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"Ms. Marshall, take a letter. No, on second thought, go write a book."

So there I was a few days back, minding my own business and everyone else's on FaceBook, when in comes a friend request from one Bev Marshall. Wait a minute. Friend? I once had an EMPLOYEE named Bev Marshall. I can't fraternize with the staff. Then I remembered. I don't have a staff, or even a business. I wrote her paycheck 35 years ago (except on the Fridays when we were short of cash and she wrote a check to herself). THAT Bev Marshall? Yes, the same, and as you can see from the photo she is one pretty lady in addition to being a wonderful writer, because Bev now writes novels, like I do ( I can attest that her books are special because I just finished Walking Through Shadows, a terrific read that I recommend to anyone who prizes great fiction. I liked it so much I ordered Hot Fudge Sundae Blues. Back in the late 1970s, before some you were born, the Newport News, Virginia law firm of Warley & Mulkey, P.C., needed help, and Bev came to the rescue. She did everything we asked of her, always with a smile, and never complained when we made unreasonable demands on her time. She typed on an IBM correcting selectric, with those nifty little interchangable balls, which at the time seemed cutting edge but today seems like writing in charcoal on birchbark. She kept the books, copied, mailed, charmed our clients (both of them), tolerated my erratic hours, corrected Michael's spelling, made coffee, and sold programs at halftime. The day came, as the day always does, when she gave her notice. Michael and I cried for a couple of hours, then pulled ourselves together, largely due to an impassioned speech I made about us being men and lawyers and mature adults and how, by God, this setback wasn't going to sink our law firm. Michael listened patiently to all that nonsense, as he always did, then pulled from his bottom drawer a fifth of scotch, at which point we drank heavily and put our houses up for sale. Bev is the writer-in-residence at Southeastern Louisiana University, and some students there may not know how lucky they are to have her. We've exchanged some great emails and will no doubt find a way for a grand reunion in the near future. I think back to those days in Rouse Tower at 6060 Jefferson Avenue in Newport News. Bev is typing a letter, I'm gazing out the window, and both of us are, in a sense, marking time until we begin doing what we both feel is our calling: writing books. And meanwhile, Michael is meeting with a client. Someone had to do it. Bev and Michael leave for the day, so I'm there alone with my thoughts. But that's okay. It's lonely at the top. And besides, I know where Michael keeps the scotch.

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