Benny squeezed himself into the chair across the desk from his smallish, kempt boss, who was dressed in a new Sears suit, a new Sears shirt, and a new Sears tie, a uniform designed to highlight a generic male managerial face still on the pleasant side of forty.
Bright strummed his fingers on the desk. He adjusted his glasses. He cleared his throat. He inserted an index finger under the collar of his new Sears shirt and straightened his new Sears tie. He took a deep breath. He exhaled, slowly but audibly.
“Benny,” he began. “ This is not working out.”
“It’s only been a month,” said Benny.
Bright wagged his head sadly. “The numbers just aren’t there.”
“One. Incredible. Month,” said Benny.
Bright sighed. “Benny’s Begonias is not the blockbuster we’d projected.”
“One month of lively discussion of the delights of indoor gardening!” said Benny, growing eloquent.
Dennis Bright frowned as he tilted back in his chair and placed five pairs of interlocking digits behind his head. “Listen, Benny,” he said to the older man, “I hate to tell you this, but.”
Benny carefully placed a foot on Bright’s desktop. That foot was fitted with a sandal. Between the sandal and a pair of wrinkled shorts stretched an expanse of hairy, well-fed leg. Between the shorts and a soiled T-shirt stretched an expanse of equally hairy, equally well-fed abdomen. The T-shirt bore the insignia of KKKS (“First in Alternative Programming for the Kirkland Listening Area”) and a pocketful of cigars (Swisher Sweets). From this T-shirt rose a head that had broad features, rugged handsomeness, reddish wavy hair, and a light crimson face. “I had five call-ins today,” said Benny in an attempt to shift the conversation in a more promising direction.“
Two were from your regular listener,” Bright pointed out. “She’s very knowledgeable about plants,” countered Benny.
“Why shouldn’t she be? She runs a nursery.”
“Actually, she’s retired from the business. The stress got to her. Probably from watching the plants grow.”
Dennis Bright smiled in spite of himself. But then he remembered his responsibilities as the KKKS program director and recovered his dignity. “One was from Shannon,” he pointed out.
“She asks very intelligent questions.”
“That’s because you tell her what to ask.”
“It’s not just what she asks, it’s how she asks it. Her phrasing is impeccable.”
“Her phrasing may be great, or whatever, but the woman doesn’t know a tulip from a cactus. I oughtta know. Ten years I’ve lived with her.”
“Aha!” said Benny as he placed a second foot on the desk. “So that’s where she picked up her impeccable phrasing.”
Bright ignored this remark, but not the foot, which was dangerously near his coffee cup. He stared at the encroaching sandal. “One was a wrong number,” he pointed out with a warning frown.
Benny carefully relocated his sandal to a site several millimeters away from the cup. “Did you notice how curious she became about begonias? I think we can expect to hear a lot more from that young woman.”
“One was from an Alzheimer,” Bright pointed out. He could be hardnosed. That was part of his job. He liked his job. It allowed him to show the ruthless side of his personality. It also paid reasonably well. It kept the wolf from the door, his wife Shannon in the less expensive varieties of French wine, and the Sears men’s wear department in business.
Did I or did I not have fun with her?” wondered Benny.
“You had fun with her,” admitted Bright. “But,” he added, “you gotta wonder how well it went over with your regular listener. I don’t think we can expect to hear a lot more from that old lady.”
“She must like my act or she wouldn’t keep calling.”