The Go-to Girl
The crisis was discovered at four forty-five in the afternoon. Fifteen minutes before ninety-nine percent of the staff hurried out of the building to enjoy their sixteen-hour vacation.
My boss, Mr. Bill Kelly, Kell for short, was frazzled. He didn’t handle crises well. What he did do well was delegate responsibility.
He came tearing into the center of our office area, what little hair he had on end, plaid shirttails untucked.
“Listen up, people. We have a problem. The idiots at the copy shop lost our proposal and we’ve got to recreate it. Now. It’s got to be at the printer’s tonight.”
I watched the predictable reactions of my colleagues. Curran, the senior designer, slipped out of the room backwards.
Norton, the copy editor, suddenly found the piece of blank paper he was holding extremely interesting. Vera, the administrative assistant for our division, feigned a sudden hacking cough.
“Kell,” she gasped, “I wish I could help, but I think I’m really sick. If I don’t get home and into bed soon . . .”
Kell turned to me. “Gincy, you’ll stay, right?”
“It’s gotta get done,” I said, shooting my coworkers a look of disgust. “I’m here.”
That’s me. The go-to girl. Virginia Marie Gannon.
I guess I got my work ethic from my father, though our choices of work couldn’t be more
Dad manages a hardware store, the small, privately owned kind that monsters like Home Depot have mostly put out of business.
I’m the senior editor of the monthly publication sent to subscribers of a public television station here in Boston.
Come to think of it, I’m not sure how much of a choice my father had when it came to a career. He didn’t go to college. When I was about twelve I heard a rumor from a cousin that he’d never even finished high school.
To this day I don’t know the truth about that. I’d never ask Dad straight out. It would embarrass him, and though my parents aren’t my favorite people in the world, I treat them with respect.
It’s what you do. Work hard and respect your parents. In that way, I’m a typical Gannon. In other ways? Not so much.
Anyway, the job got done and at six thirty-five I left our office on Bowdoin Street.
By the time I raced through the door of George, An American Cafe, it was almost seven o’clock. The place was a cemetery.
“Where is everybody?” I barked to the dimly lit room. “There’s nobody here!”
A dark-haired girl about my age stepped away from the bar. I noticed she had breasts the size of Pamela Anderson’s. Almost.
How can you not notice something like that?
“Uh, hello?” she said. “We’re here. Me and --- Clare, right?”
Another girl, a blond one, all clean and healthy looking, like she could star in a soap ad shot at a mountain spring or something, slipped off a barstool and joined the first girl. She nodded and looked at me warily.
Okay, maybe she had a reason to. I’d caught a glimpse of my hair in the window before charging through the door. It was pretty wild. I think I’d forgotten to comb it that morning.
I had, however, remembered to wash it. Which was more than I’d done the day before when I’d been up since four A.M. working on a report for Kell the Inefficient. Next thing I knew it was eight-thirty and if I’d stopped to shower I would have been late for a nine o’clock meeting.
You know how it is.
“So,” I said. “I thought there was supposed to be a meeting here tonight. You know, to hook up with roommates. For a summer place. In Oak Bluffs.”
“There was a meeting,” the dark-haired one drawled, “but it seems it was over at, like, six-oh-five. By the time I got here at six-thirty, everyone had already hooked up.”
She nodded toward the girl next to her. “Except for Clare. And me. I’m Danielle, by the way.”
“That’s an unusual name,” Danielle said flatly.
“Yeah,” I answered flatly. “It is.”
The one named Clare stuck out her hand and I stared at it. She let it drop.
“One girl told me all the good houses are taken,” she said. She sounded apologetic. “I think you’re supposed to rent them by February or March and then look for housemates. Not the other way around. I didn’t know.”
I propped my fists on my hips. What there was of them.
I tend toward the skinny.
“Crap,” I said. “Well I didn’t know, either!”
Danielle heaved this big dramatic sigh. “None of us did,” she said. “I guess.”
I was seriously disappointed. I really wanted the summer to be something special.
And then, inspiration struck.
“Wait,” I said. “All of the good houses might be taken but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still bad houses to rent. Right?”
“I suppose,” Clare said doubtfully.
“A bad house?” Danielle rolled her eyes. I noted she was wearing a lot of eye makeup.
Personally, I’d owned the same tube of mascara for three years. “See, I don’t like the sound of that,” she went on. “That means, like, a bathtub but no shower, right? Ceiling fans but no central air?”
Ms. Fresh Mountain Air tried to hide a smile. “It might be worth taking a look,” she said. “I...I kind of had my heart set on this.”
There was a beat of silence and then I said, “Well, what’s it gonna be? Are we going to do this or what?”
“Well, I’m not spending the entire summer in the city,” Danielle declared fiercely. “The grime is murder on my skin. And speaking of murder, I just read in the Globe that street crime has like, tripled from last year. And you know how they get in the hot weather.”
Excerpted from The Summer of Us © Copyright 2012 by Holly Chamberlin. Reprinted with permission by Kensington. All rights reserved.
The Summer of Us
- paperback: 406 pages
- Publisher: Kensington
- ISBN-10: 0758265735
- ISBN-13: 9780758265739