The Battle

The battle began when someone told someone to tell Maggie about a class description that needed to be posted. The whole chain of command issue—why wasn’t the head “someone” coming right to her?—should have tipped Maggie off. But it didn’t. And after she’d crossed her t’s and dotted her i’s, made sure that the description looked and sounded exactly as it should (with an approval from her office mates) and posted it online, the call came in from the receptionist.

“Maggie, I have Sr. Barbara on the line for you.”

“Did she say what she wants?” Maggie asked.

“No,” the receptionist replied. “But I’ll patch it back to you.”

Maggie had never spoken to Sr. Barbara, before. She knew who she was of course. As head “someone,” Sr. Barbara’s name was plastered all over paperwork in the office and the website. And Maggie probably should have spoken to her by now, seeing as she’d been working there for two months. But when Maggie came on, no one bothered with any introductions, and Sr. Barbara hadn’t—to the best of Maggie’s knowledge—been in the office at the same time as Maggie.

The phone on Maggie’s desk trilled. “Good morning. This is Maggie.”

“Sr. Barbara. Why is that job description up on the website? Who told you that you could put it up?”

The events of the day before ran through Maggie’s mind. “I was told that the organization was ready to post about the training class and that the description needed to be put up as soon as possible.”

“And who told you that?” Sr. Barbara’s words dripped with anger.

“Well, Rachel came to me and told me that Sr. Ruth had come to her asking for help,” Maggie said. Rachel and Sr. Ruth were each a “someone,” but not the head “someone.”


Time stopped for Maggie. Never had she ever been yelled at over the phone by someone from a place of employment. And a nun at that. Would wonders never cease? Maggie took a deep breath before answering Sr. Barbara.

“No, you did not,” Maggie said. “But when I saw Sr. Ruth yesterday, she told me it was very important to get the information on the website—”


Maggie begged to differ: as communications manager, it was her exact job to post issues that needed to be communicated on the website. And again, Sr. Ruth—the founder of the organization—had given her the go ahead. However, she didn’t say as much to Sr. Barbara. Instead, Maggie’s hands shook as she held the phone receiver. Her heart pumped an increased rhythm against her chest, and she glanced around the office. Her colleagues were staring at her with wide eyes. They must be able to hear this lunatic. Maggie moved the receiver away from her ear by a couple inches.

“Sr. Barbara, I’m sorry. But I was under the impression that this information needed to be posted immediately. I was helping Rachel with the task and—”

“Here’s what we’re going to do.” Sr Barbara’s voice lowered. “Send me the file and I’ll look at it. One thing is for sure: I need you to change the name of the city. We never specifically give the city name because it looks bad. All people need to know is that we’re in this greater metropolitan area. But the city name? It makes people think of high crime and poverty. I’ll look at the file and I’ll let you know what I want on it. Okay?”

Let’s not tell them exactly where we are? How’s that for transparency. “That’s fine,” Maggie said.

“I’ll be in touch.” The connection broke.

Maggie hung up the phone and pushed away from her desk. She placed her hands against her cheeks, which were warm to the touch. Her colleague, Laura, stood between their two desks, eyebrows raised.

“You okay?” Laura asked. “That was so out of line.”

“I’m fine,” Maggie replied. “But yes it was. Let me send her this file before she yells at me again.”

Maggie quickly found the file in question, made the requested revision of city name, and attached it to an email. In that email, she summarized what had been changed from the version she’d first received from Rachel. After Maggie sent the email, she sat back against her chair, still processing what had just happened. Had Sr. Barbara really yelled at her?

“Maggie, here’s the deal. That was completely uncalled for,” Laura said. “She should have never yelled at you. What was it about?”

“The training class posting. The one that Sr. Ruth and Rachel asked me to help with. Based on what Sr. Ruth said yesterday, I thought it was top priority. And Sr. Ruth founded this place. I really thought the founder would know.”

“Makes sense. But second thing—do not apologize to her. Ever. What she did was wrong, and I think–”

“Maggie,” the receptionist interrupted their chat. “Sr. Barbara’s on the line for you!”

“She is?”

“Yes. You okay to take it?” The receptionist would have held Sr. Barbara off if Maggie wanted her to do that, but why push off the inevitable?

“Yeah, I got it.”

“But no apologies,” Laura reminded her.

“No apologies.”

Maggie picked up the phone. “Maggie speaking.”

“The file looks fine. I just want another small change. I’ll email it to you. And then, wait to hear from me about when to post it. Here’s the thing you need to know. I report to the board. NOT TO YOU. And that board trusts me to do the right thing. Do you think you can just put whatever you want up?”

Maggie’s blood boiled, but she would not apologize. “No, Sr. Barbara. I do not think that. But I do think that issues that are a matter of communication would be communicated to me, the communications manager. It would have made sense for you to come directly to me, so that I could make sure what you wanted got posted in the right way.”

“Well, I didn’t want to involve office staff in this venture. YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ANYTHING THAT WE’RE DOING!”

The yelling. Maggie rolled her eyes but said nothing. A posting for within their organization certainly did involve the staff. Why would they not have the right to know about any of the details? What kind of shitty organization was this? Sr. Barbara was laying it out today: it was the kind Maggie didn’t want to be a part of.

“Well, Sr. Barbara. That’s fine. I’ll make the changes and send you the updated file. And, I’ll wait to her from you. Is there anything else you might need from me?”

“No. Just don’t think that this is something that involves you, because it doesn’t.” Sr. Barbara sounded like a petulant child or at the very least, someone who always got what she wanted. What an ass. Maggie had one more chance to stand up for herself. She had to take it.

“But here’s the thing, Sister,” Maggie said. “When Sr. Ruth and Rachel came to me for help, they involved me. That’s why it would make more sense for you to come to me directly in the future.”

Sister Barbara had nothing of note to say, and after the call ended and Maggie’s heightened state had relaxed, she took care of a few more details before packing up her things for the day.

“You coming back tomorrow?” Laura asked as Maggie opened the office door.

“I’ll think about it,” Maggie said.


And Maggie did think about it. She thought about it when she was cooking, bowling, painting, and helping her children with their homework. One day, during one of her volunteer shifts at the library, the thought hit her square in the face: she was both too old and too young to be treated in that manner. Too old to deal with Sister Barbara’s shit, and too young to stay with an organization that allowed someone to treat people that way. Two months after “the yelling,” Maggie put in her notice.

“I’m a little surprised,” said the executive director, when Maggie spoke to her about her plans.

“Yeah, well, I had high hopes, but that day stuck with me. I just couldn’t get past how she treated me. It took me a while to process, and I’m sorry I have to go, but that’s the way it is.”

“I understand. But since I’m leaving, too, would you consider staying on through the summer, working in a remote capacity?” The executive director would be retiring in a month. Of course, she’d like to keep Maggie on to help ease the transition.

“That’s fine,” Maggie said. “As long as I’m working from home.”


The summer moved quickly, and soon, Maggie’s last two weeks of work were approaching. She’d seen too many more instances of lack of transparency and organization, and she was happy to be moving on. When she heard that someone—Riley who had once worked for the organization—had been hired to take her place, she knew it was time to go, even though she officially had one more week to go.

Maggie emailed the new executive director, Charlotte, and informed her of her plans to cut out a week early. Charlotte agreed to Maggie’s new terms, provided Maggie schedule a chat with her replacement.

“But there is one thing,” Charlotte said. “Do you know who might be taking over the 2019 Fall Festival? I was led to believe that you’d be continuing with it. The board gave me that impression, or maybe Sr. Barbara.”

Maggie couldn’t stop her fists from clenching at her sides. Was Sr. Barbara losing her mind, or just being hopeful? And why would the board even think she’d be staying on–as a volunteer–when no one had asked?

“Well, I never agreed to that, so let me email Sr. Barbara, and I’ll let you know what I find out.”

“Do you mind?” Charlotte asked.

“Not at all. You have a lot on your plate right now,” Maggie replied.


Once Maggie got home, she sat down at her desk and composed an email to Sr. Barbara.

From: Maggie Chapman <>
To: Barbara Baker <
Date: July 25, 2019
Subject: Fall Festival

Hi, Sister Barbara.

Today is my last day here. Charlotte and I spoke earlier this morning, and I updated her on the status of the projects I had been working on.
Charlotte had the impression that I would continue to work with the Fall Festival committee throughout the fall, but that is not (and hasn’t been) my intention. Therefore, she and I agreed that I would contact you to make sure that someone (Riley perhaps?) will be helping the committee with any tasks associated with the Fall Festival.
All the best,

A reply from Sr. Barbara entered Maggie’s inbox within minutes.

From: Barbara Baker <>
To: Maggie Chapman <>
Date: July 25, 2019
Subject: Fall Festival

The most recent word you sent me was that you would be there until the end of July?

Maggie sighed. Sr. Barbara hadn’t answered Maggie’s question about who would take over. Even though Maggie assumed it would be Riley, as she was in a good position to do so, Maggie wanted to be able to give Charlotte an answer. Could Sr. Barbara not answer the question Maggie asked?

From: Maggie Chapman <>
To: Barbara Baker <
Date: July 25, 2019
Subject: Fall Festival

Yes, but circumstances have changed, and Riley will be there on Monday. I will place a call to her on Monday to update her on all projects, and I let Charlotte know where we are this morning. On my end, everything is caught up.

My only concern is the Fall Festival, which needs support up to and including the day of the event. Will Riley be working on it?


Sr. Barbara didn’t leave Maggie hanging.

From: Barbara Baker <>
To: Maggie Chapman <>
Date: July 25, 2019
Subject: Fall Festival
I have your email of July 16 that once again references Aug 1st as your last day. I did not change that in any way!

And before Maggie could reply (but not before Sr. Barbara’s typos grated on her), another email from Sr. Barbara:

From: Barbara Baker <>
To: Maggie Chapman <>
Date: July 25, 2019
Subject: Fall Festival
Just because Riley will be there Did NOT change the Aug 1st. Date!!’

The memory of Laura’s voice from earlier in the year rang in Maggie’s mind. Do not apologize to her. So, she didn’t; nor did Maggie reply to Sr. Barbara. She was no longer her problem.

From: Maggie Chapman <>
To: Charlotte Lund <>
Date: July 25, 2019
Subject: Fall Festival

Hi, Charlotte.

Per our conversation this morning, I sent Sr. Barbara a message.
See exchange below.
All the best,
She signed off from her email, and went to brew herself some coffee. It would be a fine afternoon.

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