Hire the Bozo

On the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Global News Network, Stanley Lloyd Spenser III, third generation owner and CEO of GNN, sat at the head of the solid mahogany table in the corporate boardroom. He fumbled for the right words to say, words he knew would change the direction of the network, broadcast journalism, and most likely, the entire world.

“Hire The Bozo,” he said to his underling Kirk Kirfartagain, sitting across the table from him.

“But, sir, The Bozo hasn’t been seen for six months. The last he was seen was in Zwackystan.”

“You’re going to have to dun your duds, dude, and go find him.”

“But, sir, I’m allergic to traveling.”

His boss, The Third, picked up the phone next to him and buzzed his Administrative Assistant. “Miss Pinkhouse, come in here please.”

The door to the boardroom opened and Melicia Pinkhouse, Administrative Assistant to The Big Cheese, Stanley Lloyd 3, came into the room.

“Yes, sir,” Mel came back with.

“Take K. K. with you to the Banana Republic, get him some duds, and go with him to Zwackystan. You have to find The Bozo.”

“But, sir…” she said.

“And get going today. I want to see El Boz by the end of the week. We need him to save The Network. And possibly the whole world.”

“But, sir…” she said again.

“Don’t ‘but, Sir’ me. After all, I am the Commander-in-Chief of this here Network. And what I say goes.”

“But, sir…. she said again some more.

“Look, Britannia rules the waves. So salute the flag and get the hell to Zwacky before you loose your corporate head to someone who is the adventuresome type.”

“But I’m no Morton Stanley,” K. K. said.

“Neither am I,” The Third came back with. “That was my great-great-grandpappy.”

“But, sir…” Miss Pinkhouse interrupted.

“Look, Pinky…” The Third said.

And before you can count one-two-three, she jumped in with, “The Bozo is in my office, sir.”

The Third breathed a sigh of relief.

Three weeks later, The Bozo was the new Anchorman. The Third finally sold the network to TNP, which stands for Take-No-Prisoners, for an undisclosed few billion bucks. Then he retired and went to live on his ranch in Hawaii, called the Big Pineapple. He moved with his actress wife, Playne Rhonda, who had won three Academy Awards for portraying actresses in distress. In her youth, she had protested the War in Grenada, then converted and become a Born-Again Born-Againer. She also had a new line of pregnant wear called Pregs for Pregs, and had a new series of highly successful exercise videos called “Out of body, out of mind.”

Stan and Playne lived happily ever after. That is, until The Third was asked to take over TNP and make it as successful as GNN had been. And he did that too. After he got his divorce.

Restaurant Blues

The waitress stuck her head through the open doorway of Doug’s cramped office at the back of his restaurant. Doug absentmindedly took a sip of the black coffee on his desk and studied the large sheet spread out on his desk.

“I’ll give you one of my world famous massages,” she said, “if you come over and hang out at my place. You look like you could use a break.”

He set his cup back on the desk and looked up.

“Sounds enticing, Cali,” Doug said. “I can’t though. I have a new waitress to interview.”

“Too bad,” she said. “If you change your mind later, come on by.” She turned and left for the day.

Doug went back to his paperwork. It seemed never-ending. As soon as he went through one pile of papers, another took its place.

He reached for the cup and realized that it was empty, empty just like his life. He set his pencil down and leaned back in his chair and listened to Louis Armstrong playing “West End Blues” on the Bose CD-player behind him. He sure did love that Satchmo. A slight smile came to his lips, then a frown as the music coursed through his body and he remembered.

Since his fiancée, Sheryl, broke off their engagement, Doug had developed a new rhythm of working, sleeping, working more. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen hours a day seven days a week he worked and it had paid off. His restaurant, Doug’s Tabard Cafe, had prospered. It had earned more in the last four months than in the entire previous year. And it kept him from thinking about his ex. But, for some reason that rainy Wednesday afternoon in February, it didn’t do the job.

He went back to his work. As he weeded his way through the paper on his desk, he stared down at an imagined Sheryl’s face smiling back at him. His eyes watered up with tears. He brushed them aside and went to take a drink out of the coffee cup. Realizing that it was empty, he ignored it and continued his bookkeeping. The blurry figures on the sheet before him didn’t want to add up.

He looked at his watch. Three-thirty. What time had she said she’d be in for the job interview? He glanced up at the door and quickly straightened his tie.

There she stood, a tall, lanky blonde in her early thirties.

“I’m here about the waitress job,” she said and introduced herself as Diane.

“Yes, you are,” Doug said, his dark brown eyes meeting her large blue eyes. They smiled at each other. He reached over to the coffeemaker at his side and poured himself a new cup of coffee. For the first time in a long time, he was happy.

The Nature Walk

Elgar was always surprised when, only a few feet away from the highway, there was nature. Trees, a river and deer. At least once a month, he drove up to this end of the island, parked and walked into what he considered a painting. A landscape. Here it was autumn and nature was doing her nature thing as always. This was the last visit he was to make in a long time. If ever. The next Saturday he was getting married, then they were moving out west to California. He would miss all this. It was his little secret. He hadn’t even told Louise. He wondered why that was. Was he hedging his bets? Didn’t he think the marriage would last. He hoped it would.

It was quiet on the lake. He looked out and watched a fish jump. The birds sang their last songs as they prepared to fly south for the winter. The trees unburdened themselves of their leaves. It was going to be a good day for a walk among the trees. He felt like Thoreau must have felt walking the Maine woods.

As he sauntered along, he pulled out his sketch book. He wasn’t much of a draftsman but he always made out what was on the paper. He had what must have been hundreds of these pads. He saw a bird peeping down through the leaves, watching him. He stood still, very still. Only his fingers moved with the pencil. The bird seemed to be saying his goodbye too. He felt sad for them both. His eyes did not take their focus off the bird. A long time ago he learned to let his hand draw what he was seeing while he watched the subject. He smiled, thinking about that.

When was he going to show Louise all his drawings and tell her of his nature walks? He felt guilty. It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried. Every time he went to tell her something else came up. Should couples have secrets from one another? He wasn’t thinking of adultery or anything like that. He was thinking of something like his nature walk.

The thing was that he spent most of his time in the rough and tumble world of business. Managing a store was a 24/7 job and he had bought into the bargain. If he had not had these occasional excursions he couldn’t have survived it. He thought about the move. It was to the company’s headquarters to take over a division. It would be quite a bit more money. Louise liked the idea of moving out west. She had wanted to live in California for a long time. And he was sure there were places like this one out there. Well, maybe not like this one but natural places.

Jack loved the city. Its hustle and bustle. The people. But this was where he came to refill his tank. There came a point when he just felt drained. He remembered reading a book about John Muir. How he spent much of his time in the wilderness. Theodore Roosevelt got away from his political life and went out to Wyoming. These were great men who did great things. Now all the great ones did was go play golf. That was no way to relax. When he played golf, he became very competitive.

He finished his drawing, saluted the bird, and moved on. He saw a large rock and went over to it and sat down. He reached into the canvas pack at his waist and pulled out a paper bag of sandwiches. They were peanut butter. He uncapped his canteen and drank a swig of water. Sitting there, his teeth tearing into a sandwich, he realized what a happy man he was. And how fortunate. He had a great job. He had Louise. He had his health. He had enough money to live on and raise a family. So why was he feeling such trepidation. Why?

He remembered the first time he saw Louise. A friend had invited him to her recital. Afterward he walked over, and in his own quiet way, he congratulated her on her playing and her choice of music. He thoroughly enjoyed it. Then she surprised him, “Would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?” He surprised himself. “How about now. I mean, after you’re done here.” She thought about his offer. “Why not,” she answered. “I just have a few more people to see, then we can go.”

The crowd thinned out, she picked up her purse, and she walked over to him. “I’m ready.”

They spent a couple of hours with that coffee. They talked about the weather and the stock market. She was an analyst. They talked politics. She was a conservative. He was a liberal. Neither of them were very political. They voted but they didn’t attend rallies or campaign for a candidate.

After three, four dates, they had sex. It was good sex. Not great but good. They enjoyed each other’s company. They went to the opera. She was into the opera. They went to baseball games. He was into baseball. It had taken six months to date eight times. His schedule didn’t make it easy. Though he enjoyed his work, it left little time for a personal life. That was the reason for the move to California. When he was offered it, he called Louise and asked her what she thought.

“You would definitely have more us time,” she said. “I’d like that a lot.”

The next time they went out, he proposed marriage. He was surprised that she said yes, But she had.

A deer watched him from a distance behind some trees. He finished his sandwich and slipped his pad and pencil into his hand. Slowly he sketched, trying not to scare the deer. The deer seemed to understand that she was in no danger.