“Do you have the arrangement compiled the way I asked?” She asked the male receptionist who had left the counter to meet her in the inner office.

“Yes, ma.” He handed the file over.

“Akpan, are they seated as they came, their names and arrival time documented?”

“Yes, ma.” Akpan affirmed. “With the aid of Abbey, the security officer, they are seated from the left hand side in the reception hall. You can have a look if you wish.’

“Yes, please.” She looked through the glass which gave a clear view of the reception.

She opened the file, scanned through and then looked through the screen.

Akpan studied her. “Do you need a seat?”

“I don’t mind, thank you.” He had been in the waters of SIC before her but yet, here he was respecting her.

He brought a high stool close and she sat before directing her gaze back to the applicants. She began to write on the papers taking note with a pencil. That she did for about ten minutes before walking out to the reception.

“Good morning, everyone.” Her smile was charming as twenty pair of eyes directed their attention to her. “I’m sorry we didn’t keep to the scheduled time, it was intentional because the ten minutes out of the thirty minutes delay was used for screening.

They all became alert and those who had familiarized themselves exchanged glances.

“I know you’re all eager to know what the screening is all about but when I give the results, I don’t want to call names, take number from my left hand side.”

In a less than a minute, they were done with taking numbers.

“This screening I consider important because in a way it proves one’s level of commitment to work. The time of resumption of most companies is 8am, SIC inclusive, and you were all notified of the time of the interview. Definitely, distance barrier is cancelled for it was not impromptu, if you definitely had this job in mind, you would have prepared to be here in time.” Her gaze swept through faces.

Some avoided her gaze out of guilt.

“I’m emphasizing to make you feel bad enough to prevent making this kind of mistake again and increasing your employment chances next time.”

She looked into the file she was holding. “If you are arrived here from ten minutes before nine, you’re late. Having said that, number 17 to 20 are screened out. I wish you favour next time.” She waited till they left.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the next screening will be on general comportment which includes decency in dressing, eating habit. Some of you did not stop chewing until I walked in. Based on that…,” She looked back to her file. “Numbers 13, 9, 5, 12, 11, 7 and fourteen are screened out. I believe you know which category you fall in but don’t hesitate to object and I will explain why.”

She waited as they left; some had dared to give her quelling look before they were ushered out by Abbey.

Katherine beamed at the rest of them. “I am left with number one, two, three, four, six and eight and we shall proceed for our interview. You can follow Mr Abiodun to the conference room.

The assistant to Akpan, handed her some questionnaires and made to follow her.

“Don’t worry Agnes, I’ve got it.” She told her with a smile.

 *-*

“Good morning and we’re all welcome to a meeting that is impromptu yet well honoured.” Katherine beamed.

They were all seated in the largest conference room with 95% of the employees present. All departments had more than one representative.

“We all gathered to discuss a matter that poses a threat to us all, that’s if we permit.” She stood. “I need to say this so we know the importance of the matter, if my person is going to prevent you from paying attention, please disregard me and listen.”

She had noticed the look of envy on the expression of most ladies. They had kept tabs on her in a bid to know why so she was so favoured, so when she stood, their eyes took in her dressing.

“The boss discovered a deepening valley replacing the ever increasing hill we used to have. The general input of this company is dwindling because we’ve decided not to give SIC our best anymore.” She ambled and stood behind her seat. “Decisions like that don’t just come like that, issues are taken into consideration whether consciously or unconscious. Such decisions are usually influenced.” She paused purposefully for what she said to sink in.

“What are some of the influences?’ She opened a palm. “We all know the power that lies in the tongue, it’s well emphasized in the holy book, I can’t speak for other religious books.”

They all listened and their eyes followed her gestures.

“The tongue can mar or make a person; it is also a sword that can slash a person void of touch. It is the smallest member of the body yet outshines the rest. The negative ways to use one tongue includes tale bearing, back biting, gossiping and so on. I’ll talk about them jointly because they are kind of similar. Give a man pen, paper and present before him a scene, a blurred one. If he observes what looks the pen of someone he has a grudge against. He might not bother to a take a closer look anymore as his imagination take charge as he begin to write things he is unsure of.

Tale bearing is time consuming and brain tasking. Soon the gossip will be packaged and presented in a colourful form and it spreads from mouth to ear.”

Most of them smiled.

“Before long, a mouth wouldn’t realise it is the telling the subject of the gossip about the gossip, then, a cycle is accomplished. Such cycle breeds animosity, grudge, malice and the need to retaliate. I can’t imagine anyone with such mind set giving his or her best at work because most of the time, he is looking for an occasion to retaliate or a tale to spread. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so the tongue is among our members, that it defileth our whole body and setteth on fire the course of nature and it is set on fire of hell. It is against nature that people should bare false witness for it creates fire where such exist and we should also remember that where there was an outbreak of fire, the ground is not spared.  The boss will always say that a team that works together wins together but a loner never achieves much.”

With eyes on his tablet, he nodded.

“Having that in mind, the next thing I want to talk about is selfishness, the I, I, I attitude. You have attained a position due to hard work and resilience in spite of being trodden by superiors and now you’re one, you seat, put your legs up on the desk and crossed them. You activate hibernating mode. The- I don’t care attitude.” She lifted both hands to demonstrate quotation marks. “It might not matter now but it will when we are out in the ocean looking for a place cosy enough to keep afloat. If SIC goes down, we all go with it whether we like it or not. It is our source of daily bread and we give it our best. No matter your qualification looking for a new job is not easy and when one gets one, the post and respect might not be same.”

Most nodded thoughtfully.

“For our sakes, let’s join hands and work together. In many years to come, God sparing our lives, we should be able to proudly say we contributed to the growth and development SIC. Let’s forgive and forget, we’re all brothers and sisters. Let help each other.” She beamed. “Shall we all rise and join hands?”

They obeyed and she joined hands with Kelvin and the executive director, Olaide Maechi.

“Can we chorus revolution?”

“Revolution!” They chorused.

“Hmmm.” She was thoughtful. “That doesn’t sound like it was from people who’ve decided to give SIC their best.

“Revolution!” They chorused and it was resounding.

She urged them to repeat it for the final time which they did and resounding round of applause followed.

“Thank you very much.” She made to hand over to Kelvin who asked her go ahead and round off.

They cheered when she and Kelvin left afterwards. Obviously, she had worked her way into their respective heart or so she felt.

 

*-*

Katherine sat and buried her face in her palms.

He walked to the fridge, took in the packs of pineapple and coconut juice. It was obvious she love pineapple and coconut. He picked a bottle of water and closed the fridge. He unsealed it. “Kathy, you should drink water. Here”

“Thank you.” She received it and gulped one quarter.

He pulled a chair and sat. “You’ve the gift of the garb.”

“Thanks.” She took another sip of water. “I’m impressed with the way you handled everything, it was magical. Do you know what I consider a proper appreciation?”

“Tell me.”

“Taking you out for a late lunch.” He glanced at his wristwatch.

She raised her brows alarmed, but managed to keep her voice calm. “I did my job, sir.”

He knew and saw it, that look of panic and he wasn’t going to let get her away with it, not this day. “I know what you did, Kathy, if you’re not comfortable with me taking you out, we can make do with the company’s cafeteria.”

 “No, Kelvin.” She shook her head too quickly.

“I’m not asking for your permission but come to think of it…” He grinned. “You’ve not had lunch since I’ve know you. Is it like prohibited where you come from? I do love stories that go way back.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” She shot him a warning gaze but the dreamy look on his face and teasing smile that etched his lips made her roll her eyes.

“I’ll do lunch.”

“Thank you, Miss Sylvester, see you by 4.” He stood and winked at her before he head out.

Her eyes followed him out and she observed he was practically bouncing away. She burst into bouts of laughter when the door closed.

*** ~~~ ***

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