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     The office that Sonia and Lauren shared was cluttered but not chaotic. Pictures of dogs and cats, sometimes with their owners sometimes without, lined the walls along with awards and plaques denoting various professional and fraternal organizations. Each woman had a desk, Sonia’s faced south while Lauren’s looked eastward. In addition to filing cabinets there were two well-padded chairs that were plusher than most office furniture but failed to rise to the level of comfort one would expect from home furnishings. The door to the office was open reveling Lauren sitting at her desk which Sonia had pulled her chair up to and the pair sat looking at a file on Lauren’s computer. Bryan knocked on the doorframe in lieu of the open door and said, “Hey. Are you ready for me?”

     Both women stood and started forward, stopped, looked at one another and then Lauren took the lead, taking two small steps toward Bryan, offering him her hand and saying, “Bryan! Great to see you. Right on time. Thanks for coming in early. Please come in,” she said, shaking his hand. Then as he entered she pointed to the two plush chairs and said, “Sit, please. Do you need anything? Water?”

     “No, thank you. I’m fine. Thanks for making this interview a priority. I know how busy you two are. Did Dr. Nate have any news about Mikey?” he asked.

     Sonia stood and shook Bryan’s hand while Lauren closed the office door. “I think we’ll go ahead and close this,” Lauren said. “That way we can speak more freely.”

     Letting go of his hand Sonia said, “Nate said that Mikey looks good and that he should be fine. You did a good job last night and originally that’s what we wanted to talk to you about, how well you responded, and see what direction you thought your future with Cedar Walk should take, but after today’s off site excitement we decided to put our get together on the fast track. How is that boy you saved today? Any word?”

    “You probably know more about it than I do,” Bryan replied. “I haven’t seen the newscasts so all I know is that he was taken to St Mark’s and that they thought he’d be okay.”

     “Yes, that’s what we heard too. It’s funny how this all came on so serendipitously, what with last night, this morning and your two year anniversary coming up. We wanted to have a performance review with you anyway and now it just seemed to make sense to do it sooner rather than later. How are you, by the way? Anything bothering you? It sounded like a pretty traumatic scene you stumbled across.”

    “Uhm, I’m good. You’re right though, the after effects must have shooken me up more than I thought. I had a doozy of a nightmare about getting impaled. In fact, that’s what woke me up earlier, Lauren, not you.”

     “You okay now?” Lauren asked. “You saw something pretty gruesome.”

    “I think so, thanks. When we took advanced life saving the instructors warned us about, well, ‘fluid leakage,’ and how CPR usually doesn’t work and the post event emotional roller coaster, but even though I was warned I wasn’t prepared: you know?”

     “I think we do. Speaking of training, where did you get yours?”

     “Red Cross and some other organization; I’d have to look it up, my certification just lapsed so I should probably take a refresher.”

     “You took advanced life saving at the Red Cross?” Sonia asked.

     “Oh! Sort of. I was in Scouts, I think I wrote down that I’m an Eagle on my job app? I was in something called a Venture Crew which is for older kids, high school through college? Ours was even co-ed, which made it fun. We did a lot of emergency prep.”

     “Very cool, very cool,” Sonia replied. “And it came in handy, didn’t it?”

     “I’ll say. I need to write my old leader a note telling him.”

     “You should! I’m sure he’d be ecstatic to hear it,” Lauren said. “Speaking of leaders, we were wondering where you thought you were going with Cedar Walk? Two years of third shift overnight is a long time in that particular job. Are you happy there?”

     Bryan hesitated a moment before answering. “I have enjoyed the solitude and being with the animals. It was just what I needed for a long time but I think, no, I am ready to move on to other things. Is there a job you think I might fill here other than that?”

     Sonia and Lauren looked at one another for a second before Sonia said, “We have a job someone needs to fill and we’re wondering if you might not be that someone. We need an assistant manager and we’re wondering if you would like to be considered? If not we have other possible jobs for you but we want to know your thoughts. You’ve always been very insistent on this third shift only thing, is that still true?”

     “No. No, it’s not. Did I ever tell you why I came here?”

     “No,” Lauren said, “But we have an idea. We did a background check on you before you were hired; criminal record, credit score, unusual events- pretty run of the mill thing to do, especially since you were going to be here all alone with people’s pets. We know about your parents’ death, if that’s what you mean.”

    Bryan nodded several times and started to speak but stopped. On the third attempt he held up his index finger. Took a deep breath and said, “Yes. I really didn’t want to be around people but I did want to be around animals. Now I think that was a mistake and it’s time for me to move on. I’d like to work with both, here would be great if you have something for me.”

    “I think it is completely safe to say we have something for you. We’d like to move you from third shift part time to full time. We just need to know what you’re looking for and see what kind of a match we can make together.”

    “Well, I know this is a bizarre thing to start with but I do need sort of an established shift. It doesn’t have to be like now, where it’s the same four days and hours pretty much every week, but I can’t handle the 24 hour a day thing. Would that be a problem?”

    “Not if we have some flexibility,” Sonia said. “Third shift would hardly ever happen, think about how few times you saw anybody else here with you? But emergencies happen and when they do we have to respond. I can tell you that not everyone has your attendance and on time record, which, considering how you get here is a sad commentary about them, but never mind that I said that. We have learned over the years that you are reliable and now we see that you are also resourceful and personable. We want you off of third and in the game.”

     “And,” Lauren added, “We owe you a raise. Somehow we missed that last year. You should have had a performance review last spring. Sorry, but we’ll make up for it. We would have bumped you from $8.86 to nine twenty five a year ago so we feel like we need to compensate. Plus, full time pays better and has benefits. Interested?”

     “Well, yeah. I said I was. Can you tell me more? I mean about the job, or the benefits? Both, I guess!”

     “Well,” Sonia took over, “let’s start compensation because that’s easy. We give our full time folks one week paid vacation after a year. We’re willing to give you that up front because of your missed review, okay?”

     “Uhm, sure? I mean, yes. That sounds great.”

     “Well, it gets better,” she continued. “We offer health care and we help pay some of the premium. You have a basic Affordable Care package? Or are you uncovered?”

     “No, I have the basic package. Isn’t it illegal to be uncovered?”

    “Our coverage will cost you about the same as you’re paying now but the deductible’s way less and it covers some wellness checks. So that’s not more money per se but it is better coverage at the same cost. Cool?”

    “Very. Twice in the last week I didn’t see a doctor when maybe I should have.”

    “Oh?” Lauren said. “Everything alright?”

    “Oh, yeah. I took a spill on my bike and bumped my head, that’s all. My friend Cassie said I should see a doctor but I really couldn’t afford to. Now maybe I could if it happened again? Then the EMT wanted to transport me to St. Mark’s after I fainted but I said no to that, too. Just little stuff.”

    “Cassie is the woman in the news story with you?” Lauren asked.

    “Yes. She showed me a quick clip but I haven’t seen the coverage. I usually sleep through the six o’clock and work through the ten.”

    “Have you spoken to the media?” Lauren resumed. “Are they giving you a fair shake?”

     “So far. We’re trying to set up an interview for tomorrow morning.”

     “Well, just be careful. Sometimes a story is more important than the facts. They’ve been known to have an agenda.”

     Sonia snorted. “You can say that again! Anyway, defined contribution plan that we match up to three percent, paid sick leave, that weeks’ vacation and a raise. The raise depends on the job. We are bumping you to eleven seventy five per hour starting May third. If you go with the assistant manager’s job you could hit $13.75 by Labor Day. Interesting?”

     “Very. Fantastic, really. What do I need to do?”

    “I think you did it,” Lauren said. “We’ll get everything set up and then start your training. First big bump in pay is a given but the other two dollars an hour are up to you; fair?”

     “Yes! Great! Oh, two more things; when do I go off of third shift and I need to take a week off. In May. Probably the first or second week? Something came up and I need to see a family member if Florida. A little bit of a crisis. Sorry.”

     “Ha!” Lauren responded, “Give the kid a raise and the first thing you know he takes time off at the new rate! No, no! Don’t worry, I’m kidding. Firm up the date and get them into Sonia yesterday, okay? You need to start training your replacement next week and then we’ll go from there. Okay?”


     As they stood and shook hands they could hear Amy come clomping noisily down the hall. She tapped on the door and Lauren said, “Come in!”

     Amy opened the door and stuck her head in, “It’s a little after nine, is it okay if I go now?”

     “Anything we need to know?” Lauren asked.

     “No. I left Bryan the usual notes. He should do fine,” Amy replied.

    Lauren dismissed her with, “Okay. Thanks for staying a little late. We’ll see you tomorrow, Amy.”

     “You’re welcome. Goodnight. Bye, Bryan.”

     “Good night! I’ll see you tomorrow,” he called after her. Her exiting footsteps were amazingly quieter than her approaching ones had been.