The Covington Journal
A Day In the Life of Recruiting
Chapter 1: Isabel
I look up and put my pen down, cracking my neck and rolling my shoulders watching Wanda dig through a file cabinet. Melinda took her shopping awhile ago and dressed her up real nice in a form fitting James Galanos, little grey number. Sheís starting to look less like a prostitute and more like a lady everyday that passes.
"Oh la la, I bet ze was a good tipper, no?" she shows me a picture of the newspaper clipping from across the room of an old codger that supported a dig of mine.
I groan, unfortunately she has yet to act like one. A lady that is. I prop a foot on my desk and lean back stretching my poor dormant muscles out. Melinda looks up from her translations and clears her throat shaking a disapproving head my way. I always feel like Iím back in school around her. Those horn rimmed glasses, her hair in that bun, and the scrunched up nose. Reminds me of Miss Templeton when I was back in third grade. I chuckle out loud at my musings, cause Miss Templeton never did look that good.
Melinda sighs and goes back to her work, Wanda leans against the cabinet trying to sound the words out. Learning English has been a bit of a task for her, but Iím proud that she has accomplished so much in such a short time. I run my fingers through my hair, undoing the hair tie that holds it stationary, shaking it out and contemplating cutting it all off. It would be easier to deal with, but Melinda has told me time and time again that if I do that I would look like a twelve year old boy. Looking up feeling eyes on me, as I start to move I see Wanda turn around and Mel cough nervously pretending to be interested in whatever it is that she is up to now. What is it with these two? I sometimes feel like Iím missing some important fact in our relationships. I shrug and take the tie out of my mouth, putting the red mop back where I had it.
The door swings open and a short young woman hastily enters. Her black hair is pinned back in a pony tail, rugged wear hangs loose on her small frame, and I canít help but wonder how clinically blind she must be from the thickness of her glasses. Wanda waves at her and grins, and I shake my head at her obviousness.
"Recruit, do you want me to?" she shouts in the worst English I have heard in along time. "Isabel!" a triumphant proclaim and rather loud too.
Melinda puts her hands in her lap and sits back completely confused. "No thanks, Isabel." She looks at me and I shrug.
However my sarcastic streak is always bubbling at the surface, "Can I be in charge?" I smile slamming my feet to the floor, leaning on my desk. "I just love archaeology digs." I can see Wanda snicker out of the corner of my eye.
"Yes, okay!" she shouts at me with enough enthusiasm to kill Walt Disney.
"Where at? Here or New York?" I kid, Wanda ducks her head and hides a giggle.
"Yes I Love it!" She shouts back at me from only a few feet away. Melinda scrunches up her face showing her distress of the noise level in the room and covers her ears.
"We can hear you. You donít have to yell." I explain. Blind, deaf, and dumb.
Melinda leans back a bit, she looks happy I rectified that. I wait a long time for Isabel to answer, so long that I start to fidget and look about the room at my colleagues. Mel and Wanda both shrug at my silent inquiries.
"Plus, can you speak Spanish?" One wonders if she was having a conversation in her own head. Ahh, Spanish the one language I never really found interesting. Truth be known I was in the hospital having my tonsils removed and missed that class.
"I can be ze stupid bad guy who leaves ze brave and gorgeous archaeologist everything I plot against her?" Wanda plays along with my joke from earlier. And yes, I caught the flirt she threw my way. Something everyone should pick up about Wanda right away, she wants you. She wants everyone. I tried explaining that to Melinda once, but she just told me I was delusional and I shouldnít assume such horrible things about people. Brushing it all off as some off French thing. Ah, Mel... gotta love her.
I have already made up my mind about Isabel, snobbish of me I know. But I really donít have time to teach another one English, I lie and tell her I canít speak any foreign languages. That made Mel and Wandaís heads snap up. "What?" I mouthed out at them. I have had a hard enough year I donít need this on my plate as well.
"No hablo." I look up at Wanda, did that just come out of her mouth? Whoída thunk it!
"Did you now what are ferme labush?" Okay you got me there kiddo. I rub my bottom lip and look at Melinda wondering what the hell Isabel meant by that.
Melinda squeaks out still coving her ears, "Too much yelling now."
"Isabel, stop talking or stop yelling!" I yell back at her. Rude yes, but effective. I am about to throw her out of the office, until Wanda asks me in her native tongue to wait a moment.
"What is your name?" she shouts out at me, I point to the name plaque on my desk and then to the door with both of our titles painted across the glass clear as day.
"My name is Spanish Ass Kickin." I mutter which gets both a shake of the head and a small giggle from Mel, which surprises me. I look at Isabel and stand up with an open hand to the door. I smile. "Say goodbye, Isabel."
Wanda whispers something to the woman and the little gal bows her head and turns to me, "Sorry man." She says in a normal tone. "Goodbye." She mimics me. Hey wait did she just call me a man?
I sigh picking up my fedora off of the hat rack and wave it at the woman. "No you are okay, no?" Wanda says, putting a hand on the girls shoulder and looks at me to be nice. So I dig through my jacket for my lighter and my cigar case. I glance at Melinda, at least she was amused by my teasing. I light the panatella and walk over to Melís desk leaning against it.
"Yes Iím sorry, do you want to dig?" Isabel ask. I still canít behave. Two weeks without one reply to our ad for a crew on our next dig. We only have two days left before our backers will, well quiet frankly back out.
"When are you digging Isabel?" Yep... Iím a smartass, I canít help it. Wanda reminds me she will be leavening for work. Like I said you can take the girl out of the tramp, but you canít take the tramp out of the girl.
"Iím, inside." Isabel is confusing me now. I hate to be confused, I attempted to ask her what that meant in the little Spanish I know. She just stared at me. I turned to Mel and rolled my eyes.
"So are we Isabel." I say out loud accenting my words with a wave of the cigar. Melinda laughs, which makes me smile.
Isabel said something after that in Spanish that only I could translate to. "Stopped are a lot of people talking me Iím, crazy." Okay I have no idea what that meant. I smile and tell her we canít speak Spanish. My suspicions are confirmed as Wanda mutters, "Not well." in French for me to hear.
"Oh how do you now." Couldnít tell if that was a question or a statement, either way this was going nowhere fast. This being our only source of entertainment I allowed it to continue for a bit, Melinda was no longer hiding her amusement and it was making me start to giggle.
"How do I now what? I now allot." I grin at Mel who just laughs. "About digs? I am a master." Wanda laughs now. I can see Melinda trying to compose herself as she clears her throat to speak.
"She's a master with that bull whip too." She giggles out in that thick southern drawl, pointing at the whip hanging next to my jacket. The room stops all activity and looks at her, "Er.." she bites her lip and hums looking anywhere but directly at us. "Um, never mind."
Oh poor Mel, donít worry I will save you. "Yes, why yes... I am." I reply no longer hiding my grin. Poor Isabel looks lost.
"Master... Mistress... Whatever?" Wanda kids too, throwing her hand in the air dismissing it all."Janice if you are a master Iím, a killer." Isabel challenges. I furrowed my brow, not knowing which she means. My whip technique or my superior knowledge of Archaeology. Melinda laughs out loud, Wanda rolls her eyes. And I just stand there trying to figure out why this person is here and if any one of our enemies sent her to drive me insane. I bet sheís really German!
"What is the definition of a Historical Property?" I am challenged, I must have victory. I hide a giggle, at my own question. I should teach at the universities. Maybe Mel and I should open a wing for archaeology and anthropology at her fatherís college.
"Oh my Janice..." Mel you are no help at all, I refuse to look at her laughing and Wanda isnít much better, huddling in the corner with Mel like a little school girl.
I can sense Isabel trying to remember what the Jr. Encyclopedia of Archaeology said on this. "Taking too long there Isabel." I giggle out at her poor little brain trying to think.
"Tu hablas español?" she says frantically to Wanda, which just sends us all in a giggle fit. Melinda says something I canít quite hear to Wanda making them snicker again.
"I win!" I proclaim proud in my victory over the Spanish.
"You donít win youíre a lighter." She says, her arms crossed in defiance to my superior mind.
Melinda stands back out of the way, expecting me to explode. Wanda turns and whispers me, "Just remember, she has za very limited vocabulary." And coming from Wanda, thatís pretty bad. "Do not take the offense."
"Janice... don't hurt her to badly now." Melinda warns, taking the whip from the coat rack and hiding it behind her back. But before I could even move a muscle, Isabel turned on her heals and left the office. The door closed shut and the girls just looked at me.
"I would have hit ze woman but that is just me." Wanda says without a care in the world.
"Damn." I reply, Melinda just sighs and giggles. But one question I still have, "What does lighter mean?"
"Liar." Both women answer in unison. "How can I be lying?" I asked, it was my own question. We all laugh out loud.
I take my seat again, open up my journal and start to write that down.
This was once a journal for technical reports, it has been reduced to my
daily diary. Oh great, I have turned into Melinda. I sigh and look up frustrated,
"Someone, anyone that has heard of the Xena Scrolls
that isnít an idiot!" I cry out in frustration and cover my eyes with my
A few moments pass in the silence I sigh and quietly ask, "Does anyone care to know the answer?"
"To ze properties thing?" Wanda asks, I am aware that Melinda knows the answer but she sits up and gives me her full attention anyway. "Sure." Wanda says excited as she sits on the edge of my desk.
I grin and clear my throat glancing at Melinda, "An historic property is a district, site, building, structure, or object significant in history, architecture, engineering, archeology or culture at the national, state, or local level." I quote the standard college level answer and smile.
I glance at Melinda for feedback, but she is too enraptured by the buttons on her own suit. She called it a Doir or something. I try, really I do. I just donít care about this silly obsession with people that make clothes.
However, Wanda seemed interested, that or she wanted to just lean over my desk at me I never can tell with her. "Zo it is just ze cultural societyís landmarking ze, oh how you say, labeling za property for posterity?"
I nod and ramble off a very scholarly thing to say, still Melinda is playing with those buttons and ignoring me. Wanda says she never knew that, of course she didnít but I will teach her best to my ability. Now to get her Greek up to snuff and she can answer the phones too.
"We could play chess or checkers?" Melinda looks up at us. First her jaw drops a little I can see something ticking her brain then she gives Wanda a dirty look. Melinda can move mountains when she gives people what I can only describe as the look. Wanda pouts noisily and slides off my desk, exposing as much as she can from the low cut blouse under her suit. I am sure she cuts the top buttons off of everything she owns.
"I still have that here somewhere but I CRSíed most of it." She sighs aloud and looks in her desk. Melinda and I have this private language between us. I cuss a colorful phrase that she pretends not to take a fancy to, but she later uses it in initials. CRS is my canít remember shit motto. Melinda has changed allot in a year, some for the better and some I hope to change back. Sheís a bit more interested in fighting. I sigh at the memories of her buying that gun and learning how to use it. We have lost it since then, German of course took it from her.
She actually cried when they took it from her. Found out later she named it, wouldnít surprise me if she use to tuck the thing away at night. I think back remembering her sewing up something, I would bet money that it was a pillow. Since that day I have been forced to shadow her shopping habits and make sure she doesnít replace it. I canít let her be a target again. The best I can do is show her some moves I learned in the East years ago to keep her out of danger.
"Janice you still with us over there?" I must have had that smirk I get when I think about wrestling with Mel. I look up at the object of my reminiscences and blink. Wanda pokes me out of my gaze.
"Hey!" I jump up startled not knowing how red my face is, nor wanting to know I look harshly into the Frenchís face, "Wanda, Iím not that kind of archaeologist." Oh god I wanna die. I canít believe that just came out of my mouth. Okay next person through that door, shoot me.
Wanda pouts and sits on my desk again, "But thatís not what you said last..." Hey wait a minute! My eyebrows shoot up into my falling bangs. I can see Melinda playing a tennis match between the two of us. I donít want to know, oh god I certainly donít want to know how red my face must be. This is worse than that surprise birthday party practical joke they played on me at our local restaurant a few months ago. I canít believe they told the waiter I was thirty years old! Everyone sang in the place, oh the humility.
I am flabbergasted, I point at Melinda "I was with..." I stop myself short and canít work my jaw to save my life, "Er... nothing." finally able to speak again.
Melinda shushes me and blushes a bit herself. Wandaís eyebrows creep up into her forehead and her tongue looks stuck in her cheek. She puts her hands in her blazer pockets and slides off the desktop, ready to pounce.
A knock at the door, the shape of Big Rod shadows the glass. We know itís him, heís eating a sandwich. I ignore it, none of us budge to get the door. We still havenít forgiven him for leaving us in that lurch a few months ago. And those tools he supplied! You would think itís a one in a billion chance for shovels to be infested with termites. I shake my head.
"I swear that man just won't go away." Melinda whispers hoarsely at me, leaning as far over as her tight fitting skirt dares. I can see why Xena ripped them a year ago.
Wanda looks like she is pouting at me again. Jeez how many times can you say no to a girl! Which that triggers an evil thought, I turn and whisper to Melinda, "He wants you."
She clutches her bosoms, her glasses slide down her nose and she gasps loudly. "Oh good heavens, I hope not."
"He never pays." Wanda says unconsciously. However I heard her.
"Mel remember to get the money up front." I remind her and giggle at her little lips pressing together, a "Why I never..." grunts from those ruby wonders. "What about that time back in South Carolina?" I tease never forgetting anything she has ever said. Well, anything I can use against her later, that is.
"What?" Wanda starts, talking louder than we want her to. "Iím not good enough for you." She looks at me upset. At least Mr. Penny Pincher must still owe her money, oh thank you Wanda. He retreats at the sound of her voice.
"Oh my! Forgot about that time." Melinda whispers in a gasp, but I can read her lips well enough. She looks at the door and smiles saved by the tramp, she starts to thank her and pauses, seeing a confrontation about to explode between us. "Why ya gettin angry Wanda?"
"Zou trust me Melinda Pappas..." Wanda shakes her head and walks around her, "You wouldnít understand." She looks at me for a moment, Oh no Wanda you got yourself into this one. "I..." She pauses for the words, "I have ze..." looking for a translation, "Urges."
"Urges?" That southern drawl echoes around the room, she pushes her glasses up and stands to follow Wanda around intrigued, "What type of urges?"
I watch on, at least the heat is off me for the moment. Poor Wanda, I have to giggle as she struggles not wanting to look Mel in the eye. "You know..." She wrings her hands and bites her bottom lip. As much as Wanda and I tease Mel we still donít want to disillusion her or offend her in anyway. That and her naivete is just so darn cute, I wouldnít ever want her to loose that. "Hot and bothered, no?"
Mel glides over to me, bending to my level to whisper in my ear, "Janice what is she talkin bout? The heat? The weather?"
Wanda continues off in her own little world, her eyes glaze over and she starts squirming where she stands, "Kinda za itching to do something..." her eyebrows arch and we have lost her to whatever fantasy is ravaging her mind, "...naughty."
I nudge Mel, "You know hot flashes, it's..." I whisper loud enough to tease Wanda, "...that time for her."
Melinda holds her hand up to her bosoms contemplating aloud, "Naughty?"
"Sheís older than she looks." I nudge Mel, who giggles at my joke.
Wanda has a limit you can tease her at, I just crossed it. "Janice wouldnít know either. Iz been a long time for her too! Donít listen to her."
"Well I would have never have known." Mel gets in on the action, Oh I see how it is. They are both ribbing me now! I shake my head and throw my hands up, "Phfff, Yeah a year!" I confess.
"Yourself does not count!" Oh Wanda donít you start with me, yeah I see that eyebrow go up Miss Pappas, I raise mine in defiance. Eyebrow wars! I ball my first and lean my nose to Wandaís they touch.
"What did you say you silly French tramp?" I have now come to the point of no return, yes ladies and gentleman we are about to fight.
"I think ze heard me you wantabebi freak!" Was that even English? Was it French? Damn bet sheís using Spanish against me now.
"Janice now you don't have ta be callin her such things." Melinda wedges between us and pushes us apart. We must be a sight to anyone who enters. "Wanda now be nice."
"She started it!" Wanda cries out and points at me.
Hey wait a minute! I mentally defend myself. Sheís been flirting with me since the day we found her in the woods nearly a year ago. "What does wantabebi freak mean?" I glance at the calendar that says 1941, and shrug.
Wanda sighs, "Not surprised zou donít know."
Melinda shakes her head, "I swear, I don't know what I'm gonna do with the both of you." I can feel her force and her weight pushing me back, I relax and ease up.
I raise my hand in a truce manner and matter-of-factly state, "I have an idea."
"Great. What is zis idea?" Wanda crosses her arms still pouting, what do you want from me?
"Janice now you behave yourself." Oh wonderful, come on Mel you havenít even heard it yet. All I was think was closing up shop and getting a bite to eat, we are all going crazy sitting in here waiting for someone to show up. Besides Wanda is leaving for work and I can finally spend some quality time with you. At some point while I was deep in though I must have opened my mouth, I can feel it drying. I look over at Wanda and point back with a she started it look. "Well I'm not sure if I wanna hear it Wanda." Mel shakes her head at me. Me? Oh I give up.
"Zou called me a tramp." declaring the obvious. Wanda you write it on your underwear.
I nod, "Couldnít think of another name for it." I spit back through clenched teeth.
"Yeah, well zou are just mad because I get some." She turns to me. Her brown eyes lit with a fire, and her long curly blonde hair darting to and fro hanging from the elaborate do that Mel put it in. Knowing her family tree and the exploits of her distant relative Marie DeValle the notorious Chartreuse Fox of modern French folklore, I know her temper at times can be as quick as mine.
"Some what?" I ask sighing not understanding this new turn of the conversation. "Why are you getting this..." I try and think of any French word that she could be confusing but I canít, "...some?"
Melinda sat at her desk and crossed her legs watching it all go beyond anything she had control over. I really need to brush up on my French slang, sheís been increasingly harder to understand lately. "You know some..." She winks at me and puckers her lips, with a nudge to my side she finishes with, "You know."
Melinda looks to be ignoring us now, she opens up her purse and takes
out her lipstick. "What?" I shrug puffing on my cigar.
"Yes!" the lipstick cries out in triumph. Waiting all day for Melinda to press it against her soft lips. A service long overdue.
The happy little soap in Janiceís drawer uses all itís scented muscle to push it open and looks about the room at the lipstick, "You wanna tawlk about neglect... well I gots stories for you! Once we waz on dis dig in Ciaro..."
Out from a purse hanging on the hat rack in the corner of the room a neatly wrapped red bar of soap, oval in shape and sweet in smell creeps up, "You donít want to know what I have seen."
"Let me tell ya, dat woman didnít even move me in her pack... I know
she waz cheaten on me with some exotic local number." The soap turns to
the red bar and shrugs sending flakes floating to the metal surface.
I look back away from my daze, and at Melindaís strange glare at darting between the desk and the purse on the rack. She hastily closes up her lipstick and throws it violently in the desk drawer slamming it shut, "Well." She shyly says to all the glares in the room.
I puff on my cigar and follow Melindaís gaze. "What just happened here?"
"I do not know." Wanda throws a hand in the air and grabs her purse, I could have sworn I heard a squeak or something come from the floor where the bar of soap landed. She grabs it up and shoves it back into the purse, Melinda looks fascinated.
Melinda pulls herself out of whatever spell she is and coughs on my smoke filling the air around her. She waves her hand in the air to clear it, "Ya mean except for the talking bars of soap?"
"What bars?" I am concerned about her, I think her braís are on too tight or something. Cuts off the circulation to the brain I hear. "Mel you feeling okay kiddo?"
She blushes and looks away walking to her desk and carefully sidestepping around the desk. "Sorry must have been daydreamin again." She concentrates on the drawer and sits down not taking her eye off it.
"About tiny bars of soap?" Wanda kids preparing to leave for a few hours. "Does that mean you want another bubble bath?" I recall the time she is talking about, the first time we found out that Melinda does love a long bubble bath. I when I say long, I mean long. I think she was in there a week.
"Why..." she looks up from her problem and thinks a minute as the words register. "Yes. Somethin wrong with that?"
Oh Mel, I slam my drawer shut nearly clipping my hip on it taking my seat, was that opened before? I sigh putting my boots on my desk and leaning back enjoying whatís left of this cigar. On further investigation of my boots I scrunch up my nose and moan, "Scuffed again."
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