THE KINGS OF BRAN'S CAULDRON (part 3 of 10)

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BRIAN II: Ball Games

By the time midday arrived, Brian was sitting in Mr Lom's office, waiting patiently as his morning sales report was checked over.
It wasn't often he received a summons to see the boss, but lately it seemed that he could do no wrong, and everyone wanted to pat him on the back.
"Another Prime Time sale," Mr Lom murmured without looking up. "Impressive stuff once again, Brian."
Brian didn't reply, and Mr Lom continued.
"A Kidman-Bloom Cross Star - expensive, too." Mr Lom read the report a little further, and then his brow furrowed heavily. "You say here that Mrs Moore enquired about a Doppelganger package."
"That's right – Elvis Presley."
"But you explained about the image rights dispute?"
"Yes."
"And how did she react?"
"She was more concerned that Russell Crowe wasn't dead."
"Good, good." Mr Lom visibly relaxed, and for the first time since Brian entered the office, he smiled. "This really is excellent salesmanship, Brian," he said, tapping the report. "Do you realise you've made more sales in the past two months than you made in the whole of last year?"
"Just a lucky streak."
"Don't be coy. Every sale like this improves the company image. We won't have the monopoly on the market forever, Brian, and when the climate heats up, we'll need salesmen like you to keep us ahead of the competition."
"I suppose so." Brian couldn't keep a miserable edge from his tone.
"And I'm not the only one who appreciates your hard work," Mr Lom continued, closing the report. "The company's currently planning a new package: 'Sweethearts', we're calling it." He chuckled. "We've been getting more and more requests for Cross Stars from famous married couples, and who are we to disappoint the cream of society?" He chuckled again. "Oh, I know it's just another fad, but you have to make the most of opportunities. Am I right?"
"Yes, of course."
"The company wants the right man to head-up the project, and we've decided that man is you. We want you to be the first to take 'Sweethearts' door-to-door. Everyone's agreed."
"Okay," Brian answered, slowly. He could think of nothing else to say.
"This is a brilliant opportunity to really establish yourself in the company, Brian. Perhaps even get a promotion. So I'm giving you a few days off to prepare. You've certainly earned them."
"I'd rather keep working."
"Why? Enjoy it while you can. There's no point in running yourself into the ground. Get yourself fresh for the new challenge. Take Helen away for a few days, and that son of yours ... Donald, right?"
"Right."
"He must be, what, fifteen now?"
Brian noticed his boss's smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "Seventeen," he said.
"Seventeen ..." Mr Lom gave a low whistle. "My son was a bastard at that age. Couldn't tell him anything. He knew it all. I expect Donald's giving you some of the same, eh?"
Brian shrugged, and sat back in his chair. "You know how teenagers are."
Mr Lom's smile faltered almost imperceptibly. "Yes ... I do."
In the awkward silence that followed, Brian unconsciously slipped a hand into his pocket and curled his fingers around the business card there.
When Mr Lom finally spoke, the smile had gone from his face completely.
"Brian, I needn't remind you of the high standards we set at Bran's Cauldron. We like you. You play ball and don't complicate things. That's the kind of attitude the company likes to encourage. So if any problems start hindering your ... job satisfaction, you come to me first and we'll sort it out together." Lom leant forward for emphasis. "Any problems at all, if you know what I mean."
"Thanks," Brian replied. "I'll bear it in mind."
"Good." Lom's easy manner returned. "Well, I guess that's everything. I'll see you after the weekend.

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