Assyrian bas-relief sculptures faced him throughout the day whenever he twisted his neck to view them. But he never seemed to understand what they meant and why he admired them so. Just when he attempted to give them his all, the telephone would ring, and some member of the association would want something.
“Yes, Mr. Fawcett, I’ll get right on that and have the new slide show completed by the Anaheim membership meeting,” he said, doubting every word he spoke. Was it typical for a staff member to doubt so often? he asked himself.
Frustrated and nervous, he walked over to the window and turned his neck and torso to catch another glimpse of the Assyrian-style sculptures on the hotel façade across the street from the association office. He stood on his toes so he could see better. Now, he could just make out a decorative shield and a figure raising a rod, as if ruling the masses. An ox pulled a wagon with large wheels—at least that’s what it looked like, he thought. The ox shouldered the load and cast his eyes downward. There was something mighty and prophetic in the etching of the stone that he could see through his small office window on the north side of the fourth floor.
“Greg, there’s a woman here who wants to talk with you about advertising,” Linda said. She disturbed him just as he was attempting to focus on the relief again. The tall woman arrived in a beige suit, matching heels, crème-colored hair, and gold jewelry.
“Greg, I’m Kiersten with The Advertiser,” Kiersten said. She had a tanned Scandinavian look about her and an accent to match. Beautiful, yes, and powerful, too, no doubt, he thought.
“Hello, I’m Greg. How can I help you?”
“Well, I know you’d like more business for your association, and The Advertiser is just the place for your next display ad,” she said, taking a seat across from Greg’s desk. She opened her brown leather portfolio and slipped out a copy of the publication, advertising rate card, and ready-made contract.
“Yes, I can well imagine that would be helpful, but our budget calls for no outside advertising right now,” he said, nipping this one in the bud.
Before she could say more, the telephone rang again, and Greg was relieved to answer it. “Excuse me,” he said to Kiersten, covering the receiver before speaking to the caller. It wasn’t important—the member’s request could wait until after the Anaheim meeting, he thought, and he ended the call promptly before, he hoped, saying goodbye to Kiersten.
“Thank you for coming, Kiersten,” he said.
She sat and gave him a defiant stare. Then she said, “Are you serious about your job or are you just play acting?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Because if you’re serious about enhancing the image of this association—and your own career—I can help you.”
“We’re both doing just fine, Kiersten. I’m sorry, but I’m very busy today.”
“In that case, I want to leave you with a word of advice—find the money, advertise with me, and I know you’ll be on the way to a promotion from this side office to the big one over there.”
She pointed to the right front windows that looked out on the broad boulevard, along the river, and the financial court. Those were the windows, he thought. The ones that faced squarely on the Assyrian relief.
The phone had stopped ringing, the office was calm momentarily, and Greg toyed with the notion that what Kiersten was offering could somehow be true.
“Suppose I do advertise with you, Kiersten. Why am I assured of success?” Greg asked, taking his right hand and smoothing it along the creases of his forehead.
“Because I’m never wrong,” she added.
“Wrong about what?”
“Have you ever been to Vegas?” she asked.
“Yes, we just returned from our membership meeting there,” Greg said, now nonplussed with the non sequitur.
“Good. Then you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
“You walk into the casino and stroll up to a one-armed bandit. How do you know which one to choose—the one that will pay off because it hasn’t paid off lately?” she asked.
“You find the beautiful woman who serves you drinks. You buy drinks from her and begin talking. She knows the floor, and she knows which machine you should choose. Your job is to get her to tell you.”
“And in the advertising world, you’re that beautiful woman?” Greg asked.
“Absolutely,” she said. Kiersten tossed her head back, and her luxurious blonde waves enlivened themselves down to her shoulders. “I know. I know the market, the prospects, and the potential. I enjoy helping young executives like you. So, if you advertise with me, the payoff will be great.”
Her confident smile put the ball back into Greg’s court. He glanced at the window, but he could not see the Assyrian relief from his desk. Then, he recalled some set-aside funds for promotion, but they were tied to Fawcett’s membership committee, and Fawcett would never approve use of them.
Greg took a gambler’s risk. “So, I assume you’ll give me your list of leads in addition to three free advertisements,” he said, tempting Kiersten.
“Take my full-page package for nine months and I’ll do precisely that,” she said. Her wink reminded him of the Vegas blonde that brought him drinks.
Kiersten rose, placed the ready-made contract right on Greg’s desk, and tapped her red-nail index finger right on the dotted line.
Greg signed, and his Fawcett worries faded temporarily in her blue, sky-lighted eyes.
“We can work out the particulars tomorrow over lunch at The Diamond,” she said.
He nodded, and they shook on the deal. She left like a dream, Greg thought. Still, a faint scent of Yves Saint Laurent brand Opium hung in the corners of his side office all afternoon.
The phone rang again. It was Fawcett. “Yes, Mr. Fawcett, how can I help you?” Greg asked, and he paused to listen. “That’s wonderful news, Mr. Fawcett. In fact, I was just thinking about that. Yes, I’ll get right on it. Thanks again, Mr. Fawcett. See you in Anaheim. By the way, my best to Kitty and the kids. Goodbye.”
Without Greg’s asking, Fawcett had approved advertising use of the membership promotion funds, and the latest new-member count for the month had already hit an all-time high. Greg put all the facts into a typewritten memo using his IBM Selectric, and he walked it over to the boss in the office with the right front windows that looked directly onto the Assyrian relief.
The boss was far too busy to acknowledge Greg or the memo, but as Greg was leaving, he turned to observe the relief head on. He could imagine his own figure raising a rod over the ruled masses. He noticed one more thing he had never realized before. His boss had an ox-like face.
Profile: Jan Wiezorek