If I Call and Say “Don’t Come In”

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree and Rising.

While reading up on the latest in the Allen Lee case and why he said the things he did about his teacher’s method of teaching inspiring school shootings (as someone with an English degree, I understand his point, however ill-timed or misconstrued), I suddenly remembered a book that I started 10 years ago called “Breach.” It was the next in the series that began with “Access.” I wrote the first 5 chapters and was too busy with life to write more, though it was a great book on high-powered microwave technology, remote viewing, and nano-technology back before more people wrote that kind of thing.


But I’d forgotten that the first chapter opens with something a co-worker once said to me and by chapter three, the heroine is looking at the bodies of a dozen co-workers who were at a meeting she missed. Anyone reading that now would be hauling me off in bracelets, I’m sure. But the basis for the idea came from elsewhere.

There was a time in my career when I was given the “problem children” that others didn’t want to deal with.

I always had a knack for getting work out of them, I suppose, but in general, they were very loyal to me because once they were working for me, I’d go to the wall for them. Several told me that the only reason they ever did any work was for me personally. I was very fond of them, too, and we worked together to find things that motivated them. Not things other people thought were motivational but what was meaningful to them, whether it was going on certain trips, getting the classes they wanted, sitting in the offices they wanted, a public pat on the back, or cash awards for good work. I understood that motivation was not a one-size-fits-all thing. I gave them a lot of personal attention and they did the best jobs of their careers for me, much to the amazement of the bosses.

One day, one of my “guys” —who was roughly 30 years my senior— was very upset. He’s long since retired. Actually, I think he’s dead now. Our bosses had done something he considered disrespectful of him and he was fed up with the job and the people and though I’d already fought the battle for him, I was powerless to do anything more at this point. And I did truly believe that his boss was wrong in this situation.

As he started to go that day, I asked my “guy” if he was going to be okay, and he assured me that he just needed to calm down. We worked slightly different schedules with him working the earlier schedule starting at 6 and me starting an hour later. He was leaving for the day, but I knew I’d be there until dark, working overtime. Then he said one of two things that have always stayed with me.

“If I should ever get to the point where I can’t take it anymore, I’ll call you.”

“Okay,” I told him. “Good. I’m here for you if you need to talk.”

“No,” he said. “I mean, if I can’t take it anymore…. If you should get a call before you leave for work and it’s me telling you not to come in that day, just take my word for it and promise you won’t come in on time.”

“I can’t do that! You know I have too much work to do—”

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Then he looked at me with eyes I will never forget. “No, Lorna. If I call and tell you not to come in, don’t.”

I’m just glad I never got that call, though it made enough of an impact on me that I translated it into a novel years later. I never heard from him after he retired and went traveling around the world, but the day he retired, he said the second of two things I’ll never forget. Even though he was a happily married pillar of the community with grandchildren and a church and all the things that made him seem a particular way to everyone else, he confessed to me that he’d delayed his retirement by several years because he was in love with me.

I never knew, and I guess I’m glad I didn’t.


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