On a phone to California
“Hello is this Scott - Scott Morgan?”
He is the phone up to is ear, and for a moment he was between the real world and the telephone world. He shut out everything from the noise of the office building which he now inhabited, now that he had left the hubub of his previous employment, and settled down here – where here was a scheme to make money by making stock, on a vast scale – they were in the Fortune 100. unlike the last place, he was not important, but paid rather well. Especially when they did not seem to notice that he was gone for a long time. He rather suspected that they do he was doing work for some branch of the Executive Department.
“I am from your previous employer, and would like to engage you for a week of your time. If that is possible. We can submit to your present employer details.” He could guess which employer she she meant, and what is more, she did not need to ask because it was obvious to her. Which meant that she was aware of at least some of the final resolution of dissolution. She knew at least some of the inns and outs that led to a very chilly reception on both his and their cold frost. But then, she was probably at the desk where such matters were taken up – this was not a call from the normal personnel desk. He would note that, if it ever became important – and would walk gently knowing that he was with a specialist.
“What is this about?”
“There has been a few changes, and your report upon submission has turned out to be prescient. We would like to interview you, and perhaps relieve some of the misgivings. It may turn out that you would be part of saving our company legal expenses, for which you would be well compensated.” If he knew the employer, they would mark up every by 15%.
But he put this aside, and reflect on the changes, and whether a wanted to place himself inside them. This had the effect of calling to mind the events that had taken place, the scheming on the part of the consultants, and the haphazard way that higher ups had ramshackled in order to gain just a few dollars more profit, though it was obvious that there was no more profit to be had. Well there was a month more, and then things came tumbling down – the Program Director disappeared one day, and everything came crawling out of the details. The other companies, were by then, out of here. But apparently there was a screaming match, at that point several other people departed.
It turned out that once was enough to remove the companies own director - he was moved back to being in the front lines. Apparently, he messed once, and that was enough one was enough, if it was a big enough client. The company also had to disgorge the great deal of the profits, and one of the nationally known solicitors was brought in. and he made a great deal of money for himself and his law firm. The embarrassing mess could have been resolved had they listened to Sebastian, who pleaded for them to get out. In hindsight, they should have taken him up on his advice. Or anyone advice at all, instead of glom on the profit motive above all else. But the way vice presidents made their mark was to risk everything and hope that someone else would take the fall, there was some kind of logic - as if the stars new something that people did not.
“I heard they were trying circumstances.”
“Very much so, and I am sorry if words were said that made you feel like interrupting your relationship with the company. I can say that can't I?” The voice was young and soft. The tone of voice was a good deal lower and less formal now, because she knew that he was going to cooperate - she had wiles. Which she need not apply, because he did not really need money; but appeared to need money to keep up appearances. His character needed money, which was more important. So he focused a stare – though there was no one watching – and answered in the best and most illustratively figured device: “I am listening, you certainly have my attention.” In mimicking the way she was speaking to him, with a singsong voice that had no pattern of rhythm, but the rhythm itself - a though of a scene from when he was a child rushing about the North empty field, as if nothing could ever be wrong, and times would be still in to that rich complaisance. It was a place which he hid his true feelings, and put on a ornate face from Beijing Opera – rich in the face with pure white.
“What do you have in mind?”
“What would it take to bring you down here for two weeks, and have you answer any questions the lawyers might have?” It was an immediate response, designed to get an immediate answer. But he waited because he wanted to actually think about what his answer would be. And then pad it, because there were people who would know he was in a hurry, and pad their bills accordingly. There were rules of the game, and in the previous year and some, he had learned a few of them. It had been an experience that he wish he knew when he started. But what would happen is that the people who prayed on him would know, and move to someone who did not. He did not know how they did it, but it was obvious to them. Perhaps with a bit of practice, he would acquire these skills if he had use of them. However, it was lower down on the pay level then he was even now. Even the mysterious but on under-remunerative still has its mysteries.
Suddenly it occurred to him that he was speaking to this woman he did not know in a town of voice which was far too friendly. He was speaking to her the way he would speak to the woman who teased and tormented him. And it was at this point that he knew he would have to visit her, though not of course in her homeland.
At which point he bore down on to her, and ask a very simple question: “Let us get down to the chase, you know how much money you want to spend, spend it, and I will make sure I get out there and get things done. Because let us face it, there are great many more people who are far more important than I am, so get me out of the way. That way can spend time on the more important people. I promise you I will have enough information to justify the expense.” His voice was cold and assured, and what it passed was not to play the game, just get me there and back. Which was a trifle mature for his age, but she would guess that he had training from a more experienced player.
“There is standard package, which I was not going to tell you about. But it seems better to do so, in my judgment. I could send over the forms, and await your reply.”
“I will just make sure that everything is in order, doting all i's and crossing all t's. I am sure it will be better for both of us to get this squared away in no time flat.” Because this was not really for his cover, but part of the deeper level of his work. The voice made no impression, much like Frost's much misread poem. Strangely enough it took command.
“I like men who take charge in that way.” She of course had a question which she wanted answered, but could not ask it over the phone. Though he thought of how he would do it, if he had the gift of fluid speech – as did the Archangel in will the Satanic verses. And then and with a punch line, yar.
“This is just for business.” Watching this on television, was entertainment. Watching this on film, such as The Highlander, was art. Living through this was furniture. A man who changed his name to a dead infant was jejune, one would not expect it to have happened to the Program Director of a major institution. They had to scour anyone who knew anything about it, he was sure of this.
“I will have the forms sent to you, what is your fax number?”
He gave her what she needed, and at the same time he was thinking about the woman from China; the business part of his brain not interfere with the romantic part. Because while the woman on the phone may or may not be attractive, there was an elevation in his nether regions which did not come from his speaking to her on the telephone, but instead was a desire for a woman who was only in a dim photograph. Which meant she did not want him to know what she looked like. Which is fine with him, because it is a matter of attractiveness. There was something alluring which was not the image of sight. Then he snapped back to the real world, and remembered that he wanted to ask a question.
“Is it true that the Program Director has disappeared? I read it in a newspaper.” Even now the capital letters were still pronounced, and in his mind the tall slender figure of him still smiled while scowling under a scraggly beard. Such was the way that people got to him.
“Yes, I am afraid it is.” there was a glim, glowering pause in her voice.
“I am sure we will have many interesting questions...” and several popped in to mind immediately, which was the way where the inheritors were coming to take all the way from there in the Neanderthal cousins, at least that is the way that Golding portrayed – voiceless dialogue that was precise.
“Although we should not discuss the right now.” Rupturing line just in case it was going anywhere, though actually it was not.
“Get the materials for me, and I will definitely come, if everything is in order.” he was trying to cut the conversation short, if she could just realize it. But whatever was on her mind stopped her from realizing this, at first.
“I will do that, is there anything else that needs to be done?” Just to make sure, in that kitty corner way that some people used.
“No, good day.” A finality. A clear finality.
“Goodbye for now. Good luck with the rest of your day.” She had released a true gasp of relief that this had gone so well. She did not expect anything like this, normally there would be some ticklish reason or filtering out of dates.
The headline from the New York Times told about more stock carnage. Everyone pretended not to notice. Only one piece of mail was important – and he knew it was coming. It said blah that blah blah she blah want a divorce. His wife that is.