The Call

Tom Sloane was sitting at his desk trying to keep his eyes open as he went over his group's final presentation for their class on strategic business planning. It was the capstone course that all students with majors in Bromwell's business school had to take. Each group was given reams of information on a company and they had to develop a comprehensive strategic plan. Tom was the accountant in the group. There were also students majoring in marketing, finance, management, advertising, and two other areas. Next week was final exam week. Instead of a final exam in this course the group had to present their plan to company executives as well as provide them with a comprehensive written report. It was still hard for Tom to grasp that college was almost over.

Tom stood up and stretched. His neck was getting a little sore from hunching over. He took a look around his apartment. It was a "one bedroom" in an old Victorian house, which had been converted into apartments. His bedroom was in the turret, but it was a small bedroom not much bigger than a large walk-in closet. At least in this place a full-size bed could be stuffed into it. You could just walk around the bed and put one of those narrow plastic drawer stacks on each side to pass for nightstands. The only things purchased new in the entire place were his computers and the TV. The couch, the easy chair, and even his desk and desk chair all came from a thrift store or an estate sale. He had found his dishes and flatware at the thrift store as well. All-in-all a few hundred dollars had furnished the place – much to his mother's horror – despite the fact that what you found in a Newtowne thrift store could be much nicer than what was in a regular store in many cities. He chuckled to himself. His father had actually praised him for not wasting money. Daria didn't care as long as he didn't let it smell like a men's locker room. When he left he would just call the thrift store and they would pick up all of this stuff as a donation.

Living in Newtowne was far from cheap, but this place was a nice alternative to Bromwell's campus housing. The house was adjacent to the campus. He had lived in campus housing for three years and mentally needed to move on. In the space of a few blocks there was a decent little grocery store, restaurant, bars, two pizzerias, and even the train station was only six blocks away. That made it really convenient when he wanted to go to Boston to see Daria. He just wished that he could get her to come to Newtown more often. Tom blamed his mother for that. She had left a bad taste for Bromwell in Daria's mouth after taking them both to see the Bromwell and Raft campuses and then managing to be so late getting to Raft that all they could do was drive through it in a pouring rain.

Tom realized that if he was going to make the push to finish all of his policy class work tonight he was going to need some help. So, he walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out an Ultra-Cola. As he was opening the can he heard his laptop start playing the ringtone indicating an incoming call. He walked over to the computer and saw that it was Daria calling. He moved the mouse over the button on the screen and accepted the call. Daria's face appeared. Tom gazed momentarily at the oval face, round glasses, brown eyes, and shoulder length auburn hair that he loved.

"Hey Tom," Daria said as she looked at Tom's angular face, sandy hair, and gray eyes.

"Hi Daria," Tom replied. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Pleasure is something I could use about now," Daria deadpanned.

"You'll have to come to Newtowne for that," Tom retorted. "I'd love to have you join me for finals week."

Daria continued in her typical deadpan tone, "I wouldn't want to distract you from your studies. Besides, I will be a newly minted graduate by then and undoubtedly soon to be named supreme ruler of the world, or else I'll be serving fries and starting my career as a cat hoarder."

Chuckling Tom replied, "Well, at least I bought my train ticket to come to your graduation. With my schedule I really need to do the round trip on Saturday. I leave here on the early morning train that will get me into Boston around eight. I should be able to arrive at your place before nine."

"That should work, but don't be late. Graduates have to report at nine thirty. My mom will be holding the tickets."

Tom replied, "That shouldn't be a problem. I'll take the 'T' and avoid the roads. I will have to catch the nine thirty train back here in the evening. My policy group needs to meet on Sunday morning. I am looking forward to your graduation!"

Daria responded, "I'm looking forward to being a graduate. I don't know that I am looking forward to donning medieval dress and listening to people screechifying about the future."

Interrupting her comment Tom said, "You mean speechifying."

Daria twisted her mouth as she retorted, "You heard what I said. And then I will walk across the stage as I am proudly announced as Darla Mogen-David."

"You shouldn't be 'wining' about that," Tom said again with a chuckle. "Seriously, though, your name isn't hard to pronounce. 'Daria' is pretty simple. Morgendorffer is pronounced like it is spelled. I wouldn't worry about it."

"I'm not so much worried about it as I just want to avoid one more humiliation in my life," Daria responded with a serious note in her voice. "Frankly, if it was up to me I would skip the ceremony. But, it is really important to my parents. That probably has something to do with the fact that they paid for all of this."

Tom added, "And they love you. And they are proud of their eldest daughter graduating from a top flight college with highest honors. I'm proud of you too. I am more than proud to call you my girlfriend."

"Thanks Tom," Daria said. "You always do make me feel better and feel better about myself."

"Hey," Tom went on with enthusiasm. "You are now certifiably brilliant and I think you are smokin' hot!"

Daria deadpanned, "I think you may be the one that is certifiable. I am not hot. I may be flattered, but I am not hot."

Tom retorted, "I won't debate the point with you. If you are not going to believe me, then at least let me live in my little fantasy world."

"Anyway," Daria went on. "I called you because I want something."

"Not with your parents and Quinn around," Tom said.

Daria responded "Cool your jets mister. Now I'm serious. I need you to read something for me."

"What is it?" Tom asked.

Daria deadpanned, "Well, early this week one of my professors told me about a position in New York. Apparently, the chief writer for this show is a Raft graduate. I had to apply by emailing a letter to this alumnus in the writing style needed for the job. They worked pretty fast. I sent the email on Tuesday. I received a reply today and the instructions for the next step."

"That's great! What giant of show business has recognized that you are one of the smartest writers on the planet?" Tom asked with considerable enthusiasm.

"Sick, Sad World," Daria replied flatly. "I have to write a piece for them on the invasion of naked mole rats in a neighborhood's gardens. Then I need to send that as well as a portfolio of other writing. The piece has to be written so that it will fit into one of their ten minute slots. "

Tom responded, "I'll read anything you want me to read."

"OK. I'm sending it to your email right now."

Tom logged into his email and opened the attached file. On the first line he saw, 'They escaped from their cages and now provide a peep-show to the kids! Naked Mole Rats in the Neighborhood next on Sick, Sad World.' Tom went on to read the rest. It was tough to keep from laughing through the whole piece.

"You hate it don't you," Daria deadpanned.

"Not at all," Tom said. "I can hear every word on that show. You have seriously reproduced the style. It isn't great prose, but it sure fits the way Sick, Sad World writers craft the program. I think you achieved what you were trying to achieve."

Daria thought for a moment the asked, "So what should I do to make it better?"

Tom thought for a moment. "First try improving the title. Maybe something like: 'Escapees Exposing Themselves to Children at Play – Naked Mole Rats Overrun the 'Burbs' or something like that." Tom then went on to give her some other possibilities.

"I really appreciate your input, Tom," Daria said. "You are a pretty good writer, too."

Tom changed the subject, "So, what are your plans right after graduation?"

"Well, as a graduate I have until noon on Wednesday to be out of my housing unit. I am hoping to send all of my things, except a suitcase and carry on bag's worth of stuff, home with my parents. I don't have any furniture, so it should all fit in their car. At worst they would have to tie Quinn to the roof to get it all home."

Tom noticed that Daria cracked a half-smile as she made the comment about her sister.

"So, I hope that an interview in New York will come through and maybe even a job! Then I can go there and try to get a place to live. I found out that there are actually several women who are Raft graduates over the past two years who want roommates. It is pretty unlikely I could live without a roommate."

Tom said, "If you have to be out of your place by Wednesday then come and stay here at least until you know about an interview in New York. After all it is on the way to New York! Besides, you are planning to come to my graduation aren't you?"

Daria sighed, "Of course I am. I promised you that last fall. Even if I have to go to New York during the week I certainly will not have an interview on Saturday! Worst case I would be back late Friday night. But, I really don't want to distract you from your final exams."

"Don't worry about that. I only have two written finals and those are both on Monday. The others are final presentations and they happen on Tuesday and Wednesday. I am done by two in the afternoon on Wednesday," Tom said. "So if you arrive late afternoon on Monday I will be finished with my written exams. You have your phone, so Sick, Sad World can get ahold of you here just as easily as at Raft. Plus, you can use my internet connection and desktop computer here in the apartment for your email. When it is time to go to New York it is just a six block walk to the train."

Daria asked, "When do you have to be out of your apartment?"

Tom answered, "The lease runs until the end of June. So, we have plenty of time here in Newtowne to secure employment somewhere."

"Have you done anything about job searching?" Daria inquired. "I assumed that your dad would just make a call."

Now Tom sighed, "Well, you assumed wrong. I have actually taken two on-campus interviews this past week for entry level positions in auditing departments. Yesterday I received an invitation to interview with Doodle, Bottom and Potts in their New York office."

"When do you interview? And why on Earth do I know that name?" Daria asked.

"One week from Tuesday. You know the name because they audit firms on Wall Street and last year they uncovered major wrongdoing in three firms. Several people have gone to jail," Tom replied.

"Wow. A company that acted ethically," Daria replied. "What a rarity."

"Not really," Tom explained. "Especially auditors are there to see that people do what is legal. If there are ethics issues these can be brought to higher levels of management and even the directors. Maybe we can go down together for my interview. Most likely two can stay in the hotel for the same price as one! You could meet up with some of those women you mentioned."

"We'll see. I just hope my parents don't expect me to go back to Lawndale and wait. That would be awful," Daria said. "I would much rather be with you. I do love you, you know."

Tom's heart nearly leapt from his chest! This was probably the first time that Daria had actually said that she loved him without him saying it first. Without choking up Tom managed to reply, "I love you too, Daria. I miss you."

"What were you doing when I called?" Daria asked.

Tom replied, "Just going over one of the presentations and making changes. Exciting stuff, you know."

Daria said, "Well, keep at it! I'll see you Saturday morning."

Just as Tom said, "Bye" Daria ended the call.

Tom took a big sip of his Ultra Cola. He returned to looking at the presentation and making corrections. It was going to be a long night. He really wished he could have Daria there to keep him company.