The signs read mainly the same thing. “God Bless,” “Anything Will Help,” and “Thank You.” Some were funny. Those sign holders seemed to get the most alms. One read “Why lie? I need a beer,” and yet another reads “Give me weed.” The bitter winter wind blew gusts in their faces. That holder raked in the even more spare change. The holders lined up along the street sitting on their sneakers like ogling, crouching statues with their hands on their placards. Tongues dry and cracked and faces scorched from the sun made the way from downtown Newark a challenge for the young business professionals that populated this part of town. Techies who drove to work with plaid shirts and six hundred thousand dollar expense cards passed these men and women on the regular. Most of them gave the standard, cookie cutter answer, “Get a job.” One particular woman, Kenisha Fender, took the time to appraise each sign. Her oak colored skin and her flowing locks made her unmistakable as her company’s CFO.
She looked at the last sign on the way into her building. It read, “Take my job.” She looked quizzically at the teak wood colored woman with split ends and yellowing teeth. She was about the same age as Kenisha who had just turned 28. The woman laughed a choked, cold laugh. It was almost inaudible. She put the sign down and raised from her seated position.
“That’s what you’re supposed to say.” The woman doubled over and laughed her frigid laugh. Kenisha turned her head to the side and kept it pushing. She arrived at her desk and opened her laptop. Thoughts of the teak colored woman with split ends and yellow teeth crept into her consciousness. Like a bell pealing the end of a school day, the woman and her sign stayed with Kenisha. So, she rose from her seat and slammed her laptop and shuttled out of her workspace. She rushed to the elevator and reached the ground level. She turned the corner to look for the woman. Nothing. She looked for any sign of her, the sign...something. She looked up again. She saw the woman pushing a cart a few blocks away.
“Hey!” she shrieked, glad to have caught the woman. She jogged a little to catch up with her. Once she reached where the woman was, she stretched out her hand.
“Look, if you’d like, I’d be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss some things.”
Mahia coldly laughed. “What do you have to discuss with me?”
“You’re sign, for one.”
“Yes. I just tried it out today and here you are. Good advertising.”
“Yes, I’m interested in your story. Where are you from?”
“Look, why don’t we go into the burger joint. We can talk there.”
Kenisha ordered two sliders. Mahia had six. She thanked Kenisha profusely.
“It’s no problem.” Her eyes brightened like flares at the scene of an automobile collision. “I want to take you up on that sign that you wrote. I know you get the same old response with other signboards. And all that they say is ‘get a job, get a job.’ What if you took my job?”
This time Mahia’s eyes lit up like LED’s on a billboard. “And how do you suppose that I do that. It’s just a sign.”
“You can take some courses at DIT. I can pay your whole way. I’m the CFO of Ojutu. I can get you into a program that I didn’t even finish there. Do you have a high school diploma?”
“I know of you. You’ve been working for the company for close to eight years. You were there for the groundbreaking. And, not to mention I’ve a bachelors. And a masters.”
Kenisha was taken aback. “So why, excuse me, the hell are you on the street holding up cardboard?”
Mahia shrugged. “I took a hard left and right to the head and haven’t recovered yet. My credentials make me over-employed and I don’t have enough money for a doctorate.”
“I’m going to make sure that you take my position at Ojutu.”
“But what will you do?”
“Once I explain this to the CEO….”
“ Faye Rice.”
“Yes! you know. When I explain this to her she’ll understand. Let’s put it that way. First we’ve got to get you some clothes and a teeth whitening kit.”
Mahia transformed with grace and coolness. She donned the best threads and prepared a resumé. The next week, both of them strolled past the row of homeless vets, homeless mothers with their children.
“We will return to see that your lives improve. It’s not a promise but a challenge,” Kenisha said to them. The two women marched into those Ojutu offices with ferocity. Kenisha met up with Faye and she looked up and down at Mahia.
“Why you’ve changed from what I used to see outside of these doors. So, you want to be chief financial officer of Ojutu. I’m aware that you have a digital resumé.”
Kenisha beamed. Faye then showed her the way to the CEO’s office.
Within a few moments. Mahia walked out of Faye’s office.
“I took your job!”
Kenisha and Mahia hugged. “And I’ve got good news for you. Faye had been planning to cash in her stock of the company and move to Lower Slower Delaware. She’s made you the CEO. This was the most selfish thing that you could have ever done. Thank you,” Mahia said.
“I’m just as selfish as I want to be,” Kenisha said.