The Company You Keep
Lisa was nervous. Her job application was in front of her. She had filled it out carefully. Then Mr. Groves said he had some tests for her. She had no idea what they were. She thought she could do the job. She wasn’t so sure about the tests.
The door to Mr. Groves’ office opened. The tall, unsmiling manager of the clothing store came out.
“Miss Garcia,” he said. “I’m sorry. There’s something I have to do before your test. Could you wait in the lunchroom? It won’t take long.”
Lisa nodded and went through the door Mr. Groves pointed to. Great, she thought to herself. Now I can get more nervous. She walked into the room.
This would be Lisa’s first after-school job. Lots of girls from her school worked here. She knew most of the girls in the lunchroom. She said hi to Carolina and Michelle. Then she saw Nina Mendez.
Nina was her best friend in kindergarten. She was still her best friend in sixth grade. After that, things were different. Nina found some new friends. They all smoked. They goofed off in class. Nina was really smart, but now her grades were awful. Lisa still liked her a lot. But she worried about Nina.
“Hey, Lisa,” Nina called out. “Come on over here.”
Lisa went to sit with Nina. They started talking and laughing. Nina could always make her laugh. Just then, Mr. Groves came into the lunchroom. He asked Lisa to come into his office. When they got there, he gave her the bad news.
“I’m afraid we won’t be hiring you,” he said.
“But I don’t understand. I haven’t taken the tests.”
“There was only one test,” said Mr. Groves. “And you failed it. Good-bye, Lisa.”
Lisa walked home with tears in her eyes. She could hardly believe it. She worked hard. She got good grades. She knew she could do the job. Why did Mr. Groves turn her down? That night at dinner, she hardly spoke. Finally, her mother asked what was wrong. Lisa told her the whole story. Her mother reached over and touched her arm.
“I’m so sorry, Lisa. But I know why you didn’t get the job. Mr. Groves sent you to the lunchroom to see who your friends were. When you sat down with Nina, you lost the job.”
“But that’s not fair!” Lisa cried. “You can’t judge people like that!”
“Actually,” said Lisa’s mother, “it’s usually pretty accurate. The goof-offs hang out with the goof-offs. Nina's probably just about to be fired, and Mr. Groves thinks you're like her. The hard workers hang out with each other, and you walked right past them. I’ve made the same kind of decision myself at the office.”
“But Mr. Groves is wrong!”
Lisa thought about it for two days. She got angry. Then she got determined. Finally, she went back to the clothing store. She asked to see Mr. Groves. When she went into his office, he looked up and sighed.
“What is it?” he asked.
“There’s something I want to tell you,” said Lisa calmly. Then she asked for another chance. She explained about her friendship with Nina.
“I’m not sorry Nina’s my friend,” she said. “I’m sorry she’s changed. And I’m sorry you decided I wouldn’t be a good worker. I would be. I will be, if you hire me.”
Mr. Groves looked a Lisa for a moment. He shuffled some papers on his desk. Then he said,
“All right. You’ve just told me three things by coming here like this. You want the job a lot. You’re brave. And you’re loyal to your friend. You have the job.”
“Thank you, Mr. Groves,” said Lisa.
“And you’ll be working with Nina. See if you can straighten her out before I have to fire her.”
Copyright 2002 by Helen Tracy
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