Sitting Twenty-Three

Meanwhile, the Next Morning…

Shelley was the last one to arrive at work. Ten minutes late. Her feet felt like they were stuck in glue and her brain was clouded with doubt and disgust. She hated herself. She was accustomed to disdaining some of her own personal choices, but now, it was deep-rooted. She knew she was on the verge of deciding between darkness and light, but she just didn’t care. How could she care? After all, caring always had a price tag. It cost something—and in this case, caring would cost her a job, her reputation, her finance and her security.

It was too high a price to pay for the ego trip of goodness. Her reluctance to move brought her to work tardy.

Dunlevy and Markins had already called Lisa and Timothy into the conference room to discuss the plan of action for the anti-Charrleen campaign. Shelley walked into an atmosphere already thick with the anticipation that her arrival would proffer great ideas on how to squash the “singing bug.”

Shelley actually had come up with seven ways to discredit Charrleen. They were evil, cold and pernicious, but they would be fruitful (if by fruitful, you mean to kill, steal and destroy).

Before going to the conference room, Shelley stopped off at the copy machine to print off her proposals. She picked them up, walked into the room and was about to hand them out when she glanced up and saw Mr. Dunlevy’s smiling face.

What in the hell he was smiling about? Maybe he thought it was necessary to sue Charrleen—a natural business step. Maybe he had weighed the factors, debated them in his mind, and had put forth a plan of action for the purpose of salvaging the dignity of the company. But why would any of that make him smile? Why was he smirking?

It pissed her off. No…it infuriated her. Tears of rage bulged in her eyes.

Mr. Markins spoke. “I see you brought some papers. Are you going to pass them out?”

Shelley stepped across the room, facing all four of her associates. Lisa and Timothy sat quietly, perplexed over Shelley’s reticence. Shelley took the pages in her hand—five in all—tore them in half and threw them into a trash can.

Mr. Markins frowned. “Are you changing your plan?”

“No,” said Shelley, leaning forward on the table. “I’m changing my mind. When I came in here this morning, I had convinced myself there was nothing damnable. Nothing wrong. Nothing truly sinister if it was in the pursuit of helping this company. But as I say those words, I realize that wrong is wrong—even if it’s done in the name of Dunlevy and Markins.”

Lisa peered up at Shelley. “I thought we were going to go through with this,” she whispered.

Timothy turned to Mr. Dunlevy and Mr. Markins. “We went over to Shelley’s last night. I had Christmas M&M’s.”

Mr. Dunlevy frowned. “Are the three of you plotting behind our backs?”

“No!” said Shelley. “We’re plotting in front of your backs. Or something like that.” She shook her head. “This is all on the fly. We agreed last night that we would go through with your campaign to destroy Charrleen. But somewhere between the Xerox machine and this table…” Shelley knocked on the mahogany table, “I grew a conscience.”

Mr. Markins replied, “I don’t care what you grow. You can grow anything on your own time. You can grow tomatoes. I don’t care. You just need to do your job.”

Shelley put her hands on her hips. “And what is my job?” she demanded.

Mr. Dunlevy jumped in. “To create a negative advertising campaign to make Charrleen look as bad as possible so that we win the suit and sell lots of albums.”

Shelley looked at Lisa. Lisa glanced over at Timothy, who was still smiling. Lisa nodded her head. Before Shelley could say another word, Timothy piped up. “Gentlemen, I think we have a problem. You see, the three of us have an opportunity, and we’ve decided to take it. We should have given you more notice, but that would have been considerate. And since neither of you are accustomed to that word, we decided to just go ahead and do it anyway.”

“What opportunity?” Mr. Markins interrupted, glaring.

Timothy stood up and rapped his knuckles on the table. He pointed at Mr. Markins. “An opportunity to get a helluva long way away from you. I quit.”

Lisa leaped to her feet. “Make that two of us!” she shouted.

The two of them turned to Shelley, who paused, making her cohorts nervous. Finally, she spoke. “Yes. And I quit, too. I should have quit a long time ago. Ever since this Christmas project was begun, I arrive every morning, leaving my soul at the door. Who in the hell do you guys think you are? We’re done. All three of us. And if you want to know what our opportunity is…well, we’re gonna see if Charrleen has any room for three promoters who would like to see Christmas continue to kick ass.”

Mr. Dunlevy spoke up. “Well, we’ll just sue you.”

Mr. Markins added, “Well, we won’t sue you. But you’ve certainly lost all of your perks, and any severance package you might have dreamed possible.”

Lisa and Timothy headed toward the door. Shelley paused before leaving and said, “You, gentlemen, will be taken down like the clowns you are. Trust me.”

Mr. Dunlevy shouted after her. “You won’t work anywhere in this town!”

A chill went down Shelley’s spine. She realized that the network of public relations was small enough that he could make good on his threat.

Shelley, Lisa and Timothy stood together in a small circle, Shelley hyperventilating.

Lisa hugged her. “Calm down, calm down. This one thing we know—none of us are broke yet. None of us are in the poor house. None of us are homeless. But all three of us just did something really, really good.”

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