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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories

Excerpt from

The Assistant
Jen Michalski

I had her followed. It wasn’t that I was suspicious of her intentions; I mean, Audrey was always loyal and tight-lipped. I expect nothing else of my assistants. It was the others I was worried about. The Dara Robinsons of Entertainment Today TV and the editors of Daily People and the other gutter-dwelling gossip columnists, who feel every nuance of my life is available to grace their pages. I imagined them wining and dining Audrey, trying to get her to spill the exclusive scoop on me, Diana Spriggs, America’s housewife. I have given so much already, so much. I give so much of myself to you, my American Family (and incidentally the name of my home show)—I give you my decorating tips and my relationship advice and my television program and my magazine and my hip blog (written by Audrey, of course). Can I not have a little for myself?

We all have our idiosyncrasies, yes. Audrey knew that from the start. No doubt she’d been warned by my previous assistant, Tiara Brooks (who told the National Daily that I liked to smell my earwax and sometimes saved used cotton swabs to sniff them—a lie) that I was difficult. However, after the Tiara fiasco, I’d warned Audrey from the beginning: You work for me forever.

Meaning that even if she didn’t work for me anymore, she still worked for me, at least according to the terms of the signed confidentiality agreement. So I was legally within my rights, kind of, to have her followed. To ensure her confidentiality and loyalty to me. And maybe just to see how she was doing—what she was doing, as I missed her a teensy bit. You see, things weren’t always this way with Audrey. At one point, she was the best assistant I had ever had, and I’ve had quite a few. Most get turned off—well, burned out—within a few months, maybe a year. But I never want for offers. Young PR people consider becoming my personal assistant to be the stepping stone to the highest ring of media relations—albeit it’s a step that, I’ve heard described, anyway, as coming from a circle of hell.

I think these reports of my being difficult are exaggerated. As you know, I am the hardest-working woman in the business. I have to be to keep up my numerous projects that are designed to make your life Easier. Better. Smarter.? Of course my assistants will be expected to work as hard I do.

Audrey was quite understanding about moving in. After all, I need access to my assistants at any time of the day or night, and what easier way than in person? It was a generous arrangement—a private apartment within my estate that allows access to all the amenities—pool, tennis court, horses, spa, fitness room, Zen garden. In the mornings, she was instructed to read off my schedule as I had my facial and massage and wheatgrass, during which time she also transcribed my various ideas and ghostwrote my autobiography and updated a live feed to my blog. Then we’d head to the studio to tape my show, do appearances on other shows and meet with my image consultants, my media consultants, my feng shui consultant, my acupuncturist, my nutritionist, and my yoga instructor. The usual. Her day off was Sunday, although I admit I cut it back to half a day during network sweeps and to three hours during the planning of my holiday extravaganza.

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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories