Don’t Move the furniture
Chapter 2 The company picnic
I agreed to go with Paula to the company picnic. The main reason for my accepting the invitation was curiosity. Why is this 55-year-old businesswoman asking a 70-year-old retired Architect out? When I arrived to pick her up she was in a soft flowing yellow sundress, with strappy sandals and wide brim straw hat. Yes, I notice things like that Marie modeled for catalogs she would put an outfit on, twirl around describing the outfit as they do in the catalog. We were easily entertained. This woman is boggling my mind. One minute I think of her as Neo Woman next thing you know she looks feminine and wispy.
After I closed her door, set myself down on the driver’s seat I turned to Paula and asked: “Paula I want to know straight up why on Gods green earth did you ask me to this function?”
“Even though you wrote a great letter Corporate gave me the choice of quitting or being fired. I chose to quit because it looks better on my resume. I decided to poke at the hierarchy with our presence.”
I laughed so hard Paula’s icy veneer gave way and she joined in. Wiping tears from my eyes I said “Well you know what I say? Thanks for including me and game on!”
Turning to me she asked “How do you want to play this? I bow to your expertise.”
Smiling I said “Well you sure know how to puff a guy up. Well if we walk hand in hand it may add fire to the flames which may look badly on your resume.”
She nodded while I continued “Play it easy as if we belonged there. Stay long enough that the right people take notice. Leave everyone with a good feeling and a lingering question. ‘What the heck were they doing here?’ That should pretty much sum up a response from the Corporate jerks.”
Nodding again she said “I like it. Will do.”
“Okay, Paula afterward may I suggest where to have lunch? I am thinking Anabel’s we can sit on the porch sip margaritas, enjoy the surrounding and nibble on a great lunch.”
She loved the idea which left me wondering if there were more motive than just sticking it to the man. Paula is not my type but a ride around the block is not out of the question as far as I am concerned. I guess I need to play it easy as well.
Parking the car I took a moment before getting out of the car to take in the lay of the land. I wanted to know how many families and how many singles. This will help me determine the dynamics of the group. I got out slowly a few heads turned. I stretched and slowly walked over to open the door for Paula. She had a slight grin on her face. Not all who are attending this function will know who I am. I did notice one woman I had seen before in Paula’s office. Paula slowly emerged from the car stepped away from the door ever so slowly. As I closed the door she smiled and waved at someone. They waved back. I did not hold Paula’s hand but I did the gentile move by placing my hand slightly on the small of her back. Yet keeping my distance. This move old timers would consider a dance direction move. The guy is letting the girl know which direction he wants to walk. I want the Corporate jerks to think I am in control. I whispered looking forward explaining what I was doing. Paula’s response was “Good to know” She whispered where she wanted to go and that is where we went. Sitting at a picnic table under a tall expansive oak was a guy with Dockers on, white knit collarless shirt holding a beer. Across from him were two children I guess the ages to be 10 and 13. There was a woman standing at a table nearby looked in our direction and her countenance changed exponentially when she saw Paula. That look I have seen before pure unadulterated jealous rage. My first thought was Paula is poking at the guy she had been Poking. Oh, what a bad girl. This old guy is going to give her a scathing lecture about cheating.
Paula started to make the introductions as the man stood up. “Morty this I Jack Larson, the sweet woman standing at his side is his wife Marisa.”
Nice touch I thought that changed the look on Marisa’s face slightly. Paula walked over and gave Marisa a hug whispered something in Marisa’s ear. Whatever Paula whispered put tears in Marisa’s eyes. All the while I made small talk with Jack about the weather and who won the last baseball game. Paula came over to me and said: “Morty I want you to meet John and his wife Jean.” As we walked toward the couple John visibly stiffened. Jean was more cordial, plastering a plastic smile on her face hand extended.
Jean was the first to speak with a slight southern genteel accent “Oh Paula how wonderful I am so glad you could make it dear.”
Paula genuinely smiled walked up and gave Jean a hug whispered something into Jean’s ear which changed the genteel smile to a glaring sneer. After which she turned to John made introductions all the while keeping eye contact. If Paula was a man one would say they were readying for a cockfight. John’s jaw was clenched while he pushed a smile and shook my hand. He then turned to Paula and whispered loud enough for me to hear “Hope you did not do any more damage to Marisa.”
That gave me pause. Paula whispered back “No sir, I apologized and told her I did not know that Jack was married. I added I hope she could find it in her heart to forgive me.”
I then spoke up “What is it about men, that need to stray and lie about it? They should man up so it can be to consenting adults. Instead of leaving 2 victims and his honor is still intact?”
This received a shocked but not angry look from John. Jean, on the other hand, did a harrumph and walked away.
I weighed in again to get John’s pulse “I am sure Simmons’s corporate discharge their valued employees for indiscretions do they?”
John blinked, stood mute for a couple of beats “Yes they do. In fact when certain information comes their way they reconsider the discharge.”
By golly, she was not fired because of my bad behavior she was fired because Jean did not like finding out that an employee was doing the nasty. I wonder why Jack did not get the boot also. Again I weighed in “I am going to say this straight up man to man. Your wife may have convinced you this was the right thing to do. My guess is because of her insecurities believing Paula may one day come after her husband. With that said clearly this is discrimination dismissing the female and not the male also. I am sure it will be rectified. That is if Paula wants her job back. I am also sure it will include a little bonus and a raise.”
John stepped back I can tell he was miffed at my forwardness, also cautious. My guess is he may think I am an attorney and not a retired architect. No one would know what I did for a living unless I tell them, on the application, I placed the word Privacy in the blank as well in the space when asked what was my income. I figure it is no one’s business. From that, he may assert I am an attorney. I did it just to see if they would put up with it.
Jean came back over to join us. I am sure out of pure curiosity and the need to control. I was glad to see John was going to man up.
“Paula, would you consider coming back to Pleasant Ridge? Before you answer I would like to offer you wages lost and a bonus of $500.”
Jean gasped started to say something, John quickly turned to her and said “Darling new information has come to my attention. I am doing this as an apologetic gesture.”
Jean couldn’t take it she said “We do not owe her an apology for her unprofessional behavior. She assaulted this man.”
I turned to her and said, “I was not assaulted it was foreplay if you must know.” Paula bust out laughing and said, “Oh Morty behave.”
I was surprised to see John laughing he said “Oh I so understand now what was happening in the community room. Hey, Morty do you play golf?”
I said, “Sorry no I am more of an armchair football and baseball player.”
John nodded and said “Well then I have season tickets for all home games with either sport. I will give you a call and you and I will have to go.”
Jean was beside herself. John moved over to Jean putting his arm around her. Leaned over and kissed her on the top of the head. He then whispered just enough for us to hear. “I would never stray darling and Paula is not a cougar.”
Jean looked up at her husband with a mixture of anger and hurt. Paula and I excused ourselves while walking away to give the couple privacy.
I was surprised I did not see Paula’s sidekick. “Hey Paula where is your sidekick, isn’t she coming?”
Paula said “Sherry was upset they let me go I think she is boycotting. Morty that was brilliant on your part. Tell me what type of an attorney are you?”
I smiled and simply said “Architect.” She busts out laughing “This is more fun than I thought it was going to be.”
I smiled and slowed our pace down with a slight tug to Paula’s arm. She turned to me “Paula when I figured out what was going on, primarily by the look on Marisa’s face when you walked up. I was going to give you a scathing lecture. What you said to Marisa changed my mind. I will say this, it is never a good idea to play at work.”
She nodded “I know. I work so many hours it is hard to find companionship. Morty, it is not okay for me to play at work with the customers either.”
I laughed “Duly noted. We can be friends and I promise to do my best to behave.”
We started walking again back to the car she said “I know you will try but let me give you advice. You will be leaving behind carnage with these women who hope their night in shining armor has finally arrived. Or those who believe they got a second chance.”
I was stunned. I never took into consideration that I may be doing more harm than good. Leaning over to open the car door a woman approached us. At first, I did not realize it was Marisa she called out “Hold on you two. I want to have a word with Paula.”
I had a nervous feeling in my gut. This could go two different ways. Amiable or she has a weapon. I turned and slightly put myself between Paula and Marisa.
Marisa smiled “I come in peace. You want to search me for weapons. Please! I think it will be the beginning of payback.”
I laughed and said, “Actually counseling or a lawyer is what I would advise.”
Marisa laughed “Are you available?”
I was not going to let on “Retired but I can refer you to an excellent attorney. My son as a matter of fact.” I pulled his card out of my wallet and handed it to Marisa. She thanked me, hugged Paula and thanked her as well.
The trip home was congenial sharing bits and pieces of our past as friends, not prospective lovers. Her husband of 2 years passed away in a car accident he was drunk ran off an embankment. I told her of Martha’s struggle with ovarian cancer. I found myself spouting all sorts of proud dad bravado about my son Connor. I have 2 grandchildren a girl named Madison a boy named Shane. Madison is the oldest now 6 Shane is 4. Both brilliant of course. Paula is a good listener and she laughs at all the right jokes.
I keep telling my ego back off she is too young for you. I like her tenacity. I especially appreciate how she went toe to toe with me.
Paula said “Your an old fashion guy at heart Morty.”
“How do you know that?”
“The way you talk about your son and his wife. You like the fact that Janice is a stay at home mom.”
“I understand that many moms do not have that luxury. I believe whenever it is possible the mom should be home raising the kids. If not mom Grandma, sister and such.”
Paula nodded “I wanted kids but after Mike passed I could not even think of falling in love again. Mike and I were great together but his drinking would eventually come between us. I never expected it to end like it did.”
I sighed “You never found someone that you could love?”
She grimaced “I thought I did but as it turns out he was married to Marisa.”
My turn to nod “Well darn and I am too old for you. But seriously Paula don’t stop trying.”
She laughed and said, “Like you Humpty pumpty?”
I did have to laugh. I know I deserved it. I was acting like an adolescent. Funny how people act out their frustrations in different ways. Mine was to run from one rabbit hole to another. I was Alex in Wonderland.
I slowly pulled into her driveway and thanked her for a nice afternoon. I got out after telling her to stay put till I opened the door. To her credit, she sat there waiting.
I opened the door and she slid slowly out of the car stood up looked me straight in the eye and kissed me like no other. Yikes, I was hoping my appreciation wasn’t showing.
Once our lips unlocked she smiled and said “Now that I got that off my bucket list, when we see each other on Monday we are going back to business as usual. Except for your escapades I hope.”
Laughing I said “I will give it my best shot. What are the odds I can remove something from my bucket list?”
Her smile was wicked “Slim to none.”
I smiled back and said, “I will take my chances at slim.”