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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encumbered by time

encumbered by time
i lumbered over thoughts
& dreams: sublime
transient, irrelevant
persistent existence

this life of mine

or is it my life at all?