David had taken it upon himself to spend the time waiting for Sam in Sam’s office. He enjoyed everything about it. Its executive furnishings, the contemporary artwork, the gold-framed certificates that hung on the beige silk-screened walls, and its large window that looked out onto a man-made duck pond.
On a whim, Sam’s third wife, Margaret, had had the duck pond built and stocked it with live ducks, no less. She felt that by watching those damn ducks as they went about their daily activities would help her husband relax. She felt that way, not Sam. He usually kept the blinds closed.
David checked the Hermle Black Forest wall clock again for the time, six forty-five. Sam’s flight should have landed at O’Hare about six-thirty, and by now he would have grabbed a shuttle flight from O’Hare to Thompson Airfield here in Peoria.
His mind once again returned to the office. He smiled thinking about people’s reactions when they were unexpectedly summoned to its inner sanctum and that sudden look of terror and helplessness which gripped them. You could see the question in their eyes, “Have I done something wrong?” “Have I done something so terrible that I’m being given the pink slip?” The office slang for it was “pink carpet’, which in actual fact was beige. He felt a tiny thrill as he watched small beads of sweat pop-out across their foreheads as they prepared to face whatever faith awaited them in the boss’ office.
And then there were the hushed guarded tones people used whenever they talked about the goings on in here. The ends of his mouth turned upward at the memories. “Oh, the power, he thought.” That’s what he wanted. Power.
He swung his feet off the desk and paced the luxurious room’s interior coming to rest by the other window in the room, the one that looked out into the outer office where the reporters sat. A few people were starting to return from the party.
After a few minutes, his eyes glazed over and he was no longer looking at empty desks and over eager producers. He was remembering last week. He felt a slight tug at his heart at the realization at what he was about to do. He was about to give up the dream. The dream of all of this – the office, this station – all of it being ‘his’ one day. He hadn’t told a soul, not even his own mother, about the phone call.
The phone call had been the most unexpected thing in the world, because he didn’t even know he was in the running for the job. It was like winning a contest you hadn’t entered. So, of course, he was at first skeptical, but after doing some checking, the offer of a job had been a legitimate one. A Senior Producer’s job at a well-known Chicago News station with the possibility of promotion. He told the voice on the other end of the line that he needed time to think it over. Even more, he needed time to think over the consequences of not taking the job.
Sure Sam was in his fifties, but he was showing no signs of slowing down. Like now, he was out in the field working a story that he could have assigned to any one of a half dozen reporters on staff at WKXR. It might be ten – fifteen years before Sam gave up this office, which meant he wasn’t going anywhere either, especially not into this office as General Manager.
If he took the Chicago job it meant giving up his claim to this office and the power and prestige that went with it. On the other hand, the Chicago job offer was a good one and offered its own brand of Power.
And it was not the type of offer that would come alone again to someone working for a minor affiliate, like WKXR. The job came with a bigger salary, living expenses, housing allowance, and of course, a shot at the top prize – General Manager of a top network station.
Still it meant starting over and working even harder. “Did he want to do that,” he asked himself. It would mean spending even more time away from his daughter and letting his mother have sole responsibility for Kaila’s upbringing.
And then there was the major thorn in his side to contend with. Before the call, he’d begun to think of himself as nothing more than Sam’s overpaid nepotistic token Black. Even though he had been at WKXR for more than seven years, the ‘in-house’ gossip still held that Sam had hired him out of a sense of necessity, i.e., as the stations token Black to get the FCC off their backs.
Not that he didn’t work hard, because he did, and a lot harder than most. If he were called upon to give himself a title, he would have said assistant general manager, for he handled all the things that Sam didn’t want to do, selling air time, employee matters, viewer complaints, and serving as a go-between for Sam and the big TV Stations in Chicago and New York. No matter how hard he worked, the other employees at WKXR didn’t give him the respect he thought he was due. They questioned his decisions and often times went over his head to Sam. However, Sam always had his back, on those occasions — which was making his decision even harder. He felt like a traitor.
And it was precisely that, which made the job offer so enticing, knowing that any promotions which came his way would be based on his hard work and not on his friendship with the boss.
He couldn’t begin to count the number of times he heard the phrase, ‘birds of a feather, stick together’, as he walked pass, and then listening to the snickering laughter. Besides their college, ne and Sam had something else in common. Both he and Sam were in interracial marriages, as if that’s all it took to keep his job.
David took in a deep breath and stuck both hands into his trouser pockets and turned his back on the office window, his shoulders were heavy with doubt. “Damn it, man, make a decision. Don’t be like all those other wishy-washy wimps who sabotage their own careers through indecisiveness and a general lack of courage.” He decided to wait and hear what Sam had to tell him and then he’d make his decision.
Once again, he resumed his wait and position at Sam’s desk. He noticed how the full-moon reflected on the empty duck pond – empty now because of the cold weather and two questions nagged at him?
How much did it cost to house ducks for the winter?