Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011 Chapter 15

      Being Easter weekend, I flew to Dallas to see Ben’s girls. I can’t believe how much they’ve grown in just the short time I’ve been gone. They looked lovely in their Easter dresses—Amanda has such good taste in clothes. I took some great photos of them in their backyard after the Easter egg hunt. 
Seems I missed the Tour de Tech Terrace while I was away in Dallas. It appears to be a rather irreverent bicycle/drinking tour of the Tech Terrace area.  It’s been in existence for fourteen years... definitely long after my tenure at Tech. Although we did have a lot of bicycles in my day. I read in the AJ it was a little more tame than usual. And one cyclist even donned a trash can to help pick up litter. Interesting event. Maybe next spring I’ll be living in that special area of town and can watch it from my own front porch? 
Chapter 15
   When I arrived at work this morning, I could hear the commotion from two doors down. I stopped just short of the doorway and peeked in, finding Elaine pacing, picking things up and then putting them down heavily, muttering to herself.   
   “Stupid, egotistical man ... typical male chauvinist ...  tell him a thing or two ...  good swift kick in the ass ... all the way back to Aggieland ... stupid! Stupid! STUPID!” Elaine shouted, taking off her right shoe and throwing it against the far wall, barely missing my plant.
   I stepped in quickly, saying, “Elaine! What in the world!”
   Elaine whirled around as if to strike me, but seeing who it was, stopped herself. She comically limped back to her desk and sat down dejectedly. Putting her head down on her desk, she began theatrically beating her fist against a stack of papers.  

“Elaine! What’s wrong?!”
   She raised her head and looked hard at me, saying with clenched teeth and balled fists, “Your boss just got rid of Katherine. Just got rid of her! After 23 years in the Chief of Staff’s office, he just got rid of her!” 

       She was standing again now, lopsided on one shoe, face flushed.
   “Miss Katherine?” I said, alarmed. “Boyle fired Miss Katherine? Whatever for?” 
   “For a better looking piece of ass, that’s what for!”

   “Okay, Elaine, take it down a notch or two and give me more information ... you’re a communications major, remember? And I’m not getting all the facts ... so sit and talk ... Now!”
    Elaine sat, crossed her arms and took several deep breaths as I retrieved her errant shoe. Finally she said, “I just heard from Nancy in the President’s office. Boyle got rid of Miss Katherine.”

“Fired her?”
   “No, moved her to the open receptionist position in the President’s office. How humiliating for her!”
   “And why did Boyle do this? Do you know?”

“Because he can!” she said, her voice raising again. “He thinks because Stone left last week and he’s interim president he can do as he pleases. He moved that Allison slut from HR ...”
    “Slut? Wait, wait. That’s sort of harsh, isn’t it, Elaine? Do you know for certain she sleeps around?”
   “Everybody says she does ... but no, I don’t know for certain. Okay,” she said, a bit sheepishly, lowering her voice. “I won’t say that, but she wears these really tight, short skirts —”

   “Umm, Elaine, my friend, you wear really tight, short skirts.”

Elaine was indignant, “Yeah, but I wasn’t hired because of that!”
   I looked at her with a touch of skepticism, so Elaine explained. “Mr. Leonard was a friend of Uncle William, so he hired me because of him. But it didn’t take him long to find out how good I am.” Then she laughed, “And I look damn good in tight, short skirts!”
   “Yes, you do!” Charlie said as he stuck his head in. “Say, did you guys hear about Miss Katherine? Asshole Boyle replaced her with that slut from HR.” 

  As the facts came in, it turned out to be true that Bennett Boyle had indeed moved Miss Katherine. And did it without a shred of compassion. 

      Seems she’d found a note on her desk early this morning telling her to take her personal items to the empty receptionist desk in the office next door—he no longer needed her services as his secretary.
     She’d been so distraught she’d immediately taken a sick day, carrying home her family pictures, framed business school diploma, 15-year-old African violet, Kleenex box and a half-eaten package of chocolate covered raisins. 
   By 8:30 a.m., Allison from HR had happily moved her own personal items into Boyle’s outer office. They included a mirror, a jumbo pack of Juicy Fruit, six bottles of nail polish, a framed photo of herself — obviously taken at a cheap shopping mall glamour studio — and an eight-inch-tall stuffed purple elephant named Baby, now proudly displayed on the front of the desk. 
   The entire building was in an uproar, with more than one person whispering their threat to quit on the spot if by some horrid mistake the Board of Regents made Bennett Boyle the new president. Everyone knew he’d submitted his application, and insiders said his ego wouldn’t allow him to doubt that the office would be his soon. I was nauseated at the thought. 
   I was also nauseated when I remembered an appointment with Boyle for this afternoon, needing to go over next year’s budget one more time before turning it in to Finance. Boyle had so far refused to discuss even a modest increase. Armed with facts and numbers, I headed downstairs at the appointed hour. 
   It’s interesting that Boyle is still in the old Communications offices rather than moving into the now-empty presidential suite next door. (Even though Stone said he would work until the end of the semester, he had several weeks of vacation coming, so he left early. The Board made Boyle interim president.) Maybe Boyle thought it might be too presumptuous — or maybe too humiliating to move out again if he didn’t get the job. Or maybe he just didn’t want Communications moving back in down there? In the meantime, he was obviously taking full advantage of his newfound power to make some less-than intelligent changes, at least according to gossip. 
   Well, I thought as I entered his outer office, time to meet the infamous Allison.
   Jonathan Long was standing at Katherine’s old desk, arms out in exasperation, talking to the person seated behind the desk, blocking my view. “You don’t understand. I’m Mr. Boyle’s second in command, and I’m allowed to see him whenever I need to see him ... and I need to see him now.”
   A sweet, high-pitched voice replied in an almost comically slow Texas drawl, “Well, Mr. Long. It’s you who don’t seem to understand. Since this mornin’, ah am in charge of Mr. Boyle’s appointments, and you don’t happen to have an appointment according to this here little appointment book, so you cain’t see him now.”
   Hmmph. I thought as I stepped up next to Jonathan. I smiled and said sweetly, “Well, I have an appointment, and I can give up my time slot to Mr. Long, if he needs it.”

“Thank you, Maggie,” Jonathan said in his usual quick manner. “I really just need five minutes.”
  Allison narrowed her eyes at me and frowned. “And just who the hell are you, darlin’?”
  I raised my eyebrows at the new secretary, quickly assessing her mannerisms, speech, attire and attitude—and didn’t like any of the above. The twenty-something woman had massive bleached blonde hair that curled out of control even under a wide headband of neon green. Her matching tightly stretched top was cut so low over her obviously implanted breasts I know she could have easily carried her cell phone inside the visible cleavage. 
   “Margaret Grant, director of Communications and Marketing, and I do have an appointment with Mr. Boyle. You can check in that there little appointment book,” I said, continuing my sweet tone and smile. “Go ahead, Jonathan, I’ll just sit out here until you’re finished.”

   Before Allison could think to protest, Jonathan knocked once on Boyle’s door and entered, closing the door behind him. 
   Allison still had her mouth open in surprise when I turned my back to her and sat down in one of four leather chairs lining the wall. I opened the folder I’d brought, and without looking up, said, “You might want to close your mouth, Allison. Your gum’s about to fall out.” 
  Snapping her mouth shut, Allison stood up, revealing her tight, short, brown pleather skirt and neon green stilettos. Haughtily walking past, she drawled, “Ah’m goin’ to the ladies’ room.”

   Four minutes later, Jonathan came out and looked at the empty secretary’s desk. Allison hadn’t returned. He whispered to me as he hurried to the hallway, “Whatever is he thinking?!”
   I smiled ruefully, straightened my suit and marched into the inner sanctum — after all, I did have an appointment.
   I stood in front of Boyle’s desk and waited. And waited. He loves to play that game. Making people stand as if at attention until he acknowledges them. I didn’t want to play today, and said curtly, “What happened to Miss Katherine?”
   Without looking up, he said, “She moved next door. What do you want?”
   “Why was she moved?”
  At that, he looked up sharply. “I don’t report to you — you report to me. It’s none of your damn business why she was moved. What do you want?”
   “We have an appointment to go over my department’s finances. I brought some facts and figures I’d like to discuss—”
   He interrupted, “Put them on the secretary’s desk.”

“But I’d like to discuss them with you.”
   “But I wouldn’t like to discuss them with you,” he said causticly, “so put them on the desk outside and leave. Dismissed.” He returned to his work, looking down. 
   Before I could stop myself, I stood at attention, clicked my heels together, saluted, turned and marched out. Bennett Boyle pretended not to notice. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011 Chapters 13 & 14

Chapter 13
    This week has been busy, and not just because of my extracurricular project for the church. At work, I’m building contacts through faculty and staff and deciding what news to include in Insight, looking for the right mix of hard news, basic information and a little fun. Ours is an astute, educated audience, and the newsletter we send out needs to respect that audience as well as inform and entertain. 
My philosophy on what mattered is based on the possibility of a member of the community running into a faculty or staff person in the grocery store — which happens often — and what they might ask about the university. Communications’ job is to supply enough information in a timely manner so Tech employees wouldn’t say “I have no idea because they never tell us anything.” The 2,600 people on the Tech payroll are our first and best ambassadors to the local public and I intend to keep them knowledgeable and informed.

   Judging from the feedback to the weekly Tech trivia contests and the social media we’ve started, the positive response is growing steadily, proving the faculty senate members to be as smart as I thought they were in requesting better communication. 
   And then trouble.

    Thursday morning, as usual, I headed into the office long before the others. My unread morning newspaper was tucked under my arm. Making myself a cup of green tea, I had settled down to shake the cobwebs and see if there was anything in the A-J about Tech, perhaps gleaned from the news releases Steven had sent out earlier that week. I knew Jake was good at using almost everything we sent him, trusting the office to only send out releases readers would care about. Jake, reporter-turned-friend, was out this week, though, taking a short vacation for his brother’s wedding somewhere back East. A cub reporter might have picked something up and run with it, perchance. 
  On the third page, a headline caught my attention, my right hand stopping with my cup in midair. “Oh, God,” I said aloud, and then looked up apologetically, putting down my tea hard enough to spill a few drops. “How did that happen?”
  Dialing Jonathan’s number, I reread the article while his phone rang. The headline said:
    Local Philanthropist Donates $30 million to Tech Wind Museum

  Jonathan, now also a friend, answered on the fifth ring and without my uttering a word, he said quickly, “Just read it, too, Maggie. No idea. Let me see what I can find out. I’ll call,” and hung up. 

      Thirty million dollars, I thought. That’s huge! That’s amazing! My phone rang before I could take my hand away and as I scanned the brief article for the third time, I answered “Communications and Marketing. Margaret Grant speaking.” 
  The voice on the line was loud and angry. “Third page! What in the world do you think you’re doing over there? I get the second largest donation in the history of the university and it only makes page three of the local newspaper?! You should be fired, you know what I mean?”
  “And you are?” I asked defensively as I put the phone back to my abused ear.
  “Dr. Winston P. Whitaker the third, director of the Wind Museum. Who the hell are you?”
  “Margaret Grant, director of Communications. Listen, I’m sorry, Dr. Whitaker, but I knew nothing about the gift.”
  As if he didn’t hear me, he continued, “And no state or national coverage anywhere!”
  “Well, Dr. Whitaker, I can assure you if we had known, we would have put together a marketing plan for the announcement to garner better results. Who did you talk to about it?” I asked, desperately hoping one of my staff hadn’t dropped the ball, although I couldn’t imagine they had.
  “Bennett. Bennett James Boyle — chief of god-damned staff ... and he assured me your office would handle this professionally.”

“And we would have, Dr. Whitaker, but unfortunately, it seems Mr. Boyle forgot to tell us about it.”

“Well, obviously, Miss. This is a disaster! This is all your fault!” 
  “I hardly see how it can be our fault, Dr. Whitaker, if we knew nothing about it. But perhaps it’s not a total disaster, sir. It’s Thursday, so we can get information out to major outlets this afternoon for Sunday’s papers. Why don’t I come over to see you right now and get some facts. I’ll have my staff start working on a state and national package immediately. Will that work for you?”
  My heart was racing as fast as my brain, thinking of the myriad details we would need for such a quick campaign. Finally, he answered, “I’m in my office at the museum. Come now.” And he hung up.
  After a quick call to my troops to get the ball rolling on background of the philanthropist, the director, the history of the museum, needed photography and another quick consultation with Jonathan, I raced to my car to drive to the Wind Museum in the northwest corner of campus. On the way, Steven called me back saying his wife was a friend of the donor’s daughter-in-law, and he might be able to use that connection to get in to see him this morning. I sent him down that path, being thankful for small towns where everyone is somehow connected to everyone else. Steven would do a good job with the interview.
  Although Lubbock early morning traffic is virtually nonexistent in comparison to Dallas, it still took me a good 15 minutes to get to the museum as I dodged students. Dr. Winston P. Whitaker III was pacing in his office. His Texas Tech University Ph.D., master’s and bachelor’s diplomas hung prominently on his wall.
  About my height, he was half-again as round as he was tall, white-headed with an equally white bushy mustache, nattily dressed in tweed, complete with weskit, bow tie and pocket watch on a long shiny gold chain. I guessed from the spring in his animated walk he was younger than me, but dressed as though he was in his seventies. He looked almost comical, like a character straight out of a play. As he ushered me in, his eyes were shooting sparks in accompaniment to the smoke coming out of his ears.
  It took about ten minutes to get him calmed down. I assured him our staff had the talent to do the job right. This was my forte ... gathering facts and information to be regurgitated to the media in the appropriate way. Probing Dr. Whitaker’s knowledge, feeling his excitement for the work he did, examining his dreams for the museum — under careful questioning and delicate nudging, he gradually revealed his passion for wind power and technology and what he believed the future held. He gave a quick tour of the exhibits, and I was surprised at how much slower he walked and talked once he had calmed down. I listened intently while taking notes and calculating where the best photos could be set up later that morning.

  “Dr. Whitaker, tell me about the donation specifically. What will you do with the money?”
  “Oh, my dear,” he said almost breathlessly. “We have such plans. We will, of course, expand our facility as well as our outreach to the community, to Texas and even to the nation. We will become THE place to go for information on windmills and wind energy. After all, the high plains are where it all began, you know what I mean?”
  “Yes, sir. Now what’s your first step?”
  “Well, my dear, first we’ll expand the exhibit hall. We’ll blow out the back wall and the roof,” he said pointing up animatedly, “and go out and up. We’re going to have a room that can house the actual newfangled turbine blades, so their ‘grandglorius’ size can be seen. So the little children can come in and touch them and say ‘wow’ with their eyes popping.” Twinkles had finally replaced the sparks in his own popping eyes and I couldn’t help but get caught up in his excitement. 
  “Projections on construction timeline?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. This first phase should be complete just after the first of the year. I’m planning on  throwing a big party!”
   Another twenty minutes of questions gave me a fairly complete picture of the five-year plan, and I have to admit I was impressed. At the end of the interview I said, “Thank you, Dr. Whitaker.”
  “Windy, please call me Windy. Everybody does.” 
  “Seriously?” I asked skeptically.
  “Oh, yes, my dear. Since I was knee-high to a cotton patch. Mama couldn’t keep me from climbing the windmill out back of the barn. I think I was three the first time I climbed to the top. Just sat there on that old wooden platform under the turning big wooden blades, blowin’ in the wind, you know what I mean?  She was sure I was going to kill myself, but heights never bothered me. And, oh, that windmill just called to me. As did every other windmill in the county. I don’t think there is even one in West Texas I haven’t climbed at some time or another, unless it was put up last week. 

“That big one out front?” he said pointing out the window.  “That’s the one from my family farm ... the Axtel Standard ... the first one I climbed. Built around 1915.”

   I looked out at the almost 70-foot wooden windmill with the 22-foot turning blades and thought it was no wonder his mother was worried. 
   “So, everyone calls me Windy. Seems rather apropos now that I have all this, you know what I mean?”
  “Um, yes, it rather does. Um, thank you, Windy.”
   With notes in hand and a promise to send him a copy of the marketing package, I left Dr. Whitaker – Windy – an almost satisfied man. “It will be fine,” I assured him once more as he escorted me to the front door.

  “Well, my dear, the proof is in the ‘pudomentator,’ you know what I mean?”
  I smiled at him and left. I think I know what he meant, but what an odd expression. I dismissed it, though, making a mental list of which impossible tasks had to be done next.
   Two minutes before the end of the day, Elaine pressed the fax button to send the final media release while Ricky simultaneously pressed send on the electronic version of the same. 
   A collective sigh went up from the staff as they sank into the nearest chairs.
   “Whoa,” Susan said, propping her long legs up on Charlie’s lap and letting her arms drop to her sides. “I’m totally wiped out.”
  “Drink,” moaned Steven. “I need a drink.” Elaine handed him a cold bottled water saying, “Sorry, whiskey’s not allowed on campus.”

   He looked at the bottle and her in mocked disgust, but took a long gulp anyway.
“Great job, folks,” I beamed, leaning against my office doorframe, exhausted  myself.
“It’s a great package. Good stories to pull from, great photos linked on the web, a variety of ways the various media can approach the story, and just an overall quality marketing approach. Thanks so much for all your work.”

“I haven’t worked this hard and this fast for years,” said Charlie, pushing Susan’s legs down and standing up to stretch dramatically. “I loved it!”
  “Me either,” said  Ricky.
  “You’re too young to have ever worked this hard,” Charlie teased, playfully punching him in the arm, which started a brief shadow boxing match. 
   “So true,” said Elaine, “but your fingers were flying on that keyboard, Ricky. Good job. Can we go home, now, Boss?”
  “Of course. But remember, tomorrow we’ll have to do all the work we were supposed to get done today plus all of tomorrow’s normal load and hopefully talk to lots of reporters and handle TV news crews at the museum. So, another busy day, troops.”
  Steven smiled and shrugged as he got up to leave, “Just makes the weekend come faster.” He stood straight and saluted us all saying dramatically, “Good night, my comrades in arms. Today we won the battle, but tomorrow we carry on the war!”
  Laughing, they headed out the door, congratulating each other, giddy with the satisfaction of a job well done. I retreated into my office to get my briefcase, thinking today we had really become a team ...  a team of professionals who put out quality work. I smiled with satisfaction.

   This was one evening I wouldn’t stay late, hoping Doug was cooking something wonderful, and had lots of wine for me to consume while I related the day’s efforts to good friends.
Chapter 14
   The something wonderful was chicken alfredo accompanied by a delicate white wine and fresh spinach salad. A healthy portion was devoured as I related the news of the donation.

   “Russell Arbuckle is the donor. Some big philanthropist from around here. Wealthy beyond measure, from what I understand,” I told them between delectable bites.
   “Must be beyond measure if he can shell out $30 million for windmills,” Doug said. “Arbuckle? Isn’t he the owner of the Cotton A Ranch south of town?”
   “He is,” I nodded as I finished another bite. “Steven did a great news release on his family. He and his wife, Dorthea, I think, have been here in West Texas for several generations. But it’s a farm and a ranch. Money was made through cotton, cattle and not a little bit of oil. Think he has lots of property around Odessa, too. That’s where most of the oil wealth comes from.”
     Sharon asked, “Isn’t he on the Tech Board of Regents?”

“Yep. And a graduate of Tech’s Ag program. I saw him briefly at the Board meeting when Stone announced his resignation. Arbuckle is just an average-looking, unassuming guy. He’s got a crew cut just like my dad used to wear. Asked some intelligent questions at the meeting, too.”
   Sharon said, “Dr. Whitaker must be ecstatic.”
   “He is, or was, after he got over his mad. I swear, it’s as if Bennett Boyle wants us to fail ... or he’s just too dense to know he needs to let us do our jobs.”

“I vote for dense,” Sharon said. “I hate conspiracy theories.” 

   On Friday, several local and state newspaper and television reporters had called to do stories. The team fielded numerous calls from print reporters across the state and one exploratory call from “Good Morning America.”

   Dr. Whitaker was interviewed for the local evening news. To my horror, as I stood to the side watching him being filmed at the museum, he used several words that weren’t really words. Like the one he used the previous day... what was it? “Pudomentator?” Oh, the meaning came across, all right, but it made him appear as though he was making Archie Bunker mistakes. Thankfully, his interviews were edited heavily. His rambling sentences didn’t make for good sound bites, and the non-words weren’t aired that evening. I’ll have to work with him on that or keep him away from cameras.
   At 7 a.m. on Sunday, Steven woke me to relay the news that the story had been repeated on the front page of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal with a new angle. It was also picked up by newspapers across the state. There was even a short blurb in the New York Times. As I hung up the phone, I nestled back under the covers contentedly and said aloud, “Yep, there’s proof in the ‘pudomentator.’ ”
This morning, Jonathan discovered that the previous week Boyle had called the news desk of the A-J and told them about the donation. Seems he thought the A-J cub reporter would then pass the news on to other media outlets, so he didn’t contact anyone else. He told Jonathan his plan had worked, ignorant of the fact Communications and Marketing had rescued the situation. I had asked Jonathan and Dr. Whitaker not to mention our last-minute operation, at least not on Thursday so Boyle couldn’t object before it was done. Evidently they did as I asked because Jonathan said Boyle seemed to take credit for the wide coverage.

  And that was fine with me. Dr. Whitaker was happy. The donor was happy. And Bennett Boyle was as happy as Bennett Boyle could be. All was right with the world. 
  At least for a little while, I hope.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11, 2011 Chapter 12

End of Chapter 11
   Father Murphy wasn’t the celebrant at the one early morning Mass I attended last week, and again absent at yesterday’s Sunday Mass, but the deacon did a pretty fair job of the homily, while the Monsignor presided at the altar. I like the atmosphere at Saint Elizabeth’s and think perhaps I have found a new church home. 
   In the middle of the week, Elaine sent a call into my office from “a priest.” Startled, I picked up the phone, puzzled until I heard the distinctive Irish brogue on the other end of the line. It took Father Fitzpatrick forty-five seconds flat to coax me into volunteering for the summer’s Vacation Bible School. 
“Don’t ye know,” he said, “That Mrs. Bodecker, bless her soul, has been doing the same popsicle stick crosses nigh on ta twenty years, and me friend Father Joseph happened ta mention dat ye were right good at some rather progressive craft projects for da children when you were at Saint Mary’s.” 
He added quickly, “Now don’t ye know dat wit’ yer important job at da university an’ all, meself is sure dat ye canna be ’ere every day for da morning classes come summer, but if ye could just give our teachers some new ideas an’ da like, it would be much appreciated, it would. Father Joseph himself assures me dat ’twill be an easy task fer someone as talented as yerself. Can you help me, do ye think, Mrs. Margaret Grant?”
  I laughed—heartily. Every priest I’d ever known had an amazing ability to recruit volunteers, but Father Fitzpatrick might just be the best I’ve encountered. 
  And so, working with the church secretary to find out this year’s theme, gathering information on ages and numbers of expected children, a teacher workshop is now set up for the Saturday before the early June Vacation Bible School. Now all I have to do was figure out five projects for the week for each of the five different age groups. Twenty-five projects in all — and with an extremely limited budget, because, “We’re a wee poor parish, we ’ere,” Father had said pitifully enough. 
Piece of cake, I thought rolling my eyes at my own gullibility, knowing I’d be opening my wallet. I’ll also be calling Carol, the real craft lady, for advice. I’ll need to visit the storage facility to dig out my supply boxes. And I’ll need to spend the next several evenings and weekends getting prepared to teach.  In the meantime, my day job keeps me pretty busy. 
Chapter 12
   The Texas Tech University Board of Regent’s meeting, held monthly in the east wing second floor board room of the Administration Building, normally draws minimal crowds and the obligatory one or two reporters. 
   Friday, the room was crowded. Due, I knew, to persistent rumors about President Stone’s possible resignation announcement during the meeting. Heading toward the room, I unfortunately ran into Bennett Boyle. 

Putting on a brave front, I smiled sweetly. “Mr. Boyle, what a nice coincidence,” I said as he frowned at me. “I have been trying to set up an appointment with you. Maybe we could talk today?”
   “I’ve, um, I’ve been busy. You’ve only been here a week.”
   “Three,” I said, looking at him sweetly.
   “Three,” I repeated. “I’ve been here three weeks and have been trying to get an appointment with you for three weeks.”
   Looking uncomfortable, he ignored my statement and took another tack, “Why are you here now? You don’t need to be here. I’m covering the Board meeting.”
   “Yes, I understand that, and I am sure afterward you’ll tell me if there’s anything I need to know, but seeing as how it’s a public meeting, I’m here to be part of that public.” I looked directly at him, silently daring him to object. 
   “It’s not necessary,” he said as he regained his composure. 
   “Perhaps not, but nevertheless, I’m here and intend to stay unless you absolutely forbid it. I’m meeting the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reporter, but I can certainly tell him you won’t allow me to be here.”
   He looked at me hard, turned on his heel and entered the board room. 
   Gulping, I said a small prayer and followed him in, finding a seat next to Jake, the A-J reporter I had treated to lunch my first week here. I was glad he was there — we hadn’t actually discussed it.

To no one’s surprise, President Stone announced his resignation, effective at the end of the semester. I went immediately up to my office to get the word out.

   Early this morning, I received a call from Boyle’s office asking to meet with the Chief of Staff after lunch.

“Will wonders never cease,” I said to Sharon over lunch. “He actually wants to talk with me.”
“More likely talk at you,” opined my friend. 

    After traipsing down three flights of the beautiful marble stairs again, I dutifully arrived at Boyle’s first floor outer office right on time, armed with a list of suggestions for revamping the department. Boyle’s secretary, Miss Katherine, apologized, saying someone had just popped in, but it shouldn’t be but a minute or two. I sat down in a comfortable leather chair to wait.
   Twenty minutes later, the door to Boyle’s inner sanctum opened and a neatly dressed man quickly exited, moving directly to Katherine and giving her some papers. Realizing then that someone else was in the outer office, he turned to me with a friendly smile and introduced himself.

“Jonathan Long, assistant to the Chief of Staff, at your service. And you are?”
   “Margaret Grant, director of Communications and Marketing. You interviewed me, Mr. Long, about two months ago.”

“Oh, yes, of course! Sorry I haven’t been up to officially welcome you. Please call me Jonathan,” he said as he looked me up and down as men are wont to do, but his study wasn’t of a sexist nature. I returned the frank appraisal, deciding he was about thirty-five, married and most likely extremely competent.

Politely excusing himself, he retrieved a different set of papers from Katherine and quickly left, calling over his shoulder to me, “We’ll talk, Margaret. I’ll call,” and headed down the hallway. His brisk footsteps, wide smile and fast-paced mannerisms reminded me of a ferret, spending its entire waking day in rapid motion. I liked him.

   “I didn’t realize it had been three weeks,” Bennett Boyle said, not bothering to look up as I entered his office. Quickly surveying the large neatly arranged, richly-paneled room, I noted the lack of personal touches with the exception of his two professionally framed diplomas from Texas A&M University. No family photos, no sports memorabilia. All business. 
   “As Chief of Staff, I’m rather a busy man, as I’m sure you can understand.”
   “Of course, especially with President Stone’s announced resignation,” I said.
   “Yes, yes. But be that as it may, let’s talk about your job responsibilities.”
   “OK, good.” Without an invitation I sat down directly across the desk from Boyle. He still didn’t look at me, but continued rifling though some papers.
   I waited for close to a minute, and finally cleared my throat. Boyle seemed to be surprised someone was there. He said, “Oh, yes, well, I am your direct supervisor, so you report directly to me with everything you do, understand?”
   “Yes, of course,” I said. 
   I then waited for his next statement, but he only continued looking through the papers on his desk.  Finally, I again broke the silence. “I’ve been sending you weekly work summaries. Have you had a chance to read them?”

He looked up at me sharply. “You have? No.” He dug back into the papers as if looking for them. “When?”
   “Every Thursday, but they’re probably not on your desk. I sent them through e-mail.”
   “E-mail? I don’t have time for e-mail. I get hundreds of e-mails a day. I’m too busy to read them all.”

“Oh, well, that would explain why I haven’t heard back from you about the new software.”
   That got his undivided attention. “What new software?” 
   “I noticed the lack of emergency notification software, so I worked with the IT department and we’ve purchased a new system. We were able to find the funding in both our budgets. It was installed just this week, in fact.”
   “An emergency notification system?” Boyle asked.
   “Yes. All universities have them in light of recent national campus events, and it makes sense. I knew you would approve and President Stone seemed pleased. We announced it in the employee newsletter.”

   “What do you mean, you knew I would app–What employee newsletter?”
   “You haven’t seen our new version of Insight?” I asked innocently.
   Insight? I cut that out of your budget. You don’t have the money for it.”
   “We don’t exactly need money, Mr. Boyle. We’re doing it electronically through all-campus e-mail.”
   “What! You sent out an e-mail to everyone on campus? Who authorized you to do that?” He reached over to his computer keyboard, moved some papers off of it and tried to boot the blank screen. He then shouted to the outer office, “Miss Katherine. Come fix this infernal thing for me.”
   Katherine, the cliched dark-suited, polished matronly secretary, quickly and efficiently obliged, saying to me as she worked, “Oh, thanks for the Insight update Friday afternoon. It was nice to be among the first to know, and I’m looking forward to this week’s issue. Here, Mr. Boyle, I’m printing a hard copy for you.”

“That will be all Miss Katherine,” said Boyle sternly.
   “Yes, sir, Mr. Boyle,” she said sweetly. She left as efficiently as she had entered.
   Boyle pulled the copy from the printer as I hid a smile. The lead story read: 
President Stone Announces Resignation at April Board of Regents’ Meeting 
Lubbock: Texas Tech University Board of Regents accepted the sudden resignation of its president at their monthly meeting this morning. President Stone said, “I have enjoyed my tenure at Texas Tech, but family issues are compelling me to move on. I will finish up projects this semester so a new president can be hired before the fall term.” 
The resignation was accepted by the Board of Regents chairman who expressed gratitude to Stone for his service to the university. A committee was appointed to immediately launch the search for a replacement.
   The article went on to list Stone’s accomplishments during his tenure at Tech. 
   Boyle looked up after reading the first paragraph. “Who the hell authorized you to do this?”
  “Well, sir, it’s news from a public meeting that the employees needed to know. In my last weekly work summary, I reported to you that we were planning on publishing the first issue of Insight on Friday, if in fact there was a resignation announcement, which there was, obviously. 
   “I e-mailed President Stone after the Board meeting to make certain I had the quote correct. He thanked me for getting the word out to employees. I copied you on the e-mails, sir. I just assumed if you didn’t want me to do so, you would’ve let me know.”

Boyle stood up and walked to his window, his back to me.

   Thinking I might as well give the screw another turn, I continued, “You know, sir, I attended the faculty senate meeting the first week I was here, and they—”

“You did what?” he said, as he turned toward me, staring hard.
   “Went to the faculty senate meeting and asked what I could do to facilitate open communications. The senate told me they wanted to know university news before they read it in the local newspaper. They were 100 percent in favor of reviving the employee newsletter, so we pulled it together. I put all this in my weekly summary to you ... sir.”
    I stoically sat there while he stared at me, turning back toward the window after what seemed an eternity. 
   After a further uncomfortable silence, I said, “I’m a firm believer our most important audience is our internal audience, so I directed our first communication efforts toward them. I’ve also reached out to the local media and have met most of the relevant reporters, and even a few irrelevant ones.”
   Boyle rubbed his head as if trying to regain his composure. He returned to his desk, looked at me and said more calmly than I thought he felt, “No more quotes from anyone unless it goes through me. And you clear all contact with reporters through this office. Do you understand?”
   “Yes sir, I understand.” 
   “Dismissed.” He sat down looking once again at his papers
   Quickly I retreated to the outer office where I gave a nod and wink to Miss Katherine who smiled broadly and mouthed silently, “Well done!” I fairly floated up the stairs to my office with a silent prayer of thanks, thinking, “Round two to Margaret Grant.”

Next blog, Monday, April 18