Even in the summer, it’s always cool in Los Angeles at 7:30 in the morning. But he was still sweating a little as he negotiated the narrow walkway that led to a Starbucks. Because he was fat and out of shape. He was also cursing under his breath. Partly because he was fat and out of shape. But mostly because he was negotiating the narrow walkway to the Starbucks at 7:30 in the morning. His year old Mr. Coffee coffee grinder had just taken a shit on him. His old one, a Krups---talk about taking the Hun out of your name---had lasted twelve years. Go figure.
He was also trying not to curse at the old woman in front of him, who slowly and painfully hobbled toward the Starbucks. The walkway was too narrow to get by her plumpness. Partly because of his plumpness. It would have been rude anyway, but it was clearly going to add ten minutes to this outing. He thought to himself, “I’ve got a cat that walks like that and I’m putting her down today.” That’s why it was an especially crappy morning for the coffee grinder to break. And to be stuck behind an old woman.
Fifteen minutes later---ten of which he blamed entirely on the old woman---he was walking up the incline toward his house with a heavy heart. His heart was heavy partly because walking uphill was hard for him, even though he was only in his mid fifties. He wondered who would put him down. But mostly his heart was heavy because he dreaded this day. He’d envisioned it a long time ago. And he’d dreaded it for awhile. And now it was today. Isn’t that how all these things work? Especially now, when time went so quickly.
Song cue for the band inside his head. “See here how everything leads up to this day. And it’s just like any other day that’s ever been.” Listening to the lyrics echoing in his skull made him teary. He had promised himself not to go there. Noel Coward wrote, “How potent is cheap music.” He was an English teacher so he knew crap like that.
The cat was twenty years old. A friend, a woman he’d lost touch with, had given him a girl kitten when his marriage ended. And, yes, she’d made the requisite stupid pussy joke. He hadn’t even liked cats. Maybe that’s why they’d lost touch. Time had flown by. Twenty years. He still wasn’t sure he liked cats, but he was close to this one. They’d spent twenty years together. His damn marriage had only lasted ten.
He sat on his patio with his coffee. That made it seem like all the other mornings. Except for walking down to the goddamn Starbucks. In the old days, the cat would run out after him and hang. Or kill lizards. Today, he carried her out and she didn’t hunt any lizards. Instead, she looked at him dolefully. She used to fly from the hill onto the roof. He’d look up from his desk and see a flying cat overhead. Now, he could see that her legs were so weak that she could barely stand. Her fur had mats. And lately she’d stopped eating. For awhile they just sat there as they had always done.
“Today’s the day, isn’t it, honey? Your day of destiny.”
She held his eyes in a deep searching look and mewled in a way he’d never heard before. An oddly urgent way. Then she tottered over to be rubbed. Like she knew it was the last time. He felt his resolve weaken. Maybe she’ll perk up. Maybe he should wait at least a few days. He glanced at her. She looked so miserable though. He remembered when his father had looked like that. The old man had asked to be put down. Not that it happened, of course, but nothing in the following few months made it seem like a bad idea. So he was just being selfish---today was the day. And she was twenty, which was like a hundred and ten. She’d missed her chance to be cut down in her prime. So had he, he noticed as his legs began to ache from his walk.
“Neither of us could outrun a coyote, anymore, huh?”
When he put her in the travel box, she made that odd meow again. He carefully loaded it into the front seat of the Audi convertible.
“At least you’re going in style.”
The car was his sole extravagance. He figured he was middle-aged, fat, and balding, so he needed a sports car. It was after rush hour, and the freeway was open. He enjoyed the rush of power flowing from the engine. The Audi leaped forward on the uphill incline and started to slide past the Range Rover to his left. Much better than walking uphill.
“I still feel good when I drive.”
The cat yowled in response to that and he looked over at her in the passenger seat. He thought she was peering out of the box at him but she was watching the Range Rover.
You never see the one that gets you. The SUV came over right on top of him. He half heard the impact. Then he felt a flying sensation. Then nothing at all.
Los Angeles (AP)----A double fatality crash snarled traffic on a Los Angeles freeway this morning.
The sole survivor of the fiery crash between an SUV and a sports car that claimed two lives was a
cat. At a press conference, veterinarians at the Studio City Animal Hospital stated that the cat had
suffered only minor injuries, eaten well, and was expected to make a full recovery. Asked to
comment, the cat only said, “He was a good guy, but it was his day of destiny. I tried to tell him.”
When asked for details about the accident and where they were headed at the time, the cat declined
further comment on the advice of her newly retained attorney.
Living and writing in Hollywood, which at least sounds romantic, Christopher Horton is the author of the novel “The Great Big Book of Bitches (a love story)”, and a short story appearing in the anthology “Literary Pasadena”, published last spring.
Not Welcome Here ~ Ann Brixey
"It's like I told you. Well I agree...”
How I wished I could hear the other side of this one sided conversation. She was clad in grubby bib overalls, a wrinkled sleeveless shirt, and scruffy flip-flops. Her greasy, lank hair was sticking to her head. She looked incongruous at the entrance of this upscale store.
"Yes of course I'm pleased," she continued in a monotone. I walked past her and entered into the store’s cool elegance.
I saw two smartly dressed, rather superior shop girls watching her and whispering. She will not be welcome in here. When their snide remarks reached my ears, I felt that they were way out of line. Never judge a book by its cover, my mother's gentle words came back to me.
Ready to make my purchase, I heard an exclamation of horror. "She can't come in here," salesgirl number one screeched. Her companion started rushing towards the door.
Something inside me snapped. There but for the grace of God go I, were my thoughts as I watched the unfolding scene. She only wants to get out of the heat.
Drawing myself up to my full height of five foot two inches, in my snootiest upper-class English accent, I said quite loudly. "Do you know who that is?"
Salesgirl number two stopped in her tracks and waited.
"Why she could buy and sell this store without even blinking." Then conspiratorially lowering my voice, I continued. “She is an eccentric, loves to go around dressed like that. Just doesn’t want people to know who she is"
Frowns changed to smiles of greeting. I completed my purchase quickly, before anyone could ask the dreaded question.
As I left, she smiled, showing a set of perfect, white teeth, and a dignity not seen previously.
Walking back into the steamy South Florida heat, I could not help wondering...
Ann Brixey, born in Wales and now living in Florida with her husband, enjoys playing golf, reading, writing (especially Japanese poetry) and listening to classical music.
Curiosity Killed the Cat ~ Sandra Stoner- Mitchell
Mary picked up the post as she came through the door and put it down on the table.
“I’m home!” she called, taking her coat off, and hanging it in the cupboard. No answer.
“Halloo?” she called again. Still no answer. She looked at her watch and frowned, Jack was late, “And that’s the third time this week!
Walking over to the drinks cabinet, she took out a glass and poured herself a small brandy. Then, kicking off her shoes; Mary picked the post up again and walked into the lounge. She loved this time of day; the sun was just setting, bathing her garden in a soft warm pinkish glow. Sighing, Mary turned away from the window and went over to her armchair. Then sinking into the soft enveloping cushions; she curled up and flicked through the mail.
There was nothing much there, the electric bill, some junk mail that Mary never bothered to open…and a letter to Jack. Mary put her glass down on the coffee table and looked closely at the writing. It was hard to read, the writing was smudged from…rain? She turned the envelope over, no return address. “Why don’t people put their address on the back, I always do,” she thought angrily.
She put the envelope down and picked up her brandy. Taking a sip, she stood up and wandered back to the window. The sun had completely gone now, and the night was drawing in. Mary looked at her watch again. “Where on earth was he?” She looked back at the letter, it seemed to be taunting her, “come and open me, dare you!” Mary was really getting angry now. She went over and picked the letter up again, looked at the writing. “If this isn’t a woman’s writing, I’m a Dutchman!” Another sip of brandy, she looked at her glass, it needed a top-up. “I could pretend I hadn’t noticed it was addressed to him!” She poured a drop more brandy into her glass, took another sip, then put the glass down returning her attention to the letter.
“It could easily be taken for, Mrs, the way it’s smudged. Yes, definitely could be, in fact I really do think it is. Yes, it is to me! Silly woman!” She laughed out loud.
A lot happier now, Mary sat down and opened the letter. The paper was neatly folded into a square; she unfolded it carefully and smoothed it flat on her lap. For a long while she just stared at the writing, her face pale, her smile gone.
The first lines blurred, but she no longer needed to ‘see’ them, the words were etched, permanently into her mind. Without knowing it, Mary reached again for her brandy and put the glass to her lips, then stopped; she looked at the glass of velvety smooth brandy and quickly put it back on the coffee table.
“The last thing I want is a fuddled brain when that…that…oh, when he comes home.” She looked at the letter again.
My Dearest Jack,
How wonderful to know that soon we’ll be together, it’s been a lifetime! I knew you felt the
same I could sense it, just thinking of you conjured up a picture of your very dear and
It’s so strange that neither of us could tell anyone about these feelings, we had to hide them
in case they thought us mad. Now no one can deny us each other. That’s all I wanted to say really,
except I can’t wait to see and touch you, to know you are real.
My love always,
“Anthea!” The name spat from her mouth, “Anthea!” Just the sound of ‘its’ name cut her heart into shreds. She looked at her watch again.
“I bet they are together now. Why? What did I do wrong?” Her thoughts continued to rage, she wanted to cry.
“No way! No way will I let him see me cry! I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction! But, why, Jack, why are you doing this to us?”
Mary stood up and paced the room, the letter screwed into a tight little ball in her hand. She was about to sit down again, when she heard a car pull into the drive. Very quickly she looked into the mirror above the fireplace, tried to smile, failed miserably. She grabbed a magazine from the paper rack under the coffee table and sitting down, pretended to read. She heard the key turn in the lock. She heard a girlish giggle. “He’s brought her home!”
“Mary!” he called her name, he sounded happy! “Happy!”
“Mary…Oh, there you are…” He came halfway through the door, keeping his hand on the door knob. Mary turned round and stood up, ridged, unsmiling, and ready for the fireworks to begin…
“Mary…I want you to meet someone, someone I didn’t know existed until a few days ago. Mary, I’d like you to meet my twin sister…”
Mary stared; her mind went blank… “Twin sister?” She almost fell back onto the armchair. “Twin sister? I didn’t know you had a twin sister.”
Jack laughed, he sounded just like a little boy, excited, awed, just…just happy!
“I didn’t know either until a short while ago. I had these feelings, but that’s all they were,” he laughed. Turning, he pulled, Anthea into the room.
“Hello, Mary,” Anthea smiled, “Jack has been telling me all about you, I can see what he means! You are beautiful!”
Mary realised she was staring, “I am sorry, forgive me, please come and sit down. I think I need you both to tell me everything.”
Jack came over and kissed Mary on her cheek, then went over to the drinks cabinet.
“When we were born,” Jack began, as he poured himself and Anthea a drink, “times were very hard for our parents. There was very little money coming into the house and with two extra mouths to feed, they just couldn’t cope.”
“I always felt different, like, something was missing in my life.” Anthea continued. “It wasn’t until just before my adoptive mother died, that she told me about my adoption, everything, the feelings I’d had, it all fell into place.”
“Then Anthea set about tracing me.” Jack came over and took Mary’s hand. “You could have knocked me down with a feather. I didn’t say anything to you, just in case it wasn’t true.” He turned and gave Anthea an apologetic smile. “It sounded so surreal, I had to check it out myself, that´s why I´ve been a little late coming home this week. I needed proof.”
Now she was able to look at Anthea, she could see the stunning likeness. Their bone structure, the shape of their mouths, even the way one eyebrow raised when they spoke.
“So that was how come you were familiar with his face…”
Jack frowned. “How did you know…?” Mary flattened out the letter and handed it to him.
“I’m so sorry, but I thought…” her voice trailed away.
Suddenly they were all laughing. Mary turned to Anthea, “They say that ‘curiosity killed the cat!’ Well, that’s my lesson for today!”
♦ English writer Sandra Stoner-Mitchell is the author of four books available from amazon.com
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.
“A man's bookcase will tell you everything you'll ever need to know about him”
― Walter Mosley
March looked Thurmond in the eyes. “Sure, it’s a business. But, what’s the backbone of any successful business?”
Thurmond smiled. “Sales.”
“We’ve been through this before, Joe. “Sales are the bloodline, not the backbone.”
“I can’t afford to run a business on integrity!” Thurmond’s voice rose slightly with each word. Seth March said nothing. He sat motionless with his fingertips pressed together. Thurmond finally said in a resigned whisper. “I know. I can’t afford not to.”
Thurmond gingerly rested a cigar on a massive crystal ashtray, looked up and studied March’s face, “How many employees have you trimmed from our ranks within the last few weeks? Six? Seven?”
March watched the smoke dance upward from the cigar’s tip. It was steady, relaxing. “Nine, but who’s keeping score? I’m not sure how much longer I can do this, Joe. It doesn’t get any easier, does it?”
“No,” responded Thurmond, “it doesn’t. I don’t have the stomach for it any longer. Funny thing, there was a time I had no problem letting people go, you know, those that couldn’t cut it. This is a business. I slept like a baby no matter their sad tales of woe, and there were some beauties. No more. It isn’t for me. That’s why I pay you the big dollars. But you’ll burn out soon. It’s already beginning. I can see it.” Thurmond pulled from his desk a sheet of paper and handed it to March. “There you go, Sherlock. Seven cubicles. Seven names. Have at it.”
March reached into his shirt pocket and extracted a pair of reading glasses. He placed them low on the bridge of his nose. It was a diagram of the cubicle positions in Thurmond’s Worldwide Real Estate Metropolitan Division sales office. A list of employee names, one name to each cubicle position was handwritten.
March studied the layout. “Four men, three women. I really hate this.”
“I know, I know, but you do it and you’re good at it.” Thurmond admired the man in front of him. The feeling was mutual.
“That’s it. I’ll have a look around at their desks before heading to the hotel,” said March. “I will take a second look at their cubicles tomorrow before meeting everyone in the conference room in the afternoon.”
“Fine. Fine. That’s fine,” replied Thurmond. “I’ve already instructed them that you will be snooping around the office prior to the meeting and that they should make sure their cubicles are clean and neat. They all know you’re here!”
With that, the two men shook hands and March departed. He walked through a well-lit hallway, its walls covered with photos and diagrams of residential and commercial properties, homes, office buildings, and vacant lots. Standing before a wood-framed sleek glass door, “Metropolitan Division” stenciled in block lettering, he yawned, glanced at his watch and entered. It didn’t take March long to soak it in. He’d been doing this long enough. He made the following mental notes:
Cubicle 1 (Guy Smith) - Polished. A place for everything and everything in its place. Contracts were stacked neatly. Perfectly squared off. Pens and paperclips were lined up. Books stood tall and straight. March felt as though it would be safe to eat off the desk’s surface.
Cubicle 2 (Elyse Fischer) – Blue. Nothing but blue. Blue flowers in a blue porcelain vase. Blue construction paper covered each side of the cubicle’s walls. A blue seat cushion rested on the chair.
Cubicle 3 (Brent Ward) – Messy. Stray pencil markings defaced the desk. They were accompanied by an old-fashioned calculator and two empty plastic water bottles. The small trashcan under the desk was nearly overflowing.
Cubicle 4 (Rebecca Sussman) – Kindergarten. Drawings of a young child decorated this cubicle. Crayon depictions of a house, a sun with rays, and Mommy and Daddy.
Cubicle 5 (Freddy Wallach) – Religion. March’s eyes went directly to a small decal placed in the far corner of the desk of a fish with a small cross near its head.
Cubicle 6 (Steven Merryweather) – Stark. It was if the cubicle was vacant, waiting for a new employee, with one exception. Hanging from one wall of the cubicle was a classic car calendar. This month featured a 1948 DeSoto.
Cubicle 7 (Tina Mabe) – Cats. The entire cubicle was covered with cat photos, cats of all sizes, shapes, and colors.
Early afternoon the following day, feeling slightly more refreshed and spry following breakfast and a spa session at the hotel, March took another look around at the cubicles. This was minutes prior to meeting with everyone in the upstairs conference room. He didn’t notice much change. In fact, cubicles 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7 were exactly the same as March had seen the previous night. Cubicle number 3, Brent Ward’s workspace, had been cleaned up. The pencil markings had been scrubbed off. The water bottles and calculator were gone, the trashcan empty. Two small changes were made to Steven Merryweather’s cubicle number 6. A new copy of the Thurmond Worldwide Real Estate Company Policy Book stood in a corner of the desk. And, a photo of an apartment building complex in downtown Durham, NC replaced the 1948 DeSoto. It was the photo of the month on an official Thurmond Worldwide Real Estate Company calendar.
When March entered the conference room, the seven employees were already seated around a large, rectangular table. A portrait of Weldon Thurmond, Joseph’s grandfather and founder of the firm looked down at the proceedings as if he was still keeping an eye on things. Joseph Thurmond stood up and greeted March.
“Good afternoon, Seth. Good to see you again.” Motioning with his hand, he said, “May I present to you the Metropolitan Division sales force.”
The seven employees smiled nervously, each one deep in thought about their jobs.
“Don’t get up,” said March to the group. “Let’s get right down to business. You all know why I’m here. It’s no secret that Thurmond Worldwide Real Estate has fallen on tough times and that in a number of our other locations we’ve had to trim staff. That’s all true. What is also true is that this great company will emerge from this temporary slump and become a leaner, more efficient company servicing our worldwide clientele. Now, I’ve looked over the numbers for the Metro division here, and quite frankly, we are not bringing in enough income to sustain seven sales people. At least one, maybe more is going to be leaving today, and my decision has already been made.”
The senior looking one of the group, Brent Ward, fidgeted with his pen and without thinking, blurted out, “This is like The Apprentice.” The look on his face indicated that he wished he could take back the comment. Nervous laughter followed which seemed to make Ward that much more uncomfortable.
March took it in stride. “Mr. Ward,” he addressed the man who spoke.
“Um yeah. How did you know my name?”
“I’m good at that. It’s one of the reasons why I’m here. We’ve never been introduced, but I know each and every one of you.” March adjusted his cufflinks and continued, “As I was saying, the numbers do not add up. I’m looking at potential revenues and market share, and there is only enough work to properly support five or six salespeople in this division. Only one of you out of seven is making your sales plan for this year, and it is not you, Mr. Ward. In fact, I’m embarrassed after looking at your sales results. How many years have you been with Thurmond Worldwide Real Estate?”
Ward cleared his throat. “Next year will be my 20th. Last year, I was…”
March cut him off. “What do you like most about working at Thurmond Worldwide Real Estate?”
Ward thought for a moment. “I go back to the policy book. It’s like a guide to success, not only here but in my personal life outside the office.”
“Tell me more, Mr. Ward.”
“For example, the policy about teamwork. I’ve been here long enough to know that no one can do it alone. We all need to learn from each other’s point of views and experiences in order to succeed. We all need to work toward common goals.”
“Excellent. I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for your 19 years of commitment. I’m sure Mr. Thurmond is very much looking forward to signing your 20-year certificate. You do plan to be here next year and beyond, yes?”
With a huge sigh of relief, Ward practically shouted, “Sure. Sure!”
“Good. I’m confident you will turn things around.”
March squinted and looked at the cubicle diagram Thurmond had given him the day before. He looked up from it and stared into the eyes of Guy Smith. “Mr. Smith, you sit in the very first cubicle?” March thought about retirement. He wasn’t enjoying himself.
Smith stood at attention. “Yes, sir.” The response was firm. Forceful.
“Well then, tell me why you are not on plan and why I should keep you employed.”
“With all due respect, sir, I am nearly on plan this year. I have made my commitments the past 3 years and I have no doubt that I will be on plan next year.”
“Thank you, Mr. Smith. By the way, if you don’t mind my asking, in what branch of the military did you serve?”
“United States Marines, sir.”
“Thank you for your service to this country. Let’s give Mr. Smith a round of applause.”
The group clapped. Guy Smith nodded his head to everyone, grinned and sat down.
March next looked across the table toward Elyse Fischer. “Ms. Fischer, that is a very pretty blue dress you are wearing. I trust I’m not being too forward?”
Elyse Fischer smiled. “No, not at all Mr. March. Thank you. I sewed it myself.”
“Well, it shows a great deal of style and I hope you will keep up the great work here. You know, you are a vital member of this sales force.”
“Thank you, Mr. March. Thank you very much.” Elyse Fischer looked around the room at her fellow sales partners. None returned her glance.
March leaned toward Thurmond and whispered something in his ear. Thurmond shook his head in the affirmative. “Where was I? Oh yes,” as he turned toward the young man whose pinstripe suit would have been out of place on a retail rack. “Mr. Merryweather, do you own a vintage car?”
Steven Merryweather swallowed hard. He hesitated before answering. “I do. It’s a 1965 Ford Mustang.”
Merryweather nervously rubbed his chin. “Not at the moment, no. I had an old Karmann Ghia I was restoring, but I sold it to a collector.”
“One of these days I’ll take up that hobby. I remember my first car. Who doesn’t?” March’s face took on an earnest demeanor. “I see that you are the sole member of this sales team currently making plan. How do you explain that?”
Merryweather hoped he had weathered the storm. He was ready for the question. He ran his hand through slick backed black hair. “Hard work. There’s no substitute for it. I do my job to the best of my ability. I’m clicking on all cylinders, if I must say so myself.” Merryweather couldn’t figure things out. He was the only one exceeding his sales goal, yet March hadn’t told anyone yet that they were canned.
“I see, I see,” responded March. “Very interesting. Tell me, Steven, that is your policy book I noticed at your cubicle this morning?”
“That it is,” beamed Merryweather.
“Good. Would you mind telling the group one thing written in that book?”
“Excuse me? Please repeat what you said.” Merryweather was visibly shaken.
March looked Merryweather in the eye. “I asked, would you mind telling the group one thing written in that book? Anything at all will suffice, other than the teamwork policy mentioned earlier by Mr. Ward. One of the basic requirements here is familiarity with our policy book. Everyone is told that day one. You did admit it was your book, correct?”
Merryweather was stammering. “Why, yyes, it is. I don’t remember anything. I can’t think of anything right now.”
“Nothing? Not a sentence? Nothing? Was the book placed there for show, for my benefit? Were you trying to impress yourself or me? If it was me, you failed miserably.”
Merryweather tried to regain his composure. “Mr. March, I’m on plan this year and in fact I’m bringing in more revenue than my plan calls for and I promise to do the same thing next year.” Beads of sweat dripped off Merryweather’s forehead. Thurmond looked away.
March folded the paper containing the office layout and carefully placed it in the inside pocket of his suit jacket. “That won’t be necessary, Mr. Merryweather. Thurmond Worldwide Real Estate no longer needs your services. As of this moment, your employment is terminated. You will be given a fair severance package. Please, clean out your cubicle. You are done here. Please leave.”
Merryweather was about to say something, but thought better of it. He walked slowly out of the room, never taking his eyes off March. March returned the stare. When the conference room door closed, he continued. “We are not yet done here, folks. Ms. Sussman. I couldn’t help but notice your daughter’s drawings. You know, the ones you have hanging in your cubicle? How is your little girl? What’s her name and what grade is she in?”
Rebecca Sussman blushed. She was young and attractive. March pictured Sussman’s husband as a computer programmer who enjoyed playing softball on weekends. Visions of a freshly painted white picket fence surrounding a well-trimmed lawn on a tree-lined street also popped into his head. She had to clear her throat before speaking. Her heart was beating twice as fast as normal. A transplanted southerner, she responded “Why, thank ya’ll Mr. March. Her name’s Jenna and she’s the reason I’m here. That, and the benefits, of course, and the money.”
“It’s always about the money,” said March, sneaking a quick sideways glance at Thurmond. “I appreciate your honesty. Tell me more about Jenna.”
“She’s just a fine little girl. She’ll be starting in the first grade next year and we’re all so proud of her. Ya’ll have any children, Mr. March?”
For the first time, March was taken aback. He looked a little uncomfortable. A sharp twinge in his chest caused an involuntary reaction, as if he had reacted to a chill. It was no secret he’d spent more time in airplanes than with his two daughters. He quickly regained his composure. “I’d rather not say. That’s a discussion for another day.” How do you expect to make your sales goals next year?”
“Well, with the proper support and training I’ll be good to go!”
“That’s good enough for me,” said March. “Who’s next on the hit parade?” March looked over the room. His eyes were drawn to the woman wearing several bracelets that clanged against the table every time her hands moved. He ignored the scratches on her wrists and hands and looked directly at Tina Mabe. “How many cats do you own, Ms. Mabe?”
Tina Mabe appeared surprised. She never expected the question. She was still thinking about Merryweather. “Um, well, right now at the moment, I own six adorable cats, Mr. March. They are like my children. It is tough keeping them all happy at once.”
“I’m sure it is. Six? That is a lot. Well, Ms. Mabe, you are very close to making your sales plan this year and for that, Mr. Thurmond and I thank you. Keep up the good work, and with just a little extra effort, I’m sure you will exceed plan next year.”
Tina Mabe folded her hands. “Thank you, Mr. March. Thank you very much. I feel certain I will make my sales plan next year and the year after that and I won’t let you or Mr. Thurmond down.”
“That leaves only Mr. Wallach.” The five sales people who had already been spoken to and survived sat back in their chairs, a bit more relaxed now that they knew they were staying for at least another year. Freddy Wallach wore a gold ring with a small cross on it. March had spotted it the moment he entered the conference room. He looked in Wallach’s direction. “What do you enjoy most about working at Thurmond Worldwide Real Estate, Mr. Wallach?” Freddy Wallach stood at his seat. He adjusted his tie, and with conviction, said, “The people. I enjoy working with each and every one of my colleagues. I learn something new everyday from each one of them. It’s a blessing and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
“Thank you,” said March. “You can sit down, now. It’s been a pleasure meeting each of you. On behalf of Mr. Thurmond, I’d like to wish you all success next year. With everyone pulling together and working toward the same goal, we can’t help but succeed. Thank you again for your time.”
Joseph Thurmond and Seth March sat quietly in the backseat of the company limo on the way to the airport. They drove several miles without a word until Thurmond broke the silence. “I knew it. Merryweather. Jesus, he was the only one on plan!”
“Integrity trumps numbers. I didn’t like the policy book trick. It’s dishonest. Backbone, remember?”
The car eased into a spot under the departing flights sign. The two men shook hands. Seth March walked through an automatic glass door and disappeared into the terminal. “Sometimes, the employees fire themselves,” he thought. Next stop, Minnesota. March hesitated. The security line snaked around a maze of nylon three times over. Toward the rear of the line, a little girl sat giggling atop her father’s shoulders. March turned and retreated to the ground transportation area and hailed a cab.
Bruce Harris is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: ABout Type (available at www.batteredbox.com).
A sacred grove
Surrounded by the ageless
Protectors of the earth
Glowing fearless fire
In my lens
Light casting away
Dark shadows lurking.
Down in the earth
Towards the heavens
-Lon Lovett photo copyright Lon Lovett www.lonlovett.com
copyright © Lon Lovett 2013; reprinted from www.lonlovett.com
Alone, cold fire burning
In the heat of the day light
Burning solitary; singular
Resting in the cast light
Breathing in window beams
Alight on a still surface
Waiting for the warmth
A cold fire burns
Across an aging hearth
copyright © Lon Lovett 2013;
reprinted from www.lonlovett.com photo copyright Lon Lovett www.lonlovett.com
And students dream too of clouds
On the edges of the world they float
Looking through the windows of learners
And teachers too, who point and show
All the faraway places for the tiny ones to go
Spreading their wings away from the books
Resting on hard benches so tired in their knowledge
Looking at the perfect writing on the wall
Adjusting their loops and lowering their cases
While the pot belly stove sits cold and unused
In the heat of summer dreaming
Clouds float by the edge of the world
As ghosts sit up straight in the empty classroom photo copyright Lon Lovett www.lonlovett.com
copyright © Lon Lovett 2013; reprinted from www.lonlovett.com
Lon Lovett is a father, photographer, author, poet, and teacher. He lives in Northern Utah.