The landlady came back today offering to reduce our rent until I get another job. This was a very nice gesture, and it’s just like her to do something like that. Unfortunately she can’t lower it enough to make any difference to me once my severance runs out. This is kind of a bummer because I would really like to keep living here. It has been great.
My wife actually found this place shortly after I started work at my last job. She found the listing online and called the landlady to get the particulars on the house and directions to it from my office. I went to see it over my lunch hour. It was exactly what we were looking for—a nice big split plan with an open kitchen and family room, high ceilings, and a pool. It was situated on a cul-de-sac so traffic was minimal. It was also in a golf course community, but not adjacent to any of the holes. To me that meant things would stay green and manicured, but also that I wasn’t going to be getting a lot of errant golf balls crashing through my windows. The landlady lives right across the street.
The longer we live here the more we like it. The neighbors are great. They are an interesting mix of ages, professions, and acculturation, and they all get along with one another. Almost every holiday we have a block party in the cul-de-sac. Everyone brings a dish. We drag a fire pit into the street, ring it with lawn chairs, wire up some music, and talk and drink wine into the night. There is nothing not to like.
There was plenty not to like at the new Quilnutz—the one defined now by Alicia and her boyfriend, Fische. Fische was in love. Alicia was not. Fische was calling Alicia dozens of times a day. He called during the day, and he called into the night, leaving voice mails…lots of them. He wasn’t leaving mentoring messages either. They didn’t deal with the intricacies of costs or allocation of overhead or the problems associated with pricing custom contracted products. No, these messages were intensely personal. Fische was in love. Fische had been transformed from the consummate swordsman bragging around the water cooler to the lovesick puppy. Gone was the self-assured, foul-mouthed ex-marine on the make. That guy had been replaced by a whiney, insecure, self-flagellating, and epic putz.
I can only speculate what might have happened to effect this transformation. It was obvious from some of the things that Fische said that he and Alicia had slept together at least once, although not so obvious whether or not they had actually consummated their relationship. It became obvious over time that the relationship was not progressing according to Fische’s expectations. He wanted more from Alicia than he was getting, and he wasn’t talking about sex either. He was talking about affection.
The sheer volume of the messages was troubling. Three, four, five times a night, sometimes even more. He called after work. He called before dinner. He called after dinner. He called between planes. He called before bed. He called in the middle of the night when he got up to piss. How many times can you call someone and leave a message without seeming desperate, no matter what you’re saying. What Fische was saying only raised the level of desperation into the realm of the pathetic.
My personal favorite message was a long, whimpering soliloquy on unrequited love. Fische could be quite philosophical when he put his mind to it. I guess he meant to be instructive. It was as if he thought if he explained it just so, if he made it perfectly logical and easy to follow, that Alicia would finally see the light and love him back the same way he loved her. It’s hard to say. Anyway he went on at length on how love could not exist for long unless it was returned. Eventually a one-sided love would wither and die, but if that love were returned it would flourish and grow stronger and reflect back the returned love and the two loves together would become some magical, noble force that would sustain them forever. “Love must return,” he kept saying over and over and over. “Love must return.” It would have made a great country and western song if it rhymed, but it didn’t so it wouldn’t. It’s been ten years now since I heard it and it still makes me chuckle. It was so perfectly, magnificently maudlin. Whatever else I may think of Fische, I’ll always be thankful for that wonderful little bit of entertainment.
Of course it wasn’t all love and flowers with Fische and Alicia. Occasionally Fische would get down to business. I can only speculate in this regard as well, but I think the business that Fische got down to was the real reason that Alicia was even party to this relationship. The reason I think this is that, in large measure, the business had to do with me. It seems that Alicia had designs on my job. I don’t know if she came up with that notion on her own or if Fische came up with it and presented it to her fully formed as a kind of inducement to her continuing and intensifying their affair. Whichever way it played out, the two of them were trying to orchestrate an accounting coup of sorts to bring me low and get me fired. With me out of the way they thought Alicia could just step up and take over.
The only problem they had, although I’m not sure either one of them realized this at the time, was that there were only two people in the company who thought Alicia was even capable of doing the job she already had. Those two people were Alicia and me. I don’t count Fische as knowing because I don’t think he had any idea. It didn’t really matter to him. For him it wasn’t about Alicia getting my job. It was about Alicia thinking she could get my job if she kept feeding his need to be loved.
Fische had no clue what accounting entailed. He probably thought it was akin to his job, executive administration. You put in your hours. You sling some hash. When things go wrong you jump up and down and yell real loud about how nobody in this goddam company has any sense of urgency.
If Fische and Alicia managed somehow to get rid of me they would then have to convince the grunts at corporate finance that Alicia had the chops to do my job. That wasn’t very likely because I was continually having to sell those same grunts on the idea that eventually she would make a cost accountant. I thought she was already doing a fine job in spite of the fact that most of her time was taken up either salving Fische’s precious ego or plotting against me. The corporate finance grunts thought she was too pretty to be any good. They were all
Midwest farm boys at heart. They’d never seen a pretty woman who could add two and two and consistently come up with an answer of four without using ears of corn to hold her place while she thought it through.
When I’d first hired Alicia, I sent her résumé up to corporate as a courtesy. I figured it was my department, my call. I’d already made the offer. The CFO called right away and started second guessing me. He wasn’t sure she had the experience we needed. He wasn’t comfortable with the fact that she’d been selling real estate for two years. He was going to send one of his analysts down for the next month end closing to make sure she knew what she was doing. I was a little miffed, but I wasn’t really concerned. I knew she’d do all right.
I already knew the guy they were going to send. He was a kid—a nice fellow and smart as a whip, but a kid. He was either going to be tongue tied and clumsy around Alicia or she was going to have no effect on him whatsoever. I was actually betting on no effect whatsoever. There seemed to be a lot of sexual disinterest going around amongst the boys from corporate. Too much corn and pork in their diet perhaps. Fische made up for the lot of them, but then Fische wasn’t actually from the
Midwest. He was from —apparently a whole different thing. California
I got the strangest reaction when I told Alicia that the guy was coming though. She asked me if I wanted her to wear a short skirt while he was there to keep him distracted. I couldn’t believe she’d asked that. I couldn’t believe she thought that was an appropriate thing to do. I couldn’t believe she was willing to do it. I couldn’t believe she thought I’d say yes. “Good Lord, no,” is what I said. It might have been a pleasant diversion to see her in a short skirt, but I knew I was not prepared for the chaos that would ensue. Some things are just not worth the trade off.