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Busy Will You Wait

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Busy Will You Wait ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

Dot Crandall kicked off her shoes after one hour behind the desk and put on her fleece-lined mules. “My dogs are barking already,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll make it to the end of the day.”

“You have to make it,” Zora Costello said. “You ain’t got any choice.”

“One day I’m going to show them who’s got a choice and who hasn’t!”

“Maybe you ought to buy a different kind of shoes if they hurt your feet all the time that way.”

“It’s not my shoes. It’s my feet. They’re not normal”

“Nothing else about you is normal, either.”

Before Dot could take exception to Zora’s remark, there was a chirp-chirp sound, meaning the phone was ringing.

“Goodapple and Rood,” Zora said. “I’ll connect you.” Pause. “Busy-will-you-wait?” Click.

“People are calling here all day long with their problems,” Dot said. “It makes me sick.”

“I know, but that’s the world of business.”

“I don’t think I can stand much more of it.”

ChirpChirp.

“Goodapple and Rood,” Zora said. “I’ll connect you.” Pause. “Busy-will-you-wait?” Click. “Okay, I didn’t want to talk to you, anyway!”

“Nobody’s waiting?” Dot asked.

“They just hang up.”

“My, but people are impatient today!”

“I’m glad they hang up,” Zora said. “Then I don’t have to deal with them.”

ChirpChirp.

“Goodapple and Rood,” Zora said. “I’ll connect you.” Pause. “Busy-will-you-wait?” Click.

“I’ve got a pain in my side,” Dot said.

“Pregnant, I’ll bet.”

Dot’s laugh was a sudden release of air, as from a gas bag. “Now, that would be a miracle!”

“Call that old man of yours and tell him you’re got a little bundle of joy on the way.”

“Not that one! He’s got alcoholics’ disease and, if that isn’t bad enough, his brain has gone soft from watching too much TV. When he’s asleep he dreams he’s watching Bonanza.”

“Well, that’s what happens to old men, isn’t it?”

“I suppose so, but I’m not ready to take care of an old man yet. I’m still young.”

“You’re not as young as you’d like to think you are.”

“You should talk!”

“I know. We’re both old.”

“And still going to work every day. That’s the sad part.”

“How long do we have to go until we can retire?” Zora asked.

“I don’t think that day will ever come,” Dot said. “We’ll both still be here when we’re ninety-five.”

“You’ll be ninety-five before I will!”

“We’ll die chained to these desks and nobody will even notice.”

“We’re already dead and in hell. That’s the only explanation.”

ChirpChirp.

“Goodapple and Rood,” Zora said. “I’ll connect you.” Pause. “Busy-will-you-wait?” Click.

“Fix your face, honey! Here comes that cute postman!”

With the precision of an acrobat, he came through the door, deposited the mail on the desk and went out again, all without looking up.

“I wish I could get him to look at me just once,” Dot said.

“Why?”

“I think he’s cute. Don’t you think he’s cute?”

Zora hooted with laughter. “If he looks at you, he would probably only be noticing the resemblance to his great-grandmother.”

“If I was only twenty years younger, I could go for him in a big way.”

“If you were forty years younger, it would still be a stretch.”

“He looks like a boy I was crazy about when I was fifteen. He was a couple years older than me and he wouldn’t give me a tumble.”

“He probably liked other boys.”

“You never forget your first love.”

“Are you sure he was the first?”

“I wonder what his name is.”

“You were in love with him and you didn’t know his name?”

“No! The postman! I wonder what his name is.”

“You could always ask him,” Zora said.

“I’m too shy. I wouldn’t be able to get the words out.”

“Do you want me to ask him for you? It’s probably Nelson or Kenny or something like that. Or maybe Kenny Nelson.”

“I think he looks like a Freddie.”

“Okay, then, we’ll say his name is Freddie.”

“One day when he comes in here,” Dot said, “I’m going to ask him if it’s raining. You know, engage him in conversation.”

“The janitor is more your type.”

“He’s too much like my husband and, anyway, he’s married.”

“Yeah, all the good ones are taken.”

ChirpChirp.

“Goodapple and Rood,” Zora said. “I’ll connect you.” Pause. “Busy-will-you-wait?” Click.

“They hung up?”

“I think it was Freddie the postman calling to see if you would answer.  It sounded like his breathing.”

“If he calls again, tell him I’m waiting for him to make the first move.”

“Tell him yourself! He’s your love interest.”

“The pain in my side is getting worse,” Dot said. “Now I’ve got the same kind of pain in my head. I think I’ll go home sick for the rest of the day.”

“And leave me here to cope all by myself? I don’t think so!”

ChirpChirp.

“Goodapple and Rood,” Zora said. “I’ll connect you.” Pause. “Busy-will-you-wait?” Click.

“Hung up again?”

“Yeah.”

“I think you’re pushing the wrong button, honey. When you try to put them on hold, you’re disconnecting them.”

“Which button am I supposed to push?”

“This one.”

“I’ve been pushing that one.”

“That’s why they all seem to hang up. You’re cutting them off.”

“Well, isn’t that funny? Hah-hah-hah! The joke’s on me! Hah-hah-hah!”

“You’d better not let Mr. Goodapple know you’ve been hanging up on his clients. He wouldn’t like it.”

“You know what Mr. Goodapple can do! I’ll just say there’s something wrong with the phone.”

“The problem isn’t with the phone but with the person using the phone.”

“Yeah, who cares? I’m hungry.”

“Me too. I didn’t eat any breakfast this morning.”

“Maybe we could slip out and get a real sit-down lunch today.”

“We can’t both be gone at the same time. We’ll have to go one at a time or one of us will have to bring back.”

“I’ll go.”

“And leave me alone to answer the phone? I don’t think so!”

“You go, then. Bring me back a bacon and tomato on whole wheat toast, a large Coke and a pack of Luckies.”

Their thoughts were just then interrupted by the smell of Mr. Goodapple’s cologne and the sound of his footsteps in the hallway coming toward them. Dot opened a ledger and began studiously copying figures from it onto a pad. Zora opened her desk drawer and began rearranging the things inside.

“Well, well, well!” the great man boomed. “How are we all doing today?”

“Just fine, Mr. Goodapple!” Zora said.

“Very good, sir!” Dot said.

“Keeping busy, are we?”

“Oh, yes, sir!

“I like to check up on the girls in the front office and make sure things are running smoothly.”

“We’re getting along swimmingly,” Dot said.

“We’ve been so busy this morning!” Zora said. “Hardly time to catch our breath.”

Haw-haw-haw!” he laughed, showing his mule-like teeth. “That’s the way we like it, isn’t it?”

“Oh, yes, sir!”

“The busier we are, the more we feel we’re earning our pay.”

“I was saying that very thing a little while ago,” Zora said. “We do love our jobs so.”

“You’ve both been here a long time, haven’t you?”

“Oh, yes, sir! Many, many years in fact.”

“More years than we can count,” Dot said.

“Some people just can’t stand to ever think of retiring, can they?” he said.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have my job to go to every day,” Zora said.

“I feel the same way,” Dot said.

Mr. Goodapple smiled in his self-satisfied way. “I like to see dedication in my people,” he said. “And loyalty. Nothing is more important.”

Somebody came up behind Mr. Goodapple and tapped him on the shoulder and he left. Zora and Dot let out their breath with relief.

“That bastard!” Zora said. “Spying on us!”

“He’s got his nerve!”

“He thinks he’s so important and he’s just the white on top of old chicken doodle.”

“The smell of his cologne makes me sick.”

“For two cents I’d tell him what I think of him!”

“The pain in my side just got worse!” Dot said. “I have to get out of here!”

She stood up and shuffled in her mules down the hallway to the ladies’ room. When she came back, she was pale and her intricate hairdo had come undone.

“I was just sick in the bathroom,” she said. “The stress is too much for me.”

“You’d better go home and lie down, then, honey,” Zora said. “I can cover for you.”

“You’re right,” Dot said. “I guess maybe that’s the thing I ought to do.”

After Dot was gone, Zora combed her hair and fixed her face. Then she left the office to get herself a good lunch. She would take as long as she wanted, if not the entire afternoon, and if Mr. Goodapple didn’t like it, well, she’d be glad to tell him what he could do about it.

Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp

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