Chapter 46: A Merchant Born

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Chapter 46: A Merchant Born

Barbara's new business went well in the beginning. It looked like Made In California would become a new fashion label in the industry my girlfriend knew so well. Barbara was a perfect Anne Kline petite, and knew clothes as well as she did real estate. However, I suppose her ability to balance cash flow and adjusted business expenses against sales projections somewhat lacking. Within the first few months, she needed more money than expected for inventory and advertising. Although I did not know it at the time, John presented her with a business plan to incorporate by offering her friends and family preferred shares to buy into the company. I never knew the number of certificates or their value. I probably would have bought some shares myself had I had the money. Made In California quickly became a big name in Brentwood; and it looked like Barbara was on her way to become another Anne Cline in the fashion industry.

I still did not like working for Moore Business Forms, even though the Beverly Hills territory had far greater potential, and my office local near to where I lived. Moore had fulfilled its challenge to me, now the rest was up to me. I might have stayed with Moore was it not for the irascible nature of the office manager, a German named Steiner Twitten. Steiner was a company man from the stiff suit he wore to the car he drove. He watched the clock incessantly, keeping a close tab on who was early and who was late; who stayed afterhours, and who did not. I could feel he had his prying eye on me from the beginning.

One very hot day in July, I had lunch at a local Beverly Hills restaurant. The cool air-conditioned facility offered a welcomed relief from the heat. I removed my tie to allow my neck to breath. I always hated neckties. They seemed so conservative, so proper, an anchor of conformity, like a noose secured around my throat. I only wore it because of the job, but deep down resented this symbolic bondage of traditional society. Therefore, I suppose my unconscious mind mastered my better judgment, because after lunch I forgot to put it back on. My first call was to the office of a well-established Jeweler and a long time customer of Moore Business Forms. As I sat across a massive polished desk looking into the withered face of the storeowner, I sensed something wrong, only I did not know what. He only glared at me with contempt, responding to no inquire concerning his business needs. He reminded me of an undernourished ghoul hanging on in the present by wispy threads spun through a lifetime of structured existence, now an abandoned web in a corner of this elegant chamber soon to vanish in time.

Upon returning to the office later that day, I discovered the reason for this odd reception.

"In my office--immediately!" Blared Steiner Twitten, before I even sat down at my desk. "Where is your tie?"

Only then did I realize the neckpiece still in my pocket. I explained what happened, and that it was just an oversight. Instead of accepting my explanation, Steiner began berating me, emphasizing that I had insulted a customer of more than twenty-six years.

"It is clearly written in the handbook, that every employee will wear a tie as proper business attire."

"May I see that in writing?" I demanded not too pleasantly.

He handed me a handbook containing a section on dress code, said a few more things about customer satisfaction, and dismissed me. I felt I was back in the military, but I did not recognize this toad-stomper as someone with authority to attack me personally. That night I read through official Moore Business Forms Handbook, and found a loophole I could not resist to exploit.

The next morning I arrived to work with my necktie tied to my wrist. Steiner saw the discrepancy immediately, unceremoniously demanding that I report to his office.

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