by Sarah Sarai
Someone is tapping on the professional wood of Lucy’s professional workstation on the eighteenth floor of the professional law firm. She looks up to see a tall, skinny man, a legal-looking man, a lawyer, in fact. He wears a loose black suit, a suit not picked off an $80-or-less rack, yet not fitted at Ralph Lauren nearby on Madison Avenue. This tall, skinny man, linear, angular wears a yarmulke affixed to his head by way of a clip, the kind of hair clip Lucy might have used in junior high on her preteen hair.
This tall, skinny man with a yarmulke peers down at her.
“Tell me please.” His tall, skinny smile is sincere. Sunny, even. Sweet. This lawyer has a sweet smile. Sweetly smiling he asks, “Where is the place where the person who is a Jew prays?” The man’s skin is translucent, may have never seen daylight. He asks, “I am bothering?”
“No, not all.” Lucy has been playing a game of Hangman against herself. She doesn’t bother to hide it. “You’re not bothering me, but, no, I haven’t seen the person who is…” What is correct, here? And what is he asking?
Be bold, Lucy. “What do you mean, anyway? You know there are many Jewish people here.” It is implicit that here is this law firm. In which many Jewish people are employed.
“The many people who are Jews are praying?”
“You mean a synagogue?” Lucy is trying to understand. Really.
“Was thinking in firm. Here. This law firm. I am new. On this floor?”
She stares. “Huh.”
He raises his eyebrows shaped like rainbows. Lucy hands him her pen and a small mound of hot pink stickies. The man scribbles his extension and hands it over. “Calling me, please.” He walks off in his own angular shuffle. His suit complies with his body and angular gait and joins him.
For those don’t know, and there can’t be many at this point, Lucy is not a long-haul employee at the law firm. Not thus far, at any rate. But she tries.
“Um, Cheryl?” A long-timer in the cubicle next to Lucy’s ducks her head. Cheryl Buttkiss, as she is known among the more sarcastic of assistants, has followed every word of Lucy’s conversation.
As if this were a most momentous, or a most distasteful moment, Cheryl B. rises with ceremony from her chair.
Lucy catches her eye. “Um, I don’t know if you happened to catch any of that conversation, but…”
Cheryl isn’t going to admit to anything.
“Oh, well, I don’t mean…” Lucy scolds herself for backing off. Maybe, finally, she could be the one to answer a question at the Firm. “Is there like, a meeting, or an office where some go for half an hour or so, on on this floor? That guy was was, you know.”
Lucy regrets standing, which confers no power. She is no match for Cheryl. “Um, excuse me,” Cheryl snarls as she makes a show of locking her purse in a drawer before she heads to the Mail Room, or Ladies Room, or a brush-up class on Being Cheryl Buttkiss.
What is this? Opening. Closing. Across the corridor and a few offices down from Lucy’s current workstation a door is now closing, opening, closing, opening. Lawyers are opening and closing the door, entering the office. It is a remake of Duck Soup, the Marx Brothers’ movie wherein many squeezed into a stateroom. The effect? Comic. Lucy is thinking Duck Soup with yarmulkes. Serious-looking men are cramming themselves into a stateroom, into a small office of many lawyers.
Now Lucy understands. The people who are Jews are convening. That’s what is happening. The people who are Jewish are praying.
She grabs the phone. Scrambles to find the pink sticky. It’s on the receiver. Says, “I think the people who are Jews are praying.” Hears joy on the other end. Hears: “Thank you.”
God is being talked to. God, who has no religion but acts a lot like She does, is a little less lonely at the moment.
In no time at all, the lawyer with the yarmulke is by her cubicle.
He smiles. “I am going in where?”
She points to the door.
Two desks over, an assistant narrows her eyes. Stares. The translucent lawyer with the yarmulke opens the door, opens and closes it.
“Lucy Needs Work” is an excerpt from Lucy Needs Work: A Vote for Ross Perot (a short novel searching for a publisher).
Sarah Sarai’s fiction is in The Rye Whiskey Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly. Cleaver, Callisto, Tampa Review, and many other journals. Her poems are in New Ohio Review, New York Quarterly, The Southampton Review, and others. She is author of three poetry collections; lives in New York.