Lela Malona, by Alan King

An office admin assistant, Lela rises at 4a.m. to catch the W13 for 5:45 downtown. She reaches the office at 6:30 to start coffee and have a fresh pot brewed for the workers stumbling in at 7a.m. She was always known to bring in snacks and treats for her co-workers: Sugar cookies, candy bars and Now&Laters. Even though she wasn't paid extra for her enthusiasm, her reward was the smiles of officemates as they enjoyed her goodies.

Barely a year on the job and she's earned accolades from everyone along with numerous awards that amount to nothing more than condescending pats on the head. Kind of how a master praises his dog for entertaining his friends with tricks and being well behaved. The things rewarded ranged from cubicle cleanliness to best personality to on-the-spot action.

Lela remembers the day she earned best on-the-spot action as if it were 15 minutes ago. She could still hear the loud, beeping sound of the fax machine and see the blinking message indicating it was out of paper. But Lela's swift action in ordering reams of blank sheets saved the day when her coworkers thought they were all but doomed.
"Good job!" A team manager told her.
"Keep this up. We just may have to give you a brand new name plate over your desk. You may even be promoted to Secretary. Way to take the initiative." Another team manager said as he glanced at her breasts and thighs. He knew 10 months ago that she had the job when he interviewed her.

He had introduced himself then as Clyde Holder. Clyde usually took off his wedding band when he was interviewing women. That day, he wasn't expecting to get caught up in the soft glow of Lela's olive skin, her curly brown hair, and jell-o bosom. The whole game of going through the interview process was so he could enjoy the eyeful. From that day on he spent his nights lying beside his wife, dreaming of romping with Lela and sweating her curls straight.

A veteran of office negotiations, Clyde knew at the time that he couldn't go straight at her for what he wanted. No. He would soften her up with shallow praises and phony certificates he had stacked in his drawer.
Another quality Lela's coworkers noticed was that she was a voracious reader. She was well-read on nearly every popular street lit novel from "Hustla's Anthem" by Felon E. to "I Ain't Yo' Father, Boy" by Ms. D. Meaner to "I'm 'Bout to Slap You, Shawty" by Juve Nile 10den-C.

On this particular day, she was reading a relationship self-help book called "You Know Yo' Man Cheating When…," a joint effort by authors Tiara Sprinkles and Mello Mike. Their bios alone were material enough for a season's worth of drama for network television. For instance, Tiara Sprinkles (originally known as "Tia Jenkins") decided to keep her stripper name even after she was born again and co-pastor with her husband Bishop Mack McCloud of the mega church Party of Saved. Tiara's mission was to reach out to women at risk of straying from the love of the true man, which is Jesus Christ. Mello Mike was a failed emcee, whose hype men jumped him on a video shoot after they found out they were being replaced by the GEBCO dancers. He met Tiara during an altar call when she offered to pray for him after he blessed the basket with a large sum he'd retrieved from the church ATM in the lobby.

"You Know Yo' Man Cheating…" was a collection of anecdotal information based on their own experiences and those of several other church members. When publishing companies refused to pick up the manuscript, they decided to self-publish and distribute it at several church seminars.
Almost half-way through "You Know Yo' Man Cheating…," Lela—who had attended one of the seminars weeks ago—moaned in affirmation at each of the passages she read at her desk.

"Hey yall. Listen to this one: 'If a woman ask a man out, then she does not know if he's interested in her.' Here's another one: 'If your man doesn't want to have sex with you anymore, then he was never physically attracted to you.' Mmph! Mello and T bringing it, yall.'"
Right across from Lela's cubicle was Chris's workspace. He wasn't in the mood for any nonsense that day. He tried ignoring her but was pulled into the conversation when he was asked what he thought about the passages in the book.
"Are there footnotes or a page for sources that you can research on your own? Do they even have degrees." He told Lela, without looking away from his computer screen.

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Terry Ann Thaxton