Sitting Twenty-Two

Fired Up and Down

Shelley arrived at her apartment and headed to the kitchen. She quickly grabbed the bottle of wine from the refrigerator, picked out her favorite glass that she loved to hold in her hand and poured a double portion of the best fruit to ever grow on a vine. She stood, staring at her oven, sipping.

She had a new assignment. Mr. Dunlevy and his arch-conspirator, Mr. Markins, had requested she take over the “exit strategy” for Charrleen. Since they had decided to sue the singer for breach of contract, they felt there was great potential in creating controversy—people would take up sides. Sales of the song, “Great Jubilation” (of which they held license and lien) would double, perhaps even treble.

They gave her three ideas for sullying the innocent vocalist’s credibility:

First, point out that she had been a nobody or nearly a nobody when she got the opportunity to do the Jubilation song and was now entirely ungrateful.

Secondly, point out that because her ethnicity was unknown, she led a secret life, attempting to disguise her cultural roots.

And finally, that she dated many men, having illicit affairs without discrimination.

When Shelley first looked at the list they presented, she thought it was a joke—bad taste. When she comprehended that they were serious, she saw that her job security was based on how well she could take the young woman she had promoted to success and demote her as being an ingrate.

Garnering all her strength of her will and business acumen, Shelley told them she would report on her approach the next day. It was so dirty she felt filthy thinking about it. She took another large gulp of wine. She should probably eat something, but nothing sounded good. She should probably talk to somebody else about the situation but didn’t know who to call.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door—rather unusual since it was normal for the guards who were protecting her from the public’s animosity to ring her phone if someone wanted to see her. She set her wine glass down on the counter, walked cautiously to the door and spoke through it.

“Who… is it?” she asked tentatively.

“It’s Lisa.”

Shelley threw open the door. “How did you get up here? How did they let you by?”

Lisa stomped into the room. “I told them I was gonna kill you and they let me right through. I guess maybe they’re a little tired of the detail.”

Shelley laughed, not certain if there was any truth in the statement. She waited for Lisa to speak. After all, she didn’t want to come across inhospitable. Lisa trudged into the kitchen, found her own glass, picked up the wine bottle and poured herself an ample portion. She downed half the glass with one huge slurp.

Shelley followed her in.

Lisa began. “My mother once said that if you hang around assholes, you are destined to become one.”

Shelley nodded. Lisa continued, “My point is that we are working for assholes, which makes us assholes by default.”

There was another knock at the door. Shelley looked at Lisa, eyebrows raised questioningly. “Oh, don’t worry,” Lisa said. “That’s Timothy. We came together but he stopped off in the lobby because your candy machine has Christmas M & M’s.”

Shelley understood. Anything red and green could distract Timothy. She opened the door. Timothy was already munching and crunching. He offered her one, but Shelley turned it down, thinking it would not go well with her Merlot.

Timothy came in cheerfully and Lisa joined them in the living room, placing her wine on the table. She plopped down on the couch. Timothy sat next to her. Shelley placed herself in her big chair, waiting for them to start. But one drank; one munched.

Shelley ventured a guess. “I’m assuming by what you said, Lisa, that you’re upset with Mr. Dunlevy and Mr. Markins about the Charrleen situation.”

Lisa took another huge gulp. “No, no. I passed upset on 67thStreet. By the time I got to 76th I was all the way to rage. And on the elevator up here I reached steaming.”

Timothy, who had been silent except for his candy sounds, spoke up. “I suppose we’re talking about Charrleen and the lawsuit?”

Lisa glanced at him, disgusted. “Yes, Timothy. That’s why we came here—not because we heard there was Christmas candy. We came to bitch at Shelley because she’s the one who got us into this. Remember?”

Shelley held up a hand. “Wait a minute! This wasn’t my doing. It’s just a job to me, just like you. I didn’t come up with the idea to change Christmas. I didn’t come up with the song. I didn’t hire Charrleen. And I’m certainly not the originator of trying to steal all her money.”

Lisa didn’t argue, but instead, posed a question. “Then what are we gonna do?”

“Well, we could quit,” Timothy piped up.

Shelley scoffed. “Oh, yeah. That would be really smart. Quit our jobs at Christmas time—coming into the worst market possible—the month of January.”

“Oh, I understand all of that,” Lisa contributed, “but you’re not really planning on being a part of disassembling the life of this beautiful girl?”

Shelley thought for a second, wishing she had her glass of wine but not willing to get up to go get it. “Yeah,” she stated. “That’s exactly what I plan on doing. My loyalty is not to Charrleen, it’s to my company. Right or wrong? I mean, if they were killing babies, you might have a case. But they rightfully want to sue someone who has breached the contract…”

Lisa interrupted. “And how did she do that? By having feelings? By second guessing herself? And you have to admit,” she tapped her glass with her fingernails. “The company is not suffering from any of this. The company is getting publicity by her questioning whether she’s doing the right thing. Everybody understands indecision. We’re all great at it. So, what’s their game?”

Timothy popped the last M&M in his mouth and offered, “Money. It’s all about money. It’s all about getting more money. If you need more power to get more money, then you have to get more power. If you have to get nasty to get more money, you get nastier. And if for some inexplicable reason you have to get nice to get more money, then nice you shall be.”

Shelley and Lisa peered over at Timothy. He had never spoken so many words at once that made so much sense. “Well?” he stared right back at them. “Am I right?”

Lisa downed the rest of her wine. “Well, I can’t do it.”

“Well if you’re not gonna do it, then I’m not gonna do it,” stated Timothy. They both looked at Shelley. “Yes, you are,” she declared. “Because I’m not gonna let you idiots quit. Some things sound like good ideas—because they promote good. But let’s be honest. Once we walk into that office and we smell that office smell and we see those two men who sign our checks, good is not gonna look good anymore.”

Lisa scrunched up her face. “So, Shelley…are you recommending we just play along?”

“Play is a bad word,” Timothy said. “Nobody should get hurt when you play. Charrleen is going to get hurt. To avoid total humiliation and litigation, she’ll have to settle. They’ll get her money. Then they’ll get more money because of the publicity.”

Shelley stood up, walked across the room and then turned. “I don’t care,” she replied. “I mean, I’m tired of caring. I’ve got to look after myself. I’m sick of having people around me who have nothing to lose, but they want me to lose everything. I’m gonna march in there tomorrow with ideas on how to obliterate Charrleen.”

Lisa looked at Timothy and asked, “How about you?”

Timothy didn’t even pause. “I like Shelley. I like working with Shelley. I will follow Shelley.”

Lisa sighed. “It’s so damn hard being a Jew. It wasn’t like Pharaoh and Hitler weren’t enough. Now I have to destroy a pop star.”

Shelley winced. “That’s kind of politically incorrect, isn’t it?”

Lisa laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry—it’s better to degrade a young girl who’s struggled to get her art in front of people, and now we want to snatch legitimate success from her.”

Timothy stood up, walked to the door, turned back and said, “If anyone asks, or if you want to know yourself, the Christmas M&M’s were good. I can recommend them.”

He opened the door, stepped through and was gone.

Lisa looked at Shelley. “You know, there are times he seems brilliant, and then, other times…well, mentally retarded.”

Shelley looked back at Lisa. “Once again, politically incorrect. Mentally challenged.”

Lisa stood up, handed her glass to Shelley and headed for the door. “Oh, Shelley,” she said. “I’m mentally challenged. There must be something wrong with my brain…to join the assholes.”

Shelley walked over and gave her a quick hug. “Relax, Lisa. Just close your eyes and hold your nose. It’ll be over soon.”

Every afternoon from now until Christmas we will be posting sittings from the story, “Jubilators,” for your enjoyment. Good reading and Merry Christmas!

Published by Jonathan Cring