Friday, January 1, 2010

The Chain of Command (or "New Year? What New Year?")


*sigh* New Year's Eve, and I couldn't wait to get to bed... to sleep, no less.

I started the 31st in a great mood. We had the jet back. The Skipster had his mind back. I had my case of Jack Daniel's (green label) back!

The only thing we (or I) didn't have back -- yet -- was the Simpson/Lynch Studios fortune. And that was why we were having our late afternoon conference yesterday, "we" meaning The Skipster, Tara, Gretchen, Kato, and myself. More plotting and planning about Kewl Beanz!TM, the grandiose "coffee shop" which would be opening in less than a month. I mean, sure, Skip and I had been working on some other, more creative projects, but after what Skip had gone through to provide financial backing for the "KB Project," as I liked to call it... well, the restaurant/nightclub was definitely a priority.

I'm not the "money man" at SnL -- and the Skipster has long been aware of this, I assure you -- so I must grudgingly admit that at some point, I kinda zoned out concerning what the Skipster was telling the others. It wasn't until Tara, seated next to me, said something to him in a slightly raised voice that I was jolted out of my own little private reverie.

"Well, that's true, Tara," said Skip, in response to whatever she'd just said, "You are indeed the manager of Kewl Beanz!TM, but what I'm discussing is a financial matter, which I'm afraid takes precedence over your plans in this case." He wasn't actually looking at her while he spoke; he was making some notes on his yellow legal pad.

"Awww, come on, Skip!" she exclaimed.

His eyebrows rose, and then, finally, he looked up at her. Then he looked down at the yellow pad again and frowned. He crossed out something, then looked at Tara once more. "This isn't open to debate. Sorry."

Tara folded her arms across her chest and braced her feet against the heavy conference table. She pushed against it, loudly scraping the floor as her chair moved backwards three or four inches. "You're not sorry," she muttered.

The Skipster cleared his throat. "Tara..." He paused, obviously choosing his words carefully. "As I just said, when it comes to money matters, I..." He glanced at me quickly with an apologetic smile. "That is, we... have to decide where that money goes. We're paying for the remodeling of the building we purchased for Kewl Beanz!TM, we're paying for the upkeep of this estate, we're paying for the upkeep of our newly-returned SnL One, and..." He paused yet again, obviously for emphasis. "And don't forget, we pay your salaries."

Presumably to cut the tension in the room, Kato brightly interjected, "That's right! And I wanted to thank you and Mr. Foxster, on behalf of all three of us, for reinstating those salaries so quickly, and for giving us our back pay, and..." The Skipster wasn't even looking at Kato. Skip was still staring at Tara, who sat there with a pouting look on her face.

Gretchen patted Kato on the arm, and whispered. "It was the nice try, Kato," she said reassuringly.

"Well," said the Skipster, placing his pen down on the table with a sigh, "I suppose that's all for today, then." Oh, crap, I thought, it's over already? "Tomorrow is New Year's Day, of course, so we'll all meet again here at eleven a.m. on Monday, the fourth." Skip stayed in his seat while the other three rose, along with myself. "That's eleven a.m. sharp, needless to say."

Kato and Gretchen, who'd been seated closest to the door of the conference room, were the first to exit the room. Tara and I were approaching the door when Skip said, "Oh, Tara? Would you hang back for a minute or so, please?"

Uh-oh. I'd heard that tone of voice, and those words, before. Lord knows, the Skipster and I had "gone through" several assistants, secretaries, interns, and the like in all the years since we'd begun collaborating. "Hang back" occasionally meant "I'm about to hang you!"

I stood in the doorway, as Tara shot me a questioning look. "Oh, and Foxster," Skip said, "would you mind closing the door behind you, please?" Oh, yeah, I told myself, she's toast.

I did so, heaving a huge sigh before heading for my private bedroom.

Orson, my cat, was waiting outside of the locked room; Kato was crouched beside Orson, petting him. As I approached, Kato looked up at me and smirked. "Don't worry, Mr. Foxster, I don't plan to eat him."

"Oh, please," I said, as I placed my key in the lock, "I never believed that!"

Kato stood, as Orson ran into my room through the now-open door and jumped up onto the bed. "Oh, no? Not even when..."

"Never," I replied adamantly. "I always assumed it was a way to mess with my head, so to speak, during that unfortunate time when Skip and I were on the outs." Kato chuckled, but said nothing otherwise. "Although I must admit I was rather offended that you'd give in to such an odious racial stereotype."

His voice was remarkably passive when he said, "Sorry if I offended you, Mr. Foxster."

"Also, Kato, if you don't mind my asking, why do you always call me 'Mr. Foxster?' It sounds a bit too subservient, if you..."

Somewhat more firmly this time, he interrupted me by saying, "That I won't apologize for. It's only 'subservient' in the sense that I do it to remind myself at all times that you and Mr. Skipster are my employers." Then he added, "I only wish Tara would remember that."

At first, I thought he meant Tara's romantic relationship with me. "Are you referring to our...?"

"Oh, no." he said, quickly. "I'm talking about the friction she caused with Mr. Skipster, during our conference."

"Yeah," I agreed. "Well, for better or for worse, I suspect that's being dealt with as we speak."

"I hope it goes well. My little friend is certainly... headstrong."

I laughed in agreement. "You three are quite close, aren't you?" I asked, meaning Kato, Tara, and Gretchen. He nodded, and smiled. I indicated my room with a tilt of my head, and said, "Well, if you'll excuse me...?"

"Okay," he replied agreeably. "But... May I ask you something first, Mr. Foxster?"

"Of course."

"Does Tara ever talk about me? I mean, does she ever tell you anything about me?"

"Like what?"

"Oh, just... anything?"

"I'm not sure what you're driving at, truthfully. She's never told me a thing I didn't already know."

"I didn't think so," he said, sounding quite pleased. I understood immediately. Trust isn't -- or certainly shouldn't be -- something you pass along from one confidant to another. The best way a friend or lover of mine can get me to "close up" is to tell me that since he or she trusts a third person, he or she has repeated things I've discussed with him or her alone to that person!

"Have a nice New Year's Eve, Mr. Foxster. Do you and Tara have any plans for tonight?"

"Actually, no, Kato. I don't attach much importance to the simple changing of a calendar page, and Tara agrees." He grinned. "How about you? Do you have plans?"

"I sure do!" he replied, with a smile... before saying goodnight to me and walking away.

I entered the bedroom, and closed the door behind me. Orson was stretched out on the bed, eyes closed, taking up as much room as his large frame (and full stomach) would allow. "You may want to hide under the bed, Orson," I told him. "In fact," I added, "I may want to join you there!"

He opened his eyes and looked up at me in that way of his which so often seems to say, "Why did you bother waking me if you're not going to feed me?" I sat down upon the bed and began scratching him; he began purring loudly.

I only had to wait four or five minutes before Tara joined me in the room, slamming the door behind her.

"David," she said, her usually cheerful voice trembling, "you need to have a talk with him!"

I was so glad that Tara couldn't see my eyes (through my sunglasses) at that moment. (Having said that, she does have an uncanny knack for "reading" my eyebrows.) "Excuse me?" I replied.

"Sorry," she said, meaning it. "What I meant to say was, would you talk with him? Please?"

"What on earth went on in there?"

"Huh!" She sat down beside me, on the bed. "What do you think?"

"I don't know for sure, which is why I asked you."

"Well, he very calmly and politely reminded me that I was an employee, and we had to keep things on a professional level. And that included... Oh, how did he put it! Something about 'respecting the chain of command,' or some such friggin'..."

"And you had a problem with that?"

"I tried to explain how I thought we were all friends now, especially after all this crap with the money problems began, and... Well, who's right here? Skip, or me?"

I couldn't resist a smartass answer. "Yes."

"Please be serious?"

"Sorry. Look, I really do understand how you feel, but Skip has a point. Where business matters are concerned, he -- and I -- have to assert the fact that yes, we are in charge."

"David, come on! This is the same guy who sat there smiling while Gretchen and I did the chicken dance a few days ago!"

Oh, that's right. The freakin' chicken dance! Even I thought the two of them had taken things a bit too far that day. But all I said was, "But that's just it, hon. He's not the same guy."

"What?" she said. Then, reflecting, she said, "Ohhh, I get it. Of course! At the last few meetings, he was that beatnik character."

"Exactly. Which is why he reacted so positively to your coffee shop suggestion. Frankly, I have a feeling that the 'real' Skipster might not have been quite so enthusiastic. In fact, I also think he and I would have been better able to come up with a solution to our money woes before even consulting the three of you. He's always been the one with the edge on the financial side of our partnership. I rarely question him, Tara, because his strategies are generally on the mark." She nodded. "He and I bring a lot of the same things to this partnership, but we each have our specialties."

"Riiiight. The Skipster handles the business negotiations, and The Foxster edits out all of The Skipster's extra commas."

"Now who's being a wise-ass?" I said. We both laughed.

She sighed. "Okay. Fine. I get it. Really." She paused. "But I still think he was being a little bit over-bearing." Heh. That's my Tara. I had to admire her tenacity, even if it was a bit misguided in this case.

"Well, he has been under a great deal of stress."

"Yeah, sure, but then again, we all have."

"True, but..." Should I tell her? I asked myself.

"But?"

Oh, the hell with it, I thought, throwing caution to the winds. "Skip's laid a lot on the line for Simpson/Lynch Studios, Tara."

"Meaning what, exactly?"

"Well, the business was nearly bankrupt, but Skip and I still have our personal accounts. This is a partnership, not a marriage. If we didn't have resources of our own to fall back on, all five of us would have been eating at a Pleasantview soup kitchen by now. And I'm not trying to be funny, there. Having said that... Hasn't it occurred to you to wonder where the financing for Kewl Beanz!TM has been coming from?"

"Umm... Not really."

"It's. All. Been. Skip!"

"Really!"

"He's done Lord-knows-what to enable SnL to do this. Probably taken out loans on his various properties, drained his own bank accounts, called in favors owed to him... hell, he's obviously extended himself in numerous ways and never discussed them, even with me! He ain't tellin', and I ain't askin'!"

Tara laughed at my deliberate usage of the word "ain't." Then, she said, "Damn. I had no idea."

"You never asked," I said "getting her back" for using that same line on me a few weeks ago.

"Cute... Mr. Foxster."

"Sorry, hon. Irish Scorpio, and all that."

"Mm. So, fine, The Skipster's not being a jerk, then."

"And neither were you," I said, and meant it.

"And I wanna thank you for being honest with me, and not just telling me what I wanted to hear."

"No thanks necessary. That's what you can expect from me. Honesty. I'll never sugar-coat things just because you're my girlfriend. You're no ditzy little 'chick,' and I wouldn't insult you like that." She smiled broadly. "Now. What are we doing tonight, instead of going out?"

"Wellll... Since you were so dead-set on not making a big deal of New Year's Eve, Gretchen and I coerced Kato into joining us in the studio theater to watch a double feature tonight!"

"Lemme guess: Titanic and Ghost?" I asked, knowing their favorite films.

"No, smartie! When Harry Met Sally..." She hesitated.

"And?"

She cleared her throat. "Titanic." She narrowed her eyes, feigning anger. "Jerk." I grinned. "You're welcome to come too, of course!"

"No, but thanks. Anyway, I know how it ends; the ship sinks... Or did they change that? I know how Hollywood works."

"Are you sure you won't come? I know you love Kate Winslet... and her boobs."

"I'm sure." With a wave of my arm, I indicated the nearby bookshelves loaded with Tara's numerous ditzy romance paperbacks. "I'll probably just catch up on my reading."

She shook her head. "That'll be the day, as John Wayne once said."

"And Buddy Holly," I added unnecessarily.

Tara changed her clothes and got ready to leave for the three friends' movie night. And me?

*sigh* New Year's Eve, and I couldn't wait to get to bed... to sleep, no less.

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Thanks for your time.

4 comments:

  1. Wow! Skipster is mortgaged to the hilt. KB HAS to make it!

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  2. Your being there for the Grand Opening will help, Ronda! Thanks for reading!

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  3. Where the heck IS Skip, anyway? He hasn't been to my blog in, like, FOREVER! Well, ok -- it hasn't been THAT long but I'm really beginning to dislike Gretchen.

    Happy New Year to the both of you! Have a great year - and a prosperous one. Sounds like you need it. Heh.

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  4. Oh no AngelMay! Please to not dislike me. The Skipster has been busy. I will tell him to visit you more often.

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