Julia Reynolds stood behind a gilded mahogany desk with a neat stack of paper on one side and a small ceramic bowl of sunflower seeds on the other. Through a wide-open window, and from far below, beeps and clangs from street activity filtered in. To this sound, Julia softly whistled an old, old family tune. She had learned it as a baby, and nobody knew where it came from, but they all knew it and sang it.
Presently, a sharp knock interrupted Julia’s concentration. “Come in.” she commanded, feeling ruffled by the intrusion.
Clark, the receptionist, pushed the door open. Tall and gangly, he teetered in on his long stork legs and announced, “A Mr. Pillsbury is here for the stenographer position.”
Julia clenched her toes in annoyance; she had been looking forward to an early flight home this afternoon. “Send him in,” she replied, and then waited for Mr. Pillsbury’s entrance. But she saw nothing, other than Clark making the flappy motions of waving somebody in. At the sound of faint padding, Julia peered over her desk and was dismayed to see a lizard of the most common variety making its wriggly way across the floor. Soon he was on her desk. Julia noticed his little claws carved the faintest scratches on the finish.
“I would like to apply for your open stenographer position,” said the lizard.
Julia cocked her head to the side. “A lizard? As my stenographer. Are you serious?”
“Oh yes, Ma’am. I saw your ad in the paper and knew I needed to apply at once.”
“Needed to apply. I see. Do you have professional experience?”
“Do you have a typewriter?”
“Can you type?”
“I’ve done it before. It’s sort of natural for me.”
Julia gave a short chirp. “Really? I’m sure you could barely reach from the shift key to fully half of the other keys. How will you type the capitals and the symbols?”
“I can put the capitals and punctuation in later. When you are talking, I just need the letters.”
“That’s all fine and good Mr. Pillsbury, but we are looking for someone who is experienced.”
The lizard replied with a slight edge to his voice; things were not going as he had planned. “Don’t let my appearance fool you Ma’am, I’m very sure you’d be happy with my work.”
Julia was resolute now. Anyone who stooped to using ‘very’ to gain her confidence might as well stay home. It was convenient that this lizard had met her low expectations. She resisted curtly, “Perhaps, but I doubt it, and it is not my intention to find out.”
The lizard began to sound a little desperate, “Oh, you are making a mistake Ma’am. I know this job was meant for me. It called to me.”
Feeling slightly alarmed, Julia spoke loudly to bring Clark back to the door. “Good DAY Mr. Pillsbury. You have no place here and I encourage you to apply for a job where you have more skill.”
Clark opened the door imposingly and the lizard made his way to it. Crossing the threshold, he said quietly, but clearly so Julia would hear, “Funny that you should be so picky about typing skill when your kind could never hope for it.”
Clark closed the door quickly when he heard the lizard’s slight, but it didn’t sooth Julia’s feelings. She hopped from place to place, furious that this lizard would give such cheek to someone like her.
As the anger waned, it settled to a smolder, then to a quiet disappointment in herself for not handling situations like this better. Julia began to sink into her own dark feelings. Seeing that there was nothing useful left of this day, she made her way to the open window and looked down the 35 floors at the sight that filled her with longing every time. All that space. All that air. All that freedom.
The next thing she knew, Julia was standing on the precipice, compelled there by old feelings and instinct. She let her balance relax, teetering backward and forward, sensing the breeze on her legs. Then she inhaled deeply and let her body lean forward. A familiar weightlessness filled her senses and something primitive woke up inside her. Springing from her feet, she leaped forward, head first, then dove downward. The wind rushed past her sleek body faster and faster. With anticipation, Julia observed the ground rushing toward her. She could feel speed and altitude converging to a perfect apex, and at the moment of confluence, she spread her wings and caught the gale, sending her skyward in a graceful arc.
Looking down, Julia’s eye caught sight of the lizard who was outside now. He was headed toward a bakery across the street. Well, she thought, she would never go there again. And with that she shook her tail feathers and flapped her wings toward the nest in the tree that was her home.