.  And now she and Karen had paid.

Despair shuffled a victory dance of Hope’s demise.

“Excuse me, Jeanne.  I have something to take care of.”  Brenda ran out of the room with Hope riding shotgun.

Gina rubbed her forehead with both hands.  “You got me this time, Calhoun.  I trusted your judgment—you’ve been through the ringer, and you usually spot the bad from good.  But we’ve done a doosey here.”

“Not ‘we’.  I did it all by my dumb self,” Brenda said.  Hope smiled in appreciation of her humility.

“Either way.  We don’t have another position to bring Karen on board unless Emily hangs herself.”  Despair bared his fangs in a grin.

Brenda shivered at the expression, and jumped at three strong raps on the office door.

“Come in,” Gina allowed.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, I can’t do this!” Emily burst. “I just feel all confused, and even though I can see what um, Brenda was talking about with the resumes, I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.  I thought I was going to meet people and talk to them and stuff.  I thought I’d just decide by what they looked like if I should hire them.  I don’t get it.  I’m not good at this, and I quit!”

Despair’s jaw dropped open, and Hope clapped in glee as  Emily turned on her heel and rushed out the door leaving a luscious opportunity to make things right.

About sherijkennedyriverside

Left brain, right brain, I can't decide. After many years of successful visual arts pursuits, I'm working on my other creative inclinations. For the past 8 years, writing has been my second full time job, and it's worth every sleepless night. Sheri J. Kennedy grew up mostly a city-girl coasthopping from Seattle to rural Pennsylvania, Miami and back to Seattle. She currently resides on the banks of the Snoqualmie River in the scenic Cascade Mountains. Her heart has found its home.
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