One Person's Story
By Robin Elizabeth

When Clara first started her job, she liked it because it was new and exciting. Although the excitement wore off pretty quickly, she still liked her job for quite a while. Then it got boring and repetitive. By the time she had been there for quite a few months, she was considered to be very knowledgeable about her job and some things that she had picked up from others. She welcomed questions and did her best to answer them or find the answers when she didn't know them.

No one knew what to think of her, and she had been told that on one occasion. She wasn't sure what to make of it and didn't think about it much. She knew it was true though, for some people. The others knew what to make of her and generally enjoyed her company when she came their way. The friendlier people joked, talked and inquired as to how she was doing and Clara did the same. For the most part, she liked her co-workers, although there are always those rare exceptions. She didn't hate those exceptions, for Clara didn't hate anyone, she simply tolerated them as best she could.

Clara could never be accused of being too beautiful for her own good. She wasn't ugly, but she wasn't beautiful either. She was pretty in a plain kind of way. She knew was only pretty, nothing special to look at. But if anyone said so, her feelings would be hurt. And if it came from certain people that she admired, she would be crushed. But they never would, and that's part of why she admired them.

She tried to make herself pretty. She did everything she was supposed to, and some things she wasn't. Of the few pills she tried, what didn't make her sick just didn't work. She just kept trying and accepted the minimal success she got. She knew she'd never be a size 6 and a bikini was never in her future.

She put makeup on, in an attempt to not look so plain. She mostly did herself up for work, or any time she went out. She wanted to bring out her eyes, since many people told her she had beautiful eyes. She took that as a deeper compliment than was probably meant since she believed that since the eyes are the windows to the soul, beautiful eyes meant a beautiful soul.

She did a most peculiar thing. When about to cross a hallway, or go around a corner, she would, stop, look and listen like she was crossing a street. But there was a reason for it. Tea is a hot liquid, and when split on skin was painful, and she didn't like pain. When tea was split on clothing, the burn was only slightly less painful, and it took a long time for the tea to dry. And there was a staining issue when spilt on light colored clothes.

She was a dutiful girl. When handing out the mail, if her boss's door was more shut than open, she considered it shut. She wasn't the type into intrude unless absolutely necessary. And she never found it absolutely necessary. When the door was open, regardless if he was there or not, she would put his mail in the bin on the left corner of the desk which wasn't marked but everyone knew was the "in" bin. The bin next to it, usually empty, was the "out" bin, for there needed to be two. Since she was a dutiful girl, if she saw something in the "out" bin, she would take it and do what was necessary. She would either put in the "outgoing" mail bin in the copy room herself or deliver it to the name on the front. She didn't mind doing this, for he was a nice person and treated her kindly. He was one of the few that came over to her to ask how she was doing on her first day back after her grandfather died. And she greatly appreciated it, although she could never say it since she was so shy.

When he was in, and she had to give him something, she was quiet about it. She saw no reason to disturb him or make a point in making noise when she was just delivering mail. She also didn't like to interrupt if he was speaking with someone in the office. She could wait until they left, or she felt comfortable ducking in and out quickly when the person's visit to his office was social and not business.

There was only one thing that bugged her about her boss. He was never there when she needed him. She always had to wait for him to return to ask him a question or to have him sign something. She heard him referred to as a "Social Butterfly" one time. She understood the meaning behind it, and the phrase itself only somewhat made sense to her. He was very social, on friendly terms with just about everyone. And she considered him a butterfly in her own way, which was very much a compliment. She knew what she meant by that and since she never did tell anyone, she didn't need to think about explaining it.

Although she didn't like doing letters, she used the time to her advantage. Sitting with one leg tucked under her, she would feed the letters into the letter folder until she had messy piles of folded letters scattered on her desk. Then she would put the letter folder under her desk and pull out whatever book she was working on at the time. She never started and finished a book there. That is why she had quite a few half-finished books in her room or scattered around her chair in the living room, much to her parents' dismay. Usually, she would have to use her keyboard wrist rest to keep the book open to the page she was on while she stuffed the letters into envelopes. Because she insisted on reading while stuffing envelopes, the process took her longer than it should have. But no one minded, if they even noticed. She got everything she needed to done, and no one could complain about that.

She didn't like letters, and everyone knew it. But did anyone? The collectors didn't care about things like that, they just printed their letters and expected them to be done…smile not necessary. This was the least glorious part of her job. Not that there was anything glorious anyway. She figured since it didn't take a four-year degree to do letters, she shouldn't have to do them. But life isn't always fair, or doesn't always follow the plans that are set. No, she knew she had to do them since it was a part of her job description. But she didn't have to like it.

The letter folder was a peculiar thing. It was a small machine that needed to be plugged into an outlet. It was supposed to be able to fold four sheets of 8x11 paper at once. And it did for a while. Then came The Jam. The Jam was the first in a long line of paper jams that resulted in the folder being taken apart, the paper taken out and then put back together again. The Jam is what some feel broke it for good. After The Jam, letters had to be put in one at a time, two at the most. The folder didn't like two at once, and it let the user know every time by making a sick, grinding noise when two were being folded at once. But two was inevitable since some collectors like sending multiple letters to the same person or people. Three is acceptable only once in a great while and is generally avoided by folding two together and sticking the last one in the envelope with the others. Four will never be done again and would only result in another jam. Folding a four-page letter by hand is easier and wastes less time than trying to have the folder do it and then jam.

The issue of the aforementioned four-page letters may not be controversial, although she thought they were generally useless. She had to actually ask for permission to send them if a collector printed them. They didn't need permission to print them; she just needed to ask their supervisors if they could be sent. The response she normally got was: No, don't send because one is being sent automatically. She felt those four-page letters were a waste of perfectly good paper that could be better used for something else. On the rare exceptions that she didn't need to ask for permission, those letters were usually (although not always) printed by her boss. And even then someone asked him to print them. It was a generally weird set-up, but it was one that she didn't question.

She never intended on staying in Connecticut for as long as she did, but that's just what happened. She wanted to move to California, or to Chicago, or to somewhere in Germany. But Fate just didn't want any of that to happen, so she was relegated to Connecticut for a couple of years. Then Fate let her go to California for a week and then to Germany for three months. She decided that she would very much like to live in Monterey, or at least in Monterey County. She had a map of the area, and dreamed about living there. She already had some neighbors in mind, and had some adventures with her neighbors. One neighbor was Maria Mendez and her little son Pedro who lived next door. Maria was from Colombia and only spoke Spanish. Pedro was born in the United States, but like his mother, only spoke Spanish. Although Clara only remembered some high school Spanish, she made a strong effort to get to know Maria and Pedro better. And in the process became fluent in that language, as well as German.

One adventure that occurred in this imaginary neighborhood involved the adoption of a multi-breed mutt she named Manni, which was short for Kurzermann, which means "Short Man" in German. She had originally wanted the translation of "Little Man" which made more sense, but the thought of naming her dog "Kleinermann" seemed a little silly. The mutt's mother had been abandoned at Stan's market during one night towards the end of the summer. Stan brought the dog to Dr. Kevin, who delivered five healthy puppies. When the puppies were ready, he let the neighborhood take their picks of the litter. Clara wanted the runt of the litter, which is why the name Kurzermann fit so well.

Although the Manni's adoption, and subsequent training and relations to her other dog Seele (which is also German, meaning "Soul"), were an adventure in themselves, the real adventure came when some unscrupulous man tried to steal her dog, and the dog that Maria and Pedro had adopted as well. The man tried to call the dogs to him from his car while they were playing outside, unattended at the time. But what the man didn't know is that the dogs didn't understand commands in English. Maria and Pedro's dog was trained in Spanish, as was Clara's, since the two would dog-sit for each other when necessary. When Clara came out to confront the man, he immediately shut his car door and drove away. She relayed that to Maria, who was concerned for her new pet, and then told George (the mailman) who warned the entire neighborhood and then some, because he told everyone on his route. There were no more stories of a man trying to dognap someone's loved one.

But this neighborhood existed only in her imagination. And she knew it was very unlikely to happen, so she didn't get her hopes up. She didn't even know if she would move to that area of California, or if she would only see it on trips from other parts of the state. That's if she ended up in California at all. That's the thing about Fate, one couldn't plan events like that, which is unfortunate. But if Fate thought it knew better, then who could argue. One could not know better than Fate, other than God. But it all depends on one's beliefs. Since Clara did not believe in God (in the Catholic/Christian sense, anyway), she believed in Fate instead. And that was much better than not believing in anything at all.

There could be more written about Clara, since she isn't dead and she's old enough to have more stories than what has already been shared. So, there may be more about Clara in the future, although it is doubtful. Everyone has a story to tell, adventures to share and ideas to relate, Clara is but one of billions. Let's move on to the next story.

© 2003 Robin Elizabeth