A Novel by A. A. Alfy

Phonecall From Heaven-Chapter Two

This is a serial novel. To view Chapter One visit: https://abdallahalalfy.medium.com/phonecall-from-heaven-chapter-one-dd567d694cb2

*Disclaimer: A friend told me the first chapter reminded her a lot of Mitch Albom’s “The First Phonecall From Heaven” work. To date, I have never read that novel, and though he published his in 2013, a year before I started working on mine, I was not aware it existed until sometime in the last two years when I saw it displayed at Walmart. Probably 2019. The similarity of the names made me consider changing mine, but I decided against it. The name has been on my mind far before 2014. I currently draw no inspiration from Mitch Albom’s work. I do draw some inspiration from the few episodes I ever caught of an American Television series from the 90’s called “Early Edition”. Primarily in the form of a guy living alone and starting off his day in an otherworldly weird way, at least in chapter one.

Chapter Two

“What took you so long?” Peter barked.

“You be thankful I came in at all Peter. The hell is so important that I can’t sleep in on my day off huh?”

“Some big shot’s daughter up in corporate just graduated Journalism and Mass Com. With honours”

“Um. Ok…?”

“Don’t look so fucking dumbfounded. What do you THINK it has to do with you? The lady’s looking for an internship. And while every paper in the city is lining up to give her a tour of their whole operation just to make her daddy a lil bit happier, she wants a tour of OUR operation. With whom you say? That’s right. You.”

Joshua looked intently at his boss. He was quiet for a second as if trying to ascertain just how serious Peter was being. Then he broke his silence.

“Yeah. That’s not gonna happen.”

“The hell it’s not. I’m paying you.”

“To be an investigative journalist sure, not a rich girl’s baby sitter.”

“Tomaytoes Tomatoes Potatoes Potatos”

“I’m not doing it.”

“Come on man. It’s important.”

“Why do you wanna suck up to corporate anyway? I thought it was an ‘equal merger’.”
“Politics.”

“What politics?”

“I make corporate happy, they up the Expense budgets, the more they invest, the more profit everyone turns in their given percentage.”

“You disgust me.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m still not doing it.”

“Come on. I just met her ten minutes ago. She’s not the kind of uppity girl you’d expect Simon Lee’s daughter to be.”

“Simon Lee? As in, Chairman, CEO, President Simon Lee?”

“The very same.”

“Why the hell didn’t you say something?!”

“I didn’t want you to freak out.”

“I’m not freaking out!”

“Joshua, I love you bro. But you’re freaking out.”

“I’M NOT FREAKING OUT!”

“Okay okay! Chill! I should be yelling at you, not the other way round!”

“I just don’t like that guy.”

“What’s he ever done to you?”

“He has about as much appreciation for business ethics as a rabbit does.”

“Or a shark.”

“You’re not helping your case here.”

“Dude. I told you. She’s nothing like her old man. My word on it.”

“You know what? I met a girl with the same last name on the subway earlier today. Some kind of cellist. How many people are called Lee live in this damned city anyway?”

Peter looked away from Josh and at his computer screen and began to idly stroke his mouse:

“You did, did you? Guess this town’s not as large as you thought it was. So are you gonna make me look good in front of the old man or not?”

“You know what? I’ll give her the tour. But while she’s deciding if she wants that internship here or not, she’ll act like an intern anyway. MY intern. Slash assistant. Slash slave. That’ll teach daddy’s girl to stop thinking she can have every journalist in the city at her beck and call.”

“She kinda can.”

“Fuck you.”

“Whatever. She’s waiting at your desk.”

“What, now?”

“Yes, NOW, you moron. I told you I just met her ten minutes ago, right? I told her you’d be in any minute and she should wait at your desk.”

“Which desk?”

“The workspace one. She wouldn’t know how to get to the other one if I gave her a map. Why do you need an extra desk away from everyone else in the whole damn newspaper anyway?”

“To watch my porn.”

“That’s not funny.”

“I’m not laughing.”

“You know the offer to set you up with your own office is still on.”

“No thank you.”

“Why?”

“Because I’d still have one of you rat-monkeys interrupting me every five minutes while I’m watching my porn.”

“Rat-monkeys? Who the fuck gave you a degree in journalism? What kind of a writer says that? Get the hell out of my office and make that girl happy or fucking else…”

“Or else what? You’ll fire me? Please. Make my day.”

“Just go.”

“Fine.”

The 3rd floor of The Daily Radical was basically one gigantic room with a maze of desks in the middle and a frame comprised of miserable little office cubicles flanking the giant workspace. Barring a few bigger offices for some not-so-big-dogs, this royal mess was basically the department of all things authorial and editorial. People typing at desks or running with printed papers from one end of the building to the other, or shouting information across the room at each other or, frantically trying to catch everything they’re hearing on the phone and write it down. This was where most of The Daily Radical’s material was written, edited, and initially approved. The Beating Heart.

Joshua made his way through the maze of desks, waving, exchanging greetings and nods with everyone, and even shaking a couple of hands as he made a beeline for his desk. As his eyes fell on that storied location he saw the girl sitting on one of the two cheap office chairs in front of it. It was the back of her head that he saw but he would have recognized that beret with that hair pretty much anywhere. He was surprised but he refused to let this stop him in his tracks. “Peter! That smug bastard! He lost the balls to make eye contact with me when I mentioned meeting a girl called ‘Lee’ on the subway. He knew it was her! Bastard!” Josh made a mental effort to stifle his other, more instinctive and natural personalities; Angry Josh, Surprised Josh, Uncontrollable-speech-what-will-he-say-next Josh and brought the one Josh he needed into focus. Josh The Unfazed. Josh The Unfazable. By the time he was behind her he was able to jolt her into surprise by saying, with a tolerable assumption of amusement: “Whatever happened to that cello?”

Laura gasped and started out of her chair

“What the hell dude! You can’t just creep up on a girl like that!”

“Can’t I? I think you’ll find it’s in my Job description. The only other people who are supposed to do that better than me are government spooks. And they don’t.”

“They don’t what? Sneak up on people?”

“No. They don’t sneak up on people better than I do.”

Joshua, sat down slowly behind his desk and turned to face her with a blank expression on his face.

“Oh I’m sure. With a mug like that I bet no one sees you coming.”

“They don’t. Much like I didn’t see YOU coming.”

Laura laughed quite melodically.

“Let’s call it even. I got you, you got me. Friends?” She smiled.

“I’m not quite sure. My boss had talked me into giving you a tour but that was before I found out you were some kinda stalker.”

“But I’m not!” She said, painting a mocking expression of hurt on her face

“The hell you’re not. You got on the same train I got on from the same station, knew exactly who I was, started a conversation with me, practically asked me out, didn’t mention a word about how you were coming here and yet here I find you, sitting at my desk. I gotta tell you, that’s sounds pretty fucking stalkery to me.”

“Stalkery? How do they let someone like you write in a newspaper? What kind of a word is that?”

“You know, maybe you should get Peter to let you hang out with him if you wanna give this paper a shot. You both seem to feel the same way about my powers of self-expression.”

“There’s no need to get all worked up like a little girl. It’s just not a word I’ve ever heard someone who writes for a living use.”

“Stalker-like. Does that satisfy your ardour for linguistic correctness princess? My point stands.”

“Alright, let’s be serious for a minute. First, you have to know that I wasn’t stalking you, at all. I live in that part of town. 2 minutes from the subway”

“You do? I seem to recall Simon Lee owning a mansion and a huge estate outside the city limits. Maybe something about a penthouse or 2 in some spectacular hotels. But an apartment on the ‘just-barely-upmarket’ side of town? I don’t recall that.”

“One, you’d be surprised at how much my father owns. Two, I live there with my roommate. We were renting the place for the last two years of college.”

“Seems a bit odd don’t you think? Simon Lee’s daughter splitting the rent with a friend and riding the subway like the rest of us commoners. Why would you do that if you didn’t have to? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t.”

“Oh yeah? So turning down a percentage of this place’s annual profits was just you making a financially sound decision?”

“Who the hell told you that?”

“All I talked about with Peter is you Josh. And he had quite a lot to say about you.”

“I stand by what I said. Bigger shares here means more board involvement, which would complicate my life no matter how much more money it yields. But if my daddy had to do all the worrying financially, and I wouldn’t even have to drive myself to work, or take my stretch limo in for maintenance you could bet your last breath I’d have my driver bring me in every day! Hell, if I was as rich as your dad I’d have a helicopter bring me in every day!”

“What’s your problem with rich people? What are you some kind of leftist?”

“I don’t have a problem with rich people. I’m just not a fan of your old man.”

“You and me both.”

“Oh? Trouble in paradise?”

“Buddy you don’t have a water drop in hell’s idea what my life is like and right about now is a good time to stop acting like you do.”

“Or what? You’ll go stalk someone else?”

“You know what? I can take a hint. It’s clear that I’m not welcome here, and I can see that you don’t really wanna do this.”

“Oh yeah? What clued you in Poirot? We should make you a detective. Or wait! I hear you were looking at a career as an investigative journalist!”

“You don’t have to be such a jack ass you know. You could have just walked in here and said ‘no, I won’t do it!’”

“I could have. But somehow I doubt that would have stuck.” Josh smiled irritatingly.

“Whatever. Asshole.” Laura said, averting her eyes and getting up.

“Wait a minute. Are you crying?”

“Just shut the fuck up ok?! I’m going! Isn’t this what you wanted?”

“No.”

“No?”

“Shit.” Josh thought. “This is definitely one of those moments people look back on when they’re asked if they really have any regrets.”

“No.” He said, with a calmness he was far from feeling. “You just caught me on a really bad morning. I’m dealing with so much personal shit right now that it’s not even healthy for me to be out of bed.”

“I’m still 30% convinced I’m crazy.” He thought.

“Yeah? You kinda said something about that on the subway.”

“Yeah. I thought a little work might distract me but it’s just catching up to me now. But in all honesty, I suppose I could do a lot worse than letting you shadow me for a couple of days.”

Shadow you? Do you even hear yourself speaking? D’you have to sound so full of yourself?”

“Sit the hell back down. You better get used to it Lee because I am about to lay some ground rules, and one of them is all about how full I am of myself.”

“Oh yeah? Let’s hear them.”

“Number one, while we’re doing this, I own you. I absoloutely fucking own you. You are not auditing this job, you do not even measure up to an intern. You are my fucking slave. You do what I tell you, you jump WHEN I tell you, you wake up at 2am and come fucking running wherever I tell you and if you do ANYTHING to fuck that shit up, I’m out!”

“Bit of a control freak aren’t you?”

“I am. And I have my reasons little girl. This isn’t the safest job to cover, nor the slowest. One wrong move and we could both not live to regret it. One minute too slow and we could live to regret it for a very long fucking time. At least, I could live to regret it for a really long time. You’ll probably just decide this job isn’t for you and move on to the next mini-obsession daddy’s little girl can afford.”

“Again with this shit?”

“And again and again and again. I fucking own you remember? So I can assume whatever the hell I want about your life and whether it’s right or wrong you’ll smile and say yes sir. I’m your boss not your friend, and not your confidante. I don’t wanna hear how hard it really is growing up in big daddy’s shadow and how no one really understands what it’s like to be a princess and all that two-cents-hollywood-bogus. And this brings me to something else I wanted to say to you. Sure, I didn’t see you coming. That was a nice move. But you’re gonna need much thicker skin if you’re gonna be an investigative journalist. Tearing up and shit because someone you want something from said a few nasty words or assumed things about your life? How’d that make you feel? Like I wasn’t being fair? Like it sucked because it’s not true? That shit won’t fly around here. Grow a tougher spine or this business will snap it right off you.”

“What else Commodore?”

“That’s not very funny. Number 2, there will be NO monkey business like that on the subway between us. I don’t mix my personal life with my job. As of right now we have a professional relationship that consists of me making you do everything I don’t wanna do and you pretending to be grateful that I’m letting you.”

“Sounds like most couples to me. Are you sure you’re not projecting Josh?”

“Shut up. Number 3, we are not on a first name basis anymore. My name is Joshua Lake and you will address me as Lake. Your name is Laura Lee and I will address you as Lee”

“What, no honourifics your highness?”

“I don’t need a title to put a kid like you in her place. Think of me like Caesar. Everyone called him Caesar but that did not make them equals.”

“Caesar? Wow. With an ego like that, I’m surprised you’re not very fond of my father. You two would get along like gin and tonic.”

“Whatever. Du need to write all that down or have you got it?”

“Got it. Lake and Lee. I like that. We’re like a duo. Like Batman and Robin.”

“Shut up.”

“You’re a poet and you don’t know it.” Laura sang happily.

“I mentioned that you’re not very funny right? That’s number four. Remember that you’re not very funny.”

“Yes your highness. Anything else?”

“No. Leave your number with Peter and go home. We’re done for the day.”

“What right now?!”

“Yes right fucking now.” Josh said testily, “It’s bad enough that Peter dragged me out of bed on my day off just to see you. I’ll call you if something relevant to my job comes up. Actually, you know what? Go to Roberta Solis down in the mailroom. Tell her I sent you and that I said she was to give you a tour of all things relevant in the building. This includes the legal department so you can get your orientation. You’re probably going to forget half the shit they throw at you anyways but it’s good to cover my ass.”

“I don’t even know where the mailroom is.”

“So find out. You wanna be an investigative journalist and you can’t even find the mailroom at your new job? Actually, you know what? TONY!! GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!”

A young bespectacled kid who couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18 came running over to Joshua’s desk, tripping over a chair leg as he did and catching himself from falling in the very nick of time.”

“Yes Mr. Lake?” He said nervously.

“Take this young lady here to Roberta.” Josh said dismissively, “And mind your manners Tony. This is Laura Lee. Simon Lee’s only child. Her father could probably buy six of you to decorate his closet.”

“Mr…Mr…Mr. SIMON Lee?” Tony stuttered disbelievingly?

Joshua met the incredulous look on his face, smiled and said humorously “I didn’t stutter.”

Laura sighed, got up from her chair, put a reassuring hand on the nervous teen’s shoulder, looked kindly at him and said, “Don’t mind Mr. Lake here Tony. He just had a really bad ride on the subway this morning.” As she flashed a mischievous grin at Josh. In spite of himself, Josh smiled at her retreating form. “You didn’t answer my first question!” He called out, “Whatever happened to that Cello?!”

Laura turned back and smiled at him again without breaking stride “Another day Commodore!” she called back.

Chapter Three now out at: https://abdallahalalfy.medium.com/phonecall-from-heaven-chapter-three-4d872f6b0d8a

Writer, Commentator, Pharmacist, Some-time poet. Love me. I command it.

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