Secrets of the Lottery Winner

Secrets of the Lottery Winner

CHAPTER 10:   GOLDEN TONGUE

When Gari arrived at Lefton & Associates, the agency was empty. He stood at the entrance perplexed. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d had to open the office—maybe he’d never opened it. He required a minute to remember he’d been presented a key for occasions like this—occasions he guessed Larry’s gang of sycophants encountered with regularity. He’d attached the key to his key ring, which was paltry by comparison to those he’d observed carried by others, including women; his ring held his car keys (used solely on weekends or for special business meetings, such as the one that never happened with Albert Manning, who Gari would happily thank if he should ever meet the man), a house key (never used as he entered through the garage door like every self-respecting suburban resident), and an oxidized key.

Miraculously, the key worked. Entering, he couldn’t believe a company would not change its locks … well, the exact number of years eluded him, but they were many. No secrets worth stealing at Lefton & Associates explained it. And the equipment, forget it. At Lefton & Associates they made do with antique technology, except for the marginal creative group; Larry allowed them to splurge on expensive computers, excusing the expense with his mantra that great creative was the product, the lifeblood, of the agency. He closed and locked the door to the snickering peal of his own laugh.

Inside, he found the light switch, he started the coffee, and he settled down at his desk. He read his proposal through twice, tweaking it here and there each time until he was convinced he’d written the new definition of perfection. He was certain Victor Lubeck would buy it. He devoted the rest of the early morning to devising a pitch that would win over the dense, narrow, and blind Larry Lefton.

Before eight, a few employees straggled in, surprised to find the lights on and Gari playing in his pen. To the person, they checked their watches to be sure it was Gari who was early, not they who were late. A minute before eight, Larry pushed through the entrance. Gari knew he was in the agency by the clock and the cloying scent of cologne. Larry confused sophistication with unrestrained dousing.

Gari was in the threshold of the door to Larry’s office before the man had dropped into his chair to begin his daily routine of … whatever.

“Look, Gari, I have a busy day here. Lots of messages,” Larry said, tapping the phone.

“I don’t mind waiting,” sounding as if he could and would happily encamp for the entire day or the week for that matter. He flopped onto Larry’s couch to illustrate his resolve.

“Okay, okay, let me just see who called.”

Larry picked up the receiver and grimaced at the phone as he listened to his message headers. Setting the receiver down, he said, “I thought it was odd you being here first thing, but now I know why. There’s a message from Victor Lubeck. What did you screw up this time? How bad? Because if it’s bad …” He trailed off and allowed his flushed cheeks to speak for him.

Ordinarily, Gari would have taken umbrage; but he knew what Victor Lubeck had to say; or was about to gamble he did. “You think Victor’s calling to tell us he’s taking the account somewhere?” Observing Larry with cool detachment, he thought this is the look the day he has his heart attack, face flooded with blood and keeling forward. He wondered if he would call 911 immediately, or give the mutinous heart a minute or two.

“It’s probably another damned typo. Why can’t you read the ads carefully before you send them to the papers?”

“You truly believe that?” Gari asked. Disgust welled in him and some seeped into his voice.

“It’s always the same thing with you, Garibaldi. You should realize I’ve been thinking for a while that the Lubeck’s account is too big for you.”

Gari nearly snickered. Larry was such a stupid bastard he couldn’t recognize himself as the Lubeck’s account problem. If Victor booted the agency, the kick would be due to Larry’s own incompetence. The fool was as creative as the chair he sat on, and at least the chair did useful things like roll and tilt. This was so ironic; really, restraint was difficult; he relished surfacing Larry’s flaws and rubbing the dolt’s nose in them. He didn’t need Larry’s demeaning lecture. He didn’t need Larry. He could walk out the door right now. He was a man without money worries, the independent man. But what about his secret life and Emily? He could find another job, another cover. Maybe now was the time to change careers. He had other interests and skills, though at the moment he couldn’t recall one; but he possessed them, he assured himself. And if he bolted, Larry would certainly lose the precious Lubeck’s account. Gari had saved the account. Well, almost.

Yet, Gari couldn’t bring himself to walk. Doing so would mean Larry had defeated him. Sure this was the normal course at Lefton & Associates. Larry was the owner and he always had the final word. Had anybody ever bested Larry in a business argument, when it was Larry’s money on the line? Nobody came to Gari’s mind. He was determined to be the first. He was standing his ground. And he might beat Larry, since he had leverage on his side:  no need of the job and the knowledge the account was in jeopardy.

“I can increase how much Victor Lubeck spends with us,” Gari said.

“What are you talking about? Lubeck’s not going to spend a dime more on advertising. Especially when the shit is wrong as often as it is. Not when we’re pretty much running him everywhere all the time.”

“We can get more from the account and advertise less too and make him happier.”

In a whore’s business, did heresy exist? Larry on the cusp of fulmination indicated it did.

“It’s here,” Gari said quickly to forestall Larry from exploding.

“What’s this?” Larry bellowed, as he snatched the report.

Holding fast, Gari said, “I don’t know whether I should share it with you.”

Larry released the document and petulantly shoved his hands into his pants pockets. “Keep it.”

“Though if I were you I’d want to read it.”

“Why’s that?”

“Oh, only that it’s the product of a conversation Victor Lubeck and I had yesterday.”

“You talked to him? Who gave you permission to talk to him?”

“We’ve been over this, remember? I’m supposed to be the account manager. I need permission to talk to my client?”

“The agency’s client,” retorted Larry, grabbing the document.

“Then maybe the agency would like to write its own proposal.”

Larry eyed him uncertainly, and Gari knew the tide had turned. Indeed, the account was threatened. Larry was bankrupt of ideas for rescuing it; save cutting lose Gari. “Okay, it’s your account.”

“Sure but there’s a condition.”

“Condition? I haven’t read your damned proposal and there’s a condition? A condition from a guy who can’t spell shoe?”

Gari edged away from the desk. Then he reassured himself Larry was desperate and this was no time for retreat.

“If this saves the account, I’m the agency V.P. and Management Sup. With the appropriate raise, of course.”

“What makes you think you can make demands?”

Because I can deliver, he wanted to say. But Larry wouldn’t accept such bravado. Though Gari had detected a shift in Larry’s attitude toward him, he was sure it had nothing to do with renewed confidence in him as an account manager. What he needed was to enlist support and inspire credibility. He said, “Listen to your message from Lubeck.”

Larry stared at the phone pensively.

“Go on, Larry. Listen to it. Hear all about my latest screw up.”

Larry picked up the phone, dialed into his voicemail, and listened. As he did so, he massaged his eyes, as if the image forming was too unbelievable:  Gari Garibaldi, Savior.

As Larry gingerly set the receiver in the cradle, Gari said, “So, ready to read it?”

Larry gazed at the plan. “He said if your plan looked as reasonable as it sounded, he’d guarantee us six more months. If it worked, he’d re-sign our contract.” He tapped the proposal. “What the hell’s in this thing?”

“Read it and find out.”

“I don’t have to read it. We’re doing what’s in it.”

“And me?”

Larry interlocked his fingers, twirled his thumbs, and studied them closely, as if he stared long enough maybe Gari would disappear.

Gari nudged. “This thing doesn’t go without me. You know that, Larry.”

“Welcome to top management, Mr. Vice President and Management Supervisor.” He smiled feebly. “Now tell me about the plan.”

“After you tell me about compensation.”

Gari grumbled about Larry’s concept of a substantial increase and talked Larry up to six figures. He couldn’t wait to surprise Emily—doing such an exceptional job, sacrificing so much for Lefton & Associates, Gari Garibaldi, you deserve even more.

Larry didn’t care for Gari’s plan. Larry understood advertising. It was simple and getting compensated was simple too. Gari’s plan, while short in length, was high in complication. And there was risk as well, which Larry abhorred more than complexity. Yet, he had no choice but to go along, and in the end he was happy to have Gari in charge. Better Gari screw up than he, if things didn’t go as planned.

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