|Publisher:||The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.09(d)|
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Ain't No River
By Sharon Ewell Foster
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2001 Sharon Ewell Foster
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNow or later. Banana.
The sticky, yellow candy wrapper blew northwest across Lafayette Square, caught in a gentle summer breeze. Impatient Washington, D.C., traffic stopped, started, stopped, honked, and dodged bicycle couriers-but the banana-colored paper, creased with grime and dirt, drifted and bobbed with the current. As if caught on a wave, the sheath ebbed and flowed, finally affixing itself to a curb in front of the Decatur House. While business shoes, walking shoes, and jogging shoes sprinted by, the three-inch heel of a hot pink, nonsensical pump punched through the tiny bit of paper and carried it north on Seventeenth Street to K.
Alternately shaking her foot and dragging her heel against rough, grimy, gray concrete, Garvin Daniels managed to finally shake the confection wrapper just outside of the revolving door of the executive building that housed the offices of her law firm. Leaning against the building, she removed her pumps and replaced them with a more acceptable pair. The pink ones she pushed deep into the dark at the bottom of her large shoulder bag.
Just inside the smoky, teal-colored glass doors and wall-sized windows, Garvin nodded at the round-shouldered, gray-haired guard. She boarded the elevator to the fifth floor, exited when the dooropened, turned left, and pushed through the heavy glass doors that opened into the Winkle and Straub offices. Walking past pink marble pillars, her sensible shoes clicked on the tiles that eventually led to her cubicle. Once seated, she went immediately to work on the stack of folders in front of her.
It was too early in the morning to be so irritated. Garvin had barely finished her second cup of coffee, and the morning light-having fought its way from a window office into the hallway-confirmed her feelings: It was far too early to already be ready to kill.
Garvin slammed the drawer. In the instant she heard the cream-painted metal desk drawer start to impact the metal of the desk, she was sorry. Sorry she gave them an indication of how angry they had made her. She usually kept her composure. Never let them see you sweat or anything. The vultures would pick up on any sigh, any sound, any nuance. They would be glad to know how mad they had made her. That they had gotten to her. She knew better.
When her stomach was lurching, when her heart was pounding, she always kept a calm, practiced exterior. Placid. Stoic. They were the words she reached for every morning when she swung her legs out of bed. Alone. Composed. Those were two more good words.
Garvin looked around her cubicle area, subtly trying to watch the watchers. She was on the lookout for anyone who might have heard her reaction.
So what? Just so what? Who cared anyway? After all the work she had done. After all the work she had put into this bleeping company. Forget them, man. Garvin opened the drawer and slammed it again for good measure. There, let them take a big bite out of that one.
She sat back and crossed one lean, brown leg over the other. Her skirt was contemporary, executive length: just above, just grazing the knee. Garvin took a deep breath, but silently, so the listeners couldn't hear. Couldn't listen and tell how uptight she was. As the only African American lawyer in the large firm, Garvin knew all eyes were on her. She reached her arms up and stretched-did her best cat stretch. She felt her DKNY suit flex with her in the way only an expensive tailored suit can. Let them eat that, she told herself, hoping the watchers would see. Hoping her body language would tell them just how unconcerned she was ... and how good she knew she looked. It was all about the show.
Garvin ran one of her hands through her hair. Long, sassy; every hair was in its intended place. Her fingers rubbed the roots; she could push it two more weeks before she would need a touch-up. She took one sugar brown hand and flipped her hair, the whole bouncin' and behavin' mass of it, to one side. They're all wannabes. The texture of her hair felt good. It had held up under the coloring. Brown, just like she wanted, not red-brown, just straight brown.
Yep, they're wannabes. Like the song from the Spike Lee movie, they wannabe me. Wish they could be. Wished they had the court record she had accumulated-new kid on the block that brought home the win every time. More important, she brought home the money every time. This year, her fifth year litigating first chair, her first year with Winkle and Straub, she had already brought home more than twenty times her own salary. Partnership was in her view. After all, it just made good sense-at least it made good sense to Mr. Straub. He had recruited her, had taken an active interest in her career, had mentored her. Straub had hinted to her that she had the qualities-and the firm had the desire-to get her where she wanted to be. The others may not have wanted her, but Straub was set on her.
None of Winkle and Straub's homegrown, pampered babies could boast such a record. They were too scared to take the risks it took to win big like she did.
Garvin shook the gold-plated snow globe she kept on her desk. Watched the flakes slowly drift through the water to cover the little church inside. Her mind drifted with the imitation frozen droplets, and she laughed to herself. Meemaw would have a fit if she knew this was the closest Garvin had been to a church in years. But there were enough hypocrites right here in the office to last her all week long-she didn't have to go to church looking for them.
She shook the globe again. The bubbles ... omething ... reminded her of the river.
Garvin lowered the globe and leaned forward in her seat. The water dispenser sat to the right of her cubicle; she could hear the muffled giggles of several of her colleagues. She could make out Mindy's and Tod's voices. Typical. Too insecure to face off against her, but stupid enough to gather like jackals, to laugh at what they must have hoped would be the end of her career.
She stared at the four folders that lay on the desk in front of her. For two weeks she had been carrying them back and forth between her home and the office. She had a bad feeling about them. Garvin tapped her well-manicured, bronze-painted nails on the cover of the top folder. Each of the folders was thick-too thick. Career killers wrapped in manila. She unstacked them so that she could see all the content labels at one time. "Hemings vs. Wade and Sommers Medical Services-one of four" on the first. "Two of four," "three of four," "four of four" on the other three folders. No doubt about it, career busters. She tapped her fingernails again on the thickest folder, then restacked them. For sure someone at Winkle and Straub, someone powerful, must be out to get her. Someone didn't want her playing in his or her yard, and sure didn't want her winning.
Rising from her desk, she walked past her row of cubicles out to the main hallway, past oak doors with engraved nameplates. Garvin turned her head just as she passed the door labeled "Gooden." He had a window office-golden sun, mahogany wood, thick carpet. She saw Gooden and two other individuals gathered inside-the three of them stared out into the hallway at her. Someone was out to get her; it could be one of them ... maybe all of them.
Jackals, she thought to herself, but smiled and nodded anyway as she moved past the office.
"Garvin." A voice caught up with her just before she could escape into the ladies' room.
She turned and looked at the man in front of her. Tried to keep the anger out of her eyes. Gooden looked so sincere, which only made it more difficult to keep cool.
"We broke from the meeting so quickly. I just wanted you to know, Garvin, that you can come to me if you have any difficulty with this case. Any doubts, any questions about the law. I know this isn't your specialty. But we thought ... knew you were the one to handle this."
Garvin stared at a shiny spot on his forehead, just above his brow.
"I'm here for you, Garvin. We all are." He motioned to the other two men in his office.
Yeah, right. Instead she said, "That gives me so much comfort." She could speak with forked tongue too.
"Well, I'm certainly glad that you know where I ... where we stand, Garvin."
"No doubt about it," she quipped, her hand still on the ladies' room door.
"Good. Good. And if you should decide you don't want to handle this case, for whatever reason, we would be happy to forward your concerns up the chain."
Garvin wondered if Gooden painted that smile on his face each morning after he overdid the daily bronzer.
"I'm sure that there would be no negative inferences drawn, none against you, if you decided to decline the case. However, we-" he pointed again at the other two attorneys in his office-"thought this was the perfect time in your career for you to try on something like this. Get a little pro bono work under your belt." Gooden's smile broadened.
"Right." Without looking, Garvin slid her passkey into the slot and pressed the bathroom door inward. She didn't think Gooden could look any more like the Cheshire cat than he did at this moment. But maybe she was wrong; he had fooled her before. "Thanks." She nodded her head toward the bathroom.
"Oh, don't let me stop you."
"No problem. I know that thought never occurred to you."
Inside the bathroom, an old lady wearing rubber gloves that matched the putrescent green of her polyester uniform moved in and out of doorways, pouring similarly colored green toilet bowl cleaner into the last four commodes in the line of stalls. Her green uniform, juxtaposed with the salmon-colored décor in the bathroom, could kill an appetite really quickly.
The old woman's back looked permanently stooped. Her hair looked like it had seen one too many home relaxer kits. What was left of her tresses was mostly gray and was obviously held in place by some beauty preparation that was a close relative of Dixie Peach or Royal Crown hair pomade. The dark skin on her face, and that peeking out of her uniform sleeve, was seamless, creaseless. But her back and her hair were her age giveaways.
Garvin walked past the woman without speaking, without acknowledging her, and settled into the first stall. She heard the lock of the stall door next to her release, heard the door slam, the faucet turn on and off, then the ladies' room door banged shut.
"You ain't fell in, has you?"
Garvin could hear the ring on the old woman's hand, muffled by the rubber glove, knock on her stall door.
"You let me know, now. I'll call for some help." The "I'll" sounded more like "Iya" and the "help" sounded more like "hep."
"No, Miz Maizie, I'm still above rim."
"You know, Garvin, I heard of lots of little children-" Garvin heard chirren-"falling into them old-fashioned outhouses, and you ain't too much bigger than they were." The old woman laughed to herself. "Don't eat enough to keep a little pup going. Um-um-um," She laughed one of those Sunday church sniggles again. "For sure, it don't look like you got no food at home. A man look at you, he know you can't cook. If he for serious, for sure he gone run the other way.
"On the other hand, a man look at a woman like me," the old woman cackled and Garvin imagined her patting her fleshy hip, "he know he done come up on a woman that know her way around some ribs and chicken. Yes, sir." Miz Maizie laughed again, like it was getting good to her. "You sure you ain't fell in that toilet, girl?"
"No, I just wish I had. But then again, maybe I did."
"You are one pouty child, Miss Garvin." The older woman laughed. "Yes, you are. One pouty child."
Garvin exited the stall and moved to a face bowl and began to wash her hands. "You don't know what I've been through, Miz Maizie." It felt good to slip into the language, the rhythms of her grandmother's generation. "All this plottin' and cloak and dagger stuff."
"What you mean, I don't know, child? You know if anybody know, I know. Everybody talk everything in front of me, like I'm not even there. Honey-" Garvin liked the way Miz Maizie wrapped her tongue around the word ... the sound reminded her of hot cornbread sopping butter mixed with molasses-"you know I hear it all."
"I know you do. I hoped you would be in here, Miz Maizie. You know they are trying to kill me. That case they gave me, you know they are trying to kill me. What do I know about EEO law? Nothing! What do I know about unemployment discrimination law? Nothing!"
"Um-um-um," Miz Maizie responded. "You think they're out to get you?"
"They're just trying to ruin me." The rate of Garvin's speech accelerated. She lost the easy rhythm. "They know I lose any way the case comes out. If I lose, my record is ruined. They know it. They can't compete. Which one of them can say they haven't had any losses? None of them. So they give me this, knowing that it's almost impossible to win an EEO case in this social climate. They're hoping I lose." Garvin stomped her foot, and Miz Maizie shook her head while she wiped down the countertops.
"Even if I win, I lose. Just by my association with the case, people will start to look at me like I'm some sort of militant, some sort of modern day Eldridge Cleaver in pumps and lipstick with a law degree. My career is over! And if I decline the case, I still attract attention. Negative attention from the guys upstairs. It's over. And for what?"
Garvin checked her hair in the mirror, then folded her arms across her chest and watched Miz Maizie clean. "A lazy, complaining man. A throwback that thinks the whole world owes him something because he's black. Somebody that couldn't cut it and wants to holler EEO so he can get a promotion he doesn't deserve ... at my expense!"
Miz Maizie sprayed a generic window cleaning spray on the mirrors. "Beg your pardon, sweetie, but did you ever think the whole world don't revolve around you? Maybe this man needs your help."
"Right." Garvin smirked.
"Maybe he got a good case. Maybe somebody trying to do him in."
"You read the files yet?"
"No, Miz Maizie, I haven't. And, no disrespect to you, I don't want to read it. All that stuff is over. Please! The new millennium is upon us, and they are still walking around marching and having sit-ins. You know what, Miz Maizie? I made it and I didn't have a silver spoon in my mouth. I'm black too!"
Miz Maizie smiled and kept wiping. "Do tell?"
"All that stuff is in his mind and in all those other protestors' minds. And you know what? Even if it's not, it's not my business.
Excerpted from Ain't No River by Sharon Ewell Foster Copyright © 2001 by Sharon Ewell Foster
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A friend recommended this book for me to read. I must admit that I am not an avid reader, but I couldn't put this book down. Considering it made references to alot of places in Maryland (where I live) made me feel like I was a part of the story. I was uplifted, encouraged, and enlightened from this book. I don't feel like the story lines were predictable --- that's why I just had to keep reading. There were times when I got a little lost --- but that never made me put it down. Not only should women read this, but men should read it and pay close attention to GoGo Walker's character---it may help them see relationships alot differently. This book is truly OUTSTANDING in that it incorporated so much --- spiritually (transformation of lives and renewed faith in God) and naturally (an unexpected romance). For all you hopeless romantics (like me), wait until you see how she used Song of Solomon!!! I recommend it to everyone.
I read 'Ain't No River' My kind of book!!!! Sharon keep on using your God given talent. God bless you
I thought the story was Great! It was funny and I truly enjoyed Garvins character. It just goes to show you how someone can think they are so together, yet, they are totally a wreck. I think we all have a little of Garvin in us. Especially when we get on a mission to fix something that's not broken and we end up looking like an idiot. All of the characters were fun characters and Meemaw was great at giving Garvin what she needed. I think this book would make a great movie! I totally enjoyed this book. I laughed at some parts and cried at others. Sharon Ewell Foster has a lot of talent. I can't wait to read her next book!
I do agree with the critic who said that some parts of the book seemed predictable. But I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I consider it to be a blessing since the words not only entertain, but they inspire the reader by telling stories of faith in God and His transformative power. I highly recommend this book.
Garvina Daniels was a D.C. attorney. After winning a big (and rich) case for her firm, Winkle and Straub, Garvin was forced into a ninety day administrative leave. No one would tell her anything except there had been allegations of Garvin being biased from the very client she had just won a huge case for! During her leave with pay, she was to prepare to litigate another case upon her return. She was expected to take all the files on the case and all the supplies she needed hoe with her. In fact, if she needed anything else from the office, she was to contact Jonee (one of her close friends) at the firm.
Garvin also was trying to help a young lady, Monique, get herself together for a decent future job. Sort of like a mentor. But Monique was a troubled soul that was in dire need of understanding. She no longer believed in anyone or anything. Neither knew that Monique had a few things to teach Garvin about herself!
Then there was Go-Go Walker. The man was a mystery to Garvina. Thinking he was after her Meemaw, Garvin kept her eye on him. Instead of proving him guilty of anything, she found herself falling in love, and giving Meemaw some new gray hairs!
***** Sharon Ewell Foster has a new fan in me! This one showed the blinders being pulled off of a woman who thought she was realistic! This is an author to watch closely in the future! Recommended reading! *****