October 26, 2014 by helenwaldron
In which Writewell is interrupted by an impatient caller.
James Speakeasy and Julia Writewell are partners in their own English language coaching business. They first worked together in a language school and they didn’t like it very much. Then Writewell suggested that they go it alone and Speakeasy said, “Why not?” in that easy-going manner he has. And they haven’t looked back since.
“It’s much better being your own boss,” said Writewell.
“Yes, indeed,” said Speakeasy, who always turned up when they had some work, but was equally happy disappearing for days at a time when they didn’t. Writewell suspected him of jetting off for romantic breaks with the numerous females he attracted so effortlessly, but she didn’t mind. She was happy in the office catching up on the paperwork. She was proud of the business they’d built up for themselves and she did it better when he wasn’t around.
People sometimes assumed that Speakeasy was her boss and they laughed about this together.
“We’re a partnership,” they would say. “There are no bosses.”
During one quiet period, Writewell was alone in the broom cupboard they called their office, doing some research for a new seminar about leadership. Suddenly the phone on the large wooden table (which they called their desk, but was actually a solid pine dining room table they had picked up cheaply at a flea market….) rang. It made her jump.
“Speakeasy and Writewell, Writewell speaking.”
“This is Frau Reppentrop, Herr Happlon’s secretary. I’m trying to reach Mr James.”
“James … Speakeasy,” murmured Writewell, confused at the strange form of address, but recognizing the caller’s company name immediately. Herr Happlon was one of the directors and principal shareholders of Happlon Group and one of their most time-consuming customers. He was famous for demanding highly customized lessons (usually based closely on his own latest activities), which involved immense research on the teacher’s part and then cancelling at the last moment, making all the research useless. Writewell had fielded the original enquiry from the company, had not liked the sound of it, and had passed as much as possible of the work on to Speakeasy. Speakeasy, to give him his due, never got angry with difficult people.
“Can I give you his mobile number?”
“He didn’t answer it,” said Frau Reppentrop, sharply.
I’m not surprised, thought Writewell.
She tried herself, but Speakeasy was nowhere to be found at the moment. His mobile phone jumped to mailbox when she rang him, and as soon as she ended the call and slotted the landline back on its docking station, it rang again.
“Happlon,” said an impatient voice. “Give me Mr James, please.”
Writewell began to understand the hopelessness of the situation. If Happlon had not managed to learn Speakeasy’s name correctly, he was unlikely to accept that he was simply unavailable. But here she had underestimated him.
“I need a teacher immediately,” he stated. “If Mr James is not available, I will have to have you. You can teach as well as answer the phone, can’t you?”
It pained Writewell to remember how she had implied that her partner was the more experienced trainer that first time they had rung.
“I am prepared to pay you double rates for coming quickly.”
She gritted her teeth and packed her workbag.