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(Excerpt from the unpublished novel The Way of Fu Jing.)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.
“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?”
“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.
“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.”