“I don’t have time for this shit!”
They were the first words that escaped Randy’s lips as he stormed into the conference room. No “hello,” no “how’s your mother,” no “it’s great to be here.”
I smiled, narrowed my eyes and nodded. I knew already that I had made the right choice in bringing Shuvelback in.
Randy Shuvelback cut an impressive figure. His light blue pinstriped shirt bunched at the belt and elbow areas, revealing a gamey build that was exaggerated by a combination of formidable height, thin sea-life-themed suspenders, a short, thick, newsprint-themed tie, and a generally spastic demeanor.
My man’s effect on the others was predictable. I saw disbelief on Stanley Sizemore’s lean face, indignation on Alfred’s jowly one, and flat out scat terror combined with a hint of physical attraction on my friend Rob’s. These were my closest friends and advisors—the men that, apart from myself and Rob, my ex-boyfriend who I’m still on pretty good terms with but doesn’t actually do anything business related, made Batcorp tick—and it was important to me that they get to know the guru who had turned my life around and was about to do the same for my business.
Stanley, an old-school Wall Street guy with the easy confidence and hairstyle of Michael Douglas and usually the first to speak at these gatherings, stood up and started to open his mouth, but before his jaw was even halfway cracked, Randy, striding briskly across the room, not even looking at us, held up a hand to silence him.
He made straight for the coffee service I had had the foresight to make Alfred order, lifted the stainless steel pot off the sideboard with one hand, brought it to his lips, and started putting it down in big, thirsty gulps while holding up his other hand to indicate to Stanley and anyone else who might have wanted to talk that right then was not the time. The others continued to stare, dumbstruck as Randy tilted the pot and his own head back further and further while he sucked greedily at the expensive, double-brewed Ethiopian coffee inside. When his head was as far back as it would go, he lifted the pot into the air and shook it, both to get out the last few drops and show us all that he had finished the whole thing by himself.
He put the pot back on the sideboard and his eyes bugged out a little as he noticed the tray of butter cookies sitting beside the coffee. He picked the tray up, closed his eyes and smelled the cookies while shaking and swirling the tray gently as if it were a fine wine. Stanley, who had sat back down, looked to me for guidance, but I just grinned and kept watching Randy work.
Holding the big, expensive glass tray in one hand as if it were nothing more than a paper plate at a barbecue, Randy grasped a cookie in the other and brought it to his lips slowly. As the cookie made its way to his mouth, Randy’s lips drew back, revealing an impressive set of short, sharp teeth, which chattered involuntarily like an excited dog. He nibbled the first cookie, gently at first, then faster and faster until, within a few seconds, it was gone. He groaned in animal satisfaction, lifted the tray with both hands and let the remaining cookies, of which there were probably a dozen, flood into his mouth. The ones that made it in were crunched savagely in a single bite, one after the other and the rest just fell onto the floor. The display was the exact opposite of the spirit that the civilized-looking pot, tray and thin, crisp Chessmen butter cookies were supposed to create and seemed to offend and disturb my friends to their core.
Me? I stood up and applauded.
Everything that I had seen so far had validated my decision to hire Randy and I was impressed. I knew that, on top of all of his accumulated wisdom and experience, Randy was a showman, a leader who led by example and used emotion as a tool as much as research and rock-solid common sense. His was a brain big with ideas, so swollen sometimes that it was hard for the blood that would normally route to his speech centers to make its way there in time for him to express himself as quickly as he would have liked or needed. When this happened, he tapped into his lower brain, the part at the base of the skull right above where it fits on to the neck—the part that we still hold in common with reptiles, responsible for instincts such as fight, flight and basic ur-level signification—eyes, teeth, non-verbal sounds and fast-twitch reflexes, etc. I could tell that Randy was so excited to be with us that he had had to lean hard on these most primal resources in order to get that point across. It was a good sign and I couldn’t wait to see what he had in store once the sugar and caffeine had brought him back to a state close enough to homeostasis for him to speak.
I didn’t have to wait long.
Randy replaced the tray and removed his dark blue blazer, which he then folded and laid over the back of the chair at the head of the table. His next move was to unknot his tie with his long, bony, shaky fingers, fumbling around for some time and cursing under his breath until he finally just started tearing and yanking at it until he got the knot down to about his second button, making it appear even shorter and him even taller and pointier by comparison. I grinned to myself again. The old wolf was still hungry.
Shuvelback leaned in, placed his hands on the conference table, and stared at each of us one by one, never breaking eye-contact or blinking before the other person did. He came to me last and I could practically feel the sparks shooting off as the twin twin-sawblades of our eyes clashed against each other in an ultimate masculine sparring of the wills.
“Jesus,” I could here Rob sob beside me. “It looks like they’re going to tear each other apart.”
Randy and I both looked at Rob at the same time, who wilted under the dual assault of our gaze, then back at one another. In a double independent miracle, we both chose that exact moment to wink at one another, me with my left eye (the closer to Satan) and he with his right (in honor of his Presbyterian faith). We laughed and the tension broke like a thunderclap, allowing the onlookers to breathe a sigh of relief and be invited into the conversation. We had both gained a psychological advantage.
Randy spoke first.
“When I said that I didn’t have time for this shit, what do you think I meant?”
He looked around the table.
Stanley raised his hand.
Randy continued to look around.
“Anyone at all?”
Stanley looked around again, confused, not realizing that this was part of Randy’s teachings. Amused, I kept quiet and watched.
“We’ve got all the time in the world,” Randy soothed, then added drily, “if you don’t care about wasting time and money.”
I laughed boomingly and Randy caught my eye and smirked.
Stanley stood up.
“Look, I don’t know who you think you are, but I’ve been trying to answer your question. If you want to ignore me and talk about wasting money, that’s your business, but I think we all know who is wasting money in this business and it sure as shit isn’t any of these folks,” he shouted, gesturing at the boys and me.
Randy turned a fatherly look on Stanley.
“Your name?” he asked flatly.
Stanley scowled and looked at me for guidance, but I just stared back impassively, not giving him anything to go on.
“Stanley,” he grumbled. “Stanley Sizemore… Of Sizemore and Associates.”
“Congratulations, Stan,” said Randy extending his hand.
Sizemore reached for it somewhat reluctantly, but just before their hands were about to grasp one another in reconciliation, Shuvelback withdrew his rapidly and ran it through his slick coif of thin, raven colored hair, which was combed back to reveal an acute and barbaric looking widow’s peak.
Alfred and Rob gasped and my hand flew instinctively toward the katana I kept scabbarded at my hip throughout every board meeting.
Randy grinned wickedly and Stanley slumped back in his chair, shocked by the snide savagery of the extremely curt gesture.
“Remember Stan,” Randy said, taking on the tone of a professor, “a hand is just a fist with fingers. Be careful about which ones you grab.”
I relaxed my grip on the deadly blade. Stanley had suffered a shock to his ego, but ultimately he would be fine. He was an old warhorse, and with Randy’s help he would continue to serve us well in battle.
All eyes were on Shuvelback as he continued.
“Your boss brought me here because he’s smart enough and bold enough and believes in this company enough to know that it can succeed.”
He stood up and took a pen out of his breast pocket and clicked it on to emphasize his next point.
“The problem is, it’s not succeeding. Not by half, not even by a quarter of its potential if Sam here’s numbers aren’t as limp as his dick was before I jazzed it up by walking in.”
At this, the guys joined me in a chuckle. Even Stanley, no stranger to the kind of chauvinistic humor that dominated these boardroom affairs, managed a wry smile and shake of the head.
“So, what can I do for you?” Randy asked. “That’s probably what you want to know. What special knowledge do I have that you don’t that’s going to allow us to dip our wicks in the diamond fountain?”
He looked around.
Rob started to say something but Randy cut him off.
“Nothing. I have nothing. I’ve got the same shitty gym body, the same knob haircut, the same taste in booze and broads that every other guy has, that is as much as I can get and as little as I need.”
The guys laughed in spite of themselves.
“I got a jack leg, some grey hairs, a couple ulcer or three, and a fuckin’ bee in my bonnet for helping struggling business and individuals discover the tools they need so that they can help themselves.”
He looked around.
“And above all, I have the most important thing anybody on this planet can have, do you know what that is?”
Nobody answered, but everybody looked on, rapt.
“Ears, boys. I got ears and I listen. I put my ear to the ground or out in the wind, or down in the fucking ocean. Wherever it has to go. And I remember what I hear. And you will too.”
The guys looked impressed. I couldn’t help but smile again.
“So, my little listeners” Randy went on. “Who here has heard of the word prosthetics?”
Seth Blake is a writer from New Hampshire.