The Yes Man

His heels clicked on the polished floor as he walked quickly to suite 300. The low buzz of his watch alarm sounded only once as he raised his wrist to press it off. This was exactly the time he usually sat down at his desk, placed his coffee cup neatly its coaster, and began the day’s work. People joked they could set their watches by his movements, and he felt proud. Not every man could join precision and structure so seamlessly. It was, to his mind, what made a man dependable.

He briskly knocked twice on the door and entered at the invitation of the voice within.

A smile tugged at his mouth, though looking at him, one would not have known.  Madeleine wore a red skirt and red and white pinstriped blouse with matching shoes.  Her short, red hair just touched the back of her collar. Looking at the combination made him wince. A gold bracelet hung heavy on her small wrist. He noted one earring lying on her desk by the phone. It was her habit to remove it to talk on the instrument, and she invariably forgot to replace it. He had once overheard her in the lunchroom saying that she had lost three earrings because of her habit, but it was obvious to him now the losses had not deterred her.

Madeleine was sitting at her desk typing and spoke above the tick-tack of the keys. “I buzzed her when you knocked, Mr. Nordrum. She’s expecting you. Go on in.”

“Thank you, Ms. Hallowitz.”

He nodded once and stepped toward the double doors. He knocked twice and turned the shiny knob. Its click was music to his ears. The doorknob was such a simple device, beautiful in its simplicity and precision. He wished he could have met its inventor.

He clicked the door shut behind him and stood, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Mr. Nordrum. On the dot as I knew you would be,” she said with clipped articulation, motioning to a chair in front of her desk.

“Ms. Marley.”

He sat soundlessly in front of her. Her black suit matched her hair which was pulled back into a neat chignon. Her nails were polished with a color that matched her skin.  He looked at her now; her face was carefully made up so that no blotches or variations of color were evident – only a clean layer of peach tone. Her eyes were as gray and direct as her speech.

“Mr. Nordrum, it has come to my attention that there is a poster – unapproved, of course – hanging in the hallway by the lunchroom.”

“I’ll take care of it, Ms. Marley.”

Ms. Marley leaned forward and tapped her fingers together.

“I’ve been giving this some thought, Mr. Nordrum. We’ve had trouble with this for three weeks in a row.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“It makes me wonder what our staff believes about this office. In fact, Mr. Nordrum, it makes me wonder what the citizens of this state believe about this office.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“I was elected Governor not once, but twice.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“I have served our citizenry well, Mr. Nordrum.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“It is time for a change, Mr. Nordrum, and,” Ms. Marley nodded her head slightly as though she was about to bestow a great honor on her employee, “I have determined you are the man best suited for the job.”

The import of such a nod from his superior was not lost to Mr. Nordrum.

He replied in his most confident voice, “Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“I have thought this over for some time. I can assure you, Mr. Nordrum, this has been long in coming in a state that begs for decency and order. There is far too much,” here she searched for a word and, finding it, spit it out like an air drill, “difference,” she pursed her lips as though she was tasting something sour, “difference,” repeated, “in our diversity.”

“Diversity is something you have given much time in promoting,” he answered.

Ms. Marley stood from her chair and threw back her shoulders.

“It has been a very effective effort,” she agreed with just the right amount of modesty and pride.

“However,” she continued, “not everyone cares as deeply about it as they should.”

“Excuse me, Ms. Marley,” Mr. Nordrum interrupted, “but you made the word ‘should’ a misdemeanor offense last month.”

His boss’s face reddened slightly.

“How careless of me, but,” and here she directed a steel-like gaze on her employee, “I think you know what I meant.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

“I would like you, Mr. Nordrum, to make a list of all of the variations at work against our contemporary society; deviations from what we consider acceptable and appropriate in this state.”

The tall woman turned to face the window. Her eyes darted over the traffic beyond it to the commons spreading like a wide sea in front of the grand building.

Abruptly she spun around and commanded, “Have it on my desk day after tomorrow.”

Mr. Nordrum nodded.

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

He rose from his chair and walked to the door.

“Mr. Nordrum.”

He turned slightly.

“Yes, Ms. Marley?”

“9:01 a.m.”

“Yes, Ms. Marley.”

He silently shut the door behind him.

As he walked through the reception area a muffled, “Good-bye, Mr. Nordrum,” came from beneath the desk.

The top half of Madeleine Hallowitz was enveloped underneath, undoubtedly looking for a lost earring, leaving the bottom half still in the chair to unwittingly entertain those awaiting their appointments.

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