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 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

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