|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life.||Rowena Deals With Life, Part 8|
Rowena sat listening to another of her mother's strange phone calls. “Which reminds me,” her mother said, “when I went to fill out the application and it asked—oh, dear; I wasn't going to tell you that. Forget I said anything.”
“What application?” Rowena asked. Her mother sighed.
“Nothing,” she said. “Just a job application.”
“I wasn't going to tell anybody until afterwards. You know how people are; they'd want to know why and they'd want to know what kind of job and then they'd tell me I couldn't even get hired, let alone do the work, and all of that, and I just—”
“What kind of job do you want?” Rowena asked. She wasn't sure what her mother's interests were, outside of interfering in other people's lives, and she had no idea what her mother might be qualified for.
“I thought I could be a receptionist. I don't think they have to do anything but be pleasant to people, and I can certainly do that.”
“Mom, have—have you really thought this through? I mean—”
“Rowena, it wasn't too bad being a housewife when you kids were little, but now you've grown up and left me there's just no point. Spending the whole day cleaning an empty house that hardly gets dirty in the first place anymore, except of course for your father's toenail clippings and—”
“I don't mean that; it's just—a receptionist has to answer phones and keep track of—”
“Good heavens, Rowena, I've answered phones my whole life. I'm talking on the phone right now.”
“And I am not too old.”
“I didn't say you were. I just don't think you've looked into—”
“Now, Rowena. How difficult could it be?”
For a while Rowena heard no more about her mother's job hunt. She wondered what was happening but kept her curiosity to herself. And then one day she looked up from her desk at work to find her mother standing there in front of her.
“Hello, dear,” her mother said. “How do I look?”
“I hope so,” her mother said. “I have a job interview.”
“Here.” Her mother beamed.
“Here? At Rorschach & Schmed?”
“There is an opening here for a receptionist, so I applied.” She was still beaming. “Won't that be great? We could go to lunch together and everything.”
“Great,” said Rowena.
“Mother and daughter. Two working girls.”
“Don't say that,” said Rowena. “Don't say ‘working girls.’”
“Oh, you're Liberated, is that it? You're a working woman. Well, excuse me. I was only trying to have a little fun.”
“Mother, if you must know, the phrase ‘working girl’ is—”
“Rowena, you never told me there were so many nice-looking young men here.”
Rowena looked around. “Here?”
“Dozens of them. Several, anyway. I'd better not mention them to your father.” She giggled. Rowena was pretty sure her father wouldn't care, but she didn't want to say so.
“Now, you know I like Sammy, dear,” her mother continued, “but why were you sitting home all those nights before you met him when you were surrounded by all of these eligible young men?”
“They're not all eligible. Anyway, I work with them.”
“Oh, so you're going to have scruples. You're going to be fastidious. That's why so many of you young women today are still unmarried. I tell you now—”
“Unmarried,” said Rowena. “For a moment I seriously thought you were going to say, ‘old maids.’”
“Well, a career is all very well, but—”
“What time is your interview?”
Rowena's mother consulted her watch. “Where is Room 12?”
“They're interviewing you in Room 12?”
“Where is it?” Rowena pointed. “Right down that hallway.”
“Oh, good,” said her mother. And did not leave.
“When is it?” Rowena asked again.
“In ten minutes,” her mother said. “Plenty of time to visit.”
“Yes, well, but I'm afraid I have some work to do.” Rowena gestured towards her In box. “So, ummm . . .”
“Rowena, really. Trying to get rid of your old mother, huh? You have forty hours a week to do your work. I really think you could spare a few moments—”
“Mother. You don't want to get me into trouble, do you?”
“Oh, Rowena. I'm sure your boss would understand. He probably has children of his own.” She reached out and began flipping idly through Rowena's phone numbers. “John Jameson,” she mused. “What a nice name. Is he cute?”
“Mother, please. I have a lot of work to do, you have your interview, which I'm sure—”
“Ten minutes,” said her mother, glancing again at her watch.
“Ten minutes? Is it still ten minutes?”
“Rowena—” But Rowena took her mother's arm and looked for herself.
“Your watch has stopped,” she said.
“What?” She stared at it. “I only wound it last night, or was it the night before?” Rowena pointed to the little clock on her desk.
“If you were supposed to be here at two-thirty,” she said, “you have two minutes left.”
And her mother scampered away, but she blew a kiss as she went.
“Your mom, huh?” asked Marjorie.
“What's this about a job interview?”
“Apparently Rosalie has decided to pack up and leave us in my hour of need. Nobody tells me anything.”
“You were out when Bob came by with the collection,” said Marjorie, snapping her gum. “I contributed for you.”
“You owe me nine bucks.”
“Nine? Since when have you ever put in more than two?”
“I only had a ten,” said Marjorie. “So that was one dollar from me and nine from you. Pay up.”
“Marjorie, why didn't you just—”
Marjorie sighed. “That Bob is so cute,” she said. “The way he smiled when he thanked me . . .”
Rowena put her head down. She was surrounded.
“Chin up, kiddo,” said Molly. “Here.” She put a piece of paper on Rowena's desk. Rowena looked at it. It was a photocopy of part of a newspaper comics page. Two of the cartoons were about overbearing mothers.
“So you've heard?” Rowena asked.
“'Fraid so. I wouldn't worry too much if were you; you know how Mr. Schmed is. Just because she has an interview doesn't mean they're seriously considering her.”
“I know, but—”
“Oops, playtime's over. You might want to hide those cartoons.” And off Molly went. Rowena looked to see her mother bearing down on her; she grabbed the cartoons and stuffed them into her bottom drawer.
“Well,” said Rowena's mother. “I thought it went very well.”
“That's nice,” said Rowena. She stuck a sheaf of paper into her stapler and punched down much harder than was necessary.
“And I told him all about how I was your mother, and what a good worker you are and everything. I probably got you a raise.”
Rowena shut her eyes. “Thanks, Mom, but it doesn't work that way. See—”
“Not even grateful.” Her mother made a humphing noise. “All the trouble I went to.”
“So who'd you talk to?”
“Oh, I don't know. Some man.”
“Well, what did he look like?”
“I don't remember. He wasn't my type.”
“Mom, listen, can we talk about this later? I've got—”
“No time for your mother. I know. Well, I hope you have kids just like you some day, although God knows I didn't have any just like me. That's your father's side of the family, all over.”
“Mom, please. I promise I will call you tonight, but just please let me get some work done! Okay? I'm being paid. I've already had my lunch and now it's time for me to work. Okay? That's what I'm here for, is to work. Right? Now please allow me to earn my paycheck. Please.”
“Such a tone to take with your only mother. Why—”
“What are you doing here?” bellowed Eloise at close range. Rowena jumped, then shrank down small. There was Eloise, right beside her desk.
“I came here for a job interview, and now I want to talk to my daughter.”
“Talk to her after hours. You are interfering with the company. Please leave.”
“Mind your own business!” said Rowena's mother. Eloise started to turn red.
“Everything that takes place at Rorschach & Schmed is my business,” she said, enunciating carefully. Rowena wanted to hide under her desk. “If you do not leave now I will call the security guard and have you escorted from the premises.”
“This is a mother-daughter thing,” said Rowena's mother. “You have no heart—no heart at all.”
“Mother—” Rowena tried.
“I hope you got a good deal,” her mother continued, “when you sold your soul. But it sure doesn't look like it.”
Eloise picked up Rowena's phone and her mother reached out and broke the connection. “You don't have any children, do you?” Rowena's mother said. “Probably nobody's ever even kissed you.” Rowena scrunched herself down into a little ball and wished herself into another dimension. “And your hair,” her mother was saying. “I've seen better wigs than that on Halloween!”
Eloise banged down the phone; Rowena's mother jerked her hand away just in time. “I shall call the guard,” Eloise said, “from Mr. Schmed's office! And I advise you never to set foot on the premises again!” And off she went.
There was a very brief silence. “I don't think you really want to work for these people, dear,” said her mother. “I certainly don't.” And she left.
There was another little silence, and then it began: applause, subdued applause, from all around. Rowena put her head on her desk. When she looked up, she found that somebody had given her a donut. A jelly donut.
“Hello, dear.” It was her mother again, on the phone this time. “I hope I didn't get you into too much trouble.”
“No, not really,” Rowena said. She had seen Eloise only a few minutes ago; Eloise had only said, “You poor thing. Don't let her get to you,” and given her a new report to work on.
“Oh, good. Well, I just thought you should know I've got a job.”
“You know Valerie's Various, the little shop on Waterloo Avenue? Well, I was going past on my way home and there was a Help Wanted sign in the window, and I thought, why not? So it's only twelve hours a week so I'm not making much money but I've got plenty of time for other things and I don't really need much money anyway but Valerie is a wonderful lady, not like that what's-her-hair you have over at your place, and isn't it wonderful?”
“Yes,” said Rowena. “It's wonderful!” And when she hung up the phone it was her turn to cheer.
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