Missionary Positions by Joyce Faulkner
published in Volume 11, Issue 1 on June 28th, 2004 The cold air swirled around Rosalie's legs as she ran up the stoop, but nothing could chill her excitement. The home pregnancy test was positive! Her first instinct was to burst into Bruce's office, her face flushed with joy -- but they'd been disappointed so many times before. She wanted the clinic to confirm the good news before she raised his hopes yet once again.
"Stop now. Think what you are doing!" A slight woman thrust a gruesome photo of an aborted fetus into her face.
"You are committing an abomination! Go back now!" A short man bellowed in her face, his eyes blazing with conviction.
"Please excuse me," she pulled her scarf tighter around her ears.
"Murderer!" The words beat down on her as she hurried into the lobby.
At eleven forty-five, Rosalie walked into the office with her arms full of fast food. Suzie Streeter, the receptionist, sat at her desk, crying. Caught commiserating with Suzie, Maxine Trentham hurried back to her cubical and pretended to study her computer screen. None of the men were back from lunch save Eddie who hid behind his massive desk in the corner office reading a leather-bound bible.
"What's wrong?" Rosalie fumbled with the bags of biscuits and boxes of chicken.
"I can't talk right now, Rosalie." Suzie's eyes were swollen. "I have to get back to work and talking makes it worse."
"Eddie?" Rosalie mouthed.
Suzie nodded and Rosalie's smile was sympathetic. "Okay, dear. I have a meeting with the padre, but after I'm done, if you want to talk, I'm here."
"Thanks, but I'm fine." Suzie dabbed at her eyes with a blue tissue.
Eddie's recent conversion to an evangelical church had created chaos in the office. Where once he'd been sweet natured and goofy, he became focused and aggressive. Last week after a marketing presentation, he annoyed Sol Saperstein by insisting they bow their heads and thank the Lord God Jesus Christ for granting them an opportunity to work together. Sol was so eager to flee the conference room that he forgot his cell phone. Embarrassed, Rosalie had Suzie return the tiny Nokia with a note that simply said, "Sorry."
"Want some chicken?"
"No thanks, I had caramel creams and two boxes of popcorn." Suzie turned back to her computerized solitaire game. "I'm going to weigh 200 pounds if Eddie doesn't stop suggesting that Mary Magdalene and I have a lot in common."
"It's new. He's enthusiastic. Time will pass and he'll be back to the old Eddie." Rosalie headed for the corner office.
"There you are." Eddie looked up from his reading, a scowl on his face. "I've been put on a committee." He marked his place with a small piece of leather and set the bible aside. "I'm supposed to determine a procedure for creating a supply portfolio for the whole corporation similar to the one you did for us."
Rosalie set the food on Eddie's round client's table near the window. "Okay. That shouldn't be too bad. I have notes on my assumptions. How detailed do they want it to be?"
"They want everything. Your assumptions. Your techniques. The background research. The algorithms you used. The weather studies. Everything." The twitch in Eddie's left eye betrayed his anxiety about this assignment.
"I can do all of that." Rosalie opened the bags and set a paper plate and napkin on the table for each of them. "When is it all due?"
He came around his desk and sat down at the table, picking through the boxes for a piece of white meat. "I'm to give a presentation on it for the June meeting. They want to have it all so the other companies can use it to create their own plans before the end of the year."
"Two months will give us plenty of time." The smell of the chicken was overwhelming. Rosalie decided to pass. A dollop of macaroni and cheese was more than enough.
"That's just it. I'm leaving for Ukraine tomorrow." Eddie bit into a thigh. "I'll be gone eight weeks."
Rosalie looked up in surprise. "I didn't know you were going on vacation."
"It's not exactly a vacation. We are going over as missionaries." Eddie's eye fluttered.
Rosalie didn't know that Ukrainians were in need of missionaries. "What about this project?"
"As you said before, you can do it. I trust you." He mumbled and kept his eyes down.
"What about Seymour's stuff?"
"I'm sure you can handle that too."
She poked at her macaroni with a plastic fork. She had not expected she would be doing this project all alone. "Perhaps you could assign Jim or Mark to give me a hand while you are gone?"
"I can ask, but there are a lot of upcoming events. They'll be gone a week in May for the golf outing in Arizona -- and they are signed up for a seminar on hedging in Chicago the first week of June."
Rosalie sighed in frustration. Suzie and Maxine would help compile the books, but she'd have to prepare the presentation herself as well as write the paper on top of her other assignments. "I'd hoped to take a little time in July. Bruce and I have some personal business." The doctors had warned her that her pregnancies might be difficult. She wasn't sure she'd be able to handle the immense amount of work Eddie was proposing without help if everything went well. What if something went wrong?
Eddie shook his head. "I don't think that's going to be possible. Someone has to take care of things here."
She leaned back in her chair -- angry about the way Eddie ran the office. It was a stressful situation -- Rosalie did the work, Eddie took credit for it. Not all the time, of course. Sometimes Jim or Mark took credit for her work too. She could resist, stamp her feet -- refuse to participate, but this arrangement seemed to be working for everyone. They'd all been promoted twice and they'd gotten bonuses and perks way beyond the expectations of an ordinary employee in the company. It would be professional suicide to complain.
"There's one more thing." Eddie got up and closed the door.
"What I'm going to say to you is not from boss to employee but in the spirit of Christian brotherhood." Eddie sat down on the edge of his desk and folded his hands.
Why did this not sound like good news? "Okay."
"I'm ashamed of you."
Rosalie's jaw dropped at the harshness of Eddie's unexpected words. "What are you talking about?"
"My wife saw you at the clinic this morning."
He raised a hairless eyebrow. "I know why you were there."
"I don't think so." She folded her arms over her chest and crossed her legs. How DARE he intrude into her private life!
"Look at you. You are white as a sheet. You know my position on abortion. Why didn't you come to me first?" He put both hands to his heart as if pleading with her to come clean with him.
"I don't think this is any of your business, Eddie. I'm not a member of your church. I have my own beliefs and my own ideas about right and wrong."
"You work for me. People saw you."
"I don't want to discuss this with you, Eddie." She turned on her heel and left the room.
"There are consequences, Rosalie." He called after her as she returned to her office. Flipping on her computer, she picked through the mail in her inbox while listening to her phone messages. "What's up, honey?" Bruce's baritone never failed to excite her. She imagined the look in his eyes when she told him her news. She wrapped her arms around herself and smiled a soft secret smile.
She sat down at her computer and logged on to pick up her email. There were fifty-four messages. Forty-two of them were from Eddie. She clicked on the latest one.
"Oh God!" She closed her eyes tight, to avoid the horrible sight of the aborted fetus that appeared on her screen.
"Eddie says that he needs to talk to you again." Suzie stood in the doorway. "What the hell is that?"
"Love letters from Eddie." Rosalie closed the picture, stood up and marched into Eddie's office.
"I forgot to tell you that I'll be back on August 12. The presentation is the next day in Pittsburgh. Leave that whole day open for me because I'll have to bone up on everything you've prepared."
"Eddie, this has to stop." Rosalie stamped her foot. "I don't want to hear any more about abortions. No more pictures in my email, no more brochures tucked into my desk calendar. No more .Words of Life', no more little bible stories."
He blushed but stood his ground. "You think it's easy for me to face your anger this way? This is shock therapy. I'm trying to get you to think about what you've done."
"Let me find my own way to hell, okay?" She returned to her desk, fuming. The light on her phone flashed. Unwilling to deal with anyone else, she threw on her coat and left. She was standing in the elevator lobby when Marķa Andover walked past pushing a cart full of mail. "How much longer?" Rosalie couldn't help but ask.
"Six weeks." Marķa patted her swollen belly.
"Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"
"Boy. Ramon Jose Miguel Andover."
"Congratulations. I'm sure Jimmy is thrilled."
"Oh, he is. So am I." Marķa's toothy smile filled a lovely face broadened by pregnancy. "Nice to see you, Rosalie." Marķa parked the mail cart by the office door and swiped her security badge through the reader.
The elevator door opened. It was full of smokers heading down to the portico where they would shiver in the chilly April wind while they blew smoke at passersby and exchanged juicy bits of gossip. Rosalie decided to wait for the next car.
"Wait, Rosalie!" Eddie squeezed past Marķa as he came out the door, slipping his arm into his leather jacket.
"I don't want to be around you right now." Rosalie frowned.
"I'm not the enemy." He looked embarrassed, as if he were searching for the right words.
"This is not the place for this." Rosalie didn't want to give him another opening. She pressed the elevator button.
"We've been friends a long time. I don't want to leave the country with this between us. Let's go down to Starbucks and have a private chat."
They had never been friends. They used each other -- that's all. "I have an appointment," she lied, refusing to look at him.
The elevator doors opened. He put his hand in the small of her back and guided her inside. "It can wait. I think I hear a frappe calling me."
"For crying out loud, Eddie. Don't you know when you've gone too far?" She faced the front of the car as the doors slid together.
Eddie pressed LOBBY and stepped back, folding his hands in front of him. The elevator hummed as it started downward. Rosalie ignored him, rattling her keys in the pocket of her London Fog.
The car stopped so suddenly that they both fell to the floor.
"What happened?" Rosalie rubbed the side of her head where she'd cracked it against the wall.
Eddie pulled himself up and reached down to help her. "The elevator stopped."
"Will the door open?"
Eddie pressed the OPEN button. The doors refused to budge. "We're stuck between the 18th and the 19th floors."
Rosalie fumbled in her purse for her cell phone. "What's the matter with this thing?" Beeping. "No signal?"
"Hold on, there's an emergency phone." Eddie pried open a small door and lifted a silver receiver.
A high pitched screech filled the car. "What IS that?" Rosalie held her hands over her ears.
"Help is coming." Eddie told her. The screech grew louder and the car moved. Just a little bit.
"Oh MY GOD!" Rosalie cried. The arrow over the door quivered as the car shook and they moved downward -- an inch at a time. "What's happening?"
Eddie grabbed the rail mounted against the wall of the car. "Hold still. The brakes aren't holding. We're sliding."
"EDDIE!" The car dropped about a foot before the brakes reengaged. Her terror overcame her anger and she turned to him, her nails biting into the sleeve of his leather jacket.
"They are coming for us. Let's try and keep this thing balanced until they get it fixed." Eddie pointed to the far wall as though he knew that would help. "Why don't you sit down over there?"
She wasn't buying his show of confidence. "I'm not sitting down. What if it falls?"
"Then it falls and God takes us home."
She narrowed her eyes. "Give it a break, Eddie. I want to know what we should do? Should we hold onto the sides of the car? Should we jump at the last minute?"
Eddie was unabashed. "Why don't we pray?"
"I can't pray in front of you. That's private." Rosalie couldn't have been more appalled if Eddie had asked her to disrobe.
The noise grew louder and the elevator jerked as the brakes once again lost their grip. An odd electrical smell filled the car. Rosalie screamed as they dropped several floors before the car slowed to a stop once again. They both landed on their butts.
Eddie sat frozen on the carpet, his eyes fixed on the arrow bouncing around the 13th floor indicator. As the grunts and whines of the elevator motor echoed around them and settled into silence, he pulled a roll of Lifesavers out of his breast pocket and popped one into his mouth. "Why does religion bug you so much?"
It was easier to like a frightened Eddie. At least he seemed like a real person and not some plaster saint who had all the answers before he even knew the questions. She accepted a mint from him. "It's not religion that bugs me. It's you. You don't talk to me anymore. You don't talk to anyone. You preach -- or you read from the bible."
"Well what's wrong with that? If I'm to be a good Christian, shouldn't I want to introduce my friends to this great new thing I've found? Shouldn't I want to share the good news?"
"It's insulting. How would you like it if I tried to convert you to my beliefs? Take you to the priest and have him give you a blessing? Bully you into the confessional? For crying out loud, Eddie, do you think you are the first person to ever read the bible?"
The car shifted and they both screamed.
"I didn't mean to be insulting, Rosalie," Eddie whispered. "I'm sorry."
"Then lay off. You've got something that makes you happy. I'm glad. Don't stuff it down my throat. Or Maxine's. Or Suzie's either."
"They don't like it either?"
"No one likes it." She stared up at the arrow. They were on the 11th floor now and the grinding sound told them they were still sliding.
"Jim and Mark?" He spoke through clenched teeth.
"They make fun of you behind your back. They call you the Padre."
"They make fun of everyone. They call you the Supply Queen." He took her hand.
Willing the elevator to stop on the 10th floor, she gave him a tight little smile and squeezed his hand. "I know. Maxine is the Dowager Empress and little Suzie is a lady in waiting."
"They can be jerks sometimes, but they are good at what they do."
The arrow drifted down to number 9. "We've stopped." She whispered.
"No, it's still moving. Look at the arrow." Beads of sweat dotted Eddie's forehead and his eye twitched.
"No, we've stopped."
The grating sound subsided as the car settled. After a few moments, the arrow became stationary.
"Hallelujah. We're saved!" Eddie clapped his hands before glancing her way. "I'm sorry. It slipped out."
"Sheesh, Eddie. You can hallelujah to your heart's content. I don't care. Just don't expect me to join in. Catholics are more circumspect."
"I promised I'd bring others to God. It's a measure of how much I care about you that we are having this conversation."
"This conversation is a measure of your own fanaticism. The thing that really burns me up is this obsession you have with abortion. You are the boss. You can't pressure your employees to do things your way in their private lives. How would you like it if I suggested you should give up your shotgun?"
Eddie spun around to confront her, his eyes blazing. "Don't try that liberal crap with me, Rosalie. I have a right to bear arms. It's in the constitution. You don't have a right to murder babies."
"You can't make that decision for someone else. It's none of your business." She slipped off her shoes and tucked her feet underneath her. It was the only modest option open to someone sitting on the floor in a business suit.
"Should I stand by and watch if someone tried to murder you?"
She sighed, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "I wish it was that simple."
"It IS that simple." He shook his finger at her.
"It's sliding again." Her eyes widened and she held out her arms to balance herself.
"No, it's not."
"Listen!" The screeching grew louder -- metal against metal. The car swayed as it inched downward.
"Hear me, Jesus. Save us for our good works -- for the mission, for our cause. Preserve us for our families, but if you take us today, forgive us for our sins and open the gates of heaven for Rosalie and me. Amen." Eddie held his hands palm upwards, his eyes focused on the ceiling panels as he prayed.
Rosalie folded her arms across her chest.
"This works better if you ask for forgiveness for your own sins, you know." He frowned at her.
"I don't have any sins to confess, Eddie."
The elevator lights blinked once and then went out. Rosalie staggered backwards feeling for the wall.
"This is God's doing." Eddie's probing fingers grazed her arm in the darkness and she shrank from him.
"God turned out the lights?"
"It's your fault we are here. Not only do you commit a grievous sin this very morning, but now you lie about it at the moment we are facing death. That's like rubbing your rebellion in God's face. He'll smite you for your sins and I'll go down with you. Your mendacity is going to rob my children of their father."
"You didn't have to get on this elevator with me."
He choked back a sob. "You didn't leave me any choice. I'm charged with rescuing lost souls."
Rosalie hugged her purse to her chest. They were moving. At a snail's pace, but they were moving. She could feel it in the pit of her stomach. "I don't think there's going to be any smiting, Eddie. Maybe you ought to trust God more."
"ME? I'm born-again. I've accepted Jesus as my personal savior. I'm one of his flock."
"Good. So we agree that you are a sheep." Rosalie bit her tongue. It slipped out before she could censor it.
"God won't forgive that." Eddie must be very frightened if that was the worst he could come up with as they slid downward toward oblivion in total darkness.
"How do YOU know what God will and won't forgive?"
"I found Jesus and I know."
"I didn't know Jesus was lost."
The elevator fell. Eddie's screams drowned out Rosalie's. She thought about the baby inside her -- the child she and Bruce had been trying to conceive for years. She thought about her mother's hands. The night she made out in an old Buick with a boy who had no arms flashed through her mind. The day she got her PhD. The morning after her wedding. "NOOOOOOOOOO." She gritted her teeth. "I'm not dying now."
The elevator bumped to a soft stop.
"Our Father, who art in heaven." Eddie prayed in the darkness. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
It was the same prayer she learned in Catechism. The same one she said every day since. "Give us this day or daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." She prayed quietly, in her heart -- her soul reaching out to her God. "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, Amen." She crossed herself in the darkness, comforted and no longer afraid.
"For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen." Eddie intoned.
She hid her smile in the dark. Where the heck did THAT part come from, she thought.
They heard voices -- the rattle of tool belts against chubby thighs. Someone was outside the elevator, pressing the doors open. A bolt of light burst into the car, causing them to squint and cover their eyes. "They're here! They're all right."
A big hand reached out to them.
"We're safe." Eddie wrapped his arms around Rosalie. "We're safe, Rosalie."
"We're alive." Rosalie returned his hug.
"Help her first." Eddie guided her toward the doors. "She's not feeling well."
"Here you go, little lady." The man held Rosalie firmly as she stepped out into the first floor lobby.
"What happened to us?" She said as she straightened her clothes and smoothed her hair.
"Some sort of malfunction. The elevator maintenance folks are checking it now. It's a miracle you are alive. This car slid down nineteen stories in twenty-two minutes."
Eddie shook the man's hand. "You saved us."
"Afraid not. I came to pick up the pieces. How that elevator brake engaged when it did -- that's a mystery. Just be glad it did."
Rosalie looked at Eddie, a tear rolling down her cheek.
"Jesus spoke and the elevator listened. I was saved for our mission." Eddie's new found religion had come through for him.
Rosalie nodded and smiled. She straightened his tie and kissed his cheek.
"It's true," he insisted.
Rosalie tapped the tall fireman on the bicep and he leaned down while she whispered in his ear. "That's not a problem, ma'am. I glad you are okay."
"Rosalie, you look like hell." Eddie hovered around her like an excited bumble bee. The moment was over.
"I thought you'd never notice."
"Perhaps you better go see a real doctor. Maybe you are losing too much blood."
"Good God, Eddie. Can't you keep your mouth shut?" She glanced around but the fireman had moved away from them, squatting near the open elevator door.
"And after you see a doctor, get down on your knees and pray for forgiveness."
She took a deep breath. Life tasted too good to argue. A tall man hurried through the revolving doors. "There's Bruce." She squeezed Eddie's hand. "I have something important to tell him."
"Rosalie, Rosalie!" Bruce held out his arms. "Maxine just called me."
She rushed to him. "I was coming to see you. That's why I was in the elevator."
He lifted her off her feet. "Thank God, you are okay."
She clung to him. "I have news."
"Rosalie, don't forget about the project," Eddie called. "Wish me well. I'm going to take the good news to Ukraine tomorrow."
"Ukraine?" Bruce raised his eyebrows.
Rosalie giggled. "I'll explain later."