"This isn't good at all." Dean pursed his lips and drummed his fingers on his desk. "What kind of moron hires someone without bringing them in for a personal interview? Especially for a position as high-profile as CEO, for Pete's sake?" He sighed and ran his fingers through his thinning hair.
Across from Dean sat Jason Reed, the newest hot young account executive at Shaw Industries. He jerked his head sideways, first left then right, in quick succession. The movement caused his neck to snap, crackle, and pop like a bowl of milk-covered cereal.
"It eases the tension," Jason said. "You should try it."
"I'd rather eat a June bug."
"Sam's a good guy, Dean.” Jason's brow knit. “He’s just been under a lot of pressure from the Board. They want Deborah in here 'pronto' so she can get up to speed before the beginning of the year."
"How do you know?"
"Sam and I went to lunch yesterday, and he told me Deborah got the seal of approval from Mrs. Shaw. He said the Board feels the company's value stands a better chance of stabilizing if there's a CEO in place before year's end. I thought to myself that that'll be important to potential investors." Jason popped his knuckle but dropped his hands as Dean grimaced.
"Anyway, it might make the venture capitalists more inclined to invest, don't you think?"
Dean's eyes narrowed. "Tell me Jason, are you by chance telepathic?"
The younger man squinted and stared at Dean a moment then lifted and dropped his shoulders. "Guess not; why?"
"Then please explain to me the popular phrase ‘I thought to myself’. How could your thoughts get to anyone other than yourself?"
"Right. Call me a dreamer, Dean,” Jason said, “but I aspire to be as perfect as you one day."
A smile inched its way across the older man’s face. “Do they still call that brown nosing?"
"No," Jason said, "schmoozing. Back to Sam: he's not a moron. You know the Shaw’s are majority stockholders, and we all have to bow to their suggestions."
Dean sneered. "Thinly disguised demands would be more apropos. Labeling what they do 'suggestions' is like calling the Vietnam War a skirmish. I swear, Jason, when the Shaw’s open their mouths, you'd think E.F. Hutton entered the building."
"I'm confused." Jason frowned. "Didn’t you say you were pleased after the telephone interview you had with Deborah? Didn’t you say she's assertive without being aggressive and has impressive credentials?"
Dean scowled. "When did you become a court reporter?"
"I don't get it – last week you were gung-ho, but now you seem uncomfortable having a woman head up the compa. . .” Awareness flickered in Jason's eyes. “Wait. You said those things in front of Mr. Shaw. And you call me a schmoozer?"
Dean's features hardened, but he smiled nonetheless. “Cut the crap. I suppose you're going to pretend you're not the least bit concerned a woman will be running the show?”
Jason shrugged and stuck his index finger between his throat and shirt collar then tugged. He glanced up and met Dean’s eyes, registering the triumphant look on the older man's face.
"Here’s a tip," Dean said. "Never loosen your tie when you're trying to convince someone you're not concerned, not even if you’re choking to death."
Jason lowered his eyes. His voice held little conviction when he said, "I just think we ought to give the lady a chance, no matter what she looks like."
"That's because you’re not the one who’s going to have to work beside her day in and day out. Besides, who said anything about her appearance?"
Jason snorted. "This coming from a man who looks like he stepped out of a GQ magazine? Now who should cut the crap?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean frowned.
"It's a compliment." The flick of Jason’s hand took in the older man's impeccable attire. "The day you leave the company, this place will go from GQ to Gee Whiz before you've pulled out of the parking lot."
"Oh, well. . .thank you." Dean brushed invisible lint off his lapel. "It would be lying to say I wouldn't prefer to work for an attractive female; however, that's not the issue. Did you work under any females during your college internship?"
Jason’s salacious grin gave away his thoughts.
Dean ignored him. "I swear, give a woman a little power, and she turns into a direct descendent of Attila the Hun."
"Wouldn't that make her Attila the Huney?"
"I'm serious." Dean glared. "But should you decide to change careers, give standup comedy a try." His expression made it clear the comment wasn't complimentary.
"Anyway, this Deborah person sounded pleasant enough over the phone, but she was probably blowing hot air up our collective ass to get the job. I'll bet she's the biggest know-it-all you've ever seen. The impression we make on her better be immediate and excellent, or it won't matter one bit how long or how hard we've worked our tails off for this company." Dean rubbed his hand against his temple, almost talking to himself. “She's a female trying to make it in a man's world; God knows she'll have plenty to prove.” He shook head and snarled, "Viva la female!" He pulled Mylanta out of the drawer and took a hearty swig. "And what if the woman looks like an Amazon or, worse yet, one of those Gorillas in the Mist?"
Jason smiled. "I doubt it, but I knew you were concerned about her looks."
Dean stood and looked out the window. "Why do I have this sinking feeling it's time to dust off my resume? I swear, just the thought of pounding the pavement at my age makes me ill. I'd do just about anything not to have to go through that grind again."
"Come on," Jason said. "Give the lady a chance; maybe things won't be as bad as you predict."
"Sure." Dean sneered. "And maybe the Lottery Fairy will leave the winning ticket under my pillow.” He clicked his tongue. “It doesn't surprise me you're not concerned about competing in the job market. You’ve got youth on your side and..."
Interrupted by a knock at his door, Dean frowned. "Yes, come in."
"Oh, good," Sam nodded his acknowledgement to the two men and closed the door as he entered. "I hoped you’d both be here."
"What's up?" Jason asked.
"I need to let off a little steam, and you guys are the only two people here I trust." Sam glanced from Jason to Dean. "When I tell you something in confidence, you're not going to be talking it over at the water cooler this afternoon. I know..."
"If you trusted us more," Dean interrupted, "you'd have to frisk us first. What the hell, man?"
"Huh?" Sam’s eyes widened.
"Quit being so uptight; my God."
"Would you just tell us what's on your mind?" Dean asked.
Sam pulled the chair out next to Jason and spoke as he sat. "I just can't understand what's so special about this Deborah Lawrence woman. She must be some long-lost relative of Mrs. Shaw's or something."
"Why do you say that?" Dean leaned forward.
"Remember when Harold interviewed for the CEO position and the Board made an offer, but he held out for more stock and a bigger year-end bonus? Remember how that pissed off Mr. Shaw? He was so angry, he almost convinced the Board not to hire the man."
"I remember," Dean said.
"Well, you wouldn't believe the sweet offer they made Ms. Lawrence. If Harold heard what's in her package, he'd need to get his Pacemaker jump-started. And, mind you, I'm talking about the original offer the Board presented; they made it so good, she'd be insane to refuse.” Sam clicked his tongue. “Talk about your sweet deals."
"What does it all mean?" Jason asked, palms up.
"It means my concern has grounds.” Dean shook his head. “She's not going to be a figurehead, as I’d hoped; it’s apparent she'll have complete reign over the place.” He jumped up and slammed his hand down on his desk. "I was afraid something like this would happen. It's that damned Harold's fault; why the hell did he have to go and retire? He wasn't that old."
"Really?" Jason's eyes widened. "He looked ancient to me."
Dean ignored his remark. "This Deborah woman's voice sounded young; how old is she, Sam?"
"She's forty-two, single, and has no dependents."
"Ah, for Pete's sake." Dean’s shoulders slumped. He dropped into his chair, removed his glasses, and rubbed his forehead again.
"Wait, Sam," Jason said. "How could you know that? Aren’t there laws against asking those questions during an interview, even if it is one conducted by phone?"
Sam laughed and slapped Jason on the back. "You're a funny, funny guy. Of course there's laws against it, but didn't I tell you yesterday the Board wants her ready to take over pronto? They had me fax her an employee packet to prevent wasted time on her first day. She faxed the forms back this morning, apparently as eager to get started as they are to have her."
Dean grew more agitated as the conversation progressed. "What the hell, man? Does this broad walk on water or something?"
"What am I missing?" Jason’s eyes darted from Dean to Sam.
The two older men exchanged a knowing glance. Dean said, "Care to enlighten the boy, Sam?"
"It's like this, son," Sam said. "The woman's got no significant other who needs her at home, no brats to take care of, and she's still young. Mix those factors together, throw in a fantastic starting package, and you've got a workaholic who has no life outside the office. That means she'll expect us all to put in as many hours as she does, and it’s my guess they'll be long." Sam rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "Divorce court, here I come."
"Would you move so I can get a look at her, too?" Jason asked.
Dean stood at his office window and stared out at the parking lot through the vertical blinds. "Keep your shirt on. We don't want to make it obvious do we?"
"Well, at least tell me what kind of car she drives."
"One you’ll not own unless you close a hell of a lot more deals like your last one – wait, she's opening the door." Seconds later, Dean sucked in his breath. On the exhale, he let out an elongated, "Whoa!"
Jason tapped Dean on the back. "What are you 'whoaing' about?"
"Hel-lo Victoria, care to show me your secrets?" Dean's voice held reverence.
"Lemme see." Jason nudged Dean over and focused out the window. He watched as a statuesque blonde in a body-hugging business suit closed the door of a red Ferrari 360 Spider F1. She turned toward the building’s entrance, and Jason’s awe-filled voice mimicked Dean's, "Whoa. Incredible. Would you look at those curves?"
Dean's voice grew husky. "I'd love to."
"Maybe she won't be so bad to work under after all, huh Dean?" Jason craned his neck, eyes never leaving the tight curves of the new boss's svelte figure until she disappeared through the front door. Then his gaze returned to the parking lot and the empty Ferrari. His tongue flicked over his lips.
Mesmerized, the vision of the magnificent woman indelibly inked on his memory, his brain worked overtime. "Um, Dean, wouldn't it be a good idea if we met her at the entrance and introduced ourselves? You know, to welcome her aboard and offer to show her around. Maybe we should invite her to lunch or something."
Silence greeted Jason’s words.
"Dean?" He turned to find the office empty, door wide open. "Damn you, Dean. I said we should introduce ourselves - we!"
April Winters hopes to help people forget their troubles through humor, even if it’s only for a little while. Her other works can be read at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Linguistic Erosion, The Short Humour Site, and here at Short-Story.Me.
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