Sitting Twenty-Five

Strength in Numbers

A convergence.

At eleven o’clock A. M. at the Pantheon Theater, rented by Charrleen for rehearsals for the upcoming musical, a large pile of souls collided into one another, unceremoniously.

Christopher showed up because he was in one of the scenes being rehearsed. Grandmama Eloise was there to discuss finance with Charrleen. There were dancers and singers and even a combo of musicians from the full orchestra, prepared to provide the background music.

Charrleen and Golda came skipping into the room, and the energy was so infectious that everybody stopped and applauded spontaneously.

Into this arena of jubilation, which was certainly great, paraded Shelley, Lisa and Timothy, fresh from their declaration of independence from Dunlevy and Markins. With no sense of propriety or hesitation, Shelley shouted in a huge voice, “I just quit!”

Lisa screamed at the top of her lungs. “So did I!”

A bit more mellow, Timothy added, “Me, too.”

The room fell silent, so Shelley explained. “All three of us just left Dunlevy and Markins because they wanted us to destroy Charrleen and this beautiful musical. We said no.”

The brigade onstage stood dumfounded. Then Charrleen clapped her hands.

“Oh, thank you!” she exclaimed. “You’re like three Wise Men who have come bearing gifts.”

Even though most of the people didn’t have a clue what was going on, a cheer erupted.

Shelley pronounced, “We are here to do anything we can to promote what’s happening in this theater. We are your servants. And by servant, I mean…well, we know how to get stuff done. Use us.”

Shelley spied Christopher emerging from the shadows, wearing a Santa Claus hat, the piece of wardrobe he had selected to help him get in character. Their eyes met. The electricity of the moment drew them together. One step, then another. Suddenly they were in each other’s arms. They kissed deeply. Another explosion of applause.

Once the enthusiasm had passed, Charrleen gave the orchestra leader instructions on passages to rehearse with the singers and dancers. She took Shelley by the hand, led her down a long hallway and into a dressing room. Once inside, Charrleen shut the door.

“I don’t really know you that well,” said Charrleen, “but I want to thank you so much for making a stand.”

Shelley replied, “It was long overdue.”

“Can you give me your confidence? Can you promise that if I share something with you, you’ll keep it between us?”

There was a knock at the door. “Who’s there?” inquired Charrleen.

“It’s me, Christopher. I just wondered what was going on.”

Charrleen thought for a moment. “Nothing, Chris. I just wanted to have a private moment with Shelley—to thank her.”

“Sure,” said Chris. “Sorry for interrupting. I’ll be in the rehearsal hall.”

Charrleen walked over and opened the door to make sure Chris had not hung around, closed the door, and then turned back to Shelley.

“As to my question. With your confidence…?” She lifted her eyebrows. Shelley nodded.

“Just this morning,” Charrleen shared, “I found out that Golda—the little girl who had the idea for this glorious musical—well, I found out she might have some mental concerns.”

Shelley crinkled her brow. “By mental concerns, you mean…?”

Charrleen tried to figure out how to explain. “Well, she believes that in her dreams she talks to the spirit world.”

“I’m sorry,” said Shelley. “I don’t know what you mean by spirit world.”

“Nor do I, really,” answered Charrleen. “But there are some spirit beings that Golda thinks told her the idea for this musical.”

“No disrespect,” said Shelley, “but aren’t most creative people a little bit nuts?”

“Sometimes,” smiled Charrleen, “but she’s just a little girl. She’s alone a lot because her parents travel, and, well…she also has headaches.”

“So,” said Shelley, “what do you want from me?’

“I don’t really know,” answered Charrleen. “I just felt it was my responsibility to tell somebody else.”

Shelley put her arm around Charrleen. “Listen,” she comforted. “I’m usually very conservative. I don’t wear brown shoes with anything but a brown outfit.”

Charrleen giggled. Shelley continued. “But even as a conservative, I have to tell you that to stop this little girl from doing what she thinks she should could be more traumatic than letting it play out. Now, if something changes, if she starts being incoherent or acting suspicious, then you’ve got to do something. But this little girl deserves a chance to prove her point.”

Charrleen considered. “Our world sure could use more spirit. I like you.” Charrleen gave Shelley a big hug. “I didn’t know you before. I thought you were kind of a stick in the mud. But this really helped. Thank you.”

“No, thank you,” said Shelley. “It’s you who helped. You helped me make a stand. And making a stand …” she grinned. “Gives me a chance to…well, stand up.”

They headed off, arm in arm, together toward the rehearsal—two unlikely friends who had found each other because of a little girl’s dreams.

 

Sitting Twenty-Six

Oil’s Right

Mr. Dunlevy and Mr. Markins were still situated in the conference room, assuring one another that they were doing the right thing by suing Charrleen, and were certainly none the worse by losing three disloyal employees, when the secretary popped her head in the door and informed them that they had a guest. Before they could respond, wiggling past the secretary was Grandmama Eloise. She entered the room leaning on her cane, hobbled over to a chair and eased down.

The two men were completely taken aback, gazing at the secretary, perturbed. Grandmama Eloise came to the defense of the young woman. “Now don’t you blame her. She did her best to scare me off, just like you taught her to do. I just don’t scare very easily.”

She leaned her cane carefully against the table. “When I was a young girl living in Baton Rouge,” she continued, “I would go rattlesnake hunting with my father. Just to make sure I wouldn’t grow up to be a scaredy-cat little girl, he gave me the job of cutting off their heads.”

The two men looked at each other, bewildered. Dunlevy finally gained speech. “Who are you?” he asked. “Did we have an appointment?”

“No,” said Eloise, picking up her cane and waving it. “That’s completely unnecessary. I didn’t need an appointment, so I didn’t make one. And you gentlemen shouldn’t worry about me having an appointment or not, because it’s my time.”

Mr. Markins turned to the secretary. “Perhaps you should call security.”

Eloise laughed. “Well, I don’t think that’s going to do you much good either.”

“And why would that be?” Mr. Markins asked.

Eloise chuckled. “Well, I guess that’s because they work for me!”

Mr. Markins objected. “What are you talking about? They work for us!”

“Well, that’s true,” conceded Eloise.

Markins suddenly had a light bulb of revelation. “I remember you! You’re the old lady who showed up at the restaurant during our meeting, that caused Charrleen… I do remember. Are you her grandma?”

Eloise nodded. “Not too bad of a memory for a common businessman.”

Markins, offended, replied, “Well, I’m not common, ma’am. I could go into my history and my work record, but that’s not necessary. You saw my name on the door when you walked into the building.”

“I did,” said Eloise. “And I plan on lettin’ you boys keep those names on the door if you don’t get cantankerous.”

The secretary piped up. “Do you want me to call security?”

Dunlevy shook his head. “Nah. This won’t take long. We can handle it.”

The secretary left, closing the door behind her. Eloise just sat, not speaking. The silence grew long. Dunlevy spoke up. “What gives you the right to come into our office and disrupt our work?”

“I would never do that,” Eloise replied. “I only go where I belong.”

“Well, that sure is not here,” Mr. Markins stated.

Eloise slapped her cane on the table, contradicting. “No, no, indeed. What we’re determining is whether YOU belong here.”

Dunlevy shook his head in disbelief. “Are you just crazy? Are you here to defend your granddaughter? To beg us to stop suing her? Is that it? If it is, you’ve taken a very poor approach. I would suggest a bit more humility.”

“Groveling should be your approach,” added Markins.

Eloise considered. “That’s the first thing you’ve said that’s sensible. A little more humility would do us all good. That’s the problem with you boys. You take on jobs because somebody gives you money. You only ask yourselves one question: ‘can we do this?’ Then you sit around and discuss it and decide if you can or you can’t. Here’s your problem: it never occurs to you to ask ‘should you do it? Or shouldn’t you’?”

“That’s just not good business,” said Dunlevy.

“Well, I disagree,” Eloise contradicted. “What it is, is good people. And I know for a fact, good people is good business.”

Markins stood up. “I am not going to sit here and have some old lady lecture me.”

Eloise pointed her cane at him. “Oh, yes you will. Because you need the job. You’re very deep in debt and you can’t afford to go out and hunt down employment at your age.”

Dunlevy was on his last nerve. “What in the hell are you talking about?”

Eloise leaned forward. “I’m talking about the fact that I own your public relations firm.”

Both men laughed. Dunlevy looked at Markins. “Did you know this lady owns our firm?”

Dunlevy responded mockingly, “No, I did not. So, this lady is our new boss…”

“I am,” said Eloise, “so you’d better get used to it.”

Dunlevy reached over to a nearby phone, picked it up, and said, “Well, we’ll take care of this right now. Mr. Markins and I are in a partnership, and the only entity that owns any part of it, other than the two of us, is the bank.”

“I know that,” said Eloise. “That’s why, when I bought the firm, that I also went ahead and bought the bank.”

The two men looked at each other, wondering if they were dealing with a lunatic. Could she possibly be dangerous? Could she have some weapon hidden away?

Therefore, Dunlevy selected a civil tone. “Listen, ma’am, we know you’re concerned about your granddaughter. We realize you don’t comprehend our decisions. But they are ours, and ours alone. Now, we’re going to forget that this thing happened. We won’t even hold it against Charrleen, because we understand your fierce loyalty.”

Eloise laughed and replied, “You boys don’t know jack shit. I bought your public relations firm and I bought the bank—two steps ahead of you. I also negotiated an arrangement to purchase both of your homes. Now, I can stop there. Or I can start messing around with your car leasing, the tuition at your children’s institutions of higher learning…”

Dunlevy looked at Markins, who realized his colleague was about to blow a gasket. Markins patted his arm, made eye contact, and stepped in. “All right. Why would you think that two men such as ourselves would believe that a woman with a cane and a thrift store dress could wield any power over us whatsoever?”

Eloise looked down at her garment. “Well, you’re right about that. I picked up this dress at Goodwill for four dollars and ninety-eight cents. It’s done me well. But I did not do it because I don’t have the means to buy a four-thousand-dollar dress. I just like to support the folks down there who are trying to get a hand and a leg up on life.”

Markins leaned back in his chair. “Okay,” he said. “Where’d you get the money to do all these things you mentioned?”

Eloise laughed again. “Well, that’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short for you busy men.” She organized her thoughts. “When he was a young man, my papa heard there was oil down there in Louisiana—near Houma. So, he got a bunch of his buddies together, and they sold their cars and their homes and their tin cans, and they bought up thousands of acres—and the water rights—for all the little inlets down in that region. They begged. They promised. They sold shares—until they could get the digging equipment together to drill. And you know what happened? They hit oil.” She reduced her voice to a whisper. “Lots of oil.” She looked up. “So much oil that it made them, and all their poor partners, filthy rich. Enough for their lives and their children’s lives and on and on. Gentlemen, I am rich, without being filthy. I’ve got so much money that I never speak of it because…well, because it would embarrass me.”

Dunlevy looked at Markins and Markins back at Dunlevy. There was something about the woman’s sincerity and her keenness of mind that led them to think the story might be true. Eloise, content that they were baffled and befuddled, continued.

“To sum it up, I own you,” she declared. “I own this firm. I own the bank. I own your homes. Now,” she waved her cane again. “I’m a gentle Cajun woman. I sometimes regret that I have to kill a crawfish to suck its head. But don’t you think for a moment that I won’t strangle you like a rooster, to eat for Sunday dinner until you have nothing left but a beak and a gizzard.”

She dug around in her large purse and threw a manila folder onto the table. Dunlevy picked it up and thumbed through the pages. Eloise sat quietly, allowing him to peruse. About fifteen pages in, Dunlevy looked up at Markins and shook his head.

“She’s not lying,” he stated sadly. “She owns us.”

Markins grew quiet and asked, in a simple, respectful tone, “What is it you want, my dear?”

“Now, there you go,” said Eloise approvingly. “I want you to do five things, and I want you to do them today. If they aren’t done by tomorrow, you guys will leave here with your shoes and nothing more. Number one, I want you to drop the suit against my granddaughter. She not only was a good servant to your cause, but she went against her own conscience to do it, and when it spoke up to her, she found a way to honor your song and still cherish the season. Number two, you will hire Shelley back. Yes, I already heard. You fired her.”

Dunlevy piped in. “How did you know that? It just happened!”

“How did I buy your life?” Eloise snapped. “It’s none of your business. As I said, number two is that you will hire Shelley back, as General Manager. You will be working for her, because she will decide on what projects this firm should rubber stamp. Number three. You will immediately stop your ridiculous promotion of ‘Great Jubilation’ and let my granddaughter use the song and the good things that have come out of it, to find a way to turn this into something good instead of continuing to divide our country into camps. Number four. Without question, you will give ten percent of your profits to children’s causes, and organizations that are feeding hungry people all over the world. And finally, Number Five? You will never, ever, to anyone at any time, tell them that Idid this.”

Confident of her victory, she concluded. “You can take the credit for having a change of heart. And considering your actions, you can probably use that in your spiritual bank account.”

She picked up her cane again. “Do we understand each other?”

The two men looked at each other and nodded.

“Sure,” said Dunlevy.

Markins added, “Nobody really likes being the bad guy. I guess we should thank you for giving us this chance to be heroes.”

Grandmama stood to her feet, almost losing her balance, but regained it with her cane. “Now, one last thing,” she said. “Would you please have that lovely secretary out there validate my parking? They tend to charge extra when they see a limousine.”

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