Holly M. Kothe is a short story writer and novelist from Cincinnati, Ohio. She holds a BA in English and works as senior editor for The Oddville Press. Visit her blog, A Little Literary, (a lotta Coffee) at www.alittleliterary.blogspot.com. Visit her editing site at www.espressoeditor.com.
The Big Shot
“Let’s be realistic,” the Big Shot says. He gives me a look that dashes my hopes and dreams. The kind of look a man might give a sub-par hooker after a below-average blow job that, although eventually brought him to climax, had a little too much forced enthusiasm, along with the accidental use of teeth. “You want a job here. You waltz in with your shiny new English degree and even shinier high heels and you think you’ll snag an entry-level position that will not only pay, but will also allow you to use your talents of creativity in an artistically and intellectually fulfilling manor. Is that it?”
I choke on the Wint-O-Green lifesaver I’ve been nervously sucking. It breaks, and the jagged bits go down the wind-pipe. I cough a violent, minty breeze in his direction.
Mr. Big Shot laughs. “You think you have what it takes?” he asks.
“I’m ready,” I say, crossing my runner’s legs. The heels accentuate the curves I have shaped over years of running up hill. As I passed the miles, I often meditated on how the hell I’d support my son and finish school at the same time. I’ve considered stripping, sex for hire, web pornography—all those things a woman considers when the question of a steady income is of the utmost importance when giving her child the best care she can. Big Shot’s eyes indeed fall to watch the movement of my stocking-clad legs uncrossing, then re-crossing. The way I say I’m ready—it’s shameless, husky, overtly sexual. Like, yeah, I’m ready for you, Big Shot. Give it to me. And by give it to me, I don’t mean this job, but your dick. (But in actuality, I really do just mean the job). I’m a single mother. I resort to these little tricks without a smidgeon of guilt. It’s all about that pro level income. “I’ve graduated. I’ve paid my dues volunteering for experience. I’m ready for the real thing. I’m ready to be done with daycare.”
“Says here you worked in the infant and toddler rooms. How does that prepare you for something like this?”
“I handled a lot of parents who get worked up over their precious babies. I can do that here, too. I can handle the proud parents and their babies.”
“You think you really have the balls for these clients? Our campaigns make or break them. If you think this is like a certain popular T.V. show that makes the mad ad world appear like a glamorous, exciting, sexual romp through your intellect, think again, little lady.” With that, Big Shot pulls out a bottle of vintage Scotch and two glass tumblers from a drawer in his desk. He also lights his third cigarette since the interview began not fifteen minutes ago. He is the spitting image of that popular T.V. show full of intense, attractive, smart men that I’d often fantasized over while spending time with my vibrator.
“Right. It’s nothing like the fantasy I’ve created in my head, I’m sure . . .”
A young woman with unkempt brown hair the same exact shade of her wrinkled blouse bursts in without knocking. “I need a word on these mock-ups!” She’s panicked, shaking. She places two eight-by-eleven photos on his desk. “Um, so sorry to interrupt,” she says, briefly glancing my way. “This client is about to give it to us up the ass and leave our bed without so much as a goodbye note if we don’t finish this today. Here, this new birth control pill ad—do we go with the Independent College Gal whose right it is to slut around without creating offspring, or the Independent Business Gal who chooses to fill her womb with feelings of satisfaction from her latest promotion rather than babies?”
Big Shot blows out a ring of smoke as he puts out his cigarette in an artsy, misshapen ash tray. He has a ring on his finger, but I can bet he’s fucked his ambitious employ by the way he anxiously adjusts his belt (and subtly, his cock) before glancing down to observe her work. “College student. When it doubt, always go with a college student in a tank top.”
“Or,” I say. They both snap their heads in my direction. “I’m sorry, I just . . . I had a thought.” Big Shot and Working Girl exchange glances.
“Go ahead,” he says, motioning the words out of my mouth with a flick of his wrist.
“Picture a woman. A wholesome mother of two. A cardigan. An apron overtop of her cardigan. She’s in a big beautiful kitchen, her children surrounding her. She’s got the perfect number of kids by society’s standards, and it’s time for her to slow down. Even though she’s young enough to have plenty more, Daddy hasn’t gotten that promotion yet, and it would be irresponsible. There’s this anticipation—she wants one more. And the possibility is feasible, just within reach. She doesn’t need a five-year IUD implant. She needs something to tide her over before she springs the next one on him, which she will do, as soon as she stops popping the pill, probably without Daddy’s knowledge. I saw it all the time in daycare.” I’m looking at the photos, lost in thought. Big Shot and his Working Girl are speechless. “It’s a more unique angle. The college sluts are always a give-in—they’ll buy the pill no matter what. But the ambitious mother angle brings in a new demographic.”
Big Shot slams down his drink, smiling. “You need to meet Bidderman.”
“Bidderman!” Working Girl scoffs. She says it with a tone of catty jealousy that excites me.
I follow Big Shot into the hallway, through a tangled maze of secretarial desks and cubicles. We approach a large room with lots of boxy, bright-colored modern furniture that I feel in my bones houses the creatives. This is where I so desperately want to be. He steps just inside the door, and I follow, staying behind him, out of the way of two shirtless men throwing punches. They are surrounded by a crowd of creatives with loosened ties and untucked blouses. An old-school Beastie Boys song is playing loudly and enhancing the hostile vibe. One man is tall and slender with tall hair. He looks genuinely excited, even as he is getting punched in the jaw by the man across from him. His opponent is short, but muscular. He’s kicking ass. He has several tattoos on his back—large images of topless, curvy, vintage pin-up girls circa 1970. I am counting the astounding number of nipples some artist managed to fit on his back when Big Shot whispers to me, “Who shall we bet on today?”
Tattoo Guy looks like the surefire choice, but Tall Hair has a mad gleam in his eye as he delivers a punch to his opponent’s abdomen that has him doubled over and gasping. “Tall Hair,” I say with confidence. “He’s skinny, but he’s . . . well, he’s on something. Something more than caffeine. He won’t tire.”
“Hmm. Nice attention to detail, just as your resume says.” He points at Tall Hair and says to a geeky-looking young man with a tablet, “Give me five hundred on Calhoun.”
“Sure thing, sir! You heard him ladies and gentleman!”
We exit the room and head to a corner office. “Obviously, you have something,” Big Shot says to me. “I want you to meet one of the other partners. It will help your chances to have a second opinion.”
Big Shot barges in without knocking. The other partner, a silver-haired, firm-bodied Bidderman, is entangled in the throes of passion with a woman—completely naked save for her eyeglasses and heels. He’s standing at the side of his large desk, and she is sprawled out on top of it, face-down on her belly as Bidderman plows into her. Her legs are spread apart and tied down by a long scarf that runs under the desk and wraps around each of her thighs. Her faux-pearl necklace clanks against the wood with each thrust.
“Bidderman, I’ve asked you time and time again to fuck your own secretary and let mine be,” Big Shot says, sternly but calmly.
Bidderman finally notices us. He looks me up and down, scoping me out with an aggressive, lustful gaze even as he is inside another woman. “My secretary is an overgrown college-intern with a penis,” Bidderman says, looking directly at me.
“Your two-thirty got moved, sir,” the naked woman on her belly says. She brushes her red hair out of her face as she looks at the black appointment book lying open between her elbows. “Will tomorrow at ten a.m. work?”
“That’s fine,” Big Shot says. She takes up a pen, makes a mark into the book. “And Bidderman, you had better watch your step. Partners’ meeting in an hour. Try locking the door.”
Bidderman hooks his arm around the secretary’s ankle, her calf up against his cheek as he checks his Rolex. “That late in the day already? Time flies—”
“When you’re making money?” I ask.
“I like her,” Bidderman says. “You have my approval, little lady.”
Big Shot walks me back to his office. “Sorry about all this . . . madness,” he says. “The clients aren’t half the challenge. It’s your potential co-workers you’ll need to worry about. Let’s be realistic,” he says again. “What makes you think you can handle this?”
“Six years wrangling three-year-olds,” I remind him without missing a beat. “The age of exploration, of new emotions. Always punching, biting, groping themselves inappropriately . . .”
He nods and reaches for my hand. I shake his. “You’re hired.”