Eleventh Day - The Project
Disclaimers: I made up everything except the Monday morning part. All situations and characters I made up belong to me.
No violence. No profanity. No sex. I was aiming for dialogue driven subtlety. That said, I have no idea why you are reading this!
Summer Seth knocked on the open door of her boss's office as she watched the woman shuffle the papers around on her desk. Finally, Rebecca Maynard glanced up and motioned for her assistant to enter.
"So, did you hear who was put out of the company?" Summer asked in an excited voice.
Rebecca looked up at her assistant... a former Miss Arizona, the epitome of beauty and brains. That made her very good at her job and Rebecca knew, one day, Summer would probably be sitting behind this very desk. Rebecca only hoped that day would find herself in a better position. She had worked too hard to slide down the ladder.
"Hmm, let me see. Joey O'Malley," Rebecca said in a smug voice.
Summer looked at her, astonished, and almost had a pout form on her face. "How in the world did you find out? It only happened an hour ago and you have been on vacation for two weeks!"
"I got a call on my cell this morning as he was escorted out the door by security," she replied. Joey had been on the way out for some time but getting caught skimming funds from project money was the last straw. He was lucky they didn't call the police on him, but instead asked him to quietly resign.
"You always seem to know what's happening around here even before the mail room does," Summer laughed.
Smiling at the comment, Rebecca just shook her head and went back to shuffling the mounds of work on her desk.
"Oh, before I forget... Mr. Wallace set up a meeting for two this afternoon. Youre to go over the finances of the former O'Malley domain and discuss the new project manager."
"Okay," Rebecca mumbled, musing to herself she could think of better ways to get back in the work groove. At least she wouldnt be the one taking over OMalleys orphaned projects.
Rebecca found Mr. Wallaces appearance shocking. He seemed to have lost ten to fifteen pounds from his already slightly built frame. Calculating backwards, she figured shed not seen him since three weeks earlier.
Gesturing Rebecca into one of the conference room chairs and then seating himself, Mr. Wallace began, "Rebecca, as you know, Mr. OMalley is no longer with the company." He paused there, elbows on the table, steepled fingers resting against his pursed lips. After several moments, he spoke again, "Joe OMalley was one of my own hires, part of my early crew. In retrospect, one of my best management decisions was to bring you aboard as director of personnel. My worst, trusting Joe... Fortunately for Mr. OMalley, the company has recovered nearly the total of what he embezzled."
Rebecca listened in silence.
Mr. Wallace continued, "When I started this company twenty-three years ago, I worked very hard to maintain the integrity of our product, not always an easy task when we are often just a short step from being an advertising agency!"
Rebecca acknowledged this truth with a nod and a knowing smirk.
"With OMalleys departure, I faced two immediate problems, reassigning his projects and maintaining the public perception of the company. By that, I mean the good name we have earned in our twenty plus years in film making. After legal consultation and conversations with trusted friends, it was obvious Joes quiet departure would be least damaging to our hard won reputation."
Rebecca nodded agreement with this statement.
Mr. Wallace looked down at papers in front of him as he proceeded, "Mr. OMalley has wisely agreed to a restitution contract. Of course, that means the finances are still in excellent shape for the effected projects. So, in the end, the company escapes damages, at least financially."
"And you, Mr. Wallace? Have you been damaged by this?" Rebecca asked.
He looked up at Rebecca, a small, sad smile almost answer enough. "I feel betrayed, Rebecca. I thought Joe and I were friends." He pulled a slim folder from the stack in front of him and removed a single sheet from it. "Rather than redistribute the pending projects among our existing managers, I have decided to make a new hire."
Rebecca wore a look of mild surprise upon hearing this declaration.
Mr. Wallace passed the sheet across the table, "Rebecca, I need this chance to prove to myself I am still a good judge of talent and character. Maybe this hire will do that for me. If not, it is time for me to consider retirement."
Rebecca looked Mr. Wallace straight in the eye and said, "I understand." She then looked down at the résumé in her hand. "When is... Kellene Drake scheduled to start?"
"Officially, she has already started. We met for a second time last Wednesday so I could deliver project files for her review. Once it is emptied and refurbished, Ms. Drake will have OMalleys former office." Mr. Wallace stacked the folders on the table as he watched Rebecca study the résumé.
After several minutes, Rebecca looked up, "Ms. Drake has rather an unusual work history, doesnt she?" Glancing back down, she read excerpts from the list, "Cook in the merchant marines? Peace Corps? Bird banding?"
A genuine smile graced Mr. Wallaces face as he said, "Yes, she was a very interesting interview. What you do not see on that page, though, are the film examples in her portfolio. They are refreshingly creative and technically impressive, especially considering her sketchy training."
Rebecca glanced back at the education section of the sheet, "I dont see any training in film or art or communication here..."
"And you cant get much sketchier than that, can you?" Mr. Wallace asked. "Trust me, Rebecca. This one is bursting with talent and enthusiasm," he said as he stood and gathered his files.
With a sincere and supportive smile, Rebecca also stood and stated, "I trust your judgment, Mr. Wallace. Ill verify Ms. Drakes entry into the hire records."
As they walked toward the door, Rebecca asked, "Should personnel let Ms. Drake know when her new office is available or were you planning to do that?"
"Ill turn that over to your department. I only usurped your powers for the hire, not all the rest of it."
"Understood..." Rebecca said with an answering smile. "Have a good evening, Mr. Wallace."
"You also, Rebecca, thank you," he finished with a light touch to her shoulder before he turned to head down the hall to his office.
As she headed in the opposite direction, Rebecca recalled Summers words from earlier in the day. So much for knowing whats happening!
Kellene Drakes physical condition varied in concert with her psychological state. When anxiety over her new job held sway, she felt truly nauseous and lethargic. Soon, her natural tendency toward optimism would reassert itself and she would feel an almost giddy, giggly excitement. Buoyed by these blasts of adrenaline, her idea list grew.
Working from the residential hotel these past few days fell far short of ideal. The cramped quarters meant much time seemed to be spent looking through piles of folders and stacks of papers. Even with this impediment, Kelly felt thrilled at her progress. She already had decided her top priority would be the filming for the Women and Children Benevolent Foundation and had arranged to meet their project director, Laura Gladstone, Tuesday morning, at the construction site.
From the paperwork on this undertaking, Kelly knew the project mission provided for production of a documentary film the WCB Foundation could share with donors and prospective donors as an example of the good work of the organization. This particular endeavor was the renovation and restoration of a local historic building into a community center and shelter. Photographs of the existing structure and computer generated images of the goal grabbed her immediate attention. The interior photos in particular illustrated the past glory of the space even as they showed the decay and decrepitude of some of the features. Kellys eyes focused primarily on the remnants of the elegantly carved and turned woodworking.
According to the documentation in Kels possession, her predecessor had not made any arrangements for interviewing or filming the craftsmen and artists doing these special touches, the woodwork and the windows. From what she could understand, the film, as currently outlined, would be little more than a series of before and after shots. While she could see that might meet the bare bones of the project mission as stated by the Foundation, it sure would be a dry piece. Letting her imagination fly, Kelly made her own outline, picturing dynamic camera angles, dramatic lighting, and, especially, cut away segments featuring the unique aspects of the restoration. She hoped her excitement was contagious at tomorrows meeting.
At nine thirty Tuesday morning, Kelly waited outside the main doors to the Jefferson building. Her earlier view of the facade from across the street added nothing to her impression of the structure as much of the exterior sported scaffolding or wood panel coverings. The entire lower floor hid behind the plywood encased sidewalk area while the walkway itself had been bumped out into the blocked off parking lane.
Here at the door, Kelly admired the beveled glass panes in the impressive front entry. The double doors were at least ten feet high with equally tall, three feet wide accent side panels. These pieces had oval panes of beveled and etched glass. Above this wide expanse of twelve to fourteen feet, a horizontal, stained, leaded glass window sparkled in the morning light. From the project documents, Kelly knew this entry constituted part of the original design. She also knew she would be seeing damaged windows of similar style.
Hearing the click of approaching footsteps, Kelly turned in time to see the final steps of a woman in a business suit as she neared the building entrance. With a pleasant and welcoming smile, the woman said, "Ms. Kellene Drake?"
"Yes," Kelly responded with a smile of her own and a half step forward. "You must be Laura Gladstone. Good to meet you!" she continued as they shook hands.
"Am I late? Have you been waiting out here long?" Laura asked as she sorted out the proper key and stepped further along toward the door.
"I havent been here long at all. I generally rely on public transport so I am predisposed to erring on the early side for appointments. I think you are here on time," Kel finished with a grin as Laura pushed on the stubborn door before finally throwing a little shoulder into the task.
Laura turned back slightly as she stepped through to the interior, "If you dont hear me bring it up, remind me to tell El about that doors sticking tendency."
Kel nodded agreement to this statement while wondering to herself who this L person might be. Who calls one's self by a single initial? I hope I am not going to be dealing with some pretentious artiste or a weirdo nut case of some kind.... This brief synaptic burst came to an abrupt end when Kel realized it was time to tune in to Lauras words once again.
For the next hour or so, Kelly and Laura wandered around the lower two flours, Laura explaining what the finished project would be, Kelly imagining a way to capture the story on film. Laura delighted Kelly with her unqualified endorsement of a more inclusive project than a simple then to now documentary.
"Im sure El is upstairs working today. Part of the third floor has been set up for some of the wood working that can be done here on site. Shall we go up there?" Laura asked as their tour wound down.
"That would be great, if it wont throw anyone off schedule..." Kel said with slightly hesitant excitement.
"I dont think El will mind. I had planned to come in to see the site tomorrow." Laura said as she directed Kelly toward and then up the stairway to the next floor. Unlike the flights connecting the ground and second floors, this staircase was closed off from the third floor. As they reached the top, Kelly could tell part of the background noise they had been hearing came from behind these doors.
Open space predominated on this third floor. The exception was the far corner, apparently separated off as a semi contained work area. Laura leaned close to speak over the cacophony and directly in Kellys ear, "This floor was the most damaged of the building. It made sense to clear it out and use the space as an on site work area."
Kel nodded her silent agreement.
"If you remember, this level will have the shelter rooms and family suites." Laura continued as they made their way gradually across the space. "We are going for architectural and design continuity throughout the project, so, even though this looks very plain and empty right now, there will be special touches included in this space, too, once it is divided into rooms... molding, picture rail, window frames, that kind of thing."
From the outside of the makeshift plastic dust shelter, Kelly only saw the stooped back of a coverall garbed figure, running some debris throwing power tool. Reaching toward the framing of the blocked off area, Laura flipped a mounted switch, obviously a temporary installation as well, causing colored light bulbs to flash inside the tented area. In moments, the equipment operators attention turned from the slowly quieting tool toward the doorway. Kelly could now see goggles and breathing equipment as a glove waved in their direction acknowledged their presence. Laura flipped the switch again, extinguishing the flashing bulbs.
After pulling away the mask, the figures raised voice penetrated the plastic draping. "Laura, I wasnt expecting you until tomorrow. Ill be right out."
Kel and Laura waited as El repositioned the mask and did some vigorous brushing, starting at the backwards painter style cap atop her head, finishing up with firmly stomped feet. That done, mask, goggles, and gloves found their place at one end of the work bench.
After she came out through the slit in the tent, El said, "Now you see why planned visits work better for me." She gestured with both hands and looked down at her dusty form as she said this. She looked up, grinned and stepped forward with her right hand extended toward Laura. "But it is always good to see you, Laura, even if it is a day early!"
"And I do apologize for showing up on a different day." Laura responded as she shook Els hand. She then broke eye contact and motioned Kel forward. "El, Id like to introduce you to Kellene Drake."
After a polite exchange of greetings and handshakes, Laura continued. "Ms. Drake is taking over the documentary project..."
Kel interrupted, "Please, its Kelly or Kel, for both of you..."
With a nod and a smile, Laura went on. "As Kelly was bringing herself up to speed on where the project was, she noticed very little information on the specialty work being done here, like the window restorations and the woodworking you are doing. She asked if she could meet with some of you folks. I knew you would be working up here today so I took it upon myself to drop in and interrupt!"
"Arent those leaded windows impressive?" El directed toward Kel. "Im trying to figure out how I can finagle a visit to their studio..."
"But your repair and reproduction of the carvings and lathe work is just as impressive." Kel asserted.
"I guess my work doesnt wow me because I know how to do it." El added with a slight frown. "I know all I am doing is minding to detail as I try to keep my digits attached," this last said with all ten fingers wriggling, upright, in front of her face.
Laura and Kel both laughed at this and assured El there was more to her art and craft than that.
Once again noticing the almost raccoonish effect of bright eyes peering out of the clear area ringed by the surrounding dust pattern, Kel couldnt quite keep the smile from her face. She opted to use her expression as a form of segue to her intended request. "I would love to bring a crew to your studio since I know you are doing the carving work there."
"You think so? Film of someone carving is only fractionally more interesting than watching paint dry," El claimed as she held up thumb and index finger, indicating a tiny pinch.
Kel smiled back, "You are much too modest, I am sure. If it is that tedious to watch regular pace, we can always juice the speed."
"Wouldnt that be great!" Laura laughed. "I can just see El sitting there with little wood chips flying off all around her, until she takes a break and we see her zipping around the studio."
"So, are you saying my part will be the comic relief in this otherwise dryly serious production?" El asked with a quirked brow. Not waiting for any reply, she went on to say, "How about you come visit without the crew, just to see if there really is anything worth filming?"
"Sounds good," Kel said as she sorted through her shoulder bag for her organizer. "Is there a particular day and time that suits you best?"
"Today is Tuesday?" Laura and Kel both nod in confirmation. "How about Thursday afternoon?"
"Sure. Would three oclock work for you?" Kel asked with pen poised over page. "Are you in on this too, Laura?" she said, turning attention back to her.
"No, Im afraid not, too swamped this week." Laura answered with a slight eye roll and grimace.
"Three would fit fine with me, Kel, let me get a card for you," El said as she unzipped her coveralls to get at the pockets of the clothes underneath. "If something comes up and your plans change, just give me a ring. Do you need directions to find the place?"
Kel exchanged one of her cards for the one from El and took a moment to note the address of the studio. "Im not entirely familiar with the layout here just yet...." As she read the information on the card, she said to herself, oh, its El not L. Thats good....
"Why dont I drive past Els place before we head across town to your office?" Laura interrupted.
"If that works with your schedule, Laura, that would be a big help, let me get oriented a bit...."
"It sounds like were all set for Thursday then," El said as she slowly rubbed her palms together, hands upright, almost in a prayer position, just in front of her chin. "Will you be joining Laura and I on the tour and progress report here on the third floor, Kel?"
After an affirmative answer from Kelly, the next block of time, nearly an hour, found all three engrossed in a discussion of the site, its past, its current state, and the potential for its future.
The muted strobe effect of the extra studio lights warned El she had a caller at the door. "What? It cant be three already!" she exclaimed as she powered down the lathe. A glance at the wall clock affirmed her internal sense of time. It was quarter to three. Her plan was to continue working until five of three and then break for a quick wash up before Kellys three oclock arrival.
"Ah well, the best laid plans...." muttered El as she did a very quick dust and brush job before heading through to the front studio entrance.
Tuesdays drive by with Laura kept to the side street so Kel was some surprised by the exterior of Els studio or at least by the main street entry. Configured like a small town storefront, large display windows flanked the central doorway. Wrought iron decorative work on the exterior cleverly directed the observer's eye to the items on view in the windows, even as it made the site unappealing for anyone with sticky fingered intent. The recessed front door, also guarded by a full height artistic iron gate, boasted intricately carved panels on the upper right and lower left quadrants, leaving the other two with stained glass panels of modern design. Kellys study of the door came to an abrupt end when it opened inward and El walked through.
"Hi, Kelly," El said with a wide grin as she stepped forward to unlock the security panel. "I thought I had another few minutes to get myself ready and the place opened up!"
"Am I that early?" Kelly asked as she tried to stretch her arm out far enough to expose her wrist watch without setting down or dropping her arm load of possessions.
"Oh, its not that big of a deal, really," El said as she pulled the gate toward herself and latched it against the entryway wall. "I would have devoted four minutes to cleaning myself up, instead of the 30 seconds I used."
Kel smiled at that, noting once again the debris sprinkled cap and coveralls and the patches of dirt and dust on Els face.
"I thought you would be here when the clock said this," El said, stopping just inside the room to strike a pose, fists clenched, right arm straight up, left arm out to the side with elbow bent sharply, bringing her fist in close below her chin. "Instead, you are here at this time," again demonstrating the time with her right arm now out to the side and the bent left slightly elevated from horizontal.
Kelly found herself laughing out loud at Els visual aid. "I guess you havent gone digital yet!"
"No! I really like the big hand, little hand concept. It would be way too much work to body spell or draw the time from an LED display. How the heck would you do the colon?" El tried an option, arms curved in front of her, fists stacked but separated by the height of two fists. She shook her head at that one, a look of dissatisfaction on her face. She tried another possibility, knees slightly bent, arms thrust forward with fists again spaced vertically. "I just cant see it...." El said as she turned again toward Kel, hands on her hips, shaking her head the whole time.
"You have provided me with an alternative interpretation to the phrase biological clock. Now, the image Ill conjure upon hearing that will be of you and your body clock."
For the next hour or so, Kelly and El looked over all the replacement and restoration pieces for the Jefferson project. Kelly almost put a stop to the proceedings when she realized El was giving her a fair bit of the information she hoped to get on film. When she shared that observation, El assured her talking about all of it again for filming wouldnt be a problem for her. Kel could only hope that was true.
Once the main business finished, Kelly, no longer able to contain her interest, asked El to talk about some of the other pieces in the studio. One piece in particular had caught her eye.
"Is this really made of wood?" Kelly asked as she ran her hand over the smooth surfaces. "Its so twisty and bent!"
"Yes, its wood. That project, I must say, came the closest to driving me stark raving mad." El added with eyes bugged wide. "I got it in my head I wanted to make a chair that would look... convoluted enough to make you think it had to be metal but still have it be of wood."
"It makes me think of a couple loopy, droopy, cursive letters draped together..." Kelly said as she continued to study the piece from all sides and various angles.
"That is sort of what my inspiration or goal was, something a little bit Daliesque, you know?"
"I think you got that!" Kel continued to marvel. "I just cant believe you could make wood bend like that!"
"It was tough," El admitted. "My scrap pile was enormous for that project."
"Is it a chair or is it art?" Kel looked up to ask.
"Its a chair but with a really, really low weight limit!"
"El, is your name a nickname or short for something?"
"That questions out of left field a bit!" El exclaimed.
Kelly grinned at that, "Not if you had been privy to my stream of consciousness as I looked at that chair! I was trying to figure out what letters I might see."
Els nod gave tacit acknowledgment of the questions origin. "My first name, assigned at birth, was Elsa, for my mothers maternal grandmother. I am told it evolved from Elsa to Elsie to Ellie to Els to El over the course of my first five or six years. I stick to El for the most part. My family still uses Els some of the time. Of course, if I am in trouble with my parents, I am still summoned by Elsa!" this said in a shrieking loud voice.
"When Laura first said your name, I thought she was referring to you by a single initial." Kelly admitted. "I nearly assumed you were some horribly pretentious and probably achingly boring... artist."
"Rats! If I had known that, I would have introduced myself as Ms. L."
Kelly looked back rather blankly.
"You know, like Mr. T?" El looked for a spark of recognition in Kellys eyes. "You know, like on the A Team?"
"The A Team, you mean like the varsity squad?" Kelly asked, puzzled.
"No, I mean like the television show, back when we were practically kids."
"I am not familiar with that, I guess. Was it a very popular show?" Kelly asked.
"You didnt watch television as a kid?"
"No, we didnt have one."
"What did you do with your time?"
"In spite of any claims to the contrary, humans evolved in a television and radio free environment. I have never had any trouble finding something to do. As one of those lucky Homo sapiens to roam Earth after the invention of writing and the printing press, I have spent many hours basking in the wonders of the written word."
"Ok, I can see how that would work for you. So, you read all the time, when you were a kid?"
"Noooo, I goofed around plenty... but I also spent a lot of time making films, in 8 millimeter format."
"That cost money, didnt it?"
"Yessss, my grandma was the primary financial backer for my youthful efforts."
"Why would your grandmother do that?"
"You ask how she could love me enough to indulge me that way?"
"Oh, now I feel a little stupid... when you put it that way."
"So, Ms. L, tell me about this Mr. T guy. Was he a hero of yours?" Kelly asked as El guided her to a sitting area within the studio.
"No, not by a long shot..." El quickly claimed. "...although I admit to being some intrigued by the Mohawk do... Would you be interested in looking through the rest of my work, in the form of photographs, my version of a portfolio, I guess."
"I would like that, thanks," Kelly enthused as she took a seat.
Time passed pleasantly and rapidly as they leafed through the collection of albums. Kel enjoyed the narratives for the projects as much as she did the images on film. El seemed to have absolute and vivid recall of every step of every project. Some of the glitches she described had both women occasionally dabbing at a laugh inspired tear or two. Finally, though, they reached the end of the photo record.
"How long have you been in this area?" El asked as she gathered the albums.
Kel snorted a bit and said, "Lets see, today is Thursday... that makes this the eleventh day."
"I guess you probably havent a list of favorite places to go or things to do in the area then, yet."
"Very true... Im just looking forward to getting out of the hotel and into a place to LIVE. Of course, then Ill need to find a grocery store..."
"Youre not in a place of your own? El asked in surprise.
"I havent had any time to check into other living arrangements. Coming in as a manager midstream eats all my time."
El shook her head in dismay as she heard these words, then said, "Oh, listen, woman. That is no way to live. I propose you devote the weekend to some leisure activities and serious house hunting."
"Are you offering to be a part of either of those options?" Kel asked with a lifted brow.
"Id be happy to join you in some scouting for living quarters. Of course, I am most familiar with the southeast section of the city here, where I live. I am moderately familiar with the other areas, though, so we could probably muddle through with SOME success." El admitted. "My real strength, I think, is in the fun times category!" El added with a gleeful grin. "Do you need a game plan for play time or are you willing to put yourself entirely in my hands?"
Kel pursed her lips in thought before saying, "I am not much of a fan of surprises. I think you better clue me in."
"Sure, no problem." El said good-naturedly. "I had planned a round of disc golf Saturday morning. Would you like to join me?"
"Disc golf? Ive never tried it before... You have to take me with you, teach me everything you know! Is there a dress code for this activity?"
"A dress code? No, not that I am aware of.... I just try to make sure I have free motion of my arms and shoulders." El said as she mimicked the arm motion of a disc toss.
"Ah, so I dont need to wear plaid slacks or plus fours?" Kel inquired with a straight face.
"I suppose you could if you wanted... Do you own either plaid slacks or plus fours?" El asked with an undertone of concern in her voice.
"No, I dont but I do have a loud, red plaid picnic cloth I could wrap around me like a toga. If I keep my right arm free, I could still do the throws."
"Id pay money to see that but it sounds more like a summer outfit to me," El commented.
"Oh, I think of it as a cool season accessory, too. I would wear it like a cape then. Cant you just see me hurrying down the fairway to my next shot, cape blowing behind me?" Kel demonstrated her vision by standing and striking a pose with arms stretched back behind her, chin jutted forward.
El laughed at the image Kellys words invoked, "Why dont you stick to casual clothes this first time out, play clothes casual, I mean."
"Sure. Id hate to embarrass either you or me," Kelly said as she began to gather her belongings.
As they parted company, they set their plans for disc golf, determining the sensible course was for El to fetch Kelly from the hotel on Saturday morning.
When El pulled up in front of the hotel at precisely seven thirty, Kelly was waiting and watching and made her way immediately to the passenger door El had reached across to unlatch.
"Good morning," they said simultaneously and then laughed together.
Once underway, Kelly directed, "Tell me more about the rules for disc golf. What do you aim for? Are there different discs for different type shots, like a driver or a wedge or a putter?"
El chuckled, "Ill handle the disc question first. In fact, there ARE different styles and sizes. In my experience, it is only the hard-core nut ball fans who go off the deep end to that extent. I have a modest collection of discs, mainly ones Ive purchased because I liked the color! Others have been gifts from friends and family, when they havent been able to come up with any other gift idea, I suspect."
"You are okay with lending me discs today?" Kel inquired.
"Sure! Ill even give you first dibs, so you can get your preferred color choice, if I have it, that is..." El briefly fell silent as she negotiated a complicated traffic intersection. Once through, she began again, "Disc golf holes vary in length, comparable to stick golf, but the hole is actually an above ground basket, at least on a permanent, designed course like well be playing today. One of the most appealing aspects to disc golf, I think, is its flexibility. You dont really need a set course. You can get together with a buddy or two, or by yourself, and go play in any park or accessible area. Your targets can then be set to fit the site. Maybe a distant tree is the goal with success defined as placement within, say, a foot of the trunk. If space is restricted, the holes might be arranged radially with a common start point near the center."
"Do you like permanent courses better or setting your own?" Kelly asked.
El mused to herself before responding, "I like both. Designed courses seem to help me work on my control and placement but I do so like the little surprises in a new setting."
After a drive of fifteen minutes or so, they arrived at the golf park.
"Lets do some warm up tosses over there in that open area, shall we? I know I dont want to pull a groin or something hurling out my first drive!" El said, pointing to an open area beyond the parking lot and the public restrooms.
"That sounds like a good idea. Have you considerable experience in pulling a groin?"
"I did it once and can assure you, that is quite enough." El said as she opened the back door to get her bag of discs.
"How did you hurt yourself?" Kelly asked when El raised back up and looked over the car roof.
"I slipped on some wet pavement as I helped an elderly, blind couple across the street."
"Really?" Kel asked as they headed for the open area.
"No, not really, but that sounds so much better than, I fell out of a tree... But, just three days earlier, I HAD helped an elderly couple..."
"Oh, I dont doubt your capacity for acts of kindness and compassion! What were you doing in the tree, rescuing a kitten?"
"Ah, good one... I might use that next time. No, I was retrieving the rake that got stuck when I pitched it up to dislodge my favorite golf disc." El admitted with some chagrin in her voice. She then dumped her disc collection out on the lawn. "Which shall we use for our warmups?"
They spent the next little while throwing a sky blue disc with purple swirls back and forth, gradually increasing the distance between them. For the final part of the warmup, they added a second disc, to speed up the action, just for fun.
"Im ready. Are you?" Kel asked after her muscles felt adequately loosened.
"Lets do it! Grab the bag of discs, will you?" El directed back since Kel was closer to it. "The start point is just a ways back there," El indicated with a thumb over her shoulder.
The first hole was a linear shot of about eighty yards over a dew covered grass expanse. The approach was split across its width, at about half the distance to the target, by a pathway .
"I dare you to bounce a shot off the walk down there," Kelly teased as she sent her own disc down the center, about forty-five yards.
"Ive done bounce shots, sometimes intentionally, but not from this far away." El answered then sent her shot to land about three yards longer than Kels but well off to the left.
"Have you ever shot from a tight fix and done ricochets off trees or poles or other vertical surfaces?"
"Like I said, on rare occasions, I have been able to bounce the disc off pavement or concrete, but, any time I have hit a tree, it has been purely accidental. If I could direct the disc with my mind, I would certainly add a carom shot to my repertoire!"
When they got to the path, Kelly ducked down in a crouch. El paused, thinking she was attending to a boot lace problem. When Kelly rose again and proceeded to slowly follow the walkway, periodically reaching down, El shadowed her steps, trying to get a closer look, "What are you doing?" Before Kelly could respond, the true nature of Kellys task dawned on El. "Are you rescuing worms?"
"I cant help it... Worms do not belong on the sidewalk."
"You are rescuing earthworms..."
Kelly stood upright with her latest capture, wriggling vigorously, placed on her open palm just in front of Els nose. "There is no reason for this unassuming, beneficial invertebrate to perish here on the concrete when it takes but a simple act to toss it back on the grass."
"What if it was trying to get to the other side?"
"I am not sure I can accept the notion of earthworm free will or intent... These unfortunate worms are out of their natural habitat when they get stranded on these manmade pavements. I dont like seeing them get all dehydrated like fruit leather strips. Nor do I like seeing them injured. Have you ever studied what their injuries can look like? They often get kind of constricted somewhere along their length. It looks like it must be about ten thousand times worse than too tight underwear and I know how I hate that!" Kelly pitched another seven worms back to the grass during this speech, clearing all the way back to where the walk became wood chips.
"I guess wed better check the path in the other direction, too." El said with a sustained head shake and a roll of her eyes. Kelly responded with a delighted but goofy smile, one that El half expected to be marked by missing teeth, the typical, extra wide, early school years grin.
"Is every hole split with a sidewalk like this one?" Kelly asked as they relocated walkway worms in the other direction.
"No, thankfully not," El teased as they finished and headed on to their discs.
Through the next several holes, a pattern emerged. Kellys discs traveled in a straight line. Els went marginally farther but always veered to the left. Once near the target, El had the better short game.
On the eighth hole, El threw her worst drive yet, far to the left into what looked like a marshy area.
"Maybe these are all right handed discs." Kelly suggested over Els muttering.
"That must be it!" El chuckled.
"So, is that a hook or a slice when it goes way off to the side like that?" Kelly asked as they headed in the direction of Els vanished disc.
"Harrumph... I dont really care... I call it a dad gum LOUSY toss." El said as they came to a stop at the edge of the wet area. "I made the bad throw so you dont have to feel compelled to go into the mud."
In wordless answer, Kel parted the vegetation and stepped onto the even softer ground. "What is your best guess where we ought to be looking?"
El flashed a grateful smile while she answered, "I think it must be in this stretch right here." She pointed to a swath of space in front of them.
"This is cattail foliage here..." Kel said as she ran her hand over some of the reedy leaves. "Ive always liked their furry spikes... fixed a bouquet once but made the mistake of putting it in water. That made a mess, let me tell you!"
"You like the spikes?"
"Yes, the spiky flower stalks, they remind me of corn dogs, a treat from my childhood, a treat we only had once each year, at the fair."
"Some people think cattails are phallic symbols, but so are corn dogs." El said. "Have you got some kind of envy going on?"
Kelly laughed at that, halting her progress to turn to El. "I happen to have a hypothesis about that particular envy. I think its restricted to that segment of the population struggling along with only one X chromosome."
"Maybe you are right," El added. "It must be awful not to measure up to the... ahem... membership," she continued as she held her left fist in the air, pinky extended, only to bring it down in a slow droop, to dangle forlornly, a slight shiver its last motion before being tucked out of sight again. Both laughed at the imagery.
"If ones ultimate worth comes down to a judgment based on that quintessentially male defined skill, I think I could write my name in the snow." Kelly said. "It might be a bit drafty the way I am equipped, but I wouldnt give up my double X chromosome status for anything of ANY size."
"You said it, sister!" El added with a celebratory high five.
Pushing forward again, the women came to a meandering little mud bottomed, slow moving stream, "Oh, cool! Look at this algae, El." Kel bent down to examine it with both hands. "Its just like... soggy velour, like towels in the washer. Get down here and pat it!"
El sported a look of complete skepticism. "Isnt it all slimy?"
"No! It has a very pleasing texture and feel."
El crouched next to Kelly, one hand making tentative contact with the vivid green growth. "This is a little chillier than my usual wash water, but it does feel like a submerged towel," El admitted with an expression composed of equal parts disgust and interest.
"Am I detecting traces of prissiness or strong sissy tendencies in you?" Kel teased as she loosened a patch to feel the underside of the mat. It was a little slimy on the underside.
"No, just caution."
Kel stood and moved downstream through the reeds and grass. "El, come this way, youve got to see this!"
"Kelly, we arent finding my disc by playing in the mud..."
Kelly ignored that comment. "Look!" she said as El stepped beside her. "Doesnt this rumpled algae look exactly like there is a green shar-pei laying there?"
"It does! What do you suppose makes the stuff fold like that?"
"Im guessing it depends entirely on the volume and speed of the water flow. This little stretch of stream bed is a bit steeper than back there," Kel said, pointing back to their previous spot. "Maybe the alga mat starts to pull away from the soil if the water is higher or faster."
"It sure does fold just like the extra skin on those dogs..." El said as she reached out to gingerly feel the folds. "It still feels like a wet towel, though."
After a few moments enjoying the feel of the spongy formation, Kelly stood and dried her hands on her pant legs. "Much as Id like to continue this exploring, wed best get back to the hunt so we can get on with the game."
Several minutes later, they located the disc, allowing El to avoid a penalty. Her throw back to the playing area actually landed in the fairway.
Two holes later, El decided to satisfy her curiosity. "The other day, you said you didnt watch television growing up."
"Thats right." Kel answered with a smile. "My parents were avid readers and gardeners, still are, in fact, and they wanted to encourage and nurture that kind of life for the whole family. We always had everything we needed but we didnt let some outside force decide what it was we DID need."
"Does your family have television now?"
"Yes, and so do I, or I will again once I have a place to live and can get my stuff out of storage. I use mine entirely with the VCR or DVD. I have never had a cable hookup or used the antenna to try to capture a broadcast out of the air waves."
"Let me get this clear in my mind. Not only did you grow up in a television free household, it was a household that made a conscious decision to stay away from conspicuous consumption?"
"Yes, thats about it. I can remember being awed, no, shocked by the amount of clutter and STUFF some of my classmates had, this in elementary grades. I had toys, but not barrels and boxes and heaps of them. My favorite toy, from the time I started school, was that 8 millimeter camera. If I was not actively using the darn thing, I was out and about looking for things to film and imagining ways to show just what THAT tree meant to me, or, how THAT flower was reflected in the puddle next to it...." Kelly paused. "I was so busy, I had neither the desire nor the need to acquire the latest fad."
"When you mentioned your childhood film work the other day, I thought immediately of Ed Chigliak," El remembered. "Do you know that name?"
"No, I dont think I do...."
"He was one of the characters on Northern Exposure, a television show. I cant remember when it was on, maybe the late eighties or early nineties... Anyway, Ed was a film buff in this little, fictitious town in Alaska. I imagine you being sort of like him, except more sophisticated," El finished with a grin.
"Was that show one of your favorites?" Kelly wondered.
"I liked it...." El scratched her cheek, now wearing a frown. "Actually, I didnt like the two lead characters very much but I was quite fond of some of the supporting roles, like Ed. I loved Marilyn... and Ruth Anne. The local DJ was prone to intriguing philosophizing..." El drifted into silence. Moments later, she spoke again, "What is it like to be part of a society where television has so much influence and not know what that is like? How do you talk about the shows that have become part of our lore?"
"Im not sure I would concede it has influence so much as it is pervasive, even invasive, like the smell of a beached whale would be for a coastal community." Kel contended. "How do you mean, part of our ·lore? Things like Survivor? Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The Super Bowl?"
"No, I was thinking more in the past, like I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Ed Sullivan...."
"I did see episodes of some of those, over with friends or at Grandma and Grandpas... often as reruns. One of the first things my mom bought after they got their VCR was the I Love Lucy collection. I HAVE seen it." Now it was Kellys turn to do some thinking. "I am thankful for the way I was raised. I do not find it any hardship or cause for embarrassment to admit I have never watched HBO. It just isnt something I need in my life."
"So, you arent a modern day Luddite?"
"No, not at all. My tastes are MY tastes. I would never presume to dictate or restrict the entertainment choices of the wider public."
"I guess we know why they are the WIDER public, if they spend hours a day parked in front of the boob tube!" El added.
By the twelfth hole, El seemed to have gained control of her shots, sending them down the middle of the fairway, finally. The conversational topic, however, continued to fly all over the place.
"Have you ever wondered how some things get their names?" Kelly asked as she walked along noticing the mud under the nails of her left hand. "Why are fingernails called nails? Why is the cuticle called that?"
"You dont really expect me to have an answer, do you?" El laughingly asked.
"No, but Id like you to wonder with me," Kelly responded with a chuckle. "Think about it... The little bits of skin that sometimes come loose around your fingernails get a special name, hangnails. But, other superficially comparable phenomena dont get their own special name. For example, when I get a cold with a runny nose, I often get so chapped around my nostrils, skin... whiskers begin to form and partially detach. Shouldnt there be a special name for that flaky stuff?"
"Hangnose?" El said through her laughter.
"No, too close to trademark infringement of hangnails. How about something like... rhinofringe?"
"That would work... Why isnt there a special word for the little escapee fragments of store plastic bags, the parts that seem to be punched loose in handle hole making?" Kelly puzzled.
"And Id like to know why isnt there a word for the little, damp bits that form when the toilet paper is of such low quality, it has no integrity when moistened!" El added, getting into the spirit of the game.
"Oh, thats a good one." Kelly agreed. "How about tinkle twists?"
"I suppose twat wads isnt refined enough for some sensibilities...." El offered. "...toilet tinsel..." she tried again.
"I think we are degenerating into middle school humor now," Kelly said with a laugh.
"I guess its a good thing we are heading down the last fairway, then."
"Its a good thing ONLY if we plan for the next time well do this. I have had a lot of fun, more than enough to want to play again."
"Same here," El agreed. "Would you like to try it on an unofficial course?"
"I would, very much. Unfortunately, I have work projects scheduled for both days next weekend."
"Does that mean you can take a couple weekdays off?" El inquired.
"Im pretty sure that is up to me and I probably wont be able to make that assessment until late on Tuesday, at the earliest... more likely not until Wednesday. I have to get a couple projects through their next stage." Kel said, a serious expression falling over her features.
After they stashed the discs in the car and retrieved a water bottle each, Kelly and El found a storm sewer grate in the parking lot and spent a few minutes stomping and scraping to get the mud cookies out of their boot treads.
"Since there is no clubhouse associated with this type of golf, do you want to go back to my place for a while?" El asked.
Kelly fished her watch from a pocket, "Its just past eleven now... Sure, we could go to your place and hang around and then I could take you out to lunch."
"I thought we could go back to my place and have sex."
El looked up in time to see Kels last mouthful of water spewed onto the pavement, followed by the sounds of choking.
"So... do you want to have sex with me?" El asked when Kelly finally stopped coughing.
"What?" Kel managed to squeak.
"I know... I'm supposed to be able to tell if youre family just by looking or something. I've never caught a ping, ever, not even later, when I've seen two women together."
"You are a fine woman but I am not in the market for a girlfriend."
"Oh, but you knew I was gay?"
"Umm, no, I didn't... not that it matters..."
"So, are you straight or defective?"
"What?" Kelly squeaked again. "That's awful! You aren't defective!"
"Thanks, but I meant my kaput gaydar, not my sexual orientation," El clarified.
"Well, which is it for you, girls or boys?" El watched as that question seemed only to inspire confused blinking. "Both?"
"I go solo."
"Ah. That's a safe option."
"El... you were just joking about the sex thing, werent you?" Kelly fearfully asked. "I mean, we just met!"
"I guess I wasnt serious... although I suspect the seeds of... an inclination in that direction have been fertilized..." Els facial expression conveyed embarrassment and some disappointment. "I guess I wanted to out myself to you and find out... if I need to... I dont know... label the idea of an eventual relationship, other than friendship, as pure fantasy."
"Your technique is about as subtle as a bulldozer in the flower beds." Kel said.
"Would your answer have been different if I had used a more graceful approach?"
"Since your question was about sex at your place, no, my answer would NOT have been anything but no. It would be no regardless of the setting or method of posing the question."
"Because of the gay thing?"
Kelly looked long and hard at El before finally saying, "That isnt it at all. Or, at least I dont think thats it.... I honestly had not thought of you in any context other than friendship." Kelly paused and shook her head in sustained negation, brow creased. "You stunned me! Even now, I find it thoroughly mind boggling to reconcile the you I played with all morning with the El who asked me home for sex!"
"The idea repulses you...." Els voice trailed off as her gaze remained downcast.
"I said stunned. Imagine you had led me to that bench over there," Kelly said, pointing over Els shoulder. "We sit down and you say, lets fly this thing to Aruba. I would not have a response because the suggestion really does not compute in my reality."
"Have I irreparable messed up and destroyed things with you, Kelly, including the possibility of friendship?"
Kelly again wore a look of serious contemplation. "No, I dont think so... not at all."
"With the right planning, you know that bench COULD fly to Aruba."
Kelly chuckled at that statement. "Lets go for an early lunch."
"Save the sex for later?" El asked, heartened by Kels smile.
"I see the bench is still earthbound," Kel retorted as she glanced back to it while they headed for the car.
Once back in town, the women made a meal stop for remarkably tasty sandwiches at a neighborhood sit down shop near Els place. Surprisingly, the time over lunch passed amiably with none of the awkwardness one might expect, given the last moments at the park. From the sandwich shop, El ferried Kelly back across town to the hotel.
"Are you still willing to help me find a replacement for these living arrangements?" Kelly asked as they pulled to the curb.
"Id like to, if youll have me..."
"Pick me up here at nine thirty?" Kel asked with a smile.
"See you then."
"El? Its Kelly. How are you?" Kelly asked over the phone.
"Great, thanks, I expect to be even better when you tell me youll be able to take time off before your upcoming working weekend," El answered with hope in her voice.
"I believe I have good news to report on that front. Your help Sunday with the search for and then the move to the townhouse put me in such good spirits, I have been attacking work tasks like Im demon possessed. Im claiming Friday for me."
"Friday? Do you want to play disc golf again?" El inquired.
"The make your own course variety?" Kel asked.
"If thats your choice, its fine with me. Theres a seven hundred acre park about a half hours drive southeast of here. I havent ever visited the site, let alone tossed a round there. Its been on my wish list."
"Lets move that to your done that list, shall we? Can we make it an afternoon outing, so I can do some other chores in the morning?" Kelly finished.
"That works fine with me. We could do something for dinner after we finish the golf..."
"Id like to cook that evening. Would you come to my place for dinner?"
"Kelly, I would really enjoy that if you are sure in your mind you want to do the cooking..."
Kelly and El sat out on the balcony, admiring the full moon as wind blown, thin clouds danced across its face, briefly dimming the glow. Luckily, the house blocked the breeze or they would have needed heavier jackets.
Dinner over and cleanup complete, they enjoyed the quiet of the evening.
"You know, Kelly, weve known each other for almost two weeks now, or, at least it will be two weeks on Tuesday."
"Yes, thats true, El. Is there something extra special about that?"
El clamped her teeth over her lower lip and scratched at her chin, scowling a bit. "I was just thinking, we are incredible behind schedule if we are going to be a torching hot lesbo couple."
Kel, overcome by mirth, eventually calmed down enough to say, "You mean there is a timetable for hot couples?"
"You bet. Its got to happen quick," she said, with a snap of her fingers, "...or it probably wont be happening at all."
"What is the maximum allowed interval?"
"And this is..." Kel stopped to count. "This is our eleventh day!"
As it turned out, El was flat out incorrect in one of her assertions and far off target in another. "Quick or never" in establishing a relationship is patently false. Her time limit of two weeks turned out to be wrong by a factor of about thirty.
The gestation period for Kelly and Els relationship was four hundred and seventeen days, the last two hundred and eighty-nine of which were marked by either face to face or phone conversations, not that they were counting. On that pivotal day, they came to the mutual, joyful realization their futures were to be together.
In the years that followed, their carefully planned, painstakingly conceived, and achingly desired children arrived to join a welcoming, love filled family. Each of the three babies, one by one, graduated from infant bassinet to the baby crib with turned spindles and carved head and footboard, both made by their mama El.
The home movies always had unusual camera action and angles when Mama Kel was running the show.