So Ned and I assigned El Brujo a desk--by which I mean she told us, "I'll take this one," jumped up onto the desk our old El Brujo had used, and started shredding the blotter pad--and we put her paperwork into the personnel file--by which I mean Ned carefully sprinkled the remnants of her blank application in after she'd refused to answer our questions.
I watched as she made a little nest of the blotter pad pieces and settled herself into it. "Comfy?" I asked.
"Maybe someday," she answered, her eyes half closed. "First I've gotta re-string these half-baked wards. Looks like your last brujo was a real romantic."
Ned clattered up and put my stapler back, his nose once again fastened to his canvas face. "I suppose he was," he said. "But he always did a good job with the--"
"Yeah, yeah." El Brujo's tail shuffled the strips of paper. "Flamboyant, though, these wards say, not a subtle bone in his body. Not the sorta thing I can work with." She puffed out a breath. "I'm gonna hafta take the whole thing down and start over, looks like."
"What?" Ned blinked at her. "But that'll make the office visible."
"For a minute, sure." She cocked her head. "That a problem for you?"
Ned just blinked some more. I looked from the cat to the scarecrow and back again, then said, "Well, we might want to tell Mr. Hyniof. Just so it won't take him by surprise."
El Brujo's ears went back. "And who's this Hyniof that he might take offense?"
"Our boss." I got up, squeezed between Ned's desk and the typing desk, and rapped on the door to the inner office.
Ned was instantly at my side. "What are you doing?! You can't just knock on Mr. Hyniof's door!"
I blinked. "But how else am I supposed to tell him--"
"You don't tell him anything!" I had never seen Ned like this before, the slit of his mouth stretched, his cork eyes wheeling, his fingers snagging my sleeve. "The less we have to deal with him, the better I like it!"
I stared at Ned, but the inner office door opened before I could say anything, Mr. Hyniof glaring out at me, his teeth working the white Mars Plastic eraser in the corner of his mouth. "Mr. Hyniof," I said, trying my best to ignore Ned's twiggy hands digging into my arm, "the new El Brujo says she needs to take the wards down for a minute."
Mr. Hyniof kept glaring, then he spoke one of the dozen or so words he said to me during the time I worked for him. "She?" he asked.
"Yes, sir." I stepped aside, Ned dragging after me, and gestured back to where El Brujo sat in her nest on her desk. "She was definitely the best candidate we had, and--"
"She?" Mr. Hyniof asked again, more of a burble in his voice. He stumped past me and squeezed down the aisle between the desks, his gelatinous flab squelching against the desk tops. He stopped at El Brujo's desk, the eraser jiggling in his lips. "You. You are she?"
El Brujo had her eyes closed, her paws tucked under, her ears turned back. A moment of silence, then Mr. Hyniof snapped his fingers. "You speak to me if you work for me!"
Only her whiskers moved, and Mr. Hyniof's face began going from its usual sickly white to a glowing crimson. "Not proper practice, this! Strictly not proper!"
Again, nothing but a few twitches from El Brujo, and Mr. Hyniof swallowed down the last button of his eraser. "Evil necessity of feline brujos vexes me always!" he shouted, slamming a fist onto the desk top with the wet sploosh of sour cream against a kitchen counter. "No work will you do for me! No work unless proper--"
"Too late," El Brujo said, her voice not really loud, but it cut right through Mr. Hyniof's bluster.
"What?!" Waves were jiggling up and down Mr. Hyniof's skin. "What late?! What too?!"
El Brujo heaved a huge yawn, her tongue curling up, then she gave a front paw a lick. "I've already re-set your wards, Hynny," she said. "Could've done it twice as fast if you hadn'ta been yelling at me." She turned her head and looked at him for the first time. "Now, how 'bout you leave me the hell alone and lemme get back to work?"
Mr. Hyniof just stared at her for a moment, his mouth open, then he raised a quivering finger. "Then work you will," he said, his voice bubbling like boiling water. "Regular hours, feline, here at this desk. Time served contract El Brujo position is, and I speak the time you serve."
Her ears folded down. "What are you saying?" she asked, her voice sharp and smooth as a knife blade.
"Work you've done means contract you've signed!" Mr. Hyniof jerked a thumb at his own chest. "You want credit for time served, you do what I say!"
The look she gave him, I was sure she was about to leap up and start slashing at that puffy red face. But she didn't, and Mr. Hyniof straightened up, the red draining away. "How nice is understanding," he said then, pulling another Mars Plastic eraser from his jacket and jamming it between his teeth. He sloshed between the desks again, passed Ned and me, and went back into his office, the door clicking shut.
I blinked at Ned. "What was that all about?"
Ned was staring at the inner office door and didn't answer, so I turned to El Brujo. Mad as a wet hen, I've heard people say, but El Brujo, well, she looked mad as a wet cat. "What?" I asked. "What just happened?"
"That bastard," she muttered, her eyes half-closed. "He thinks he can withhold my pay if I don't follow his rules, I'll show him how--"
"Your pay?" I moved back between the desks and took my seat. "I don't remember the job description saying it paid anything."
Her tail flicked. "All cat jobs pay the same: the time I serve here is put to my account as time I get to spend later contemplating enlightenment."
That made me blink. "Enlightenment?"
She didn't seem to hear me, her tail positively lashing now. "Damn him!" She swiped at a shred of paper, skewering it neatly on one claw. "Well, he wants to play with fire, he might just get his gelatinoid butt burned...."
I didn't like the sound of that. I'd just hired this cat, after all, and I guessed I'd bear some responsibility if she did anything awful to Mr. Hyniof. "Uhh, look, El Brujo," I started, but the lower drawer of her desk shot open, stopping me.
She stood and stretched. "Oh, don't worry," she said. "I won't do anything. Not for a while, at least." She jumped down into the drawer then, crawling in and disappearing from sight, the drawer slowly pulling shut after her.
I didn't know what to say, so I didn't say anything; I just looked over at Ned, slowly taking his seat. "What do you suppose she meant by that?" I asked him.
He shook his head. "I wasn't listening. I'm still shocked Mr. Hyniof didn't fire us all." He gave me a very serious look, not an easy thing for a scarecrow to do. "Promise me you won't bother him like that again."
"Bother him?" I spread my hands. "How is it bothering him to tell him about the office suddenly becoming visible? And he would've had to meet El Brujo someday."
"Not if you'd done it right." Ned leaned back in his chair. "Mr. Hyniof, he's a 'big- picture' kinda guy, not the sort we want getting bogged down in little details. The big things, like finally getting our computer system, that's what he should concern himself with. The day-to-day business, you and I can handle that. That's what we're here for."
I blinked. "I thought I was here to do this radio program."
"Once you get your license, sure. But till then..." He laid a finger beside his cardboard nose. "You and I work everything out, and Mr. Hyniof doesn't have to get upset."
I could see that keeping Mr. Hyniof from getting upset was of major importance to Ned, so I nodded. He nodded back, took a folder from the 'in' box on his desk, and opened it. I turned back to my own work, and not for the first time in the five weeks or so I'd worked for 'Hey, Your Nose is on Fire' Industries, I was pretty sure I didn't understand what was going on.
The next week, though, February 17, 1984, my FCC license arrived in the mail, and I was ready to start my first stint on-the-air at KUCI.
But we'll get into that next time.
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