by Amory Peck
1694 Words

“The evening went by so quickly. Thanks, again, for suggesting the enchiladas. Great choice, very tasty,” Lindsay called out as Andrew walked away from the table.

Turning back for a last look and a wave, Andrew grinned and said, “You bet! Let’s do it again soon.”

Swell, just swell, Lindsay thought. Thanks for suggesting enchiladas. That’s the best you could do?

The spontaneous meal at the brewery was the first time in weeks she’d done anything other than work, improvise a meal, sleep, and repeat. She hadn’t spent any time with her small circle of friends in weeks, and she certainly hadn’t been dating. Dating? Who would she date? The Walker Museum didn’t attract eligible young men. Truth be told, it didn’t attract many visitors at all. Regretfully, the museum had become her world.

As they had walked the few blocks to the brewery, Andrew again mentioned the superiority of the enchiladas. “I’ll just order them for the two of us, okay?”

With a gulp and a touch of disappointment, Lindsay had concurred. “Of course, sounds great!” Although she hadn’t been out much lately, the brewery, with its handy location to the museum, great food, dynamite locally crafted beers, and friendly ambiance, was one of her preferred places in town. She definitely had her favorite on the menu. Friend Linda would usually opt for the healthy Harvest Salad. Lindsay ignored the good-for-you option. She was a fan of Mama J’s BBQ Pork. While Linda was pleased with, and filled up by, her mixed greens, apples, grapes, walnuts, and gorgonzola, Lindsay was smitten by the taste of shredded pork, BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, and coleslaw on the brewery’s house-made ciabatta roll. Put their roasted potatoes next to the sandwich and give her a pint of the seasonal flavor, and Lindsay was in gastronomic heaven.

Lindsay wouldn’t call herself a pub-regular, but she did stop in often enough to have her face, and her usual order, known. That evening she’d held her breath when the server approached. Lindsay was concerned she’d say, “Don’t tell me—Mama J’s, right?” Andrew got their order in quickly enough that possible embarrassment was avoided.

Though they had a bit of museum conversation, they agreed to put shop talk aside for the night. Instead they wandered through the sorts of things new friends discuss when propelled by rich, greasy food and glasses of the brewery’s best IPA. Topics ranged from choice of pizza toppings, both agreed, no pineapple. Schitt’s Creek, yes. CNN or MSNBC was a split vote. When one or the other raised the topic of PJs or in-the-buff, there was a mutual decision to end the night’s conversation. OMG, thought Lindsay. I’m weighing the merits of sleeping nude with my boss. Andrew’s so new to the board, he may not even know I report to him!

After a few end-of-the-evening comments, the non-date dinner came to a close. Andrew excused himself, but Lindsay wasn’t ready to head home quite yet. One more beer seemed called for.

In the condition where one more beer seemed a good idea, Lindsay’s mind wandered over her day. Andrew seemed to be a nice guy. Good looking, in just the way she liked, not too tall, thin, thick hair. Single (she hoped) and thoughtful. Sincerely interested in the museum, much more so than those others. Ted was such a prickly thorn. A foul-mouthed thorn. Though we agree on more than he knows, she reflected. We both want to make a difference in our community. Why does he have to make everything so difficult? Then there’s Jeff. It does help to have a banker on the board, but he doesn’t seem to care. The only thing that really seems to get his attention is the motion to adjourn. Toni’s just “so Toni.” All appearance and opportunity. She sees our museum as an investment opportunity. Catherine could be an ally, she’s the one who really knows our place. No one knows a museum like a docent does. But, how do you engage such a silly, quiet mouse? Andrew, well, there’s potential there, especially if one could figure out exactly what a planning consultant plans and does. Lindsay had her fingers crossed that his skill set included figuring out the museum’s problems and planning its way to success.

The biggest puzzle, though, was Dr. McNair. Lindsay felt sorry for herself that he ever agreed to be on the board. Yes, he certainly knew local history and was dedicated to preserving the town’s heritage. But, damn it. The old coot is just waiting out his time until he can gracefully retire for a second time.

What a set of bosses! School did not prepare me for working with such an uninspired group.

As she thought over the dinner conversation, Lindsay was dismayed at her response to Andrew’s question, “How did you get a job as a museum director at your young age?”

Her response, “My superior qualifications, I guess. And the fact no one else applied” was demeaning to the hard work she’d done to get her degree and untrue to how hard she’d prepared for her interview. Yes, she was young to be a director, but, by golly, she was trained for the job!

Lindsay was proud of her BA in Art History and Museum Studies from Radford University, in Radford, Virginia. It had been hard to leave the Northwest for four years among the loblolly pines and the bluebells and asters of the south, but she had her mind and heart firmly set on curating the past. Nothing touched her more than being a steward of memories, a keeper of history, and a caretaker of the culture.

Her dad had been doubly opposed to her choice of school. He didn’t like his little girl going so far away from home. Didn’t like it at all. Even more than that, though, he vehemently disagreed with her choice of museum management. “Why spend all that money, all my money, to prepare for a job where you’ll make only peanuts? Who even cares about old, dusty stuff? Good riddance to it, I say.” Nevertheless, he’d been there at her graduation, proudly taking an embarrassing number of photos.

So why, when asked about getting the job, did she sluff off the query with an untruth, “no one else applied”? Perhaps it was because she’d been so embarrassed about her inabilities at the board meeting—how could she own up to her hard-earned degree when she’d been so bamboozled by her six recalcitrant board members.

That’s it, enough of my self-indulgent pity party! Time to regather, recharge, and redo that waste-of-time meeting today. I’ll start planning a special board meeting right now. I’m off to my desk, no time to waste.

By now it was 10:30. If she’d thought about it, Lindsay would have recognized she’d never been in the museum so late at night. On the occasions when she had work to be done in the evening, she’d bagged up everything she needed and toted it home. But tonight, she needed the feel of the place around her. She was determined to save her museum, and that should be done from the hub of the place itself, her office.

Lindsay put her key in the lock, and shoved the door open with a push from her shoulder. The heavy old door was always difficult to open, but she’d learned the right technique needed to gain entrance. It couldn’t be done without the door making quite a screech. Ah well, by now that complaint from the door was just part of all the quirky sounds she’d grown accustomed to in her beloved but cranky old building.

Lindsay whistled as she entered. It wasn’t that she was afraid in the dark building. It was just a trait she’d picked up from her dad, a jaunty attitude while walking alone. “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho. It’s off to work we go,” she whistled, as happy about going back to work as were the Seven Dwarfs.

Not afraid at all. But still, Lindsay was startled by the sound of, no, the sense of scurrying around her. There couldn’t be anyone else in the building, the custodians did their work in the mornings. With a shake of her head, and an increase in the volume of her, “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho,” she continued to her office.

She reached her desk and noticed it was in more disarray than she remembered. She spotted her pile of balance sheets and profit and loss statements lying haphazardly on her desk. On her desk! Oh shit, she thought, I was so fixed on getting those silly cookies arranged on the board table that I plum forgot to take all the financials with me to the meeting! Stupid, stupid mistake!

Lindsay settled in at her desk, determined to make right the mistakes of today’s meeting. To reassure herself, she glanced at the small bookshelf to her right. Old friends like Managing Museums and Galleries by Michael Fopp and Museum Basics by Timothy Ambrose were right there if she needed their help.

Now, focus. What was it Andrew said this evening? Oh yes, he had said he was thinking of something interactive, unique, experiential. Well, I can think about that, too! What could we do that would bring people in, get them involved, having fun…donating money? Lindsay continued to ponder, determined to have the board reconvene soon. She was determined they’d hear and understand the financial straits the museum was in, as well as her plans on what could be done.

Lindsay sat in deep contemplation, and also a touch of drowsiness. She had ordered two Silver Linings IPAs with Andrew and a third while she sat there alone. In that state of reverie, she noticed, but only slightly, whispering noises around her. She snapped from her dream state with an explosive exclamation of “People! We need people in here at night. Wine tastings, PJ story hours, haunted house tours!”

At that, the museum emitted a sorrowful, angry moan. Lindsay’s 1904 first edition of M.R. James’ “Ghost Stories of an Antiquary” fell to the floor at her feet.

To read the story in its entirety, click here.

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