Sully strolled into the dingy office bullpen ten minutes late with his cell phone glued to his ear. He held up a well-tanned finger to still the chatter around him.
“I don’t care if you have to charter a rowboat and pick them up yourself, just get’em here by tomorrow or so help me God I’ll bury the lob wedge so far up your backside you’ll need a proctologist for a caddy,” he threatened, terminating the call.
“What did I miss,” he asked of no one in particular, surveying the room through designer Ray Bans before lowering his head to practice his golf swing.
“Nice of you to grace us with your presence, Sullivan,” Walter Deklan, the office manager, said by way of a welcome. “We were just reviewing goal achievement for the accountability program that corporate introduced last month.”
“Accountability program, pfft,” Sully scoffed. “I don’t need any accountant to tell me my last five hundred bucks just went to re-gripping my Pings. Right?” He nudged the constipated-looking man in the too tight corduroy pants standing next to him.
“How many deals you close this year, Sullivan,” Deklan asked.
“Including the Palmer transaction? None, but it’s only May,” he shrugged and moved on to practicing his short game.
“Perkins, your turn,” Deklan announced, adjusting the knot of the faded royal blue and gold striped tie his son had given him for his forty fifth birthday.
Bodies parted, revealing a small man in the back of the room. His hawkish nose was buried in an iPhone.
The little man didn’t flinch.
Perkins’ head snapped up, bifocals sliding down the sharp bridge of his beak.
“Oh sorry, just checking in on Foursquare,” he said, nervously pushing the glasses back into place.
“Did you meet the goals we set last week,” Deklan asked.
“Well actually,” Perkins began, swelling beyond his full five feet four inches. “I exceeded them.”
“That’s great, Sidney,” Deklan lauded. “So you made all your calls? Mailed all your letters?”
“Well, not exactly,” Perkins answered. “Phone calls, handwritten notes, pop-ins … that old school stuff might have worked back in your day, but it’s all about the internet now.”
Deklan buried his face in his hands, silently counting to ten as he was apt to do when the kids would shave their names into the dog, or write “FART” on the living room wall in purple crayon.
“So what did you do this week, Sidney,” he asked upon reaching seven.
“Thought you’d never ask,” Perkins squeaked. “This week alone, I composed six hundred and forty two tweets, wrote twelve blog posts and added fifty nine new connections on Linked-In.”
Deklan stared at the second year agent.
“You didn’t make a single sales call?”
“No offense, Dek, but listen to yourself,” Perkins challenged, feeling his oats. “Who makes sales calls anymore? In case you haven’t noticed, everybody is online these days. A place where I happen to be a pretty big deal.”
“Is that right,” Deklan asked.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Perkins assured him. “I just crossed twenty five hundred Facebook friends. I’ve got seven hundred and fifty blog subscribers, and over eleven thousand Twitter followers.”
“And one piece of shit rental listing,” Deklan added.
Perkins blanched, his bulging hazel eyes magnified behind the thick glasses. Rescued from the humiliation by the buzzing of his handheld, he swallowed hard and retreated into his virtual kingdom.
“Make sure to tell all your followers about being the mayor of No New Business,” Deklan suggested, unable to resist the dig.
“How about you, Sheila,” he asked the aggressively dour woman standing directly in front of him with arms crossed. “Did you set aside two hours per day to preview property like we discussed?”
“Cut the crap, Walter,” she snarled. “Nobody wants to talk about your stupid goals. If we needed a guidance counselor, we’d go back to high school.”
A few scattered chuckles confirmed the assertion.
“I know it may seem foolish, Sheila, but the simple stuff works. If you want to be a top producer, you have to do the things that top produ-”
“We’re still out of hazelnut,” she interrupted, seething.
“We’ve been out for a month,” she informed him. “Funny it’s the one flavor that always gets forgotten when I’m the only one who drinks it.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Sheila.” Deklan began, incredulous. “I place new orders on the first and the fifteenth, and I always include extra packets of-”
“Never a mix up with the Columbian or the French Roast,” she noted. “Just the hazelnut.”
“And these chairs,” she went on, her shrill voice climbing. “Are you waiting for my L4 vertebra to fall completely out before you get around to doing anything about them?”
“Like I said last week, we’re in the middle of a recession here, Sheila,” Deklan began patiently. “We don’t have the mone-”
“Liar,” she screeched, pointing an arthritic finger at the beleaguered office manager. “You managed to find enough of our money for the new sofa in the lobby, didn’t you?”
“What would you have the clients do,” Deklan demanded, his blood beginning to boil. “Sit criss-cross applesauce on the floor? I bought that couch for ten bucks at an estate sale in Old Town. Dragged it in here on my day off.”
She dismissed him with the flick of a bony wrist.
“And why does Clarissa get to bring that mangy fleabag of hers into the office if I can’t bring my Mister Whiskers?”
“It’s a guide dog for chrissakes,” Deklan railed, glancing at the golden retriever sitting at the foot of a heavy-set woman wearing a floral patterned sundress and staring at the wall.
“Hear me well, people,” he announced. “Out of the twelve local branches, we were eleventh in production last quarter. Eleventh! Only the charity cases at Town and Country sold less than us, and they’ve been closed since November on account of the fire!”
“Freaking Obama,” Sully opined. “Things will turn around once we vote that bum out of office. Just gotta ride the storm out until twenty twelve.”
A deafening clanging reverberated throughout the office. All turned to see a chubby part-time agent named Herbert Dobbler ringing the sales bell for all he was worth. He wore a black t-shirt with red lettering that said I’m With @ Stupid.
“Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” Dobbler shouted.
“Okay, okay,” Deklan pleaded, palms out as he tried to restore order. “Can we please get back to-”
“Oh Captain, my Captain,” Dobbler cried before launching another salvo with the bell. “The Dead Realtor Society is hereby called to order!”
The chords on Deklan’s neck reared up like angry cobras as peels of laughter erupted from all corners of the bullpen.
“Two thousand eleven … going once,” Dobbler howled. “Going twice!”
Deklan blinked hard, once. A change coming over his normally genial face.
“Sold,” Dobbler hollered, ringing the bell to punctuate the joke. “To the gentleman in the black robe with a scythe!”
“You know what, that’s it,” Deklan declared, his icy voice barely audible above the raucous din. “If you want to sit in your cubicles complaining about the market and the coffee all day, go right ahead, but I’m not going down with the ship!”
He tore off his tie and threw it to the floor.
“You want to tweet about the movie you saw last night and call it networking, be my guest,” he boomed. “You want to optimize your websites, but not answer the phone when it actually rings? Knock yourselves out!”
He removed a highly polished black wingtip and hurled it across the room, causing three terrified sales associates to duck.
“I bring in top shelf instructors, cater lunch for you mooches, give you all I’ve got from thirty years of sales experience in every kind of market you can dream of, and for what? For you to think about selling a house every other leap year when you’re not too busy working on your slice or stumping for Bring Your Cat to Work Day?”
Deklan turned on a folding table that supported a veggie platter and tray of lukewarm cold cuts. He crammed three rolls of smoked turkey into his mouth before upending the entire spread.
“Well, guess what, kids,” he resumed, Butterbean-flecked spittle bursting from his mouth. “Class is dismissed! As of five minutes ago, I no longer work at this daycare for the criminally idiotic. Good luck. Best wishes. Try not to eat the plants. Deklan out!”
He tore the company nametag off the breast of his dress shirt, leaving a ragged hole in the white fabric, and stormed down the hall. One heel clicking each time it touched down on the porcelain tile, the other silent.
“Make sure to wave when you greet me at Walmart next week,” Deklan shouted over his shoulder as he darted into the break room. The sound of smashing glass carried back to the bullpen.
“Coffee pot,” Sheila whispered in horror.
“Vending machine still owe you that Diet Coke, Arturo,” Deklan bellowed before a flying soda can exploded against the far wall of the hallway.
Thirty more seconds of indiscriminate thrashing and their former manager appeared as a silhouette against the floor to ceiling window in the front lobby. He was hunched over, holding something heavy. It was his bare ass.
“Look, ma! I’m the mayor of SAYONARA SUCKERS,” Deklan yelled before straightening up, ripping the fax machine off the secretary's desk and heaving it through the window, an ungodly crash punctuating the lethal shower of tinted glass. He kicked out half a dozen stubborn shards with his stockinged foot, ducked through the jagged opening and disappeared into the midday sun, leaving a faint trail of blood in his wake.
A pronounced silence filled the decimated office, shell-shocked agents searching each other’s faces for confirmation of what they just saw.
At last, a low, reverent whistle escaped Dobbler’s lips, breaking the spell.
“Winning,” he breathed.
“So,” Sully prompted his bewildered colleagues, twisting his heels into non-existent sand to practice his bunker shots. “Eight months … who had the under?”
“That would be me,” Sheila answered, cracking her first smile of the year.
Clarissa stood and lumbered to the water cooler without assistance, her pupils engaged and focused as she retrieved a paper cup from the dispenser.
“Think downtown will wise up and hire in-house this time,” she asked between sips.
“Beats me,” Perkins snickered. “But I am so tweeting this.”