One for the Books
The eye of the beholder.
First published by London Journal of Fiction, November 19, 2016.
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Erections. At inappropriate times like right now with an applicant sitting across. Pug straightens his seating posture. Drops eyes to the printed resume. Lifts them. Smiles. Palms rise to the flanks of his thinning coiffure. Fall to the desk. He speaks.
– So. You were at ZirTex a few years. And you left, it looks like, four months ago?
Her face beams plain as a packhorse, straight nose, hints of mustache, one central incisor twisted twenty degrees. Print blouse and knit jacket enclose a robust bust. Her speech a dusty alto that pitches high every fourth syllable.
– I wasn’t let go if that’s what you’re thinking.
Her words prance at the edge of cognition, Pug’s mind gone to fantasy. She’s telling him where she lives. Saying come over. Check me out. He goes over. He checks her out.
– You know, your office software is the same as ZirTex. I could be up to speed in a week.
Pug drums a pen, makes further show of looking over the resume. Glances at his computer screen. Thinks of another question.
– Uh huh, yeah, lemme see. Do you mind talking to customers?
– Not at all. In fact, I’m pretty good on the phone.
– Great. Great. Naturally we’re interviewing others. But, yeah. Do you have any questions?
– Well the one thing. I talked to the HR guy. Phil?
– Uh huh.
– I’m not super-thrilled with the salary.
Pug offers a short laugh.
– Who is these days?
She returns the short laugh. She looks sweet. She looks vulnerable. Pug wishes he could offer more money. He wishes he could embrace her. He wishes they were rolling on the carpet. He offers a hand across the desk.
Minutes later Samantha drifts in and sits kitty-corner on Pug’s desk. Samantha fantasies—blond pubes, oversize nipples, her office, his office—have stopped—almost—not because she’s fifty to his forty, not because she’s his boss, but because of familiarity, same-old same-old day-in day-out, like matrimony.
– So, Pug, what’d you think of Felicity?
– I kinda liked her.
– Me too.
Samantha slides from the desk and straightens her legs.
– We got a couple more lined up. There’s a guy Drew. Tomorrow morning.
– She complained about salary.
– I’ll talk to Phil.
– I told her that’s the way it was these days.
– No, they’re low-balling her. I’ll talk to Phil. How’s everything at home? How’s Jean?
– Oh great thanks for asking.
That night, Pug flips off the bedroom light, scoots across king mattress, and presses against Jean’s backside. He pushes his nose into her nape and slips a hand around and under her pajama top.
– Pug honey, could you not press that thing against the crack of my ass?
– But the little guy likes you.
– Could you maybe go in the bathroom and deal with it?
– You know, I’m trying real hard, I’m trying my best, to be romantic here.
– Let’s shoot for Friday night.
– Please. I love you.
– Mother of God.
– Pretty please. I need you so much.
Jean rolls to her back, pushes a shoulder into Pug’s chest, and cups her left hand.
– I’ll tell you what. Out of the goodness of my heart.
– That’s not very lovey-dovey. How about …
– Don’t even go there. You don’t want it, you’re on your own.
– Okay what?
– Okay please.
Pug hooks thumbs in elastic waist, pushes down. The little guy flutters and stiffens. No problem there. Jean closes her eyes, takes a grip, and works him like a one-armed milkmaid. But it feels okay and Pug’s wriggling and thrusting. He’s groaning. He’s seeing this morning’s applicant coming around his desk, advancing on his swivel chair. What was her name? Can’t remember. No matter. Melissa, that’s it, Melissa. Melissa drops to her knees, teases his zipper, purses her lips. Pug pulls her up, on top of him in the chair. But wait, no, that won’t work, the chair has armrests, how can she get her legs around him? Okay, scratch the chair, they scramble to the corner of the office, by the small closet, on the carpet. Pug gets on top. Was she wearing pants or skirt? Can’t remember. Pug summons a skirt, pushes it up, pushes aside her panties at the left leg hole, presents the little guy. Oh Melissa, Melissa, I love you, I want to come in your pussy while I’m sucking your tits. Jean lets out a yelp.
– Oh Christ. Mother of God. What a mess.
Jean smears her hand along Pug’s pajama top, Pug panting in post-discharge remission.
– That was one for the books.
She leans over for her goodnight kiss.
Next morning, Pug looks across his desk at Drew, blond hair, buzz-cut on the sides, high in the middle, a smidgen of tattoo showing at the collar, skinny necktie, ears pierced but holes empty. They walk through Drew’s three-quarter-page resume. Drew grooves on the prospective position. He digs the suggested salary.
– I’m a speedo learner. Like light.
Pug offers his short laugh.
– You have to be these days.
Drew returns Pug’s short laugh, points a finger.
– Dig it.
They shake hands.
Minutes later Samantha meanders to the corner of Pug’s desk.
– So what d’you think?
– It’ll take a while to train him.
– Samantha, you know what, the one we had in yesterday. Melissa. A lot better.
Pug narrows his eyes.
– Her name’s Felicity.
– Oh, right, Felicity.
– There’s a red flag on her.
– A what?
Samantha slides from the desk and straightens her legs.
– That’s what Phil said.
She peers at the clock on Pug’s computer screen.
– I’m meeting with him at ten. Why don’t you sit in?
Phil rolls his chair away from the desk. Bony knees in tan Dockers jut toward the ceiling. Samantha and Pug sit on an IKEA couch against the wall. Phil opens the meeting.
– What’d you think of Drew?
Samantha leans forward.
– What’s with the red flag on Felicity?
– You really wanna know?
Phil puts his finger tips together.
– I didn’t like the way she left ZirTex. You just don’t walk away from a job these days.
He waits for nods from Samantha and Pug.
– We called through channels. They gave us the usual bull. She worked here, blah, blah, left without cause, blah, blah.
Another pause for nods.
– But I know a few people there. Went in the back door. Here’s what happened. She got involved with one of the VPs.
Pug feels his eyebrows lift. Phil continues.
– So you know how those things go. He dropped her and she was like a, like a woman scorned. She threatened sexual harassment. They paid her off to resign.
– What do you mean, so? Samantha, she’s damaged goods. We can’t bring her in here.
– Listen, Phil, I know a few people at ZirTex too and the VP you’re talking about is Max Smolenski.
Phil’s face reddens. He leans forward and looks toward the door then back at Samantha.
– Let’s not bring names into this.
– Except Smolenski is known to grab any tit that comes within reach.
– That’s beside the point.
– What point, Phil?
– She has a history. What if we hire her and she seduces someone here?
Samantha stands and approaches Phil’s chair.
– Who’s she gonna seduce here? You? Me?
Samantha points a finger at the couch.
Phil stands and angles his head downward to look Samantha in the eye. Pug decides to stand. Samantha continues in a loud whisper.
– I don’t like this sexist behavior one bit. You low-ball her on salary. Now you blacklist her because Max Asshole can’t keep his fly zipped.
Phil talks in the same loud whisper.
– Samantha, we’re running a business. Get a grip.
Friday afternoon and Pug’s concentration strays from the spreadsheet on the computer screen. He wonders if he can talk Jean into something kinky or will it be same-old same-old. A panic thought. Will she try to back out? That would be so unfair, she promised, Friday night. Pug shuffles the mouse, clicks it, plucks a few digits on the keyboard.
He leans back in the swivel and thinks of Melissa. No, that’s not her name. Belinda, that’s it, Belinda. Suppose they run into each other. Where? At the mall, that’s it, the mall, and he tells her how sorry he is about the job, and then she invites him to her apartment, and they’re on the floor, no, they’re on the bed, and he’s pulling her pants down, and he’s saying oh Belinda I wanna stick my tongue in your pussy and she’s hyperventilating and she’s saying oh Pug I want your dick.
Pug rocks forward in his chair as Samantha knocks and crosses from the doorway to the corner of his desk. She shakes her head.
– I just talked to Phil again. What pisses me off is he’s probably right.
Pug looks across. Samantha continues.
– Suppose we hired her and she did get it on with someone, I don’t know who, she’s not exactly attractive, but you know how guys are. And there was a stink over it. And here we are, we know beforehand about the problem at ZirTex. How do you explain that to the board of directors?
Pug bobs his head.
– Same thing with salary.
– What d’you mean?
– Suppose we gave her more money because, you know, not because we have to, because we think it’s fair or whatnot. How do you explain that to the board? Giving their money away?
– Yeah. I see what you mean. Are we hiring that guy Drew?
– Looks like it.
Samantha slides from her perch, straightens her legs.
– Well, have a good weekend. Got anything going?
– Ah, samo-samo.
– Yeah, well. Say hello to Jean.
Samantha places a hand on Pug’s shoulder. Pug looks up, into his boss’s hazel eyes. She squeezes. The squeeze radiates from pectoral to groin. The little guy stirs.
– I’m glad you’re a marshmallow, Pug. I mean it. Some of the guys around here. I don’t know.
Her hand falls away. She walks from the office.