I’m Pink Lady Apple and my friend Deviled Yeggs suggested that I record each project that I set up in the hopes of reforming the people who continue to work for Lily the Pink Enterprises. If for no other reason, it would show how God is at work.
It was time for my open-door time to start, but I was quickly putting the finishing touches on my truck list. The idea of the truck list is that if a group of company managers were together and all got run over by a truck at the same time, they could pull the truck list out of the filing cabinet and promote who was in line for the job and keep going. My problem in many cases was choosing who I thought would fit and then train them. So many of these ladies have lived their lives doing the bidding of other people and they needed a boost of confidence.
I was about to announce that Gwen Quinn was going to be the company president and I would move into a CEO role. We were about to have two operating facilities, so I needed to promote those who were already working in leadership roles and give the next on the list some time in that atmosphere.
We recently had our first marriage among the ladies who once were prostitutes at Lily the Pink. Stasya, one of the ladies from Latvia who had met her boyfriend at the Latvian Club, married her beau, and they moved into an apartment at Lily the Pink. He was a chemical engineer graduate from T.R.U.S.T., but there are few jobs for that type of engineering here in Tracy. His parents became ill during his senior year and he did not want to leave them. He had found jobs at the wastewater treatment plant and the water utility. He had done some consulting, even in other areas of engineering. That’s how I met him as he did some design work associated with our catalytic carbon dioxide conversion system, our water treatment system, and the wastewater treatment plant that we want to install. It was a natural to hire him to run those processes. Jim Kaiser was the first male hired that was not a member of a homeless family, but then again, due to his spotty employment, he still lived at home.
I had several solid candidates. Norene Moore, “No More,” is my head of cider operation, and she might move into a plant manager role, since there is a lot more than just the cider house now. I had already promoted Tommie Tat to comptroller. Sandy Beech needs more of a role in leadership. Anna Hill is my choice for plant manager at the Washington state facility and her friend, Nina, is Gwen’s choice to be the safety manager there. Gwen said that she has noticed that the best safety people are those who have an eye-opening experience regarding safety. They tend to live more carefully after that. So many people and so many choices. And I was still looking at filling the necessary roles and not the truck list.
The door to Gwen’s apartment and the kitchen opened after a brief knock. Gwen and I had always done that, but I hesitated these days in case GrandPa was visiting. They did not have a physical relationship, but just out of courtesy.
Gwen said, “May I have a word with you in private. I know this is your open-door time, but can we delay it a bit?”
I replied, “For you, I always make time. You could barge into my bedroom if you needed to talk, but not when Scrammie and I are, umm, you know.”
Gwen said, “I want you to postpone the announcement about me being the president. You may want to cancel that idea all together. I have something to confess, and a very hard request to make. Oh, where do I start?”
Gwen looked very agitated. I walked around the desk and gave her a hug. “Gwen, sweetie, just blurt it out. We have never kept anything from each other and we have never lied to each other. We made that pact over twenty years ago. Just blurt it out.”
Gwen stepped back from my hug. “But I have kept things from you. I have lied. All of it recently, but here goes. My husband has successfully completed cancer surgery and the initial treatments afterwards. He wants to take a year off and travel around the world.”
My knees became week. I frantically grabbed for the edge of the desk. Gwen jumped forward to catch me. She guided me back to my desk chair.
I put my elbows on my desk and my face in my hands, just for a few seconds. There were tears, and I had no idea if they were tears of happiness, sadness, or sheer terror. “Gwen, I asked for that blunt announcement, but let’s take this one step at a time. Who is your husband and when did you get married?”
Gwen huffed, “Who else could be my husband? Millie! The one you call GrandPa because he is your husband’s grandfather. I know, I know. He swore allegiance to his dead wife of about seventy years, but I broke the physical touch barrier when I hugged him and then danced with him. I still cannot dance well, but we are still having lessons. If you do not have rhythm, you do not have rhythm, regardless of how much you practice. It all started soon after your wedding. Millie started staying over more, sleeping on the day bed that I keep in my room. One night he had a chill. I invited him into my bed to keep him warm. We innocently spooned so that he could warm up. When he awoke before I did, at least partially awake, he got frisky…”
“You didn’t!” I said excitedly.
Gwen replied, “No, I did not, and do not use that accusatory tone. I thought you trusted me. No, I awoke and shoved him away. He claimed I had seduced him. I claimed he forced himself on me. After we both were fully awake and calmed down, I asked him if he really wanted to remain a long-suffering widower. He said that he did, but then maybe not. As we discussed it further, he changed his mind and proposed. I told him I was not marrying a womanizing heathen, and then he shocked me. He said that the dirty old man routine was just that, a routine. His first rescue became the wife of now-retired Os Tozer, but his second was Mildred Peal. After she was rescued by Millie, she told him that doing good was admirable, but it would not get him into heaven. She was a Christian who had been forced into the sex trade, and she would not let her earthly savior go until he had committed his life to Jesus. He says that after belonging to Jesus, the rescues of people who did not want to be in the sex trade gained more meaning. But as for the wedding, we could not have a church wedding, nothing announced. I had to retain my present name. The wedding license would be buried in red tape somewhere. Millie was afraid that his enemies would attack me to get to him. Hugh McAdoo arranged everything. We went to the cabin and had the wedding there. Do you remember that pastor we used to watch each Sunday morning on television?” I nodded, and she continued. “He did the ceremony. They placed him in a limo with no windows in the back and drove every direction from the airport before going to the cabin. He had no idea if he was even in the same state. Here is our wedding picture.”
She handed me her phone. She and GrandPa were smiling, Hugh and a couple of his agents were standing there as witnesses, but I barely recognized the pastor. “But the pastor is so old!”
Gwen laughed, “I think we were watching old reruns. He is retired now.”
Then Gwen pulled her rings out of her pocket and placed them on her finger.
“Holy Cow!” I exclaimed. “What kind of rock is this!”
Gwen said, “It is a diamond, just a large one. It was part of the royal jewels of a country that is no longer a monarchy. When the military coup took over, killing the monarch and his family, they sold all the jewels, but somehow, these rings and a couple other small things were not in the safe at the time. So, I doubt if anyone will notice that the rings are missing. And Millie kept them, just in case.”
I pressed on, “So, you have a husband, but he has cancer.”
Gwen corrected me, “HAD! Even though you get to that stage in life where cells start to change, we want to keep it positive. He had testicular cancer. It is very rare in older men, usually affecting males 15-34, but it is possible with older men. They did the surgery. They said it was the type that was non-invasive. That means it did not spread. Millie is trying to get the extended family together tonight to make his announcement. That is why I wanted to clear a leave of absence with you first.”
I nodded, “So, now, why are you asking for a year off? If it takes that long, could you do chunks at a time? You and I have not been apart for more than a week except for that four-week stretch … Oh, no, that was when the surgery was.”
Gwen nodded, “Money was not the problem, but Hugh McAdoo took over. The surgery had to be done at Johns Hopkins. But two of the top three hospitals for this cancer were Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City and the Cleveland Clinic. So, Johns Hopkins has a classified agreement with Hugh’s organization. They called for a doctor from MSK and the Cleveland Clinic. Our only fear was that the three egos would get involved, but they all agreed and your GrandPa is fine. He may outlive us. But that four-week gap was a bit of travel around the country for tests, the surgery with recovery, and then making sure he was fine once we got home.”
Gwen paused, “I do not wish to leave you for a year. You and I have been like sisters. We seem to be joined at the hip, but this is not a sightseeing trip, and it is not a secret mission. Millie wants to visit each of his rescued ladies, if he can find them, and introduce me to them. I think he may want to write a book about each of these ladies and how, with a little starting cash, they each created a bright future, many having families of their own. The first stop is near the cliffs of Dover so that Millie Yeggs can meet Millie Peal. She also has cancer, but she is not doing well. She has been a nurse, once she completed her studies. She always wanted to help her patients. Now she is the patient.”
I shook my head. “Oh, yes, you and GrandPa have to go, but will you stay around for a few days? I almost called him Millie. I wonder if he would give me two black eyes like he did his grandson, Deviled?” We both laughed at that.
Gwen said, “We leave in another week. I will send updates and I will upload photographs to the cloud, so keep Poached busy ensuring cloud security. I do not want to lose a minute of this. And by the way, a doctor from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota is on contract to give us check ups along the way. And you won’t believe this. Her name is Dr. Nace. Get it! Mayo’s Dr. Nace?”
I snickered, “Yes, I get it. Mayo Nace. But what if you are in Burkino Faso or Bulgaria or Brunei?”
Gwen snickered, “It is a contract thing. The doctor will conveniently be in the country we need her to be seeing patients at the embassy or visiting a clinic for something like Doctors without Borders. Whatever excuse is available, and the doctor’s trip is not just for Millie.”
I asked one last question, “Can we have a day or two, just for us before you go?”
Gwen smiled, “I called Amy G. Dala and the jet that you just bought half of is fueled and ready to go, available all week. I think you should give the keys to Lily the Pink Enterprises over to Sandy Beech. I know you have been trying to make your truck list, but maybe Sandy will surprise you. And we can have Maine Lobster tomorrow night and whatever you want at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco the next day.”
I blushed. “Gwen, I have never been to either place, but I can’t wait. Maybe we can create the truck list together while we are there.”
Gwen smiled, “It’s a deal, Sis.”
I nodded, “Sisters forever.”
Gwen went out my main door to unlock it for my morning open-door period, but I sat back down at my desk to pray. “Oh, Lord, I easily forgave Gwen for her lies and deception. But her leaving me leaves part of me broken. It is as if a piece of me will be missing. I have never made a major decision with this company without her by my side. I am lost at sea at the moment. I know it is only a year, give or take a little, but I do not know what to do, other than to lay it at Your feet. Help me, Lord.”
As I looked up from my prayer, a line was forming. Of all the days to have a lot of people with questions. I smiled and greeted Angela, the first in line. I hope she did not see the pain that I felt.
Jim Kaiser is a mash of a couple of colonels that I served under, both making general after leaving the command of the brigade.
As most boys my age, I had a crush on Emma Peal (played by Diana Rigg) of the Avengers television show.
In thinking of television preachers, I have seen countless sermons by Rev. Charles Stanley. It is rather shocking to watch some that are recent and then some that are over a decade old, but when you watch them in the other direction, you suddenly wonder how he got so old, so fast. The magic of television … and reruns.
“Nace” is thought to be connected to people who worked around Ash trees, as in Derbyshire. It can also be an Americanization of the German or Dutch names of Nies, Nees, or Neese.
And as for truck lists, some companies have such lists. Many more have something similar, but some actually call them “the truck list.”
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