••• The International Writers Magazine: Lead us Not into Tempation
It was a nice spring day in Sacramento, one to enjoy before the summer heat settled in. I was having lunch with Rosemary Harper, my lead analyst, in the Capitol building cafeteria.
Rosemary was a very attractive young lady in her late twenties. She’d been after me to have lunch with her so she could tell me some of her ideas about improving the work of our section, which dealt with health statistics, and which I’d headed since being promoted a few months ago. Besides being attractive, Rosemary was very ambitious.
I had to deliver a report to the Governor’s office that morning so I’d told her to come along. Lunching at the Capitol cafeteria it was much less likely that we’d be seen than if we’d have lunch in the Health Department building, which housed our office. Needless to say, this was to be strictly a business lunch; still, I wasn’t anxious for anyone to see us. When we’d come into the cafeteria all of the men, mostly middle-aged like myself, had stopped their eating to look at Rosemary and I couldn’t help but feel a certain pride of possession. I had to admit I’d sometimes had thoughts about Rosemary outside of the office and they weren’t always the most professional thoughts.
We selected our lunches, a sandwich for me and a salad for Rosemary, and found a table along the wall. Rosemary, as I knew from her file, had graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Business Administration. Now she told me some of her ideas. One was to try improve our antiquated computer system. She suggested forming a task force, as she called it, to meet with programmers in the IT section, to work on this. Of course, she’d be happy to lead the task force. Another idea was to put out weekly bulletins on some health matter. For example, deaths by drownings were coming into the news as they always did at this time of the year and there could be a bulletin on these. I told her I’d consider her ideas carefully and let her know.
We were almost finished eating when a tall, white haired man stopped at our table and said hello to me. I recognized him as Tom Chambers, a state senator I’d done some work for and one of the few legislators who were appreciative of the efforts made by a mere state employee. I knew that Chambers, who was in his forties, had lost his wife to cancer several months before and I told him I was sorry to hear about his loss. I introduced him to Rosemary, who gave him her best smile, then he went on his way. After he’d left, Rosemary asked me about him and I told her what little I knew. We returned our trays and walked back to our office, with Rosemary getting her usual appreciative looks from passers-by.
I was once again with Rosemary, not having lunch this time, but waiting to see Marcus Aurelius Gonzales, the Director of the State’s vast Health Department and so my ultimate boss. Marcus had called earlier and told me he had a little project for me and, oh, yes, why didn’t I bring that analyst, what was her name, Rosemary, with me. Marcus, who had a wife somewhere who was never seen, was known to have an eye for attractive women and had in fact staffed his office with a number of them. Some people called them Marcus’s harem but nothing improper had ever been reported about his dealings with them.
After the obligatory wait, Marcus was after all a Department Director and I was a lowly section chief, we were ushered into his large office. Marcus at that time was about 50; he was of average height, stocky, with black hair and piercing black eyes. He stood up and gestured for us to be seated. Rosemary crossed her legs and I saw that Marcus had taken due notice. Marcus’s little project was to collect information on deaths by injuries in the State over the past ten years. His object, as I gathered it, was to show that they’d gone up and that therefore he needed more money to combat them As he talked, Rosemary was furiously taking notes in the notebook she’d brought along.
“It sounds like more than a little project to me, Marcus,” I said. “What do you think?” I asked Rosemary.
“I think it can be done if I can access the proper data bases,” she said. Data bases were words Rosemary was fond of using. “It would help if we had a more modern computer system.”
“Ah, what were you thinking?” asked Marcus.
“It’s something that’s being taken care of,” I quickly put in.
“All right,” said Marcus. “Give me a report on your progress in a week.”
Rosemary and I stood up to go, but Marcus looked at me and said, “Stay for a moment, Arnold.” I sat down again.
“Quite an attractive analyst you have there,” said Marcus. “And very ambitious.”
“I may have to find a spot for her on my staff.”
“That would put a crimp in the section’s output. I don’t think we could handle that injuries project.”
“Oh, it wouldn’t be that soon. Have you ever been tempted?”
“By Rosemary. Of course not. I’m a happily married man.”
“As am I. Still, that Rosemary is quite something.”
For a moment there was nothing said as we both contemplated the phenomenom of Rosemary, then Marcus abruptly dismissed me and I returned to my office with a mixture of thoughts swirling in my mind, chief of which was how to fit in the latest project with all of the others in my section but also the question Marcus had raised about being tempted by Rosemary.
It had been a long week and I agreed with the sentiment expressed by TGIF, Thank God it was Friday. Rosemary and I had presented the results of the injury project to Marcus. As I’d expected, they were inconclusive and he wasn’t pleased. I had several requests from Legislators and of course these had to be met yesterday. One aggrieved legislator called Marcus to complain and I received a memo about it. There was another memo that the Governor had decreed a ten percent cut in finances and I had to reduce my section’s expenses accordingly. To cap off the week, I’d driven to work that Friday morning and the first rain of the winter had started on the drive back, making the usual snail-like commuter traffic even slower. So I’d arrived home tired and not in the best of moods.
There was more bad news on the home front. My wife Ellen told me that our ancient washing machine had overflowed again. I said I’d look at it over the weekend but I had the feeling that the machine had reached the end of the line and would have to be replaced, another expense. There was more. Our older daughter had called from college, informing Ellen that she needed a new hard drive for her computer. Still another expense. Our younger daughter, who was in high school, wanted the car that night to go to some kind of party. On top of all this, we were scheduled to go to a neighborhood barbeque that evening, a staple of suburban living. Ellen told me this had been our excuse for missing the last barbeque so we were obliged to go to this one.
Later that night I was in bed, wide awake, when I finally heard my daughter coming in. I relaxed a little. Broken washing machines, new hard drives, college expenses, and when both daughters were in college we’d really be stretched. Sometimes, as some song said, I’d like to get away from it all. I pictured myself on some sandy beach and, presto, there was Rosemary Harper, clad in a tiny bikini, bringing me a cold drink. I guess Marcus had been right about my being tempted.
It was another fine spring day in Sacramento. The wedding had been in a large church in downtown Sacramento. A good many State legislators had attended. Now, at the reception, Marcus and I were at the same table, off in a corner, Marcus, although being a Department head, still being an appointed State worker, and so on a rung below any elected official. Rosemary Harper had been a stunning bride. State Senator Tom Chambers had been a handsome groom. They made a handsome couple. I didn’t know how Rosemary had become connected with Chambers, but evidently she’d made a strong impression on him when we were having lunch at the Capitol cafeteria.
“So you’ve lost your lead analyst,” Marcus said to me. He was sitting with his wife, who was a large, handsome woman.
“I’ve been interviewing some candidates. She’ll be hard to replace.”
“You’ll never replace someone like Rosemary.”
“You never told me you had a beauty queen working for you,” said my wife Ellen, who was sitting next to me.
“A beauty queen? I never noticed.”
“Perhaps it’s for the best,” said Marcus. He leaned across the table and whispered, “We old guys might have gotten into trouble.”
“Speak for yourself,” I whispered back.
Ellen gave me a hard look. Marcus may have been right.
© Martin Green November 2016
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