Jake Renfroe opened the door of his new office. It was small and smelled like an attic, but it was his and he was determined to make the best of it. It was his first day in Indianapolis and his first on his new job. His boss was new as well, having started only the week before. The two had known each other when Jake was the Chief Development Officer at the St. Louis Home for Special Achievers. He had worked under Douglas O’Neil for eight years and respected him as a boss. Doug had left for Indy three years back to manage the United Way. Not feeling it was the right fit, he took a job at Humans Helping International. His first task was to hire a new leader for the fundraising team and Jake was his first choice.

It took some convincing, but Jake and his wife agreed to move. Along with their five-year-old daughter and a dog of indeterminate breed who had no say in the matter. Jakes wife and daughter were back in St. Louis, trying to manage the move. Jake’s dog also remained in St. Louis and continued to hide bones, unaware that they were likely to be found by another dog someday.

Jake opened a window, turned on a fan that had been graciously left by his predecessor and took inventory of the room. He was an hour early. Not because he wanted to impress anyone. Mostly because he wasn’t a morning person and he wanted to get the lay of the building and his environment before people started welcoming him and asking questions and generally being Midwestern towards him.

His plan was thwarted within a few minutes. “Are you the new boss?” A woman had nudged open his office door and was leaning in. She was in her late forties and had curly brown hair. He noticed she held the door handle with a tissue.

“Hi, I’m Jake Renfroe.”

“I’m Carolyn Waldman. I do stats.”

“Nice to meet you. Is your office nearby?”

“No, I’m not in your department. I’m on the third floor.”

“I see. What department are you in then?”

“The one two floors up.”

Jake realized this might be a difficult interrogation, but he had to know about the tissue. “Are you battling a cold?”


“I noticed the tissue. Thought you might have a cold. Allergies?”

“I don’t touch things.”

“What things?”

“All things.”

I couldn’t tell if this was some sort of new guy prank or real. I waited for her to expand on this revelation. She didn’t.

“I don’t have any stats for you. Not now. But if you need stats, I’m on the third floor.”

“I will come find you as soon as I need some numbers.”

“Receptionist does the numbers. I do stats.”

“I’ll remember that. Thanks for clearing that up.”

Jake couldn’t wait to meet somebody normal to help balance out his introduction to Carolyn. Instead, a disheveled man in suit with greying hair and bloodshot eyes walked in the office. “I’m Tony. You the new guy?”

“I’m Jake.” He stood from his desk and extended his hand. Tony shook with a sweaty hand of his own. Too sweet for 7:15 in the morning. “I’m in HR. Payroll really. I make sure all these bastards get their checks.” He glanced up at the ceiling. “Pardon my French,” he said. “I tell it like it is. Hope you don’t get offended.”

“And how is it?”

“What do you mean? That some sort of code?”

“No, you said you tell it like it is. You’re in HR. So, tell me what it’s like to work here.”

“It’s okay, but the women are really touchy. You gotta be real careful who you get frisky with if you know what I mean.”

Jake decided he had found the office douchebag well before lunch and his wife would owe him $5. She had bet it would be sometime after 2pm. He showed him his ring. “Don’t think that’s going to be a problem, Tony.”

The payroll specialist let out a grunt and started to make some other douchy remarks when he heard someone coming down the hall. He looked to see who it was, then turned back to Jake, “Oh, boy here comes your admin.” He laughed. “Good luck with that.”

In walked a woman with spiked blond and purple hair. Her neck had a tattoo of a purple and black panther but only the middle to upper half was visible. The rest was hidden by her white button-down shirt. She wore black dress pants and purple ballerina flats.

“I’m Zelda. I’m your admin. My pronouns are she/her/hers.” She extended her hand.

Jake was confused as the whole pronoun thing hadn’t really made it to his corner of St. Louis. “I’m sorry, your pronouns?”

“Yes, I’m woke. I do not discriminate against non-binary individuals.”

Jake stood and pondered this declaration and decided that she was speaking a non-caffeinated version of English he couldn’t possibly understand until he had found the break room or kitchen in this place and consumed an entire pot by himself.

“Coffee?” was all he was able to get out.

“Look, if you’re going to ask me to get coffee, then we’re headed straight up to HR! I knew when they told me I was getting another white male boss I was going to hate you.”

It took an even longer pause for Jake to process and respond to that remark, “No, where can I get coffee? I’m not asking you to bring it.”

He waited for her to respond, but she just stood there trying to decide if she believed him.

“Could you please tell me where I can get coffee? I’m not a morning person and despite my best efforts to be here early and ready to go, I’m obviously not awake.”

“Downstairs. Should be some brewing. Maintenance guy comes in at six and usually brews up for the early birds.”

“Thank you.”

Jake’s morning needed to get better, or he would be on I-70 back to St. Louis before lunch. Luckily, he met Sherman Davis in the basement. Sherman played college basketball for Butler University in the eighties then pro ball overseas. He came back to the states, got his MSW and had worked for Humans Helping International ever since. He was an imposing 6’5″ with tight cut salt and pepper hair. He introduced himself and held out the coffee pot, “I’m Roger.”

“I know you. You played college hoops.”

“Yeah, yeah. I played for the Bulldogs.”

“I saw you hit a buzzer beater in the tournament.”

“Glory days, glory days. So, you going to get this place turned around?”

“How long have you been here?”

“Eighteen years.”

“Has anybody been able to turn it around in that time?”

“Nope. Well some were good, but the really good fundraisers bolt as soon as they get a good offer. In my experience, people come here because they won’t to make a name and move on, or they have nowhere else to go. Which is it for you?”

“Hopefully neither. I’m moving my family all the way from St. Louis, and I don’t plan on moving again for a long time.”

“Well, you don’t seem like the kind of guy who doesn’t have no place else to go, so I guess I’ll believe you. Now, let’s go to my office before this place fills up with people looking for coffee. Being the new guy, they will pick your bones clean before 9:00.”

Jake and Sherman took the elevator from the basement to the 2nd floor. Sherman had a corner office in name only. It was the same size as Jake’s but had more windows. The office was filled with stacks of folders. There was a large file cabinet against an interior wall, and Jake wondered if any of the files ever made it inside.

“Where are you living?”

Jake responded, “I’m in a hotel in Carmel right now.”

“Carmel? You plan on living there?”

“When I was offered the job, the board members on the hiring committee strongly urged me to move there.”

“How come?”

“They want me to focus on major gifts and they feel it would be advantageous to the organization if I started to build relationships in that community.”

“And are they going to pay you enough to live there? Do you know anything about Carmel?”

“Yes, I’ve heard the stories. And no, what I get paid is none of your business.”

Sherman studied him for a moment. “My bad. That was out of bounds.”

“Actually, if you’ve been here 18 years, you can at least guess the range of what I’m making. But the one thing I can tell you is that despite what people told us about Carmel, I’ve found plenty of middle-class neighborhoods. Just not many homes for sale in my price range yet.”

“How long have you been looking?”

“I’ve been in town for a week. Now, enough about me. Tell me something about you. Or about Helping Humans International.”

“You worked for the new big boss, O’Neil right?”

“Yes, three years ago.”

“I’m assuming he sorta gave you the layout of this place, right?”

“Yes, but I want you to give me the inside scoop. He’s relatively new too.”

“Right, right. So, you want some dirt.”

“Not gossip per se. Just the stuff that will help me navigate my job easier, if you know what I mean.”

“Right, right. Well, this might help you out. You mentioned major gifts. There are two board members who stopped giving and haven’t been to a board meeting in months. You and your boss are going to have to win them back.”

“And how do we do that?”

“I have no idea. But it might help if you knew why they stopped giving.”

Jake grinned. “That’s why I’m sitting here, right?”

“Did anyone ever tell you how O’Neil’s predecessor, Roger Simpson, got fired?”

“I heard he was having an inappropriate relationship with a staff member.”

“Thats’ one way to put it. Another way would be to say he was banging the corporate relations director, Suzanne Melon in his office. And even another way to put it would be to say that he was doing it dressed as the University of Illinois State Redbird.”

“Wow, people really get creative with their gossip here. The Redbird mascot? Come on.”

“It’s not gossip. It really happened that way.”

“Nope, I’m not buying it. Good story though. I’m surprised you believe it.”

“I believe it because it’s true. I believe it because I’m the guy who walked in on them. Along with the aforementioned female board members.”

“He was doing three women at once?”

“No, I meant they were with me when we opened the door and saw them going at it. It was the craziest thing I ever saw. He was naked from the waist down, except for the bright yellow bird feet from the costume. Those scrawny white legs and the purple veiny ass will haunt my dreams forever. On top, he had the Redbird mascot costume complete with head and beak. She had her legs around him, wearing a cheerleader costume skirt with no panties. Her back was on his desk.”

“How did they react?”

“Roger and Suzanne or the board members?”


“Suzanne reacted first, by shouting ‘oh shit.’ It took Roger a minute to figure out what was wrong because peripheral vision is pretty lousy in one of those mascot heads. Ever worn one?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“Well she shoved him off and slid off the desk. He took off the Redbird head and turned around to give the two board members a view of his front side. It wasn’t any better of a view.”

“And the reaction?”

“His or theirs?


“He immediately went to proudly flying is flag to a somber half-mast if you know what I mean.”

“I do, I do.”

“Elenore Clifton screamed and nearly fainted. Clara Tuchman called him a dirty old man and Suzanne a whore. He fumbled for his pants, but I didn’t stick around. I ushered the ladies out of there and left the building. The following Monday, I was called into HR to recount my story. By that afternoon, he had officially resigned.”

“What about Suzanne?”

“She dug in her heels. Tried to say she was sexually harassed, threatened to sue, the usual.”

“So, what happened?”

“He produced emails and texts showing she instigated the relationship. Proved what everybody knew since the day she got here: she was using sex for power. Hell, it was her idea for him to wear the costume. In return for a little tail, she was getting rubber stamped expense reports by him (not her supervisor), and all kinds of perks.”

“And my predecessor?”

“Poor guy quit a month too early. He knew they were fooling around and knew she was falsifying her numbers and expense reports but couldn’t do anything about it. Roger even threatened to fire him if he raised a raucous.”

“Where is he now?”

“He got tired of the inmates running the prison and quit. Heard he lives in Southern Indiana now and owns a little diner on the Ohio river.”

“Wow, I’m speechless.”

“I wouldn’t believe it myself, if I hadn’t had a front row seat.”

Jake stood up and shook Sherman’s hand. “Thanks for the information. It’s been a wild first day.”

Sherman looked at the clock. It was 7:55. “And it’s just now starting.”

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