It’s an old building, a refurbished hotel – circa 1800’s. It must have been quite the place back when.
It’s a good day to duck in for a lecture; the autumn leaves are rushing around the trees like dirt devils. It’s blustery and grey. Lady pushes on the door ornate with carvings, great sweeping gouges curved into delicate curlicues. She leans into the door with difficulty until the wind forces its way first, flinging the door wide, slamming the cracked wallpaper. She feels like a banshee busting in on all fours and is glad there is no one to see it. She smooths her black hair as best she can until she finds a restroom. Sarah had told her to wear a hat before she went out but she wouldn’t hear it. Hats make her feel like her brain is squashed, she can’t tolerate them- they hold her thoughts too tightly. She walks on, lightly, wading through thick blue carpeting in high heels.
A sandwich board next to the reception desk displays its information in red plastic letters: Today! “Take Charge” part one of the motivational series led by Fenton Jones, 1:00-2:00pm in the green room. Refreshments served.
This is the right place. The woman behind the desk is busy arranging yellow mums in a vase. There’s a flesh- tone hearing aid lodged in her right ear. She looks up at Lady over rimless glasses attached to a rhinestone chain.
“You here for the talk?” She asks. Her badge identifies her as Marla Beans, Head Clerk. She hands Lady a name tag and pen.
Lady nods an emphatic yes, and dutifully slaps on the nametag. Before she can get any word out Marla Beans points to the left and goes back to her flowers.
Lady is annoyed at being dismissed, but does what she’s told and heads down the hall. If she can just find the restroom. But there are no rooms on either side of the green-papered hallway just a row of pink colored sconces casting an eerie glow. Lady finds the color combination quite revolting but doesn’t let it discourage.
At the end of the hall she finds the double doors labeled “Motivational Series.”
The conference room is Spartan, with hard wood floors that creak when you walk. High-back chairs are arranged in a semicircle around a blackboard. She guesses it’s meant to look cozy and takes the only empty seat in dead center, bumping the man to her right. She feels very self-conscious and almost longs for a hat.
“What do you make of this?” Asks the man next to her, pointing to the blackboard.
“What? It hasn’t started yet.” She says, looking at the big block letters that spell out: Take Charge.
Suddenly the lights dim and Muzak pours in from behind dusty drapes. One of the brocade tassels falls out of its knot and sweeps the floor. The white-faced clock with black hands looks down from the wall. One fifteen. A poof of wind scoots under the doors and blows a leaf across the floor.
“My name’s Jed, this here’s my wife Effie.” The man to her right introduces himself, holding out a hand.
Lady gives him a limp squeeze and a tepid smile.
“Have you been waiting long?” Lady asks, eyeing the clock hands that seem to be melting.
A stick of a woman in a peach chiffon dress is pointing at her,
“Hi, Hi! Ah’m Delia May! Welcome, welcome!”
Lady doesn’t like uppity types.
“Where the hell is he?” A stout woman on the far right stands, wringing her hands, red-faced.
“Miss Leeds, is it?” Jed strains to read her name tag, “why not just sit back down. No need to rile everyone. I’m sure it won’t be much longer.” He smiles and motions with his hand for her to sit.
Mr. Jenkins, a very thin gentleman to Lady’s left, blurts out,
“And where are the refreshments? I only came for the food. I could give a rat’s ass about motivation.” He looks around for anyone like minded and catches a glint in Mrs. Tomkins eye- she is the redhead- and winks.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute.” Delia May Rose gets out of her seat and stands in front of the group waving a lacy handkerchief.
“Ah fa one, knooow” she drags out the word,
“Mr. Jones is hee-ya. Ah saw him. Leastways he was in the lounge last Ah knew. Probly just lost track a tahm, is all.” And repeats it,
“Lost track a tahm.” Her southern bit of a drawl is irksome enough without repeating. Lady puffs up. Who does she think she is?
“You sit down!” Lady’s tone surprises even her.
Delia May Rose blushes a sunset. The white-faced clock is all hands spinning.
“Lady?” Jed touches her arm
“Miss Lady?” Mr. Jenkins on her left.
“Did the lights flicker, or did I doze off for a minute?” Mrs. Leeds pipes in.
“What just happened?”
“I believe it’s hats off to Miss Lady. “ Mr. Jenkins says,
“She’s taking charge.”