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“Hey Leesa,” I said into my helmet mic while starting up my Harley. “I’m running late.” I had been behind my calendar all day.

“How late, Mitch? You have a 3:45.” Leesa, our office manager, was amazing at her job. Unfortunately her job description did not include being nice to me. 

I exited the parking lot in Berkeley and headed for the freeway. “I don’t know yet. You know traffic this time of day.”

“Yeah,” she chuffed. “So do you. You should have planned for it.”

“Is she there, yet?” 

“Who?” She damn well knew who. She was being extra nasty to me for some reason.

 “My 3:45, Leesa.” The traffic was pissing me off. It was moving, but it was dense and dangerous for a biker.

“No. But your boss is in her office. Would you like to speak to her?” 

Leesa’s tone was bitter and sharp. Somehow I had gotten on her nerves extra bad today. I let out a deep breath.

“Hello?” She said, enjoying my discomfort.

“No, thanks,” I sighed. “When my 3:45 shows up, please see her into the small conference room and get her comfortable. Tell her I’m sorry for being late.”

“Sure,” she said. “Anything else? Mitch.” God, I thought. Lighten up.

“Thank you, Leesa,” I said, fighting to keep my own frustration down, “I’m sorry you have to cover for me.”

“Again,” she added. And hung up.


Needing a distraction, I called my fiancé’.

"How'd the job interview go," Susan asked. She was chewing something, it was usually almonds, and I could hear the crunching and crushing over the speakers in my helmet.

"They're gonna offer it to me. He all but said it," I replied, trying not to smile too much, trying to stay calm and focused on keeping the rubber side down in traffic. There's always a high percentage of dickheads with a death wish on the Bay Area freeways. I don't personally care if they kill themselves. I just don't want to join them just yet.

"That's awesome, baby," she said. "Congratulations. Are you gonna take it?"

Am I gonna take it? She knew the answer to that. Fuck yeah I'm gonna take it. It was the same job - Director of Marketing - but for a bigger company with bigger office, less travel, better benefits package, and fewer direct reports. Plus, the pay was going to be 30% more.

"Definitely. I will not be playing hard to get."

"Well," she said, crunching again, "I skipped lunch and these peanuts aren't gonna do it for me. Wanna meet at my place? We can fool around and I'll warm up that lasagna you made.”

"That sounds amazing," I said, slowing down to avoid being clipped by a gray Acura Legend cutting through lanes thirty miles per hour faster than the traffic. "But I'm late for an interview."

"You have another interview? I thought you were confident about this one?"

"No," I smiled. "I'm doing the interviewing this time. Remember? Jenine told me to hire an assistant. All part of her effort to keep me happy." My boss, Jenine, probably suspected I might be looking for a new job soon, and although it was two years too late, she was making a last-ditch effort to keep me on board. I did a lot of Jenine’s heavy lifting for her. She was realizing, too late, that her work life was going to suck when I left.

"Jesus," Susan said. "What a weird day for you. Who's the guy?"

"Girl," I said, correcting her. "I can't remember her name. She's inexperienced and her resume is average, but HR really liked her on the screening call. I have two more tomorrow that outclass her on paper, so we'll see. I'm not expecting much."

What I needed to do was hire my replacement, not some new kid I would have to train. This girl was three years out of Irvine, with only an internship and a case manager gig as experience. She'd be fine as an assistant for three years, but I needed somebody to take my place in three weeks if I was gonna leave.

"How late are you?"

"Depends on the next three miles, but it's not looking good,” I said, eyeing the bold red lines tracing along the Bay Bridge on my Harley’s map display.

"Well, cancel it, baby. Come do me and eat lasagna."

"Mmmmm," I said. "But no. Duty calls. Can you hold on until 8:30?"

"We'll see," she sighed. "I may have to start without you."

"Mmmm." I said again.

"Ride safe, Mitch,” she said, and disconnected.

It took twenty minutes to go the mile and a half approaching the Bay Bridge, then another ten to cross over, so I was a solid twenty-five minutes late arriving at the building. The beauty of riding the Harley, however, was that I had plenty of parking options. It could've been way worse.


Exiting the elevator in my chaps and riding jacket, helmet in hand, I walked through the glass doors of the small conference room and was greeted by two bemused coworkers. Jenine and Leesa had been chatting with the young lady I was going to interview. There were flowers, cookies, coffee, and tea on the table, along with a water pitcher and glasses and notepads and pens. 

Jenine and Leesa maintained their smiles at the mouth level, but their    eyes were all sharp angles and long stares. 

“There he is,” Jenine said, not hiding the sarcasm, and then turned to the young lady, “Helen, you still have time for the interview, I hope?”

That was it. Helen. Helen Tresche. 

“Definitely. I blocked off the afternoon. I’m excited for the opportunity.” Good answer, I thought.

All three ladies stood, and I extended my hand, “Hi Helen, I’m Mitch. Thanks for your patience.”

“Not at all,” she said, firm handshake, good duration, solid eye contact. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting Jenine and Leesa. I feel like the interview has already begun.”

Another great answer, I thought. Poised. 

Leesa told her she’d walk her out after the interview, and Jenine wished her good luck with me, shaking her hand, eyeballing me with a smirk, and closing the glass door on her way out.

I unsnapped my chaps and set them, my helmet, jacket, gloves, and backpack on a side chair.

“What do you ride?” Helen asked.

“A Harley,” I said, taking the chair at the head of the table, where Leesa had positioned a company pocket folder with a big yellow sticky on the front labeled, ‘Helen Tresche (Tresh)’. 

“I figured that when I saw the chaps. What model,” Helen asked. 

I paused, tilting my head. “Do you know Harleys?”

“I ride a 2019 Street Glide right now, but I just sold my 2010 Softail.” She grinned. “I miss her. She was such a great bike.”

I nodded, trying not to show my shock. Helen was probably five-six, 120 pounds? It made sense that she could handle a Softail, but the Street Glide is a big, heavy bike. I was impressed.

We talked Harleys for ten minutes. I told her about my bikes, a 2016 Fat Boy and a 2023 Road Glide Special. We talked about group rides and Sturgis and Harley clubs. We discussed Harley’s struggles to attract the younger generation, and she had some very interesting things to say about that. She was smart and eloquent.

“So, Helen,” I said, shifting gears, “what is it about Mundy Fleet Management that inspired you to send in your application?”

Helen took a moment to collect herself after the topic switch, and I noticed her posture. She sat comfortably, not on the edge of her seat, not slouching. Her hands were never in an awkward place, always accentuating or resting somewhere natural, like in her lap or on the table top. Poise came to mind again. She couldn’t be more than twenty-five, yet she was more poised than most of the thirty-five year-olds that worked in the building.

“I’m going to be very frank with you, Mitch,” she said. I thought, holy shit, what have we here? “I know that you have been here for seven years and you’re a leader. I’ve spoken with some folks from the chamber who know you, at a couple of socials, and they say you are the best marketing director in the area. I want to learn from you.” 

I’m not even sure what she said next, to be honest, because the fact that she knew I was active in the chamber, had talked to some of those folks, and gotten intel on the company and me, well, that was more than a little unusual.

“Do you remember who you met at the chamber social?” I asked. “I’d like to send them a bottle for being so nice.” 

“Well,” she said. “It’s funny because you were there both times. But we didn’t meet. The first was Todd Grundy, and the second was Maria Hernandez.”

Todd and Maria were every bit as successful as I was in the marketing business.

“So how did you know I was there,” I asked, intrigued. 

“I wasn’t stalking you,” she said, blushing a little. “I had researched Mundy and your picture is on the website. I sent my resume to HR, and then I just happened to attend the same chamber social as you. Is the pretty blonde lady your wife?”

“That’s Susan, my fiancé.”

She nodded, “Then I saw both of you again the next month. I tried to find a way to introduce myself both times, but you were so busy and it just didn’t work out.” 

I’m a pretty seasoned interviewer, but I was on my back foot. This young woman knew way more about me than I did about her. I hadn’t even bothered to really read into her resume because I figured she was weak sauce.

“So, you applied to learn from me.”


“What is it you hope to learn as my assistant?”

“I’m going to be frank again, Mitch. I’m guessing that you have done all you can do here. I’ve researched Jenine as well. She is the owner’s niece, was in operations for four years, has only been in marketing for a short time, and is not likely to move again for at least another couple of years,” she leaned forward just a little, smiling. “She’s being groomed and is in front of you. I hope this isn’t coming across as scheming.”

“Go on,” I said, smiling.

“It just seemed to me that I’d have an opportunity here to learn from you and then move up into your chair when you move on. I’m ready to work my way up. That’s basically it.”

Fucking hell, I thought. I smiled and shook my head. Helen stayed cool, sitting still, confidently smiling, waiting for my next question.

“You don’t mind taking risks, do you?” I said, admiring her directness and wondering if she was courageous or just reckless.

She shook her head, “I push hard but I don’t take unnecessary risks. For instance, I’m a very safe rider on my bike. And I prioritize collaboration at work.”

We talked about some of the normal interview topics after that - strengths, weaknesses, how to handle workplace harassment. 

 “My turn to be frank,” I told Helen. “You interview well but your experience is thin. I’ve been doing this job for fifteen years, seven with Mundy and eight with a previous firm. You have no experience in marketing specifically, and little time in any job at all. You just graduated from Irvine three years ago.”

Helen didn’t take the bait. She nodded and waited for an actual question. I grinned.

“Why would I hire you, Helen? Why would I take on such a huge training burden?”

“Because,” she said after a brief pause I was pretty sure she hadn’t needed, “you need a leader and that’s what I am. Anyone can learn marketing, and I will learn it faster than most. But you don’t have to encourage me to be a leader. I’ve been developing as a leader since 6th grade. I want to be the best leader this company has ever had.”

I’d heard all I needed. I rose, shook her hand, and left her in the competent care of Leesa. 


I went to the restroom, got a cup of coffee, and headed back to my office. On the way, Leesa grabbed my elbow. “If you don’t hire that girl, I’m quitting,” she said, clearly being melodramatic, but making her point.

“We’ll see,” I said. Leesa just smiled at me.

“Jenine is waiting in your office,” she said over her shoulder, heading back to her desk.

“Thanks,” I said with enthusiasm that I did not feel. I needed to reflect on my next moves, not banter with Jenine.

On my way to the office, my cell phone rang. It was Christian, the guy who interviewed me earlier in the afternoon. A phone call back this quick meant one thing. They were offering me the job. My heart started racing. I let it go to voicemail.

“Sorry, Jenine,” I said, walking through the open door and taking a place in one of the armchairs. Jenine was sitting on the couch, thumbing through a marketing report from a print ad campaign we’d just wrapped. When she saw me, she closed the folder and began tapping it on her leg.

“Mitch,” she said, holding up the folder, “this was another great campaign. Detailed, organized, on point. There’s nothing for me to do but admire the success.”

“Thank you,” I said, buttressing for the inevitable ‘but’ that was surely coming.

“But,” she said, “you’re bored. I know you are. This is too easy for you.”

“True,” I said. “But I appreciate the leash you give me.”

“Well,” she replied, scooting to the edge of the sofa, elbows on knees, leaning forward. “I didn’t give you the leash. You took it.”

I leaned back, shocked, and started to raise my hands in protest, but she raised hers first.

“Aaaaaand,” she said, cutting off anything I might have said, “I allowed that to happen. In my previous ops job, I didn’t have any leaders like you to lean on. I was constantly cleaning up messes. Then I get here, and you have your job and my job wired tight. So I have had very little to do.”

Yes you have, I thought, just a little bitter, but impressed she was admitting it.

“So,” she continued, pushing back to rest in the sofa and crossing her legs, setting the folder aside next to her. “It’s time for me to get my hands dirty in marketing. I’m taking over all marketing leadership functions, effective today.” She smirked. She was enjoying the hell out of this.

“I think it’s great you want to get more involved,” I said. “But what happens to me?” 

“First, you’re going to hire your assistant. How did you like Helen?”

“I like her. A lot. And I’m surprised, because she is inexperienced and young. But I’m going to hire her. It’s going to be a lot of work for me to train her up. She’s got no marketing experience. But we can’t let a kid like that walk away. She’s going to be a leader, here.”

“Good. I agreee,” Jenine nodded. “But you’re not going to train her.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“I’m sorry for being so dramatic. I just love what I’m about to do. This kind of shit is fun for me.”

I just waited. She was smiling, looking me in the eyes, giving me time to catch up. I was in knots, a little nauseated, faking calm and probably not well.

“You’re going to train me, Mitch. And I’m going to train Helen.”

“I still don’t understand.” I moved forward on my seat, as if getting closer would help.

“We’re swapping jobs, Mitch. You will be VP of Marketing. I am going to be your director. Helen will be my assistant.”

I had no idea what to say, so I just sat back, and shook my head.

“I’ve talked it over with my uncle. You and I both know where I’m headed. It’s not a secret. But I’ve been all ops. I don’t have the chops to be VP of Marketing. Yet. You do and you deserve it. So, I’m going to step aside for six months. I will learn marketing from you. Helen, who I honestly believe is a threat to both of us, talent-wise, will learn alongside me. You have built a very talented and stable team. They will carry us while I learn.”

“So you take VP of Marketing back in six months? What happens to me?” My mind was swimming. I didn’t see any of this coming at all.

“You find another job.” 

Wow. Holy shit. Was I being fired on a six-month fuse?

“Look,” she continued. “If I wasn’t the niece of the founder and CEO, you’d be on my track to the C-suite. It’s not fair to expect you to just hang out here. But,” she said, leaning forward again, her finger in the air, wagging and emphasizing every word, “I won’t have you interviewing for lateral positions with competitors, and leaving me hanging, here. Do you understand?”

She knew where I’d been earlier in the day. And she had a plan to keep me after all. And it wasn’t just hiring an assistant.

“You’re giving me your job, then firing me?”

“You will become VP. In six months, we’re going to put you on the same track I’m on, but elsewhere.”

I don’t know why, but I asked, “Does Leesa know about this?”

“Yes, she is handling some paperwork I’ve already started. She’s discreet.”

That explained Leesa’s hostility. I smiled at that. I’d be her boss.

I stood up. Jenine stood up. I shook her hand. “When do I start?” 

She smiled. “The minute Helen accepts the job you’re about to offer her.”

May 10, 2024 18:00

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1 comment

01:49 May 16, 2024

I enjoyed this story! You have a good mix of action and dialogue throughout. You do well at expressing your characters personality as well through their achievements and also the way they talk and how they interact with the other characters. It’s great that you have your character doing an action in the beginning, riding their bike through traffic while also talking over the mic. I think there could have been more descriptive details about the traffic between the messages, more showing rather than telling but it was smart that you included t...


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