Bad Business: A Titanic Tale

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: CLOG

Chapter 6 (v.1) - FU

Submitted: October 09, 2016

Reads: 127

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Submitted: October 09, 2016

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Bob stood behind the rack of brightly coloured stomps, including the new range of Troll stomps, as he tried unsuccessfully to sneak glances at the new counter staff. Emerald Green was her name, and she had dark brown hair that perfectly framed her tender face, with large eyes that sparkled with energy and intellect. Her body was voluptuous, in a minimalist sort of way, with a frame that was not overly slender, but rather displayed all the wonders of womanhood. Bob had no idea what made buttons cute, but nevertheless the term seemed very appropriate when applied to Emerald.

Ever since she had started working, Bob had found himself unable to concentrate on anything apart from her. He would have suspected witchcraft, such was her hold over him, if not for the fact that she was far too enchanting to be an enchantress.

Business had been good lately, and it had reached a point where Bob could no longer maintain the fantasy that Ponder was suited to customer service. The truth was that Ponder was a daydreamer, which in many cases is a rare treasure, for true inspiration comes from those who dare to dream during daylight. The problem is that such people are more often than not committed to asylums, their inspirations consigned to the walls of cushioned white rooms, probably on account of all the public displays of snoring and drooling.

Unfortunately, it had become painfully apparent that Ponder was not having moments of lucid brilliance; he was simply having holidays from reality. Bob was constantly surprised that Ponder didn’t have braided hair and cheap jewellery when he snapped out of his daydreams.

Now that Ponder’s dubious skills had been reallocated to the construction room, where he was acting as an assistant to Primal, Bob had been left the task of appropriating an appropriately appropriate customer service attendant.

His first trainee had been an unmitigated disaster. The problem with leprechauns, as Bob had discovered via a stream of unhappy customers, is that they are not prone to releasing money, even change. They are hoarders of wealth, deserved or not, and as such they really have no place within the structure of customer based business. Bob had been forced to let him go, but not before he signed a rather exemplary letter of recommendation. Bob had heard via the grape vine, which was housed in a pot plant in the corner and rarely shut up, that the leprechaun was making quite a name for himself in the Treasury, where he had already been promoted to ‘Acting Executive Officer, Refunds.’

After the leprechaun, Bob had next hired a baboon, named Noobab, who Bob had high hopes for, after seeing the efficiency of the Baboon at the Treasury. Unfortunately Noobab had the confusing condition of saying words backwards, which didn’t bother Bob, but really seemed to annoy Rednop and Lamirp. It also seemed that Bob had overestimated the ability of Baboons, and that it was entirely possible that the baboon at the treasury had simply been stamping whatever was put in front of him. Noobab adamantly refused to use the profit net, which was of great concern, as the consultant had told them that only profits in a net are of any real value. Come to think of it, Bob was suspicious that Noobab was not even the Baboons real name.

And so, on the third attempt, Bob had hired the delightful Emerald Green, and his life had been brightened like...well, like…Bob had never been good at emotions, like something from a romantic card. His days had an added impetus, and with her arrival not only had his personal hygiene soared, but so too had business. Clients seemed to adore her, and Bob found himself thinking about reattaching the horn to keep them away.

Yet, even with business seemingly thriving, Bob was just barely surviving. For weeks the sales had increased, to the point where the store was rarely vacant, yet it seemed as though the entire industry was conspiring to rob him blind. Mr Stiff had increased the fee for his rubber production, which he had the power to do as he owned all the utilities, and in addition Bob had been forced to increase the wage of his staff, which now numbered three, after they had cottoned on to the fact that salaries had increased over the past twenty years. Those two factors alone though were not insurmountable; in fact they were easily mountable. The real culprit for Bob’s financial uncertainty was the ongoing, regular tax payments.

Twenty-five pence a month! It was criminal; in fact it was more criminal than anything a criminal would do. A criminal at least had to invest some time, and some personal commitment, and had the decency to disguise their subversiveness. The treasury did not even bother. They simply sauntered up, in clear daylight, without even an inclination to look ashamed, and demanded your money for nothing! Bob knew that for the business to survive, something had to be done, and it was with a rather large dollop of reluctance that he had reached out and approached the Fashion Union, or FU as they were known.

The FU was an elitist, vain, collection of fashionistas, chaired by the intimidating presence of Veronica Van-Hausen, the owner of concourse three’s most prominent (and overpriced) fashion house, ‘I’. Bob had no idea what ‘I’ meant, but it was clear that a lot of value was attributed to a letter, which as far as he could tell really added no practical worth. Bob hated everything about the selective group, from their pompous manner of speech, to their ridiculous attire, but he had no other option than to submit himself to their derision. For derision he would receive, of that he was sure. Bob’s small success had not gone unnoticed amongst the pluming peacocks, nor had his deliberate and wanton disregard of the fashion business’s covenants.

Choice however, had been grasped from him, and this was the last avenue available. It’s all well and good to want to stand on your own two feet, but when the world keeps placing weights on your shoulders, sometimes you are forced to reach for a crutch.

And so it was with a begrudging walk, as though his feet were stuck in mud, that Bob left the store that night to attend the FU meeting, which was being held in the gala room of the s-wanky restaurant, ‘Divine’.

 

To either side of him, Bob could hear the nasally entitled clucking of the FU members, as they droned about inconsequential, and thus vitally important, social rumours and gossip. To this point, everyone had ignored Bob, besides a few snide remarks about his attire, which he chose to ignore, on the outside anyway.

At the head of the room was the council table, where the elite of the elite dined, passing judgment over all assembled before them. Bob could see Veronica Van-Hausen in the centre, looking so disinterested that she may die from boredom. Bob wondered why anyone would go to such effort to show disdain for something, especially when they clearly loved every minute of it.

On her lap sat a despicably ugly Chihuahua, its face deformed by years of inbreeding, its tongue panting as it lapped at her plate. What is it with the rich and ugly dogs? Bob had never understood why a people defined by their commitment to the vogue, had chosen a race of dog that flew in the face of everything they stood for. It must be some great in-joke that the rest of the world was not privy to.

Looking along the line, Bob could see various Fashion conscious owners, or perhaps fashion victims, depending on your take, and on each lap sat a disgusting Chihuahua, each more ugly than the last. Bob noticed that every single council member was human, in fact everyone in the room was human, at least externally. He had a fairly strong inclination that each had an ego that belonged in a troll or a Sasquatch. It was clear that the FU’s M.O was all about selectivity. Equal opportunity had not permeated these perfumed walls yet.

Bob lent back in his cushioned chair as an empty plate was placed before him, shining in the flickering ambient light of the chandelier. Try as he might, Bob could not see anything on the plate; it was simply space, which was vacant.

“Entrée is served,” said the butler with a droll voice, and an effortless flourish of his hand.

“What exactly is it?” Bob asked the butler. He still couldn’t see anything.

“It is a gluten sir,” replied the butler.

“But there’s nothing there!”

“You have to imagine it exists, sir, that’s how glutens work.”

Bob looked to the left, then to the right, and was astonished to see people everywhere cutting and spooning mouthfuls of air into their maws. He simply didn’t understand. There was nothing there! He decided that it must be some creation of the rich, and with the forlorn expression of the hungry, he pushed the plate to the side. The movement did not go unnoticed, and Veronica Van-Hausen chose then to enact her vicious, malicious, and non-capricious embarrassment of the man before her.

“Is there a problem, Mr Bobbins?” she said sweetly, with all the sincerity of a male friend being shown baby photos. Her face was twisted into a polite smile, which to Bob resembled nothing more than a cobra prepared to strike. Tread lightly, he told himself.

“No problem, ma’am,” he said politely.

“Don’t you like your gluten?” she asked.

“I prefer food I can see ma’am.”

“Ah but the things we can see can only ever be what they tell us they are, whilst the foods we can’t see can be what we want them to be. I prefer not to be told by my food what I can and can’t eat,” she said theatrically. The assembled geese gawked in appreciation. Bob realised one thing, this was no ordinary fashionista. There was a brain in this one, a brain with talons.

Bob nodded in mock understanding. Veronica waited for the challenge, but when none came she continued.

“So Mr Bobbins, as I understand it you wish to become a member of our prestigious union’ she said, emphasising the word ‘our’.”

“I do,” replied Bob, deciding to keep things short.

“I see,” said Veronica. “And, when you are not in gaol of course, what is it that you make?”

Let it pass, he told himself. She was baiting him. With a deep calming breath, he reached into the bag at his feet and drew out a pair of stomps. They were the newest version, and had a course grip on the bottom for traction. He rose as gracefully as he could manage, and proudly held up the design for all to see.

“Well I’m sure that’s very nice, Mr Bobbins, but did you bring your fashion item?”

The hall erupted into raucous laughter, as clouds of feathers rose from the gaudy outfits. Bob felt himself going red in the face, which is one of the only times when you can actually feel a colour.

“These are stomps,” he said angrily, “you put them on your feet.”

“Why would people put those monstrosities on their feet,” yelled a woman at the table, much to the approval of Veronica.

“Because they are practical, and comfortable, and cheap,” replied Bob. He could feel his insides burning.

“Mr Bobbins,” said Veronica, as though talking to a child. “We are the Fashion Union; we do not deal in rubber. Perhaps you should try a rubber union, if such a thing exists” (it did, and was chaired by Mr Stiff).

“Look,” said Bob losing his patience, “I don’t want to be here, and you don’t want me here, but like it or not my designs have been categorised as fashion.”

“We are the Fashion Union, Mr Bobbins, we will decide what is fashion,” replied Veronica coolly.

Bob could feel himself losing control. His anger was rising, passing his restraint on the way past. He kept telling himself to tread lightly, but the problem with telling yourself things is that you inherently know that the person telling you what to do is untrustworthy. You have been there to witness all of your own failings, and mistakes, and are patently aware of your own immoral desires. For the majority of humans, the last person they would listen to is themselves.

“Well the lines in my store tend to disagree,” he said coldly. “Do you even remember what a customer is?” he added in ill-thought provocation.

Veronica stared at him with eagle sharp eyes, all pretence of politeness, and indeed disinterest, gone. She was a predator weighing up her prey, and Bob could tell that she did not see him as any vague form of adversary.

“You would be well advised, Mr Bobbins, to remember who holds the power in this city. People have a way of, you know… vanishing,” she said, with a flurry of her hand.

“Is that a threat?” raged Bob, rising to his feet, his chair grating as it was pushed back.

“It is just neighbourly advice. For a rich area, concourse three has a history of violent crime. Did you never wonder what happened to your grandmother? Such a tragedy, but she had lost touch with fashion. You would be wise to see to it that you do not.”

Bob was speechless. He had never thought to ask how his grandmother had died, she wasn’t family after all, but the implications were clear. Bob would not take this lying down, which was lucky, because he happened to be standing up anyway.

“Times are changing you old hag,” he said, drawing audible gasps, “people don’t want your nonsense designs anymore, they want practicality. Enjoy your time while it lasts.” With that ill thought out threat, Bob strode from the room.

Veronica was seething, on the inside, but that rage never reached her exterior. As always, she maintained the kind of self-control that would make a hungry vampire with varicose veins proud.

“No please stay,” she mocked, “however will we survive without your stumpies?” The assembly cackled, and the Chihuahua’s yapped.

“Watch your back Mr Bobbins,” yelled the evil witch, “you never know when the next killer trend might appear.” She laughed as Bob scurried out the door, into a world where he would forever fear sequins and feathers.


© Copyright 2018 Andy Paine. All rights reserved.

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