Monday, May 16, 2016

Excerpt from The Lobby by Randi M Sherman

Excerpt 2

At the far end of the lobby a crowd was gathering for a thirtieth high school reunion. A huge maroon and silver colored banner that read “Welcome Class of 1985 Titans!” was hung over a long table covered with a correspondingly colored tablecloth. On it were neatly organized rows of “Hello My Name Is” name tags.

Women in bedazzled gowns with unflattering deep diving cleavage cuts and men in slacks and sports jackets milled around the sign-in and name badge table. Polite nods and “how ya been doin’” passed for greetings. The lies were flying, “You look fabulous, younger than ever.” “You are more beautiful (or handsome) than I remember.” “I meant to keep in touch.” “Let’s exchange numbers before we leave.”

iPhone cameras were flashing furiously as dozens of people simultaneously sucked in their guts, and extended their necks to give the illusion that they had only one chin and, as far as anyone in the room would admit, none of them had changed “a bit” in thirty years.
The sign-in table volunteers were managed by the caffeine-charged Becky Thorton who headed the reunion committee. Becky’s excitement was at a fever pitch. This event was the highlight of her life. Through a constant barrage of annoying emails and Facebook and LinkedIn invitations, she managed to stalk or keep track of most of her senior classmates. She spent years compiling, sorting, and resorting the list until . . . Ooh! It was time to send out the invitations for the reunion. For the six months leading up to the reunion date, she would recite her activities to anyone who stood still long enough to listen. “I designed and printed the invitations, planned the reunion, managed the responses, booked the venue, booked the band, booked a bank of rooms, arranged for valet parking, determined the menu, created the seating chart,” and worked herself up into such a whirling tizzy that her husband was planning on booking her into rehab.

Stepping up to the table, a stout woman announced, “I’m Suzie Uker, uh . . .” she corrected herself, “My maiden name was Cox. Look for Suzanne Cox.” She craned her neck trying to find her name tag. “There it is, Suzanne Cox-Uker.”

Former Prom Queen, pep club captain, expert blow-jobber, and occasional church-goer Suzie Uker was now 260 pounds of Avon pusher. Her perfectly made-up face with Cleopatra eyeliner was topped with a pile of yellow cake colored curls. The former Miss Cox was now living “in the valley” with her husband Mark, the former class quarterback who was now a 350-pound man who looked like a pile of kielbasa. Mark often wore tank tops, thinking he was passing off his gelatinous rolls as muscle when he said “Yup, I played ball in high school” while he patted his rotund physique.

Early on, both too popular to be concerned about grades or their futures, Suzie never applied for college and Mark lost his sports-scholarship. He worked for his father’s insurance company franchise and they had three children who had rotten teeth and diabetes. Suzie pressed Mark’s name tag onto his ill-fitting sports coat and told him to find the bar while she looked for old friends. She spotted and waved at a group of gals in coordinated outfits. She desperately hoped they’d recognize her.

The four former cheerleaders who had remained friends for the three decades since graduation clearly coordinated their outfits for the occasion, and they were all wearing similar sleeveless shift dresses, upper-arm flab be damned.

“Ready, and!” The forty-somethings with midriff bulk enthusiastically executed their old cheerleader moves as they greeted each other. “Aaaaaaaaand go Titans!” Their cheer was accompanied by happy, tiny bent elbow handclaps. Thrilled that they attracted the attention in the room, they popped up and down on their toes and executed above-the-head air punches accompanied with “woo-hoos” to stir up the crowd.

“Oh, I miss those days,” said Claire, a frequent recipient of plastic surgery services. “You have to admit we still look good.”

Head cheerleader Patricia Conrad-Blake spotted a stunning woman who walked toward the sign-in table. “Who’s that?” she said with a catty tone.

Claudia Schulman, formerly a regularly overlooked bookworm in corrective shoes was now a stunner in a smart looking, perfectly fitted red dress. With a roller-bag behind her and while wrapping up a business call on her cellphone, she walked up to the sign-in and name tag table. “Claudia Schulman,” she said to the volunteer high school senior who was manning the name tag desk.

“Did I hear you say Claudia Schulman?” A handsome man wearing a dark suit inquired.

Claudia turned around and said her goodbyes to the person on the other end of her phone call. “Yes, I’m Claudia Schulman.” It took her a minute but she did recognize the man standing in front of her. “Matthew Gold.” She smiled widely. “It’s so nice to see you.”

“You look wonderful, Claudia.” He glanced at her travel bag on wheels. “I take it you don’t live here anymore.”

“No, I live in New York now and I had to be in town for a business meeting next week and figured, why not come to the reunion.” She flagged down a bellman and asked him to store her bag until she checked in. “Matthew, what are you up to? The last thing I remember is that you were headed to Stanford and you were going to be a great inventor of futuristic devices.”

“I can’t believe you remembered.” He was flattered. Being a “nerd” in high school, he never thought anyone paid attention to him. “Right. Yes, I went to Stanford and eventually entered a master’s program to begin working on the development of alternative and electric transportation.”

“Like the hybrid and electric cars?”

“Yes, but more recently, high speed rail transportation.” Though happy to see Claudia, he had dreaded the idea of attending the reunion but his wife, Sharon, insisted that he come, saying that he deserved a night of I-told-you-so. “Tell me, Claudia, what are you doing now, in New York no less?”

“Oh,” she was humble, “I’m in international law.”

“How wonderful. It’s a far cry from when they used to call us ‘Nerdella’ and ‘Geekman.’”

Claudia laughed. “But I was a nerd and a geek. And, that was a million years ago.”

Rachel Mallinger walked up to Claudia, “Claud. I’m glad you could make it. Otherwise, I’d have a quick drink and get out of here.”

“Matthew, do you remember Rachel Mallinger, another member of the high school geek society?” She turned to her longtime friend Rachel, “Rach, do you remember Matthew Gold?”

“Oh yes,” Matthew reached out to shake Rachel’s hand.

“And, one of my companies contracted with Rachel to do a reorganization of the workforce. What was it? Six years ago?” …

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