The Brass Statuettes Ch. 07byAutumnWriter©
© Copyright 2007
Chapter 7— Changing the Rules of the Game
Gloria lay prone on the massage table; Raul worked over the backs of her thighs with the rolling pin. The exercise session exhausted her even more than usual, so the massage felt extra good. After a minute or so she felt him shifting the pressure upward, toward her private zone and she knew what he was leading up to.
"Would you like the Deluxe Workout today, Señora Warner?" he asked as his hand accidentally grazed over her buttocks and he bent his head close to her ear.
"I think I'll pass today, Raul," she replied. She felt his pressure on her legs lessen and the enthusiasm drain out of the back and forth strokes of the rolling pin. She thought for a second and considered a change of mind. It could be an error to disappoint him, and good help was hard to find. But, her night with Alvin was on her mind, too.
"In that case, Señora, I think we are done for the day," he said after a few finishing passes with the rolling pin.
Gloria realized that she had, indeed, disappointed him. She so seldom refused him, but Raul was a man, after all, so she knew that once a man became infused with certain expectations, rejections were not taken lightly. It was true of any man, and Raul, although an employee, was included. It was she, after all, who always admonished her girls to enjoy their work.
Raul backed away from the massage table and Gloria eased herself off and to her feet. He looked away from her as he folded his things and replaced them in his gym bag while he waited for his payment.
"I'm sorry, Raul," she apologized. "It's only because..." She paused in the explanation because she suddenly realized that she had started to render one without knowing what she would say. She took a deep breath, "It's kind of embarrassing..." she started to say, but that was just a play for a few more seconds' reprieve. Raul stopped folding his towel and looked at her with an expectant look.
"It's just that it's my time of month," she blurted out. It was a boldfaced lie, face-saving for both of them, with the impossibility of contradiction. She wondered if Raul knew. He might, but would never say so—and that's what mattered at the moment.
"I'm sorry, Señora Warner," Raul answered. "If you were not feeling well you could have called me and cancelled for this week."
His answer alarmed her. She wasn't sure if it was the patronizing way he said it, or the ease in which he was willing to forego her. Either way, she could not let it stand, but instinct told her that anger was not the way.
"I was going to call you," she said in her most feminine voice, "but I knew you'd be disappointed." She rubbed herself on him, being sure to crush the 'best tits in town' on his chest.
"No problem, Señora Warner. We'll see about it next week." He was smiling again; all was repaired.
Juana noticed that Raul looked uncharacteristically glum as he trod through the house on his way to the car. She smiled inwardly, mostly for Señor Alvin, but also for herself. Her hunches were correct.
"I'm going upstairs to take a shower, Juana," Gloria called from the stairway. She skipped the customary display of her sweaty leotard in place under her terrycloth robe. Her mind was on other things. The shower would be a good place to sort things out.
As Raul's car was leaving the Warner's drive, another was taking its place. This car was a newer model and a little more expensive. Juana saw it approaching and recognized it after a moment's thought. "Señora Trudy," she whispered aloud. Gloria had said nothing about expecting any guests. She wondered what would bring the tall, smiling lady out before the lunch hour.
Trudy was dressed more casually on this visit. She wore khaki slacks and a white cotton tee-shirt with sandals. When she got out of her car and approached the front door she carried a file folder, but no purse.
"Good morning, Señora Trudy," Juana gushed as she opened the front door as Trudy drew near to it.
"You remembered my name," Trudy smiled and was a little surprised. Juana knew that the gesture had pleased her. "Buenos dias to you."
"Dee Señora, chee ees een la ducha," Juana said.
"La ducha?" Trudy asked
"Si, chu know, la ducha," Juana repeated and raised her hands over her head and slowly lowered them with her fingers wiggling.
"Oh, you mean the shower," Trudy laughed.
"Si, dey are dee sem ting," Juana laughed along with her.
"Can I wait?" Trudy asked. "She's not expecting me, but I have to talk to her about something important."
"Chu may seet on dee veranda and I weel bring a café," Juana said.
While Trudy waited for Juana she ventured onto the grounds to admire the gardens. There were many beds, each with its own theme. The best were the roses.
"Dee gardens, dey are dee work of my hosban'," Juana said to her. Trudy remembered that Juana had told her that once before, but didn't correct her because she detected the pride in the older woman's voice. The maid left the coffee on the veranda table and joined Trudy in the garden.
"These are truly beautiful," Trudy said. "You husband has great talent. I wish I could make my yard look like this."
"José say, 'chu must teenk like dee flowairs'."
"Well, he must be reading their minds," Trudy replied.
Juana let Trudy observe the garden for a minute, and then she spoke again. "All of dee señoras," Juana began, "dey love dee flowairs, but no to work in dee garden. All dee plaisure ees for dem—dee work ees for others. Ees dee reason dey are so sad." Juana stole a glance at Trudy and saw that her glancing back. "Eet ees taking, but no geeving."
Trudy turned and looked at Juana. "Is that how you think of us?" she asked.
"I dun' know. I wose talkin' about flowairs," Juana replied.
"Maybe so," Trudy said, half to herself.
"I go to dee house now and tell dee Señora dat chu are 'eer," the maid said. She abruptly turned and Trudy by herself in the garden.
Before Trudy returned to the table on the veranda she had quite a few minutes to herself to finish perusing the gardens, enjoy her coffee and think about what Juana had said to her. "Not all the smart people went to college," she thought to herself. She could feel the rising sun's growing heat, but it hadn't reached its noon apex so the morning was still pleasant; the brightness showed off the roses' colors.
"Trudy, I didn't expect you," Gloria appeared at the French doors leading to the veranda. She called for Juana. "Bring me some coffee, please and refill Mrs. Bennett's, too."
"I'm sorry to barge in like this," Trudy apologized. "I was on my way to the Post Office to check the box and I thought I should speak to you."
"You already opened a Post Office Box for the Foundation?" Gloria asked with a note of surprise in her voice. "That was really efficient. I knew that we chose the right person as the Corresponding Secretary."
"That was the easy part," Trudy cautioned her. "There are a lot more details that I think need taking care of."
"What do you mean?" Gloria asked. "I thought that we were doing just fine. We just completed the financing of the Preschool..."
"That was when you were doing it by yourself," Trudy explained, "and that was fine. There are five of us now and it will mean a lot more activity and doing things a different way."
"Like what? I'm unclear about what you're talking about."
"For example," Trudy explained, "we have no letterhead to write letters on. Any letter we write should go out on official Foundation stationery. Another thing, I think we need a phone line for the Foundation and an answering service, instead of using your home phone. And then there's a possible website on the internet..."
"I see—I see," Gloria conceded. "None of those things seemed necessary before."
"Frank said that the directors should be covered by special liability insurance; and look, here is the list you gave me of everyone that you wanted to receive announcements. There are over a hundred—and I thought of over twenty-five more. That means sending all those and receiving a hundred possible replies. That will lead to more letters. There will be filing and..."
"Are you saying that I created a monster?" Gloria asked.
"No," Trudy answered, "it's just proving to look a lot more complex and we want to do things the right way."
"So you want to hire some staff?" Gloria countered.
"That's not up to me," Trudy admitted. "There would be even more complications if we take on employees, not to mention the costs."
"But you don't think you can do it alone?" Gloria probed.
"Not for long," Trudy replied. "I can put my finger in the dike for a while. We need to get the others involved and help with some of these details."
"That will never work," Gloria scoffed. "The others aren't in this to be secretaries. They have better things to do. So do I."
Trudy frowned at the insult. As hurtful as it was, she realized that Gloria had a good point. The mental image of Ashley or Darlene, or even Brenda breaking their manicured nails while stuffing envelopes and typing letters was hard to believe.
"I know that didn't come out right," Gloria consoled her. "I didn't mean it the way it sounded. You're saying that you can't do it alone, right?"
"That's right! This is a volunteer job. I can't work at it full time while the others just get dressed up once a week and schmooze with someone over an expensive lunch at a downtown café."
Gloria called Juana for more coffee. An interlude of silence interrupted the conversation; they sensed the impasse.
"Your gardens are beautiful," Trudy complimented her hostess in an effort to break the tension. "Juana showed me the roses." She thought of quoting Juana and her metaphor about gardening and giving. She was tempted because it fit so well, but stopped herself to keep Juana out of trouble.
"I wish that I had more time for them," Gloria sighed. "They're really the gardener's gardens. They make the grounds look nice, but there's not much satisfaction in them without putting a hand in."
"Why don't you tell him that you want to do part of it? Ask him to save one of the flower beds for you."
"I should," Gloria replied, "but I couldn't. I gave that life up long ago. I wouldn't even remember how to do it."
"Juana told me her husband says that one has to think like the flowers."
"She never told me that," Gloria said. "It seems that you're better acquainted with my help than I am." Gloria's eyes darkened and Trudy knew she had said too much. She was glad that she'd held back earlier. "Anyway," Gloria continued, "you can see how inscrutable these Mexicans can be. Only they would know what that's supposed to mean."
"I just thought that it was an interesting..."
"I know just the thing to solve our problem," Gloria interrupted suddenly. "We'll get our husbands' secretaries to help us in their spare time."
"I don't think we can..." Trudy started to reply
"That talk about the roses inspired me," Gloria said, with determined enthusiasm. "We'll get Alvin's secretary, and your husband's, and there'll be Brenda's husband's secretary and the rest."
"I can tell you what Frank will say when I ask him to twist Jeannette's arm," Trudy warned.
"You can get men to do things if you ask them, you know, the right way," Gloria insisted.
"I know what you're talking about, Gloria. I've never done that and I won't..."
"We'll have to discuss that another time," Gloria went on, undeterred. "I have a plan to take care of it without getting our husbands involved, anyway."
"What plan?" Trudy asked. "I think we have to be careful about this."
"We'll invite all the secretaries for a pool party, right here at my house," Gloria announced. "Alvin was just saying how they all forgot to do something for them on Secretaries' Day. It'll be a make-up for that. Just the secretaries and the five of us. After a few drinks..."
"You've got to be kidding," Trudy scolded.
"This will work, I know it will. Even if they see through it, they won't dare refuse."
"I don't think it's fair..."
"Would it be more fair for you to do all the work?" Gloria asked. "Because, that's what it'll be if we don't do it this way." Trudy paused, unhappy with either choice. "C'mon, the party will be great fun and if they all agree, they can all share the load and no one will have to do too much."
"I'm glad Trudy had no part of it," Frank thought to himself as he rounded the corner into the underground Executive Parking Garage. He inserted his keycard into the reader. Over breakfast, Trudy had told him of Gloria's plan for the pool party for the executive secretaries. The excuse was to be billed as a make-up for the forgotten Secretaries' Day acknowledgement. "They were doing just fine without it." He didn't know why he was so against it—instinct just told him to be that way. Then, he realized that Trudy was involved even though it was all Gloria's idea. "Guilt by association," he deduced, and then cut the subject off. He had more important things on his mind.
It seemed like everywhere he turned he was surfboarding on quicksand. He told himself it was surfing Texas-style. As the elevator opened onto the Executive Suite, he was glad to encounter one of the few constants he could count on in his business life.
"Good morning, Mr. Bennett." Floyd's familiar greeting was as soothing a balm he could hope for. "In early again—as usual," he turned with a grin at Frank as he escorted him down the hallway to his office.
"Floyd, you're getting to know me better than my wife," Frank quipped. "Does this mean we're engaged?"
It brought a belly laugh from the security guard. "I don't believe we're ready for that step, sir," he bantered back. He pulled the skeleton key from his pocket and unlocked Frank's office door.
"Thanks, Floyd," Frank said as he entered his office and sat at his desk. Floyd disappeared and Frank took a glance to review his calendar. He had several calls to make that morning. The New York bankers were coming around to the idea of the R&D financing plan, but it looked like a syndicated package with either Morgan-Chase or Citigroup taking the lead. So, Frank realized he didn't need to feel so bad. Things were hectic, but looking up. "I've got to start thinking about the 'how, not the if'." To him, there was a wide array of possibilities. He figured if he kept at it... "Then everything would turn out just right."
"Here's some coffee to get you started." Floyd said. He set the styrofoam cup on Frank's desk.
"This will really hit the spot," Frank acknowledged. He took a sip of the steaming, black elixir. "Floyd, the only thing that stays the same around here is that you bring me an early coffee in a styrofoam cup and I say that it will hit the spot."
"And then you hustle to get rid of the evidence before Miss Jeannette sees it," Floyd completed the thought.
"Do you think she doesn't know, or do you think she pretends not to know?" Frank asked.
Floyd scratched his head. "That's a tough one," he sighed. "She's never let on to me, but thinking about Miss Jeannette not knowing about something is hard to believe."
"My guess is that she knows," Frank told him. "There've been too many close calls."
"You're probably right," Floyd chuckled. "I've never known anyone who could keep track of things the way she can."
Frank nodded with a wry smile as he began to turn to his day ahead.
"For example," Floyd went on, "look at all the goings on in the office over the past week."
"What d'ya mean, Floyd," Frank asked as he scrolled through the e-mails on his computer screen.
"Everyone looking nervous all the time, and such," Floyd explained, "and that new young man in the Controller's office."
"That's temporary," Frank clarified. "He's doing a special job for me and I need him close at hand."
"Right, right," Floyd agreed. "Do you think he'll be up here permanently someday?"
"Maybe someday, but he's too young and still has to learn some things."
Frank picked up his cup of coffee. "I better get working on this before Jeannette comes in here and sees me with it," Frank said. Floyd nodded and turned to leave. "Have a good day, Floyd," he called after him.
Frank finished the coffee that Floyd gave him and then, as if on cue, Jeannette arrived at the office to start her day. "Would you let Aaron know that I want to see him, and his work papers, as soon as he gets in?" Frank asked. "He can have coffee here with me. It'll save time."
About ten minutes later Aaron was sitting at the work table in Frank's office. Jeannette brought them coffee. "Where do we stand on getting the forecast wrapped up?" Frank demanded.
"I met with Dr. Lowell on late Friday afternoon," Aaron recounted. "We went over all the projects and the timing. I worked the weekend to put it together."
"Good so far," Frank nodded.
"He made a lot of changes to the original plan," Aaron continued. "He did a lot of shuffling on projects, and some of them had effects on current-year revenues. It changed a lot of things. Some of his assumptions didn't sound realistic. It echoed right through the forecast."
"Show me what you're talking about."
"I did an analysis showing the effects, reconciling the last forecast version to the present one."
"I see," Frank said as he paged through the pages of numbers. "There are a lot of plusses and minuses. What did you do with the capital spending?"
"I didn't do anything. I thought that I would talk to Mr. Hart. On some of Dr. Lowell's aggressive assumptions, I scaled things back a bit."
"No, you can't do that!" Frank scolded. "Is this Lowell's forecast or yours?" Aaron gave an embarrassed shrug. "You did right to analyze the changes. You should have stopped there. You'll have to redo it with Jason's pure numbers. Send me a copy and show it to Mr. Hart. There will have to be a redo of the capital spending, too."
"I don't understand..." Aaron began to speak.
"Because whatever happens to the product development stream has an effect on the capital spending to support it," Frank explained. "Look Aaron, you've done a superb job on this so far. Don't drop the ball in the ninth inning."
"I...I won't," Aaron promised.
"If you do, we'll have to put you in the outfield for the Astros—you'll fit right in," Frank joked. "You get started on fixing your numbers. I'll talk with Blake and let him know what's coming, and ask him to clear some time for you. Call his secretary when you have a better idea when you'll be ready."
"The Astros are pretty good this year," Aaron said as he turned for a moment on his way out of the office, showing Frank that he had recovered from his scolding.
"I'm getting soft," Frank scolded himself. "In the old days, he'd be licking his wounds right now, not joking about baseball."
Aaron left the office and Frank picked up the phone and called Blake Hart. "You might have to bring a few of your guys in on this. Jason's made a lot of changes and I think he might not be realistic in his thinking. I can see at a glance that he hasn't even thought about the loss of the Wertheim R&D effort."
Frank listened as Blake told him that he would help sorting it out. Then he asked him how the Financing was proceeding.
"There are some good things happening," Frank replied. "I've got a meeting with Alvin in fifteen minutes to fill him in. I think I'll bend his ear on Jason at the same time."
Frank sat back in his chair thinking about Jason Lowell. Sure, he knew all about his big reputation in academia, and that was great. This was business and Jason didn't seem ready for it. He considered his sandbagging Aaron as unprofessional and he was sure Blake Hart felt the same. It would have to wait, however; Jason was in the job that he was in and even faint rumblings of a lack of confidence would have a seismic effect on Wall Street. Maybe Jason would be a fast study—maybe not.