(This is a continuing series called “Kissing Frogs” posted every Friday. To get caught up, you can click the “Kissing Frogs . . . so far” link at the top of the page.)
It looked like the big shot was the only one in the room actually breathing. The three women were just looking at him, like deer caught in the headlights of a HUM-V or eighteen wheeler. Or his brother’s million candle watt portable floodlight. Despite himself Joey chuckled. That was exactly the look – deer about to be poached.
Standing at the top of the stairs, and watching the ever growing water fall cascade over the cracked concrete, Joey didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. This was an enormous job, and he had only begun to scratch the surface.
Thus far his investigation had revealed the source of the original leak in the pipes of the men’s restroom. This being an all female establishment, no one had noticed that one of the toilets in the men’s room had completely dried out. No one, that is, except a family of rats, or squirrels, or some other small rodent, who crawled in the bowl and built a nest in the pipes.
The domesticity was disturbed when a delivery boy arrived and begged to use the restroom. Ushered into the men’s room he used, and flushed, the toilet next to the dry toilet, sending angry water rushing through the old pipes, and up against the sturdy rodent nest. The nest, much like the home of the righteous man in Jesus’ parable, refused to budge. Instead, the old brittle pipes gave way to the force of the water, and cracked. It caused a chain reaction of popping joints, and seeping seams, until all at once an entire section of pipe gave way, and greeted Tracey with a flood.
He took one last glance at the smitten women in Tracey’s office, chuckled, and set off to measure the exact financial toll that was being leveled against Sophia Publishing.
Tracey was unnerved. She had rehearsed this critical meeting over and over in her mind, but now that she was here, face to face with Andrew Faulkner, she felt like a foolish school girl. She had actually giggled when he shook her hand. Giggled! What was she, thirteen? She caught herself doodling a small heart on her note pad, and quickly scribbled it out, only to look up and see Ms. Free and Dr. Faulkner looking at her expectantly. She could hear the sound of her hopes and dreams flushing . . . or maybe that was Joey working on the plumbing.
“Would you like to take this opportunity to introduce us both to your newest publication?” Dr. Faulkner graciously covered for Tracey’s brain pause. She put on her game face, took out the glossy press packets just in from the printer this morning, and came out from behind her desk. This was her office, and her project. She believed in what she was doing, and was proud of both Sophia Publishing, and this first big project. If her knees would just quit trembling, she could really sell this thing. And, hallelujah, for the first time in her life the power point presentation was working.
“Well, as you both know, this work is an evaluation of the fairy tale complex that exists for women in popular culture.”
Tracey had swung into communications mode, and it was getting easier. In every other part of her life, Tracey felt like a greased pig on a tight rope. But when she was making a presentation about something she really felt passionately about, she was on firm ground. This was her home field advantage.
“The reason the both of you have been invited to this advanced look, is because both the conservative movement and the feminist movement comes under some criticism here.”
Eye contact was back, but this time she could handle it. This was the confidence building look. This was all salesmanship.
“Now the last thing a fledgling publishing house needs these days, is enemies, and we certainly can’t alienate red and blue states in one book.” This had the desired affect. All three of them laughed together. Both Dr. Faulkner and Ms. Free were relaxed.
“But honestly, we really don’t think we need to. We don’t want this to be a polarizing book, we want this to be unifying. We want to open up a dialogue, and discuss what is good for young women, not what is good for politics. Isn’t that really what we all want?”
And there it was. She hit her mark, and they took the cue. After forty-five minutes, Tracey had read them excerpts from the book, clarified the house positions, and fielded all the expected questions. It was almost as if they had a copy of the script in her brain. And at the end of the meeting, as she ushered them to the door, they were greeted with dry stairs. TOUCHDOWN!
“Well, thank you so much for your time. Please feel free to call if any questions come to mind, and I’ll have the printers send your advance copies to you directly.”
Ms. Free shook her hand warmly, thanked her and headed down the stairs, but Dr. Faulkner held back. This was not good. Tracey always got the shakes after a presentation, and she could feel the trembling beginning in her hands. She had to sit down, but not before seeing Dr. Faulkner out.
To her great surprise, he put his hand on her shoulder, and smiled at her.
“Ms. MacManus, it was truly a pleasure meeting you. I have been ‘courted’ by publishers and promoters a lot in my radio career, but this is the first time I actually enjoyed myself. Thank you.”
Tracey couldn’t help it. She blushed, and look at her feet. Dr. Faulkner laughed.
“You know. When I finish a T.V. appearance, or a public debate, I always get a case of the jitters. Can’t stand up for at least twenty minutes. You’re a cool customer. And humble. It’s been a pleasure.”
And with that he left.
Tracey collapsed in her office chair, nervous jitters at full assault. She could still feel his hand on her shoulder. When she got her breath back, she picked up the telephone, and hit “page”.
“Joanna, where in the name of all that is good and holy are you?”