Excerpt #6: “Deborah Bernstein . . . Will Stallworth.” She nods and begins to respond but I forge on . . .

young couple kissing
“Deborah Bernstein . . . Will Stallworth.”  She nods and begins to respond but I forge on . . .

“Gregory says that you are the most talented art director on the Eastern Seaboard. When he talks about you, he almost breaks into tears.”

She nods, opens her hazel eyes wide and replies . . .

“Yeah? Well, Gregory is bad to lie. Hello, Will.”

The half-dozen staffers around Deborah are waiting for their chance to meet the new boss. I hate this part. One, because it’s superficial, and two because I’m going to cut the throats of two-thirds of these poor bastards as quickly as I can find a knife: that is, fire their mediocre asses.

Hoping to bypass this part of the ritual, I say to Deborah, “Can we talk a minute?”

Deborah, ever the team player as I will come to learn, won’t let me off the hook that readily. It irritates the piss out of me.

“Let me introduce you to your new team, Will. Denise and Tim work together—she’s the writer; Angie and Maureen work together—Maureen’s the art director. 

I feel just this side of homicidal. The smile I have painted on my face must appear as sincere as the death mask of Vladimir Lenin.

“This is Rachel and Nigel, writer and art director, and finally . . .”

“Finally!” I whisper under my breath.

“. . . this is Jeffrey and Byron, who recently won two Clios for their work on NAPA Auto Parts,” she says.

“Two Clios, wow, that’s great,” I say with feigned interest. I could give a shit. Clios don’t pay the bills—ball-busting ads do.

“You’ve inherited quite a team, Will.”

Deborah’s enthusiasm for her fellow creatives bubbles all over her. I nod, my anger roiling up inside.

“Uh, Deborah, do you think we might grab a few minutes in private?”

She waves to the troops, and we saunter across the grass towards the food pavilion. Unlike me and most ad people I know, Deborah isn’t hyper-wired—she doesn’t seem to be jacked up on caffeine or nicotine or fighting a brain chemistry imbalance of some ilk. She’s right here . . . now. . . .

“That’s quite a get-up you’re sporting there, Deborah.”

She turns, gazes around the lawn at the guests and coworkers, levels the first of countless intense looks at me, and softy says:

“Well, joke ‘em if they can’t take a fuck.”

With one quip, my respect for the woman goes through the roof: Deborah Bernstein doesn’t give a rat’s ass what I or anybody else thinks.

We wander into an expanse of grass, and I know it’s here that I’ve got to drop the bomb. My hands are clammy, my breathing labored, which pisses me off. It’s not as though I haven’t been the hatchet man scores of other times. Shit! What’s going on with me? I take a breath.

“Listen, Deborah, a bunch of these characters aren’t going to make the cut on my team.”

As expected, Deborah has a few thoughts of her own about this issue.

Find out what happens in Will
Stallworth’s life next!

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