The Donaldsons - Cover

The Donaldsons

Copyright© 2022 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 1

He closed his eyes and listened to the distant noises that managed to drift into nook that held his desk. From far off, he heard the unmistakable click-click of a woman’s high heels striking the concrete floor. The sound of a rivet gun was muted by distance and dampened by poor acoustics. It attempted to drown out the noise of her heels, but she had already entered his territory where the acoustics worked in her favor.

Anyone who had ever seen his office considered it to be the worst in the entire company and, for an enterprise that employed nearly a million people, that was saying something.

Part of what made it so horrible was the location. It was on the edge of a major aircraft production area at the dead-end of an access way that provided maintenance with the ability to change the air filters for the wire harness assembly room. He had no idea why the room required air filters and, quite frankly, he wasn’t curious enough to ask. All he knew was that once every other month, a maintenance man opened the cover and replaced two air filters.

Reaching his desk required him to walk through a hallway that ran along the side of the wire harness assembly room and then turn a corner to walk down an even longer hallway that ran the width of the room. His desk was located at the end of that walkway. The advantage of the location was that the right turn tended to kill the sounds from where the fuselages of large passenger jets were assembled although it didn’t seem to affect the smell of metal that hung in the air.

The fact that his desk was in such an out of the way place didn’t matter to him. He took a perverse pleasure in the fact that he had few visitors and those that stopped by never stayed long. Part of the reason was that visitors didn’t enjoy the dark trip to his desk or the poorly lit work area. On the other hand, he found having a poorly lit work area to be an advantage and he wasn’t bothered by the oppressive walk through the dark to reach his desk. Truth be told, he liked his office.

In fairness to the company it must be said that the darkness of the hallway was not imposed upon him. Every ten yards, an empty light fixture hung down from the high ceiling. Every visit by the maintenance man who changed the filters included putting in new light bulbs in the fixtures. As soon as the maintenance man left, he removed the newly installed light bulbs. After years of this little game, he had an entire drawer of his squatty little file cabinet filled with light bulbs.

His desk would never have anyone in the company lusting after it. The beat up old steel tanker desk had been manufactured in the 1950s. It was topped with a single goose- necked desk lamp that had to be thirty years old if it was a day, an old computer monitor left over from nearly a decade ago, a keyboard with several keys missing, a single button mouse, and an old-fashioned telephone with a rotary dial. As far as he knew, his telephone was the last of its kind in the entire company.

The click of high heels grew ever louder suggesting that his visitor was about to turn the corner. He didn’t have to look to know that his visitor was Melinda Davis. She was the only woman in the entire facility who wore high heels when walking around the huge aircraft assembly area to reach his desk. Safety regulations prevented her from cutting three quarters of the trip by taking a shortcut across the assembly area. He assumed that she made the long walk in heels just to be in a particularly foul mood by the time she reached him. He wasn’t going to complain since the heels made her legs look great.

Melinda Davis turned the corner and paused to stare at the man hunched over his desk.

Every time she came here she expected to find some gnomish misshapen man with pale white skin from a life time of living in the dark. The reality of Mike O’Connor was just the opposite. He was tall, muscular, and tanned with chiseled facial features. When he looked at her with his brown eyes only one name came to mind — Clint Eastwood.

She approached his desk knowing that he knew she was there, but he studiously ignored her. The fact that he ignored her only fed fuel to her irritation. Stopping six feet behind him, she turned off the flashlight that had been necessary to see her way to his office. His hand snaked out to reach for the goose-necked lamp. Glaring at the back of his head, she said, “If you turn that light to shine it on me, I will kill you and leave your body here to be found by the rats.”

Without saying a word, Mike swiveled the hood of the goose-necked lamp so that it was aimed at her. He spun around in his chair and looked at her. With a disappointed expression on his face, he said, “I keep hoping that you’ll show up here naked. With that red hair of yours, I know that you’ve got a field full of freckles under those clothes. I’d really like to play a game of connect the dots with your freckles.”

“One of these days, I’m going to fire you for sexual harassment,” Melinda said unable to keep the flash of anger out of her voice. She knew for a fact that he hadn’t attended any of the required sexual harassment training courses since starting with the company. The last time she had mentioned that he was required to attend a course once a year, he had retorted that he didn’t need any lessons on how to harass someone; he was quite proficient in that department without training. He had followed up on that by asking her to remove her blouse. She was not amused.

“I didn’t know it was possible for a lowly employee like me to sexually harass such an important vice president of a company this size like you,” Mike said. He yawned while negligently covering his mouth with his hand.

“One of these days you’re going to screw up big-time and I’ll be able to get rid of you,”

Melinda said.

Mike opened a drawer and removed a letter from inside it. For almost a minute, he made a huge production out of reading it. Looking up at her, he said, “This letter is from your boss. It appears that my last patent has been licensed for a hundred million dollars.”

Melinda was well aware of that fact. The patent had turned what might have been a loss on her annual financial report into a year with a sixty million dollar profit. It wasn’t the first time he had done that and it was highly likely that it wouldn’t be the last time. She had read the report he had sent out three days ago and suspected that he was going to repeat that level of success with his most recent research results. She halfway expected his latest invention would bring in fifty percent more money than the last one. She asked,

“How do you do it?”

“I’m just naturally handsome and women throw themselves at my feet,” Mike answered flashing a smile intended to impress.

“That’s not what I’m talking about!” Melinda said giving him a look that should have killed him.

Amazed that such an attractive woman could get such an ugly expression on her face, Mike asked, “You weren’t?”

“No. How is it that you come here two days a week, work in this dingy cave with an antiquated computer, and bring in millions of dollars every year?” Melinda asked.

Looking hurt, Mike said, “I resent that.”

“Resent what?” Melinda asked unable to follow the logic of his reply.

“You calling my wonderful office a dingy cave,” Mike answered with a grin.

Turning to look down the dark hall, Melinda asked, “What happened to the light bulbs that are supposed to be here?”

Mike opened a drawer of his filing cabinet and picked up a light bulb. Holding it up for her to see, he answered, “Here is one. I think there are a few more around here. You know, light bulbs don’t walk off all by themselves. Someone must be stealing them for nefarious purposes.”

Rather than rise to the bait, she bit her tongue. For a moment she entertained the idea of getting light fixtures that required a key to get access to the light bulb. She wasn’t sure if such a fixture existed, but after two years of tramping through the dark to get to his office she was half tempted to find out.

She glanced down at the computer next to his desk. It was the size of a mini-refrigerator.

Unable to believe what her eyes were telling her, she pointed at it while asking, “What is that?”

“That is my computer,” Mike answered.

“Is that an 8 inch floppy disk on your computer?”

“Yes, it is,” Mike answered. He picked up the old floppy disk that had been on top of the computer and waved it around. Pointing a finger at her, he said, “You don’t find many of these around anymore.”

“Are you telling me that your computer has an eight inch floppy drive in it?”

Mike slid the floppy disk into a slot on the computer. He flipped the lever that moved the spindle onto the floppy. He answered, “Yes, it does.”

“They haven’t made those in decades,” she said staring at the box. If his computer used eight inch floppy disks then it had to be at least twenty-five years old. They had employees who were younger than that computer.

“It does make it tough to get replacements. I did find a 30 megabyte Winchester hard drive the other day and was thinking of installing it in my computer.”

“What computer do you actually use to do your work?” she asked.

“This one,” Mike answered pointing to the machine.

She decided that his computer was going to have to get replaced along with the keyboard mouse, and monitor. She noticed another antique on his desk and said, “I thought that phone had been replaced.”

“I found another one at a flea market just like the last one. They wanted a whole ten dollars for it, but I talked them down to five. I submitted an expense voucher to get reimbursed, but I think someone is holding up processing it,” Mike replied. He ruffled through a desk drawer and held up the yellow copy of an expense voucher.

“What happened to the new phone that I ordered for your desk?” Melinda asked unable to believe that he would have done something like that.

“I installed it in the break room. You should have seen those guys. They were so appreciative that they didn’t even care that I wasn’t union. It appears that their requests to get a telephone in that room kept getting rejected,” Mike answered with a grin.

“There was a reason their request was rejected,” Melinda said.

“What reason?” Mike asked.

The company and the union needed some negotiating points that could be the subject of easy compromise. Placing telephones in break rooms was one of the points the company could graciously yield on without it costing much. Melinda answered, “That is none of your business. I’ll have it removed.”

“Well I wouldn’t worry about it. It is a modern lightweight plastic phone and won’t last three weeks. This one of mine is made of Bakelite with real copper and will last for years unless someone steals it,” Mike said while pointing at her to let her know that he would blame her if his telephone went missing.

“Your phone has to go.”


“It is a rotary dial phone. Half of our telecommunications equipment won’t support rotary dial phones anymore. We’re phasing out the old equipment,” Melinda said.

“Pity that my little old telephone should require that we maintain more reliable equipment at the expense of being modern. You’ll regret modernizing your equipment,” Mike said dismissively.

Melinda bit her lip to keep from saying something that she would regret. The last time he had baited her with something like that he had been proven correct. It boggled her mind how someone who was able to advance the state of the art in the aerospace industry like he did fought modernization with such a passion.

In the absence of a retort, Mike asked, “So what brought you down here to see little old me?”

“We’ve got a problem,” Melinda said. The CEO of the company had recommended that she give the problem to Mike O’Connor. She had protested, but her boss had given her a sound argument for bringing him in on the project. They both knew that Mike would solve her problem. Knowing that didn’t make it any easier to give the job to him.

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