General Fiction posted March 22, 2019


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A 'Someone Else' Contest Entry

Getting To Know the Team

by Y. M. Roger


I took the side roads instead of the interstate to the airport. It took me through some interesting and maybe not so upstanding neighborhoods, but I needed the extra time to unwind. Bumper-to-bumper traffic for half an hour or more would not accomplish that.
 
Tomorrow and Friday were it: my chance of a lifetime. I had landed the biggest two-day demo/interview of my young career with one of the prominent illustrating companies in the country. Hell, who was I kidding? They were in the top five globally!
 
Good-bye to that pissant little company in downtown Jackson.
 
Okay, I have to hand it to President Phillips – ‘Bob,’ he’d said in that Southern drawl, ‘we don’t stand on formality here’ – because he had recognized my talents right out of college, but I had been recovering from the emergency appendectomy on interview day and missed the big-name interviews. So, I’d been stuck with the leftover companies with the leftover students by default not because of talent.
 
But that team I’d been saddled with for the last few years? Yikes! I mean, they were nice and all, but it was like babysitting local-yocals.
 
For instance, what about Gordy? Oh, he could draw – damn, his free hand of an action scene was phenomenal – but he was certainly not all that bright. And he didn’t even try to keep up – the guy doodled at every team meeting we had and never brought anything but drawings with him – no analyses, no forecasts. Sometimes I think the reason he had a job is because Vice-President Hayden likes him in the hallways for eye candy because, honestly, he couldn’t even order lunch without Evelyn putting in her two cents about what he should try.
 
And Evelyn. What is with her clothes? She has to make at least as much as the rest of us, but you’d never know it. She’ll never get anywhere with her wardrobe – or lack thereof! – and that all-too-agreeable attitude. And lately, she was Gordy’s shadow – although I was pretty sure there was nothing going on there. Sure, she could program with any graphics card you could name, but she was so…so…mousy. And quiet. If she’d just stand up for herself once in a while, maybe she could get out of there and make it big, too.
 
Nope, I wasn’t going to think about them until Monday morning when I would, hopefully, be submitting my letter of resignation. Oh, yeah, this was going to be the start of a whole new life!
 
I went back over the contents of my suitcase in my head. I had packed my favorite two pairs of heels, the red and the magenta ones, and one pair of athletic shoes. My two suits - both with fitted skirts - were in the hanging bag and my warm-ups, make-up case, and underwear with athletic bra were all in the pockets. And, of course, all of my software parts for the demo on Friday were in my carry-on – that would not be leaving my sight. Oh, I was going to wow them in New York, no question. I couldn’t wait!
 
*************
 

Aaaack! Why was that alarm so loud?
 
I tried to drag myself out of the depths of deep sleep.
 

And why was it across the room?
 
I threw the covers back and sat up, the alarm still blaring. As I fought for full awareness, I realized it was quite dark...and that I wasn’t wearing a shirt!
 

Oh! My! God! Could someone ha–
 
I yelped out loud as my hand reached my chest and felt the hair there!
 

There was hair on my…on my…on my hard, flat chest! No-o-o-o!
 
And the damn alarm was still going off! I leapt out of the bed, heading toward the deafening sound, and I stumbled over a large dog. At least I hoped it was a dog. The animal took that moment to stand up, throwing off my balance in the dark, and I pivoted in the direction of the alarm, only to fall against a small table.
 
The table and I connected at about waist-height for me, and I hollered in pain as I fell to the floor. I had my official confirmation that I was definitely a guy.
 

Oh, God, Randall. I thought of the time I had kicked poor Randall Everett in the balls because he had dared insult my artwork back in middle school. I am so sorry! I was having trouble catching my breath the pain was so intense. I promise, if I get out of this, I’m going to find you and send you a huge apology gift. I managed a single breath, but it hurt. So. Bad! Maybe I’ll send you two gifts, one for each…
 
And the dog was licking my face and whining…
 

Please, Lord, let me wake up for real, please!
 
Just as it felt I could begin to move and was reaching around the dog – ugh, my face was covered with saliva – and over the table top toward the blaring alarm, a door flew open to my left. It had to be the bedroom door because there looked to be a hall outside. At least the dog took it as its exit and trotted out…only to be replaced by Thor. No, seriously, I’m pretty sure this guy was Thor from the Marvel comics with his shoulder-length blonde hair, no shirt, and undone jeans with untied workbooks. I froze and just stared at him as the alarm continued to sear my eardrums.
 
“Damn Gordy! What the hell did you guys drink last night?” He slammed a huge palm down over the alarm – hooray, silence! – and reached out a hand toward me.
 
I had to think of something to say. But what?
 

“Screw you.”
 
That’s what I’d heard other guys use. A lot. And, yeah, there wasn’t much heat in it, but that was all I could muster at the moment. I took his hand and he yanked me to my feet. I tried to stand up straight, but I couldn’t help but stand just a bit crooked with the lingering pain there between my legs.
 
“Yeah, well, I think I’ll pass like apparently everyone else did.” He laughed and indicated my empty bed before he turned and walked out, turning on the room light on his way. “Forty-three minutes, dude. You told me to make sure you were up since that bitch will be gone today and tomorrow.”
 
I grunted and moved toward the bathroom. Turning on the light, I stumbled to the toilet. Realizing I was too disoriented to try to aim something with which I had no practice, I sat. I took those moments to look at my hands – my large, semi-calloused, hair-on-the-backs-of-them hands – as I tried to figure out what kind of hell I had ended up in and why.
 

Gordy. Thor called me Gordy. No-o-o-o…
 
I leapt up and squared myself in front of the mirror, eyes wide. My hand wove itself through Gordy’s hair there and rubbed the side of Gordy’s face, beard stubble scratching my palm. I exhaled in a disgusted and disappointed huff.
 

I was that bitch that would be gone today and tomorrow!
 
*************
 
As I pulled up to work, my head was spinning trying to figure everything out. I hadn’t even listened to music on the way to work because I needed to think.
 

Was the real me still at my interview in New York today?
 
Oh, I had hoped so! And then I had considered bathroom etiquette.
 

Was there some sort of way I should act in there? Should I look at other guys since they don’t have stalls? What about other stuff like using those things on the wall?
 
This was maddening on so many levels.
 

Would Evelyn know it wasn’t Gordy in here? Was there some sort of secret local-yocal handshake that I, as team lead, wasn’t privy to?
 
The questions had been endless. Wait, they were still endless, but it looked like it was time to find out if I could pull this off – Evelyn stood there at the front door looking straight at me. Guess that was my cue to get out. I grabbed the big satchel that had been in Gordy’s room at the condo – the one he shared with his brother, Allen aka Thor. I had recognized it as the one he had at the office from time to time even though I had no idea what was in it.
 
As I approached, she had already started talking.
 
“So, right on time, G!” She put her arm through mine as we continued through the automatic doors together. “Did you bring them?”
 

G? Evelyn called Gordy ‘G’? Why hadn’t I known that?
 
I held up the briefcase and nodded, hoping like hell that Gordy was a good school boy and packed his backpack the night before school. Evelyn squealed with delight, but then tried to cover her excitement.
 
“Sorry!” She smiled and continued as we approached the elevators. “I’m just so excited to see what the finished layouts look like.”
 

The finished layouts for what? We don’t have a project due…
 
I nodded again and pressed our floor button on the elevator.
 
“Hey, are you feeling okay, G? You don’t have one of those awful migraines, do you?”
 
Thinking fast, I shook my head and pointed to my throat. Good heavens, I had no idea Gordy suffered from migraines.
 

“Just really scratchy,” I responded.
 
Was that my voice? I mean, Gordy’s voice? Wow!

 
It was deep and really filled my head a lot more than my voice did.
 
“Oh, I hope you’re not getting a cold. Bobby and Scott have had runny noses for the last few days and Nonni’s hips were bothering her this morning.”
 
My mind was reeling. Evelyn was so animated and so open this morning! And who were all these people she was talking about? According to her interview and her human resource file, she was single with no children…
 
“Of course Leah’s AWOL again so I had to get them to school – thank goodness for Early Care and After-School Study. But they charge five dollars for each one for before and then again for after so that pretty much shot my money for lunch today and tomorrow, but I think I’ve got some power bar–”
 
Evelyn abruptly stopped talking and released my arm. I turned my head to see Samantha and some other folks in the marketing division approaching. I turned back to Evelyn. She had completely changed into the Evelyn that I knew – not cowering but definitely silent with eyes averted.
 
I had this urge to reach up and touch her arm, so I did. And even though she didn’t look up, she nodded.
 
“Evie’s good.” She smiled at the ground. “Thanx, G.”
 
As the elevator doors opened, I took the initiative to hold the door so that Evie – another name I had never heard used – could board. The people from marketing hesitated, all of their eyes meeting mine in question.
 

What in the world were they waiting on?
 
But just as I made myself smile at Samantha and was about to step back and let them board, Evie reached under my arm and pressed our floor button.
 
“Not yet, G,” she whispered, her words barely audible above the hum of the elevators.
 
Again, going with the urge to shake my head in the negative to Samantha and company, I did so. And the elevator doors closed in front of my face.
 
As soon as we started moving, I could feel the frown forming on my brow as I turned around to look at Evelyn – wait, no, at Evie. She was leaned back against the railing that lined the elevator car. She looked up at me, eyes now back to the pleading glass that I had grown accustomed to seeing most of the time.
 
“Don’t say it.” She held up her palm toward me. “I know it’s been almost three months and I know I need to go to counseling but with Nonni’s surgery and Leah gone more often than not, I haven’t been able to get there.”
 

What the hell…?
 
I turned further toward her just to get a better look at her face, but she took the motion as something else.
 
“I know you said you’d help, G. I know.” She blew out a long breath and looked up into my eyes, the age and pain in hers almost taking my breath away. I know I was frowning, but I couldn’t help it. “Tell you what. There’s a big session at the women’s center this Saturday morning, and they’re offering small group sign-up after that. Could you come by and keep an eye out for Nonni and the twins about 9:30 or so? Nonni will probably be making some of her homemade pasta in the morning with her big lasagna for lunch.”
 

Who could say no to that?
 
Not me. And it felt good for Gordy to agree. So, I smiled and nodded.
 
Evelyn perked up at that. And she rubbed her palms together.
 
“Good. Then let’s see those character and background sketches and get this entry done!”
 
I followed her off the elevator in complete disbelief. My team was going to enter the state competition to develop a new in-game advertising platform – the very competition I told them we weren’t going to waste time on because I didn’t think we were good enough.
 
And then, as if she could read my thoughts, Evelyn added, “Because we are good enough, G!”
 
I felt the excitement rise inside of Gordy. Well, apparently he felt like they were, too.
 
*******************

The morning went as well as could be expected, and we got a lot of work done. More than I think they ever did with all of our usual update pow-wows and team status meetings.
 

Have I been doing things all wrong? I had thought those kinds of meetings were necessary…
 
And Gordy’s illustrations and layout? They were phenomenal. Period. You could put most of them up against some of the top professionals in the field at last season’s convention. Oh, yeah, they were that good.
 

Why had he never shown these to me? Was I really that much of a horrible team lead that I stifled my team’s creativity and input?
 
And taking those illustrations and converting them to digital just a bit at a time – letting the subroutines Evelyn had been developing ‘on the side’ digest them – we had knocked out the foundation for the platform by early afternoon.
 

Oh, this was really fun!

I had forgotten how it felt to just put your nose to the grindstone and make things happen – I was on cloud nine. Until my stomach growled. Very loudly.
 
Evie laughed and pushed the keyboard platform away from her and stood. I couldn’t help but laugh with her in my current state of enjoyment.
 
“Yeah, I’m hungry, too, G,” she said as she walked to Gordy’s bag under her drafting table, “but before we go, let’s look at your notes from that all-hands a couple of weeks ago where they went over the contest requirements.
 
I couldn’t help the snort that escaped before I had a chance to suppress the rest.
 

Oh, Evie you are in for such a rude awakening. All Gordy does is doodle in those meetings…
 
“Stop it!” She reached over and playfully punched my arm. “I’ll have you know that I’ve gotten quite good at reading G-speak.” She winked at me and began to flip through the over-sized notebook Gordy brought to all meetings.
 
“Oh, good!” She seemed pleased at something and pointed to the top of one of the pages. “You started printing out the dates and taping them next to your G-date symbols.”
 

What was she even talking about, G-date symbols? The only thing on those pages were drawings! I’d seen them from across the table at our meetings…
 
Then she turned to look at me. “Are the labels helping with the recognition some?”
 

Recognition? Did Gordy not recognize words? Letters? The man worked at an advertising firm! What in the world…?
 
Again, there was that urge to do something. This time, it was to nod…so, I did. I also smiled back at her – who wouldn’t? She really was a wonderful person when she was open like this.
 
“Hooray!” Evie did a little happy dance as she continued flipping the pages. I just kept on smiling because Gordy was very happy or proud about something, I could feel it.
 
“Here, look.” I stood so that we were looking at Gordy’s doodles together. Printed at the top of the page was the date of the big meeting earlier this month.
 
She pointed at a spiral inside a square.
 
“Here’s the beginning of the requirements.”
 

That wasn’t the beginning of anything! It was just pretty spiral…. Wasn’t it?
 
“And we’ve done the overall application.” She was pointing to what looked like a cell phone or perhaps cottage. Then her finger moved to a small handprint from a monkey or a skinny baby. “And we’ve got the mobility aspect covered.”
 

How was she getting all this from those doodles? And why didn’t Gordy just use words…
 
To my amazement, this went on for a few more minutes until our next step in the process was decided, and Evie put the notebook back in Gordy’s satchel.
 
I was still very hungry, and I hadn’t brought a lunch. Then, I remembered what Evie had said earlier about having no money and eating power bars. Oh, no. I knew how much cash I had in this wallet, and we were going to eat out.
 

“Let me buy you lunch.” Wow. I still wasn’t accustomed to the sound of my voice. “We can celebrate the bitch being gone.”
 
Yeah, that hurt to say, but Evie’s face lit with excitement. Immediately, though, it fell as she walked to the office door and looked up and down the hallway. Then she turned back, the mischievousness there alive and well once again.
 
Gordy seemed thrilled with her reaction.
 
“Shhhhh.” She giggled and walked around her desk to grab her purse. “Where do you want to go?”
 

I had no idea what either one of them liked. And, yeah, what did that say about me as a team lead…?
 
“You choose.” That was always the safest answer in this kind of situation. “I’ll drive.”
 
I know what it said. That I was a bitch.
 
**********
 
The small Italian fusion café was nice with great music – not too modern, not too old. Evie chose a place right next to the window. She had not stopped talking the whole drive over from the office.
 
From what I was able to gather, she lived with and supported her grandmother – no idea where the mother was – and her drug-addict sister whose nine-year-old twins she was essentially raising with the grandmother. The twins had some physical and mental limitations due to her sister being a drug user throughout her pregnancy.
 

No wonder her wardrobe sucked – her life sucked!
 
I just listened, and, apparently, that was the right move. Gordy must be a good listener.
 
I was learning more about my team in a day than I had taken the time to learn in the past two years. I wasn’t really sure what that said about them, but I knew what it said about me. Yep, bitch.
 
The bouncy waitress who looked to be all of fifteen placed a menu and a glass of ice water in front of each of us. She then took our drink orders before skipping off to the next table. Funny, I couldn’t tell if that impression was my own or Gordy’s.
 
I raised my glass to take a sip at the same time I opened my menu, and I promptly sprayed water from my mouth all over it and the table. A few heads turned to look at us as Evie just laughed.
 
“You're supposed to drink it not snort it, G.” She giggled as I wiped up the mess as quickly as I could. “Just let me know if you’re in the mood for beef or chicken.”
 
I stared at her in question, but she was engrossed in her menu. So, I shook off my quandary and picked up my menu again, hoping that what had made me spit my water out had been a mirage.
 
As I opened it slower this time, I got freaked out all over again.
 

Oh, God! My menu really was printed in Sanskrit!
 
Okay, I guess it could have been typed in that font on your computer called Wingdings, but, either way, there wasn’t a discernible word on the page! The few color photos of the food were great, and I could make out a few number “eights” here and there, but, beyond that, it was just gibberish!
 
I glanced over the top of my menu at Evie. She grinned at me.
 
“Well, have you decided which one?”
 

So, I was just supposed to say either beef or chicken and magic would occur?
 
“Uhhmm. Chicken?” I hoped that was the right answer as I glanced back at my menu. Nope still a bunch of designs, but the more I tried to focus on them, they started to move!!
 

I had an entire animated menu of still-pics of food and dancing designs where there should be words!
 
I reached out with my fingers toward one group of the squiggles. The entire image did a little jig as my finger penetrated it.
 

How cool! My menu was done in three-dimensional, dancing Sanskrit Wingdings!
 
I looked back over the top of the menu in hopes that maybe Evie had the secret menu decoder ring. And, with that thought, I could feel myself grinning like a loon!
 

Oh, this small bit of afternoon stubble feels weird when I smile!
 
I reached up to rub my chin and cheek, still smiling. Evie smiled back, but this time she leaned in toward me and scolded me in a whisper.
 
“I know you like staring at the words till they dance, but you’re going to give yourself a migraine, G!”
 
I glanced back down at the page full of gyrating mumbo-jumbo, closed the menu, and laid it flat on the table. I sneered like an impudent child at her but followed it with a genuine smile. I took a sip of water with much more finesse this time.
 
Well, as much finesse as a guy built like Gordy could muster. At least it didn't spill.
 
“Thank you.” She returned my smile this time. “Now, do you want the chicken alfredo pasta this time or the chicken parmesan?”
 
Oh, Gordy’s stomach liked the sound of both very much. Guys ate a lot sometimes, didn’t they?
 

“I’m having both.” Evie only shook her head as if she wasn’t surprised in the least.
 

Whew! That was crazy!

No wonder Gordy always looked to Evie for cues at restaurants and even at meetings. Poor guy has some sort of reading issues...
 
**********
 
The rest of lunch was great, and, yes, I ate both of the meals I ordered.
 
Back at the office, we got a whole lot accomplished before five-thirty rolled around. That was when Evie had to leave to pick up the twins from After-School Study. Seemed Leah had not made an appearance at her house all day – this according to her Nonni.
 
I stayed, determined to make this happen for us. Well, for them. And, as the hours wore on, I marveled at the increasing scruffiness of my beard. It provided a great distraction – with the newness of the feel on my hands – to help keep my eyes open. But, soon, rubbing my chin began to actually soothe me, and I felt my eyes grow heavy.
 

I need to close this up for the night and go home and get some sleep. Evie will need me to be at my best in the morning.
 
That’s the last thing I remember.
 
****************
 
I had awakened in my hotel room this morning with my usual little chirping alarm and my pajama shirt on. After a quick inspection, I confirmed I was back to possessing all of the correct anatomy to which my mind was accustomed.
 

Praise the Lord! I was me!
 
Walking through the revolving door of the large, corporate New York offices felt strange even though it was oddly familiar. Yes, I had been here before – I even remembered the names of the two department heads and the one deputy-director to whom I had spoken. But the weird thing was that all of those ‘memories’ seemed to be part of some strange dream recollection rather than actual memories. 
 
I looked around at the lobby as I just knew this was where I wanted to be – the big city, the big clients – yep! This had been my dream from the day my parents bought me my first CAD program in high school.
 
“So good to see you again!”
 
The voice startled me. I was so mesmerized by the expanse of the lobby that had not seen Mr. Waldennite approach. I quickly met his hand with mine in a firm handshake.
 
“Good morning, Mr. Waldennite.”
 
He chuckled and released my hand.
 
“Remember, you can call me Howard.” He seemed genuine enough as he indicated I accompany him to the bank of elevators.
 
I walked beside him as we made our way over to them.
 
“You know, I’m pretty sure you’ve got this sewn up.” Yeah, okay, he really seemed like a good and honest guy – no disgusting act or denigrating lilt to his voice. “Mr. Devonshire could not stop talking about you at our morning status update, and, I hate to say it, but Doug’s glowing words at the pow-wow afterwards…”
 
The sound of Howard’s voice trailed off in my consciousness as those meeting buzz words triggered my real memories of yesterday. All of them.
 

Gordy was an amazing artist and such a strong person – his dedication to a project was hard to find!
 
But there wouldn’t be a Gordy here. Gordy couldn’t make it in the ‘big world’ with his disabilities. Maybe one day, if someone worked with him, he could. Perhaps a friend to trade drawing lessons for reading lessons.
 

Evie had done all those subroutines off the clock and look at what they’d done yesterday! And she did it all with a helluva family handicap!
 
But Evie couldn’t leave her family, and she really needed some help. More than that, she needed a female friend.

My team needs me!
 
Howard touched my arm, and I realized the elevator door stood open in front of us. I shook my head back to reality – a huge smile pulling across my face.
 
Feels great without all the stubble there to push back!
 

I stifled a giggle at my own thought as I held out my hand to Howard.
 
“Howard, it has been a blast!”
 
He looked at me as if I’d grown another head or just simply lost my mind. Goodness knows, I‘d considered that possibility quite a bit over the past twenty-four hours.
 
“A blast, ma’am?”
 
I couldn’t figure out if he was stunned in disbelief or if he really did not know what a ‘blast’ was. Either way, I didn’t care.
 
“A blast and a pleasure.” I patted his upper arm and released my hand hold. “But I have the best team a girl could ask for back in Jackson. And” – I looked at my watch and back up as I pulled my phone out of my satchel – “we have a deadline to meet. Thank you for everything!”
 
Howard huffed as I began to turn back toward the front entrance doors, already opening the airline app to catch an earlier flight back.
 
“You do realize, young lady, that this effectively ruins your chances of–”
 
Stopping to let my gaze follow the beautiful lines of the lobby one last time, I cut off his beginnings of an indignant rant. Even though I really couldn’t blame the guy.
 
“No, it doesn’t ruin them, Howard.” I glanced back at my phone and smiled a warm, genuine smile from the heart. “It merely postpones the inevitable. You said it yourself. I’m damn good – folks here know it and recognize it. And in a few more years, I’ll be even better.”
 
At first, Howard looked taken aback, but then he returned the smile.
 
“Then good luck with your deadline and with your team.”
 
I stopped just before I entered the revolving door and turned around.
 
“Thank you, Howard.” I started to turn back to leave, but halted myself and hollered happily back at him. “And I can’t wait for you to meet them when I return!”
 

 


Someone Else writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
You (or your character) wakes up and are someone different.


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