And Baby Makes Three
Chapter 2

Copyright© 2010 by Pedant

In the office on Friday, Mona had the usual wad of 'While You Were Out' slips and a wad of paper. "What's that?" I asked.

"A billet doux from your favourite staff member. And Chaz', I guess."

"Mr. Watkins?"

"Got it in one! He was unhappy about your decision to support Chaz. So this is our copy of his protest to Canberra."

"Do I need to worry about it?"

"I wouldn't think so."

"Chaz?"

"No. I think he's safe, too. But there's something in his cover letter that Kevin might be able to use."

"Should I read it? Or can to tell me?"

"You read the letter. I'll come in later and tell you what I think."

"Okay." I went to my office and began going through the messages. As usual, most went directly into the trash. I began thinking about Weena and how good she looked in maternity clothes. I guess I'd only recalled women in ugly tent-like things, somehow trying to veil themselves. Boy had things changed! Weena had some of the sexiest dresses and tops. She even had a suit for hospital meetings. In another few weeks she'd look like she'd swallowed a watermelon; right now it was only a football. I sighed and went back to the messages.

There were two that looked interesting. One was from a school in Northam. C.Y. O'Connor TAFE [=Technical and Further Education]. I knew that was in the wheatbelt, but nothing else. The last was from Curtin. Hmmm.

I went to the cover letter. It was full of empty rhetoric and rage. But then I hit the area that Mona was referring to – at least I presumed that. He must have used up his thesaurus. Chaz' behaviour was "intolerable" and "insufferable." My support of Chaz was "unendurable" and "insupportable." The entire experience was "harrowing." And "dire" and "shocking" and "maddening" were in there, too. Moreover, Mona was right: Kevin would use this against Watkins, who had failed to adduce anything of real substance where a promotion was concerned. Sigh.

I phoned Northam. It was less than a problem. They wanted me to come and talk to students at their "farm" -- which was, apparently, run in cooperation with Curtin. I guessed that the other message was from the "opposite number." I said that I'd be delighted, but that my wife was expecting, and that I was planning to "stick around" till mid-May. It turned out that they wanted me in June. I said that was fine and told them to arrange things with Mona when they had a date and time; but that I'd most likely drive from Perth, as that would be simple.

Mona came in before I phoned Curtin. "Did you see it?"

"How could I avoid it? He is an idiot."

"No publications. No external talks. No innovative analyses. At least I didn't have to enter and print it all."

"You see. You understand how it machinery works – and what oils the gears."

"Part of it is luck. You were sent to Monkey Mia last year because you were the only entomologist available. That led to your meeting the commander. And that to your medal. You spoke to the wine guys and volunteered at SciTech, so now other places know they can get you. You don't need to write a book. But you need to be active."

"Thanks, Mona. Or should I call you 'mum'?" She laughed. "Anyway, I told the TAFE at Northam that I'd come in June and that they should call you about arrangements. I'll call Curtin, but it'll be about the same thing – apparently they've got a cooperative programme."

"Right. I'll make a note on the calendar." She picked up the dossier. "Did you read his resume?"

"Watkins'?"

"Yes."

"No."

"You should have. He's older than you think."

"And?"

"And I'm willing to wager that Kevin suggests retirement as a way of extracting himself from an 'intolerable' work environment."

"No bet. Mrs. Hollister's little boy is no idiot." She laughed again. "I'm going to leave early. I've got some supplies to purchase: this is paint the baby's room weekend."

"Did you pick a name?"

 
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