AW Flash Fiction — “Forgiveness” — 4/25/10

Missy trudged slowly to the office door to admit their visitor. They were out a receptionist because of an earlier than expected maternity leave. Hopefully the temp the agency sent over would work out. Missy really didn’t have a lot of time to be training and retraining a receptionist. Their business was brisk and all-consuming.

“Hi, are you the temp from the agency?” Missy extended her hand to shake that of the woman who stood in front of her.

The woman took her hand and smiled, perhaps a bit nervously. “Yes, I’m Dana Darling from While You Were Out Temporary Staffing.”

“Missy Munchausen. Nice to meet you. Please come on in.”

Dana preceded Missy into the main part of the office on the other side of the glass window that separated the public accessible foyer from the secured office.

Missy pointed to the desk and said, “Have a seat here. This will be where you work. Obviously you will be the one to admit our visitors after they enter the foyer. If you’re working in the mail room and a visitor rings the doorbell, as you just did, it will be your job to go answer it.”

“Okay. That sounds easy enough.” Dana smiled and straightened her crisp navy skirt after she slipped off the matching jacket and draped it on the back of her chair.

Missy sidled over to a nearby cubicle then returned with another chair in which she sat. “So, Dana, your other duties will include answering the phone and routing the phone calls to the correct professional.” She removed a chart and placed it in front of Dana.

Dana picked up the chart on which the names had been neatly typed–Missy, Devin, Paco, Rhiannon, Destiny and Faith. Next to each of their names were words like infidelity, theft, insults, bodily harm, malicious gossip. Missy noticed that she furrowed her brow but held her tongue.

“Ah, I can see you’re a little confused.” Missy took back the chart and pointed to her own name. This is me, this is my extension and these are the types of cases that I handle–infidelity, both emotional and physical, dating a best friend’s ex, dating a best friend’s fiance, gossiping about a friend’s infidelity. I think you sort of get the drift, right?” She wagged her head side to side and rolled her eyes. It was pretty obvious.

“Uh, not really.” She screwed her face into one that clearly expressed distaste.

“Yeah, it’s not the most pleasant of topics but you’ll get used to it. So anyway, if a potential client calls with an issue that meets my area of expertise, you direct the call to me and I’ll take it from there.”

“Uh, okay, I guess I got that but how should I ask them what their problem is?”

“We have a script.” Missy pulled out a notebook from the top drawer. “I forget about it since our regular receptionist pretty much memorized it years ago.” She flipped to the third page and pointed. “Here. Here is the typical script you need to follow to probe the caller as to the nature of their issue. Make sense?”

Again Dana’s face took on an incredulous expression but she nodded.

“Right. So that’s the new client screening and routing. Sometimes we get in person visitors. Now the most important thing to remember is to keep the injured party separated from the one who did it. Very, very important. I can’t stress how important that is. We’ve run out of courtesy visits from security. Any more and we’ll have to start paying on a per visit basis. We so do not want that, trust me.” Missy giggled and shook her head.

“How will I know who is who?” Dana now sported a look of mounting terror.

“Oh, well you ask them, of course. You’ll have their names in the online appointment calendar so you’ll know who’s who from that. Use the adjoining conference rooms but make sure you always put the injured party in the room on the right, okay. Just remember right equals right. It’s easy.”

“Could I ask a stupid question, Missy?”

“There are no stupid questions, Dana. Ask me anything you like.” Missy smiled and widened her eyes with expectation.

“What is it that you actually do here? Are you lawyers or something?”

Missy laughed and laughed and slapped her thighs. “Lawyers? Oh no we hate them. Who doesn’t right?” She nudged Dana on the arm then turned serious. “We’re brokers.”

“Brokers? I’m afraid I still don’t understand.”

“We broker forgiveness.” Missy nodded and shrugged. “Cool, huh?”

“You broker forgiveness?” Dana’s eyes grew wide and her jaw dropped.

“Yes. We like to think of ourselves as arbitrators of human relationships. Let’s say your dog digs a giant hole in your neighbor’s flower garden and now your neighbor is giving you the silent treatment. You call us.” Missy pointed to the reference guide. “See here…Paco, he handles pet issues. He’s better than the dog whisperer,” she said in a conspiratorial tone. “But don’t tell him I said that. His head’s big enough already.” She snorted and again nudged Dana in the arm. “So anyway, Paco calls the wronged neighbor and explains what his role is and arranges for both neighbors to come in and discuss the issue. He arranges restitution for the wrong and we take a cut of the settlement. Who needs lawyers, eh?”

“What if there is no monetary settlement?”

“No monetary settlement? I’m sorry Dana but what rock have you been living under? Every offense has a monetary value.” She flipped through the reference manual and stopped somewhere in the middle and turned it to Dana to read. “See. Here are the monetary values assigned to each type of affront. Of course it’s negotiable. It’s always negotiable.”

Dana nodded. “I think I’m beginning to understand.”

“Our fee never is, however.” Missy stood. “Okay so come with me now and I’ll explain the kitchen and bathroom schedule.”

“You have a schedule for the employees to follow for the common areas?”

“Oh yes. We can’t have Destiny and Faith cross paths or they’ll kill each other. And Paco and Devin…whew…girl, you don’t even want to go there unless you’re wearing your safety armor!”

“This has to be the weirdest assignment I’ve ever been sent on,” Dana said as she shook her head.

Missy rolled her eyes. “Oh honey, if you think ‘Forgive and Forget, LLC’ is weird, you should try temping at our sister company, ‘Get Them Before They Get You’. Now those guys are intense.”

2 thoughts on “AW Flash Fiction — “Forgiveness” — 4/25/10

  1. Now that’s thinking outside of the box! Very odd, Claire, even for you. Ha ha. The only constructive criticism I have is the opening line. If I were bogged down with work and awaiting the temp receptionist, I wouldn’t be trudging to the front door I’d be skipping! LOL Get that girl trained and get back to work!

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