Monday, July 26, 2010

Harter Union: Part Five; Chapter 10

After Kathryn’s visitation, four employees, Darrell, me and an attorney all came back to Baldwin and gathered in my office to read something from Kathryn. The four employees were Melissa, Nathan, Alyson, and Wendy.

“Now, Ms. Zurich wrote these a few months ago and asked that we all gather at the Union and read them out loud,” said the attorney, handing out the envelopes. “Ms. Zurich also gave specific instructions that Mr. Franklin read his last but anyone else my start.”

Wendy opened her envelope and began reading. “’Wendy, you were always a fine cook and I think you have enough experience and talent to take my place and have sent in the necessary paperwork to Darrell and Human Resources for you to begin immediately. Your quiet demeanor was a Godsend in a place where no one seemed to know when to shut up. Thank you for your quiet obedience. It will be missed.’” Wendy sniffed and folded the paper back up. “Quiet obedience. I’m a dog now,” she sniffed.

Nathan opened his envelope and started reading, “’Nathan, every time you smiled it seemed like you were guilty of something. You always made me suspicious but you also made me smile. You helped me discover a side of myself that had remained dormant for many years—to live life to the fullest. Thank you and good luck.’” Nathan chuckled and wiped his nose. “All I said was that she needed to get laid.”

“’Alyson, you never listened and I had to get after you several times to get anything done. You were a major thorn in my side but the reason I kept requesting you to work for me was because you reminded me of myself at that age and that helped make the night go by faster.’” Alyson wiped away a tear. “Oh, great! I’m Kathryn, Junior.”

“’Melissa, you started off as my assistant but became my friend. Granted, the stories you would tell of your boyfriends got tiring but I was glad that you brought me into your world. Thank you.’”

I slowly opened my envelope and unfolded the paper. I took a breath and began reading. “’Jeff, you were a good sparring partner and I tip my glass to you. You aggravated me to no end with your back talk and blasphemous independence but you helped keep me going and you taught me a few things. You, too, could also make me smile. I’ve always said you were going to be the death of me. Well, don’t flatter yourself, you had no bearing on my passing. Don’t ever change.’” I wiped my eyes and folded the paper up and laid it on my desk.

“And now if Mr. Franklin would read this last note,” the attorney handed me a piece of paper and I cleared my throat and read.

“’If you are reading this, you are all finished reading your own personal notes. Again, thank you all and you can do what you wish with them. Through all the aggravation and distress, you kept me young and that’s something I could never pay back. You were more than co-workers and employees, you were friends and I hope to see you all wherever it is I am now.’”

There was not a dry eye in the office save for the attorney who closed his briefcase and left.

I was standing in Kathryn’s office, lit by a stain-glass lamp, looking at her odd African decorations that adorned her office. I had never been in her office before and it kind of creeped me out.

“Are you okay?” asked Melissa, making up behind me.

“I guess. I’m not really sure. I think I’m taking this harder than I should but I treated her like garbage and I never got to apologize or tell her how I really felt.”

“I think she knew, Jeff,” Melissa said, putting her arms around me.

“I know but for some reason I am still going to miss her,” I took my keys out of my pocket and stepped out of Kathryn’s office. I put my car key against her name plate and began chipping it off the wall until it finally fell to the floor. I picked it up, grabbed Melissa’s arm and bolted for the door.

Part Six begins and the Union is remodeled.