- Painted Faces
It was a tick before ten when I showed up to work. This morning rain and fog poured a cloudy river into the streets, and my windshield wipers needed inspection. A drive that should’ve taken five minutes took fifteen, and I drove the whole way with my face pressed to the glass, squinting at the road, watching a thousand other drivers dash through with faces hollowed out in their windows. The whole world was like a dirty chalkboard, faces smudged by mist, and I had trouble telling them apart.
My boss, Mrs. Lasseter, sat in her Chevy Tahoe with the engine running. Her lights were on and stripped fuzzy gold over the road ahead of my turn. She was tucked into her seat like a child, her head barely mounted above her window. She looked like an orphan hiding from strangers, but when I stepped out of my car and sloshed toward hers she relaxed, slid her window down, and waved to me.
Mrs. Lasseter is over fifty, and she’s been running the downtown chapter of Hearts and Hands Homeless Shelter since I was a child. She married Calvin Lasseter, the son of an old Houston oil baron at twenty-one, and, thanks to his wife, Calvin has one of the most charitable fortunes in Dallas. The family is a favorite feature for the Dallas Morning News’ “Texas Living” spreads. Every year, the paper runs a full-page “Who’s Who” article on the banquet along with a panoramic photograph of the Highland Park elite, the semi-suburban nesting ground for rich families in Dallas. Tickets are sold at five-star prices, and sales are donated to Hearts and Hands. Hearts and Hands became Mrs. Lasseter’s pet project soon after she was married. As Chairperson, Mrs. Lasseter organizes donation drives and fundraises the bulk of what the clients get coming in. Her networking has yielded six-digit checks, better facilities, and increased capacity for the shelter. When I got the job a couple of years ago as Special Events Coordinator, my mother went on and on about Mrs. Lasseter and said, “Kevin, you’re so lucky to be working with a woman as bright and caring as Mrs. Lasseter, and I think it speaks very highly of you to be hired.”
Mrs. Lasseter was curved forward in her seat as the December drizzle irrigated her window. Her thumb was fished through the middle of a book, and her reading glasses were propped against her forehead.
“Mrs. Lasseter, how are you?”
“Oh, fine, just fine. I’m usually not here this early.”
“Well, I’m usually here at 9:30, but, with the weather the way it is, it took a little longer to get here.” I pleaded.
“Oh yes, of course. It’s been just awful this morning, hasn’t it?”
“Yes ma’am. Don’t you want to come inside?”
“No, actually, I was waiting for you, because I need you to ride with me somewhere. Go ahead and get in.”
I shut the door and hooked my seatbelt. Glancing over, I saw that she was dressed for business. Diamond studs hung on her ears, unlike the long chandeliers she let fall almost to her neck for parties. She was sprayed with perfume, her hair [End Page 209] was sculpted into a bouffant, she had blush in her cheeks, and the arches over her eyes were streaked with blue. Most days she wouldn’t have on jewelry, and she wouldn’t come in until noon, wearing jeans and a sweater, and sometimes a ball cap.
“So, where are we going?”
“We’re going to meet with Mr. Duke, Mr. Dennis, and Mr. Purcy at the Anatole.” She explained as she pulled the car in reverse. “These three gentlemen are considering a contribution, and I wanted to take you along, because they have some questions about the new program.”
“Oh, OK. You want to give me the details before we get there?”
“Sure. It won’t be that difficult for you. These fellas are a lot like Mr. Dawson, who gave last year. I can’t remember—what was his donation...