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Adam Gilson

    John Dean Avery sat in the rough cloth office chair, reviewing his letters of recommendation.  He had four--two from the head of human resources and the marketing director from his last job, one from the professor of his IT accreditation course, and one from the owner of the business that was his career for 20 years before he quit.

    They all spoke of intense attention to detail, a sound and impeccable work ethic, and mostly a great passion he showed for anything he put his mind to.  All wonderful words, all meant to sway the most cautious of minds.  Of course they were all true, lest John deign them unfit to carry his name.  The first draft of the HR head's letter included feats that while John was certainly capable of doing had not done in his tenure.  They were mostly a nod towards her great respect for John, and her own sense of penance after he had moved on.

    John wanted nothing to do with anything that wasn't the absolute truth, and brought her letter down to mortal levels.  Still, her letter smacked of mindless homage, something that made John uneasy.  As concerned as he was that she was padding the truth in his favor, he was more concerned that she was still fairly accurate he was always very suspicious of praise heaped up on him like so much butter and sour cream on a baked potato.

    Nonetheless, there he sat going over in his mind the possible questions he would face in the next few minutes.  Why are you no longer working at your current job?  What happened at the job before that?  Why are your feet sweating?  Is your breath a terrorist attack?

    He shuddered and let out a sharp "Meh", which turned him a curious shade of pink as his eyes flicked around the room to see if anyone heard it.  When he caught himself meandering aimlessly in his mind it would usually boil over in an uncontrollable audible reflex.  A knee jerk reaction that could startle a blind man.

    Which was how Penny likened it.  Thirty-eight years of marriage, and the woman knew him better than God.  Or at least God in the omnipotent sense.  God would have forsook him long ago, he knew.  You spend a lifetime worshiping someone and giving them all that you think they need or want or could imagine, and then they almost die.  That's different. Death imminent is different. That's when you realize you gave them what you thought they wanted or needed or could imagine.  


    But that's all been worked out, four years in the past.  Now its time to rebuild.  That's all.  And here we are, John!

    Rebuild away.

    "Mr. Avery?  John Avery?  Sir?"

    John's eyes refocused and he looked up to see a little waif of a woman with glasses and a pinched looking nose saying his name.  Her hair was wound so tight up on her head it reminded him of spaghetti on a fork.  In fact, it had the same red hue of a good marinara sauce.  Thinking of food at a time like this he kicked himself mentally--now is not the time John!  Here was a woman that most would call rather pretty, and all he could think about was what he had for dinner last night.

    Though, it was one of Penny's favorite thing to make on Wednesday's.  And besides, she was wearing a loose fitting blouse, not something you'd expect to see on a women with that kind of figure. 

    "Ah yes, thank you miss.  Am I ready to roll?"

    "Yes Mr. Avery.  Mr. Anton is ready for you.  Do you have all the papers you need?"

    "I don't have the "You've Gotten a Job!" one on me, but I hope what I do have works," he said with a wry smile.

    She blinked at him.  John shuddered.

    "This way please," she said.

    The walk down the hall to Mr. Anton's office reminded him of the principal's office at his son Julius' school.  The decor here was much more lavish of course, with portraits showing definitions (quotes, quips, soundbites hmmm...?) of encouragement, teamwork, and creativity.  Yet (Nevertheless), it was the walk toward someone who has (holds) all the power in your tiny little world that weighed upon him.  He hoped his feet weren't sweating as much as he imagined.

    The lady with the pinched nose stopped at a door that said "Mikeal Anton - Director" on it.  No different than any other door in the hallway. John was relieved.

    "Mr. Avery, you seem like a nice man. So just be as forward as possible with Mr. Anton.  He has helped us all out in his own way, and will listen with an open mind"

    "Thank you miss...miss?"

    "Ana Reilly.  Mrs. Reilly"

    "Thanks again for the advice."

    She nodded, and knocked on the door.  It opened silently (and) John went inside.

    "Ah Mr. Avery, good to meet you!" A huge man with hamhock arms and baseball glove hands came at John from the center of the room, moving with a grace that defied his massive form (his mass).  His voice shook John's fillings, and (as well as) the two teeth he lost a few years back and hadn't replaced yet. 

    "Mr. Anton, the feeling is mutual!" John said as his hand was lost in Mr. Anton's.

    "Please, come upstairs with me.  We'll have a sit."

    The bottom (lower) office was spacious, with a spiral staircase in the middle.  There was a desk running on along four of the six walls, all of them full of computers and monitors.  The other two walls were windows over-looking the glowing smog of Los Angeles.

    John followed up the spiral staircase some twenty feet and they came upon a platform covered in a glass canopy giving a 360 degree view of the city.  There was a large workstation with wires like entrails, flashing computer terminals, luminous flat screen monitors, and rows of super-cooled tower servers all jumbled about the loft.  John thought the computing power in Mr. Anton's private office could probably run a couple city blocks of normal businesses.  He also thought the place was a complete jumble of technological bravado and could stand to be better organized.

    "What do you think, John?"

    "Are those the 5600 Series servers?" John had gone straight to the towers to inspect how (??) their settings.

    "Naw, we run our day to day on those.  These are the 6600 Series, Mark 1."

    "They're on the market already?"

    "Yes.  But it's easier to get them if you game with InCo's CFO,"  he said with a grin.

    It is a habit of very smart people to skip the bull and dive right in to specifics.

    "They're running at, what, 60c right now?"

    "About.  And I have them at a 70% load."


    "Yeah, the wonders of liquid carcinogens cooling the shit out of it."

    "Oh, I didn't think the EPA would let that happen."

    "They didn't want to, but when they saw that these would lead to them cut spending by 30%, they turned a greedy eye away.  Plus, you'd never imagine who owns quite a few shares of InCo."

    "I probably couldn't imagine.  You cross connected between these and your back up?  Doesn't that ruin your clock speeds?"

    "Not at all.  They updated the BIOS a month ago.  Clock efficiency is no longer effected by the new software."

    "Mr. Anton, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to interview me."

    "No need," he said with a wave of the hand. "My mother recommends you and you're tech savvy very much. Please, call me Mik.  I should be calling you Mr. Avery." Mr. Anton gave a broad, honest smile.

    "Now, let's sit down.  My HR department has forced me to stick to this tired old tradition of interviewing and writing down various comments and paper work.  I would prefer a computer virus stuck in somebody's desktop. If you figure it out, you win!  Pero es la ley!"

    They headed over to a simple work bench with soldering tools and magnifying glasses on a metal arm, and various other things John didn't recognize.  There were some stools they both straddled.

    "So John, what position within this company are you interested in?"

    "I have applied to the position of Corporate Sales Manager."

    "And why is that?"

    "I know that I would excel in that position, given my 20 years of experience in the same field for Digital Networks, one of the largest communications companies in Southern California.  I was the fourth employee hired, and helped build it up from four people in a rented out office room off Topanga Canyon Road to occupy the fifth through eight floors of the Helton Towers in Canoga Park.  We spearheaded the profligation of analog to digital data transfer as well as ease of use contracts for consumers.  In my tenure, I handled large scale deals between our company and corporate accounts such Blue Cross, Amgen, and Pitney-Bose.  I also worked with high profile single accounts, such as Al Pacino and Will Smith.  Through these high pressure situations, I learned diligence in combining technological jargon with layman terms creating effective sales tactics that I know I can apply to any product."

    "Wow.  And what was your reason for leaving that position?"

    "I had control over our sales team during my time there, but had little control over the infrastructure of the company.  As such, near the middle of my second decade there, the method in which the finance department would close deals with new customers was so outdated it was creating a stagnant sales situation.  The sales team would close deals, but when they found out it would take two weeks for a credit check and processing, they'd simply pull out and go to the kiosks at the mall that were then just becoming feasible, as well as popular.  Additionally, I had suggested investing in DSL services, as we had offered dial up for some years at that point.  Finally, in the last two years before I resigned the sales department had been dismantled and the company survived on the handful of subscribers they had left, with new account sales and resubscriptions having dropped 70% over three years."

    "I see.  So you didn't want to stay with the sinking ship?"

    "I felt I stayed with it till it had long sunk, and spent some time putting ping balls in it hoping for a miracle.  But in the technology industry, as you well know, once your shelf life hits a year or so, there is no salvaging it.  We were too far behind by the time the CEO decided to listen to me."

    "Why do you think they didn't want to change?"

    "I can't begin to imagine.  Disinterest?  Arrogance?  Ignorance?  I'm not sure.  I've never been able to figure it out, and haven't spoken to anyone within the company for some time now."

    "I see.  Well all of that was well said."

    "Thank you."

    "So after that you immediately went in to business for yourself?"

    "Yes, I didn't have too much money saved up, but enough between my wife's freelance graphic design and her teaching position at the local J.C. to do side work in a niche market."

    "You're quite popular, from what my mother says."

    "Yes, I suppose so.  I guess I have a way with talking to seasoned citizens about technology.  Nothing too complex for them, mind you.  I think to that generation using the internet to check your email is a lot like a moon landing."

    "Whatever you do, it's impressive.  I remember trying to get my mom on eBay.  Her eyes got beady the second I said "user name".  I had forgotten how hard the little biddy could hit! You come along a year ago and now she's got more positive reviews than I do." Mr. Anton laughed so hard his belly rippled up and over the desk.

    "So your most recent job you were let go?"

    "Yes.  Managing a restaurant part time.  Probably the last thing I imagined myself doing.  The economy being what it has been the last year, the hours just weren't available."

    "Understandable.  I'm not sure why people don't eat more when things go to the dogs.  But maybe thats my own quoible.  You okay, John?"

    "Yes, just making sure I stretch out my back a bit."

    "Ah, excellent.  Okay, we're almost done with this nonsense.  Although it was nice hearing such eloquence.  You've probably been on quite a few interviews, I imagine."

    "Now, John, here are my least favorite questions.  What moment are you most proud of professionally and personally?"

    "Pardon me for asking, but why are they your least favorite?"

    "I just don't understand why HR finds it necessary to probe in to people's lives.

Dr. Doctor is a great pysch eval program if that's what they really wanted to know.  I think they're a bunch of nosy under cooked tater tots."

    "Well I am, um, would have to say professionally I am most proud of my first decade with Digital Networks.  We built it up from the ground up, I've always seen it as kind of a baby of mine.  Living on macaroni and cheese and ketchup and wearing the same suit every other day.  It was, it wasn't easy but we got through and ended up doing really good for ourselves."

    "And personally?"

    "My wife and kids.  Actually, the day I met my wife.  I asked her out at party, but she was dating someone at the time.  The light showed so bright on her.  It just burned.  So I told her later that night that I would like to give her my number and sometime in the future if she isn't dating anyone and would like to give me a call, we'll see where we're both at.  And I was just proud of myself for doing that.  It worked out well.  I had spaghetti sorrento last night. Hmm."

    "Oh excellent!  What kind of wine did you have with it?"

    "I'm more a dirty vodka martini drinker, two olives.  Although my wife had a cab, I think Fetzer."

    "What kind of vodka?"

    "Um, Popov."

    "Ah.  Sounds like a great meal."

    "It was.  My son said it was easily top ten.  But he always says that.  The king crab legs were perfect, though.  Along with Kerry Gold Butter with garlic oil. And my son made creme brulee, his favorite."

    "Wow, hundred bucks a plate dinner for a Wednesday.  What was the occasion?"

    "I, um...there wasn't any occasion."

    "I'd love to be there for a special occasion, shit."

    "Well, that is something to think about."

    "Alright, HR can fall back in it.  Now tell me, what would you do for us as Corporate Sales Manager."

    "I would stay on the cutting edge of our technology, creating new markets for our product, while ensuring our current customers are continuously satisfied.  I see this company as a well run wheel, that while doesn't need to be reinvented, could use a few more spokes.  As such, continued sales infrastructure development as well as market expansion seem the best route."

    The stool beneath Mr. Anton groaned under his shifting weight.

    "How would you plan on doing this?"

    "Well, I can't specifically say as I don't know the more sensitive aspects of your company, but I do know that North Africa and much of Asia are just now becoming feasible."

    Mr. Anton smiled.  "Yes, we were thinking of heading that direction.  We would need the CSM to be the liason between us.  Probably spend the majority of the first five years out there.  Plus travel in between Asia and Europe and back."

    "Ah.  Yes.  What type of schedule do you think that'll entail?"

    Mr. Anton scratched his stubble, a sound that reminded John of the porcupines that used to crawl under his porch growing up in Oregon.

    "I'm really not sure, John.  We can do most of the blah blah crap online these days, but that's state side. I'm not sure how much use you'll get plugging in to a rock with a baobab antennae over there.  Probably up at 5am in bed by 1am, with as much travel as necessary each day/week/month/year to get a foot hold.  With infrequent trips back here.  What was that?"

    "Nothing.  That is quite the schedule. There are also opportunities in Europe, with a greater level of security, though perhaps not..."

    Mr. Anton cut him off, "No no John!  Stay with what you said!  Think BIG!  I like it, you've got the salesmanship to sell us, and the same right ideas as the rest of us.  Europe has been tapped out for some time.."

    "True. It would just take a lot of work to get those venues up and running before we can even think of buy in.  Europe just happens to..."

    "John, forget Europe.  I can deal with Europe from my toilet, it's not an issue. What we need is to insure a future in the third world markets as economic and technological spill over from China and Europe reaches them.  You know what the best thing about technology is?"

    "It gets better, cheaper, more abundant: repeat?"

    "Exactly!  Although I wouldn't have put it so well.  But you can see what I'm getting at?" Mr. Anton hands came together in a meaty clap.

    "I do."

    "Of course you do!  I haven't got any more questions, we seem to be on the same page here.  Now my favorite part: you can ask me questions!" 

    John took a deep breath.  

    "Mr. Anton, this CSM position is meant for the sole purpose of fostering relationships in Africa and Asia?"   Mr. Anton nodded.

    "And the first five years will be spent in those locations?"

    "At least the first couple of years or so.  With your abilities, you could probably be done in half that.  That's with luck and China not nuking the shit out of anyone or who the hell knows what else goes on over there.  And to answer your next question, we will be more than happy to relocate your family."

      "Actually Mr. Anton, I wasn't going to ask that."  John stood and held out his hand, "I have no further questions for you.  But I thank you for your time!  I certainly look forward to hearing from you, Mr. Anton."

    Mr. Anton stood up, shaking his hand vigorously.

    "Well thank you, John.  It has been nice chatting with someone so competent.  With as many degrees floating around out there, experience just can't be bought.  We will be in contact with you as soon as all the interviews are over."

    John smiled at Mr. Anton as their eyes met.  They both saw a look in the other's eyes.

    John nodded again, turned and went in a downward spiral, on out the door, and in to the river of people under the smoggy orange sky.

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