Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chapter 4: The Marketer

Scott Kennison sat in his drab office at his desk, which was overflowing with work he didn’t care about. The phone buzzed with an interoffice call from his boss, Kelly Elias, which he ignored. Once the buzzing ceased, he picked up the receiver and dialed the hotel in Seattle where he would be staying for the next few days to verify they had received his FedEx shipment of marketing materials.

“Mr. Kennison, from San Francisco?” the registration clerk asked.

“Yeah,” Scott replied, like a ton of Kennisons FedExed marketing materials to you yesterday, he thought.

“Yes sir, I'm looking at the box right now.”

“Fantastic,” he offered sarcastically, and then hung up the receiver while the clerk was in mid-sentence. The interoffice buzz from Kelly started again immediately, which he ignored once more. It was likely she just wanted to remind him how much of an idiot he was and not to spend too much company money during the cosmetics conference. Neither thought was of much consequence to him as he opened the bottom desk drawer and reached for the emergency bottle of Jack so he could have a drink before heading home for the night. Kelly was leaning on the doorframe of his office when he sat back upright.

“God you're an idiot,” she informed him. Kelly was in her forties with long brown hair and a thick build that she accentuated with clothes that were too tight, which left nothing to the imagination. Her good looks had faded to rode-hard middle age but her position of PH Cosmetics Marketing Director demanded a certain youthful look, which she painted on with multiple layers of makeup. She traded the dream of marriage long ago for a successful career, besides; she couldn’t think of any man that she could stand on a social basis for more than one night. “Why didn’t you pick up the phone when I called?”

“I didn’t hear it,” he lied.

“Seriously? I could hear the damn thing clear down in my office!”

“Oh?” he said tipping his head sideways. “What did you need?”

“Look moron, the marketing department is being scrutinized by the higher-ups. They say we’re spending too much money so I wanted to remind you to mind your spending during the conference.”

“Right.” He took a pull of the amber liquor. “Always do.” He paused then asked, “Want a drink?” and held the bottle toward her.

She ignored the offer, “Bullshit, you always do! Last time you were on the road, you pulled cash on your corporate card from a casino ATM. A casino ATM! Let’s see, I think it was $600 that time. Is that right?”

“I was entertaining clients,” he rebutted and put the bottle to his lips for another swallow. “We just happened to be at a casino.”

“You were entertaining yourself stupid. Know this: I don’t need you. I could do your job and mine, and still close more deals than you. You need to get yourself together.” She turned to leave, “And watch your spending.”

“Right, right. Got it,” he replied, but she was already down the hallway. He took one more sip before returning the bottle to the drawer. He had heard it a million times before, She doesn’t need me. She could do my job better. Who cares? he thought. Scott made sure the laptop was in his briefcase, and turned off this time, then headed for the door. I care. I need this job, he thought ruefully, eliciting a grimace of distaste.

He pulled out of the parking garage into the San Francisco grayness. He preferred gloomy weather and hoped the fabled Seattle rain lived up to its reputation. Dreary conditions helped him forget how miserable he was, it acted like white noise that countered the murky darkness surrounding his soul. The slight buzz will make the drive home more pleasant. During the drive, he pondered more about weather, particularly about how sunny days actually pissed him off. While people are doing fun things in the sun and enjoying their families, nice weather is taunts Scott. It laughs at him because of his failed marriage, scoffs about his abusive and controlling boss, and heckles him about how everyone else is generally happy. Nice weather serves to remind Scott Kennison that he is not allowed to experience joy. Sunny days suck, he thought, and then, Was that a stop sign? He checked the rear-view but couldn’t be sure. No red and blue lights, so whatever. He did his best to concentrate on the task of driving for the remainder of the trip.

In his apartment, he tossed his briefcase on the chair by the coffee table, on top of a rumpled pair of slacks and two wadded up dress shirts, which reminded him, for the third day in a row, that he needed to drop off his dry cleaning. He loosened his tie on the way to the kitchen and kicked off his shoes by his dining room set, which was a card table found at a garage sale. Once in the kitchen, he picked up a glass from the sink, smelled it, and shrugged his shoulders in acknowledgement that it passed the test. From the refrigerator, he withdrew an ice tray and wrestled it for its bounty. The klink tink of ice hitting glass was the signal that reward was close at hand. He filled the glass with the dark amber liquid to just under the brim and raised it to his lips, uttering a satisfied ahhh after a long pull.

He set the glass on the counter after another sip, and then opened the refrigerator to forage for food. In one of the drawers was an opened, half-empty package of bologna that had dried out long ago and was ready for carbon dating. The next contender was a Chinese restaurant leftover box from one of the shelves, which he opened to find what appeared to be sweet and sour pork and noted no fuzz or strange growth. A quick sniff test did not raise any red flags, so he took a fork from the sink and, after a quick exam of the utensil, dug in for his dinner.

The first Jack on the rocks went down smoothly with dinner, so Scott decided another would make a fine dessert. The thought of going to the casino crossed his mind briefly, but Kelly’s words echoed in his mind and he knew she would blow a gasket if a withdrawal appeared on his corporate card from a San Francisco gaming facility. Beshides, I gotta pack. Probably shouldn’t drive anyway ‘cuz even my thoughts are slurred, which made him laugh. He decided it would be best if he packed while he was still partially coherent, after which, it was time for a nightcap and then to pass out in the chair in front of the television while Hardcore Pawn droned.

Scott was rudely awakened by the bbbrrrriiingg of the old-style phone ringtone on his cell. It would ring, stop for a few moments, likely sending the caller to voicemail, and then the process would repeat. This pattern happened several times before he was fully aware of it. Although willing to answer the phone, primarily to silence the din, he wasn’t able to immediately because he didn’t know its location. It seemed that somehow between passed out and present, he managed to shed his pants and move to the couch, the latter suffering a fist sized puddle of drool as evidence. The rub was that the pants were now rendered invisible somehow, along with the contents of the pockets, which included his cell phone. “Shut up!” he commanded the invisible phone, the uttering of which hurt his head worse that the incessant reiteration of ringing. After an eternity of searching, he found the slacks shoved under the couch, extracted them, and then dug the phone out of the pocket to answer it.

“Christ! What?” he said to the persistent caller.

“Well good morning idiot,” Kelly sarcastically greeted from the other end. “I knew you would be passed put. Your flight is in two hours and you probably haven’t even packed yet."

“Ha! That’s where you’re wrong! I packed last night!” any victory over Kelly, no matter the size, was satisfying. “At least I’m pretty sure I remember packing.”

“Amazing confidence this morning. Get your shit together and don’t miss your flight. I’m gonna check on you in a half hour to make sure you didn’t just roll over. M’kay Pumpkin?”

“Right. Sure I won’t,” and he pressed the end button. He smacked his dry tongue against the roof of his mouth a couple of times and looked at his watch. Holy crap! Two hours? He ran to the bathroom and brushed his teeth while he ran the electric razor over his face. There was no time to shower so once finished, Scott ran to the bedroom to find something suitable to wear for the flight. Why didn't I lay this shit out last night? he thought as he played clean, dirty, or good enough with the pile of clothes on the bed. The sniff testing finally revealed a clean shirt and good enough pair of pants. He elected to buy socks when he got to Seattle and took a pair out of his packed suitcase to save time. The wake-up call to out-the-door time was 13 minutes, which he thought should be some kind of record.

Traffic wasn’t bad and Scott pulled into the parking garage ten minutes later, confident that he could still make the flight. However, there was a tradeoff because his head was still throbbing and there hadn’t been any time for coffee during the whirlwind of getting ready. He hoped there would be time for a cup before boarding, but at the very least he would be able to get one during the flight. Check in was smooth once the ticket agent was able to ascertain he was not the Scott Kennison on the no-fly list. That took some time and people in line behind him bore a hole through the back of his head with their glares, wondering what he did to take so long.

Finally, he passed through security and arrived at his gate just in time to hear the gate agent announce that people needing assistance boarding his flight are welcome to come forward. Scott looked at the boarding pass and noted he was in the third group. Not enough time for coffee. Since he was no longer rushing to make the flight and just waiting for his group, he was again acutely aware of his throbbing cranium, which felt like a series of tiny TNT explosions timed with the beat of his heart. He longed for a cup of coffee to wash down a couple Tylenol to hopefully disable the demolition crew.

The gate agent called his group forward and he followed the procession of fellow travelers onto the aircraft. He felt fortunate that he was in a window seat and there was only one other person in his row, who sat in the aisle seat. The plane taxied to the end of the runway and then opened up the engines to accelerate to climbing speed. They passed through the grey layer of cloud cover during their assent that always provided a bumpy ride, which Scott hated and gutted through by keeping his eyes tightly shut. The craft reached cruising altitude and the flight attendants started their refreshment service. Scott already had the pills out when they reached his aisle and, when asked what he would like to drink, he replied, “Jack and Coke please. Better make it two; it’s gonna be a pretty long flight.”

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