out of place start
“You’re in early,” Joyce said as Lenny passed her desk. Lenny hired Joyce two years ago as the receptionist for their growing commercial art house. When Jake and Lenny first rented the space, they barely had enough money to pay for the rent and art supplies. When they landed their third client, they decided to hire someone to take care of the administrative tasks. Joyce was the first employee on the payroll and they treasured her. She designed the procedures for how the office worked and made sure everything ran smoothly.
“I got stuck in traffic,” Lenny said. It was becoming more difficult for him to arrive on time. That surprised him. When they started the office, Lenny spent most days working. He loved the excitement of building up the business and working on the next big account. As the years have gone by, however, his excitement has waned. The business was doing moderately well, but not well enough for Lenny to get out and try other things. Going to sleep at night was getting harder, a symptom he remembered from his first job out of college. When you did not want to go to sleep at night because you feared waking up and going to sleep, it was definitely a sign that there was something not right at work. But Lenny fought through the feeling, sure each morning that something would change and inspire him. He had his future to think of, and that future might require him to support a family. He knew that no matter his desires, he had to think of that foremost.
Joyce did not comment. He wished there was a back door that he could enter through so he would not feel guilty passing her every morning—or, he thought regretfully—most afternoons. Joyce worked hard and her hours were long, arriving early in the morning to greet the clients and leaving late in the evening. She was dedicated to the business and unless an all-night project was in the works, she stayed until the last person left the office. She was heavily invested in the business and in Jake and Lenny, and her job was her life. She never married and enjoyed the business and the people she worked with. Lenny was always nervous for Joyce. He was not sure what would become of her when she no longer needed the business, or the business no longer needed her.
“Joyce, have I told you lately that you’re the greatest,” Lenny said, trying to take a different tact.
“You’d be the greatest as well if you started showing up more regularly, Lenny. Your clients are growing a little aggravated by your hours,” Joyce said. For a small woman, she had a loud voice, which carried past the reception area into the small room that the junior artists shared. Lenny winced as he saw all the artists lean toward the exchange. Joyce was a small ball of energy. She darted around the office organizing projects and ensuring that problems were put in front of the right person. Her hair looked like a large basket of straw, never moving, and in a different shape every day. She was a strong lady, and Lenny and Jake, and the rest of the staff respected and feared her. She ran the office as a little general. Many of the junior artists bitched and complained about her methods—but their bitching and complaining always occurred outside of her earshot.
“I know, Joyce. It’s just been hard on me lately. I have too many clients and not enough time to think through to a creative solution. But I’ve never dropped the ball, and I’m not going to start now. I’m going to catch up with my backlog today, and maybe go woo some new clients. It’s been a while since I’ve set up an appointment with a prospective client,” Lenny said and walked briskly passed her desk not waiting for a response. He knew that he would not call any clients. It was hard to sell something you no longer believed in.
Lenny past through the junior artists room and kept his head down. All of the drafting tables were filled, and Charlie was looking over the shoulder of a drafter. Lenny did not know the drafter’s name—he did not know many of the names of the drafters anymore. He knew he needed to spend more time with the drafters. When he was young and working as a drafter at Batchelder & Sonny, the more experienced drafters spent considerable amounts of time with him teaching him the ropes. He always appreciated their tutelage and time, and promised himself that he would return the favor by teaching the next generation of commercial artists.
He closed the door of his office and positioned his chair to face out the window. There was not much of a view. His office overlooked the rear wall of the adjoining commercial building. His firm was in building C, and from his window he could see the rear of building E and the side of building D. There was a small patch of grass between the three buildings, and Lenny stared at that, studying the yellow dandelions that sprouted over much of the space. The grass itself was rather bald, the maintenance people spending only a small amount of time every week mowing the lawn and not providing any additional services. Lenny tapped his foot on the glass and watched how the distortions in the glass created by the tapping made the lawn move in and out.
There was a knock on his door, and Lenny spun his chair around as Jake entered. “How you feeling this fine day,” Jake said. Jake was a large man, his bulk covering most of the door. He dressed, as he usually did, in an expensive blue suit, this time with a brilliant red vest. He had impeccable taste in clothing and loved the classics with a twist, a style that permeated his art as well.
“Well, Jake. Sorry about missing the meeting this morning. I had a tough time getting up,” Lenny said.
“It is okay, Lenny. That’s why we’re partners—you know, there are two of us to take care of problems like this. The guys at Tail-Light Industries liked your recommendation, particularly the cartoon car. They want to run the illustration in the trade magazines. I wanted to stop by and congratulate you,” Jake said.
Relief should have flooded over Lenny, but he felt nothing. He had spent less than an hour sketching out the cartoon car and had given it to the drafters to finalize. To do such little work for such a large account should have terrified Lenny, but he had grown accustomed to applying less and less effort. It was not that he did not like his art or the business. He enjoyed both. It was more that his apathy was increasing and he did not understand why. He felt that there was something else out there, something he should have been doing instead of running the business. “I’m glad it worked out,” Lenny said.
“So am I, Lenny, so am I. We still have a few more accounts to take care of. I was thinking of finalizing some storyboards this weekend. You interested in pulling an all-night session, just like the old days?” Jake said.
“I’d like to, Jake. But I promised Samantha that we would spend the weekend together. Don’t you have to entertain Tommy this weekend as well?” Lenny said.
“Tommy can entertain himself for the weekend. And if Samantha needs company, I’m sure Tommy would be more than happy to stop by. We really should finish planning for these accounts. I’ve already warned the drafters that it was going to be a long weekend. We could certainly use your help. There are three campaigns that need to go out early next week,” Jake said.
“Let me talk it over with Samantha and get back to you, Jake. I looked over our proposals, and some of the illustrations should be interesting. I had some ideas about the chair one. I’ll try to drop off some sketches,” Lenny said. Even as he talked, he knew he would not work the weekend. It was difficult enough for him to work during the week. Contemplating waking up early on a weekend and driving to work was unbearable.
“I’d like to see those, Lenny. Drop them by my office at any time. Charlie wanted to talk to you. He has some ideas on one of the campaigns you were working on,” Jake said.
“I’ll be sure to set something up with him for later. I’ll get to those sketches right away,” Lenny said.
Jake closed the door behind him, his cologne still lingering in Lenny’s office. Lenny spun his chair around and stared out the window, trying to find inspiration in the dandelions that marked the balding grass.
Yeanda stood on top of Round-Eye’s lookout, a hill that looked over her village. The top of the hill was sandy, the grass and bush ending a few feet below the top. A small tree clung to the side of the top, leaning awkwardly to the left, its roots visible like a receding tooth. Yeanda was spending a part of each day on the top of the hill. The strong, howling winds silenced her thoughts and gave her a respite she could not find in the village. Her visions were dark these days. She saw death around her and she feared for the future of Long-Toe’s village. When she climbed to the top of Round-Eye’s lookout, she was able to place her problems in perspective. She sat under the shade of the tree and allowed the wind to blow her loosely fitting robes. She was unconcerned when the top of her robe opened up under the punishment of the wind, and enjoyed the feeling of sand whipping across her naked chest.
When the wind offered a small respite, Yeanda pulled her robes over her head and let her mind tackle the possible future for her people. She saw the white men descending upon her village and the desolation that would follow. Nobody would live in these lands, she knew. When the village was set aflame, there would be nobody left to worship the gods in the wooded areas or the hills. She felt a great sadness and pushed it aside. She knew there was no future for her village, but the people in the village, for them she would find a future.
The trek down the hill took Yeanda the better part of the day, and by evening she entered her village. Red-Down met her at the end of the path.
“I was worried for you, wise woman,” Red-Down said. She was the youngest adult in the village, and the first baby Yeanda delivered when she arrived. When she was born, Yeanda knew that she would replace her one day as the village’s guide. She had spoken to the mayor and Red-Down’s parents, and they had agreed to allow her to share in her upbringing. Yeanda was not as confident about Red-Down’s future anymore. Where once she saw her traveling to different villages and embracing the arts of the wise woman, her future had darkened along with the rest of the village, and the her people. She might survive the upcoming catastrophe, but there were forces moving through the world that Yeanda did not understand and could not foretell. Not knowing terrified Yeanda, but she schooled her face to hide her emotions. One of the first lessons she had taught Red-Down when she started her formal apprenticeship was to never let her patients share in her fears.
“You know you waste your worries, dear child. The winds of Round-Eye will not take me,” Yeanda said.
“It was not the winds that I worried about, wise woman,” Red-Down said. Yeanda regretted that Red-Down would never share her vision. It was not something she could teach, just like she could not pass down her breathing or her height. Her powers came from her family, and only her child would share in them. While Yeanda cared for Red-Down as much as she would of a child of her own blood, she knew that her gifts were not hers to pass down in that fashion. It was almost a relief to Yeanda. As of late, she did not see her visions as much of a gift. They were dark and dominated all of her thoughts. The possibilities constantly ran through her mind at an incredible pace, and all she could do was watch and hope that she caught a possibility as it fleeted out of reach.
“What but the winds do you worry about, child? There are no demons on Round-Eye and the paths are not treacherous,” Yeanda said.
“No, wise woman, even if there were demons and one-hundred foot drops on the hill, I would not fear for our safety. You know much more than I could ever hope to know and those mere challenges would not thwart you. I worry for you, wise woman. These past few weeks you are showing a strain I have not seen in you since I’ve known you. The strain is more apparent every day, and even the villagers are starting to talk about it. The mayor stopped by my hut yesterday to ask about it. He worries that you work too hard and are growing old and tired,” Red-Down said.
Yeanda laughed. “Age has not yet found me, dear child. I am working through my visions to determine what is best. It is tiring work and I have not been as vigilant about my rest as perhaps I should have been. Have you prepared my dinner,” Yeanda said.
“Yes, wise woman. I’m sorry to have distracted you with such talk. It is not my business to question you. But I do worry,” Red-Down said.
“While it is not your business, I do appreciate it, Red-Down. I knew when I first saw the down on your head that became your namesake that you were the next wise woman. You must trust your instincts and understand your village, and that village includes me, your silly wise woman who doesn’t always know what’s best for her health,” Yeanda said.
“You taught me not to argue with you, wise woman, so I’ll leave it at that. We should break our fast. The mayor has called a village meeting for tonight,” Red-Down said.
Yeanda sighed wearily and followed Red-Down into her hut.
out of place end
Word count: 2,441 (I included the 8 words that mark an improperly ordered section. Yeah, it’s cheating, but it’s only 8 words!)
Words left: 23,578 (passed the half-way mark!)
Caffeination: tall mocha (broken record)
Feeling: much, much better. I started jotting down some notes for what I wanted to write, and it all started pouring out of me. It might have had something to do with my generally good mood today.