Beauty Unframed author Lisa Elmers writes about life, loveliness, and seeing something where you thought there was nothing.

From "A Lunch Date"

From "A Lunch Date"

Hello Dear Readers. So this is somewhat unorthodox, but I thought it might be a nice change of pace to share a (hopefully juicy) tidbit from my ongoing book project.

The fragment below comes from a short story called, "The Lunch Date."

More to come.

… When I first moved to LA, I took a gig through an agency to temp in a gray concrete building on a hill in Santa Monica.

The place was grim and square and mildly druidic, with a thousand small green windows on each of its faces. What this company did precisely I can’t say, but it was something to do with billing workers compensation claims and selling x-ray machines to hospitals. On my first morning in the office, a receptionist in a bad-fitting cardigan showed me to my “workspace,” a flat-pack desk pitched outside a cluster of customer support cubicles. A mug half-full of blue pens with chewed caps and an old computer sat on the desk.

Whenever I had a new temp assignment, I always made sure to show up fifteen minutes early. This wasn't out of some compulsory motive of being a good employee per se. I did it mostly out of fondness for snooping.

Fifteen minutes until my supervisor was due in. I pulled open the desk drawer --- a standard black steel affair bristling with manilla folders --- and sifted through the files. Four different hands had written labels, in four inks. Inside were bank and credit card statements, folded and unfolded, most on their sides and one sticking out as if to bookmark for future reference. Apparently the archiver had never had a chance to revisit his work, because there, in July 2010, the record ended. Inside another drawer I discovered four mangy highlighters bundled in a rubber band, fridge magnets with crumbs bristling their black sides, a sad menagerie of pushpins, and some other flotsam and jetsam, assembled apparently from office odds-and-ends, cast offs, and redundancies.

I was on the point of booting up the computer when I heard a brisk step approach from behind. Wheeling around in my chair, I met the eyes (actually, mid-chest) of a tall man in pleated khakis.

“Mr. Pomeldecker,” I said. (I had practiced pronouncing it on the morning’s commute.)

“What? Oh. Right. You’re our temp.” He said through his nose. He didn’t shake my hand. I followed him into his office.

Mr. Pomeldecker must have been an exec, because he had a corner office with good views from two big windows. Between those windows sat a sculpture.

Sculpture may be too reverent a word. It was really just a heap of computer parts glommed together: spiky, gray, and unutterably ugly. Wires poked out at intervals, pointed as if with longing, thrilled with unseen current. It was the randomest collection of castoffs I had ever seen --- dials, disk drives, unspooled cassette tape, shards of monitor glass. But as I looked at it, something spooky happened. It started to look back at me. Slowly, the shape of a man showed itself. Stacked motherboards made the body, and it had a motherboard face with two black fans for eyes. These fans had been sacrificed to a misshaping flame, leaving them oblong and poxed with hard drips. They poked from uneven levels, staring sightless. For a mouth, the artist supplied a slash of ribbon cable. Two rubber tubes popped from the body. These terminated in two plugs with their prongs intertwined like hands in supplicating prayer.

“I like this,” I said, pointing to the sculpture. Mr. Pomeldecker looked up from his phone and back down again.

“Thanks,” He said.

“He feels,” I said. I did not know how to finish the sentence.

“What.” He said, eyes on the phone, flicking through emails.

I turned from the sculpture toward Mr. P’s big dark wood desk. The man and his art could not have had less in common. Looking disdainfully at his phone --- just like it had peed in his hand --- Mr. P continued to swipe and scroll and pinch his emails. As I perched on one of two leather chairs, I shoved my floppy canvas bag behind me.

“Okay. Sorry,” he said, putting down the phone “there’s just so much to do.”

“Oh no. Please.” I said.

I felt utterly translucent sitting in that leather chair with its brass brads and supple cushion. As if a ray of light could pass right through me and show the shabby bag nesting in the small of my back. (And shouldn't I really have been wearing nicer shoes?) Mr. P. is about to discover something, I thought. He is about to look through me. But when he glanced up his eyes were cloudy and thoughtless. They glossed me for a brief second, but did not search. Then he looked over my head out the window. He spoke.

“So today you will be making some copies for us. We would have had someone here do it but everyone is so busy and the files are somewhat sensitive. Once you’ve made copies I want you to reconcile everything to the bank statements in your desk.”

“Great.” I squawked, as if I had dreamt my whole life of doing nothing else.

“I think I can do that,” I added.

“The files are over there,” he said.

The phone resurfaced. Our conversation was over…

A Long Walk

A Long Walk

Chokecherry Picking

Chokecherry Picking