Word count: 5,660

That's Funny, I don't care who y'are

By Ray Squires

Terry Stillman shifted his sitting position. He and Kevin were up in the executive boardroom of American Difficult choice here.  

Terry Stillman shifted his sitting position. He and Kevin were up in the executive boardroom of American Water Distributors, sixteen floors above Olympic Boulevard in East LA and halfway through a two-hour pitch on a new line of flavored water out of Argentina. If AWD agreed to distribute the Argentine company’s Essence Water, Terry and the kid could draw enough to make fourth quarter their biggest yet. And then Terry could finally hire a West Coast sales rep and slow down a bit. He shifted again. If it didn’t go through he was pretty much fucked without enough cash flow to get their product out for the holidays, and it wasn’t looking good. The one guy who mattered, the VP of sales, a big guy named Mike Stallings, wasn’t in the room.

“What do you think, Terr?” Kevin stood in the dim light next to a screen reflecting the new label design they’d talked the Argentines into getting. Just on the eco-friendly bottles for the American market.

“What’s that?” Terry chewed a hangnail.

“The new color labels.  They’re a game changer.”

“Oh yeah. No question.” Terry folded his arms. A few grey hairs and the copper bracelet meant to curb tendonitis poked out the bottom of his shirt cuff. He sat near the door, toward the back of the room at a rectangular mahogany table. “Show them the stats from the test market study, Kev.” Might as well keep them amused. Marketing guys loved stats. “I’ll be right back.” Terry nodded and headed for the restroom he noticed earlier, just down the hall. Goddamn prostate. But Kevin could hold them till he got back. These marketing guys in their designer glasses and Italian shoes had no sense of urgency anyway. After Terry washed his hands, he called Jane back at his office.

“I need you to do something for me, Janey. I need this guy, Mike Stallings, to call me asap. Poor bastard missed the meeting for an emergency colonoscopy this morning. I need you to send him something.”

“OK, like what? Flowers?”

“No, we can’t send him flowers. He used to play pro ball for Christ’s sake. Can’t send him flowers. What about a fruit basket or something?”

“You want to send a guy who just had an emergency colonoscopy a fruit basket?”

“I don’t know. Call his admin, would ya, and see what you can do. I need this guy to call me, Janey.”

“I know. I’ll get his home address and send his wife flowers.”

“Aw now see. That’s why I love you. See you in the morning.”

“I have a doctor’s appointment in the morning. I’ll be in after lunch.”

“Oh yeah, sure. All right, doll. See you then.”

When Terry got back to the room Kevin was closing down his laptop and the three marketing execs stood together holding their sample bottles of Essence Water. Terry approached the head marketing guy. “I’m sure you’ll be at the National Beverage Distributors show in Atlanta next week. Kevin and I will be there, of course. We’d love to take you and Mike to dinner and finalize the proposal.” He stuck his hand out. “Even if Mike can’t make it, hopefully you’ll have a chance to show him the numbers and—. ”

The head marketing guy adjusted his glasses “We’ll definitely need to talk with Mike first.” He shook Terry’s hand. “Let’s just wait and see how the rest of the week goes.”

“Oh, of course, right.” Terry said. “I’ll check in before the end of the week.”

---

They made it to the Sky Club at LAX by Happy Hour. Kevin held the door for Terry. “Damn Gramps,” he said with a smirk on his face. “Can’t you at least hold it till the meeting’s over?”

Terry walked passed him carrying his black leather briefcase. “You’ll be here one day.”

Kevin walked up along side him. “Oh hey, I got us a great deal on rooms for the show next week.”

Terry stopped short. The place was packed. “What did everybody miss their freaking flight today?” He made his way past a few young guys in matching golf shirts and a heavyset bastard in a dark blue suit looking like he just got handed his papers. At the bar Terry set his bag by his feet and grabbed a handful of peanuts from a bowl. A heavyset woman sitting in front of it scooted over. Terry glanced at her and then turned around to face Kevin again. He popped several nuts in his mouth. “You missed the group rate at the convention center hotel again didn’t ya?” he said, chewing.

“No. Just trying to save some money. It’s only a block down from the convention center.”

“Why don’t you let Jane handle that?”

“You serious? Jane’d have us booked at some hole twenty miles from where we’re supposed to be.” Holding the handle of his rolling bag, Kevin read the list of beers over Terry’s head. “Get me a Guinness. Remember last year’s ASBDSD’s show in Vegas, when she used her parents’ points? Dump was like a mile from the strip.”

Terry scrunched up one side of his face and then turned around again and yelled for the bartender. “Gimme a Guinness and a Michelob Ultra.” He finished the rest of the nuts in his hands and swiped them together to brush off the crumbs. Then he grabbed the beers from the bartender.

“Thanks,” Kevin said as Terry handed him his beer. “You want us to share?”

“Hell no. You snore.” Terry counted his change and left two singles on the bar. Kevin had already spotted a table where another group of men in suits stood up and collected their luggage. When the men walked away Terry and Kevin sat down. “You know, the point of staying at the convention center hotel is that our customers are there.”

“We’re just a couple blocks down. I swear.” Kevin sat down and took out his phone. “Hey, what you know. Guess who they’re giving the excellence in sales award to this year? Bruce Wells. Your old buddy at Sayers Soda.”

“Yeah, I know.” Terry sipped his beer and looked around the room. A petite woman at a table nearby took off her suit jacket and as she lifted up her giant Fendi computer bag, her bicep flexed on her little arm. “Finally giving it to someone who deserves it.”

“Yeah, at least they’re not giving it to Gary Sayers.”

“Gary Sayers never spent a day in the field in his life, Kevin. He’s a goddamn marketing guy whose family happens to own the third largest soft drink company in the U.S.”

Kevin looked up from his phone and then looked back down. “You think AWD’ll sign before Mike Stallings gets back?”

Terry took out his phone. “No.”

“How long you think he’ll be out?”

Terry rubbed his stomach, which pulled more now on his dress shirts. “Christ. I don’t know. I’ll see what I can find out from his girl in the morning.” He slid his finger across the face of phone to unlock it. Carole had sent a text with a picture of a chubby, wide eyed baby all in pink. Their first grandkid. She looked just like their daughter, Ashley, at that age. “Thank God,” he said, but not loud enough to illicit a response from Kevin. “You imagine if a little girl had that goofball’s ears?” He texted Carole:

More shots today?
Yes. No tears.
She’s a Stillman! 

The overhead intercom announced that flight 223 to Chicago was boarding.

“Did they say our flight?” Terry asked gulping down some of his beer.

“Yeah.” Kevin put his phone in his pocket and stood up.

Terry texted Carole again:

Boarding now. Home by 8. Hungry.

---

They’d taken Kevin’s three series car to the airport, and as he pulled into Terry’s semicircular driveway the sun was just setting. Something about the landscaping surrounding Terry’s three story stone and brick house looked different. The country club must have repaved the cart path along the course. The sharp smell of fresh asphalt confirmed it as Terry opened the passenger car door. “Jesus,” he said once he heaved himself out of the car and got his feet on the ground. He adjusted the waist of his pants and then leaned down to stick his head back in before closing the door. “You did good today.”

“Thanks. Hey, my youngest one has a breakfast with daddy day. I’ll be in late tomorrow.”

“Sure.” Terry tapped the hood of the car and then walked over to inspect the fresh cart path. It ran to the left of his house, past his pool and onto the third hole’s putting green. The late August sun stared back at him through the oak trees in the distance. Maybe he’d better call that marketing guy tomorrow. Those young designer glasses wearing types were totally unpredictable. The guy might can it before Mike Stallings had a chance to get back and look at the numbers. The proposal would have been a done deal if Mike had been there. Terry shook his head and walked to the front door. When he opened it another acrid smell greeted him. Something burning in the oven. “Jesus, Carole.” He set his bag at the bottom of the stairs and then walked into the kitchen. Burnt garlic bread lay in charred tinfoil on top of the open range stove next to a container of to-go food. He opened the lid. Chicken parmesan. His favorite.

“Hey.” Carole walked in through the dining room already wearing her bathrobe, pink satin that went down to the floor. “Mario says hello.”

“You and the girls go to DiPalmas?” Terry poured himself a glass of wine from the open bottle of cabernet sitting out on the marble counter top.

“Just Ashley and the baby.” Carole leaned against the framed walkway and crossed her arms as if it were cool in the house.

“It’s seventy degrees in here, Carole.”

“I’m fine,” she said and went on explaining that Ashley’s husband was traveling and their other daughter Brittany and her husband had tickets to the Blackhawks. “But little Nikki was a complete angel.” She stopped talking as Terry put the to-go box in the fridge and tossed the garlic bread in the garbage. “Aren’t you hungry?”

“We stopped for a milkshake on the way home. Looks like Mario put enough in there to feed an army. What’s he trying to say?”

“That he appreciates our business.” She walked over to the refrigerator and looked inside. “We can have it for dinner tomorrow with salad. Will you be home?”

“Yeah.”                                                                  

She closed the fridge. “How’d the meeting go?”

“Don’t worry.” He took a sip of his wine. “We’ll get you that new Jag.”

“I didn’t mean that. You look tired.”

In the living room he picked up a pile of mail from the hutch and looked through it. He didn’t feel like talking now. If he waited a few minutes more before going up she might fall asleep and he could just crawl in next to her, enjoy her sweet scent and do Sudoku until he passed out. As he read through a statement for one of their retirement plans he heard her slippers on the stairs. After opening a few more bills he set them back on the hutch and closed the lights on the first floor. He took his glass with him up the stairs.

Carole was still awake, lying in bed and reading her Kindle. She looked up. “How long are you home?”

Terry sat on the armchair in the corner of the room, facing her. “Did you just get this reupholstered?”

“Yes.”

“I fly out again Tuesday. But I’ll be home for my birthday,” he looked at her and smiled and then went back to taking off his shoes.

“Good. The girls have something big planned.”

Terry walked over to the double vanity on the other side of the room. “Oh yeah?”

“You’re going to that show Coke sponsors in Atlanta, right?” she continued. “Where they give out the big sales award?”

He picked up his toothbrush and coated it with paste. “They’re giving it to Bruce Wells this year.”

“Bruce Wells? Wow, when was the last time you saw him?”

“About six months ago. In Vegas. We played a round of golf at the Sports Drink show. You know Sayers makes everything now.” He stuck the toothbrush in his mouth and began brushing.

Carole picked her Kindle back up and shook her head. “Why don’t they give it to you?”

He finished brushing, rinsed his mouth out, and set his toothbrush back in its holder. “They give it to people who deserve it.” He looked at her through the mirror. “That’s why. So goddamn patronizing.” He grabbed his glass of wine and his Sudoku book off his night stand and walked toward the bedroom door.

Carole put her Kindle down again. “Terry, I was just making conversation.”

“Yeah right.” He called back and continued heading for the guest bedroom down the hall.

---

On Tuesday, before heading down to O’Hare for his flight to Atlanta, Terry drove to his office, a first floor suite in an office park just three miles from the house. With him and Kevin on the road all the time, only two of the six offices stayed occupied: Jane, when she was in, and the graphics guy. But once he hired that West Coast rep, Terry’d be spending more time in the office, just mornings and then afternoons on the golf course like his buddies who stayed on at Sayers and were division senior VPs now. Terry adjusted his Audi’s rearview mirror as he backed into his spot. Those guys had it easy at the top, just flew out for shows and then hell, most clients came to them. Meanwhile Terry was on the road now more than ever. Course, their income was capped, and his could triple by the end of the year if he got that goddamn deal with AWD. He got out of the car and clicked the remote button to lock the doors. Still no word from Mike Stallings yet. Hopefully he’d be at the show in Atlanta.

“Hey a doll,” Terry said to Jane as he stood in the doorway to her office. “You got anything for me?”

Jane looked up from behind her computer screen, a little startled. She patted her sleek permed hair and clicked her mouse before collecting a stack of checks. She got up from her desk and put them in Terry’s hand. “What hotel did Kevin end up booking for the show in Atlanta?”

“Oh, the Sheraton, just down from the convention center.”

“You know there’s another big meeting going on in Atlanta this week,” she said adjusting the strap on her camisole. “All the trade show material warned about it. That’s why they wanted you to book early, so you’d be sure to get a room at the Omni, the convention center hotel. I tried to tell him that.”

“I think the Sheraton’s supposed to be a little nicer.”

She smiled and walked back to her desk, and Terry watched her ass sway until she reached her seat.

“Thanks doll.” He headed down the hall to his office.

---

Terry’s flight put him in Atlanta at noon. His cab pulled up to the Sheraton’s valet just as three knights dressed in white plastic and carrying what looked like laser guns headed into the lobby. Terry paid the cabby and then held the lobby door for a woman dressed as Princess Leia. She walked right passed him as if nothing was strange abut the fact that she held a chain attached to someone else dressed as a giant green worm.  The girl at the reservation desk said the costumes were for an annual fantasy convention. Jut as Terry finished checking in, Kevin walked up, pulling his rolling luggage along the magenta carpet. He took his sunglasses off. “What the hell is going on?”

Terry put his room key in his pants pocket. “You booked us at the wrong hotel, asshole. That’s what’s going on. Jane tried to tell ya.” He waited for Kevin to get checked in and then they headed to the elevator.

“You connect with anyone from AWD yet?” Kevin asked.

“No. Mike hasn’t returned my calls. I don’t think he’s back yet, but I think that marketing guy is here.” They passed a medieval knight. “Let’s meet down here in an hour. We’ve got dinner with the new micro-juicer out of Portland.” The elevator doo r opened and revealed three giant turtles carrying martial arts looking weapons and wearing Zoro masks. Terry watched them get off and then stepped into the elevator. “I don’t know what the fuck is going on around here, Kevin. But by the end of the week we need AWD or some other distributor to get our products out before the holidays or we’ll both be sucking up to Sayers for jobs next year.”

--

            After dinner and drinks with their Portland client Terry left Kevin at the Hard Rock Cafe on Peachtree Street and made his way back to the Sheraton alone. He didn’t do the late night networking anymore. That’s where Kevin shined. The hotel was even more packed than before with costumed people. Terry got on the elevator with some guy dressed as Bigfoot. He had a sash of bullets draped diagonally across his chest.

“Lot of meetings today?” Terry said as the elevator started moving. The beast just let out a guttural roar of sorts and handed Terry his business card. Apparently he ran an IT firm out of Baltimore.

 

Terry was showered and dressed and in the Sheraton lobby restaurant for breakfast the next morning by seven. Some of the fantasy convention-goers were there too, and while he ate his omelet he got a kick out of eavesdropping on a table of new age women who chatted about their session on gaming meditation. He texted Kevin to make sure he didn’t miss his alarm. Ten minutes later Kevin showed up with his hair still wet from his shower and blood shot eyes.

“You look like shit,” Terry said.

“Late night,” Kevin said. “Hung out with the guys from Southern Distributors.” He sat down and drank Terry’s water. “They’re upping our case agreement on all our sports drink lines and the new energy drink from Amsterdam.”

“Atta boy.”

Kevin finished the water and then rubbed his face. “Man, we bought drinks last night for these girls. They were covered in body paint. It was insane. That’s all they had on.”

“Nice.” Terry took a gulp of his coffee. “All right we gotta go. You can get some Starbucks over at the convention center.” He stood up and left a twenty on the table.

They waited ten minutes for a cab and when it finally got there Terry shook his head at Kevin as they got in. “Next time, have Jane book it.”

“Ok. I know.”

Sitting in the backseat of the cab Terry fished in the pocket of his sports coat to make sure he had enough business cards. “You get the second floor. I’ll cover the first.”

Kevin nodded his head.

“Don’t goof off. I want us walking away with qualified leads. Not just bullshit. See what new flavored waters all the big guys are bringing in, but don’t waste too much time with them. Remember our sweet spot.” He looked out the window. “Poor bastards spend a fortune coming to this show— ”  His voice trailed off, but he’d said it several times before. The big manufacturers already had their case inventory contracts in place with the key distributors by the time this show kicked off. The little guys basically paid to find out they’d have to wait another year to get a contract. “Just an excuse for marketing to show off their campaign themes and dress up in costumes and decorate their booths. Goddamn emperor’s new clothes,” Terry said under his breath as the cab pulled up to the convention center’s campus.

“Come on, Gramps. Don’t get upset. We’re gonna have a good show.” Kevin patted Terry on the shoulder after they got out of the cab. His hair was dry by now. “Meet back at the Sheraton lobby at six before the awards dinner.” 

The show took up two floors in one of the pods of the giant domed structure. Kevin rode an escalator up to the second floor as Terry buttoned his sports coat and headed down a glassed corridor for the registration area. He said hello to several people, their voices reverberating off the high glass ceilings. When he reached terminal B he waited in line for his badge and an exhibitor list. “Thanks doll,” he said to a girl who handed him a map of all the booths on the show floor. There were over a thousand vendors. Terry walked into the exhibit hall and read the row numbers hanging from the open architecture of the ceiling. Everybody was there. All the big guys, who didn’t self-distribute, Porters, Smart Soda, Wateraide, Makers. Terry headed for Sayers Soda’s booth first, so he could warm up by saying hi to his old buddies.

The Sayers’ booth theme looked like something to do with the Wild West. A young brunette dressed as Annie Oakley walked up to him. She tipped her cowboy hat at him.

“Hi Terry,” she said reading his badge. “Oh hey,” she squinted her eyes to see better, “Terry Stillman of Vici Imports. I’m Arianna Winkler, West Coast marketing manager for Sayers’ developing products.”

“So what’s your tie in here with your booth theme? Sayers opening up a new production facility in New Mexico?”

“No, but I had to come up with something, and you know, I like the West. Some of our biggest accounts are on the West Coast. You’re an old buddy of Bruce Wells and Gary Sayers, right?”

“Bruce anyway. They around?”

“No. They’re not flying in till tonight.”

“Oh all right. Thanks doll.” He started to walk away.

“Wait, Terry. One of your guys was telling me last night that you’ve got a big proposal out with AWD.”

“We don’t have it yet.” He adjusted the waist on his pants. “But, you know. It looks good.”

“Yeah. Sounds like you’re having a hard time finalizing with their VP of Sales, Mike Stallings.”

“Jesus, what’d you slip Kevin a roofie?”

“Kevin, right, that’s his name. No, but he talked a lot. Yeah, I worked with their marketing team on a new soda line we bought last year. I’ve worked with Mike Stallings before.”

“Oh yeah? Can you get me a meeting with him?”

“Maybe.” She took her hat off and ran her fingers through her hair. “So Bruce and Gary tell some pretty crazy stories about you. I manage our California and Nevada accounts, I report to Gary.” 

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Terry said and adjusted the waist of his pants again.

A group of two men and two women walked by and one of the women came up behind Terry and hugged him.

“Hey, Mary. How you doin’, doll?” Terry said to her.

“I’m great, Terry. You’re not harassing this sweet girl, are you?”

“Never.” He smiled and then turned to join the group of his peers. “So how’s business, Mary? I heard you opened a new division.” Out of the corner of his eye he watched the Sayers girl put her hat back on and get into a conversation with a couple of young distributor reps as Mary filled him in on her new division.

“Yeah, we’re looking for some reps. Let me know if you sniff any out, ok?”

“All right, good seein’ ya Mar.” Terry waived goodbye, but before he could walk away the Sayers girl came back up to him again.

“Nice meeting you, Terry.” She smiled and stared at him for a moment, as if recognizing him all over again. “You used to be really hot didn’t you?”

Terry stepped back. He cocked his head at her. What they hell was that supposed to mean? “See you around, kid,” he said and walked away. He called over to another guy he knew at the Wateraide booth.

---

Terry made his rounds on the show floor and then tried to get in touch with Mike Stallings again but no luck. By six he was dressed for the awards dinner. He and Kevin headed back over to the convention center hotel together, but then split up to work the banquet hall on the top floor. This year’s award winner, Bruce Wells, stood near the open bar in the center of a crowd from Sayers. Bruce looked good, as always, one of those guys who got better looking as he got older, hair still thick, not all the way grey yet, and still slim, never much of a drinker. Terry walked up to him.

“Congratulations, Bruce. You deserve it.” He put his left hand on Bruce’s shoulder. They shook hands and came in for a hug.

“Thanks for coming, Terry. I appreciate you being here.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Terry said and meant it, although he took offense. Why the hell wouldn’t he be here? All his customers were here, including Sayers.

They shared a couple stories from back in the day with some other guys who came up and then dispersed to take their seats at one of the thirty or more ten-foot round tables that filled the room. Terry saw Kevin sit down with a new but growing distributor, and Terry sat at a table with several guys and a couple of women he’d known for thirty years or better. Next to them were the three tables Sayers Soda had reserved.

Terry ordered the filet, medium rare, and a woman from Southern Distributors shared with the table two bottles of a great new rosé that their wine imports division had just picked up. At the end of dinner several Sayers men stood up at the microphone to congratulate Bruce and piece together his career with their jokes and anecdotes. Bruce sat in a big armchair, traditional roast style as Gary Sayers, executive vice president of marketing, told the story of how Bruce and Terry Stillman started together at Sayers Soda in Milwaukee, thirty years ago. Fresh out of college, they were delivering cases to convenience stores and grocery store chains all over the Midwest. Bruce stayed on and got promoted to senior management. Terry got let go after ten years, because of his big mouth, Gary joked. Terry lifted his glass in good humor but shifted in his seat.

The president of the National Beverage Distributors Association, the organization putting on the trade show, went up to the mic last and thanked everyone for being there, the usual bullshit, thanks to Coca Cola for sponsoring. Then everyone stood up and gave a final round of applause. Terry waited for the circle around Bruce to thin and then went up to him and congratulated him again. The new CEO of Sayers walked up and put his hand on Bruce’s shoulder – “come on, Wells. Let me buy you the first drink.”

Terry stood with Bruce and a few other folks from Sayers Soda and Southern Distributors in the huge upscale lounge just outside the banquet hall. He was waiting to hear from Kevin who had finally found the marketing guy from AWD. Terry was about to take a sip from his highball when his phone vibrated. Maybe Kevin had found Mike Stallings too. “Excuse me guys,” Terry said. He got a nod from one of his buddies at Southern Distributors, but everyone else was too engaged in conversation to respond. Terry walked along the tan and red carpet toward the bathrooms by the elevator. He looked down at his phone and realized the text was from Carole.

Nikki had bad fever. Ashley brought her to ER.

He took a sip from his glass and set it on a trey table by the bathroom door.

She ok?

He loosened his tie waiting for Carole’s reply.

Fine now. Antibiotics. Fever down. Ashley can take her home in few hours.

Terry checked his flight itinerary.

Give my love. Be home early tomorrow.

When he came out of the bathroom he could see a circle of people still standing around Bruce. Several of the men had loosened their ties by now too and removed their suit jackets. One of the women from Southern had slipped off her shoes. Terry took his phone out again to check in with Kevin. While he was typing, a new text came in from a number he didn’t’ recognize:

Got good news on AWD. Meet at Sheraton lobby bar.

He was about to type “WTF?” but then thought better of it. Kevin probably lost his phone and was texting through someone at AWD. So he caught a cab back over to the Sheraton and as the cab pulled into the valet the fantasy convention’s costumes were in stronger effect, aliens and space cowboys and people in futuristic looking getups everywhere. Inside was packed and he made his way to the lobby bar, squeezing in next to a couple of half-naked girls in some kind of Japanese cartoon looking outfits.

The girl from the Sayers Soda booth tapped him on the shoulder. She was apparently done with the cowgirl getup and looked gorgeous in a short black cocktail dress. “Hey. Terry. You missed the group rate over at the convention hotel too, huh?”  

“Yes.”

“Let me buy you a drink. Great people watching.” She gritted her teeth and squinted up her eyes like she was a little scared.

“Sure, why not.” The half-naked Japanese girls walked away and he motioned for the Sayers girl to sit down at the big U-shaped bar. The bartender placed napkins in front of them and asked what they wanted. “All we have are Atlanta brewed beers – Red Brick Summer Ale, Sweetwater 420, Sweetwater Blue, and Schweet.”

“What tastes the closest to Michelob Ultra Light?” Terry asked.

“None of them.”

“Closest to Budweiser?”

“The Schweet.”

“Give me that one then, but don’t make me say it.” Terry took his wallet out. “And,” he paused on her name.

“Arianna.” She offered. “I’m getting this.”

“No you’re not. What do you want?”

She frowned and put her elbows on the bar. “I’ll take a 420.”

“You know you really should be at the event hotel with your customers,” Terry said, he took out a twenty and then put his wallet back in his pants.

“You know I’m the one who sent you that text, right?” She said as the bartender sat the beers in front of them.

“Uh, no. I didn’t.” He took a sip of his beer and made a face. “You sure you didn’t slip my partner a roofie? Did he give you my social security too? Where the hell is Kevin anyway?” He looked around. “I haven’t seen him since dinner.”

“I don’t know where Kevin is. I haven’t seen him since last night.”

“So what’s going on, Arianna? How do you have news for me on AWD?”

She took a sip of her beer. “The award presentation was fun.” She set her bottle back down and straightened up her back. “I guess Gary kind of fucked you back in the day, huh?”

“You always talk like that? Turns some people off.” He turned his body to face the bar.

“I thought being honest was good for sales.”

“Yeah, but subtle, you know. Jesus.”

 “I talked to Mike Stallings’ admin,” she said, and Terry turned to look at her again. “She and I went to college together, sorority sisters.”

“You don’t seem like the sorority type.” He stared at her a few moments. “And?”

“He’s at AWD all day tomorrow. She got me an appointment with him at eleven. It’s yours if you want it.”

“And what do I tell him when I’m not you?”

“That I’m your new West Coast Area Sales Manager and couldn’t make the appointment so you’re filling in for me.”

Terry stood up and finished his beer. “I gotta tell Kevin to keep his mouth shut. Jesus.”

“Why? It’s a win for both of us.” She put her hand on his arm. “I’m great at sales. Gary just doesn’t want to promote me from marketing because he’s grooming his son.

He stared at her a few moments and then looked around. “Send your resume and salary requirements to Jane at my office.”

“Oh I already did. She’s great,” Arianna said and smiled.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Arianna. We’ll talk next week.” Terry put his empty glass on the bar. “I gotta go change my flight. Thanks doll.” 

---       

It cost him eight hundred dollars to change his goddamn flight. Ridiculous. But by eleven a.m. Terry sat outside Mike Stallings’ office on the sixteenth floor of American Water Distributors. Jut like Arianna said. The plan worked. Terry took Mike to lunch and gave him a rundown of the numbers and the return expected for Essence Water. Done deal. Mike signed and agreed to front Terry and Kevin the cash they’d need to get their products out before the holidays. Terry made one more stop at one of his smaller clients in the area and was back at the airport by six. While sipping a beer in the Sky Club lounge he called Kevin to fill him on the news about AWD and Arianna.

“What do you think, Kev? You think we should give her a shot?”

“Gramps, you serious? That girl’s crazy.”

“Yeah right. Look, I won’t be in tomorrow. You be sure to get things lined up for next week."

Before boarding the plane home to Chicago, Terry smiled to himself as he texted Carole:

What color you want on that Jag? Home by 8. Hungry.