A PROFITABLE RELATIONSHIP DANCES INTO HELL
September 16, 2013
I’ve always had an uncomfortable relationship with business. Not small businesses but banks, accounting firms, churches, media outlets. They never forget that money is the bottom line. Everything else is window dressing. Its not that I think the small businessman doesn’t have the same modus operanti. But he has less clout. He can’t hurt you.
A PROFITABLE RELATIONSHIP DANCES INTO HELL
Mr. Edwards stepped, one, two, three, and then a slide. A fox trot. His flashy brown slickers smoothly moving across the hand woven tapestry. How happy were his shoes. If they’d been Oxfords, they would have received awards.
Mr. Newton did not seem to notice Mr. Edwards entrance. At least not his dance. A slight glance upwards. The two men filled up the room with hand shakes and good will. Oh but how dark it was at the corners of the room. As if they never met, but disappeared into some endless well, running parallel, forever, never touching. Leaving a gap in between, that was equal to the least known irrational number. Except there’s always an except from one corner where the back lighting had the effect of highlighting the banker, Mr. Newton’s profile, making him look, sinister, cruel. Tempting lips, Mr. Edwards imagined, involuntarily, marauding across the thighs of Mrs. Newton. Where the pink reigned down like juice from a sluice of watermelon.
Mr. Edwards smiled.
Mr. Newton stood up and motioned to the chair in front of his desk. The chair wiggled a little. Looking forward to a fanny’s delight. The chair opened her legs. Mr. Edwards surveyed the room to make sure that there wasn’t someone buried in the shadows. Mr. Edwards slid into the arms of the chair.
“I’m glad we finally have met.” Mr. Newton blinked, a strobe light in the middle of a dance floor. A dark voice was crowded in his mouth and wanted out.
Mr. Edwards wondered if Mr. Newton hadn’t been born early in the morning on the dangerous shores of the darkened room. Mr. Edwards noticed that the banker seemed to be talking with his mouth full. Like a shark. Too many teeth in his words. Too pearly white. He reminded Mr. Edwards of Marlon Brando in the Godfather offering his condolences to those about to be deceased.
“I apologize for the darkness of the room,” Mr. Newton said. “I’ve just been to the eye doctor for a new set of glasses. Eyesight isn’t what it once was. All that fine print. Drops in my eyes. Makes them sensitive to light. Not that I’m aware that light has feelings.”
A joke. Who would have thought it. Mr. Edwards smiled. Being polite. Aware that there might be a clown around the corner with a hammer.
“And while I was there,” Mr. Newton continued, “I went to my dentist for a cleaning. He is next door. And what does he do, but pull out a tooth. To add to his pearly necklace. Or maybe he needs to do some work on his cottage. Or pay off a loan shark. So there I was. Drops in my eyes. Cotton baton in my mouth. Doing my imitation of the Godfather. I made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Which explains why my words seem muffled. But I can assure you, Mr. Edwards, that there will be no words hidden in that muffle. No small print. No secret code. I’m sure you understand. We both have wives who… how can I put it… have a taste for the better life.”
Mr. Edwards nodded. “Yes, our wives. I have always found it a wise policy not to enter into any discussions regarding my wife. But on that other matter, I too am glad that we finally meet, Mr. Newton. Perhaps we should have met earlier. Business being what it is, we both have been very busy.”
Mr. Newton grunted. What amounted to a fart inside of a smile.
“I sent you a preview of my plans,” Mr. Edwards added. “I hope you’ve had time to look them over.”
Mr. Newton’s face shriveled. Like a vampire giving the finger to a glass of orange juice.
What was that? Mr. Edwards thought. Is his body having uncontrollable reactions to my presence? Perhaps we should not be partners.
“Yes, Mr. Edwards,” Mr. Newton continued, “I had an opportunity to glance through them. I had one of my staff check out the figures you sent us. A trustworthy fellow. The details of the report will not go beyond the three of us. Does that suit you?”
Mr. Edwards nodded.
The two men were silent before Mr. Edwards added. “Of course, Mr. Newton, I cannot stress how important it is to keep this information confidential.”
“Of course, Mr. Edwards. My assistant is aware of your need for privacy. These are delicate matters.”
Mr. Newton opened a box of cigars and offered one to Mr. Edwards.
“No, thank you.”
Mr. Newton took one out, ran it under his nose before lighting it up. “I suppose I shouldn’t either, Mr. Edwards. But I have a weakness for Cubans. Even after I have had dental work done.” Smoke sifted out of Mr. Newton’s smile. “My, what a wonderful gift tobacco has been.”
“Yes,” Mr. Edwards responded. “Unfortunately we can no longer sell them in pharmacies.”
Mr. Newton leaned forward. What is he talking about? Tobacco in a drug store? He took the cigar out of his mouth and placed it in an ashtray. He licked his lips.
“If I could, Mr. Edwards, let me précis your request. You want a loan so that you may renovate the furniture store that you believe will presently become vacant. Apparently Mr. Singh’s arrangement with Mr. G. is coming up for reappraisal. And you need money to make sure that that arrangement is ended. And then you will become the new tenant. Is that the gist of if, Mr. Edwards?”
Mr. Edwards smiled. The man is confident.
“Yes. Mr. Singh has made a valiant effort to make a goal of it in the plaza. But I believe that effort has not been rewarded. Perhaps that is Mr. Singh’s fault. Perhaps it is just bad luck. I believe that a furniture store is not a good fit in the Six Points Plaza, that Mr. Singh would be more successful if he relocated in one of the malls.”
Mr. Newton leaned back in his chair, retrieving his cigar, and taking a puff. He chuckled.
“You would make a formidable enemy, Mr. Edwards. I’m grateful that are ambitions coincide. How did Mr. G. react to your proposal?”
“I did not put my ideas to Mr. G. in the form of a proposal. It was more a loose fitting conversation. And he seemed receptive. Mr. G. is a practical creature. And when I pointed out that the practical served his interests as well as my own, he was eager to listen.”
Mr. Newton stood up and stuck out his hand.
“Well, Mr. Edwards, I guess we’re in business.”
Mr. Edwards shook the banker’s hand as he was led to the door.
“I’ll get my assistant to work out the details.”
“That’s fine, Mr. Newton.”
The banker stopped before they reached the door.
“Can I speak to you on a personal matter, Mr. Edwards?”
“Certainly, Mr. Newton.”
“My wife, a dear woman, has had some health problems of late. She is overwrought. The doctor has warned me that we have to keep an eye on her. Now, she may come to you with a story about her medication. Losing them. Something of that sort. Do not believe her, doctor. My wife can be very persuasive. But on no account, give into her. I am terrified of going home one day and finding a corpse in the house. She has had her stomach pumped twice already.”
Mr. Edwards nodded.
“And of course,” the banker added, “I can expect your secrecy on this matter.”
“Of course, Mr. Newton.”
Mr. Newton reached for the door and opened it. He padded Mr. Edwards on the shoulder.
“I think we are going to get along famously, Mr. Edwards.”
The darkness poured over the two newly engaged partners. And stuck to them like pitch waiting for a torch.