Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Way of Fu Jing (3 Chapters)

After the three way Kathy could not sleep. The comforter made her sweat, but when she pushed it off her naked body she became chilled. She wiped the moisture from her breasts with both thick hands. The wetness also covered her abdomen and her palms swiped away the slickness. Finally her fingers rested on either side of her sex as she contemplated what she had committed to that night.
Te’ Walakuma, her business partner, had arranged the three way. It was the last opportunity for them to be with Fu before he went to Ecuador for two weeks.
Kathy felt superfluous as Te’ and Fu flirted with each other on the conference call. They ignored her presence until it came down to business. Both of them wanted her to say yes. It was the money that had made her resistant.
“Then we are paying for the advertising?” Kathy asked.
“Yes,” Fu said.
“Anything else?” Kathy began taking notes. When it came to cash flow she was vigilant.
“My expenses.”
“As in?”
“Air fare, food and lodgings.”
Te’ jumped in and said, “You won’t need a hotel, Fu. You’ll be staying with me.”
“I’m looking forward to that, Te'.”
“Oh, me, too.” Her sexy voice irritated Kathy.
“Let’s get back to the money,” Kathy said. “We’re paying for the advertising and for your expenses?”
“And you get a generous sixty percent of the seminar sales and your normal profits off the retail sales of books, the DVD and other materials,” he reminded her.
“I haven’t done the math. I don't know what additional materials we'll sell. And I don't even know if this will bring in any profit.”
“The split is standard, Kathy. I’ll have my office email you the agreement if you prefer. But I thought we could do this on our word.”
“I’d have to figure out how many people must attend to pay for the advertising.”
“Are you running ads for the bookstore now?”
“Very little,” Kathy answered, and suspected she was being sold.
“Then you’re not increasing your budget.”
“My staff will send you ad slicks and copy for the radio, but live spots have always worked best.”
“We don’t have a radio budget. We’re just a small bookstore.”
“Kathy,” Te’ interjected, “think of all the publicity Nirvana Books will get. And the additional store traffic and sales and there is the prestige of bringing in an international author.”
Kathy was still uncertain about their obligation and asked for more clarification, “Okay, so, you’re going to teach a sex education class?”
“Sacred Sexuality,” Fu politely corrected her.
“In Saint Louis?” she asked.
“That’s where you’re located.”
“I don’t think that has ever been done here successfully.”
“Then we’ll be the first.” Te’s boisterous voice made the speaker phone beside Kathy’s bed crackle.
“This is Saint Louis,” Kathy reminded her business partner. “The conservative heartland.”
“You’ll be opening up Saint Louis to a new way of loving and of living,” Fu explained.
“We sell books, Fu,” Kathy said and became more irritated. “We’re a bookstore.”
“We do classes and seminars all the time.” Te’ continued to be upbeat. “And we have book readings.”
“And Tarot readings, but that doesn’t mean we make any money from it.”
“It is a service to our customers,” Te' said.
“So Fu is going to service them?”
“Only after private sessions,” Fu said and chuckled.
“I can’t wait for mine,” Te’ said, followed by a throaty sigh.
“I have to go back to sleep,” Kathy said. She yawned, and wanted to postpone the decision. “Send us the material and we’ll think about it.”
“Kathy,” Fu spoke rapidly, “I’ve reserved the time in Saint Louis before my engagements in San Francisco. I need your answer now.”
There was a moment of silence. Kathy heard rustling noises and the short excited breath of Te’.
“We’ll do it,” Te’ blurted out.
“Thanks, Te',” Fu said. “Kathy, you seem reticent. As partners, I want both of you committed to the seminars.”
“This is more controversial than poetry or palm readings.”
“I assure you, I conduct these seminars professionally.”
“Come on, Kathy,” Te’ urged her partner, “let’s do it.”
Kathy listened to the sounds of Fu and Te’ breathing as they waited for her answer. The silence was unbearable. She knew if she spoke first she would be the loser. Kathy hated these negotiations so she decided to ask for a bigger split.
“Only sixty percent?” Kathy asked.
“Kathy, because you and Te' are my friends, I could give you seventy percent.”
“And Fu will stay with me. So all we have to buy is the plane ticket.”
“And the advertising,” Kathy added. She realized it was hopeless to change Te’s mind.
“How many people do you have on your mailing list?” Fu asked.
Kathy thought about the list on the laptop and said, “I don’t know. It’s an email list.”
“Perfect. Then it won’t cost you anything to email.”
“Kathy,” Te’ persisted, “I don’t want you to do this if you don’t want to do it, but I really want us to do it so let’s do it.”
Kathy thought about people having sex on the second floor of Nirvana Books.
“Do the students remain clothed?”
“Believe me, this will be conducted with complete propriety.”
Kathy was reluctant but acquiesced. “What the hell, okay.”
“Yes,” Te’ said, letting the last syllable hiss between her teeth.
“Congratulations,” Fu said and could be heard clapping his hands.
“Te’, I’ll see you at the bookstore, and we’ll go over things.” Kathy rolled over to turn out the light.
“You won’t regret this decision,” Fu said.
“I wish you hadn’t said that,” Kathy mumbled. “It just makes me worry.”
She remained anxious because now it was too late.

Nirvana Books was at the epicenter of the sexual quake that was about to shake the Central West End of St. Louis, Missouri.
The Central West End was not a legally incorporated entity, like the many small townships that surrounded St. Louis and contained the city's growth. The Central West End (CWE) was simply a neighborhood. From one street to the next the residences could vary from half a million dollar homes to urban dilapidation. The rich lived on private streets that prevented through traffic and the poor lived on streets that provided drug traffic. To say it was a microcosm of twenty-first century America would be incorrect. It contained no malls. How could it be a microcosm of America without a mall?
The CWE did have merchants and restaurateurs, over one hundred of them along Euclid Avenue. All these businesses were vying for the trade of the students, office workers and, certainly, the rich. (The poor bused tables and washed dishes at the restaurants.) It was a trendy place to meet for a Martini or grab a burger and a brew. There were overpriced antiques stores with snobby decorating consultants and an abundance of boutiques, with cheap trinkets, and slender young tattooed clerks. There were galleries and gift shops, health food and junk food, condo renovations and vacant storefronts.
People walked the streets most of the day and late into the evening. Parking spots were scarce on the street and when one was found it was claimed by the driver for the remainder of their stay in the CWE. Where street parking was allowed, a meter was waiting like the homeless for spare change. Automobiles crept along the uneven cobblestone road surface and paused at the frequent stop signs and eventually parked several blocks away or paid an attendant to park on a lot. The neighborhoods to the east looked scary and inhabitants of neglected brick tenement buildings spied upon the parked cars. They watched and waited. Some fools refused to pay the parking lot fee and risked the shabby neighborhoods. Many regretted it.
There were churches, from ostentatious high-tech shrines catering to the very right and white to storefront ministries evangelizing winos and crack whores.
Nirvana Books was in the center of the Central West End, or perhaps more accurately, left of center. The bookstore was located on two floors of an office and retail building at 328 Euclid Avenue. As the pedestrians walked by the storefront they could peer through the picture window and see the first floor packed tight with varnished pine bookracks. The view was partially obstructed by the staircase leading to the second floor. It was Te’ Walakuma’s idea to hang posters of obscure black poets and politicians in the window.
“Couldn’t we put up some pictures of white people once in a while?” Kathy suggested.
“Whom did you have in mind?” Te’ asked her white partner.
“Harry Potter sells lots of books.”
“Harry Potter is a fictional character.”
“The sales are real,” Kathy reminded her.
They compromised and put up a poster of Richard Spencer, which advertised his best seller, Don’t Sweat On My Small Cheese.
The first floor bookracks were stocked with various topics from African-American to Zen-American, from Astrology to Zurvanism. There were the usual “studies” on sexuality, psychology, women, gays and lesbians, but Te’ would not allow a “black studies” section because she preferred to categorize everything relating to her racial heritage as simply African Studies. She boasted of having the biggest supply of books on the topic of African Studies in St. Louis. The African-American community that bordered the Central West End had this fine collection available to them and her passion for educating African-Americans made it possible. These books had become a rare books collection. Rare because they rarely sold.
Te’ did not care about the lack of sales. She taught black men and women to read and speak articulately in order to improve their lot and empower their lives. After they were literate, she reasoned with Kathy, they would purchase books in the African Studies section. Adult reading classes were held every Thursday evening on the second floor. They were free. Te' conducted the classes until she got bored with the tedious recitations. She searched for a volunteer to teach the class. She decided to volunteer her partner.
“Kathy, you have a teaching degree, don’t you?” Te' smiled broadly at her. She had to look up at Kathy, who was six foot two. Te' barely made five feet in heels. Te' continued to smile while she waited for Kathy to answer.
“Yes, why?” Kathy was suspicious. She had seen that charming expression on Te's ebony face before.
“You’d be perfect to teach the remedial reading class,” Te’ suggested.
“No, I wouldn’t.”
“Why not?”
“It was your idea. You teach it.”
“But you’re more qualified.”
“I’m running a bookstore. Let social services teach them to read.”
Te’ stomped her foot. “You just don’t get it.”
“I think you’re right,” Kathy agreed.
“You have to give to get,” Te’ explained.
“Great. You give.”
Te’ called her mother, a professor at St. Louis University. Her mother arranged for SLU students to teach the remedial reading class. Te’ continued to brag about the wonderful service Nirvana Books was providing people in the African-American community. It was perfect because she did not have to do anything.
In the center of the first floor was a small counter with a cash register and the hub of the phone system. Kathy had reasoned with Te’ that placing the cash register in the center of the room would keep them “centered” on why they were in business, and yet be surrounded by the intellections of their commitment. Te’ wondered if it passed the Feng Shui test but could not remember which corner of the room was the money corner. She shrugged at the use of the word “intellections” and agreed with her business partner.
Kathy sighed every time she walked up the steps to the second floor. The upper level only had bookracks along the perimeter of the room. The rest of the space remained open for classes, lectures, Tarot readings and book signings. Sometimes a local yoga instructor conducted classes and large floor pillows were positioned in rows upon the carpet. At other times folding chairs were set up in a formal classroom style that gave it a vague academic look. It was a space that Te’ used to host an audience for small events. Her greatest pleasure was when it was used as a venue for authors to speak. Poetry readings were on Monday. Local novelists could read a chapter of their unpublished work every other Tuesday.
Kathy thought it was a waste of space that would have made more money if it stocked more books that could be retailed. The appearance of authors did not always facilitate the sale of books and it made the second floor inaccessible to patrons during the lengthy elocutions. Writers should write, Kathy concluded, and not blab.
“How can you say that?” Te’ asked. “What about freedom of expression?”
“It has nothing to do with freedom, but it has everything to do with business. You can’t sell blab,” Kathy argued, but continued to lose the use of the second floor to less profitable ventures.
They compromised, again. When classes or lectures were not scheduled, Kathy would set up large folding tables and stuff them with books. Unfortunately, Te’ usually had something booked in the space for the weekend, the busiest retail time.
In the next few days a sexual revolution and subsequent sexual revulsion was about to occur on the second floor, the first floor and the sidewalk, in the media and from one pulpit in particular.
It began with a simple promotional email.

Sally Meredith was appalled by the email. She immediately minimized the attachment and glanced around her office. No one was watching her. Sally opened the window again and stared at the headline: “Sacred Sexuality.” Below the bold type was a picture of a naked couple embracing. “Learn to live in bliss!”
As President of the Singles Society of the First Word of the Last Days, Sally was responsible for finding events that would be of interest to the church's single members. But this was outrageous. She could not imagine how this type of smut had found its way to her. Most of the announcements she received were about square dances, trips to the St. Louis Zoo or vacations in the Ozarks. This advertisement had been forwarded to her from Seth Snyder. Snyder was a member of the Singles Society. He was an obnoxious man and none of the women liked him.
The text was all about sex: sexual energy, multiple orgasms, becoming a nymphomaniac goddess and sustaining erections. It combined sex and spirit into one. Blasphemous. She did not understand but was fascinated. She was repulsed but read every word.
She minimized the attachment when someone walked by her workspace but opened it as soon as they were out of sight. After reading it through a third time she realized she must call Reverend Proctor about Nirvana Books.
Sally called the church office and got the secretary.
“First Word of the Last Days,” Doris answered the phone with efficient boredom.
“Doris,” Sally whispered, “I have to speak to Reverend Proctor.”
“May I say who is calling?”
“Doris, it’s me, Sally. Sally Meredith.”
“Oh, are you ill?”
“No. Why?”
“You sound like you have laryngitis.”
“I’m at work.”
“You have to whisper at work?”
“Then speak up. I can barely hear you.”
Sally glanced around at the other cubicles and raised her voice slightly, “Would you please put me through.”
“Could I tell him what this is regarding?”
“Doris, I can’t talk about this now. I’m at work.”
“If you can’t talk why did you call to speak to Reverend Proctor?”
Sally huffed and raised her voice into a strained susurration, “To tell him something.”
“I thought you said you couldn’t talk.”
“To set up a meeting,” Sally said loudly.
“Is that your message?”
“What is your message?”
“There is something going on he should be aware of,” Sally said distinctly.
“What’s that?”
Sally whispered again, “I can’t say.”
Doris whispered mockingly, “What can you say?”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“Of course not,” Doris continued to speak in a hushed tone.
“Please ask him to call me.”
“Should he call you at work where you can’t talk?”
“Have him call me at home.”
“What’s that number?”
“He has my number.”
“I’m sure he does,” Doris said and snorted as she hung up.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The New Guy.

The New Guy

By Patrick Foley Plummer
“I smell coffee,” Lucinda said. She sniffed at the air as she entered the phone room. Kalo and John followed her and all three telemarketers moved slowly. They were already late and found no reason to rush. Lucinda’s legs lumbered with her weight and her heels scraped the carpet.
“I hate the taste of coffee but I love the smell,” she rattled on, “and they kept trying to serve me coffee at breakfast but I just wanted my sausage and eggs. Oh, that sausage was so good. My Atkins diet says that I can eat all the sausage I want so I had a double order. I just have to watch my carbs.”
When Kalo noticed the man dressed in a shirt and tie she immediately went to his cubicle.
“Who are you?” Kalo asked.
He held up his index finger and smiled politely as he continued taking the phone pledge.
“He must be the new guy, Kalo,” Lucinda said. She pulled out the padded chair from her cubicle. “Now don’t start flirting.”
“I don’t flirt!”
“You flirt with anything in pants,” John joked with her. He was the last to get to his workspace and carried a cup of coffee with him. As he lowered his pudgy, pot-bellied body to the folding chair the metal groaned with the weight.
All three telemarketers were obese but Lucinda was the biggest. She ate hot pork skins from a plastic bag and sipped a diet cola. She arranged these items at her small cubicle and lowered her rotund bottom into the large padded chair.
“Looks hot,” Kalo said. She sat down at the cubicle next to Lucinda.
“Are you talking about the new guy?”
“No, the pork skins. But I do like a man in a tie.”
“You just like men,” John said as he drank some coffee.
John completely ignored the fact that the new guy was busy writing down information from the pledge. “You make this coffee? It’s strong! But I like it.”
“Thanks,” the new guy said to John. He hung up the phone and immediately went to the tally board.
David wrote down another hash mark beside his name. He already had three pledges for the Children’s Foundation Jail-Bail fundraiser.
“You must be David,” Kalo said as she read his name from the board. She walked to the board and stood as close to him as she could without touching him.
She was coy and pointed at her name listed on the sales board, “I’m Kalo.” She indicated his score with a painted finger nail. “You’ve been busy. Three!”
“I’ve been here since eight-thirty. Three pledges in forty-five minutes. Is that good?”
“Too good,” Lucinda said as she munched on a fried pork skin. “You got to pace yourself, like you’re at a buffet. Sylvia used to ask for twelve pledges per shift, but we straightened her out.”
“But aren’t the pledges what you’re paid to do?” David asked.
“Paid!” Lucinda bellowed. Her large lungs could shout with very little effort. “They pay us peanuts.”
“Ten dollars an hour,” the new guy reminded her.
“Right. Because it’s part time. Twenty-seven hours a week—can’t even buy new underwear with that—or a decent lunch. Hey! Gloria! Where’s Gloria? We need to order lunch.”
“Hi,” Kalo said. She was still standing by David.
“Hi.” David smiled at her and asked, “Have you been here long?”
“About a month.”
“No, it’s been longer than that,” Lucinda interrupted. “It’s been two months.”
“A month and a half.”
“Hello, I’m John.” John stuck out his big hand to David but remained seated.
“David Davidson,” he shook John’s hand firmly.
“Ha!” Lucinda laughed, “your parents named you twice! Want some pork skins?”
“No thanks.”
“How come you’re wearing a tie?” Kalo asked. She touched his tie with her fingertips. “It’s nice.”
“Because it’s his first day!” Lucinda shouted from her chair. “You don’t have to impress nobody around here.”
John put two marks beside his name.
“Sand bagger!” Lucinda screamed at him.
“I got them this morning.”
“I didn’t hear you on the phone,” Kalo said suspiciously.
“You were too busy making eyes at David,” John said.
“I wasn’t! I was just introducing myself.”
“Did you really just get two?” David asked.
“Sure,” John grinned. “Now I’m only one behind you but,” he turned to Lucinda, “two in front of you.”
“Sand bagger!”
“Really,” Kalo agreed.
“Well girls,” John said as he went back to his station, “we’ll see who wins today.”
“I beat you yesterday! I got eight before lunch,” Lucinda said. Her stomach groaned and she looked toward the hallway and called out, “Gloria? Where is Gloria? Kalo what do you want for lunch?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s get something from Beefboy’s Deli. I like a big Greek salad.”
“I’d just like a big Greek,” Kalo tried to be sultry.
“With double dressing.”
“A Greek undressing.”
“Are you girls talking about food or sex?” John asked.
“Both!” Kalo laughed.
“Right, both,” Lucinda grumbled. “But I don’t remember much about sex. That Spaniard takes me and then rolls off me like a pig and goes to sleep.”
David looked at the huge woman. Her legs were squeezed into jeans and a roll of fat hung over her belt, if she were wearing a belt, he could not see it. Her breast lay flat on her big round belly and her flabby arms continued to shove food into her mouth as she licked her thick fingers. He could not imagine anyone on top of her and having sex.
“What are you looking at?” Lucinda asked him gruffly.
“Nothing,” David answered. “Well, good to meet all of you.”
“David, take off that tie,” Lucinda ordered him.
Kalo smiled at David and said, “I like it.”
“You like anything in pants,” Lucinda said.
“Not true!”
“You’re just a flirt.”
“I don’t flirt with John.”
“John don’t count. He’s just a fat hog like us.”
“I’m not as fat as you,” Kalo reminded her and took one of the pork skins from Lucinda’s desk.
“You’re not as old as me. You’re only nineteen with one kid. I’m thirty with three kids. You’ll be as fat as me in ten years. When you’re as old as me you’ll—”
“That would be eleven years,” John corrected her math, “and probably more.”
“Shut up! Sand bagger! You’re just trying to show off ‘cause of the new guy.”
“I’m kicking your big ass today.”
“So everyone did pretty good yesterday,” David said reading the board. “Lucinda had eight, John had seven and Kalo had—“
“I only worked in the afternoon but I got four.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll do better today.”
“You remind me of an actor,” Kalo frowned as she tried to remember who David resembled, “but I don’t remember his name.”
“Here we go,” Lucinda spoke with her mouth full of pork skins. “Damn these are hot!”
“Shut up! He does look like an actor.”
“Get a new line,” Lucinda said. She made a sputtering noise with her bulbous lips.
“He hasn’t heard it,” John chuckled. He began to tap a phone number onto the keypad.
“Shut up, both of you!” Kalo turned to David and asked, “They are so mean to me, are you going to be mean to me?”
“I’m not here to be mean to anyone.”
“Sit down, Kalo,” Lucinda commanded as if Kalo was a little girl. “Give the new guy a break.”
“I’m David.”
“All right, David the new guy. I don’t want to see any more pledges from you this morning until we catch up.”
“Why not?” David asked.
“Because! We don’t want to work that hard. God these are hot,” she spoke into the diet cola can and washed down the pork skin. She wiped her mouth with the back of her thick hand. “Phew! I wish I’d never bought the hot ones.”
“Then don’t eat them,” David suggested with a shrug.
“I can’t stop. Hey!” Lucinda said loudly, “Are you starting with me?”
“Starting?” David asked.
“Right. Starting. Don’t start with me. I know I’m fat. But I’ve lost ten pounds and I’m on the Atkins diet and I can eat these and still lose weight.”
“I was only saying--”
“I know what you were saying,” she interrupted.
“If they are too hot don’t eat them.” David said. After a moment he added, “Or eat something else.”
“You are starting with me. You’re saying I can’t stop eating.”
“You can’t,” Kalo spoke with her back to Lucinda.
“I know I have a problem but I’m working on it. What are you doing about your problem, Kalo?”
“I diet.”
“I guess we should get back on the phones,” David said. He looked over his list and picked up the phone.
“Relax! You got three.” Lucinda raised her voice again as she pointed to the board, “You trying to impress them? Don’t bother. They don’t care. Sylvia got a promotion for doing nothing. We did all the work and she took all the credit.”
“I thought our goal was twelve,” David said.
“Hey, let me put you straight. We don’t have to do that many. They’ll keep us around anyway. Who are they going to get to do this? So relax. Get a couple more and call it a day.”
David looked at her beautiful face stuck on top of the baggy turgidity. If she lost a hundred pounds she might be attractive. He turned back to his phone list.
“Don’t give him a hard time,” Kalo whined, “he’s nice.”
“I’m not giving anyone a hard time except you. Here, have a pork skin.” Lucinda held out the bag to Kalo.
“No, they’re too hot.”
“No they’re not.”
“Then why are you breathing funny?” Kalo asked.
“Gloria!” Lucinda screamed and David put a finger in his ear to try and hear the person on the phone. “Are you here? We have to order lunch soon or it won’t get delivered by noon! Where is she?”
“She’s going to be late,” David said as he hung up the phone.
“How do you know?” Lucinda asked.
“She called into the office.”
“Why would she tell you?”
“I answered the phone.”
“Why’d you do that?”
“It was ringing.”
“It don’t ring back here.”
“I was at the receptionist desk.”
“Why didn’t Janet answer?”
“She was in the restroom.”
“Janet has a bladder problem,” Kalo told David. “I think they should move the phone into the toilet for her.”
“So what’s with Gloria?” Lucinda asked.
“Her little girl had a seizure.”
“How sad,” Kalo added.
John stood up and went to the board and put a third mark beside his name.
“Damn you! Why don’t you add those two you sand bagged back onto yesterday’s total!”
“Then I beat you yesterday.”
“No you didn’t.”
“And I’ll beat you today.”
“Shut up!”
“Can you hold it down?” David held his palm over the phone, “I’m trying to talk here.”
Lucinda glared at him and blew out a breath to try and cool her tongue. She immediately ate another spicy pork skin and drank a swig of diet cola. When David finished the call he put a fourth mark on the board.
“You don’t get it do you?” Lucinda scolded him.
“Sylvia told me the goal was twelve.”
“Well, Sylvia ain’t here. We never did twelve. It was too hard.”
“I don’t see why. I have four and it’s not even ten in the morning.”
“I don’t care what you got.”
“And could you lower your voice. People on the phone can hear you shouting.”
“You’re saying I’m a big mouth?”
“I’m saying you could lower your voice.”
“You don’t tell me what to do. I’ve been in this phone room longer than anyone. And I’ll still be around after you quit. People like you don’t work out.”
“What do you mean?”
“With your shirt and tie. Come on. You’re doing this while you’re looking for a better job. Unless you can’t find a job.”
“I’ve done all right.”
“You have? Then why’d you end up in a place like this Maybe there’s something we don’t know about you. Some secret. You been in jail or something.”
“What then?”
“I’m from Philadelphia.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“I just moved here.”
“You moved here for this job? That doesn’t make sense. Something’s not right.”
“B four!” John exclaimed, “I’m going for a bingo!”
“Get out!” Kalo said, and immediately picked up the phone receiver.
“Damn it, John!” Lucinda complained. “I give up this morning, but I’m going to kick your ass this afternoon.”
“You’re not going to make any calls?” David asked.
“You don’t worry about it. New guy.”
“Right, David,” she snarled at him. “You just stop making calls so we can catch up.”
“How can you catch up if you don’t make any calls?” David asked.
“You’re a smart ass, ain’t you. I don’t like a smart ass.”
“I’m not here to be liked,” David stated in an intimidating tone.
“You stay out of my way,” Lucinda fired back.
“That would be a challenge,” John said.
“Shut up, John!” Lucinda saw Gloria in the hallway and called to her, “Hey, Gloria! How’s your girl?”
“She’s stable,” Gloria spoke from the hallway, “thanks for asking.”
“Get in here! We have to order lunch.”
“Why don’t you start making calls?” David asked her.
“Why don’t you kiss my fat ass?”
“Lucinda,” Gloria said as she entered the phone room, “where you thinking of ordering—“
Gloria stopped speaking when she saw David.
“Mister Davidson,” Gloria gasped, “I thought you’d be in your office.”
“Office?” Lucinda asked.
“I wanted to check out the phone room first.” David rose from his seat at the cubicle.
“Why you calling him Mister? He’s just a loser like us.”
“Lucinda, Mister Davidson is Sylvia’s replacement.”
“Get out,” Kalo said. She started randomly punching the keypad on her phone to look busy.
John began to snicker.
“That’s right, Lucinda. I’m the new guy. And I wanted to find out why pledges were low in this office.” He looked directly at her, “Now I think I see the problem.”
“I do better than anyone around here.”
“I’d like to see you in my office, Lucinda,” David tersely instructed her.
He left the phone room with Gloria following behind him.
“Gloria! Why didn’t you tell us?” Lucinda asked.
Gloria shrugged her shoulders.
“You screwed up this time,” John smirked.
“I didn’t screw up! He should have introduced himself instead of spying on us. He’s just a sneaky spy.”
Her voice was carrying through the walls and she shouted loudly, “I don’t need this job!”
“Apparently not,” David said as he stuck his head back into the phone room. “I want to see you now. Before lunch.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Performance Enhancement Shrugs.

Performance Enhancement Shrugs.
I want my face book friends to know that I have never used performance enhancement shrugs. I personally find the use of shrugs as offensive and highly addictive. People who nonchalantly raise their shoulders, thinking it does not concern anyone else, have to now be aware of their actions. Random shrug use has consequences. It is imperative that professionals, especially in sports who influence our youth with a mere gesture, be aware that their actions have repercussions. Does “Just say no to shrugs” have no meaning anymore? I know that congress has been investigating shrug use in athletes. As if congress can talk, they’ve been shrugging off balancing the budget for decades. Keep your shoulders down and keep off shrugs. If you like this friends, share it with your friends, but please don’t share shrugs.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No French

By Patrick Plummer
My boss hated French. He despised France, including the French people, but he had a peculiar bias toward their language. For example, we could not take a cigarette break but we could go outside for a smoke. When dining out he would never order an entrée and called it the main course. And forget driving down a boulevard.
I suppose he thought French was trying to dominate the alphabet by using up all the vowels.
I’m certain the obsession eliminated things from his life. Champagne, crepes suzette and Audrey Tautou. I would consider the later the biggest loss. He’d never be able to admire at the actresses’ beauty.
It cramped his hiring, no one could submit a resume. Even though it doesn’t have the little accent marks in English anymore, it was poison to his mind. As his assistant, I would screen promising applicants and tell them to remove the word from the top of their work history. I advised them not to commit a gaffe and say “résumé” as they handed the document to him. Some excellent people slipped up. It is so common now to submit a you know what.
We could go to the john or the head but not the toilet. He went to lunch at a beanery and never a café.
I had learned to watch my mouth and keep my job at the beverage distribution company. A year ago I made a mistake the very first week and told him a truck was en route.
In what? He asked me the question as he put down his glasses and stared at me.
On they way, I answered.
That’s better, he advised me, never use that language around me again or you’re fired. Even if it is not French, but only sounds like it, you’re gone. Got it?
He was gauche.
I’ve lasted a year, which is longer than anyone. I learned think before I spoke. How can you not go out to lunch at restaurant? Or describe a pretty brown-haired girl as a brunette?
One day he asked about the framed picture of my fiancé on my desk.
This is a photograph of my wife to be, I said to him
Lovely woman, he said. What does she do?
I had to answer carefully because she worked as marketing director for the City Ballet.
She promotes a dance company.
He shrugged and left my office satisfied with his attempt to be my faux amis. That was a close one but I succeeded with my façade.
The day came when he was confronted with the inevitable. The visitor was the coupe de gras to his career. A short man with a hook nose came to our offices. He was dressed in a suit and carried a brown leather attache case. He intruduced himself to me as Andre Pompadeau and that he must see my boss immediately. The French accent made me smile.
Was he expecting you?
I shall meet with the both of you.
The stiff English is common with people who learned it formally. I escorted him into my boss’office. He glanced up from his desk and bluntly asked, What?
Pompadeau intruduced him self and this made my boss cringe. It got worse for him, better for me.
I am from the Nestlé Corporation.
I liked the way he said corporation, with all the nasal twang on the last syllable.
So what? My boss looked him up and down with contempt.
We have purchased your distribution company and I am present to observe.
Observe what?
Le operation.
Got to love the sound of “o-per-a-shown”.
My boss rose from his chair and leaned over his desk and asked, You mean I have to work for you?
Is this a joke? He turned to me with a hateful stare and demanded, Did you put this clown up to this?
Let me assure you, Pompadeau said, the situation is serious.
All the weird, non-essential accents drove my boss over the edge. He screamed at Pompadeau and said he’d rather quit than work for the French.
As you wish.
My ex-boss grabbed his jacket and left the office cursing the entire way down the hall and out the warehouse door.
I turned to monsieur Pampadeau, extended my hand, bowed my head in appreciation and said, Merci beaucoup.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Quality Of Death

We relieve their pain of living, I began my lecture to the training class, and give them hope.
It was larger class than usual. The recruiters are attempting to build a national sales force. Corporate wants more people in the field to sell our services. They want closers who can explain our service, sign the [recipient] and transmit funds immediately before they can change their minds.
It is my job to eliminate ninety percent or more of the students. Only the very best may work for EI.
Those who show any doubt that we are enabling the dignity of human beings are sent away immediately. I will not allow real compassion in the field, only false sincerity.
As I continue my lecture I paced back and forth before the eighteen seated men and one woman. To have a woman in my class was a first. Recruitment is slipping.
I continued my lecture with a series of questions.
When is life worth living? And when is it a living hell? This human coil will eventually fail us. And we will become the victims of corporate housing. Not knowing our own name or the names of our children and loved ones. That is true oblivion. Why not make a choice while you have one?
A hand was raised by a pimply faced young man who asked, Mr. Aboli, who can say what life is worth living?
Didn't you listen to anything during recruiting? We are giving them a choice before it is too late. And it is their choice, not yours.
I'm supposed to help them make that choice
If you are tentative, perhaps you should sell hydroelectric automobiles.
I picked up his training packet and told him to leave. I wouldn’t have passed him anyway. Too young, too full of expectations. My most successful graduates where men with grey hair, closer to the age of the prospect, and able to relate to declining life.
Anyone else timid about this opportunity?
They were all there because of the incredible money to be made. No one spoke, but I saw some who where beginning to question their decision. They could dress the part, in their expensive clothes, short hair and clean nails. But could they ask the question?
I spotted another young man perhaps in his thirties. His right leg was shaking nervously. You, I said as I pointed at him, what do you think this position is about?
We sell, he said and stammered, people a way to kill themselves?
Absolutely the wrong answer. We don't sell anything. We educate, give them options. And we certainly don't encourage suicide. I don't think this is for you. Get out.
Is anyone here familiar with pre-planning?
The class raised their hands to the rhetorical question, but the last to raise her hand was the woman dressed in black. She was a well-dressed, attractive blond, about thirty-five. Although she appeared professional, she had little personality. Usually these sales types were all smiles. Congenial to a fault. I picked upon her.
What does it mean to you? I asked.
Being prepared for the inevitable, she responded.
The woman's face was ridged. Her eyes stared at me without emotion.
That is an excellent answer, I complemented her. Even though I was certain I would fail her.
I chose to give them all a quick test.
Use the keyboard on your desk to type the full presentation you have been given to memorize.
But, Mr. Aboli, we were only given it last night, said a man in his late fifties.
That was a pity. He had the right look, but I could make no exceptions. The front office was trying to push people through and I had to be stringent.
It is our presentation and, for legal purposes, must be accurate. Have you studied the material?
I read it over, he responded, but I thought we'd work on it in class.
You were instructed to know it verbatim today. If this is a problem you may leave. The test will be graded by the amount of errors in the text. Anyone who hasn't committed it to memory may leave now.
The man who had complained was the first to rise, followed by several other men. It was unfortunate that somel of the men were appropriate for our profession. Older, distinguished, still with a future in the business. In the beginning, I would work with a promising applicant. Drill them, groom them in the nuance of the presentation. I have been doing this for over forty years and, because of aggressive hiring practices, I’ve had to eliminate many a good man before I could mentor them.
As they typed the proposal, the computer would score them. Anyone falling below eighty percent failed. The machine made a distinct sound, a buzzer that ended their hopes. The screen would instruct them to go to the receptionist and turn in their temporary badge.
All that remained in my training room were two men and the woman.
She had scored a 97.8. The men had scored 89.6 and a miserable 78.2. The lowest scored was dismissed from class.
This is where the fun begins, I said them, I prefer to work one on one with the right man.
The man smiled at me, a self-assured, arrogant salesman with an acceptable ability to remember four pages of text. Probably a trained actor, but I hadn't looked at his resume. I don't care to even know their names until the real training commences.
I'm your man, he said.
His confidence irritated me.
I turned to her and noticed she had absolutely no expression.
Well? I asked her.
She said coldly, I came here to facilitate people who desire comfort.
It was directly from the opening of the presentation, delivered perfectly, even without my coaching. She was an impassive professional and would make an excellent consultant. If she only weren't a woman.
Too bad the salesman continued to talk. He said,I can deliver any pitch and handle and objection to close the deal.
First and foremost, I said to him, this is not a pitch.
His smile began to fade.
I don't want a huckster representing this company. You may leave.
When the door slammed I looked at her and noticed a sign satisfaction upon her face. It was the slightest upturn of her mouth.
Then I suppose this makes me your man, she said.
It will be a first. But, this has been a long day one. In the morning we will continue with the delivery of the presentation.
She rose from the table and I noticed how tall she was, with an athletic build, and her broad shoulders filled out the black suite. She picked up her hand bag and then joined me at the front of the classroom.
Thank you for this opportunity, she said and extended her hand. She had a strong handshake and held me tightly.
What is your name? I asked. Since she had passed, I wanted to address her properly.
Angela Lorilei, she said, still holding my hand. My mother was Lana Lorilei. Does that name sound familiar?
No, I said and wondered why she still gripped my hand.
You sold her a kit.
I did?
My palm was beginning to perspire in hers.
Yes, she continued, several years ago. During a field training.
I've sold many kits over forty years.
But this was to a woman who wasn't dying. Had she lived just a few more weeks they would have administered a cure. But she stopped taking her medication. Because of your advice, she gave up hope.
Angela, would you please let go of my hand.
She stopped her dosage and died. Before the kit arrived.
I pulled at her grip but I was too frail to release myself. I saw her reach into her bag and pull out the purple disk, model 605. It worked in minutes.
How many more years of life do you have? she asked.
With modern science, I said, twenty.
But I could not take my eyes off the model 605 in her large hand.
I began to struggle but she was too powerful. She pressed the disk over my heart and activated it. I lost my breath but grasped at the device.
This is for the twenty years my mother could have had, she said.
I collapse to the floor. She stared at me and waited. I struggled to release the kit, but it was too late. I succumbed and my heart stopped.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cancel It

Cancel It
By Patrick Foley Plummer
(Excerpt from the unpublished novel The Way of Fu Jing.)

The afternoon continued to be busy at Nirvana Books. The owners had little to say to each other and talked on the phone, or with customers browsing the racks, without allowing their disagreement over the advertising budget to affect their work. But when they would find themselves in the same row of books, or even on the same floor of the bookstore, they would move apart. The cramped office was avoided altogether.
Inevitably the mid-afternoon began to slow down and they were finding less and less to do. The coffee had gone stale and the smell drifted from the little office, filling the first floor of the bookstore. Neither woman made a move toward the office where the coffee pot continue to cook. It was Te's idea to always keep a fresh pot going. But Kathy had made the coffee this morning and Te’ refused to clean it up. The coffee stench rivaled their stubbornness.
A young man dressed in a white shirt, red tie and dark slacks entered the bookstore and asked to speak to the owners. The clerk pointed them out.
“Hi!” the young man said to Kathy. His pimple-faced smile irritated her as she looked down at him. She waited for the sales pitch. “I’m Douglas with KSLX radio. I think we talked on the phone.”
“I don’t remember talking to you,” Kathy said.
“Then it was the other owner—I must be mistaken. Ma’am!” Douglas with KSLX called to Te’. “Did I talk with you about the advertising?”
“When?” Te’ asked.
“I don’t remember. I talked to so many reps.”
“I had a message from you today to cancel the contract.”
“I don’t usually handle the advertising. You’ll have to talk to Kathy,” She said and pointed in her partner's direction.
Douglas turned to Kathy.
“How much is it?” Kathy asked gruffly.
“If it’s about the money we could reduce the schedule,” Douglas said with his perpetual smile. “But that would affect the spot rate.”
“Cancel it if you want to, Kathy.” Te’ walked to where Kathy and the sales rep were standing.
“It’s already running,” the rep said and tried to pose a serious question but Douglas’s young brow only contorted while his smile turned into a pained expression. “You want a successful promotion, don’t you?”
“We’re having a successful promotion,” Kathy argued.
“And we at KSLX want to be part of your success. We’re your advertising partners.”
“Kathy and I are partners,” Te’ said tersely, “and we have made a decision to cancel the ads.”
“But you agreed—“
“Who agreed?” Kathy interrupted the rep.
“One of you must have. I have a signed fax.”
“Which one?” Te’ asked.
“Which one what?” the salesman was getting flustered.
“Which one agreed? Who did you talk with?”
“It was a woman. Uh,” the rep tried to read the signature on the fax, ”it says Teu Alkuma?”
“Te' Walakuma,” Kathy looked at the signature and turned to Te'. “Then it must have been you. Don’t you remember who you talked with?”
“How should I know? There were so many stations.”
“I know. That’s why I began canceling the spots,” Kathy began to raise her voice.
“So cancel it then,” Te’ huffed.
“I will.”
“Bad.” Douglas continued in an apologetic tone, “We’ll have to raise the rates because you’re reducing the frequency.”
“Have we paid for the spots yet?” Kathy asked.
“No, we haven’t invoiced you.”
“Then I’ll pay the original rate whatever that was.”
“Look, young man,” Te’ said to him, “my partner wants to cancel the ads. Just stop running them.”
“But KSLX had an agreement with you and now you’ve changed it. Don’t you understand anything about advertising?”
“No,” Te’ was becoming impatient. “Do you know anything about our business?”
“No, ma’am.”
“Then how can you really help us?”
“What station did you say?” Kathy asked as she went to the counter and picked up the registration book.
“KSLX. Number one in Saint Louis.”
“Right,” Kathy grumbled as she looked over her crude tracking system, “you all say that.”
“But we are number one in sports coverage and—“
“Does this look like Busch Stadium?” Kathy stared the rep down.
“No, ma’am.”
“And stop calling us ma’am,” Te’ complained. “It makes us sound old.”
“But you—“ young Douglas choked back the word ‘are’ and swallowed as Te’ fumed at him.
“Well, your in luck,” Kathy said as she surveyed the registrations. “Looks like being on your Cardinals baseball update has actually produced some registrations for the men’s seminar.”
“Does that mean you’ll continue the advertising?”
“No!” Te’ corrected him.
“Possibly,” Kathy said and put out her big hand. “Give me the schedule.”
“You’re not seriously considering this,” Te’ asked and put her fists on her hips.
“Oh,” Kathy smiled with contempt, “yes I am.”
“Great!” Douglas beamed.
“Say what?” Te’ become more agitated. “Are you doing this to spite me?”
“No, I’m doing what’s best for the business.”
“But I thought you said we couldn’t afford to pay for all this.”
“What?” the sales rep asked.
“We can’t, but if something is working we might as well continue.”
“Then how are we going to pay for it?” Te’ asked.
“We’re not,” Kathy said matter-of-factly.
“You’re not?” Douglas was becoming more concerned.
“Kathy, you’re being obstinate.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Are you going to run the schedule?” Douglas asked.
“Yes,” Kathy said.
“No,” Te’ countered.
“I’ll run it but I won’t pay for it,” Kathy said.
“But you have to pay for it or I can’t run it,” Douglas pleaded.
“Let her pay for it,” Kathy indicated her business partner and handed the contract back to the sales rep. “She’s the one that bought it.”
“I want to cancel it!” Te’ exclaimed.
“So cancel it,” Kathy shrugged.
“Wait!” Douglas of KSLX held the sheet of paper up to them and insisted, “We had an agreement.”
“Not now,” Te’ said. “I want to cancel it.”
“Why?” Douglas was confused. “She just said it was working. Don’t you want to stick with something that brings results?”
“I don’t care about results,” Te’ said becoming more illogical as her agitation grew. “I just want this to not run.”
“Okay,” Kathy shut the registration book, “then cancel it.”
“Now you agree?” Te’ was baffled.
“Sure.” Kathy put the registration book behind the counter and said with her back to Te’, “Do what ever you like.”
“Oh, I see what you’re doing.” Te’ moved toward Kathy.
“I think you should reconsider,” the rep began to sell again.
“Quiet!” Te’ shouted at him. She stepped toward Kathy. “You think you’re so clever, don’t you Kathy.”
Kathy was slyly smiling and turned toward Te’.
“What in the world do you mean?” Kathy asked with an innocent voice.
“You pretended to want the advertising just to be contrary.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“I ought to continue the ads just to show you.”
Douglas held out the KSLX contract and a pen.
“Go ahead,” Kathy said, “but I’ll never pay for it.”
Douglas pulled his arms back.
“We have to pay for it if I sign a new contract,” Te’ said and reached for the papers.
“Go ahead, but you’ll have to use your own money.”
“I’m not going to do that. We’re supposed to be partners.”
“I didn’t buy that station.”
“But it worked,” Douglas whined.
“We know it worked,” Kathy said, “and now it won’t work.”
“Just because I happen to do something right, you want to change it.”
“Like I said, you want it, you pay for it.”
One last time Douglas extended the contract and the pen toward Te’.
“Why are you still here?” Te’ said abruptly. “I told you the schedule is canceled.” She stomped away from him.
Douglas turned to Kathy with the contract.
Kathy shook her head, “I hope you haven’t spent your commissions.”

Friday, July 2, 2010



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