I was standing in line at the Walmart in New Albany, Mississippi. I was there getting a rotissarie chicken for dinner. I really love those things. Anyway the woman in front of me was rocking back and forth on her feet. She was petite and wearing some European sneakers not found in this part of the world. Her hair, at least the hair that emerged from under her baseball hat, was very nicely cut and had highlights in it that I was just staring at as we waited in a rather long line. Suddenly she turned and faced me. I averted my eyes startled by her sudden motion.
“J. it is so good to see you.” She hugged my neck and kissed my check.
Good God, Jennifer Anniston in New Albany, Mississippi. “Jennifer what are you doing here?” I pushed her back a bit because Los Angeles friendly does not fly in New Albany.
I have been a successful business person and entrepreneur for over 20 years. On occasion, I like to write fictional stories that illustrate business points. In this article I intend to discuss integrity and maintaining an ethics code.
“I am staying at the Days Inn on highway 78 and I just wanted to get a rotisserie chicken for dinner,” she said holding up the garlic roasted rotissarie chicken just like I had.
“Me too,” I said excited by our common love of chicken. “You got here at the right time. They bring out the second batch of the day a few minutes after one o’clock and the mornings chicken’s are..”
“Half-price,” she completed my sentence and pointed at the price sticker on her chicken. She swallowed, and for a moment I could see her unease at seeing me again. I used to have some business dealings with Brad Pitt before they were married and we all used to hang out together. I always felt that she settled for Brad.
“Really, what are you doing here in New Albany?” I said trying to change her focus.
“Well, If you can keep a secret,” she said looking at the people around us to ensure that her celebrity had not been discovered yet. Our line had not moved as the checkout girl was getting a price checked. Not many people in New Albany live rushed lives, so rather than move to the next register that had less people and was moving faster, we just stayed where we were. Jen seemed to be just following custom.
“Of course, Jen. You don’t even have to say anything. I always am discreet,” I said.
Several customers walked in and by chance I knew them all. People in New Albany are particularly friendly, so I chatted with them for a few minutes and got the latest news on their parents, kids, and general lives while Jen flipped through the latest celebrity rag. I noticed that she selected a People magazine with Angelina Jolie on the cover, but I was too engaged with the folk I was talking with to comment.
After the last acquaintance wandered off I got back to our conversation, “So you were saying…”
“Yeah, why I’m here. I have been doing some writing and they have a writing contest here,” she said.
“The William Faulkner Literary Contest,” I said matter-of-factly. I didn’t want to tell her I was a judge. “I hear it is a national contest and they have quite a number of applicants from around the country.”
“I have submitted a piece to the short story contest and I wanted to come and see how I did,” she said blushing a bit. They are going to read the winners at the festival here this weekend.
I was dying to tell her that I would be judging, but I worried that she would tell me what she had written in the hopes that I would vote favorably for her piece. I was not about to let that happen.
She made those pouty lips like she does and fixed the hair under her hat a bit to get it out of her eyes. She seemed to be tearing up. I sensed that she wanted to say more to me.
“You’re up,” I said with a motion of my head indicating that she could now check out.
She held my gaze a moment longer before turning to buy her discounted rotissarie chicken. She paid the lady and took her bag. Then she turned back to me, “J.?” she let it hang out in space for several seconds. “You don’t know any of the judges do you?”
Her voice nearly made me melt, but I just tighted my jaw a bit, “Nope. Sorry.”
“Ah, well,” she said. “Maybe I will see you at the festival.”
“That would be nice,” I said. I smiled politely.
She put a hand on my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek again.
“Jen, people in these parts talk, and my wife is going to know about that kiss before I get home.” I shook my head in feigned disappointment.
“I am sorry. Say hi to Eydie for me. I hope she comes to the festival with you.”
“She will,” I said and got my money out to pay the cashier.
Jen walked out of the store unnoticed.
“I really love that chicken,” I said to the cashier.
“Me, too,” she answered. “And you got if for half price.”
I know you’re wondering, so I will tell you. Jennifer did not even place in the contest. I am not saying she is a bad writer, we just had some real talented submissions this year. I am not even sure which piece was hers. The point is do not lower your integrity and ethical code for a friend, actress, or anyone. You will never regret it. I am sure you would have done the same thing. Trust me.
Thanks for reading,