Copyright 2007 Sandra Elaine Waldron
I lit a Marlboro and dropped the match down in the ashtray. It should have been golden yellow, but it was heavily stained, in spite of many washings, to a dirty brown from all the butted cigarettes it had held. Quietly, I slipped across the vaguely lit room; a ray of early morning sunshine had found its way through a crack in the blind. I pulled the cord, raising the blind until the room was well lit. Down on the sidewalk, busy people scurried back and forth, hurrying to their jobs. I gave out a disgusted sigh and turned, facing Bill. He was asleep across my three-quarter bed. The time was six-thirty a.m., and I had to wake him up in order for him to rush home before Brenda, his wife, came in from her night shift at Memorial hospital.
I gave his shoulder a good shake. “Time to rise and head home.”
He snorted. “Hunh?” Then groaned and rolled over slowly before opening those thin gray eyes of his and giving me the once over. I still had on my black negligee. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me down on the bed.
“Not now!” I protested. “Brenda will beat you home. Besides,” I glanced at my watch, “I have to get to the paper.”
He kissed me hard. And when he finally did release me, he said, “Why the hell do you wanna go to that damn paper for?”
“We’ve already had this conversation. I told you. For once, I have a good chance of landing a decent job.” I pulled away from him and stood. “A reporter may not make it rich, but it is a decent, respectable living.”
Chuckling low, Bill got out of bed and stepped into red jeans. “What makes you think you are qualified to be a reporter?”
I glared at him.
He snickered. “Besides, you have a job. I thought you liked working at Rex’s Bar and Grill?”
Bill’s amusement more than irritated me. As most men I knew, he thought I wasn’t intelligent or educated enough to be a reporter. I could write. I had studied journalism for two years in New York! Hard times had been my only reason for quitting.
Answering Bill, I said, “Sure...I like working for Rex, but, if you think I want to live in a dump like this all my life, you’re bananas.” I made a sweeping motion with my arm, indicating to the dingy room with its cracked, smudgy gray paint and shabby furnishings.
“But, babe...If you get the job, I won’t see you much. You’ll be working all the time, during the day. I’ll be working swing. When will we get together?”
I was at the window again, watching a fat, middle-aged man, dressed in a dark brown suit, wobbling down the sidewalk. He looks absolutely ridiculous, I thought.
Bill moved up behind me. “You know I will be terribly lonesome without you.”
“Crap! You’ve got Brenda...your wife! Remember?”
“Yeah...” he grinned wickedly. “Only she doesn’t know how to love me the way you do.”
“Put a lid on it, Bill! You knew when we started this...this...whatever you want to call it ...liaison that it wasn’t going to be permanent. You really don’t want it that way. And neither do I.”
“But when will I see you?”
“I don’t know. But I am sure we will get together. Just not like it has been.”
He frowned very unbecomingly. “Think you’re gonna get rid of me, if you land your fancy job?”
Now I was getting pissed. “No! Anyway, the job’s not a sure thing, yet.”
“Yet...she says. If you think you’re gonna dump me like you have all the rest of your friends, you’ve got another think coming.”
My jaw set tight “Really! You threatening me?” I thumbed my chest, setting into my ready-to-kill mode.
“Damn right!” then his face cracked into a big, fictitious grin, obviously realizing how angry I now was. “Just kiddin’...babe.”
My nostrils flared and I sighed deeply, making a real effort not to clobber the sonovabitch. “Bill, I simply want a chance to be someone. We’ll get together. I promise.”
His face told me he wasn’t really satisfied, but he was going to accept my answer for now. He kissed me, said goodbye and left. I went off to take a shower and get ready for that interview.
I was more than nervous as I slipped off my white gloves and shoved them into my small purse. I took a deep breath, feeling like I was surely going to faint and did my best to focus on not doing so, and opened the door with the big gold letters – Editorial Room. I had spoken to Mr. Sand only once over the phone, and I expected, for some reason, to see a dry, boring man, perhaps bald. I suppose that is why I was slack-jawed when I first saw him sweeping my way with long, silent strides. He was older than I, maybe fifteen years, but there was nothing homely about him. He had a strong chin, curly black hair, slightly graying at the temples, and striking blue eyes that seemed to cut right through me.
He bid me hello in a voice that took command immediately. “I take it you’re Miss Ray?” He smiled slightly, obviously realizing my uneasiness, and offered me a sun-bronzed hand to shake. “I’m Philip Sand.”
His grip was firm but gentle. “Yes,” I managed. “Lola Ray.” I think I gasped, and his right eyebrow went up slightly.
Still holding my hand, he guided me through rows of desks where reporters were busily typing and cutting away on their stories, and others hung their ears to phones and took notes, snacked on peanuts, chips and doughnuts, and sipped coffee from paper cups. A massive woman of two hundred and fifty pounds, at least – to put it gently – and around 26 sat at what I took to be the city desk. She glared at me as though I had no business there. I did my best to ignore the burning stare of her eyes and followed Mr. Sand into his glass-encased office, away from the noise and confusion of the news room.
Mr. Sand offered me a seat in front of his desk and promptly sat down in his swivel chair and took my application from a pile on his desk. He stared at it for what seemed forever. But he finally raised those piercing eyes to me and said, “According to this, you have absolutely no experience.”
He raised a forefinger to his lips and interrupted me. “Why didn’t you finish college?”
“Partly financial and partly personal.”
“I see,” he said calmly. His eyes danced with little lights every time he looked at me; he liked me. It was too bad he wasn’t as impressed with my application. “I’m going to be honest with you. I need someone with experience. Right now, we haven’t the time to train anyone. I need a seasoned reporter...like yesterday.”
I couldn’t help being irritated. “Why did you call me in, Mr. Sand? You, obviously, already knew what you needed to know from that piece of paper.” I realized I was shaking and that made me all the angrier. “What you needed wasn’t there. Why did you bother having me called in?” I stood, hoping my warbling knees weren’t knocking too loudly.
“Wait!” he said, motioning for me to sit back down. “I can’t use you as a reporter now, but I do believe I can find a place for you back in composing. That is, if you are interested?”
Working in the composing room wasn’t exactly what I wanted. And maybe I shouldn’t have been so headstrong to refuse, but I did. I was terribly disappointed and I’m sure it showed.
He ignored my refusal. “You could eventually work your way into the editorial room.” He looked up at me again and waited for my answer. “Well?”
I hesitated for a moment, then spoke, “I don’t know.”
He flashed a big, very becoming smile my way, making me want to melt right to the ground. And besides his making me feel like a bowl of jelly and getting my Irish temper up I could see he was genuinely interested in helping me, but for his own personal reasons. The kinds of reasons I had hoped the paper would get me away from. “What do you say? Hours are eight to five weekdays and half a day on Saturdays. Starts out at four-twenty-five an hour.”
I flinched. I had hoped for more. After all, it was 1955. But, then, he wasn’t offering me a reporter’s job. Not yet. I exhaled loudly. “Okay, Mr. Sand. I know I should be very grateful. I’ll take it.”
“Good!” He came out from behind his desk and extended a hand. “I’ll have Marge introduce you to everyone in the back.”