Hemlocks punctuated by the occasional western red cedar lined the small clearing. Their branches brushed the ground creating hidden fortresses where the little creatures of the wood could watch for hawks and bald eagles before dashing across the drive in search of seeds and berries. The dark green trees drew their shadows around them like winter coats and whispered among themselves.
Mrs. Hemlock leaned over the driveway and watched the cars leaving the clearing. “Did he pass over the rainbow bridge?”
Young Cedar scratched an old empty cone off the end of a branch. “They live such short lives. Are you sure he’s gone?”
Old Hemlock nodded his head. “This is their way. They go out laying down, then lots of people come and carry away what they’ve hoarded.”
Old Grandpa Cedar had the last word. “Aye, they’re like us in this way. When they go out layin’ down, they’re done for and aren’t ever comin’ back.” The trees settled down to wait for a new master or mistress.
Los Angeles CA
Audrey sat at her desk and slid the binder onto the monthly financial report. There, both reports are done and the old bitch isn’t even in yet. I wonder if I can sneak some time off to make up for coming in early?
Audrey didn’t have to wait more than five minutes before her boss bustled up to her desk. “Audrey, I want the itemized totals on my desk in a half hour.” Mrs. Hardy, who insisted on being called Gloria as if she were Audrey’s friend instead of her step-mom’s, brushed against Audrey’s desk, knocking the ledgers she had spread out in front of her askew. Audrey wondered how often Mrs. Hardy reported her activities to her parents and if the reports were as critical as Mrs. Hardy was. Audrey asked herself for at least the thousandth time, Did Dad tell her that I have mental problems?
“Here they are.” Audrey handed the folder with the sales by category and item to Mrs. Hardy. “Here’s the monthly statement if you want it, too.” She picked up the recently completed report and held it out in her other hand, and there she sat looking up at her supervisor, a report in each outstretched hand. She wanted to look at her clock to see how long Mrs. Hardy would make her wait before taking the reports.
Mrs. Hardy fluttered her hands. “Oh, done already? How on earth did you get them done so early? I just unlocked the doors five minutes ago.”
Audrey shrugged, “I had them ready to go last night. I just had to plug in the numbers from Hawaii and hit calculate, then print.” Audrey knew better than to tell Mrs. Hardy that the janitor had let her into the office at six. She’d have a fit and maybe get the janitor fired, worse she’d call Step-Monster, and she’d tell Dad, and Dad would say Audrey gets confused and can’t tell time.
Mrs. Hardy adjusted the rings on her fingers. “I want accurate numbers. If you’re done already, you can’t have had time to double-check. I want you to go back through and double-check your figures. We can’t make sound decisions if we don’t have accurate information. The numbers from Hawaii are the most likely to skew the results. Garbage in garbage out, as they say.” She walked away without taking the reports with her.
Audrey sighed and set the reports aside, then searched her drawer for different-colored binders. She’d learned long ago that Mrs. Hardy would reject finished reports on a whim, but changing the binders would be enough to satisfy the old witch. She stifled tears as she sat at her desk wondering why her best was never good enough.
She watched from behind her computer screen while Mrs. Hardy harassed the company’s sales representative, Michael. As soon as the supervisor disappeared into her office, she made a break for the restroom. Locked in a stall, she blew her nose and let the tears slide down her cheeks. She chided herself for being so sensitive. Mrs. Hardy, Glooooria, just likes to be in control of everything. She’s insecure. Her behavior has nothing to do with me. Audrey repeated the mantra her counselor helped her make up for Mrs. Hardy.