Excerpt #7: “Whoa, where did that come from? You haven’t so much as taken a peek at their work!”

fear-of-lightning“Well, I’ve reviewed the agency’s reel (For you non-ad people, a reel is a compilation of TV commercials that showcases a creative person’s or agency’s best work. It’s presented on a reel-to-reel cassette.)  I’ve also gone through the print work on one of my visits with Gregory. Plus, I know the talent here—it’s my hometown for Christ’s sake—and the work is not remotely on par with New York, or the West Coast, Minneapolis or Richmond for that matter, and them’s the facts, Kiddo.”

“I’m not your “Kiddo,” and I don’t know if your assessment of this market’s talent is true at all. Why don’t you just give them a chance?”

Deborah and I are locked in a stare down—one I do not have the patience for. I feel hot all over, my head throbs, and my hands start that shaking thing they’ve begun doing since I arrived in Atlanta. Lucky for me I don’t feel the need to hurl. I try to remain calm, since I am standing in the middle of the lawn of my new boss’s house at the party to celebrate his 25 glorious years in the business.

“Deborah, I know you are close to these people . . .”

“Close is not the word!” she cries. “We’ve had to hold this agency up while Ian and Gregory fight a turf war over Gregory’s upcoming retirement; meanwhile our biggest account is falling out of love with us, and that weasel Emory Barnes jockeys for every advantage the slime ball can get. I just . . . ”

I feel my arms ripping into the air in a frenzied gesture of frustration . . .

“Goddamn it, Deborah, this ad agency is pitching a 100 million dollar account in 21 days. I plan to win the goddamned thing, using whatever talent I need from wherever I need to beg, borrow or steal it. Are you getting this?”

“Just . . . give . . . them . . . a . . . chance,” she says.

As I start to reply to Deborah’s entreaty, I glance over her shoulder to gather my thoughts and find myself staring into the face of the most impossibly beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on. Blonde and statuesque, she is smoking a cigarette and listening to the palaver of two bedazzled, young account executives. She turns her head to exhale a long white plume of smoke and notices me noticing her. Her eyes appear to widen slightly, or so I imagine, then she turns back to talk to the puppy dogs she has in tow.

“Who . . . is . . . ?” I stutter.

Deborah, being an attractive woman, didn’t miss the exchange, which took all of two and a half seconds.

“That’s Jacqueline Smithdeale, hot-shot sales rep from WSB-TV.”

“Mother of god!” I sigh.

I put the back of my right hand against my forehead, like when Carson does Carnack the Magnificent, and say: “I have a premonition there’s a Jacqueline Smithdeale in my very near future.”

“Get in line,” Deborah says. “She’s on every rich guy’s wish-list from here to New York, and south to Miami.”

“I don’t do lines.”

I see that Deborah and I are getting nowhere on the staff discussion tonight, and I am so famished, I could chew the leg off a standing cow.

“Listen, we’ll get back to the discussion about the staff at the office. If I don’t eat something soon, I’m toast.”

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