He Said, She Said

Prompt: Twist

graphic business

It was meant to be an informal meeting, just to determine who had sexually harassed who, or even if such an event had occurred.

Sheryll, standing before a bank of buttons in the elevator, believed she had no reason to be nervous, so she impatiently pushed the nagging doubts from her mind. She wore a sleek black pencil skirt and perfectly tailored cashmere powder blue jacket. The HR boss, Carley Spoon, was a busy woman, no nonsense, and unlikely to let the dispute ramble on for long. It was a sensitive area, of course. Jimmy was handsome and charming. Sheryll was polished and attractive. She had worked at the station longer than he, and had a spotless reputation. So, she told herself sternly, nothing to worry about.

She realized she hadn’t pressed any floor buttons. She jabbed at 9 and felt the jolt of the elevator raising her up, leaving most of her stomach behind.

Jimmy was already there, sitting in one of the chrome and leather chairs set in a semi-circle in front of Carley’s desk. As was Carley’s assistant Terry, and another red-headed young woman who Sheryll didn’t recognize; but there was no sign of the HR manager yet. Sheryll glanced at her watch. She was a few minutes early.

She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder, and spun around.

“Hey, sorry, stay cool.” It was Molly from the art department. She was slim, dark and exotic, and most of all, ambitious. She took the attitude of acting the part of the position she hoped to attain. “I just thought I would sit in,” she said with a smile.

“Sit in?” said Sheryll.

“Yes, taking a course in Human Resources. Two nights a week.” She reached a around Sheryll to peek the office. “Nice digs!” she said.

“What?” Sheryll said, irritated, as Carley appeared from nowhere with a file folder. She beckoned Sheryll inside with a flourish of her hand, and Molly trailed in after her.

Sheryll heard Molly greet Carley Spoon with a boisterous Hi, How are you? as if they were old chums who had missed each other since last meeting. Carley didn’t answer and the room took on an awkward air.

Instead of taking a seat in the plush leather seat behind the desk, Carley perched herself on the front corner of the desk. This said: I expect this to be brief.

Terry quietly closed the door, and setting a small brushed nickel device in the center of the desktop, said, “We’re gonna record this.”

Jimmy’s chair was farthest from the door, and slightly separate from the other four chairs, which formed a cluster near the desk. As Carley went over some basics (introducing everyone and establishing basic rules), Sheryll discreetly peeked at the young man. He sat confidently, legs stretched in front of him, looking slightly surly, slightly arrogant, like a recalcitrant student at the principal’s office. He wore khaki shorts, a black t-shirt and a grey fleece jacket, perhaps feeling confident enough that he need not dress up, as Sheryll had. He was a tall man, with natural broad shoulders and the healthy glow of someone who spent a lot of time outdoors. His slightly mussed, curly hair was tied in a small pony tail at the back. Diffused sunlight streamed in, penetrating the sheer drapes on the window, and glinted like sparks of gold in the fine, blond hair of his legs and thighs.

Carley first asked Sheryll about her position and and asked her to recount what had happened that Friday afternoon. Sheryll leaned forward and spoke to the recorder on the desk. “I’m Media/Resources Manager,” she said. Carley looked at her watch.

“I went into the DVD storage library to pick something up,” she began.

“What time was this?” asked Carley politely.

“I guess around three o’clock.” She had been late back from a three-glasses of wine lunch with Tony, her best friend who was in town for the afternoon. She planned to pack some docs and DVDs into her briefcase and work on the project later, at home, after a nice long nap, or tomorrow, maybe.

“Jimmy was in there, in the corner with an order pack, picking out cuts and so on, so I went over and said hello.”

Carley was absently reading something in the file folder. “What exactly was said?”

“I believe I asked him how he was enjoying the job, or words to that effect.”

“How long have you been an intern here, Jimmy?” Carley asked.

“Three months,” he replied.

“How did you answer Ms Ross?”

“I was polite, just said it’s going good.”

“Then what?”

“Then I just—“ Sheryll began, but was interrupted.

“Then she moved in close,” Jimmy said. “She pressed up against me and her … chest rubbed on mine.”

Molly coughed.

“Oh,” said Carley. “Is that what happened, Sheryll?”

“Then,” Jimmy interrupted again, “she brushed the back of her hand against the front of my pants.” He was scowling, now, not looking at Sheryll or anyone in the room.

Carley crossed her legs. They were plump but shapely.

“Do you mean your penis area?” Carley asked.

The room was airless. Jimmy’s cheeks grew rosier. He nodded.

“That’s a yes?”

“Yes.”

“And so, Jimmy,” Carley continued. “Were you aroused by this?”

“What?” he said, sitting up straighter.

“What were you wearing that afternoon, Jimmy? Something similar to today’s outfit?” Carley asked.

“Whatever,” he said. “Yes, shorts and a t-shirt.”

“Short shorts, like what you have on now.”

Sheryll glanced at Jimmy, who still stared fiercely at something invisible near the potted fig tree on the other side of the door.

“Did you touch Ms Ross, Jimmy?”

“I pushed her back a little.”

“Where did you touch her?”

Jimmy paused. “Sort of on the hip.” he said.

“I see. Then what?”

“I left!”

“You left.” She transferred her steady, inscrutable gaze to Sheryll. “Sheryll?”

“As I recall,” said Sheryll, “I left the room first, went back to my office.”

“Did you rub on him?” Molly blurted out.

“Molly.” Carley’s voice, cold and fierce.

“Sorry,” said Molly.

“As I remember it,” Sheryll said carefully, “we said hello and he was very friendly, and put his hand on my waist. It was a little uncomfortable, but no big deal, so I left.

“Well,” said Carley after a pause, closing the file and placing it on the desk beside her. “A clear miscommunication, that’s all.” She shrugged.

“No miscommunication,” Jimmy said.

“I think you appreciate, Jimmy, that this is a ‘he said, she said’ situation,” Carley said patiently. “First, you certainly give off the vibe of someone very interested in action, from the way you dress to the way you speak and look at the women in this office.”

Jimmy rallied as if to speak. “I’m not finished,” said Carley. “In fact, you, Jimmy, have somewhat of a reputation around the sixth floor.” She paused. “Sheryll has been with us over six years, with nothing even remotely like this coming to light. You are young and young men sometimes have inappropriate urges. Let’s leave it at that. You won’t lose your job, but there will be a six week probationary period where we will watch you very closely.”

“You have to be fucking kidding me,” Jimmy said.

“I’m not fucking kidding you,” Carley said.

Jimmy stood up, tore off his grey hoodie and threw it on the ground. Carley rolled her eyes. “Are you finished with your manly display?” she said, looking at Terry, who stood up and went to door. He opened it wide and the sounds of a busy office filtered back into the room.

Carley picked up the recording device, and then put it back on the desk. She stood up. “We’ll move you to another department, of course,” she said to Jimmy.

“We need an intern in Art,” Molly volunteered.

“The fuck you will,” Jimmy said. “I quit.”

“Let’s say you’re fired, and call it a draw,” said Carley.

Enraged, Jimmy strode to the door. He turned to Sheryll. Alarmed, she pressed against the back of the chair.

“And fuck YOU,” he said, jabbing a finger in the air. He stormed out.

Carley turned to Sheryll. “God, men have such tempers. I don’t know how they function.”

 

Before I Kill You…

Prompt: Dominant


Oh, Wednesday.

You now remind me how little I am writing. I see the gaps in the calendar, Wednesday to Wednesday. You are becoming a nag. I would like to transfer all my frustration and laziness to you, if that is ok.

Thank you, Wednesday.

As for today’s prompt, “dominant”, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, which are marginally relevant to the theme?

cartoon mantis sex


cartoon patriarchy


cartoon bossy too


Wednesday, I forgive you.

~~FP

Collections

Prompt: Reservation

blue tit art

Evangelica was such a beautiful name, even if she shortened it to “Eva”. Why, it was an even prettier name than Elizabeth, which Leep had always thought to be the prettiest name in the world.

They met for the first time at a cafe called “Benny’s Reubens and More” which they agreed to after a lengthy back-and-forth about restaurants ranging from Famous Chef to take-away. They met at 5:30 pm, and the place was virtually empty; a compact environment of hard surfaces, with a laminated tile floor and polished, country-style oakwood chairs.

So even though the picture in her profile on Plenty of Fish in the Sea was blurry and contained more than one woman, and did not specify which was Evangelina, Leep was able to spot her at a table near a tall plastic (“faux”) plant, cleaning her nails with a fork. To her credit, she stopped immediately when Leep arrived and introduced himself.

He had given himself plastic (“faux”) courage earlier by imbibing two bottles of chilled Gambrinus Plzen.

“My first husband called me ‘Angel’,” said Eva, then she directed her attention to the menu, which gave Leep the opportunity to examine her face.

The profile photo had given no clue that a cascade of dark freckles romped across her cheeks and nose, and in some places they joined together in a great flock, like migrating birds. Leep was enchanted.

Leep was sure their conversation sounded, to the server who lurked in the shadows, like alien beings trying to communicate, since Eva’s voice was in a high register, and his own was very low. Like a cow communicating with a blue tit. Eva did most of the talking. She’d said she was outgoing, which was convenient for Leep, since he was not.

All he could really think about was the end of the date, when he believed he had a strong chance of ending up in her bed and thus ending a very long drought which spanned from his first sexual experience at age 18 and a half, to the present. He had this opinion because Evangelica had indicated she was “open-minded” and “not old-fashioned” and “experienced”. Debbie told him that meant she was a bit of a slut, until her mother told her to shush. Her mother was right. “Slut” was a harsh word, the wrong word.

Don’t blow it, he told himself, over and over. It wasn’t so much that he was attracted to Eva in particular, despite her freckles, as much as he wanted some solid experience so he would not look like the inept noob that he felt he was at the moment, to a woman he truly did want to please.

During their dinner of warm bowls of borscht and slabs of white bread, she was duly attentive but clearly unimpressed at Leep’s claims that he was both a mill worker and an almost-published author. She talked a lot about her “collections”— her spoons, her vintage magazines, her knit baby clothes, her enamelled pill boxes. “Not Franklin Mint, either,” she assured Leep, who had no idea what Franklin Mint was. She mentioned her first husband frequently, but made no references to the second one. She owned her own house. Would Leep like to see it?

You bet he would. Though he did not say that out loud. He was ready. He’d exfoliated and clipped and snipped and gelled and moisturized and deodorized and did all the things an article the old edition of GQ at the barber shop had recommended.

He followed her car in his, and she parked in front of a green stuccoed-bungalow, squat and square, with light trapped behind thin curtains at the wide front window.

She was a collector, all right. “Pardon the mess,” she said with a giggle as she opened the front door and revealed the start of a passageway— a winding narrow path between columns of boxes, shopping bags, and newspapers stacked to the ceiling. This path led to the kitchen, which was similarly stuffed with boxes, garbage bags, empty plant pots, and one magazine tower that spilled onto the kitchen table. “Ice Fishers’ Digest,” said Eva. “My first husband was a subscriber.”

Leep suddenly noticed there was another human being in the claustrophobic, dimly-lit space. Seated at the formica kitchen table was a teenage girl, in striped flannel pyjamas, eating a bowl of cereal with milk. She didn’t raise her head or say hello— it was the crunching of the Fruit Loops that caught Leep’s attention.

“Oh!” said Eva. “This is my daughter, Paulette. Also from my first husband.” Paulette rose, put her empty bowl in the sink, which was crowded with dirty dishes, cutlery, and two plastic cutting boards, and padded silently out of the room.

“Teenagers,” said Eva with a sigh.

There were more issues of Ice Fisher’s Digest in the bedroom, and Leep noticed one was the recent Summer International Issue. So she continued the subscription? There were other magazines, too. And newspapers that went as far back as the last US presidential inauguration. Amazon.com boxes. Plastic bags full of mystery contents. There were even unopened Franklin Mint boxes— was Evangelica entirely honest with Leep? There was not a square inch of surface unoccupied, save for the path to the bed, the bed itself, and narrower path from the bed to the small, ensuite bathroom.

Their first attempt was about as clumsy and ineffectual and swift as Leep had expected and dreaded, but Evangelica seemed unperturbed. Later on, a second attempt had a more pleasant result, and as Eva cuddled up to Leep’s exfoliated and moisturized torso, she whispered, “I want to have your babies.”

This seemed sudden. Leep remembered he had an early morning appointment and got his clothes on and left, after awkwardly planting a kiss on her forehead as he’d seen Ryan Gosling (or was it John Hamm?) do in a movie.

He navigated through the passageways, noticing a powerful, dominant odour for the first time. Cat litter? Cheese? Buttermilk?

It didn’t matter. Leep got into his car and turned on the ignition. He sighed heavily, but with contentment. Leep had got laid.

Shipwrecked

Prompt: Calling


Hello Wednesday,

My brother is in Amsterdam for three months and has been trying to call. For some reason I am not around when he phones, and he sent an email saying it was like trying to contact someone in North Korea. I wonder how he knows that? All this travel to visit his girlfriend– really? You think you would know someone you grew up with, but people who live in the shadows of politics, cartels, and/or dark webs must have their ways of deceiving even their families.

I can only hope he works for the good guys. There are no guarantees, however, even though our nana used to pinch his cheek and say, “Be a good boy!” It was more a command than a suggestion, and the pinch was a taste of the pain to come if he sinned.

Be a good boy, brother, or nana will pinch the bejeezus out of you when you join her in heaven.

In the spirit of today’s daily prompt, calling, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, the first of which is tenuously connected to the theme?

cartoon call you back


cartoon shipwrecked


cartoon tax cuts


Have a great day, and good luck with the lottery.

fluffy pool pencil sketch

The Perfect Way

Prompt: Quicken

vodka-ice-water-ice-8493509

“Only you make my heart quicken,” said Kenneth, sitting on the edge of the bed. He had loosened his tie, and his shirt, a size too big in an attempt minimize his weight gain, bunched around his abdomen. He was pale and white.

They were in the Presidential Suite at the Four Season’s Hotel. Outside the windows, city lights twinkled and dimmed. Lydia was seated in a dove grey, faux suede sectional couch, long legs crossed. She was, as usual, fresh, fragrant, and immaculately groomed.

“Thank you, Kenny,” said Lydia. “Will we be in bed tonight, or simply talking as we did last time?”

“In bed, Lydia,” said Kenneth. He went to the bar and poured them both a vodka, brilliantly clear over brilliantly clear, crystal, half-melted ice cubes. “You know my story. I’m in danger.”

“I do,” she said. She stood and walked to where Kenneth sat on the crisp linen bedspread. She stroked his thinning hair. “How is Magda?”

“She’s good, the kids are good,” he said. “Everything is good.” He then spoke quietly and precisely, as if he’d prepared a speech. “If you leave quietly later on, so much the better.”

“I understand,” said Lydia. “But I’m not sure.”

“I can’t think of a better way.”

“For you.”

“Yes, for me, but I am also sparing Magda,” said Kenneth.

Lydia raised her eyebrows as if to say, Now?, and Kenneth had the perception to blush. It had been a difficult six months. The salacious scandal, the humiliating reveals, the financial losses, the intense stress, the devastating health problems, and the loss of face and reputation, all while clinging to the deadening belief that enough lies would temper the pain.

They made athletic love in the king size, pristine white-sheeted bed. If the dead have memories, then Lydia provided lots of those. He left in the perfect way that only those who choose can know. His heart quickened, and he died.

Courage and Finesse

Prompt: Zing!

 

hummingbird-on-white-bg

“You are too perfect,” Annie said.

“Make me imperfect,” said Virginia.

Annie smiled. “That’s not what I do.”

They were on Annie’s balcony in East Manhattan, an extension of her new, small two bedroom apartment. It was set high enough that traffic and street noise were a pleasant, comforting hum. Twinkling lights were starting to appear.

“I am far from perfect anyway,” Virginia said, with some irritation. “Treat me like any commission.”

They both took a sip of wine. “I’m too expensive for you,” said Annie.

“I’ll give you a jar of my homemade cranberry peach jam,” said Virginia.

Annie hesitated. She pushed her glasses farther up the bridge of her nose. “Ok,” she said. “I have studio time next month. I want you to arrive as your imperfect self.”

“No makeup?” said Virginia.

“No nothing of any kind. Bring your pain and lost memories. We’ll find something.”

Virginia nodded. It was time she was revealed for the fraud she was. She looked forward to it. It would be cleansing, freeing, a path full of stones and dust that would lead to the person she really was, which was not perfectly beautiful, nor perfect in nature, nor perfect in any way at all.

“Your husband contacted me,” said Annie.

There was a slightly chill breeze. Virginia pulled the muslin wrap around her shoulders. “Cash? Seriously?”

“Yes. I didn’t remember him at first, but I think he was at that Vanity Fair couture shoot in Paris? Eating all the eclairs.”

Virginia laughed. “Yes, that’s Cash.” She set her wine glass down on a sleek stainless steel side table. “How did he even get your number? What did he want?”

“How, I don’t know. Am I in your phone?” said Annie. “He wanted advice. He submitted three pics to the PhotoLens international nature photography contest, and seemed surprised that he didn’t win it.”

“Oh no, sorry Annie.”

Annie waved her hand. “He contacted me in text, then sent me the photographs he submitted to the contest. Really nice shots of hummingbirds. He didn’t seem to realize he wasn’t the first to capture a hummingbird mid-flight.”

“Cash believes all his random thoughts are original and kind of genius,” said Virginia. “What did you tell him?”

“That his shots were good. But unoriginal. Even a great shot has to have an essence. His shots were technically ok, but spiritually void.”

“Wow,” said Virginia.

“Yes, sorry, I hope he wasn’t upset.”

“He said nothing.”

“Ask him about it, if you are still talking,” said Annie.

“Yeah we are, mostly,” said Virginia.

“Still not interested in changing teams?” said Annie. “I know I’m too old and too busy and too self-absorbed, but I know some good people.”

“No thanks, Annie,” said Virginia. “Tempted as I might be. And thank you for counselling Cash.”

“Does he even know who I am?” asked Annie.

“Oh god no,” said Virginia. “He knows you are a photographer friend of mine. Cash is like a figure skater, Annie. He skims across the ice, sometimes with great courage and finesse, and has amazing moves and tricks, but has no curiosity about what lies below the surface.”

“I thought he was a treasure to be discovered.” Virginia said. “Annie, he is a treasure, but a box of shiny gems, with no diamonds or gold coins hidden deeper in the treasure chest, but he is…” She paused and picked a fruit fly out of her glass of merlot. She flicked it into the night, over the city of New York.

“Hmm,” said Annie. “More wine?”

Virginia looked at the lights of the lower east side, now shimmering in the darkness. She was incapable of deciding what do do with her life until she understood who she was. “Yes please,” she said. “Thanks, Annie.”

Unstoppable

Prompt: Unstoppable

megality

Kimberly Bak was having second thoughts. It’s normal to have second thoughts, her mother told her when she tried to broach the subject on the weekend. The wedding megalith had started its unstoppable journey towards the union of Kimberly Nuance Bak and Harrison Albert Pepper.

The secret service had been to the house and searched the grounds, and even installed a few security cameras, because the wife of a President of the United States was attending, along with her daughter and son-in-law. You could hardly have the feds poking around your home and asking questions of your staff, and then call the whole thing off.

The marquees, and wooden dance floor, and bunting and garlands were all set up on the back lawn. Invitations had been send and responded to. Gifts were set up on display in the downstairs guest room. Kimberley’s wedding dress had been altered, received, gently pressed and hung in her closet. The caterers had left crates of plates, utensils and decorations in the kitchen foyer. The band and the photographers had sent confirmation messages. Harrison Pepper had sponsored Kimberly’s father’s membership application to the golf club.

She had hinted to her mother that she wanted to tell Harrison about the baby.

“There is no— was no— baby,” said Kelly Bak.

“I don’t regret it,” Kimberly said slowly. “But I feel bad about it.”

“You are a sweet child,” said her mother. “And were a child when you got pregnant.” She pushed Kimberley’s chestnut hair off her face. “There is no need to mention it to Harrison. I’m sure he has a few skeletons in his closet.”

“I don’t want to know,” said Kimberly.

“And I’m sure he feels the same way.”

But Kimberly wanted to tell him anyway. If he was offended or horrified, and called off the wedding, well, she would feel relieved. She was pretty sure she would feel relieved. What she liked most about Harrison was the sex, followed by his sense of humour and his ease with people, his skill at anything he put his hand to, and his respect for her parents.

She just wasn’t sure that she loved him.