Finally, A Job!

On Monday morning, he began his search for a job. That task would not be easy, he quickly realized. A high school diploma did not qualify him for much. Combine that with his youth and inexperience, Webster realized employers would not come beating a path to his new apartment door.
A week later, Mrs. Collins asked Webster if he was planning to go to college. He gave her a brief history of his education, doubting if he could qualify and pass entrance exams. Even if he could get in, Webster thought, he couldn’t afford to go.
“Do you have a job?”
“Not yet.”
The next evening Webster heard her come home from work, then a knock at his inside door. When he answered, Mrs. Collins asked again if he’d any luck in his search.
When said he no, she told him he should report to her office at nine o’clock the next morning—clean and presentable and preferably with shirt and tie. The woman handed him a card with an impressive firm name and address. She had mentioned that she worked for a law firm located in Georgetown.
The lady had neglected to say the law firm was the largest in Georgetown, with international clients that included several countries. And there was a very impressive list of domestic clients Webster was to learn about in the coming weeks. Mrs. Collins had also not mentioned that she was office manager for the entire firm and private secretary to the senior founding partner.
Webster was to be her new personal assistant.

Georgetown, VA, and Edith Ann Collins

He remembered driving all night that first night. Without a stopping place in mind, Webster had headed north. In the early hours of morning and somewhere along the dark highway, he picked Washington DC, as his destination.

Arriving on a Sunday morning, Webster stopped at a neighborhood cafe and ordered breakfast. A friendly waitress suggested he head over to Georgetown, even giving directions. She suggested he look for signs advertising apartments for rent. They were the best, she said, even if a little pricy, and they’re there, she told him, “if you look hard enough.”

Finding Georgetown had been the easy part. As the waitress warned, driving the streets searching for signs advertising the rentals had been the challenge. Webster was out of his element. Yet, he remained positive and continued looking.


The house was large, obviously old, and reeked of money. A small sign at the street only said there was an apartment available, nothing more. Webster had been hesitant to even ring the doorbell.

Summoning courage, he mounted the curving brick steps, took a deep breath, and pushed the button. They’re just people like me, he remembered thinking that day. And it’s Sunday. Everybody has to be nice on Sunday. He had smiled then, thinking, I bet it’s a rule that you have to smile.

The door had swung open revealing a short older woman. She couldn’t have been more than five feet, but her grin was a good six footer. Webster had resisted the temptation to look look behind him for someone she knew and liked. But he knew there was no one else. The little woman was definitely smiling at him.

“Well hello, young man,” she said. “I bet you are here about the apartment.” Grabbing Webster by the arm, she pulled him inside and gave the door a hearty shove.

“Come,” she said. “I’ll show you.”

That was how it all started.

The apartment was small but very nice. The furniture looked expensive, and the space had its own outside entrance. It was ideal except for the money. Webster had set a limit he could pay and the amount included utilities.

When the woman told him the price, Webster almost choked, and she had not mentioned electricity or other costs. He thanked her and was ready for a hasty retreat to the old Ford, even taking a couple of steps.


He took another stride before turning back to face her. She was giving him the once-over, an index finger gently touching her lower lip.

After a few moments of quiet, she inquired as to whether Webster had a number in mind. He began explaining, “I don’t have much to start on …”

He stopped when she held up her hand, saying, “How much?”

He told her, feeling his face grow red as he did.

“Is that the best you can do?”

“… Yes, ma’am.”

She had looked him up and down again, then she laid out her conditions.

“I’ll rent it to you for that amount,” she told him, “with two requirements.”

Webster couldn’t imagine what those could be.

Then she smiled, pointing a finger in his direction and shaking it to emphasize her requirements. “No loud parties, and you have dinner with me once a week … you pick the night.”

Webster thought he couldn’t have heard her correctly. But he had, she assured him. She gave her reasons: she was tired of being alone in the big house,  he seemed a nice young man, and he could be her handyman—“if he didn’t mind.”

That is how he had met Mrs. Edith Ann Collins of Georgetown, Virginia.

Webster was returning from London

By Joe Shumock

October 3, 2013


On an errand for the U. S. Marshals Service, Webster was returning from London with a detainee. Thirty minutes into the flight, he had put his book down and was gazing at the view outside the window. Distant clouds reflected the sunshine giving more color than usual to an already beautiful afternoon. The flight was proceeding, smooth and steady, toward home.

Webster’s thoughts had continued to slip back to hopes for a normal life—one consisting of family, children, a reasonable career and not getting shot. Winston Churchill’s comment on the subject came to mind. Remembering the British statesman’s words, Webster smiled. Churchill had been quoted as saying, “There is nothing so exhilarating as being shot at without result.” Webster had failed to have that feeling—twice!

Intentionally, Webster attempted to turn his thoughts to other subjects. As he was about to pick up the book again, his boyhood came to mind. The uncle who had raised him touched Webster’s thoughts.

Once more, the book settled to his lap.

Uncle Sid had never understood why he would leave after graduation without looking back. To Webster, it was obvious. He had prepared for that night, having thrown the few belongings he owned into his old car prior to the ceremony. In the last several days, he had said goodbye to the few individuals who mattered.

A girl he had been friends with since grade school had volunteered to return Webster’s robe and mortarboard, leaving him free to simply drive away into the night. Looking deep into his eyes, Webster’s friend had given him a parting gift, too—his very first kiss on the lips. Then, stepping back, she had surprised him a second time. Reaching down for Webster’s hand, she placed it gently on her breast. “Remember me,” was all she said before turning and walking away. The sensation was permanently imprinted on his memory.

As he left Semmes, Alabama, that night, Webster had thought of his mother. He remembered wondering if she had felt the way he did, like she was shaking off something that no longer fit her.

As a young teenager, his mother’s brother had grudgingly taken him in after she caught a bus one night and was never seen again. The uncle had shown Webster to a sparsely furnished bedroom and given him a list of chores that would be his responsibility. Meals were eaten without conversation. Feelings such as hugs, friendly hands on shoulders, or tousled hair, were not a part of living in his uncle’s house. That being said, there was no reason for him to stay after he finished high-school.

His grades had not been so good, either, and except for one teacher, no one had seemed to care. Part time jobs, sometimes two or three at a time, had taken priority. The money he earned had allowed Webster to buy clothes he needed and finally, the old Ford automobile. There had been little time for anything else.

Then it was all over . . . except for the leaving.