“Leave now,” the receptionist on 11 warned Princess. “Run, go, get out of here, don’t turn back.”
“He’s coming down?” Princess already knew this lawyer could be tough. Already she knew. She needed work. Already Princess knew: This lawyer broke rules—good; screamed—not good. Two wives, she already knew; she knew a fiancé called the office one day to cancel as wife three. So she already knew: He was single. Also known: So was Princess. What in a lawyer who might be her boss could be overlooked? Or a husband? What in her life could Princess make happen? This lawyer was Jewish—it was a Jewish law firm, Princess was applying for work at a Jewish law firm. That’s what she was doing. She was applying to work for a Jewish lawyer—he was single. Princess could see herself married to a Jewish man who was wealthier than her Jewish dad, non-legal, was. Princess saw him two inches taller than her short dad, and thin, with a less confused biography than hers. But sympathetic to Princess’ life experience. Princess needed work.
Forget marriage. Princess needed work. Who was Princess? A woman needing work! Forget single, Princess. Get the job. Work, Princess.
In Princess’ life there were no small plates, platters only, and those platters were large. Those platters were full. Princess had big full platters this lifetime. No husband, Princess had no husband. But Princess needed work; that’s what she really needed. Life expanded, life changed; if in those shifts there could be located a line, at the bottom, a bottom line, that bottom line for Princess these days, here, in New York, famous New York City was: gotta find work. Gotta pay the rent, the famous New York City rent.
“Get in that elevator,” the receptionist on 11 repeated. She called Arnie Sharaga’s office. “Where are you?” the receptionist barked into the phone. “This guy is too much,” she spat to Princess. “He thought we were supposed to announce you’d shown up.” Raised her eyes to heaven, or Human Resources, on 24. “H.R. told you to be here at 10:30, Arnie.” She dabbed at her lips. To Princess: “They told him you’d be here at 10:30, but oh no, he needs a reminder.”
Princess’ watch: 11:00 a.m. “I’m worried I gotta get back to my job.”
“Who does he think he is.” This was not a question. It was a statement, a growl from the receptionist on 11, and it was inciting Princess. Just who was this Arnie Sharaga, anyway, to keep her waiting? She would get docked. This wasn’t going to pan out. Princess was fuming. She was thinking, “Just who,” as worked up as the receptionist on 11, “is Arnie Sharaga.”
The receptionist on 11 was Pig Pen, but it was not dust around her. It was, Who does he think he is. puffing here, puffing there.
Puffing here, puffing there, that was a good description of him, Arnie Sharaga, the attorney who was here to interview Princess. He would puff, “I collect art.” Then, “I’m flying to Florence for a week.” He would mouth “Florence” like he started the Renaissance, Princess would think.
Princess straightened her shoulders. “They told me the interview was at 10:30.” See why Princess didn’t have a job? See why Princess didn’t have a husband?
Arnie led her to a small caucus room on a floor of conference and caucus rooms, of corridors and doors, closed clicked shut; of carpeting and parquet floors. The next foot she put out was Princess’ best. “Oh how very nice.” She meant the caucus room. Arnie Sharaga was better looking than she’d heard he was, so well-dressed, and that had her disappointed. He was nicer looking than she was, two inches shorter, notwithstanding; wiry, bearded. A shark in wolf’s clothing. So boss only, not a husband. Can’t marry a man nicer looking than you are. Well.
She’d keep an open mind.
“I thought they’d call me!” Arnie was astonished. He’d been at his desk, drumming the fingers of his right hand against the fingers of his left hand, waiting for the receptionist’s call. For a half-hour, all of it billable, he’d timpani-ed his fingers, checked his watch, fumed to himself, “How dare the receptionist on 11 not call me to remind me I have an appointment at 10:30! How dare she assume I will simply arrive. I am important, a Partner. She should know that. She does know that and still she refuses to remind me, me whose time is so dear. How dare anyone make assumptions about I, Arnie Sharaga.”
No one needed to make assumptions. Everyone knew.
Princess sat straight, and hoped her golden brown hair with auburn streaks, short and as close to a bob as curly-headed, mousse-aplenty woman could get, looked good: smooth yet bouncy and please, God, shiny. She hadn’t had time to check it. Or she’d thought time was scarce. If Sharaga had made it clear he’d be late, she’d have checked; she’d look and feel better. Look and feel better.
He shifted to the side, his arms slightly shielding his midriff. He wasn’t shot; hadn’t past life regressed to a Civil War battlefield—his posture wasn’t that extreme. But Princess didn’t miss it. He was protecting something.
“Did Human Resources tell you anything about me?”
A pyrotechnic display in Princess’ eyes she couldn’t stop. Arnie didn’t miss it. But it wasn’t Human Resources which shared information. Not exactly. To Princess directly, Human Resources said, “I have an interview for you with Arnie Sharaga.” At 10:30, not 11.
The beginning of A Vote for Ross Perot. A Vote... is the second of two related novellas (From the One Side of Heaven), both with the same protagonist, forty years and 3,000 miles apart. The first chapter was originally published in Ampersand/Fordham University.