Alright! Here it is! Brand spankin' new stuff, hot off the presses. Bear with me, I'm trying to build suspense, so this begins slow and builds.The Club: Part I
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Friends and Lovers
Keith M. Rodgers
“ … and then Ol’ Spoony walks in and says ‘Ms. Philabaum! When I told you to give Johnson a job, that’s not the ‘job’ I meant!” The throng of young men gathered let out a variety of catcalls. “You could’ve heard a pin drop!” Marty finished up to the raucous cheers of his younger mates.
“Ahem!” Mr. Witherspoon cleared his throat announcing himself. The chatter in the room came to an abrupt end as the crowd quickly dispersed. “Mr. Robinson,” he said coldly, “Could I see you in my office. Now!”
“Yes, Mr. Witherspoon.” Marty Robinson got up from his desk in the mail room. His knees creaked and his back groaned from years of running up and down stairs. Speckles of grey were starting to sprout in what was jet black hair. He wore his favorite old, ratty, black sweater as protection for his arthritic shoulder against the harsh cold of the air-conditioner. He followed Mr. Witherspoon to the elevator. Mr. Witherspoon; a large man, well over six foot, but not of a particularly athletic build, his as build being more for sitting behind a desk, in his grey pinstripe three piece suits, with his silver hair slicked back harkened to an earlier time. He had a grave are of oppression as he stood to the rear of the elevator pretending to look over the papers in a file he had just retrieved.
Martin (Marty) Robinson, knowing the whereabouts of Mr. Witherspoon’s office jabbed at the “10” button with his stubby fingers. He could hear Mr. Witherspoon rustling papers behind him. If the knot in Marty’s stomach wasn’t bad enough it sank even further with the first jolt of the elevator. The whirring sound of the elevator only added to the tension between its two passengers.
“Mr. Witherspoon. If this is about …” Mr. Witherspoon cut him off with a gesture of his hand, fully intending to make him wait until in the private confines of his office. The elevator continued on its quiet journey until the eighth floor when it seemed that all of the elevator’s massive machinery could no longer pull the weight of the tension when it jerked to a stop. The doors slid open to reveal Ms. Philabaum. Marty’s averted his eyes, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t get on, that she would give them their privacy and take the next elevator. Ms. Philabaum looked both occupants in the eye and read the tension increasing in the air. Marty could practically see the carpet burns on her knees as she stepped to the rear of the elevator. Marty’s heart sank back to the mailroom.
“Tenth floor.” She ordered Marty. Ms. Philabaum had once been in the mailroom with under Marty when she first hired into the firm. She had the looks of a young starlet. Now, her looks less that of a young starlet and more of an aged character actress, she had her own office on the eighth floor and presided over the other legal secretaries, while he toiled in obscurity in the cold recesses of the basement.
The doors slid closed with a resounding thud that Marty likened unto a tomb. The machinery of the elevator whirred with all its might as it tried to lift the tension two more stories. Marty secretly prayed that it would give way and plunge them all to their deaths before it reached its destination, wondering if Ms. Philabaum would go for Mr. Witherspoon’s pants before they hit the ground.
Marty’s prayers went unanswered as the elevator finally chugged to a stop. The door of the elevator slid open. Ms. Philabaum exited first; Marty waited for Mr. Witherspoon and followed him to his office. Mr. Witherspoon shared the tenth floor and a secretary with another Vice President. Ms. Philabaum, with her nose stuck in the air, waited patiently with the secretary as grim Marty followed Mr. Witherspoon to his office.
Marty waited in front of Mr. Witherspoon’s desk as he had done in the military. Mr. Witherspoon’s office was very pristine and austere with soft classical music playing in the background, done in expensive leathers and fine wood grains and smelled of rosewood. Along with his leather ink blotter with silver pin & pencil set he had a big name plate on his desk and a silver paperweight that read ‘The Spoon Stops Here!’ Spoony himself sat in a high-backed leather buttoned chair. All of this was framed by a full length window draped in white that served to add an air of divinity. It was like seeing St. Peter to make an appointment to see God.
“Mr. Robinson,” Spoony began, “How long have you worked for this organization?
“A long time.”
“Almost twenty years.”
“How long have you served in the position of ‘Head of Mailroom’?” He said in a disparaging tone.
“Over fifteen years, Sir.”
“In all your time here have you ever heard of anyone spending fifteen years as ‘Head of Mailroom’? He looked down his nose a Marty.
“From now on I suggest that you spend less time degrading people who have advanced past your station and that have shown initiative and concern with their future with this company and pay more attention to your own career.”
“Yes, Sir. It’s just that she was given one of the new guys a rough time and I was just trying to take some of the steam out of …” Mr. Witherspoon cut him off again with that familiar wave of his had.
“I don’t want to hear it. If she gives somebody a hard time, that’s between her and them. The new guys are going to have to learn how to deal with her, and other people that give them a hard time, on their own. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Sir. It’s just that they can’t do their job efficiently if they’re scared all of…”
“Do you understand me?” It was a question that was up for debate.
“Mr. Robinson, in your duties does it say ‘starter of rumors’, or ‘caster of disparaging remarks’?”
“Mr. Robinson, in your time with this company I have come to know you as a respectable and responsible person I find your behavior in this matter deplorable! How would you like it if someone where spreading rumors and innuendos about you to your subordinates in mass for the entertainment of others?”
“No, you wouldn’t! And I wouldn’t expect you to either. I’m sure you could see how that would undermine your authority and the ability to do your job, and thus adversely affect the company. Am I making myself perfectly clear?”
“Can you assure me that when you return to your duty station you will perform your duties them to your usual standard? Or can I expect similar disgraceful displays of insubordination?”
“Yes, Sir. I can assure you that I will perform to my usual duties, and no Sir. You can rest assured I will not repeat this act.” It’s an old trick to as both a yes and no question to confuse and destabilize the witness. Marty handled it with ease.
“What would you have me do if I did catch someone doing something similar to someone such as yourself, Mr. Robinson?”
“Excuse me, Sir?”
“Punishment, Mr. Robinson. Certainly, we can’t consider the matter closed until we’ve come to an arrangement as to punishment, now can we?”
“Yes, punishment, Mr. Robinson: Punitive action. Should this incident get around it has to be on record that I, as an executive of this firm, took action on behalf of the offended. Otherwise, it would seem that I turned a blind-eye to a sexist offense, and thereby contributed to fostering a sexist attitude in this institution.” Spoony sat back in his chair and folded his fingers. “We couldn’t have that now could we, Mr. Robinson?”
“No, Sir. I suppose we couldn’t have that. We must protect the company at all cost, mustn’t we?” Mr. Witherspoon raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t meant to sound so sarcastic.
“The punishment, Mr. Robinson.”
“Sir,” Marty stuck out his chest as if proudly facing the firing squad and in his finest military voice mocked, “I recommend a formal letter of reprimand be placed in my personal record.” Witherspoon tented his folded fingers in front of his face, drumming them on each other apprehensively before pronouncing judgment.
“Mr. Robinson, we shall consider this a verbal reprimand. If, in the future, I or any other agent of this company tells me, or witness you spread anything other than the Christian religion abroad a formal letter of reprimand shall be placed in your file. Future incidence shall also be punished by probation, suspension and further disciplinary action. Are we clear, Mr. Robinson?”
“You may return to your duties, Mr. Robinson.” Mr. Witherspoon sat up in his chair and opened his file on his desk. Marty turned on his heels in an official about face. In the moment before closed the doors he thought he saw a smile on Spoony’s face.