ONE CLOWN SHORT, page-22

"Oh, that can't be good," he was shaking his head. "Rarely does anyone get to go in there.
I've heard it's quite the place."
"What do you mean by that?" Fear was rapidly setting in.
"No one gets to see it unless they're being fired. I don't know of anyone who has gone in
there and then stuck around to tell about it."
"Great!" She threw her hands in the air. "I just finished paying back my parents."
"Relax, Mandy. Lulu has loved you ever since you came to her rescue in the danish
incident."
"She loves you too, Gary. Why aren't you being summoned?"
"You get to have a little girl talk with her. No boys allowed."
Mandy stuck her tongue out at him and left.
3:15 couldn't come fast enough. The quiet had become really deafening. Mandy could hear
herself think, and her thoughts were not pretty. Her parents were suddenly so proud. She had
finally convinced her mother that she was employed when she handed her a check for the entire
amount she owed them. Their wayward daughter finally had a good job and was supporting
herself. There would be no saving face if indeed Lulu intended to fire her.
The three o'clock snack was virtually untouched. Bozo's death was the only thing Mandy
ever witnessed that put a damper on the afternoon break. As Mandy headed to Lulu's office, she
noticed that the cardboard Bozo had returned. It had stood proudly next to the coffin at
yesterday's funeral. A sign read:
Please sign Bozo.
This will be given to his parents as a remembrance.
Several signatures had been strategically placed over his heart, on his nose, and in his
flaming red hair. Mandy added her own and said a prayer.
She knocked on Lulu's door.
"Mandy!" She seemed surprised to see her. "Come in, dear. Have a seat."
Mandy looked around. What was unusual about this office was that it was so ordinary. The
walls were a pale buttercream color. A few sales awards were tastefully placed on the walls and
credenza.
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The desk was neat and clean. All the furniture was sparkling, as if it had just been dusted. A
huge bouquet of multi-colored balloons was tied to the back of a chair in the corner. They looked
out of place.
Lulu waddled over to close the door.
"Mandy, I've invited you here to ask a huge favor of you."
The knot in Mandy's stomach twisted itself even tighter.
"I know you tried to tell me about the indiscretion in your expense report. Frankly, I
ignored you, and that was wrong of me. I have known about Bozo, may his soul rest in peace,"
she said as she crossed herself and looked skyward, "but I did not act on it."
What is she getting at? Mandy was confused that she was the one hearing this confession.
"I had to fire Larry Adams when he refused to take this position. He liked Bozo and his big
fat checks more than he liked me. Now, I must swear you to absolute secrecy. Do I have that—
cross your heart and hope to die?"
"Yes, Lulu, absolutely. You have my word." Just then the door burst open.
"My lovely Lulubelle, I'm here! It's time to cool you off a little bit!"
It was Ronnie the mailman.
"I didn't know you were busy." He sheepishly snuck back out of the room.
Lulu was an unbelievable shade of red. Mandy was afraid she might explode at any minute.
The pause was as pregnant as it could get. Mandy sat perfectly still, waiting for Lulu to speak.
She began to put two and two together. Refrigerator, leather sofa, a small television in the
corner. Ronnie's secret hiding place. No wonder no one was allowed in Lulu's office. She must
have forgotten to tell Ronnie that she had an appointment. The picture in Mandy's mind of Lulu,
who doesn't need a hoop to fill out her clown costume, and the lazy and overworked mailman in
a secret hiding place was not something she wanted to imagine. She started to get the creepy
crawlies, thinking maybe they had done it in the chair she was sitting in.
"I apologize for that. I'm ashamed. I hope that I can trust your word in this situation as
well."
"Yes, Lulu, you can. I promise."
"Now where were we? Oh yes! Tomorrow it will be announced that Three Ring Circus
Supplies will be acquiring Big Top Supplies."
Mandy gasped.
"We need to get a handle on our accounting processes before Three Ring finds out. We
can't afford to jeopardize this acquisition. I'm promoting you to Director of Accounting
Services."
"But Lulu, I'm not an accountant!"
"I know, Mandy, but you have a conscience and sense of ethics, unlike the rest of us. What I
need right now—and fast—is someone to stop the bleeding. I need you to manage the process
and create some checks and balances. You've got the right stuff. I have complete confidence in
you."
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"I appreciate the compliment, but I'm not sure I can do this." "Of course you can, dear. Gary
is going to take over your current position, which, by the way, you have been doing a fine job at.
The sales people love what you have done with the training material. It's brilliant what has been
posted on the portal so far. That you have gotten so much information out to our stores so
quickly makes you a hero in my book. You start tomorrow. I'm giving you a twenty-five
thousand dollar raise."
"But Lulu—"
"No arguing with me, dear. The company needs you to do this. Start with fixing the
expense reports. You won't make any friends doing that, but once it's fixed, all the rest will be a
cinch."
Mandy could barely get herself out of the chair. Her legs were like rubber.
"Thank you, dear."
Mandy gave a halfhearted smile and left.
"
CHAPTER THIRTEEN
A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
The next morning Mandy was still trying to make sense of her conversation with Lulu. She
hadn't slept at all f rom worrying about it. How was she supposed to single-handedly straighten
out the accounting department? Bozo had worked here for fifteen years screwing up the expense
reports. How could she, without any accounting experience, fix that before anyone from Three
Ring figured it out?
She was avoiding Gary. She had left the building right after her meeting for that very
reason. She knew he would be hanging around her office trying to get the latest gossip from her.
Since she never came back, he probably thought she'd been fired. "The urban legend says I was
supposed to be fired, so why not keep the myth alive a little while longer," she giggled to
herself.
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She was now holed up in her office with the door closed. She was trying to tie up a few loose
ends so that Gary wouldn't be totally out of the loop when he found out that he was given
responsibility for her entire team. Her phone rang a few times and she didn't answer it. Once was
Gary. Another was Violet. She could tell they were frantic by how many times their numbers
showed up on the caller ID.