A Scene from Chapter 2 of ‘The New Sophisticates’

November 13th (One week before the gala)

Friday, Omaha, NE, 4:49 P.M. CST

Bartleby, Barney, Barney and Company; Office of A. J. Bartleby

“Deramore?” Albus J. Bartleby says using his cell phone’s Push-To-Talk feature as an intercom.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Bartleby?” Sawyer’s digitized voice responds.

“I’m gonna go ahead and need a—God willing—brief face-to-face with you in my office before five o’clock.  Which basically means right now since my desire to stay here at the office after five is, frankly, pretty damn low.”

“Can do, sir.”

Shit on fire, son—that’s what I like to hear!  That’s a winning can do attitude right there, Deramore, I tell you what.”

“I’ll be up in less than two minutes, Mr. Bartleby.”

Albus J. Bartleby minimizes the window on his PC containing his minesweeper game which he is, in fact, putting the screws to—to put it mildly—just as Sawyer gives a courtesy knock and, subsequently, walks through the CEO’s office door.

“Have a seat, son.”

“Thank you Mr. Bartleby.”

“Listen—Sawyer, is it?”

“Yes, sir—Sawyer Deramore.”

“Sawyer, as you are—I’m sure—aware, we drug test randomly here at Bartleby and Co.,” Albus J. Bartleby says, looking over the top of his bifocals at a smallish stack of documents that Sawyer concludes must be important as well as the reason he’s currently sitting in the Chief Executive Officer’s office.

Yes—that is to say—yes, I am aware,” Sawyer says, shifting his weight in the ridiculously plush office chair, which, upon further inspection, places his seated height at a multiple inch disadvantage to that of Mr. Bartleby’s.

“And judging by these Internal Negotiations and Acquisitions Net Exchange reports, you are one helluva broker and a real asset to us,” A. J. Bartleby says without looking up.

“Thank you Mr. Bartleby, sir.”

“Which is why I have to wonder out loud—if you’ll permit me to speak plainly—just what in the fuck are you doing with co-caine mixed up in your piss test?”

“I—I’m sorry, sir.  It was a complete error in judgment on my part.”

“Well shit, son—you’re goddamn right it was!  It’s not like we don’t give our employees who do the kind of heavy profit making you do ample warning before we make em piss in a cup!”

“I know, sir.  I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been just epically stressing out about that particular urine test.  It was really just a giant error in judgment.  One too many scotch and waters[1] and a little too much cheer with some friends is all.”

“Mind if I ask who you were with when this so-called error in judgment occurred?  Might be a case where we can throw someone else under the bus—say they slipped it to you, got you all in a whole heaping fuckload of shit at work—that sort of thing.”

“Sir, if I could be really honest, I’d prefer not to drag anyone else into this since it’s completely and utterly my fault.  I’m willing to personally accept all the consequences of my actions.”

“Well son—I’d really goddamn-well prefer not to be in possession of this information at all, if we’re shooting straight about druthers.”

“I apologize for putting you in such an awkward and/or unpleasant situation, Mr. Bartleby.”

“Shit son, it’s not my ass in the fire here—it’s yours.  Policy dictates something needs to be done about an employee failing a drug test, Deramore.”

“I understand, sir.  Should I go begin cleaning out my desk then?” Sawyer says, pushing himself up using the armrests of the chair, nearly to his feet.

“Now, hold on—sit on back down—there’s no reason to go making any rash decisions.  Policy dictates some kind of disciplinary action needs to take place, but policy also leaves it up to the discretion of the employee’s personal supervisor, and when it comes right down to it, I suppose I’m actually everybody’s supervisor around here.”

“I’m… not sure I follow.  Sir.”

“What I’m saying is, being’s that my name is carved into the very stone that appears in the lobby of this particular building, technically, I’m your supervisor, if you are catching my fairly obvious drift.  And that means I can decide what said disciplinary action should be in the instance of this specific failed test.”

“Sir?”

“God-damnit son!  For having such an expensive East Coast education, you sure can be a thick sonofabitch, you know that?”

“I’d just hate to be at all presumptuous, Mr. Bartleby.”

“Polite too—that’ll get you far, let me tell you.  But let me go on ahead and spell out what it is I’m saying here so’s that you can pick up what I’m layin down, if you will: I will personally take care of this drug situation where it concerns you, Deramore.  We aren’t in the business of losing money at Bartleby and Co., so I guess what I’m saying is, we aren’t in the business of firing our big earners either.”

“Oh, thank you, sir—thank you very much.  I—”

“Now just hold on a minute, I’m not done yet.  Of course something is gonna have to go on the books that says disciplinary action was being taken and any issues the employee in question might have was being addressed.  And I know how these things work and what the people who take a close look at the books like to see, which is that we care about our employees and we stick by their side to the end and all that other happy horseshit.”

“I mean, sure.  Yeah.  Whatever you think is best, Mr. Bartleby—honestly.”

“Right then, so what we have here is a case of a young man who is damn good at what he does but happened to get a little reckless one night, and God knows we’ve all been a little reckless a night or two in our lives.  And what those fellas who read over the books like to see are stories of fallen heroes who become the underdog and get themselves all re-habilitated and what-not, and then they rise like the goddamn’d phoenix from the goddamn’d ashes and such, if you’re following me?”

“I think so, sir.”

“And this is America, son—God’s own country—and here in America, we don’t just fire our best people; we re-habilitate them, which is exactly what we are gonna do with you, Deramore.”

“…..”

“So here’s what I see happening: you’re gonna sign a written statement saying you are mighty sorry you went and fucked up and then you’re gonna apologize from the bottom of your heart for hurting your family and coworkers and yourself, and that you are one-hundred and ten percent committed to getting yourself all better so you can be the man that everyone once believed in again, even if they never stopped believing in you to begin with, and so on and so forth.  You’re gonna sign that little piece of paper and go to a damn meeting once or twice a week—or whatever those poor sonsofbitches who believe in all that re-habilitation shit do—and you’re gonna have whoever is heading up those meetings sign your little sheet of paper and you are gonna bring it back to me, because why?”

“Because… the guys who… read through the books… like to see the signatures…?”

“Be-cause, the goddamn guys who read through the goddamn books don’t just like to see those signatures—they love to see those signatures, son!  It makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside like a shitload of money isn’t being flushed down the crapper right in front of their eyes!”

“I understand, sir, yes—absolutely.”

“And so you’re going to go to these meetings, and we’re also going to have to—just for the sake of record keeping, you understand?—give you a de-motion, of sorts.”

“Sir?”

“Don’t worry, Deramore—the pay’s gonna be the same, so you can go ahead and keep on living whatever kind of lifestyle it is you got yourself accustomed to living since working here at Bartleby and Co.  We just gotta keep our shit smelling like roses on paper, if you catch my drift?  So in the mean time, you are—as of this coming Monday—gonna be heading up things over in mutual funds.  It’s not as sexy as acquisitions, but I’ve been in this business long enough to know that not a whole lot is.”

“So then the projects I’m currently working on?”

“On paper—as I like to keep pointing out—they are going on over to Frank C. Pelizotti.  Of course, you’ll still be the brains behind all those deals.  The unfortunate part of it is that there’s just no way we can pay you the commission from them, from a strictly records keeping point of view.  No real point in arguing about it either since I’m sure you can appreciate our hands being tied.”

“…..”

“And the last thing I wanted to mention while I’ve got you sitting here is that we’ve got some good ol’ boys coming from the Securities and Exchange Commission in about two weeks—give or take or a couple days, so in all likelihood, that means even sooner.  The SEC never tells us when they are dropping by, but that’s why in this business, it’s good to know people—as they say—so you can at least know roughly when to expect a major audit before they are there all of a sudden standing on your welcome mat with briefcases and calculators, and being all demanding about seeing your financial records and whatever else.”

“…O-K…?”

“So basically, we’re gonna need you to work closely with Frank on getting everything five-by-five before those SEC boys show up.  God love Frank, but he’s at least one foil pack short of a box of Pop Tarts sometimes, if you catch my drift.  And—this is only me speculating at this point—but if his uncle’s name wasn’t carved into the very same entranceway stone thingamajig I just mentioned to you a couple minutes ago, I’d be highly doubtful we’d be retaining his services—but again, that’s just my two cents that don’t bear any significance worth repeating outside this office, if you get me.”

Sawyer Deramore and Albus J. Bartleby sit facing one another for a few moments which then become awkward when neither of them says anything to break the silence within a contemporarily accepted and socially-appropriate amount of time.

“OK… well then, I should probably be going,” Sawyer finally says, standing up from his chair, Bartleby immediately following suit and extending a hand.

“Deramore, you’re a helluva team player—a helluva team player—and a good sport to boot!  I’m glad we had this talk.  I’ll have H-R get you that information concerning your weekly meetings and whatnot straight away so’s that you can begin the process of re-habilitating yourself, A-S-A-P!”

“…Thank you, Mr. Bartleby, sir.”

“Don’t even waste another second of yours thanking me.  You just have yourself a great night—and a great weekend, too!”

“I will—I appreciate it, sir.  Thank you, again.”

* * *


[1] Technically they were Jack and Cokes, but Scotch and waters sound infinitely more distinguished and Sawyer is also pretty sure the word Coke in any form should be kept to a minimum, currently.

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2 thoughts on “A Scene from Chapter 2 of ‘The New Sophisticates’

  1. laurie says:

    great fun–bartleby’s voice jumps off the page, and i’m instantly suspicious of his “only on paper” plans for sawyer. thanks for posting, j. looking forward to more. 🙂

  2. catherine says:

    Great fun, Joe! Super dialogue. Can’t wait to read the whole novel.

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