A Fine Girl
There Are Things Worse Than Death
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own.
I just stared into the blank abyss of eyes that seemed hollow. Cheekbones rounded and yet sunken in where a strong profile once existed. A double chin and more gray hair completed a portrait that I did not recognize. I stepped back from the face who watched me and looked at the rest of the mirror, a gift from my father along with his cognac set, a notebook of his favorite quotes and a bottle of liquor still wrapped in Christmas paper even though I rarely drank. He did also leave me this cottage in a small village off the Maine coast.
The gold edges of the mirror’s frame had chipped in several places and there was a slight crack across its glass. He called it his Alfred Hitchcock looking glass. It would show the image not necessarily of you but of how you have become. A distorted replica that takes a quick peak at your soul. He was a man of few possessions, but this piece which he purchased at an old antique store, he told me meant more of a view than an image. He insisted that I agree to take it before he passed three weeks ago.
After taking care of him for more than seven years I had learned not to argue as to why I would not want a mirror that portrays a person that is apparently me but not me. His only answer when I did question, “Claudia you will see, what you don’t see.” I would roll my eyes at another one of his expressions that made no sense to my researcher mind.
Now as I sat and read through some of his quotes, I would give anything to hear his quick wit again.
“Time to blow this clambake!” was one of my favorites that he would yell any time we were leaving anywhere that was not a clambake. I decided to start posting one of the expressions every day on my phone to give me a smile and a word of his advice.
The ring of my cell interrupted my thoughts. I checked the ID which glowed red with the name of my boss, Ray. I closed my eyes as I hit accept as I knew I had to deal with this prick as I due back from leave tomorrow.
“Hey Claudie, it’s Ray!” he spoke as though he was a talk show host introducing his first guest.
“Hi Ray. Thank you for the flowers from the office. That was very kind of you."
“Oh yeah, so sorry about your dad, Claudia. Glad you got them.” I knew he had no idea of what I was talking about as his assistant probably sent them. There was an uncomfortable pause which was unusual for Ray who loved to hear himself speak.
“So, Claudie, I was actually calling to let you know we have hired someone new in your department.”
“Oh? What do you mean Ray?" I still had years before retirement and closed my eyes to prepare for the news.
“Well Claudie we have added a new position, a director for your department, so when you come in tomorrow you will have a new boss."
“Ray there are only three people in my department, why do we need another director when we have you?” I spoke through a smile that held back my frustration.
“Look Claudie, I need the help. I can’t even take every Wednesday off to golf anymore. It has been crazy busy since you have been out. She can help with the Westchester project and presentation!"
I pinched my nose with my eyes closed in disgust. “Ray, I’ll be back tomorrow. I don’t need another manager. I have been a data analyst for twenty years and the Westchester project is almost complete.”
“Claudie, I’m not asking, I’m telling you Brandy started a week ago. She is young, high energy and ready to learn!”
“Ready to learn? Does she have any experience?” I questioned though I already knew the answer.
“No, but Brandy is a fine girl, like you used to be Claudie. A fine girl!” With that Ray started to sing and hum the rest of the song. I hit end call and shook my head as f-bombs dropped out of my mouth. My thoughts raced around.
“How is she going to help if she doesn’t have any experience analyzing data?"
The Westchester Project, which is analyzing public opinion, traffic patterns and first responder times across the state of Maine. Data was needed for a new theme park with the world’s tallest flagpole to be built. I spent hours gathering insight and surveys for the Westchester family who wanted to take hundreds of pristine virgin forest and put in a theme park around a flag pole so high people from Boston might see old glory blowing in air. I had to listen to townspeople for and against the plan. Tooth less Donald Connors, a justice of the peace, who owned the Gas-N-Go that was also a business for Wedding In An Hour (complete with tuxedo tee shirt, a rose for the bride and cupcakes baked by Donald’s wife) off the interstate was a leader in the pro Flagpole Park. He proudly displayed his NRA bumper stickers all over his rusted Ford pickup that had an oil leak he was always “working on.” I believe he liked to have the smoke in the air when he sped out of any establishment in town. He told me that anyone that did not support the park was not any kind American or patriot.
“What kind of American wouldn’t want a big, beautiful flag in their back yard?” He pointed his oil greased finger almost touching my arm when I had to question him.
He and his group believed the tourism and jobs that the giant flag pole would bring was worth desecrating previously untouched land, bulldozing the environment, and forever changing the way of life in this tiny town.
On the other side of the argument was Lily Birdsong who had renamed herself back in 1970’s from Mary Jane Bidler when she moved up here to live a life of freedom and on her terms. She was a beekeeper who sold honey at a stand off the roadway. She was also an activist about anything and everything she could activate when it came to environment. Additionally, she belonged to the nudist colony off in the back woods. She assured me that she did not tend to the bees when in the buff, though I did not ask and had a hard time getting that visual out of my mind when speaking with her.
Lily and Donald as well as all their followers and petitions were entertaining but exhausting. I had met with people. I had my own opinion that the flagpole park would take a massive toll on the environment and would not lead to job growth, but I had to keep my focus on the data. My voice had to be stifled.
My head hung low, and I looked back at the mirror which still had that old woman staring at me.
I opened a bottle of my dad’s liquor and poured a glass into the cognac glass that was etched with a clipper ship. I wasn’t much of a drinker, but flavor warmed my mouth as I looked at the bottle raising my eyebrows, of course it was “Brandy!”
I opened the cabinet and pulled out the plastic container holding a dozen brownies one of the neighbors sent over the day before offering condolences. Biting into the first one I looked back at the mirror. Twenty years I sacrificed, and Brandy would be presenting my biggest project at the Marriot next week. I bit into another brownie and took another swig of the burnt wine liquor. I was not supposed to end up this way. On the table was the mail I brought in earlier. A new Zumba class was being offered at YMCA two towns over. I tucked the flyer in my purse and put down the brownie as I looked at the old woman in the Alfred Hitchcock reflection again.
Dad Quote Day One “Don’t look back they are gaining on you!”
The next day I before I even got my desk Brandy was there. I watched from a distance as she was going through my file cabinets which I haven’t used in years. Angie and Lou, my coworkers greeted me with a hug and gave their condolences about my dad. They both rolled their eyes as they pointed to her and again gave their condolences this time about the new boss, but obviously afraid to speak up to this twenty something, not a data analyst, who was rummaging through my things.
“Can I help you with something?” My smile was strained but I kept my composure.
“Ah you must be Claudie, Ray told me about you, but you are not as old than I thought.” Brady smiled in a fake sort of way as she extended a hand.
“It’s Claudia, and I have worked here a long time." I nodded as I moved past her hand still hanging in the air to put my laptop down. “Just so you know I don’t keep anything in the files anymore. You know, saving the trees.”
“Well Claudia, I need you to brief me on the several projects especially that Westchester one as I’m going to present at the Marriot downtown!” Brandy chirped as she spoke and her eyes became wide as if the presenting at a chain hotel ballroom to bunch of mostly old male board members was the most exciting moment in her young stress free, not data analyst life. Her cell phone buzzed she let me know she “would circle back.”
My observations about my new boss over the next week included that she took pictures on her phone for everything and everywhere that she went. I also noted that she detested any real work or even speaking about learning to do real work. She wanted or demanded that everything be put together for her so she could then claim it as her own. She was getting her way with Angie and Lou. Also, with me on a couple of small projects, but not Westchester.
Over the next week in the days leading up to presentation, Brandy would email me daily.
“How’s the Westchester Project going?”
“Any updates on Westchester?”
“Claudia, Ray said you need to give me the data on Westchester, he said so, you need to!!!”
Day 5 – Dad’s quotes- “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” – Yogi Berra
One night when I was babysitting my ten-year-old niece, Chloe, she was showing how to use a new app that distorted a person’s face, “Just like the mirror you got from Grandpa!”
“Hmm yes, it is!” I looked again at the reflection, which was still not me, but a little softer than previous days. “Okay kiddo help me chop some vegetables!”
“Auntie Claudia you are kicking it! Going to Zumba and eating healthy!” With that we both started to dance and laugh. I once again ignored Brandy’s emails.
Day 6 – Dad’s quotes- “There are things worse than death.”
On the Friday before the big Westchester project presentation, I emailed Brandy and explained I would be working from home and taking half a day off. I had a meeting with the attorney for my dad’s estate.
Brandy emailed me back almost immediately,
“Claudia, I need to put together a power point on the Westchester project send me the breakdown from your report!”
Brandy would always sign her emails “B” which made me smile as she was certainly a “B”.
I then asked Brandy to come to my house for dinner and I would give her the needed information. I smirked as I hit send.
She arrived in a flurry of disarray as she had gotten lost and then stopped at the Gas- N- Go where Don Connors gave her a piece of his mind about Flagpole Park when she asked the way to my house as GPS had let her down. When Brandy arrived at my doorstep, I would have to say she was already starting to age from a job that could steal time.
I invited her in and the first thing she did was check her appearance in the mirror.
“Oh my God! What the fuck is wrong with this mirror Claudia? This isn’t me or not the me I saw this morning!” She turned towards me as though I would agree.
“I don’t know Brandy.” I looked in the mirror and to my surprise I actually looked like me. My face was glowing. I saw a sense of youth in my eyes. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
Brandy turned away. She did look awful. I had heard Ray was already putting more pressure on her for other projects and wanted this Westchester thing rapped up.
“Claudia, I need your stats on that project!” She was glaring at me.
"I know dear, let’s have some dinner first though. I’m making a salad.” I pointed my knife towards the stove, "there is some chicken baking."
“Listen you old bitch! I need those stats. I don’t care about having a salad or chicken. I want the stats and I want to get the hell out of here."
“Hold on Brandy!” I quickly snapped a picture from my phone and smiled.
“What the hell are you doing you old bitty!”
“I just took a picture on my phone to remember you by!” My eyes stared directly at her.
“What? Let me see that!” She screamed as she reached for my phone.
I moved it away and with my big block butcher knife I pointed it directly at her and told her to sit down.
“I’ll call the cops!” She yelled as she pulled out her phone and realized the battery had died while trying to get her GPS to work.
“Go ahead! If you had tried to learn anything about the response times you would know that it will be 45 minutes when Earl Meager, the police chief or one of his volunteer crew can get here!” I still had the knife pointed at her which I then withdrew.
“Why the hell won’t you give me the stats on the Westchester Project!” She yelled.
“Brandy, dear I’ll give you the report!" I then went into another room where I pulled out all of the data reports I had collected. Four binders full of analysis.
“I’m not going to read this! Are you kidding me?” She cried out.
“Yes, yes you are Brandy! Or I will forward this picture to everyone at the office to show you as your real self.” With that I showed her the picture I had just taken that showed a weary, stressed, evil looking Brandy yelling at me as I used the app my niece had downloaded for me earlier.
“This is pure hell! You are so fired Claudia after Monday!” She cried as she opened up the binders.
“Oh, I’m not fired, Brandy. I called Ray this afternoon. I quit as my dad’s estate left me enough, so I don’t have to work." I felt so free just making that statement.
“You however, you have thirty plus years of dealing with pricks like Ray and sacrificing your soul to have some young wannabes come in and try to invalidate anything you have tried to complete. There are things worse than death!”
I smiled while I continued chopping the salad. I then ate my chicken with a glass of Brandy as she tried to figure out what each data point meant and how to present. She refused any food and left without a goodbye.
I let her take the binders home as I had a pdf on my laptop.
Dad’s quotes- Day 9- "Don’t sell your soul for a job that will advertise for your replacement before you are even buried in the ground."
The local town news channel carried the presentation from the Marriot Hotel about the Westchester report live. There was a great deal of interest in The Flagpole Amusement Park.
I tuned in to watch as Brandy stumbled her way through a presentation that made absolutely no sense. Don Connors was there with a group holding flags and demanding that everyone say the pledge of allegiance. Lily Birdsong and her group also interrupted. “Oh geez are they naked?” I looked closer at the screen and then shut it off.
I took a sip of water and looked back at the Alfred Hitchcock looking glass as I started to sing, “You’re a fine girl!”
I practically skipped out the door on my way to Zumba. After class I had a protest a few of the girls had organized against a flagpole amusement park.
This is a story of fiction, but unfortunately the plan to build a large-scale largest flag in world amusement park in Northern Maine is real. It is a hotly contested issue in the area being pushed by a very powerful wealthy family. Building a park like this would be a horror forever inflicted to disrupt the landscape and the environment. Hundreds, plants birds and animals would dislocated once again.
The idea that it would bring tourists and jobs is debatable. It is my personal view that we are ruining our planet with overdevelopment. We should be scaling back not ramping up. Areas of open space need to be protected.
Thanks for reading
About the Creator
C. H. Richard
My passion is and has always been writing. I am particularly drawn to writing fiction that has relatable storylines which hopefully keep readers engaged
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Great story. I enjoyed it very much! I loved the humor, especially that she was certainly a “B.” 😂Good stuff! I also agree with you about leaving the environment alone! Save the Animals and the Trees!!
I love the dad quotes advice ❤️🥰Well written .
I would love a mirror that showed people’s true selves. I might like my reflection more then :) thought provoking!
Great story! It was funny and smart. We definitely don't need another 'flagpole park.' Well done!
Oh, I really loved this unique, thoughtful, and clever twist on the challenge! 😍 You are definitely correct that we are destroying out planet with overdevelopment. There were some quotes in here that made me giggle, and this is soooo well written! Brilliant job! 😍😍
Brandy would always sign her emails “B” which made me smile as she was certainly a “B”. I literally Lol-ed at that line 🤣 Dad quote #9 was my favourite. And I agree with you that we're destroying our planet with overdevelopment. Fantastic story!
Great story! I love how Claudia's aging in the workplace is symbolic with the new amusement park, the whole out with the old mentality. Agree 100% with your afterword. Nice job!
Loved the story especially the Dad Quotes.
Love this story. It's incredible well-written and I whole-heartedly agree with your afterward. Well done.
Well-imagined, well-written and well-intended! Great job!
A brilliant challenge entry and love the direction that your took
Awesome , I enjoy this story. I also love the dialogues in it ❤️🎉
Magnificent storytelling!!! Loved it!!!