The Office Wife, April 5, 2017, Issue 4, Olivia Gaines
Roger McLamore – Sales
Greasy, cheesy and bordering on sleazy, those were all the words to describe Roger McLamore, a board member who represented the sales division. A throwback of a dinosaur to the golden age of potbellied salesmen who smoked too much, drank even more and had a deal you couldn’t afford to pass up, epitomized the conundrum who was Roger. All of that pushed to the side, McLamore, as he preferred to be called, was great at this job. So great in fact, he was lead salesman ten years in a row, responsible for the growth in sales and stabilization of the Southwest region and once he became a member of the board, stabilized sales across the Americas. Roger accomplished the stabilization his first nine months in his board chair. A huge feat which had never before been accomplished.
Roger McLamore had a great deal of clout. No one took him seriously until they looked at his pedigree. A graduate of Harvard School of Business, he also held an MBA in International Business from Yale that made Roger look fantastic on paper. In person, he looked more like an out of work used car salesman who would throw in a side of snake oil for those lonely nights of singledom.
Roger loved his leisure suits with the wide collars, open button down shirts which revealed too much chest hair which hid a gold cross in the hairy forest he fondly named his love mat.
“Girl, I know that little Jesus on that cross is probably shuddering while entangled every day in all that thick black nasty hair,” Taneeka said under her breath.
“You need to quit it,” Vicki said with a slight smile as she held the phone.
“No, you need to quit it. Speaking of nasty hair, I saw you come back yesterday from your lunch with Manigault. How does it feel to be someone’s beard?” It was a loaded question that Vicki knew Taneeka was throwing out there to get some type of feedback on her second “lunch date” with Manigault. As she told the very staunch, conservative man last month, she could keep a secret, even if it was from her new office BFF.
“Beard? Taneeka, he is a very classy, aristocratic man. He is not going to come right out and ask me to be his side piece or any piece for that matter,” she said truthfully.
“So what does a man like that do to let a woman know he wants you as something permanent in his life?”
Vicki looked down at their hand. She was still wearing the diamond ring Manigault had given her as a birthday present last month. It was a special ring that he’d instructed her to wear on their special lunch dates. Last month, she pretended to be an air head at their luncheon, since that is what most people expected him to have on his arm. Yesterday at lunch, she opted to be more of herself, have a conversation with him about the art exhibit she’d seen over the weekend at the Getty. This morning she walked in to find a new painting hanging behind her desk.
“A man like that shows his interest and appreciation by giving the woman in his life gifts that only she would find priceless,” she told Taneeka.
“Yeah, with as much money he has, he could easily do priceless,” she said to her. “Speaking of priceless, did you hear that Kelson, is actually making some headway with his family as Chairman of the Board?”
“You have a segue for every topic, don’t you?”
“Yes, and you have avoided two direct questions from me, Vicki,” she said with some attitude.
“Your job is to procure resources for American Conglomerate. I am not a source for you to procure information Ms. James,” she said softly. “To constantly ask me such questions about our co-workers and my boss is crossing the line.”
As much as Vicki enjoyed having a friend at the office, she didn’t want nor did she need a person who was constantly asking personal questions about her co-workers. It wasn’t cool.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry,” Taneeka responded.
“Is there anything else I can assist you with today Ms. James?” Vicki’s voice took on a very formal tone snapping Taneeka back across the unseen line she’d inadvertently crossed.
“No, Vicki, I think we are very clear,” Taneeka responded.
“Have a wonderful day,” she said hanging up the line. Her new office pal asked one too many questions for her comfort. Friendship was one thing, her job was another. I need my job. I have enough friends.
Looking over her shoulder, she stared at the painting above her desk. On the high end, it cost no more than five grand, on the low end, it may have cost a thousand dollars, but in her mind, it was worth a million. As careful as she was being with her words with Taneeka, she needed to learn to do the same with Manigault. She’d only mentioned enjoying the artist’s work, she never thought he would buy her a painting. He was a sweet man. She liked him a great deal and respected him. Whether he was living an alternative lifestyle or not, it wasn’t her business. She only needed to meet him where he stood and accept him for who he was.
This ideology was tested the moment she went to the breakroom. Happy go lucky Roger McLamore was not so happy. As a matter of noticing the staccato movements of his body, she picked up on something being terribly wrong with the best in the biz, as he also liked to call himself.
“Roger, can you come over to Mr. Kelson’s office please?” She asked as soon Marjorie Hellman entered the breakroom.
Roger stood, put on a good face, gave Marjorie the old two index finger double tongue click, gotcha in my crosshairs action, smiling, and walked past her to Kelson’s office. Herman was out of the office for the rest of the afternoon which gave her some privacy with Roger.
“What’s wrong Mr. McLamore?” Vicki asked.
“Nothing, little lady. It’s nice of you to ask, but the Roger is just fine,” he said to Vicki.
“Try that again with someone who can’t see the sadness in your eyes. Mr. McLamore, life is hard. It’s even harder when you have no one to talk to about the heaviest burdens in life,” Vicki said gently.
It happened so fast, Vicki had to blink twice as Roger dropped his head into his hands. His nicotine stained fingers running through the thin sparse hair on the top of his head. The pudgy middle of his body began to waffle as tears seeped from his eyes down his face.
“She has cancer. My Lola has the cancer. She is my everything you know?” He told Vicki.
Vicki didn’t know. As a matter of fact, she didn’t know anything about Roger other than to avoid him. Lola. Who is Lola? Dog? Mother?
“I understand Mr. McLamore. Do you know what kind of cancer?”
“Breast cancer. Her mother had it, and she died. I just can’t lose her. We met in college. She saw past my gruffness and loved me. We went to grad school together and she even packed her suitcase and followed me to Texas when we finished at Yale,” he said to Vicki. “We don’t have no kids, but all we have is each other. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
Vicki took a seat next to him.
“The first thing we are going to do is clear your calendar. Next you are going to go home to be with your Lola. Call me later today to let me know how she is doing, then in the morning, you let me know whether or not you are coming back in the office tomorrow,” she said pulling him to his feet.
“That sounds great but I have work to do and Kelson hasn’t given me the okay to just take some personal time,” Roger said. “I have a division to oversee.”
“Your Lola has cancer. You can take a few days to be home and this place will not fall apart. Now, go. Get out of here,” she told him.
He was reluctant.
“Mr. McLamore, life is too short to spend it behind a desk, especially when someone you love is undergoing a terrible life change. It is a change that is going to impact you both. However, if you feel your time is better spent here than at her side, then stay,” Vicki said.
Roger wiped his reddened eyes, nodded that big ole head of his and headed for the door.
Kelson returned that afternoon unexpected. He stopped at Vicki’s desk to give her receipts, noticed the painting above her desk, and stared at her.
“Anything I need to know?” Kelson asked.
“Yes, Roger McLamore’s, Lola is not well. He went home for the day and will call you in the morning if he is going to make it in,” Vicki said.
“Did he say what was wrong with Lola?”
“No, he didn’t mention it,” she lied.
“Keep me posted if you hear from him, okay Vicki?”
“Yes sir,” she said.
He looked at her again, then at the diamond ring on her finger, back at the painting once more. “I don’t really know anything about you do I?” Kelson asked.
“Yes, Sir you do. You know I show up to work on time, go to lunch, come back on time and I do my job,” she said with a smile.
“I guess that is all I need to know, eh?”
“It works well for me,” she told him. She picked up the receipts and began to tape them to a piece of paper for copying. She didn’t quite like putting them on the copier glass because sometimes they would replicate crooked or half off the page. This way, it was exact.
“You are very exact aren’t you Vicki?”
“No Sir. I do my best each day to get it right and make a difference. The rest is really up to chance,” she told him with a look over the top of her eyeglasses.
“Fair enough,” he said, moving into his office.
The next morning Roger walked in sporting a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt and sneakers. He looked so normal she didn’t recognize him.
“Good morning Mr. McLamore,” she said greeting him with a smile. “How is Lola?”
He shook his head.
“Not good,” he told her. “She will have to have a double mastectomy, chemo, and tons of other stuff…,”
His voice trailed off as he looked at the ceiling. She could tell he was trying to find the words to say what he needed to say next. The words wouldn’t come.
“Mr. McLamore, the Family Medical Leave Act applies to men as well. You can take a leave of absence, go and be with your Lola until you two get through this,” she told him.
“Thank you, Vicki,” he said through a loud sniffle. “I know, but somehow, hearing you say it, means a lot to me.”
Kelson walked into the office to see Roger standing next to Vicki. They had shared a moment, and he realized then, she knew what was wrong with Lola. She knew yesterday, but did not break Roger’s confidence.
“McLamore, Vicki here tells me that Lola was feeling well yesterday,” Kelson said to him.
“Did Vicki tell you what was wrong with my Lola?”
“No, she didn’t,” Kelso said.
“It’s the cancer,” Roger said. “My Lola has the cancer.”
His large body crumpled as Vicki went to her knees beside him and held Roger as he cried. Her small hands held his head as he slobbered all over her white blouse. She did not look up at her boss as she held the saddened man.
“Vicki, let’s get Roger into my office,” he said taking Roger’s other arm, helping him to his feet. “Roger, at American Conglomerate, we are a family. You are part of our family and we are here for you and yours. Whatever we can do to get you and Lola through this, we will make it happen.”
Inside of Kelson’s office, he provided Roger with a pillow and moment to lie on his couch. A nod was given to Vicki who went out to order flowers to be sent to Roger’s home, contact HR and start pulling sections into place to cover the absence of the “best in the biz.”
It still was unclear to Vicki who Lola was to Roger but it didn’t matter. Whoever she was equated to the center of his universe, which in turn made her important to Vicki as well. She would be quietly rally the team to be there for Roger and she too would do her part. Even the strongest man in the pile can use the strength of the smallest member of the team.