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, May 9, 2011

May 9, 2011 Chapter 17

      This week has been dry again. The farmers are truly worried about this year’s cotton crops which they are planting now... the drought in Texas has been record-breaking. We prayed for rain at the Mass yesterday. I will continue to pray for it and would appreciate it if you would remember the region in your prayers, too.

      This morning, I had a chance to activate my new plan of working with Bennett Boyle, although it wasn’t exactly the way I’d envisioned. First to arrive at the office today, when I came in from the hallway something bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Dismissing it, I continued to my desk and began processing e-mails.
   A few minutes later Elaine arrived. I called out a good morning greeting. Elaine didn’t answer, but a moment later stuck her head in my office. “Maggie? I mean, Boss? Why’d you take it home? And how?” she asked.
   “Why’d I take what home?” 
   “Your plant. The plant your boys sent you. I named him Phil. Why’d you take him home? I was taking good care of him,” she said, obviously hurt. 
    “My plant? I didn’t take it home. It’s gone?” I rushed out to Elaine’s office. “It’s gone.” We both stared at the huge empty space where Phil once proudly stood. “I thought I noticed something different when I came through earlier ...”
   “If you didn’t take him home, where is he?”

   “I’ve no idea, but as big as it is, it couldn’t be far, could it? Okay, Elaine, go see what you can find out. Surely someone saw it ... him ... saw Phil leave. Report back and we’ll figure out what to do.”
   Elaine headed out the door.

   Twenty minutes later she was back, and fuming. In a restrained voice, she said, “I found him.”
   “Great! Where? What happened?”
   “In Boyle’s office.”
   “What? Bennett Boyle stole my plant?” 
   “No, Allison stole your plant. When I went looking for him ... for it, no one knew anything until I got down to the first floor. Then Ted in Finance said he’d stayed late last night and saw two maintenance guys hauling a huge plant toward the president’s office. So I headed in that direction, but I glanced in Boyle’s office as I walked past, and there he was ... big as life ... Phil, sitting in the outer office. He looks so sad ...” She shook her head, then continued. “I calmly went in, because I thought that’s how you’d want me to handle it ... but the little trollop was all over me, telling me Phil was hers now ... something about outranking me ... that anything the Interim President wanted he could take ... and she was standing right in my face, chomping her gum at me like a heifer ... then ... then ...” Elaine’s face was flushed, and her eyes started to water as she looked away.
   “Elaine, what happened? Tell me ... you need to tell me.” 
   “She called me a nigger.”
  “I tell you, Maggie, I almost flattened the bitch.”
   I was stunned. I knew there were people who were still ignorant enough to be racist, but not stupid enough to show it at a public university. That was not only wrong and stupid, it was against the law. I quietly said to Elaine, “But you didn’t, did you? Flatten her, I mean. Right?”
  “No. I decided I’d come get you so you could flatten her.” Elaine smiled weakly, tears forestalled.
   I thought I’d figure out a way to do more than that. But first I had to get all the facts. “Tell me everything you said and she said, word for word.”

Elaine complied.  Then I said, “How’d she even know about the plant? Has she been up here?”

“Last week. When you were at lunch. She brought up that graduation report I gave you from Boyle. Sort of threw it at me, but I let it go. Must have seen Phil then,” Elaine said shaking her head again at the empty corner.

   “Yeah, it’s ... he’s kinda hard to miss. Okay, give me a few minutes to think about this because I can’t just march down there and take him back. But I can guarantee Phil will be back where he belongs soon. And Allison will get her due.” As I retreated to my office, I said to myself, “Unbelievable! Whatever was Boyle thinking?”

   Two hours later, armed with determination and a sure-fire offensive plan, I strode into Bennett Boyle’s outer office — and found it empty, except of course for Phil. I put down the small box I carried and walked over to the plant. Leaning toward it, I whispered, “Don’t worry, darlin’. I’m here on a rescue mission.” I reached up and patted Phil’s top leaves.

   Voices floated out of Boyle’s office. I turned, noticing his door was slightly ajar. I sat down to wait for Allison’s return. At least Boyle was here. I needed him if my plan was going to work.
   The voices grew louder, but I could only catch snatches of the conversation — Boyle and another man. “... not smart ...”  “... as I please ...”  “... too much attention ...”  “... taking her ...”  “... don’t care ...”  “... Katherine ...”  “... mark my word ...”
   I was startled when Allison suddenly appeared in front of me, drawling, “You’d better not be here about that there plant.”
   Reaching into my pocket, I said calmly, “Well, I am here about the plant. Elaine ...”
  “I’ve already told that nigger girl of yours–”

“Elaine,” I said forcefully, immediately standing up. I was bristling. Allison had taken a step back, but continued, undeterred. “I told her to take her black ass outta my office. I outrank her and she has no business telling me what to do, so you keep her outta here, ya’ hear?”
  The hands in my pockets were balled into fists. It was all I could do to keep my anger in check. Maybe I should flatten her, I thought. Taking a deep breath, I folded my arms in front of my chest, looked squarely into Allison’s eyes and said quietly, “Her name is Elaine Easton. She’s my assistant. Watch your mouth and show some respect for where you are and who you work with, or you’ll be out on your ass faster than you can find someone to kiss it. Am I understood?”
   Allison took another step back, her mouth gaped, gum threatening to fall again. For a moment, she looked a little frightened but quickly regained her bravado. As she was about to protest, we were interrupted.

   “Mrs. Grant, my dear!” I wheeled around to find Winston Whitaker stepping out of Boyle’s office, followed by the ogre himself. “How delightful to run into you! I was going to call you. We need to do lunch, you know what I  mean? And I promised to give you a more thorough tour of my museum! How about Thursday? Can we do it on Thursday? We’ll dine first, and then spend the afternoon windmilling!”

Thankfully, I was able to recover quickly. I noticed Boyle seemed astonished Dr. Whitaker and I knew each other. “Thursday would be great, Dr. Whitaker. Just name the time and place and I’ll be there,” I said pleasantly.

   “Wonderful, wonderful,” he said, delighted. “I’ve just been telling our Interim President Boyle here that the museum project is coming along nicely, and he has kindly given me permission to steal Miss Katherine away from the president’s office. She’s going to be my new assistant. Isn’t that grand?”
   So that’s what they were arguing about. Good for Katherine. “That’s great news. I know she’ll be an asset to the museum.”

   Winston smiled and then looked smugly at Boyle, who gave him an unreadable look; then Boyle turned to me and said flatly, “Did you need something?”
   Allison interrupted quickly, “She’s tryin’ to take mah plant.”
   The men looked at her, then at me. I smiled sweetly. “I’m sorry, Mr. Boyle. There’s been a little mistake.”
   “Mistake?” he said, puzzled.

   “Yes, sir. While it’s true that as Interim President you have the authority to use anything in the building you need, according to the university’s guidelines, Chapter Three, Section Six, page 56, personal property of employees is excluded from that right. And that beautiful plant over there,” I said, pointing to Phil, “is my personal property.”
   “Did you buy it?” Allison asked sarcastically, hand on hip.
   I answered her calmly and professionally, picking up a folder. “No, I didn’t buy it. It was a gift from my sons. I have a copy of the florist’s delivery receipt right here, along with the name and phone number of the delivery man who will testify this particular plant is the one he delivered on that date. I also have a copy of a work order from Maintenance to attest to their removal of it from my office last night after hours and placement here at the direction of your office. And I have a copy of the university guidelines, if you would like to see them, Mr. Boyle?”
   Boyle was dumbfounded, obviously unaware that his new secretary had taken anything from anywhere, and simply replied, “No.”
  Winston was highly amused and had stepped back, watching the scene with fascination. 
  I continued, “Thank you. Now I’ve arranged for some men to return it to my office, again if that’s alright with you, Mr. Boyle?” Looking at my watch, I said, “They should be here any minute now.”

   “No,” whined Allison. “This office needs some sprucin’ up and it looks better here.”
   Boyle looked at Allison, then at me, then the plant. Turning back to his new secretary he simply said, “No.” To me, he said flatly, “You may take your plant. I’m ... it won’t happen again.”
   Allison whimpered, “But ...” and stopped with a pout when Boyle gave her a stern look.

  “Thank you, Mr. Boyle. If you don’t mind, I’ll just wait here until the men arrive to take it back upstairs ... just to ensure it’s safe return. Oh, and I brought this,” I said, picking up the small box, “to take it’s place.” 
A triumphant pull of the cover revealed another philodendron, one-tenth the size of Phil. I handed it to Allison who glowered at me. 

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