Chapter 1, Talk is Cheap
"Do you think I talk too much about writing and doing creative arts?"
A young looking man not yet quite shy of his 40th birthday was talking in his single female friend's apartment to her.
The apartment was quite large and had comfortable sofas with throws over them. His female friend had a fit appearance and was nearly 40 years of age as well. But her male companion was overweight although still young in the face.
"Perhaps, you do talk about it a bit much but only by a little. If you could find just a scrap of something else to talk about instead sometimes, it would be helpful to your social skills."
"I was thinking of doing some studying anyway. Still, I don't feel up to going back to college. But I might try reading a bit more about anything interesting. I don't know what I would really try getting books on...."
"Don't tell me now! You can tell me the next time you come. Then we'll have a really good chat about it if you've done anything you've said that you were going to do."
When he began talking about something else, she said that she had to go somewhere she had just remembered she had to go to and he could leave now and come back another time.
So he put on his coat, a quite new coat that looked good on him, and went out the door into the still young night.
Next time he saw her, he said, "I have been reading about business. And, as well, I've been watching some business reality shows on the television."
"What ones have you seen…? And tell me what book you've read?"
He did and they talked for almost the whole of the rest of the evening about it until it was time for him to leave again.
"I expect to hear what more you've been doing next time I see you," she said. "But keep reading the business books as they seem very interesting."
"I'll do that," he said, feeling quite upbeat for her having said this to him.
He thought of this female friend again as he caught the bus back home to his own apartment, which was quite a large one but smaller than hers on the other side of the city center to hers and not in such a modern block.
On another day, he was talking to another female friend in a cafe in the town center after they had met going shopping, and he said, "I've been thinking about my creative arts hobbies and whether I could really put them onto a more professional or business basis."
"Why would you want to do such a thing?"
"It is just that they are hobbies now, but I feel that they would be better as hobbies if I were to use my business skills."
"I don't know really what you are talking about! Did you say that you wanted to run a business?"
"Perhaps, I would like to run a business, but I don't feel like I can right now. Really, I would need to know a lot more about it. But I feel that it helps using my computer at least for something. It is business software after all that I'm using all the time. And then, I could start any business."
"Is that how you really feel? I don't know that it doesn't sound a bit boring to me. Maybe you should get out more than just the shops."
"You might be right really and I should get out some more. There are good shops and amenities in the town center here and there are some parks near where I live. And I really could do with the exercise as well as to get out and walk somewhere."
"So then, that is as if I am your counselor, your parents and everything else rolled into one. What is it about me that you come out with this stuff…? Do you prefer talking to girls?"
"Yes, I suppose I do prefer talking to girls. Though, I don't know why it is that I do like talking mainly to girls. Or I've forgotten. It is just as they say that men are hairy, sweat a bit and they smell and are no good for anything."
"How can you say that? You are a man yourself! So you should be working at growing yourself to be hairier. Then more women might like you and one might actually want to date you. Still, if anything I said was helpful, then you can take it away and do what you want with it."
After he had left and when he was at home in a comfortable abode full of books, papers and other clutter on the second floor of an old-fashioned apartment building, he worked on his computer for 1 or 2 hours late into the evening.
He was doing a bit of graft on his creative projects, trying to tidy some of them up a bit and to finish them.
Then he opened another WP file instead and wrote a plan for his new business.
Also, he wrote plans for more creative projects that he could do once he had more properly started on his business venture.
After that, and as he had already been on the computer quite long already that day, he got off it. But then, he started writing a plan on paper of things that he had forgotten to put on his computer word processor plan.
In the end, after writing until the late evening, he had written nearly 20 pages and his fingers felt numb from having written so much.
It was an hour before he had to go to bed.
And so now, he made some snacks in his microwave.
He ate them whilst watching a film in front of the TV.
Then feeling satisfied by the entertainment that was on the TV and his meal filling up pleasantly his stomach, he retired to bed sleepy and happy.
And he slept until morning a good long deep sleep.
A few days later, he was at the social group that he went to where they talked about relaxation and herbal remedies for stress.
The room they were in was one in a rented hall and it had wooden tables and chairs in it. There were some art materials out to do some sketching. Also, there were some books and leaflets about relaxation put out for people to peruse.
They could take them away free when they left if they felt like it. This is if they were only a leaflet or a thin booklet. But if they had a price label on them, then you would have to pay for them.
In this group, he talked to the organizer about his plans for starting his own business. One of the things he talked about was setting up an office and, as well, he talked about whether he would need any more software than he had on his computer in his bedroom at home.
"I could do that! Ask me, why don't you?"
A quirky looking girl with a fresh face and impeccably but dowdily dressed with a flower pinned to the top of her clothing had come up to speak to him. She, like him, attended the group.
"So you can do all the things I've just mentioned. How many of them can you do...? By the way, is that a real flower?"
"Smell it if you like! It smells lovely and sweet."
"Do you mean like sweet flower nectar?"
"You have to smell it," she said coming close and pushing the flower towards him without taking it off her dress so that her bosoms accidentally swelled a bit behind the material of the top of her dress.
He smelled it and then tried to smell more deeply, but strangely, he could smell nothing at all. Her laugh broke his wondering how a flower could not smell of anything and she stood back chuffed that he had fallen for her joke.
"No, it's not a real flower. I didn't pick it this morning or anything else like that. It is a fake one and that is why it doesn't smell of anything."
"It smells of 'dress' or something like that."
"So do you wash your dress in non-perfumed washing powder? Or is it conditioner that is scented as I come to think of it now...."
"I've already told you: 'enough jokes'. Why do you think I said it? It was because I knew it was going to get stupid. So what job have you got for me in your office?"
"I might have something for you...."
Somebody else came up to him.
This next girl was about 5 to 10 years younger at about 25 years of age. She was really quite fit but he hadn't noticed that she was so fit before she had come up so close to speak to him.
The girl was dressed neatly and fashionably despite her gym body. And she pointed out it was silly of him to think that she should be wearing gym pants just because she was fit.
Also, she was slim when the first girl who had spoken to him had been a bit of a plump girl. In different but quirky ways, they were both attractive.
They both winced when he thought this. But they said nothing and ignored it if people, both men, and women in the room, had noticed his body language when he was thinking this.
"I can also work in an office," said the fit girl.
Now the fat girl said that she was just overweight, that she had old-fashioned parents who made her talk like this and expected her to dress like that, and that there was nothing physically wrong with her. She said that she could get fit as well.
Also, she pointed out that he was overweight himself.
So it was not just that she was and whatever else he was thinking.
Still, despite hearing this, he went back to speaking to the fit girl. He told the fat girl only that they could both get fit at the same time. And then he took an interest in the other girl.
"What computer programs can you use?" he asked the fit girl.
"All of them! Of course, it is all of them. I just told you that I have used a computer already. And I have done so for several years if I need to say that. So then, I must have learned all these programs at some time, mustn't I have done so?"
"All right, then. If I ever have any work to give you, then I might ask you to help me to do it. This is when you know so much. However, I'm not sure that it is not just a pipe dream. I might never get started. Still, I can take your phone number. And I will give you a call if it ever gets to be anything more than just an idea. Then, I might need somebody with computer skills…."
"What do you mean, huh?"
The social group organizer came up and took him aside.
She told him that he had to be a bit serious even if he felt that he was just making conversation. People would understand what he was saying in a certain way that was normal for anyone. And he must realize that as well.
When he said that he was sorry and would try harder, he half-expected her to praise him for making such a commitment. But instead, she didn't say anything.
And with the slightest gesture of her hand, she left him on his own.
The girl with the flower stuck in her dress came up to speak to him again having heard what the supervisor had said to him. This was as she had stood near to the supervisor whilst it was being discussed.
If anything, she looked a little bemused.
The fit girl who had also heard it looked angry. But, as well, she looked amused with him. And she was only bemused with what the supervisor had said.
They spoke for a few minutes about his business plans, the three of them, and mainly what business and office experience the fit girl had whilst the other girl listened to them a little way away.
And then the fit girl said with a smile that turned into a laugh when she could see how much more relaxed a girl's smile made him feel even when it was an athletic type of a girl and not his usual kind of a blonde bimbo, "Perhaps, we can talk about something normal for a bit."
They did talk about something normal for around 10 to 15 minutes. But after a while, the girl with the slim body said that she'd had enough and walked off to another part of the room.
As she was leaving to go away from him, he asked if he could have her phone number. This was when he had already asked her once before but not got it. Quickly, she turned, took out her smart phone and gave him the number.
Then she went and looked at some leaflets. After a while, when she had considered some of the books and leaflets that were available, he could not see her anymore.
Perhaps, she had left already.
This was when the social group was beginning to close down for the day. Now, he left as well.
There was no sign of any girls outside if he had hoped to catch one there to ask for a date or to talk to some more. And so he went on his way. He paid no attention to anything but his footsteps in front of him and his having the change in his pocket enough for the bus. And he did not think about what he had said about computers, business or office work. Or he did not think about whatever it was that he had said if it had been anything much indeed out of the ordinary. That is, he did not at least just for now.
Chapter 2, Now Make Some Cash
He went along to do a course in business at a local college.
At the interview, he as a potential student told them how he did exercise in his room. It was something he was proud of doing.
He'd lost some unpleasant fat. Before, people would always invite him in to sit on their comfortable sofas, bring him snacks and drink and take an interest in what he was saying. But now he felt he was leaner and he had thrown out some of his clutter.
And he would by this as he told them make a better college student.
The girl whom he visited across town said when he had seen her with his new fit body that she was pleased he had done it. But she declined to sleep with him. She said that he wasn't big enough yet and disappointingly, as well, he still had some fat despite being on the exercise program for some time.
So he had done exercise in his room before coming to college on his first day. This was because he wanted to be stronger and have more muscles than he had already. And now he had started his course and so had that to think about as well and not just his bodybuilding.
On the first day of the course, he was late because of traffic and arrived in the class once it had already started. But he was grateful that there did not seem such a lot of scornful glances from his classmates although there were suggestions of his getting some.
He opened his folder. It was one bought from the college stationery shop. Then, he took out his pen and pulled the lid off. This done, he was ready to do some work.
For the first few weeks of the college class, they did not take their breaks. They didn't take any so that they could get through some of the work they had to do. And after the class, it seemed that everyone went home immediately as well. This was without talking to anyone else.
So it was not until he had been attending for a few months that he had a chance to use the cafeteria and talk to any of the other students.
Some of them were quite attractive women in their late twenties and who, after even a short time that he had spoken to them, came more out of their shells.
This was particularly he noticed just like his female friend that he visited across town had said that once he had lost some of the fat he'd had and got some more toned muscles, then he would be able to find any girls.
It had been touch and go that he hadn't looked like a slob permanently he joked to his classmates. But they didn't get the joke.
Some of the girls on the course were office workers updating their skills. Others, a little older, hoped that if they got new skills, then employers might still want them despite having already lost office jobs. But, now at nearly 40 years old, their looks having gone with age, it was unlikely anyone would give them any work.
It was a bit confusing that he could see now as well, how he was going to get a job himself due to his older age and lack of experience. Today, his business project that he had discussed with his friends and then read up about in business books before going on this course looked to have more chance than previously of helping if anything at all was going to get him work.
He left the college building that day with the thought that he could go it alone causing a tingling sensation down his body. And goose flesh appeared on his arms. Really, he did not like how it felt at all. And nor did he think that he wanted to ever have a feeling like this again. But there was perhaps a job at the end of it.
This was even if he had to make 'some of his own opportunities'.
Or this was whatever the talk was that he had heard. He had heard such talk when he had attended a careers conference before the course. And he had listened to things like this.
Yet, it seemed now so long ago that he could hardly remember it. Nor now, when much water had already passed under the bridge, could he remember how it had really felt.
It was a week later and he was thinking this one day when leaving a college building. His attention, despite being deep in thought, was drawn to a group of people that he could see. They were standing outside the exit to the street that ran past the front of the college. Young students surrounded a middle-aged woman. They were all talking animatedly, one to another, but mainly to the middle-aged woman.
She was talking, as he could hear when he got closer, about how she could give them business advice. And she said that she could offer very reasonable rates.
Talking to the other students, she said that she had started and run her own business for several years.
And so she was well qualified to advise anybody else on a new venture.
The conversations she was having with the other students went on really for quite some time.
After a while, he grew bored with waiting for a chance to speak to her that never came. And so, he went on his way.
When he came out the class another time, he saw her again.
On this occasion, there was nobody else around her. So he went up to where she was standing. And after a brief chat, he asked for her telephone number.
She gave it to him but stopped him just as he was about to go on his way and wanted to know why he had not taken the opportunity to ask her more right then at that moment. But he said only that she had already shown him enough about anything he wanted to know. This was when it seemed that she was more than adequately qualified to advise him as much as he could tell from what she had said herself already. As well, he was attracted by her reasonable rates that were much lower than he'd expected for this type of advice.
He felt like saying something more, like, 'what else do I need to know then?' But instead, he kept it more polite and business-like as he had been learning on his course and from the library. And so he did not start quibbling in the street.
This was as to if she was properly qualified or not or whatever she was saying that he should ask her. Nor did he want a poor conversation about details he did not know yet himself fully. As well, he had no paperwork or plans with him.
He would see her again at some other time. Then, they could have a sit-down chat at a desk and discuss it then.
After the course had finished, he went along and saw this business consultant. And he took his business plans.
She was in a small office off the main street and up a narrow flight of stairs.
Her office had no computer but it did have two desks both with 'In' and 'Out' trays. A harassed secretary occupied the other desk it seemed but was not always there.
He could not now see the blonde curly haired secretary. And he had just briefly seen her before when he came in. So he asked about her. One thing he asked was if she had gone into another office. Or, possibly, it was only a storeroom. He could see a tiny bit into this storeroom or office from where he waited in the other room. Though, really, it looked too small a room to do any work in it. This was just from the glimpses of it that he had. At least, nobody would want to work in there for very long. Also, they wouldn't have had any good reason to spend a lot of time in it. They couldn't have when it must contain so little. And this was even if just from its size that it could not be an important office or room for anything.
When he asked about it, however, the business consultant told him that it was where she, the business consultant, kept her files. And her secretary was retrieving important ones for her. Also, she said that these files were completely necessary for running the business.
He had talked now to the business consultant before today a few times about his business plans. This was when discussing what she could do for him after he had started on his own account.
Still, he didn't feel he was now getting all the advice he wanted.
But the consultant had just said to him eventually on one of these occasions something like, 'Employ me! That's not a joke. You have to do it. Then you can get more advice. And it won't just be what I say to everyone'.
Today, as he planned seriously to go into business, he had gone to see her another time and to ask her for her professional advice. This was as now he was definitely going to start. Also, he knew now that it would happen in one way or another. Whatever the future held would come into fruit or perhaps it would not.
It was, as well, the first time in his life that he had made any real commitment to himself or anyone else at all about anything.
When he saw her, however, he felt surprised that she had not remembered, or so it seemed, anything that he had said to her at all previously. This was anything that they had said at all up until now about his business plans or anything else they had discussed.
Also, he wanted to show her his certificate from the course. But she angrily remonstrated with him as to why he would do such a thing. He made his best attempt to apologize. Or, at least, he mumbled some kind of apology. Whatever it was he said and whether she believed him or not, she accepted his apology. And they went on to some discussions about his business plans.
"Why do you think that I would have made notes about your business plans?"
She said this breaking off what she was saying to him of the certificate and returning to this earlier topic.
"I just assumed that you would have. It's because notes are useful in reminding you what has been said. It's not really a business principle but a quite normal one I thought that everyone knew that you would make notes of anything that you wanted to remember..."
"But hang on a minute, back then you weren't paying me!"
She looked over at him and her eyes screwed up with tears of laughter that she was trying to suppress so she could gauge his reaction.
"And that really is a business principle," she added now chuckling loudly.
When, however, he said nothing more, she said somberly, "Tell me if you don't want me to make any more jokes. It is just that I thought it might make us rub along a bit better together if we did have the odd laugh. There's no point normally to not telling any jokes, is there? So much like this, I have discovered recently. And this is just from doing my new job. Also, it is from meeting people like you."
Initially, he hoped to set up an office in his home and have people come in and work with him part time. Perhaps, he could have one or two come at any time. This would not be such a strain. He did not have such a large space for his home office that too many people could work in it. Nor did he want too many people in his apartment more generally, such as with neighbors complaining about the noise of people coming in and out or saying they could hear peoples' feet moving around. Also, too many people even in quite a large apartment might mean they got in each other's way.
After a sleepless night tossing and turning in his bed, he decided that he must go and rent an office in the town.
Reading up about the office space that was available, he could see some that he could afford on his budget. However, the business consultant was scathing. She said that he would need much more office space than he was saying that he would. He began explaining back to her that other companies in the same building he was considering having his office in were well established and just as big as his company was going to be. This was at least initially. Eventually, she seemed to back down and said that he could do whatever he wanted.
Still, it left him feeling bad. He felt bad that he was perhaps not getting the business advice that he wanted or at least that he wanted to hear.
Then he picked up the phone and called.
He did rent an office that was perhaps a bit bigger than the one he had planned to start with. And perhaps he really could get the money back quite soon.
The business consultant told him once that he would be easily able to make a lot of money and quickly. This is as anyone would. She said that any new start-up made money hand over fist usually unless they were making some big mistake. And this was despite whatever he had heard about the finances of starting up a business that the owner often had little money for the first few years.
So he rented the office space he had considered earlier as being too big for him. Also, he purchased the hardware and software he needed and he would put his own new computers in the office once he moved in. He also still had his computer at home but he would transfer all the files to these new computers. Really, he just felt that he needed a bit higher specifications for these office machines than he had if they were one at home. This was despite his business consultant telling him that it was nonsense what he was saying and asking what he was going to do with his computer at home if not using it for his business as if that was something he should consider. Yet, he didn't think that it was important really himself. And he was beginning to wonder about some other things she was saying. They were even beginning to play on his mind. And they had seriously started to worry him.
Sometime later, he was due another meeting with his business consultant. And he had for the first time in so long really that he had almost forgotten about it and how it felt, a burning question that he wanted to ask. As well, it was to her. He wanted to know what the 'form' was on sleeping with women that worked for him. That was his question. He had been thinking about it for some time before now that he could finally ask it to somebody who might know the answer.
On this occasion, they had agreed to meet in a bar near the city center. The bar was quite old fashioned with plenty of polished wooden tables. And the bar itself had a layer of lacquer that was visibly thick. It served plenty of good strong high-quality beers and as well bar food. This was to a clientele mainly in their thirties. So they were some of the oldest ones there.
As he was seeing her and having taken a gulp of his beer, he asked the question that he really wanted answered about sleeping with his office workers.
"Do you really think women come to work so they can sleep with people they see in the office where they are employed?"
"No, but isn't that what you hear about office work? Why should I think differently when it is my office? I don't see why I should do anything different or why I shouldn't sleep with my office workers."
"It's not what you think! You're talking about the real world where people do a day's work for a day's pay. And it is not like some dirty novel. Really, it is quite insulting to say this when I am also a woman. Do you think I slept my way to the top? How could I have done that when I ran my own business? It wouldn't be possible, would it? I don't think it would be. And you must see as well that it would not be possible either. So stop having these fantasies and telling me about them. I genuinely hope we can do that. Otherwise, I might just have to leave you and your business. If there is anything else that you want to ask me again, including if it is about this on another day but when you're being more sensible, then you can tell me then. Now, I'm going to have another drink. And then I'm going to phone up somebody to meet me here later. I suggest you just go. There is no good reason to hang around here in a bar. Just go home."
She had turned towards the bar and away from him and she was using her mobile phone.
So he left the bar. And he walked out into the cold air where there was a parking lot at the back of the bar and at the side and then a short walk to the town center. It was just getting late. But he would soon be home.
When a month later, he started work in his office, he had three girls working for him. There were the same two that had offered to do so at the social group and who had said they had office and computer skills. As well, he had another office girl working for him that he had recruited through an ad. If anything, she seemed a bit more professional than the other two. And she seemed embarrassed when he thought this by his body language and what he said to her when he gave her tasks to do in front of the other two girls. Still, she did not know yet that he knew the other two girls already. And he did not tell her. The others hadn't it seemed told her either. Really, he had worried about being called amateurish by anyone he employed normally.
The business adviser had told him that to think such things was nonsense. It was when he was running his own business just like any other business. However, one of the other office girls, the one he had first seen with the flower in her dress, did have enough of it. And she left. Still, they did not have that much work that he might employ someone else in her place to keep up with it. But his business adviser told them that he would have to employ somebody new. He should have gotten rid of her sooner if he had less work to do than he thought he would have when he had employed this first girl. And so he had no excuse. The others were noticing these things about him and other things like that and so it would help to employ someone else soon.
For some reason, one he was not entirely sure of at first, he felt worried and anxious now. This was about things like having to employ anyone more and about interviewing them. Since he had started working in his business, he had not done much exercise and had put on a bit of unsightly fat around his waist. And he worried how this might look to people he was interviewing. He also felt embarrassed when he came to work on any other normal day and people saw it. But the other office workers seemed nice and they hadn't said anything. Also, it had been some time since he had studied human resources and personnel management. And he had forgotten a lot of it. So that might explain why he was worried about interviewing people when he couldn't possibly do a good job of it. Still, the business consultant had said that he had to employ somebody else.
He ran the interviews over a morning. The people who he was interviewing all sat together as interviews went over time and he had a backlog of them but didn't tell any of them to leave. They sat in his other office and he called them into his own office to talk to them.
One of the first people that he interviewed was a retired man who wanted to work part-time. He was very well qualified and had done office work for 40 years. The others were young, less well qualified, he doubted whether they even had the qualifications they said they did and a lot of them had poor manners and poor social skills. Only one girl, an attractive 21-year old, seemed to have good manners and good social skills. Also, she seemed to have the qualifications genuinely that you needed for the job. So he called her back in the office and offered her the position.
"Why did you give me the job?"
"You were the most attractive applicant."
"Do you mean that you find me physically attractive? I saw how you were looking at me the whole time and staring down at my breasts."
"No, I don't mean that. I mean that you're by far the best applicant and most attractive for that reason as well."
"Uh, no!" she said and walked out.
The retired man applying for the job had stayed after his own interview and was still waiting outside. The man then came into Jack's office and put himself down in the chair previously used for the interviewees to sit. He was dressed in a gray suit. And he sat down tiredly in the chair used for the applicants a bit incongruously. However, if he felt embarrassed, then he hid it.
The newcomer said this with the smallest gesture of his hand that said so much.
"I'm your most highly qualified applicant. And I'm not asking as much as I used to when I was working. I left where I was before because it was high pressure and because I had reached retirement age. So this is a bit of extra money and for keeping me active. Still, I can give you a good day's work and I won't find it very hard compared to my old job. This is as I can see already. There is a lot I can do for you. And I can tell that you need me."
"Oh, I don't know. I might not."
"If you really want to do something because you would like your firm to be a success and that is what you're worried about, then you should employ me. I've worked in business 40 years. And I can tell you that I'm the best applicant just from my own experience of employing people. Don't you think that the young woman, the one who was out there you wanted to employ, could not also see that I was the best applicant? And that is if there wasn't any other reason for her not accepting the job."
The older man rather stopped short of offering any other reasonable explanation that might have perhaps been expected. Still, Jack did not really want to ask anyway. And he took the snap decision to employ him.
"OK, you've got the job!"
Hearing this, the older man let out a wan smile, tapped Jack's desk that was in front of him and got up immediately to leave.
Feeling a bit bemused by this and so doing nothing for a bit, Jack went after a while into the other office.
"He's been in here and left. I did a bit of paperwork with him and he'll be starting in a few days' time."
His secretary heaved a sigh. And Jack decided not to say anything more about his new employee. Though, quite why he wouldn't, he found perplexed him somewhat. But then, he really did not feel like saying anything. This was for some obscure reason that he wasn't sure of himself even. Still, he felt like staying quiet.
They had now the help they needed. And from now on, this new man took many of the decisions. When he made a decision, he would run it by the others but did not really expect criticism. He did not expect criticism, as he once explained to them, because he had already considered the problems. As well, he knew already that his solutions were the best ones. So any criticism was tiring and at it, at best, delayed things. At worst, it could result in the complete failure of anything they were doing. Hearing his explanation, they just passed everything he said. They did when it was going to be quicker and there would be fewer mistakes. It was not just because of explanations like this he gave them, but also, they doubted now if they really did know anything much. At least, they did not know anything much that he did not know. And they definitely did not know anything that was any better.
When Jack went out socially a few evenings after that, he met an accountant. And they had a chat about business. The accountant seemed to be very much into reading self-help books such as about how to be a success and talking about them. This was despite Jack thinking that he should have left this all behind him the day he had gone into business on his own. Still, the accountant brushed aside any questions Jack might have as to why he would do such a thing but instead was keen to have a talk about these books. The man talked about them almost directly word for word what they said. But this was as if they were interesting and always had something new about them.
To this man, Jack told a story. It was a story that was Jack's story. It was about how important exercise had been to him. And he said that now he was worried about overwork and not having enough time to do any more of any exercise. The other person, the accountant he had met socially, listened sympathetically to what Jack was saying.
"Now," the man said. "What you need to be doing is selling an exercise program. And you need not do what you are doing now. Anyone could do that. But you, you have something new to offer. You do in this exercise program. It is a keep fit package like the packages you have talked about but it will be for people like you."
"I don't want to give up my old business," Jack said. "It is not going so badly. And it is an established business. So really, I do know what I'm talking about."
The man smothered a cough or was it a guffaw.
"But do you think there really is money to be made from exercise programs?"
Jack said this although he did not feel terribly interested anymore.
"Look, I will tell you this," said the man turning back to Jack. "You need to sell equipment to be a success. That's one of your first priorities..."
"But then, almost immediately, I can see that I don't have expertise in designing equipment."
For some reason when Jack could only see problems, this man was now interesting him about it.
"What was that?"
Jack wanted to talk more about it to justify himself despite thinking inwardly that he had given a perfectly good answer already. Also, he felt that the whole matter was not important anymore. But in a way, he was still shaky about it.
"Don't you see that I don't really know how to do this despite having the idea?"
"These are just imaginary obstacles you are putting in your way."
"Still, you can get any exercise program and it will probably work. The main ones are for age and sex and how physically fit you are already. So anyone could just get anything that suited them and that would solve their problems."
"Really, I don't think you understand business very well at all. It's all about marketing. You have a unique selling point and that's all you need to be a success...."
"I don't know about this. And really, it is.... Couldn't anyone just copy it...?"
"No, they can't. They can't because you will be the first. And so you have time to work with to establish yourself on the market."
"How much time would I have had before they caught up?"
The man did not answer him directly. And instead, they talked more about things like topics covered in self-help books. Really, Jack felt as if he was many years younger. This was when he had first heard about such things.
In one way, it did not feel good to be so much older and yet still feeling inexperienced and naive. And in another way, the accountant had all the answers and as well, it was about tried and trusted methods of being a success that he was talking about. So really, Jack had mixed feelings.
The bar companion gave him his card, chuckled audibly and then Jack left the bar taking himself away ahead of the other man.
Back in his office the next day, Jack's business consultant came to visit him. Really, she looked a bit tired, worn and older than he remembered. She was dressed in an old red jacket with a white blouse and a mauve cardigan underneath it that looked outmoded. But then Jack saw that it suited now her age. This was when she now looked middle-aged unmistakably.
She ignored him, and then said, "I've quite a lot I could say to you today. But you have other things to do already that should be a priority?"
"I hadn't thought. Why do they need doing?"
"Now, you just have to be a bit sensible. I'm telling you that they need doing. And as I've said that, I will leave you now for the rest of the day. I won't be able to come back until next week now. That is for me to give you any more business advice. Do you understand me? And do you understand what I'm saying?"
"No, I don't really think I do."
"All right, then, it is just that you have to start doing some things for yourself. And you have to start thinking for yourself as well as me thinking for you. Are you OK with that? If you're not, just tell me. Then if you're not OK with it, I can just leave now. And I can leave now for good as well. This is if you want me to. It will save us both many problems later if you just tell me now. As I was saying, you only pay for business advice for a short time. It is not a marriage. Nor is it ever a long-term thing. So stop thinking it is! And get on and start doing some of your work.... I mean your work as a business owner and not just someone working in your office.... And what was the advice you asked me to speak to you about to start with? Why would you want to sleep with one of your office workers anyway? I really don't see what the attraction is with sleeping with a typist, somebody doing your filing or an office girl. Now you are beginning to annoy me just a bit when I come to think of it. And you wouldn't like me when I was upset. Up until now, you and your staff have seen a nice side of me. But, don't worry! You just need to get your act together a bit. Then, it won't happen. Can you say now if you are OK on that before we go on and I leave for the day?"
"I suppose we are. But people here have been sleeping with each other and not me. Do you think it is true that they have been?"
"Of course, it might be. They’re not going to tell you if they are doing it, are they. It’s between them and nothing to do with you. Are we OK on that as well?"
"So people have been sleeping together who work here, have they?"
"Of course, they have. They might have after all. So perhaps, they have then."
"So why have none of the girls asked me for 'it' then?"
She screwed up her face, and said, "You don't expect anyone to give you advice on how to do 'it' at your age, do you? And isn't any girl just a slut who would sleep with you when you are the manager? I think that they would be, don’t you? They would be definitely."
"But, you said..."
"I have been very tolerant up until now as I've already said once. Really, I have. So if you want to keep me on your good side, then you won't talk about this. And you won't talk about it to anyone else either. Do we understand each other?"
"I don't think we do quite. Still, I would value your advice on other things when you come in next time."
"Good, then you shall have it."
After that, she gave a really quite a nice smile. And she laughed heartily when he gave her the nicest smile back.
"What was so funny?"
"I am laughing because you gave me such a nice smile back and because they say it doesn't hurt to smile occasionally at anyone. And I really am a business consultant before you say anything more. Also, I've advised you on your business and we're still both here in the same office."
A tear came into her eye and she reached out her hand to touch his arm. But he turned on his heels not wanting to accept such an unexpected slushy gesture from an old woman. And he went back into his office.
"I can give you some more genuine advice next time," she said after him. "And it is advice that you really need."
Then she threw her arms away from her side and walked out the door herself and into the street that ran past their offices.
Chapter 3, Plans, Plans, Plans
At work, Jack toiled on his business plan to sell an exercise program to a new market. He sweated for several hours each day not really getting anywhere fast with it.
Some of his office workers complained he was wasting his and their time as well.
But he told them they already had work to get on with he had given them to do and so they needn't ask him about his.
Then the business consultant came in and said that she wanted to look at his books. She took them from their shelf to a desk and poured over them.
Putting them back neatly but brusquely in their places, she said, "I don't think you will have enough money to pay me in the future."
Saying this, she went to the safe, opened it and took out some cash.
"I'm taking this. And it is just what you owe me. That is before you start saying anything. You only have any money because of my hard work and advice. How else do you think the money got in here?
Then as quickly as she had come, she was leaving.
"Thank you," she had said very lightly as if a bird in song.
Or it was like some young chanteuse that she had said the words.
And then she winced in embarrassment. This was when he looked over at such an unusual turn of hers. Still, as she picked the money up and put it in her pockets and her handbag, she smiled a still very pleasant smile.
And then, she really had gone.
The next day, Jack walked into the office used by the former accountant who worked for him that was retired from his normal job. He had a new gray suit on and was hard at work looking at some printouts of figures. But he groaned when Jack had come in and looked at him provocatively.
"What do you want?"
He said this now turning aggressively towards him.
"I'm just walking around seeing how people are and managing them."
"Well, don't! Don't come in my office unless you have something you want to say to me or you have a specific query that you want to ask about to do with business."
Then after an embarrassed pause when Jack wondered if he had been wandering around like a lost sheep and for how long he had been doing so, the older man who was now looking tired every day more and more, said, "You can ask me anything you want about anything. It doesn't matter how trivial or important it is. I will answer anything for now. This is if there must be something on your mind that made you come in just now. And it is even if you forgot it as soon as you came in. It happens to lots of people like that when they forget what they wanted to ask and so they feel embarrassed. Really, it is nobody's fault and it could happen to anyone. Please do ask a question! If you don't, then I might genuinely assume that you did come in for no good reason. That is except perhaps to be rude or waste my time when your own time does not matter as much to you. And so if you did come and perhaps you really would like to say something to me about anything, then you can say anything you want. Otherwise, I think you should just leave it for now. You have to talk to other people. That is unless you don't want anyone to know your feelings about anything that is on your mind. Think 'outside our office' for a bit. It may seem very trivial after you've said it. And it wouldn't matter anymore either if you did say. But, say it! Nor will it matter to anyone. Also, if none of this makes any sense to have said, then forget about it. And we'll think of some other solution. I'll just work on it a bit whilst you are away. But I can't have you coming in this office and interrupting me or anyone else anymore. So don't come again! Now, is there anything that you had wanted to say to me just now?"
"Yes, there is really something I wanted to ask about. It is just that there are some office workers who work here, young attractive female office workers, and I have the impression from somewhere that people have been sleeping together when they meet outside of work. I like these female office workers. And when I think people have been having sex with them, I can't get on with my own work for all the thoughts going around in my head."
"What are the thoughts that you have going round in your head about this?"
Jack began telling him but the older man put up his hand and said, "Don't bother telling me! I know it all already. This is when I had some just the same as a young man myself. Let me tell you about the young women that you think so much of for some reason. They don't think that much of you really. I know that because they've told me. And they didn't really want to work here anymore because of you. Also, I know how hard you'd find it to get any more decent workers in like them. I am an experienced older man who really does not need any, for a man my age, young female office workers. This is when plenty of girls used to come to the luxury apartment I had years ago now it is. Yes, I remember it. And I had all mod cons installed to wow the girls. I had a drinks bar, ice machine, Jacuzzi and bubble machine. And I had three in a bed, four in a bed, a dozen girls on a bed and all that, and all before you were even having your first knee-trembler. I only slept with these girls here out of respect for you. None of them as they told me actually likes you and they were thinking of leaving, calling you names and all sorts of things. It is only my sleeping with them stopped them leaving. And they’d have left your business high and dry. I could tell you some of the things they said about you. But do you really need me to? Or can you possibly work out what they might have said? This is if you have any insight at all or could think what one or two of them might think of you. Let's say for example that it was not you but someone like you. And you could see yourself. Also, you could see how you behave sometimes. And then think they don't know you like you think they do. Or perhaps it is somebody who knows you, but who sees what anyone else would see. So I was doing you a favor by sleeping with them. And they really wouldn't have slept with you anyway. Think of that at least if it makes you feel any better and if you can think of nothing else I've said that makes any sense. Besides which, girls are just girls. They are up for grabs for anyone. And that's how it has always been. Or at least it has been as far back as I can remember. So what you're saying is really nonsense. And it would be nonsense for anyone as well and not just you either. Don't then worry about it anymore. And you can get on with some work instead."
"There is something of a business nature I wanted to talk to you about as well. I've been working on a business plan. The plan that I've written is in the next room and I can show it to you if you like. I've been doing it for several hours a day for the last month or two. This is because I really think you should always look at new business openings and opportunities to expand from what you are doing now. And although I know that we have other things to do, I really felt this would be beneficial."
"Did you say, 'beneficial'? You really shouldn't have done this as you had your work to get on with. And if you are doing it several hours a day, I don't think you've hardly been doing any work at all that was needed and that we agreed on. I gave you work to do that you should have done by now."
"Look! I'm running this company and not you. So I can decide how I allocate my time as the business owner...."
"No, it's you that doesn't understand. You have employees who work here who are also part of the company. And it is not just you. Nor is it even just me. Also, you do not own this company. And you're not the business owner. You have investors who have made a financial commitment with their own money. This company is not yours. Other people are interested. This is in case you hadn't noticed. And they deserve something as well and not to have someone like you at the helm. So I really think that you should resign and sell your remaining shares. But as it stands, I don't think you'll get much for them."
"Then it would all have been for nothing!"
"No, it won't. Not if your company doesn't go bankrupt."
"But I've worked so hard for all of this...."
"Then you can have it all to yourself," said the older manager. "But nobody else will want it. And you won't have anything in a few weeks anyway. I can assure you of that."
When Jack protested some more, the older man got up furiously, knocked over some box files and stormed out the office.
Jack never saw him and nor two out of the three other employees, the office girls, again after that day.
Chapter 4, Trading Places
The only girl that stayed was the fit one. And he managed to hire another female office worker, a blonde who came into work part-time. A relative knew her family. The relative said that her family had said that she was qualified to work in an office. And so could he take her on.
Mainly, the other girl gave her work. And largely, he had ignored her. It seemed best to do this for some obscure reason.
However, one day, she came in his office with a smile and once everyone else had left. And she said that she might as well work for a bit longer. Also, she said, flirtatiously it probably was that she would see him tomorrow as well. This was when it had been so long now that he didn't know if he could even really remember 'it'. And this was let alone his doing 'it'.
Remembering some of his business course, and not wanting to lose another employee by some crass personal conversation, he tried to talk to her and find out what her interest was in this work and a bit about her personally. Also, this was so she wouldn't think of herself as an automaton just doing work in his office.
She smiled when he said this.
And then she said cryptically that he must have forgotten a lot of his business course. But perhaps, he didn't realize it.
Explaining herself, she said that she had done a business course as well as her computer qualifications they had discussed already. Also, he must have realized that she was qualified in business as well from her working there and being able to do all that she was told to do.
So she knew that he was missing some things out in what he said to her now that she knew about herself. Also, it was in things he was doing around the office.
He ignored her saying this when he didn't really know what to think about it. Then, remembering some of what they had said about computers that seemed to be his first conversation he had with lots of people, he asked her about what software she knew and what she could do for his business using a computer.
She told him about it. And then he told her to get on with some of the work that she said she had to do.
They had work in progress. And working as they did to share computer tips for just over a month, they got a massive amount done. Things the other girls would have done, he put as a low priority and would do later if any of it were done at all.
Then, the atmosphere in the office changed. A dark cloud came across the window and the electric light had little effect on diminishing the darkness of the late afternoon.
The other girl had already gone home. And then the blonde girl leaned back from her computer and in an almost imperceptible whisper asked him for his permission for her to go onto some social networking websites. This she said was so she could contact her friends. She had not mentioned any of these friends up until now.
He looked around for things to do himself that he could find on his desk. But after about 15 minutes, he realized that there was nothing left to do. They had already done all the work and they had already put it all out there.
Now there was nothing in progress and it would take several months for them to prepare any new work. It was a shock realization. But it had come to them.
Really, it had come to them almost at the same time. But she did not want to talk about it when he asked her at what time exactly she had realized herself.
Also, he had been looking at some debts that the company had to pay off. He could see now that he had not really looked at his accounts properly. This was as he was not fully aware of when all his debts were due.
His business courses that he had been reading his old notes for now seemed strange indeed to him. This was when he might no longer be in business much longer at all.
Really, he wanted to talk about all the strange things happening to him and to say what he was feeling.
But the girl said nothing.
And then she said, "You'd better get on with it yourself anything that you want to do. I'm leaving. It is not what you've thought all this time. I have to go. So I won't see you again. Good-bye! Thanks for having me. I mean, thanks for you having me working here. We obviously haven't done 'it' yet."
"What are you saying? I haven't heard this. Or I don't think I have anyway. Where are you going and what would you be doing? I don't know, tell me?"
"It is just that a girl has to earn some money. So, I'll have to leave. Now, if there are no other questions you need to ask, then I've something I need to finish on the social networking website. After that, I will be gone for good."
"When he asked her again what she meant and where she was going, she said, "Look! I don't want to see you anymore as I have a different job now. So unless you want to pay me, then leave me alone for a second. That is so I can finish this off."
She was really quite upset. And he didn't know what to say to her although he felt he really should say something. This was when so much that had happened recently affected the both of them.
Just then, very considerately and speaking in a soft womanly voice that he had not heard before if not from her than from anyone recently, she looked over at him, and said, "Would you like me to come over and rub your shoulders? I'd like to if you'd like it as well. Really, I don't think your business is completely finished. Perhaps, I could salvage something."
"I don't know I want you to. It is just that I don't really feel sexy if I've just gone bankrupt."
"Don't be like that! You are not bankrupt yet. And how do you think anyone else lives? They don't let work get them down. And they'd still let their girlfriend rub their shoulders even if they did feel upset about something else. So then, let me come over to your desk. I'll bring you a coffee as well from the vending machine."
She sighed heavily.
"You can decide now you will live a better life with me in it. Or you could have nothing at all."
"It's just that…. Go on then! Just for five minutes. And then get me a coffee."
"What things did you always want to buy that you were saying you've enough money for now?"
She said this as she rubbed his shoulders.
And then she listened to his answers. After he had spoken, she stopped her rubbing, patting him on the shoulders, back and arms to finish off. The back rub now finished, she went and got him a coffee as she had said that she would do to start with.
She said whilst he thirstily drank it, "So from things you've said around the office as well, you are not well-qualified to run your own business. Really, you had no good reason to start a business at all. What you said just then doesn’t generally need much money. You could have afforded it already. Possibly, you are wasting everyone's time. Is that it? I don't know. But that is what you are doing, isn't it? Or do you have some other explanation? Tonight, we can go to mine. I have wine and bread sticks. And I can cook you one of the best ready meals you'll ever have. That is, I'm sure it will be the best in your whole life…"
Pausing for just a second, she said, "Then we can discuss the future of the company and if you will sell it to me. I think you should. You seem to have run out of your previous sources of cheap workers and the even cheaper advice you were getting."
He considered for a minute or two that seemed longer than it really was whether he should take her up on her offer.
"Just think that you don't need the money," she said. "And think that I do. As well, think of all the things you could do if you had the day off to yourself and you were in your room at home. Wouldn't you like to watch some TV…? I mean, do you like the TV?"
"Yes, I do."
She waited and felt apprehensive to be asking him this and possibly closing the deal in this unusual fashion.
"And is television your favorite thing out of everything?"
"Yes, it is. It is many times over better than anything else I could imagine. That is except if I feel like reading. Or at times, I listen to music a lot. As well, I like to go to the park."
She looked over to him for some time thinking about what he had said. It was as if she knew the turmoil going on in his mind. But then, there was no turmoil if you only watched TV.
If she knew about what his life was really like and that it might be something quite negative as well, then her face was innocent of it. This was but for the smallest turning up of the corners of her mouth. Or there was just a hand that she put up to her brow.
Then as he considered for even longer what he should do about the girl's offer, she finished off everything she had to do in the office, and she got up, took her handbag over her shoulder and said to him, "I'm going. Are you coming?"
"Yes, I'm coming," he said. "I've considered your offer. Now, I have! Let's go for a drink to celebrate."
She laughed. It was a big loud happy laugh.
As they left the building, they chatted for a bit.
"I've told you already that I had a business degree. Really, I could help you a lot. But I may as well run it myself. And I don't really need you. I mean if you were still running it, then you'd only get in the way. It is just that I didn't say anything before about my business degree. I didn't as it seemed you had enough business advice already."
"Oh! I see," he said. "And can we still see each other again after tonight?"
"We might. But then, I've just thought. I have this other friend. She is another gorgeous blonde girl. Would you like to meet her?"
"Yes, I would."
She reached into her handbag for her mobile phone. And she sent a text to somebody.
"All right, then. She's coming later."
"Tonight, did you say?"
"Yes, she is as you said that you wanted to meet her."
"All right, so she'll be coming."
At this, she put her mobile phone away and heaved a sigh.
"Are you coming?"
She asked this as he appeared to slack behind her a bit.
Then, she leaned into him as they were walking along by some park railings. And she gave him a squeeze and kissed his cheek.
"I just wanted to know what that felt like," she said. "Give us another kiss then if you did like it."
Their lips met in deep smooching soft kisses. Tears fell down her face.
"I'm the new business owner of…."
"Of course, you are. Indeed, you are…."
And he put his arms around her.
They walked arm in arm for a while and then he just held her around the waist. She looked up at him and smiled. And for a moment, they were the two of them together on the rain-soaked stony path that led past a park with their arms around each other.
They were both a boy and girl in some naive love affair or, as well, they were a man and a woman going through the trials and tribulations of a life shared between them.
As well, for just one brief moment, they both of them were happy.
© Copyright 2017 ALAN FASHION. All rights reserved.
Book / Mystery and Crime
Book / Non-Fiction
Short Story / Romance