The Tempter Comes

9) Turnings



9         Turnings


Temptation does not knock and wait.

It glides in gorgeous and alluring and drops tantalizing tidbits into our ears.



                “Did anyone else hear the dogs last night?” asked Toni with almost awe in her voice.

                Russell responded with likewise astonishment, “How could we not? It sounded like every dog in town was having its balls squeezed.”

                Toni looked startled and sat upright. “Excuse me!?”

                “I mean, having their tails stepped on.”

Sarah giggled and then jumped in, “I’ve never heard anything like that before. When did it happen? I think that I rolled over and looked at the clock. It must have been sometime around midnight. Something really got them going. Between the howling and the growling and the barking I thought that we were being invaded.”

“Maybe the cats were having a late night convention.” Russell proposed.


Floyd Fullman put on his short-sleeve white shirt and thin dark tie like he did every morning. He pulled tight the round laces on his spotless leather shoes and strode determinedly out the front door to his office, briefcase in hand. He would nod seriously to a few of the familiar faces that he passed by, but did not have the time to ever stop and chat even for a few minutes.

Entering the insurance building he took the stairs to his third floor cubicle. His ID was obediently hung on a cord around his neck.

His daily routine varied little. He worked through breaks and lunch and rarely left his area. At precisely noon he would fill his glass with water from the water cooler and take exactly one paper towel. Then he would return to his desk, unfold the paper towel in front of his keyboard, and take his sandwich out of its bag and lay in on the towel. He would take one bite and then continue his work where he left off. When he finished his sandwich he would fold the towel into a perfect square so that no crumbs escaped and dropped it into his wastebasket.

The only spontaneous deviation was when he lifted his head in disdain when a wisp of music curled over the top of his wall from beyond the empty cubicle next to him. “Inconsiderate jerks. Just because they don’t want to work they shouldn’t prevent others.”

He was double-checking his calculations when there was the thump of a full box hitting a desk and then a rustling of papers in the adjacent cube.

Floyd sighed loudly and shook his head.

“I am so very sorry,” came the voice nearly in a whisper.

Floyd turned quickly. Rarely did anyone dare disturb his space. Standing half behind the edge of Floyd’s wall was a tall, straight-standing man wearing a short-sleeve white shirt with a thin dark tie.

“I’m sure you’ve got a lot to do,” he said with a serious firmness, “but I’d like to take a brief moment to introduce myself. I’m your new co-worker. My name is Alexander.” He reached out and gave Floyd a good firm handshake.

“I’ll let you get back to work. I’m sure you have an important deadline to meet and I wouldn’t want to be the person that delays you. Beside, I’ve got my first assignment and I want to get started on it.” He started to turn away but then leaned back at Floyd. “But first I’m going to ask whoever it is to lower that music. I need to concentrate, you know.”

Floyd turned back to his monitor and paused. For the first time in a very long while he actually had a faint wisp of a smile.

For the next two weeks that Floyd came into work in the morning, Alexander was there already buried deep in some papers. But he always managed to turn around just as Floyd passed by no matter how quietly he was walking to say “Good morning, Floyd, a lot to do today, eh? Time to get on with it.”

Then one mid-morning Floyd put down his pencil and walked around the wall to Alexander’s desk. He cleared his throat. Alexander swiveled in his chair.

“Ah, Floyd, so nice to see you coming over. I hope that I wasn’t disturbing you. Sometimes I’m so engrossed in my work I don’t realize how loud I can be.”

“No, no, nothing like that. I was just wondering what you are working on; that is, if you have a minute. I don’t want to break your concentration.”

“No, Floyd, now is the perfect time. I just finished up something important and was thinking about how to tackle the next task.

“I am doing project analysis. I’ve only been hired for a few months. My job is to determine how efficient and productive each person and project in this company is. If there is any place to cut off some fat then I will find it.”

Floyd nervously shuffled.

“Ah, Floyd, but you don’t have to worry; you’re at the very top of my most productive list. If there is anyone in this company that makes it succeed it is you.” Alexander smiled. “You’re going to get my highest recommendation.”

Floyd recorded his second near smile and only two weeks after the first. He took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds before exhaling with great self-satisfaction.

“Say, Floyd, I know that you’ve got a lot to do but maybe sometime over lunch you can tell me what drives you, what your greatest strengths are, what you look for in the ideal employee. Let me know if there is ever good time for that; I’d love to hear what you have to say.”

Floyd was a bit taken back. No one had ever showed interest in his work before especially in how it was that he was so good at it. “Well sure. How about tomorrow? I’m ahead of my deadline so an hour won’t hurt.”
                “Of course you’re ahead, Floyd. You’ve never missed a deadline in all of your years here.”

At that, Floyd squared his shoulders.

“Didn’t think that I’d notice that, did you, Floyd? I’m going to make sure that the head of the company is aware of that when I submit my final report. You’ll get all of the credit due to you after all of these years.”

“Well, it’s about time. I’ve worked hard here these 25 plus years. It’s about time that I got my recognition.”

“I’ll do my best, Floyd. So tomorrow it is. I’m sure that I’ll learn a lot.”

The next day Floyd told Alexander about all of the projects that he was ever involved in, the military-like promptness of his daily attendance, the fact that he never handed in a report with an error on it, and how he willingly put in a great deal of overtime when it was needed.

After two hours Alexander finally spoke. “So what was your biggest raise here? Considering all that you’ve done it must have been pretty impressive.”

Floyd flashed anger, “That’s been my biggest issue with this company. No one ever recognizes my contributions. My best raise in over 25 years was 3.7 percent and that was when the company had a banner year. Usually I get very little or sometimes nothing at all.”

“Oh, that’s not right, Floyd. How about promotions? You’ve gotten several of those at least.”

Floyd pursed his lips hard. Then he said, “Only two in all of that time. And both of them were really just a title change. I didn’t move up in the company or anything. I’ve been in this same cubicle the whole time.”

“There is something wrong there, Floyd. By now you should be a VP at least. Without you, this company wouldn’t be where it is today. Have you ever said anything?”

“Well, no. I probably should have, but I always thought that if I worked hard and did my job that they would recognize that. Instead they always promoted some young gunslinger past me, someone who knew how to chat up the boss. Instead of doing work he would flit around back-slapping with the latest quip from his joke-of-the-day calendar.”

“That is just wrong, Floyd. You deserve better than that. You should stand up for yourself. This company has just not treated you right. You deserve your fair share.”

“You’re certainly right there.”

“In fact, I’d say that they pretty much have taken advantage and cheated you. You’ve given them your flesh and bones and what did you get in return? —Nothing but a kick in the head. It’s time you did something about it. I bet that you’ve never even called in sick.”

“You’re right there. How did you know that?” asked Floyd.

“Knowing you, it was a good guess.”

The next day was the first time in over 25 years that Floyd was late for work.


                Terese stopped staring blankly at her monitor and swiveled her chair towards her co-worker. “What am I doing here?”

                Anne replied, “I thought that you were working on our boss’s presentation for tomorrow.”

                “No, who cares about that?”

                “Your paycheck cares about that.”

                Terese continued, “No, I’m serious. I mean, what am I doing with my life? My marriage basically died five years ago. Paul and I never do anything together. Half the time the only reason why we talk is to argue. I’ve been in a holding pattern for too long. All that I ever do is go around and around and the view never changes. I’ve got to come in for a landing and do something else.”

                “Well, at least you were consistent with your airplane analogy,” smirked Anne.

                “Great,” Terese replied with some agitation. “I’m going down in flames and you’re analyzing my literary qualities.”

                “Sorry,” said Anne. “Maybe you and Paul should go on a vacation together. Maybe that will refresh things.”

                Terese retorted, “We would only argue where to go. I’d want someplace exciting and he’d want to go where he can lie around and scratch his belly.”

                “Then try counseling.”

                “A lot of good that would do even if I could get him to go.” She leaned back limply in her chair. “I need a change,” she said weakly and covered her eyes with her hands.

                “Well then,” Anne tried to sound perky, “your prayers have been answered.”

                Terese looked unimpressed and did not even remove her hands from her face.

                “I heard this morning that we’re getting a new office manager starting today.”

                With severe deadpan Terese replied, “Another nag in a long line of nags. Let’s see, Elsie just quit last Friday,” and then with exaggeration, “thank God. And before that we were stuck with Betsy and before her was Daisy, who was perhaps the worse. Did you ever notice that all of our office managers are named after cows? I suppose that this one will be Claribel.”

                “Somehow I doubt that.” Anne was leaning forward almost out of her chair. She had a look of great enthusiasm.

                Terese followed her gaze. In the doorway stood a tall, well-chiseled man. He wore a crisp, dark green suit and his sharp blue eyes were fixed firmly on Terese.

                The department head stepped in front of the new employee while the two women craned their necks to see around him. “I would like to introduce our new office manager, Peter. He is starting today. Peter, this is Anne and Terese.”

                With a resonating voice he turned to Anne and with a wonderfully exotic accent said, “Nice to meet you, Anne. It is my pleasure.”

                “Nice to meet you, too.” Anne was rather weak at the moment.

                Then he turned to Terese and reaching out he picked up her hand with both of his. “It is my great pleasure, Terese. I’m sure that we will get along very well together.”

                They both were frozen there for a few seconds before he gently let her hand slip out. Then after a couple more seconds he turned and followed the department head but did not fail to glance again at Terese as he turned the corner.

                Neither woman spoke for a while. Finally Anne just said, “whew.”

                For the next several days every time that Peter was in Terese’s area he would smile wryly at her and ask how things were going. She would always respond, “Great, just great.” And then when he left she would just sigh. Several times she would find her favorite candy bar lying on top of her keyboard. “How did he know?” she would wonder.

                Two weeks after starting, Peter came over to Terese’s desk and leaned with one hand on it. “I forgot my lunch today. I would like to go out and get a quick bite. Would you care to join me? I would be very honored.”

                Terese felt the blood rapidly rush to her head. She was sure that the scarlet color of her face exactly matched the curtains that she had recently hung in her living room.

                She almost blurted out that she always brought her lunch but maybe tomorrow would be O.K. What she said was, “sure.”

                “Great,” Peter replied. “I’ll be by in a half an hour.”

                Twenty minutes later Peter came by. “I’m sorry if I am a little early, but I could not wait any longer.” Behind his back Anne gave a look of “Well!”

                They ate at a quaint restaurant. It was not lavish, but it was no roadside diner either. There was a candle between them. Peter led the conversation balancing just the right number of questions for Terese with personal stories about himself. Every time that Terese said something he would lean forward and focus completely on her. He would summarize everything that she said with “That was fascinating” or “You are really very interesting.” Later on, Terese could not describe a single feature of the restaurant.

At the end of the meal when she put her purse on the table and opened it, Peter reached over and gently put his hand on it.

                “I’ll cover this one. You can give the next time,” he said.


                Jackie was feeling so low she almost crawled out of her apartment. It was another Saturday morning and that meant that she probably would not speak a word until Monday morning at work. Over the years she had been hurt by so many people that she decided that if anyone wanted to be her friend they were going to take the initiative. That way she would know that they were sincere and not just humoring her efforts. The result of this tactic was that everyone either did not want to be her friend or they took her standoffishness as a stop sign. Whatever the reason, the reality was that she had no friends. The only people that she spoke to were her co-workers. Sadly, that made Monday mornings her favorite time of the week because then at least she had five days of conversations ahead of her.

                Saturdays were usually spent the same: walking the circle in town a couple of rounds and then heading over to one of the larger stores where she would tramp the aisles until it was time to go home and cook. At least this way she was in the presence of other people even if they did not notice her. On the chance that she bought something when the cashier said “thank you” that was Jackie’s big conversation for the weekend.

                For several years she ended each day drinking herself into a stupor, but after getting arrested several times for disorderly conduct she gave it up cold six months ago. It was a difficult decision and even more difficult to accomplish, but she managed to fight through those terrible nights.

                She was shuffling down the hall on her way to her town circuit when one of the apartment doors suddenly opened right next to her. The swiftness of the motion startled her. She took a step back and faced the door.

                “Well good morning,” proclaimed the cheery voice. “It’s so nice to meet you. My name is Karinthea. I just moved in yesterday.” She stuck out her hand for Jackie to shake, which Jackie gingerly did seeing how it had been so long since anyone was this friendly towards her she was out of practice. “So what’s your name?”

                “I’m, I’m Jackie. I, uh, live two doors down.”

                “Well, very nice to meet you, Jackie. You know I’m brand new here in town and I don’t know where anything is. If you ever have any time could you show me some of Jabesh’s sights?”

                Jackie spoke slowly as she tried to comprehend the reality of the situation. “Yea, sure. That would be fine.”

                As if possible, Karinthea brightened up even more. “Great, you know, I need to get some stuff for my apartment. You won’t happen to have any time today, would you? I don’t want to impose. I’m sure that you’re busy.”

                “No, no, actually I don’t have anything much to do today. So today would be fine.”

                “Great! Say, why don’t you come in while I get my list together.”

                They spent the whole day together. Karinthea bought them lunch and by late afternoon Jackie was having such a good time she did not even realize how late it was. She looked at her watch. “Oh my, I’m sorry, but I have to head back. I haven’t made anything for dinner yet and it’s getting late.”

                Karinthea grabbed Jackie’s shoulder and gently shook it. “Don’t you worry about that. You can come to my place for dinner. I’ve brought plenty of food and it’ll be nice to eat with someone for a change.” Jackie thought the same thing.

                After dinner they sat and talked some more. Karinthea’s life fascinated Jackie to no end. They swapped stories both those that were exhilarating and those that were grimy. At 10:00 Karinthea got up and rummaged through one of the boxes still unopened. “Ah, here they are.” She returned with two wineglasses and a bottle. “Let’s celebrate my new apartment and, even better, our new friendship.” She filled the two glasses and eagerly handed one to Jackie. She raised her glass. “To my place and to us.”

                Jackie put her glass down on the table and stared at it. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. I used to have a big drinking problem and I’ve been clean for the last several months.”

                Karinthea coaxed, “It’s only wine and it’s only one small glass. How can it hurt? Besides, it would be a great way to end this fine day and to begin our great new friendship.”

                “I, I really can’t.”

                “OK, I don’t want to do anything that would cause any problems.” Karinthea took a sip with her eyes closed in obvious contentment. She left Jackie’s glass on the table. “That is the best stuff that I think that I’ve ever had. But you were saying earlier about your job…”

                For the next hour Karinthea took periodic sips from her glass each time concluding with something like, “My that’s really good. I wish that you could share it with me.” After the third time of this Jackie stared down at her glass, a bead of sweat formed on her temple.

                Karinthea chatted away some more and refilled her glass. It was at that point that Jackie said, “You know, one little sip won’t really hurt. Besides, I don’t want you to celebrate on your own.” Karinthea grinned widely, “That’s the way!”

                By the end of the evening Jackie had drunk several glasses and was tilting woozily. Karinthea had to help her to her apartment.

                Over the next several weeks Jackie and Karinthea had dinner together practically every night each time ending it with a toast. Then one evening when Jackie was already fit to be tied to the mast, Karinthea took out a small bag. “Look, I’ve got some pills. They’ll really make you feel good. Here, have a few. You’ll be singing and soaring like a bird.”

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: