Old Speckled Hen, Part 2
[Continued from last week]
Nervous glances, from others at the restaurant. I leave my seat and pace the area out front.
“So you did do this,” she says. “This is my life.”
“It’s my life, too.”
“You did not just hang up on me.”
I call back, it goes straight to voicemail. Dial Lee Winchester’s office and leave a message with his assistant. Kick around the cobblestone. Consider leaving an angry voicemail for Kitty when my lawyer calls back.
“Your assistant said you were out.”
“Sorry about that,” he says. “Your bitch of an ex has been flooding our lines.”
“Don’t call her that.”
“If you can find a more appropriate way to describe her.”
“She says she got a countersuit,” I say, opting to ignore his response. “That it goes after her business.”
“We didn’t file a countersuit.”
“Incorrect,” he says. “We absolutely filed.”
“When did we decide that?” I ask, trying to contain the growing dread.
“You were fairly specific in your voicemail.”
Gut check. Zero memory. “I didn’t leave a voicemail.”
“Would you like me to forward it to you?” he asks. “It’s surprisingly succinct for someone who may or may not have been howling at the moon.”
The late night. The rooftop.
“‘Take the bitch for all she’s worth’ — your words. See? You used the term yourself.”
“So you acted on something I said when I was drunk?” I ask. “You didn’t think to confirm it?”
“Mr. Buckle,” he says. “I’ve called and left messages for you. I’ve sent emails, everything short of carrier pigeon.”
“I, I didn’t want to deal with it.”
“Understood, but in the end you hired me to protect your interests and the clock was ticking down.”
“This isn’t what I wanted.”
“We would’ve gotten there, eventually,” he says. “It was the right move.”
Dust falls from the East Side Highway. “Withdraw it.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“I don’t want to go after her practice.”
“Did you speak to her?” he asks.
“As your counsel, I advise you not to speak to her while negotiations are underway.”
“Okay, but —”
“Are we clear?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say.
“Good. Now,” he grunts. “That cunt cheated on you despite years of support and we’re going to get you everything to which you’re entitled.”
Red fog. “What did you call her?”
“Do you prefer the alternative?”
“You’re fired,” I say.
“I don’t want you anywhere near me or my wife.”
There’s a long pause on his end. “Ex-wife, Mr. Buckle,” he says. “I wish you luck.”
I pocket my phone. The waiter waves me back, placing my order on the table. I hand him my credit card and chug my beer. The last thing I want is food.
The streets are stuffed with tourists. I wish they would learn to fucking move.
Pompadour’s draft proposal is on my desk when I get back. I direct my assistant not to let anyone into my office when I’m not there.
I read the abstract, skim the first page. It’s the opposite of what we discussed — basically an argument for more is more.
Pompadour’s desk is occupied by a doe-eyed associate. I ask her where my deputy is and she points to the row of desks by the window.
Sunlight glimmers off his hair. I take care not to blind myself. “What’s this?” I ask, laying the proposal on his desk.
“Just the broad strokes, something for us to riff on,” he says, as though we’re Lennon-McCartney.
“This is not what we talked about.”
“I told you I wanted to reduce risk,” I say. “This increases it.”
He sits taller. “You said you wanted something Conor could get on board with.”
“You can call him Mr. until I say otherwise.”
“Continue,” I say.
“Well… Mr. Fidelity stopped by my desk to find out how my first day was going, so I seized the opportunity to discuss the firm’s risk strategy.”
I snap. “You seized the opportunity?”
“You seized it?”
He glances past me, I follow his eyes. Everyone within earshot is looking without looking. He says, “I’m not sure what you want me to say right now.”
“I want to know why you would go behind my back,” I say, volume rising.
“Don’t lie to me, you insignificant shit.”
The doe-eyed associate watches on.
“Another thing,” I say, spotting her. “This isn’t your desk. You think you deserve a window more than she does?”
Head bowed, he says, “Mr. Fidelity switched us…”
Walk away, Nolan.
“… because of my dad.”
The bottom falls out. “I don’t want to hear one more thing about your father, understand? At this firm, we work. You want to get ahead? Keep your head down and do what you’re told.”
Who is this hapless manager, berating this manicured child?
“You make me sick to my stomach, with your showboating, and your flash, and your goddamn arrogance. You haven’t earned it.”
Why not give him a sack full of kittens to kick down the block?
“You are the worst kind of person,” I say, unable to stop. “You think you’re entitled to something and you take it.”
I throw the draft in his face. He’s on the verge of crying.
“Fix this thing. And you know what? Once you fix it, fix it again. I don’t trust your judgement.”
I seal myself in my office. Try to catch my breath. Do I go back to apologize? Call him in here? I pull out my phone, consider dialing Kitty but don’t trust what I might say. She was once my safe haven, my saving grace no matter what the circumstances. That time has passed.
Instead, I call Esther. Temperance be damned. I know who I want to speak to.
This piece appears as part of a serialized fiction experiment by Nathaniel Kressen for At Large magazine. New installments are published weekly, each based around a different liquor.
Nathaniel Kressen is the author of two novels — Dahlia Cassandra (named Best of 2016 Fiction by Entropy & Luna Luna Magazine) and Concrete Fever (Bestseller, Strand Book Store) — as well as the co-founder of Second Skin Books and the leader of the Greenpoint Writers Group. He was commissioned by At Large magazine to publish his third novel in serialization — now available, with new chapters publishing weekly — titled My Life on Rye. And, as one half of the wife-and-husband team Grackle + Pigeon, he’ll be publishing a tome for modern living this fall — Blanket Fort: Growing Up Is Optional (HarperCollins/Morrow Gift). You can find his work at nathanielkressen.com.