The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky | Chapter 49 of 65

Author: Jana Casale | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1061 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER 43

Dee Dee

Dee Dee worked at the desk beside Leda in the office. Her official title was human resources coordinator, but in reality her job seemed to consist of little more than what Leda’s did as a receptionist. She was a heavy, middle-aged woman with curly blond hair. Her lipstick was always either a shade too light or a shade too dark. For the first few months of working alongside her, Leda liked her well enough. They’d exchange small talk and Dee Dee would always politely inquire about how Annabelle was doing.

“How’s she liking school?” she’d say, or “Did you do anything fun with the family this weekend?”

Dee Dee wasn’t married herself, and as far as Leda could tell she didn’t have any children. She did have a beagle named Ronald, whom she talked about incessantly. It was because of Ronald that Leda had her first inclination about who Dee Dee really was. Ronald came to the office one afternoon for a much-hyped visit to meet Leda and Ren, the new mailroom guy. They both gathered around Ronald as he sweetly waddled from person to person to say hello. Dee Dee talked proudly about how he could catch bits of hot dog but only liked the kosher brands.

“He knows what the good stuff is,” she said.

After chatting for a while and everyone getting the chance to pat Ronald, Dee Dee suggested they all go for coffee.

“Ronald loves Starbucks,” she said.

“Do they let him come in?” Leda asked.

“They do when I put his vest on.” She leaned down and maneuvered Ronald into a little red vest that said “Service Dog” in stitching along his bulging side.

“Is he a service dog?” Leda asked, still wildly willing to believe in the goodness of her lipsticked coworker.

“Oh goodness no, but no one ever questions it. I made him the vest myself.”

“Smart,” Ren said.

Leda didn’t say anything, but she declined the trip to Starbucks as politely as possible. From then on she tried her best to keep her distance from Dee Dee and got less amusement from Dee Dee’s stories of Ronald’s escapades.

A month after the Ronald meeting, the office started to stink. At first Leda only noticed it occasionally as she’d get a whiff of the smell sitting at her desk. It was a stale smell, like an old sack lunch or like a person who hadn’t showered for a really long time. She bought an air freshener for her desk and tried to leave the window open as often as the weather permitted, but the smell grew stronger. For a short while she thought maybe it was Ren. He was kind of a strange guy, and very often he was all sweaty from running around the office. But after the two of them took the elevator alone together on a few separate occasions, she decided that it wasn’t him and that the smell was localized somewhere near her desk. She asked Dee Dee about it.

“I don’t smell anything,” Dee Dee said. “But as far as I’m concerned it smells horrible here all the time.”

She asked Charmaine, the other receptionist, who worked across the hall.

“I thought it was just me!” Charmaine said. “I’ve been smelling it for a month now. I’ve been burning candles, but it’s not helping at all. It makes me nauseous.”

The smell was so bad one morning that Leda left work early and took a sick day.

“It sounds ridiculous, but I’m seriously considering quitting. I can’t take it. It’s like torture,” she said to John one night at dinner.

“Why don’t you mention it to human resources?”

“I did. That’s Dee Dee. As far as I know she’s the only one who works human resources.”

“There must be someone above her. Maybe just tell Liz about it.”

“I think I’ll look crazy.”

“It’s less crazy than just quitting over it.”

“That’s true.”

Before she had a chance to tell Liz, Liz called her into her office to address the issue.

“Leda, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the office stinks. Would you please send an e-mail and ask all the employees to clean out their desks?”

Leda was never so excited to write an e-mail. She pored over the words and looked up stink in the thesaurus. In the end she settled on:

Hi everybody,

Recently there have been quite a few complaints regarding an odor in our office. If everyone could kindly do their part and clean up their work areas it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

A week passed after the e-mail had been sent and still there was no change. Eventually the smell stopped getting worse and started to blend into the other expected, stale smells of the office. Leda created a routine to keep from being too bothered. She had three different air fresheners on her desk, and each morning she’d light a candle and put on a strong-smelling lip balm. It kept the stench to an inconsistent wafting, which was, at the very least, tolerable. Charmaine quit, and Leda was convinced it was related to the odor.

“Are you feeling better about the smell?” Dee Dee said a few months later.

“I guess I’ve gotten used to it,” Leda said.

“That’s the trick to this job. You just have to get used to the worst parts of it.”

“Well, I like most of the job. It’s just that smell that was driving me crazy.”

“Oh, believe me, I understand. I once broke up with a man for farting.”

“Did you really?”

“It was my ex-fiancé. He had a lot of problems and was going through some kind of a breakdown about his career and whether he was really ready to get married and whatnot. I dealt with it for a very long time. We were together for over twelve years in total, which is a very long time to just be engaged. I was always understanding and I would go with him to all his therapy sessions and wait in the waiting room for him. He’d tell me to leave him, and then he’d cry, and I’d just sort of nod and go along with it and calm him and soothe him. And then one day we were lying in bed—I was up watching Joan Rivers, and he was asleep in bed next to me, and all of a sudden I smelled his fart, and I just lost it. I realized I couldn’t spend one more second dealing with him, so I pushed him out of bed and I told him that I thought he should move out because I was tired of smelling his farts. Those were my exact words, ‘I’m tired of smelling your farts,’ and the next day he moved out. It was the best decision I ever made. Like I said, he had a lot of problems.”

Leda looked very hard at Dee Dee. Dee Dee was chewing a potato chip. Her lipstick was too light. Her hair was particularly tightly curled. At the exact same moment, Leda came to the conclusion that Dee Dee was a very independent woman and that she permed her hair. It was like everything about this person suddenly made sense.

“Did you ever marry?” Leda asked with complete abandon. She focused her stare on a blond ringlet pressed tight against Dee Dee’s temple.

“Oh, heavens no. I don’t think I have enough patience for men, or for children, for that matter. I’m happy with my Ronald.”

“I admire that about you, Dee Dee. You’re a very strong woman.”

“I’m not sure it’s strength. I think it’s more just not having the patience. I like to go home and watch my shows. I can’t be bothered.”

“And your hair is always so put-together,” Leda said.

“Oh, well, aren’t you a doll!” Dee Dee fluffed her curls carefully. “I just got it done today so it probably looks especially good.”

“It really does,” Leda said. It’s really not good, but it is put-together. And that’s something, she thought.

Two years later Dee Dee retired. They had a small party for her, and she cried and thanked everyone. Leda gave her a houseplant. It seemed appropriate. Not too many months later she ran into Charmaine on the street. She hardly recognized her at first. She was looking like a woman, no longer the young girl who bantered about the office. Her smile was the same warm smile that Leda remembered from their handful of conversations. It felt nice to talk to her. It was as if they were old friends when really they hardly knew each other. But a common memory could do that. They’d shared the experience of that place and those times, and so really between the two of them it felt as if there was a lot.

“I was engaged last year, but it didn’t work out,” Charmaine said, rolling her eyes. “It’s whatever.”

“I’m sure you’ll meet someone amazing,” Leda said, and she believed it to be true.

“I’m not worried about it. Right now I just want to enjoy my life.”

“Smart,” Leda said.

“Oh, hey, you heard what happened to Dee Dee, right?”

“You mean her retiring?”

“She didn’t really retire. I only know this from Rita. She was the one who found her.”

“Found her?”

“Yeah, they found her snorting cocaine in the bathroom.”

“Are you serious?”

“I kid you not. They forced her to retire. They told her either she retire or they’d have to fire her and report her to the police. I always knew she was a weirdo, but still, to think of her snorting cocaine is just the most ridiculous thought ever.”

“I can’t believe it.”

“I know. Oh, and guess what they found when they cleaned out her desk?”

“What?”

“A bunch of old sandwiches. Like totally and completely rotten sandwiches for years and years that hadn’t been cleaned out. That’s what that awful smell was.”

“It was Dee Dee!”

“Yeah, it was Dee Dee. You know, I quit over that smell.”

“I figured you might have.”

“I’m not mad about it, though. It was the best decision I ever made.”

They talked a few minutes longer and promised to keep in touch, a notion neither of them really expected to uphold. Leda walked home in a daze, thinking of the office and of Dee Dee and of the sandwiches. I wonder what ever happened to Ronald. He was a nice dog.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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