Roughing It will be a novella in the Happy Endings Resort multi-author project. It will be released Aug. 29 and sell for .99.
“Team! You know that Bender Advertising is a place where expression is free and uninhibited … but there have to be some limits. Burning Arnie in effigy is just taking it a little too far,” Stewart Bender, our esteemed leader, said as he paced back and forth slowly at the front of the conference room. At least he was finally showing some concern. He paused and gave us a stern look. “Come on, people. Fire codes?”
Next to Stewart, Arnie sat glaring through his thick glasses. The tension was palpable on the side of the room where those of us in Marketing sat. Arnie was one of us. As the senior member of the department, I felt that I had somehow failed my people but they had assured me that I was not to blame. No, it wasn’t my fault that this company was in a constant state of internal conflict.
I leveled my gaze across the aisle, where rather than appearing chastised, I noted that the members of the Creative Department actually had the nerve to look amused! This was their doing of course. All of it was their doing … the flaky artistic types over there who wanted to do whatever they pleased and didn’t like listening to the voice of reason.
“Now I know that there are bound to be differences in opinion,” Stewart droned on. “It’s expected. You guys come at things from different angles.” He paused and looked from one side of the battle line to the other. “Jack and his team in Creative come up with their little drawings and ditties and Rachel and her Marketing people study their little charts.” Stewart had inherited the company from his father. He had no clear idea what any of us did.
“We do more …,” I began, but Stewart cut me off.
“And I’m sure you are great at it. Whatever it is. But that’s not the point here. The point is that despite our differences, we are on the same team, people. The same team.” He clutched his hands together in front of his heart for emphasis.
I heard the sound of a throat clearing and I tensed up because I knew to whom that throat belonged. It held up the head of Jack Malloy, senior member of the Creative Department. Admittedly, it was an attractive head, with perpetually rumpled sandy-colored hair and blue eyes that were often sparkling with laughter. Unfortunately, it was also a head swollen by an out-sized ego and the laughter was often aimed at me.
“I’m not excusing the Arnie thing, Stew,” Jack said. “But you gotta understand, we focus on finding that Big Idea that will make our clients memorable. We can’t do that with a bunch of number crunchers …”
“Number crunchers?” I sputtered angrily. “For you information, we focus on making our clients money! And when your ‘Big Idea’ looks like a big loser…”
“Loser?” he shot back, indignantly.
“Okay! Okay, kids, break it up,” Stewart took back control. “Here’s a perfect example of what I mean. And that is why I have come up with a plan.” The room was immediately engulfed in silence. After a long moment Jack spoke up.
“Ha! For a second there, I almost thought you said you had a plan.” The room exhaled.
“I do,” Stewart repeated with a smile. The room inhaled again. It was my turn.
“You can’t have a plan, Stewart. You don’t plan things. Well, other than an occasional round of golf anyway.”
“I know! I was more surprised than anyone!” Stewart said looking gleeful. “But I actually came up with one. Rachel and Jack, I’m sending you two to a corporate teambuilding retreat.” I felt my mouth go dry.
“He’s kidding. You’re kidding, right,” Jack said.
“Please be kidding,” I added weakly.
“See! You’re agreeing with each other already!”
I needed an idea – quickly! “Have you run the cost of this by Accounting, Stewart?” I asked desperately, hoping that perhaps they would put the kibosh on this little scheme of his.
“Yes and luckily there was one that fit our budget. It starts Monday at the Happy Endings Resort in beautiful rural North Carolina!”
“Oh my God, no,” Jack said in a strangled voice.
“It’s only a three-hour drive from D.C. It will be fun. They have a pool!”
“Stewart, you need to understand. I’m a lifelong urban dweller. To me roughing it is a hotel with no room service,” I explained.
“I’ve got to admit, Stew, I’ve never really been the outdoorsman type myself,” Jack added. “The closest I ever came was summer camp and other than the hot female counselors, I pretty much hated everything about that.”
“People, please! This isn’t The Hunger Games.” Stewart laughed. “It’s not like you won’t have indoor plumbing!”
“Well, thank God for that,” I mumbled.
“It won’t be in your actual cabins, but there are separate toilet and shower facility for men and women. It is North Carolina after all!” Stewart added with a wink.
“But there are cabins, not tents, right?” Jack asked. He was looking a bit pale.
“Of course,” Stewart assured him. “Except at the end of the week when each company’s representatives will need to spend a night out in the woods.”
I’m told that at that point I lost consciousness.