Read the Community Novel: Chapter 4 by Antonette Coffee

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Kevin was so engrossed in carrying out his reading of the initial grant proposal that just relieved of her duties Evelyn Blackmon had left behind for any unwilling, unenthusiastic, bored-to-death beneficiary such as himself that he hadn’t noticed Kate entering his office. Kate chucked the morning classified section of the Topeka Capitol-Journal on top of Kevin’s desk. Underneath the folded newspaper was her completed first draft of what she had assembled together as “ghost stories”; one which was chronicled to her by a woman and many of her family members who had numerous experiences with ghosts throughout their lives.

With the expression on his face, he successfully communicated to Kate that he was highly annoyed by her aggressive personality as he gazed up at her over the top rims of his Buddy Holly frames. Releasing a deep sigh Kevin set free the words from his lips, “Good morning to you too, Miss Sanchez. And what is this, may I ask?” He lifted both items off his desk to take a closer look.

“Those are the tasks that I have completed on my list of to-do’s.” Kate plopped her body down into the squeaky office chair across from Kevin; taking a few spins gleefully.

Looking up from the documents in his hand, “And when did we assign you a to-do list, Miss Sanchez?”

She stopped her spinning and looked at Kevin as if he was the most depleting supervisor she had ever known. She continued, “Since you have not said much to me since I’ve gotten here nor given me one assignment since I’ve been here, I am bored out of my mind.” Both hands slapped against her thighs as she begin pacing the room back and forth in front of Kevin’s desk. “How am I supposed to work with someone like you?”

Kevin watched her until he felt dizzy then dropped his head into his hand.

Kate used her hands to express herself, “I mean…I come here to Topeka to get away from “Crazy Town” Florida only to drop into the hands of “Craziness”. She continued, “I mean…it was great to get away from all those Mickey Mousers to come to the Land of Oz. But when I finally get here, all that I have noticed are snooping co-workers whispering behind my back who sneak a quick look out of their tiny little cubicles looking for the next big interesting office story while my so-called “superior” sits here holding his head in his hands as if he has absolutely no clue as to what to do.”

And with that she had the audacity to ask one or two particularly don’t-go-there questions, “By the way, I have been very curious to know whatever happened to Ms. Blackmon…the woman I was very proud to soon one day call my boss…Ms. Evelyn Blackmon? What did you all do to make her leave? Because quite frankly I’m beginning to wonder why I ever wanted to choose Kansas to do my internship?” With her one hand on her hip, she stopped just short of sitting in Kevin’s lap as she waited for his lips to move.

Jerking his head up, Kevin responded with a surprisingly deeper than usual yet stern voice, “Miss Sanchez!”

Startled Kate jumped back from his gangly presence which now hung high over her as he stood. His gaze implied to her that he was no longer the pushover type. He sighed deeply before speaking realizing he had lost control of his character for a moment. “Miss Sanchez, I have listened to you banter from the moment you arrived. I have patiently waited for you to realize that you are in Topeka and not Florida. I have also allowed you to come up with the ideas for this project; ideas which in fact are totally meaningless and have no magnitude of affect to topic of the project at hand…which by the way if you recall at all is, “Topeka is Awesome. I have not been unable to understand why ‘ghost’ would make Topeka so awesome. Ghosts are everywhere! Anywhere you look just about!”

Kate’s mouth closed and opened again as Kevin turned his back. He was not really looking for an answer or allowing her to speak.

“They say that I can find ghosts all over the East coast. Even in places in the South like Louisiana or Georgia. But you Kate, you think the ghosts in Topeka make Topeka awesome. Like the ghosts here are so much more special than anywhere else but I don’t think so. As a matter of fact, I don’t even think Topeka is awesome if you haven’t noticed through all of your witty chitchat.” He now paced back and forth across the office floor. “Oh and also in all of my haste Miss Sanchez you obviously do not realize that you are the intern here and …” He turned abruptly in her direction as she stood unmoving, “I AM your superior!” Now Kevin stopped in his tracks squeezing the area between his eyes above the bridge of his nose for a moment. Then he raised his head continuing with, “Please step out of my office and return when you have a more dignified way of speaking to me.”

The room was so quiet that you could hear the sweat drop to the floor from the tip of the chin of someone participating in yoga class in the fitness room on the lower level of the company building. Kate was beginning to think that maybe she should have signed up to be included in the yoga class instead of here in Kevin’s office. She was speechless for once. And in spite of all that was just said and heard between her and Kevin, she wasn’t quite sure if she was turned on by Kevin’s aggressive behavior or if she was more willing to slap him for insulting her avant-garde style and level of intellect. After all she had planned to be a professional hair stylist before becoming an intern..

When he realized Kate hadn’t moved from where she stood, he took the initiative, slowly walking around his desk to the office door as his desk phone begins to ring. He opened the door politely for Kate indicating to her that he was done with his speech and expected her to leave without any response.

Unfortunately when he opened his office door Nora was leaning on the wall nearby Kevin’s office pretending to be paying close attention to Vicki, her partner in crime. They both were taking mental notes on more to add to the office gossip of course. “May I help you ladies? Don’t you have some type of work to do at all around here? I do wish you’d go and take care of it instead of standing around eavesdropping.” Kevin took another deep long breathe and let it out at a snail’s pace. Nora and Vicki scurried away.

Turning his attention to Kate once more while standing holding the door handle he used his other hand to direct her out with a gentleman’s gesture. His desk phone still ringing, Kevin prayed his voicemail would pick up because he was not in the mood for any conversation at the moment; but it continued to ring loudly.

Kate quickly blurted out, “May I say something?”

“Miss Sanchez. Please come back when you are more well-mannered and respectable with your words. Please???” Sarcastically he added, “And may I ask when you return please find another way to inspire others to love Topeka as much as you do.”

The phone on Kevin’s desk continues to ring. He inhales then exhales. It stops.

Now on the other side of the threshold Kate stands with a strange smile. Remembering… when a woman smiled, pain usually followed gave Kevin the sudden urge to either protect his lower extremities or close his office door quickly. But instead he asked, “Would there be anything else I can do for you? I must get back to my work…” He pointed blindly towards the two-inch three ring stuffed binder. Continually smiling, Kate took another step backwards away from his office threshold and watched as Kevin nervously waved his hand. After closing the door he turned his back and pressed against it while he listened for activity stirring outside but there was none.

The phone rings again disturbing Kevin’s peace. He leans over to glance at the caller ID…so much for crawling under his desk and hiding for the rest of the day. He shakes his head back and forth as he answers regrettably, “Hello Dad.”

“Hello to you my young man. How’s it going over there in City Hall?” He chuckled questionably, “I heard something about that…that young lady Evelyn…Evelyn Blackmon got the boot.”

Kevin eyes rolled to the ceiling as he thought this may be a good time to start making something up right now, “Yeah dad but I promise you I know nothing about it,” came out instead. Kevin loved and respected his father. He could never find himself purposely watching his father’s head explode over what he could possibly turn into one of the best ever lies he ever told his dad.

“Come on now. You always were zipping up your lip just when I needed you the most, son.”

Kevin nonchalantly nods without answering back.

“I betcha if your sister had the opportunity to work over there where you are I would know what type of pajamas Topeka’s mayor wore before he’d be gone off to bed. Hell, I’d even know just how many of his teeth are really his and what his grades were like in high school.”Still nodding Kevin walks over to his window to watch the cars roll by on I-70 as he listens now to his father poke fun at the comparison he often makes between him and his older sister.

“You know that your mother worked with Evelyn a few years back at Shawnee County Courthouse in Register of Deeds before she retired and Evelyn got that promotion to over there in City Hall where you are now.”

Continuing to nod and roll his eyes, “Yes, I know dad but what does that have to do with me right now?”

His dad coughs chronically, “Well you know your mother didn’t much like her and I know she’d love to hear the juicy on an old co-worker like Evelyn.”

“I know, I know dad but how are you getting along? That cough of yours doesn’t seem to be getting any better.” Kevin sits in his old tattered chair, “Have you been to the doctor like I asked you to a thousand times.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, I just think I was laughing too hard and sucked in too much air. Don’t be worried about me. I’m fine. Your mother’s fine too.”

Looking over at the computer monitor, Kevin realizes it’s about lunch time. “Hey dad have you had lunch yet?”

Coughing, “Well, no I haven’t. But your mom made me some of that bland old chicken she baked last night for dinner. I don’t know how other men function when their wives start worrying about their health and start treating them like one of the children ‘round the house.”

Kevin smiled. Reminiscing. His mother and father had one of the best marriages he’s ever seen. He has seen many of his family members divorce within one year of marriage and sometimes less. He has also been a witness at many marriages of his friends and none of them last very long. Marriage just isn’t sacred anymore. That’s exactly why he hasn’t taken that step toward it because he has not found anyone who was willing to hang in there; to see marriage through the hard times and good times; to not give up on marriage as easily as others.

After all, he had heard his mom and dad arguing oftentimes. He had seen where they wouldn’t even talk to one another for a few days. But he also witnessed them coming together in prayer and asking to be forgiven by one another. Then they would even ask him and his siblings to forgive them for misbehaving. Mom loved his father so much. Kevin saw his mother’s love toward his father and vice versa daily as he grew up. Kevin knows that it is that love that makes his mother care enough to prepare that bland chicken for her husband so that she can have him around much longer to keep her company.

“Well dad, listen up. Can you be ready in about 20 minutes?”

“Yes, I think I can son,” he coughs.

Kevin begin checking his pockets to ensure he has his car keys and wallet, “I’ll pick you up in 20. Then together we will head over to Brad’s in North Topeka for the best home cooking and the most amazing pie ever for lunch.” Kevin was feeling like his joy was coming back.

“That sounds good but don’t tell your mom we don’t love her home cooking and pies.”

Kevin laughed along with his father’s coughing laugh, “I won’t. Anyway she still makes the best pecan pie I ever tasted.”

They both laughed, “See you soon son.”

“See you soon dad.” As Kevin was putting on his sport jacket he interjected before hanging up, “Hey dad…do me a favor and don’t tell momma I treated you to lunch. She’ll kill me.”

Kevin’s dad chuckled, “I won’t. If you don’t tell her I didn’t eat that chicken she sent me for lunch.”

“I won’t.” Laughing with a pleasurable smile on his handsome face, his eyes sparkling through his black frames, “I Love you dad.”

“Same here son. Same here.”

Download and print Chapter 4 by Antonette Coffee (5 page .pdf)
Keep reading! Chapter 5 by Matthew Edge

About the Author

Antonette Coffee, formerly from Chicago, has resided in Topeka now for 22 years where she met her husband of 17 years—Don. Together they have six children and four grandchildren. Antonette received her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems at Friend’s University in Kansas and an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Allen County Community College where she was first informed by her college professor that she had amazing writing ability.

She first began writing at the age of 14, inspired by life experiences and faith. After winning a poetry contest for “Heartbroken” her motivation grew. Antonette loves to write in her spare time and has led teenage book reads at her local library. Loving the opportunity to mentor to young people–she volunteers at local community centers coaching volleyball; teaches youth Sunday School at the church she attends; along with all of the various other duties keeping her occupied in her young girl’s school sports and activities. She keeps smiling wherever you see her.