Guest Post by Jeremy “P.G.” Edwards
I was easing myself into the columns of the morning spreadsheet and remarking how especially crisp the 3s and 7s looked when I sensed a presence. I swiveled the Edwards hips in the task chair—entangling one of the casters with the fax-machine cable in the process—and found myself face to face with Reeves.
The Reeves half of the face-to-face action held a hint of foreboding, if foreboding is the word I want. I don’t mean to imply that you’d stop her on the street for an autograph, having mistaken her for the Greek mask of Tragedy, or sidle up to inquire solicitously which Russian novel she’d wandered out of. No, Reeves is not one to convey emotion on a grand scale. But years of employing Reeves as my assistant bookkeeper had taught me to recognize the soupcons of anxiety that appeared from time to time in the Reeves countenance, and this was a soupcon if I ever saw one.
“Oh, hullo, Reeves.”
“Good morning, sir.”
“Here a bit early, aren’t you?”
“It is kind of you to notice, sir. I did arrive in a chronologically anterior fashion today.”
“Eager to dip into the Habermas, were you?” One of the reasons Reeves stays with us is that toiling in the college-bookstore milieu gives her access to her favourite scribblers. From what Reeves tells me, this Habermas fellow writes tomes that grip the reader from start to finish. I imagine he’s pretty generous with the ménage and exhibitionism scenes.
“No, sir. I thought my presence might be of some small benefit as we examined the contents of the Federal Express envelope.”
Well, I won’t say I fell all the way off my task chair, but the fleshy parts slid far enough down the seat that the phrase “mileage reimbursement” crossed my mind.
“Reeves, you must be more careful with your enunciation,” I said sternly. “You slurred your speech so awfully just now, it sounded like you said ‘Federal Express envelope.’”
“No, sir. That is indeed the phrase to which I gave utterance.”
“What? Why the d. would you do that?”
“Because, sir, the term was the most accurate description at my disposal when I found it necessary to impart news of the object’s arrival. It was presented by the delivery gentleman shortly before closing time last evening, and I surmised that you would wish to respond to the missive at your earliest convenience.”
“What do you suppose the blasted thing says?”
Reeves coughed discreetly. “Conjecture will not be required, as I took the liberty of perusing the document when it arrived.”
“Well, what did it say, Reeves?” Despite her general attitude of—what is it? Starts with an r . . . ah, right, reserve—despite her reserve, Reeves has a sneaky flair for the dramatic that can be exasperating. I mean to say, there’s a time to exercise one’s f. for the d., and a time not to exercise it, and in the opinion of J. Edwards the present moment had definitely shaped up to be a non-exercising one of the first order.
“Out with it, Reeves. Don’t keep me waiting like those pals of yours whose colleague never turned up. What was the chap’s name? Go-something?”
“You are perhaps thinking of Godot, sir, an offstage character in a work by Samuel Beckett.”
“Yes, that’s the fellow. Seems just as well to leave him offstage if he’s going to be so inconsiderate.”
“You are undoubtedly correct, sir. One can assume Mr. Beckett was thinking along similar lines when composing the drama.”
“But we can discuss the latest theatre goings-on at some later date. What was in this letter from HQ? I assume it was from HQ.”
“Your supposition is entirely just, sir. The letter of promotion emanated from our central corporate offices.”
The fleshy parts sailed another reimbursable mile or two down the task chair. “Letter of p-promotion? You mean as in ‘sales promotions’?” Never let it be said that the Edwardses aren’t optimists. “New batch of flotsam they want us to feature at the front of the store? What is it this time, spiral notebooks with chalkboard covers? Sweatshirts with cheaply made cell phones sewn into the hoods? I trust it’s not more highlighters, Reeves. We still have nineteen cases left over from last time.”
“The letter did not pertain to merchandising strategies. After a few cordial references to our recent efforts to advance the company’s fiscal status, it chiefly concerned itself with the details of your imminent promotion to store manager.”
Reeves looked sympathetic, by which I mean that the rightmost eyelash on her left eye drooped about half a millimetre.
“Store manager? Me?”
“I fear so, sir.” She cleared her throat. “Shall I bring a sheet of bubble wrap from the stockroom? Rupturing bubbles is an excellent method of alleviating tension, if one is to credit the professional literature.”
“Bring three sheets, Reeves.”
“Very good, sir.”