Eight o’clock sharp. Luísa was already sitting in front of the desk welcoming another work day. She feared the arrival of her boss “senhor engenheiro”, especially if he was in a bad mood. She started checking the orders and collecting a group of invoices, to see if everything was in perfect order. She also had to prepare the staff salaries.
Eight years have gone by and she still had to put up with that chubby boss.
She dressed unbecomingly on purpose in order to avoid any harassment from him. She dreamt of rubbing a letter of resignation to his face. That unbearable being was the work of the devil, she was sure. She only put up with him because of the twenty thousand escudos salary.
During the calmest moments of the day, when the boss was away, Luísa dreamt of her wedding, gorgeous walking along the church by the arm of her father. The dream was always interrupted by the thought of having to get a boyfriend first.
She heard a knocking on the door.
– Good morning, senhor engenheiro. – the girl courteously said.
– Bring me a coffee into my office – he answered without even looking at her.
Luísa ran for the coffee. She knocked at the door and put the coffee on his table without a word. She left closing the door behind her.
She hadn’t even sat when she heard the shouts from the office:
– Luísa! Luísa…
– Yes, senhor engenheiro!
– Where are the payment sheets for me to sign? I won’t be in tomorrow and have to sign them today! Haven’t you prepared the dam sheets yet?
– Senhor engenheiro, it is still the first of the month and I still am waiting for the attendance register from…
– I don’t care about that! I’ll have to sign them today because I’m going to the Algarve tomorrow. Find your own way! That’s what I pay you for.
– Yes, I’ll try to arrange it…
– Don’t try! I want it done today and during the morning.
The girl ran to the construction site to find some of the foremen.
– Mr Paulo… thank God I found you! I need the attendance registers for the last month right away. I have to arrange for the salaries…
– In such a hurry? – the man asked – Have it. It’s already filled in.
– Mr Paulo I also need a favour. I am unable to speak to Mr Afonso but I also need his registers! Couldn’t you…
– I’ll go there now. Is that OK? I’ll do anything for your pretty face.
The girl ran out ashamed.
– Thank you, Mr Paulo.
She was taking care of the salaries of Mr Paulo’s team when the phone rang.
– Construções Baltazar, Lda, good morning.
– It’s Afonso.
– Good morning, Mr Afonso. Didn’t Mr Paulo talk to you?
– Yes, he did but I still haven’t filled in the register! – Luísa turned stone cold.
– Wait! Nobody skipped work last month, therefore it’s easy to calculate the salaries.
– Thank you Mr Afonso! Have a good day.
Just before noon, the girl was knocking at the boss’s office door.
May I come in, senhor engenheiro? Here are the salary sheets for you to sign.
– Leave them.
One o’clock p.m. and she was already at her desk. As time went by, she struggled against time to manage to fulfil all her tasks. She sensed the arrival of engenheiro. He was with company.
– Good afternoon. – said the company.
– Good afternoon… – answered the girl.
The two men went into the boss’s office.
– Yes, senhor engenheiro!
– Bring me the bottle of whisky and two clean glasses. – she ran for the bottle and the two glasses stored at the cupboard.
– Excuse me…
– What the hell is this? The glasses are all dirty. What have you been doing? What am I paying you for?
The company looked at her with some sorrow.
– Hey, Baltazar. Aren’t you a bit rude with the girl?
– Rude, counsellor? She is a shrinking violet, I have to put up with! She is around just to get the twenty thousand escudos I pay her. Let my daughter finish school and you will see what will be her destiny… out of the door!
– Come on, Baltazar, don’t say that…
– I do say that… who wants a shrinking violet like this? Have you looked at her appearance? She is bad for the company’s image! I can guess what she is in need for… – he let out a loud laughter. – What can she do with such a face?
Luísa was at the bathroom, rinsing the glasses. She heard every word uttered by the boss. Each grew inside her as a spear hitting her dignity.
– Son of a bitch… – she mumbled.
She gulped, took a deep breath and entered the office. The image of that pot belly with chubby face and yellow teeth came to her front and as if it wasn’t enough the troglodyte was rubbing his balls.
– Here are your glasses, senhor engenheiro. – and left closing the door behind her.
She sat and grabbed her work in order to escape from the memory of the words she had listened to. An hour and a half went by and they finally left the office. Engenheiro also brought his coat on which meant he was also leaving .
– This work must be ours, doutor! Tell them at the city hall that nobody does cheaper budgets than we do. We will manage between ourselves. You know you are always better off with me.
– Will you be back, senhor engenheiro? Luísa asked. Her answer was the door slamming on her face.
It was ten to six p.m. Luísa went to the storage to fetch the broom. As she was sweeping the office, after emptying the paper bins, she couldn’t help to notice the salary sheets hadn’t been signed. Certainly, engenheiro would be back to the office to sign them. It was already past six o’clock p.m. when she closed the office door. With the keys in her hand, she was anxious to sit behind the driving wheel of her Renault 5 and turn on the radio. She did so.
Seven o’clock a.m. Luísa was back on her car on the way to her personal hell. However, she was happier for several reasons: the following day would be a holiday, Holy Friday; her bully boss was away and it was pay day and by the end of the afternoon a group of boys, some of which real hunks, would pass by the office to receive their salaries. The music on the radio was pleasant… but was interrupted by the host.
– Bad accident on A1 towards… – she turned the radio off.
– Dam. Just during my favourite music! They have no respect for the listeners.
She opened the door and ran to the office to bring the salary sheets signed and place each one inside an envelope with the due money. She was petrified when she saw they hadn’t been signed. She calmed herself with the thought that engenheiro would certainly pass by the office to do it.
It was already around ten o’clock and still nothing. The telephone rang.
– Contruções Baltazar, Lta, good morning.
– Good morning Luísa. It’s Paulo.
– Oh Mr Paulo, thank God you called! Senhor engenheiro went to the Algarve for Easter with his wife and daughter and he didn’t sign the salary sheets for the boys…
– He didn’t sign and he isn’t going to sign. He had an accident on A1 and he died as well as his whole family!
– Oh, my God! – the girl shouted – And now what?
Now, pretty face… have a happy Easter!
Happy Easter… from the project A STATE OF MIND
Photo: Sérgio Moreira
Text: Adão Baptista