Boss-Paralegal Counseling Session. Price–1 King-Sized Kit Kat

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I look over at Shondra, relaxing in my over-sized chair in my office.  There must be something very powerful about this chair.  Whenever anyone sits down in it, they begin to speak as though I will be able to solve all of their problems.  It’s almost as if people come in, have a seat and instantly, we are “Paging Dr. Danni.”  I feel for my boss lady, sorta.  She not only has the cares of her world on her shoulders, but she has the cares of the world around her resting in the palms of her hands, as well.  Regardless of whether she is stressfree or a worrylord, she still radiates control and poise.  It is amazing how, even her slouch has a “come hither” appeal to it.  Wait!  I’m sounding to girl-crushy.  Wait!  Shondra is actually talking about something.

Danni, please.” Shondra says persistently.  “I swear.  Talking to you is like talking to a two-year old child with balloons in her hands, or better yet, a cat with wind blowing and loose grass around.

“I’m so sorry.”  I say, assuringly.  “I’m back.”  To comfort her and guarantee my undivided attention, I turn my chair around, place my hands in my lap and nod, approvingly.  Yes.  All attention is now on Shondra Howell…Wait.  When did I get that spot on the wall?  Has it always been there?  

“I think I am about to try to rent out Knotch’s space.  She is rarely here anyways.  I think it would be more beneficial to utilize the office as a virtual office.  What do you think?  I mean, I’m paying for her, anyways.  So, technically, it’s my office and I can do what I want, right?”  Shondra pauses with a long sigh of discontent and stares up at the ceiling.  I can tell this is my cue to interject some statement of wisdom.

“Shondra,”  I say as I turn my eyes and concentration on Shondra from the spot on the wall that turned out to be a small knat-fly.  I know this because when Shondra sighed in the air, the spot fell, moved or flew away. “I am unsure at what you want me to say.  It sounds as if you have already gone through the rationalizations on your own.  True, it is your office.  True, you have other options available, but I think you are more concerned with looking like the bad guy than actually kicking Carolyn out.

Not much is said about Carolyn Knotch.  She is basically just a title on a door.  Periodically, she will come in and collect her mail.  Her office is downstairs. Next door to Keith’s office.  Periodically, Judge Hambrick will come in and use her office for a meeting or “other” rendezvous.  Knotch became partner after she helped a Falcon player win custody of his children after he caught his wife cheating with one of the cheerleaders.  The case practically purchased her office.  Now, like Keith, Carolyn’s fame is dwindling like residue ice after a snow-storm.  I am beginning to think the downstairs is for the temp-to-perm positions.  Outside of Larry Howell, (who, clearly, isn’t going anywhere) any one who comes into this office, with an office downstairs, has one foot in an office and the other in the unemployment office.  I suppose that is why my office is upstairs–to make it harder for me to leave.

“That’s why there are so many names in this one-man–or woman–establishment.  Sure, Carolyn and KEITH had great cases, but they are one-hit wonders.  Now, they clean up your scraps and you have to work twice as hard to pay for EVERYONE!.”  God must have deemed this my opportunity for a brief come-to-Jesus meeting–and I am taking IT.  So, I continue.  I can tell she is really considering what I am saying.  It is really resignating with her.  She’s doing that tongue-in-cheek thing.  Yet, another thing that makes Shondra awesome.  Most people fidget when they are nervous, put on the spot or thinking.  There is a clear, concise tell-tell sign.  Not Shondra.  You can barely tell her tongue is in her cheek.  She basically just rubs the tip of her tongue up and down her lower incisor–subtle and oh so smooth.  But, since I have her attention, I continue.

Shondra.  The fact is, we can have one hundred different names for this firm–and if you keep at it, we will be there soon”

Shut up” Shondra interjects while chuckling.

Laughing with her and thrilled that I lightened the mood, I continue “But, no matter whose name is on the front of this building, this is still your firm–without you, we don’t exist.  I like my premium, Indian weave too much to just let you go, easily.  Carolyn is different from Keith.  Keith really wants to make it.  He is really trying to put forth effort.  He has no control over the cases, but he does have initiative.  Now, Carolyn.  That chick has a rich, Korean short man in her life–this is a hobby, a retired judge-mom and a college Dean as a dad–this place is a hobby.  She stops in to say that she came, but nothing was there for her–and she leaves.  You paying for her pit-stop is all you are doing.  So, yes, I say rent it out as a virtual office.  Why do you have to tell her?  Do it for the Vine!

“You so stupid.”  Shondra says while rising from the chair.  “I ain’t gone do it.  LOL!  I see what you are saying.  I just hate to feel like I am being taken advantage of.  I take my job so seriously.  I can’t imagine being a grown woman depending on everyone else to make my ends meet.  I thought I saw potential in her.  I dunno.”  She says while sighing and exiting the office.  “I guess I have a virtual office for rent.  You’ll work on that advertisement for me, will you?”

“You can count on me!”  I say sarcastically, with a smile and two thumbs up.  I yell out,  towards Shondra, who seems to be walking suspicously slow through the vestibu—Roger’s Office. “But, keep her name  on the door and on the building.  If something happens, we can split the payments three ways.  Of course, I say three because.” 

“Quiet, Danni!” Shondra yells back.  

We are so professional around here.  I pause and look at the clock. You got to be kidding me!  Four-fourty-five–Where did my time go?  I look down at my King-sized KitKat.

One KitKat, one boss-paralegal counseling session–paid in full.

I Promise We Work in this Office

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On my way back to my office, I distinctly hear a faint whisper of chatter from upstairs.  I know my crazy hasn’t rubbed off on Mr. Roger–HA!–Mr. Rogers–definitely a beautiful day in THIS neighborhood with him around.  I continue walking up the stairs.  Wait!  Is that a female voice?  Oh, CRAP! Shondra!. I skip every two steps in an effort to quickly arrive at my office.  I reach the top of the stairs and slow my stroll in a useless attempt to try to calm my breathing pattern before I reach the chatting duo.  I arrive at the door of the vestibule–well Roger’s office–and inhale my last deep breath and exhale a breathy, high-pitched “Heeeyyyyyy!  Morning, Shondra.  I didn’t expect you in this early.  How was Court this morning?”  I simply MUST stop making Dunkin Donuts my stop EVERY morning…some mornings…well..occasionally.

Since the office and caseload has picked up, Shondra is in the office less and less these days–which accounts for less and less work production in the lower half of the building.  I don’t mind.  I really don’t like the in-boob management style.  In-boob management is when a manager constantly peeks their head up and over what you are doing.  Sometimes, they are inhibiting more than encouraging production.  A manager’s constant pop-up, micro-management is just as annoying as if you had someone directly in front of you–HANGING OUT YOUR BOOBS–looking over everything you type, read and write.  Shondra has never really intentionally been that way. She is more anal about making sure that every dime of payroll is accounted for (I think she uses payroll as a means of allowance for Mr. Howell.)  I have come to realize that most aggravating habits people have, they are disgustingly aware of it; unfortunately, they are even more victim to always being THAT person–no matter how hard they try not to be.  So, I count it more to their head and not their heart.

     “Hey, Danni!” Shondra responds with a wonderful smile.  Shondra stands about about 5′ 8″ tall.  She has gorgeous caramel skin and full of legs.  Her torso is only noticeable because of her near-perfect posture that exudes confidence every time she walks into a room.  Her smile shines as bright as white, high-gloss copy paper.  She is a runner, but when given the chance, will out pizza-eat any man who comes by.  Her weave is flawless every time–all the time.  She is the top of her class in everything yet humble–tho her wall has more medals, trophies and certificates than a glass trophy case at a high school.  When she speaks, her voice travels as if she is speaking to the masses from atop a huge boulder in the fields.  Yes, I admire her.  She is so magnificent–yet so human in the way she loves and cares for others–well–at least me.

“I was just speaking with Mr. Carrington, here.” She says holding her hand out to Roger.

“It’s Roger, Ms. Howell.” Roger says sitting upright in his chair.

“Very well.” Shondra nods. “Then, it’s Shondra.

     Wait.  What’s going on here?  I think as I take a quick once-over the office.  Is Roger flirting with Shondra?  Are they flirting with each other?  He’ll flirt with any beautiful, voluptuous bombshell that steps into a room–Me included! I can’t stand people who just flirts with everyone–not attractive at all.  

     “Well,” I say as I walk across and between Shondra and Roger towards my office. “Now, that we are all on first-named basis.  Aren’t we all just one great, big, happy family?  So, Roger, I guess when and IF you have any issues, you feel free to walk right on in and speak with Shondra.”  As I say Shondra’s name, I make it to my door, turn around and clasp my hands together with a smile towards Roger and a witting nod. “Okay? Now, if you need ME, I’ll be in my office…working.

“We all need you, Danni!” Shondra says chuckling.

“Yeah, Danni. We will always need you” Roger adds.

     What?  They’re joking, bosom buddies, now?  I smile at my thought-joke as I sit in my chair at my computer.  I have literally gotten NOTHING done, today–literally, not a thing done.  I have been away from my computer so long that it has stopped saving the screen and just gone to sleep.  I glance down at my Galaxy S4 and notice the blue, blinking notification light.  I check my phone and notice a missed call from Wanye and a text from him as well.  Who’s bringing Pops?  I pick up the office phone and call him.

“‘Lo.”  Wanye answers.

“Yeah, Wayne, what’s up?”  I respond.

Wanye is my 6’6″, 275 lbs baby brother.  Although his real name is Wanye, so many people, my dad included, has called him Wayne for so long that it has stuck with him since he was a baby.  The only two people who call him by his real name are my mom and Sasha.  So, when we go out in public, as a family, everyone feels that Momma and Sasha are like the upper-class black people who refuse to refrain from pronouncing Target with the jay at the end instead of the get.  In my dad’s defense, Momma and Sasha thought of the name.  I guess that is a defense for Momma and Sasha, too–if anyone should know how it is pronounced, it should be them.

“Yeah, uh.  Who bringin’ Pops Saturday to da birthday?  Wanye asks.

How in the world did he get so country-bumpkin?  Kanye graduated in the top 10 percentile of his class and is currently banking a whopping 3.2 average in college.  Why is it that, when he gets on the phone, his IQ drops to below 80 and brings the party on the other line down with him?

“Wayne,” I annoyingly say back while shaking my head.  Obviously, he can’t see me shaking my head and rolling my eyes, but he knows I’m doing it–OH!  He KNOWS. “You were never bringing daddy.  You are responsible for you and Dae.  Focus, Baby, Focus.  Momma is bringing up the rear with daddy and Lulu.

“Aight! Aight! See ya.”  He says hanging up–just as frustrated with me.  I smile because I can see him rolling his eyes on the other side of the phone call.

We are planning a surprise birthday party for my dad this weekend. Nothing big, just a small family affair to say thank you in a big way.  As I move my mouse to wake up my computer, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a king-sized KitKat floating in mid-air, by a hand, in the entrance of my doorway.  I laugh out loud, shaking my head.  Shondra sure knows how to make me smile–and a KitKat is it!  She hears me laughing, walks in and takes a seat.  I stop waking up my computer and let it sleep for now.

I promise we DO work in this office–just not today, apparently.

Shake! Shake! Shake!

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My new assistant seems to be working out pretty well–once I finally got him to stop calling me “Ms. James.”  I totally feel ages older than him.  I almost demanded that he call me Danni.  Not for pure reasons like wanting him to feel at home or anything noble like that.  With the age difference, and me training him, every time he added “Missus” in the front of my name, I felt like his 5th grade teacher and it went from fun flirting to creepy old lady talk in 0.2 seconds.  So, now, we have the perfect Roger- Danni relationship.  I must give him props.  I am pretty impressed with his office skills.  Not that I was completely prejudiced in thinking that, I was going to have to draw pictures for him; however, I was a bit concerned that I would occasionally hear him singing his alphabet in order to determine which letter comes first O or R.  With dimples that deep, it’s not odd for me to feel he may have a dent in his head somewhere.  Now, we will totally ignore the times I pat my feet to the tune of the alphabet song–we all KNOW I have an abyss created somewhere in the cavity of my brain.

Beep! “Ms. James”  Keith’s frustrated voice boomed through the intercom.  I closed my eyes and hoped he thought I was gone.  “Danni!  I know you are in the office and can hear me.  I didn’t hear you gallop out of the door yet.  Have you completely forgotten about me down here? Please don’t make me have to come…”

“I’m on my way!” I cut him off and say.  I promise you, one day, I will be able to shake myself so fast that I will morph into two different beings.  Perhaps then, I can get my stuff done while catering to everyone else’s needs of the world.  I get up from my desk and drag myself out of my door past Roger’s desk.  I look at him.

“I will be back as soon as I can.” I manage to assure him with a smile.

I’ll be here.

This boy’s momma better come get her child!  Here he is doing all this flirting and me here…fresh out of batteries.

I manage to trudge down the stairs.  By the time my foot hits the last stair at the bottom of the staircase, “Ms. James! I need you Ms. James”

Son-of-a “Coming, Mr. Howell.”  I manage to sing back, gleefully.  WHERE is his wife?  She knows I cannot accomplish anything while babysitting the Mister.

“UUUGGHHH!!” I hear Keith yell out in disgust.  I would, otherwise, put him in priority, but he knows the deal.  This isn’t his first day on the job.

I walk down the hall towards Mr. Howell’s office and I begin to hear the chuckle-like cackle of the two wise-men–Mr. Howell and Papa Amos.  Again, I go JUST up to the doorway and stop, pause and look, without emotion, at Mr. Howell who has tears in his eyes from obvious amusement at the current conversation.

Ms. James!  Ms. James! Tell Mr. Amos about the new guy.  How is he doing?”

IS HE KIDDING ME!!  Is this the EMERGENCY I was bellowed for?

I manage to unroll my eyes from under my eyelids, look at Papa Amos and smile.  “Hey, Papa.”  I say, dryly.  I wish I could be THAT person, but when Papa looks up at me, kee-keeing and coo-cooing, I can’t help the smile.

“I hear he’s a looker.” Papa Amos laughs out.

I look over at Papa and shake my head.  “He’s an attractive young man, but I could care less as long as he works.”  I’m lying, of course, but that statement will be part of my daily affirmation until it manifests or until I can at least get through it without concentrating on whether the dimples in his cheeks are the only dimples he has.  “I don’t have time for you clucking hens.” I change the subject and walk out.

“I bet you have him filing everything in the bottom cabinets first!!” Mr. Howell yells out and he and Papa Amos join chorus in uncontrollable, hysterical laughter.

I walk down the hall to Keith’s office and as I approach the door, Keith says, “Oh, you finally have time for me?  I should have written all my stuff down.  Who knows when such an opportunity will come again.

What is that?” I ask back as I walk in and take a seat. “Punk-girl, Pink Sarcasm?  Doesn’t look good on you.  Doesn’t go with your eyes.  What’s up, Keith?”  Keith’s office is as retro metro as it comes.  I swear he has stock in IKEA.  If it isn’t red or yellow or a bright color, it has unusual shapes or rusty-rugged color.  Keith’s oversized, leather office-chair is 3x bigger than Keith.  He is literally swallowed up in leather chair-dimples and folds.  The chair immediately in front of you, when you walk into his office, isn’t the sitting chair.  It is the decoration.  The chair that sits mildly in the corner–looking like decoration is the meeting chair.  Nothing is as it seems in Keith’s office–befitting for such a man as Keith.

“Have you taken anything that I mentioned to you into consideration?” 

Daggoneit!  I knew there was something I was supposed to be thinking about.  Gotta play this off the best way I can. So, I say what is natural. “Keith, you have to start believing in your ideas.  You see how I am around here.  I have strategic planning with everything.  Sometimes, if you wait on me for the fulfillment of your own ideas, you will miss your window of opportunity.  No one will believe in you unless you give them something to believe in.”

“I know.  You’re right.” Keith says in a defeated voice. “I just really feel that if we expand our marketing by 10 miles each way, we will reach an untapped potential of clientele.”

WAIT-A-MINUTE!  I think to myself.  This escargot is sitting up here trying to ask me to back him up to get ME more work to do.  BayBEH!!  I didn’t accidentally tune out.  Subconsciously, I heard this bull-OWNY, and I immediately zoned out to my happy place to prevent going off on him.  So, I say the best get-me-out phrase “Okay.  I hear you, but you know I have to weigh all the pros and cons.  Let me think about it.”  I stand up and walk to the door.  As I walk out, I turn around and look at Keith’s poor look of defeat on his face.  I have GOT to work on a backbone when it comes to people.  “Keith.” I say reassuringly.  “I know you feel lost and alone sometimes.  If you have an idea, write it down.  Buy me dinner and let’s talk.  Now.  I’m not going to do your leg work for you, but you won’t walk alone.

Keith looks up at me, mustering up a smile. “Thanks, Danni.”

I walk out Keith’s door, stop, close my eyes tight and begin to shake myself as fast as I can.  Once I feel the headache coming and my vertigo kick in, I stop shaking, open my eyes and squint-look to the right of me–DANG!

Still just one of me.  Gotta shake faster next time.

 

 

The Permanent Smile

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It didn’t take them long to find me an assistant.  Apparently, the new guy is the grand nephew of the sister of the aunt of an old client of ours.  Not completely sure how all that works out, but what I can tell you is that he is what amounts to a complete stranger to me.  He came in and met, indirectly, with Shondra by way of Larry Howell.  What is amazing to me is that the news traveled so fast.  I know this was Mr. Howell’s doing.  He must have called him in when I left early.  Oh, well.  Training comes with the territory.

I arrived to work about 30 minutes earlier than usual to prepare my mind and heart for the new assistant–Roger Carrington.  Although I arrive 30 minutes early for prep-time, Roger arrives 15 minutes earlier than his scheduled time so, I get about 15 minutes of official “me” time.  Oh well.  I hear the door to the office open and I stand up and head to the edge of the top stairs.  My welcome speech is interrupted by Mr. Howell, who is yelling from behind his desk, out of his office and down the hall at the open door.

Hello.”  Mr. Howell’s voice echos, ricocheting off the hard-wood floors.   “Mr. Carrington?”

“Hello?” A voice echos back.  I can’t really tell exactly what part of the United States the voice is native to, but it doesn’t sound like a Taliaferro Countybred.

I’m in here.  Come in, Mr. Carrington!  I’m in here.”  Mr. Howell sounds awfully excited about the new guy.  I wonder what he is up to.  I REALLY am not in the mood for this EITHER.  (Seems like a going trend right now.)  Oh well.  I have to make it down the stairs and save this poor guy.  So, here goes nothing.  Deep breath, smile painted on, cheery disposition in place and ACTION!  I bounce my way down the stairs and into Mr. Howell’s office–just to the door, that is.

“Good Morning, Mr. Howell” (I sing as I stand at Mr. Howell’s office door)  I look down and see a well-groomed, beautifully bronzed man sitting in Mr. Howell’s green chair.  “Well, Good Morning, Mr. Carrington, is it?  Am I saying it right?  I can totally mutilate a name.”  I manage to say all this with a smile.  I think I can actually feel my eyes lighting up.  I am really in character, today.  Bravo! Bravo!

“You couldn’t possibly mess up my name.  Even if you did, I probably wouldn’t tell you.”  Up stand this perfectly fit and trimmed, man with noticeably broad shoulders, v-cut waist and thick thighs–Clawd-A-Mercy!  Someone has dropped a masterpiece in front of me.  He stands about 5’11″ with the most gorgeous smile and…wait-a-minute!  Are those dimples!  MY GOD!  The man has dimples.  I size him up from head to toe and realize, this being stops at about 5’11.”  5″11″ is an alright height, but he just seems too gorgeous to just stop there!  I wonder exactly how long I have been standing here sizing this man up.  So, I speak “Aww.  A gentleman.”

“No” He smirks.  “I just know that even when a woman is wrong, she is still right.”

Wait!  Is he flirting with me?  I got this covered so I respond. “Smart man.  You must have graduated ahead of your class.  How old are you, anyways?” There was absolutely no other way for me to fit age into the conversation.

“I beat out 90% of the class.  I’m 22.”  He responds.

“22 you say?” Mr. Howell questions? “I remember when I was 22.  Now, I’m a lot WISER than I used to be.”  He says with a smile.  Sometimes, I really feel sorry for Mr. Howell.  He really is a good person.  I mean.  He has a good heart.  His heart just needs more attention than the average heart.  He needs the attention of newborn babies–newborn PUPPIES, even.

Well, Mr. Carrington, you have it partly correct.” I interject. “Not everyone woman is always right.  However, I am. When you are ready.” I motion towards the door and we walk out of Mr. Howell’s office and up the stairs.  I lead Mr. Carrington up the stairway and as I walk up the stairs I hear a yell coming from around the corner from Keith’s office.

“Ms. James! Ms James” Keith sings out.  “Can you stop by when you get a moment.”

I promise I will–WHEN I get a moment.”  

Mr. Carrington and I walk to my office.  No need for a painted smile.  I have a gorgeous assistant.  Bay-BEH!  My smile is a permanent facial tattoo.

 

That’s MISTER to you.

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The weekend went by in a blur.  Every since Salina dropped the bomb on me of her leaving, I have been kinda “out of it.”  I even left early on Friday, just because every time I passed by her desk (which was inevitable since of her direct proximity to me) I tried to beg her to stay.  The redundancy and the tears became overbearing–so I left.

Today, I arrived to work early.  I pull into my parking spot next to the custom-made, platinum, F-type R Series Jaquar already parked and cooling off–Ms. Howell is here.  I let out a sigh as I grab my bag, my purse, my water jug and my coffee mug and slowly drag out of my car.  I miss Salina, already.  As I muster up enough energy to get out of Goblin, I notice Keith’s Tundra is parked, too.  Is EVERYONE here?  WAIT.  Am I early?  I looked at my phone and the time read 8:53 am.  What the deuces is going on?  Why is everyone here so early?  Well, truth be told, everyone is simply on time, but in their defense, on time is…well…early.

I open the door and trudge my way up the stairs.

“Good Morning, Mr. Howell.” I yell out around the corner at Mr. Howell.  Interesting, no response.

“Good Morning, Keith.” I yell down the hall towards Smithson Keith’s office.  No answer.

I walk up the stairs and, as I approach the top step, I can faintly hear murmuring coming from the direction of my office.

“I knew she had something extra going on anyways.” Attorney Shondra Howell says.

“Did she say anything?  Was there any warning of this happening?” Keith questions.

“She was an ungrateful brat, anyways.  She was always late, leaving early, and ALWAYS had something going on.  Some people just have no idea how good they have it.  Nothing in her life should have been more important than her job.”  Mr. Howell belts out in his matter-of-fact tone. Leave it to Larry Howell to grow some AFTER the person leaves. His voice is the last voice I hear as I approach the empty vestibule to my office–once the office of Salina Chavez.  Well, kinda empty.  It’s now full of Howell, Howell and Keith and the files Salina was last working on.  As I slowly walk into the Open Fire of Salina Chavez , Mr. Howell, gives me a glaring look of harsh judgment.

Good Morning, Everyone.”  I say as I pass through the huddle and into my office.  I continue through as if today is just another Monday–nothing new, nothing special.  I place my personal affects down and, intentionally and desperately, look for something on my desk to quickly pick up and help me seem busy!  Everyone is quiet in the adjoining room.  I supposed they are waiting on a response from me.

As I begin clicking away on my keyboard, frantically typing Dear Mr. Soin So.  We appreciate you for being available during this difficult time.  I had no other option.  I had no letter that I was working on and all the files that I need are still in Salina’s office–and I am NOT going in there.  Mr. Soin So never lets me down.  I simply open a Microsoft Word document, squint my eyes and wrinkle my forehead in deep, or at least seemingly deep, thought.  Shondra Howell, who clearly knows me and my look of fake-a-busy oh too well, leans in.

Danni.  When you finish the letter to Mr. So, can you step in for a moment.”  She says as she gives me a smirk and peers over her glasses. DANGIT!  I think to myself.  She KNEW I didn’t want to deal with this situation right now–not with an audience. I drop my shoulders so low that, if I was a dog, my tail would be practically dragging the floor.  I sigh, look up towards Heaven, roll my eyes, and slowly push my chair back.  I never open my eyes until I sigh, again, as I stand.  I walk to Salina’s office even slower than I pushed back my chair to stand up.  I even added extra steps to approach the door.  I simply do NOT want to deal with this right now.  Nevertheless, I paint on my smile and stand to the doorway.

“Yes, Ma’am.” I ask in my I have no clue what’s going on voice.

“Your shady girl threw us shade!” Mr. Howell says with a grin of contentment.  You know, sometimes Mr. Howell’s southern drawl is not so much sexy gentleman as it is country hick–this is one of those times.

“Larry! That’s enough” Shondra interjects.  “As you know, Danni, Salina is no longer with us.

When I first began working for Howell and Knotch (the original name), Shondra insisted that we all become a family and call each other on a first-name basis.  We did until about three years ago when Larry Howell became a silent partner.  After Keith made partner but, suspiciously, before pending divorce papers mysteriously disappeared and the proceedings completely dropped, Mr. Larry Howell became the additional Howell added to the business association.  Something about twenty-four years of marriage, a family secret and connections to a radio station and bing-bang BOOM–we, instantly became Howell, Keith, Howell and Knotch.  Mr. Howell’s first order of business as partner was to move his name from behind Keith’s, making us Howell, Howell, Keith and Knotch.  This way, there is no question which Howell is first.  Mr. Howell’s second task was to ensure everyone called him MISTER Howell.  It was so bad that, if we missed the inter-office memo that only went to three people, he would not answer you without the salutation.  Lastly, he wanted to begin office cut-backs–namely me.  However, that lasted about as long as his vegetarian lifestyle–which was from post Memorial Day until the office 4th of July cookout.

I acknowledged the news with a head nod as Shondra continued.

“Danni, I’m so sorry.  That will mean more work for you.  I will try to get someone in on a temp-to-perm basis as soon as I can.  I have someone in mind.  We will see how soon she can begin. ”  When Ms. Howell–Shondra–is in her work mode, she is a force to be reckoned with.  No bull.  No drama. Strictly business.  That’s one of the things I admire most about her–the ability to decipher and discern timing for everything.

“I don’t mind helping her” Keith speaks up “Of course, that is until my workload and cases pick up.  But, in the interim, I will be more than happy to lend a helping hand.”

I look over at Keith and give him a kissing gesture with my full lips.  Keith and I once worked together.  The entire time he was in law school, I trained him.  He is diligent and knows how I like things.  This will work out wonderfully because I don’t have to train anyone  Keith also knows that my choice to be a Paralegal is my choice and not because I could not cut-it in law school.  I mean, Keith’s only civil suit is proof that a degree doesn’t bring in the money.  Truth told, I make more than him.  Shondra placed Keith back on payroll so that he could justify being in the office.  Periodically, the small cases that Keith received, they were bones Shondra threw him from time to time.

“Thanks, Luvy.  I will leave the basket here on Salin…” I stopped myself and sighed.  “I will leave everything here, in this basket, on this desk.  You can even take up residence here, if you want.”

“Thanks,” Keith said, open-ended.  I knew his gentle gesture was going to be short-lived.  “But this office is too small for my desk.  Perhaps when you need something, you can just call me on the intercom,”

We dismissed.  Well, I dismissed and tuned out the remainder of what was going on.  For the rest of the day, I amused myself by calling Keith on the intercom–ALL DAY LONG.

“Keith, I need help with the papers.  Keith, I have something else in the basket for you.  Keith, did you ever finish…Keith…Keith…Keith.”