Perdu Is Lost

(*Names changed in order to speak freely.)

    My colleague *Perdu is the sort of woman who disturbs dreams. Clever, charming, at times nervy. Unlike women who instigate nightmares, one can lust after Perdu without worrying about a future involving boiled bunnies, knives or elaborately devised revenge schemes against friends and family members.

    Nonetheless her adherence to rationality borders on psychosis.

    After five years of serving at Mugwump*, our dying place of employ, Perdu’s just come around to acknowledging the daily waste, absurdity, and futility contained within its walls. Her acceptance of survival cynicism has been exciting to behold.

    For the longest two hurdles kept Perdu from seeing how our enterprise had become an asylum.

    First, she benefited from caring and demanding parents. Taking their advantages with utmost seriousness, unlike Mugwump owner Blowhard* and his late wife Ruta*, father and mother of the company’s titular managers Loca* and Fea*, Perdu’s parents instilled discipline in her and her siblings.

    Outsiders never would’ve confused Perdu’s home for a madhouse. At the Mugwump address inadequacy and inferiority were pushed and accepted. A place where the everyday consisted of being embarrassed and humiliated, then looking to inflict same on another as soon possible.

    From how the whole Mugwump bunch has developed, Blowhard and Ruta must’ve demeaned their five children when they weren’t dismissing them.

    When radicals inveigh against “The Man,” they may see gray suits like Perdu’s father. He’s chairman of a bellwether enterprise CNBC’s Jim Kramer deigned interviewing. Instead of being a convenient villain, Perdu’s father could be considered a poster boy for corporate boardroom probity. One of the very few. Until getting detoured, Perdu had been groomed to eventually fill the same sort of huge office.

    No B-school can ever prepare its graduates for the antics Perdu has endured at Mugwump. Those courses would be too fantastic to attend. In any business endeavor one expects a certain logic to prevail. Calmness, order and competency should be the usual standards. Even in fields where creative frenzy is prized successful results take recognizable forms.

    The manic atmosphere at Mugwump has led to disjointed production. Rote and simple are now beyond Mugwump. Everything is a “crisis.” That’s one of Blowhard’s crutch words. His perversion of language scrapes my ears.

    It would be nice and neat to place Mugwump’s deterioration on imprecise usage. However, its impending demise suffers from more malignant antecedents.

    Second for the 30-year-old Perdu, an unswerving sense of how things should proceed. Of how things should be. A problem solver smarter employers would’ve nourished, she’s received disappointment in her personal life as well. Toiling at Mugwump exacerbates those failings.

    Achieving perfection has become Perdu’s problem. In herself, the beaux she’s chosen thus far, certainly at work. Maybe after reaching my age in 22 years she’ll finally understand humans are imperfect, that striving towards perfection yields frustration. Better and saner to do one’s possible best and derive whatever satisfaction from that.

    Perdu has yet to meet the man who can provide solace against her self-imposed intractable parameters and impossible conditions. One worries that when the proper stranger ambles along she’ll look through him. Disappointed by a fellow of indeterminate proclivities who seamlessly led into a 40-year-old juvenile who amply demonstrated disaffection by ignoring her, this brilliant woman today swims alone. She should be adored and cherished when not respected. Why are these tributes denied her?

    More to Mugwump’s detriment than her own. Much more.

    In the last five workdays the handwriting on Mugwump’s wall has been chiseled. The company is three months behind in rent. This deficiency compelled the landlord to give an ultimatum. Its telephony provider has threatened to cancel voice and internet service. Power company workmen have come by to shut off electricity. In an end times sign, last week Loca, the company comptroller, was forced to decide between making payroll or covering our health benefits premium.

    Hers was a Hobson’s choice. Bills are today. Illness lies in an unseen tomorrow. Along with winning lotto.

    Somehow the Mugwumps deterred the landlord, then slapped together enough cash (or money orders, no checks) to retain communications and stayed the power company from darkening the premises.

    Like the best con men, the Mugwumps are convincing liars. So much so not only do they believe wholeheartedly in their own falsehoods, but are as shocked — shocked! — as those they’ve bamboozled when the deceptions collapse.

    Therefore it was with great amusement when last week a client stiffed the company. The amount owed wasn’t much. Or it wouldn’t have been before present financial doldrums. In our fat days the Mugwump girls would’ve pissed it away on unnoticed frivolities.

    Apparently the girls were intent to demonstrate some business skill. Five years too late.

    The client was a walk-in. His slick patter beguiling them, they neglected a few business basics. Neither investigated his putative organization, him personally, nor ran a credit check. Naturally only after the bank informed Mugwump his check had Super Ball properties did they discover his sheen hid a cesspool. Seems that fellow had left long trails of bad paper. New England bunco squads knew him well.

    A perfunctory check beforehand would’ve launched foundering ship flares. Fortunately for Loca and Fea Mugwump is a family-owned venture. Rather than a proper hierarchy they only answer to “dad.”

    Given he’s abdicated heading his own family, much less lead his business, Blowhard squarely lay rightful blame on the most responsible party. The smoothie who flimflammed his rancid daughters.

    There’re three kinds of people. Those who make things happen; those who don’t know what happened; and those who have things happen to them. The Mugwumps have wallowed lifetimes away in the third category. Voluntarily.

    They’ve never committed anything wrong through their own handiwork. Always some sinister external force hampers or thwarts them. Better that than facing the truth behind one’s own shortcomings, I guess. Especially when the truth is so often so damned unpleasant.

    Rather than file the complaint and let the law operate, the 82-year-old Blowhard got restive for a little cash balance vigilantism. He wanted to strap on his .38, mosey over to the thief’s hideout, and get payment or some other sort of … satisfaction.

    Who knew Blowhard patterned himself after Tom Mix?

    Let’s see. After exhausting half his life establishing a thriving enterprise, his daughters Thelma and Louise have spent five years racing the company car towards the cliff. Frankly, the girls having squandered his effort is why Blowhard should’ve grabbed and heated up iron.

    Instead, fully aware all the while, he sat back witnessing his other baby’s disintegration. Throughout the last five years he never considered a jot of pushback? Of righting an ever-listing ship? Of acknowledging his problems and seeking help? Now because he’s been beaten out of tip money, Blowhard is roused into action!?

    That’s beyond day late, dollar short territory.

    Maybe it’s me but the respective responses seem incommensurate with the sins. Which is why Mugwump’s employees will likely be collecting unemployment at the end of October rather than January 2012.

    Sad, but inevitable.


    NAKED SELF-PROMOTION. When I wrote for newspapers, I would’ve killed to slug a story that. But it would’ve distressed some way too conscientious editor somewhere along the line. Back then pc was all the outrage. Proper words used correctly could cause consternation. Especially at that rag. The publication promoted itself as decent, then mistook “decent” for “good.”

    It stopped being decent when I arrived and finished being good when I left.

    In mid-November 2011 I intend presenting through Amazon Kindle a successor edition to Reveries. Titled Cool Brass, these stories will double down on the same themes as well as bookend Caleb Abercrombie’s and Paz Duarte’s, among others, previous, oh, picaresques.

    Best of all, Marianne Messing appears. In warm generous flesh.

    I hope you will read and enjoy Cool Brass.