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A Little Side Business, Part One
The Product and A Unique Selling Proposition
In which a Film is viewed and a Proposition is made.
“Frank, I’d like to see you in my office.”
These are words that chill the retail worker’s heart. In my experience at VoltT, the cell phone carrier where I’ve worked for five years, it usually means someone else just got fired and the boss is calling me in to say that person has been “promoted to customer” and is no longer permitted in the back areas of the store. The boss never says why that person was let go, but the rumors will supply any number of reasons from laziness, to lateness to theft. Anyway, they never call you back there to tell you how great a job you’ve been doing.
So I was following my new boss’s tight little runner’s ass and bouncing, blond ponytail down the back hallway to her office and figuring it was nine-to-one it was not me being fired. Being fifty-five and having retirement in my sights, I did not relish being jobless in a horrible market. I knew a good gig when I had one. Forty hours a week, health insurance, matching 401k and a job I could forget the moment I walked out the door was working great for me. A retail schedule plays hell with your social life, but I was a single man of simple habits. I’d built a woodshop in the shed behind my little mortgage-free house to keep my hands busy. I could ride my bicycle to work, go to the beach on my days off, stop for a beer at Hops on the way home and have occasional, passable female companionship if I tried hard enough, which I rarely felt up to. My looks and my body were holding up alright. I’d worn my heart out long ago. I had too much mileage on me to feel like growing old together with someone was a romantic notion. I didn’t like growing old with myself all that much — why expect someone else to?
“Shut the door and have a seat,” Charlotte said when we were in her cramped office. Corporate store design gave the boss an office, but it was a glorified closet; no windows, utilitarian desk and a couple of chairs, tan walls, fluorescent light. If more than two people dragged chairs in there you couldn’t close the door. Corporate also moves ambitious employees around a lot. There had been four managers in this store in my time. I sat, noting her obligatory collection of sales awards and an old motivational poster that had been there as long as I had. She eased her khaki-covered thigh up on the edge of her desk and looked down at me, flashing a practiced smile.
“What’s up?”, I asked, “I haven’t seen Brandon today….”
“Nobody got fired, Frank. Brandon called out. A personal day, I think.” She was all business and though we both wore the company uniform of black polo and khakis, she sure filled it out better than most. The company was full of ambitious hard-charging men and women stoked by the promise of six-figure salaries to bust their butts to be managers. It was a great weeding-out strategy. The chances of surviving the darwinian process of moving up beyond that to the real money were slim. Most gave their all or nearly died trying. Charlotte struck me as different, though. Not afraid all the time as most managers were, didn’t sweat the big or the little stuff, but still hit the metrics. More self-possessed than most, she made it look easy.
“Frank, you’re a strange guy. For a VoltT employee, anyway”, she said, then left it hanging. I didn’t respond. You know that game, What Character are You on The Office? I’m afraid that all my younger co-workers think I’m Creed, the clueless, dirty, old kleptomaniac. Why did she call me back here?
She leaned in, showing a hint of cleavage at the neck of the company polo. She wore an astringent scent, not girly, but sporty. “I read your resume'”.
“It was a challenge keeping it to two pages”, I said, cautiously, adjusting my glasses. I hoped she wasn’t asking me to consider the Assistant Manager job. Besides being thankless like my Customer Service spot (sorry, “Experience Specialist” is what we’re being called this year), they got slammed by everyone above them for not hitting the store numbers targets. Assistant Managers were rotated out even more often than Store Managers.
“You had your own business for ten years doing high-end remodeling. And you’re good with people. You’ve been a leader.”
“You may be the first manager who’s admitted to reading my resume’. Need some repairs done on your house?” My experience never seemed to impress any of the other bosses. They like me because I keep difficult customers from escalating and don’t cause any drama at work. I’ve been staying under the radar until my savings account hits the magic number. And I don’t associate with Associates outside of work as a rule. For work or pleasure. You might rightly think that an old guy around all that young tang would be getting laid a little. But I didn’t even want to entertain those thoughts. For one, I didn’t want to complicate my situation. Secondly, and more importantly, I didn’t need the embarrassment of bahis firmaları certain rejection. The girls didn’t want Creed coming on to them, I was sure.
“Frank, I think we have a lot in common,” Charlotte continued. “VoltT is a means to an end for us. If I read you right, you just want to ride this job ’til you can retire. You’ve got no ambitions inside the company. This is not nearly the most difficult job you have had. Right, so far?”
“Yeah, I tell all my managers that I have no ambition.” I did tell her that in our first one-on-one two weeks ago.
“You are not challenged here.”
“Not looking for challenges.” I really didn’t want the new manager rocking my boat, didn’t want to get caught up in her ideas to transform the store and polish her resume’.
Surprisingly, she looked at me intently with something between determination and frustration and said, “But I see so much more in you, Frank.” Of course, I bridled at being lectured by my 25-year junior. I thought, stop telling me what I’m worth — I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know. Not that it wasn’t flattering. I hadn’t been told that in forty years, if ever.
Instead I said, “It’s kind of you to say so, Charlotte, but really, I’m happy with this job. I told you in the one-on-one — It meets my needs.” With ageism in the workplace and all the changes in gender roles it can get really tricky to talk to a woman boss. I try to keep it strictly factual.
She was quiet for a moment, looking at the gray-speckled industrial carpet. And then she moved around behind her desk and said, “I’m about to take a risk with you, Frank. I think you might find my proposition very exciting. And rewarding.”
“I’m not looking for excitement at work, Charlotte”, I said, a little frustrated that she kept pushing.
“This is outside of work, Frank. I have a little side business I’m willing to bring you into. There’s a spot for you that I think you’d be perfect for.” She picked up her phone and used it’s remote app to turn on the flatscreen on the wall that was usually used for conference calls.
“You’re not selling aluminum siding are you? I know it looks like I’d be a good aluminum siding salesman, but that’s a shitty business and I hope you haven’t been suckered into a scheme.” You have to watch out for a salesperson who believes their own crap.
The flatscreen brightened. The fluorescent blinked off. A plaintive piano theme played. A logo appeared. “Chatterley” A word in tasteful and delicate script. Slowly an image faded into view on the screen; a high-ceilinged room filled with fabrics and quality furniture, bookcases, a window with gauzy curtains through which warm light filtered, red flowers in a crystal vase. A woman of indeterminate age in a filmy nightgown slowly walked in from the left across the oriental carpet, hair up in an elaborate arrangement. She turned to the window and casually pulled the gown from her shoulders, letting it fall, leaving a silhouette of her slim body to balance the composition perfectly. For long seconds the figure stood there, hand to her lips, not moving, perhaps contemplating the world outside the window. Just as I began to wonder what story was being told, three words appeared one after the other along the bottom of the image in the shadows of the room. “Unique” “Beautiful” “Discreet” Then, nothing. The curtains moved gently, the woman breathed, all was still. I felt it in my gut, though. My hindbrain had been triggered to arousal by this simple ploy.
“What’s this?” I asked dumbly, not looking away, in case something happened. I wanted a mouse so I could click somewhere on the screen. Surely, this led to something? It looked like a high-end call girl business. She sorta had part of me right there, I think.
“Let me tell you a little bit about myself, Frank,” she said, leaning against the wall behind her desk in the dim light of the screen. “Briefly, because you don’t need the details, just my reasons. My family is from money. I was too smart and too cute all my life. I was trouble in school and made good enough grades anyway. In college, the exclusive grooming school for girls from money, whose name I won’t mention, I got into different trouble, not willing to be groomed for marriage to a boy from money. I was….independent, let’s say. If my classmates needed something unconventional, I got it for them. So of course I got caught and my family bought me out of the worst trouble. But they won’t be tolerant of any more of that, so I’ve got myself a conventional job that makes me look good in the eyes of God and family and run this side business on the down-low.”
She motioned toward the screen, where I was still hoping for something to happen. Please, don’t tell me you are a high-end Madam, I thought.
“You’re wondering what this is and where you fit. Frank, this is where I take the risk I told you I’m willing to take with you. You could get me fired. I can see you are an unconventional guy. You have this conventional job for different kaçak iddaa specific reasons than I, but for similar emotional ones. I’m young but I’ve known a lot of men, both powerful and poor, so I have a sense for character. You have integrity and an ability to form a long-term plan and stick to it. You are good to people who are in emotional crisis as our damned customers often are. You are not too proud to be a retail worker; you do your job and go home. Your voice melts women, you must know that. You had your own business and you know what it is like to take risk everyday. Really, I admire your style and maturity. And I think you have talents that my business can both exploit and leverage for both of us. You are wasting your potential here.” This flattery was flying right past my bullshit meter.
“Frank, if I show you this next thing there will be no going back. You either get me fired or join me. Your future and mine are in your answer. Do you want to see what’s next?”
I teetered. I could get her fired, but not me, if I said no? If I said yes, could we both get fired? It seemed likely. She talked about the risk to herself.
“What’s in it for me?” I asked, so very unimaginatively.
“Possibly the easiest money you’ve ever made. And quick. Your retirement plan could be complete in a fraction of the time you think. And your life would become richer in ways you haven’t imagined. In “unconventional” ways. I see the talent in you. You fit my needs, the needs of my business, exactly. Will you join me?”
“You still haven’t told me what your business is, Charlotte. What the hell kind of work would I be doing?” And what is that beautiful woman in that golden room going to do next, a part of me longed to know. I didn’t know anything about prostitution.
“OK, Frank, one more detail before I’ve said too much. I have a circle of women from college who appreciate my ability to find unusual things. They are married to corporate titans and trust-fund billionaires. They are ridiculously powerful yet powerfully constrained. The moneyed class is the last to enter the twenty-first century in many ways. Superficially, yes, but morally, no. These women should be free to taste all the riches of the world and yet are impoverished by convention. My company, Chatterley, makes bespoke erotica for women on a private basis, by request. I charge ridiculous prices and have a negligible overhead. No advertising but word-of-mouth, nothing but this web page here and some skilled technicians and actors that I’ve assembled over the last couple of months.”
“This is the long-tail model of an internet business exactly”, I said, intrigued by the concept, relieved it wasn’t the oldest profession. “You need a customer service department for this?” I asked, beginning to see her plan, understanding her dilemma. “Someone to handle complaints discreetly and soberly?”
“The job entails something more than that, Frank,” she laughed softly. “But now I’ve said nearly too much. I want you to say yes before I show you the product. Yes, or no, Frank?”
I thought a moment. I sensed her tension as I took my turn looking at the carpet. The idea was indeed unique. Erotica for women, tailored to each individually and for women willing and able to pay quite a lot. The quality would have to be extraordinary. The more rare the item the more valuable it could be. She had a terrific product concept and she surely knew her market. Distribution was dead simple. The company could be very flat. Porn wasn’t even illegal. I understood how the illicit nature of erotica, especially amongst her target market would make it that much more desireable, and our risk was not of jail, but of losing our “conventional” jobs, which in her scheme seemed only to be kept for appearances.
“I need to see the product before I say yes, Charlotte. Your idea will crash and burn if the quality isn’t there. You can’t sell a Chinatown knock-off to this clientele.” I was being a difficult customer myself, but I wasn’t going to sabotage my current situation for anything but a sure thing. And I had to admit her proposal was really beginning to appeal to me. The upside looked good even without the details. Get to retirement much quicker? Get out of this drone job sooner? I had not dared to dream, just stuck to my plan. I could see some quality porn and get paid to fix problems of an entirely different nature than I was now. I mean, surely, if I was to address complaints I would have to be familiar with the product. I was guessing she needed a gatekeeper between her and her clients to help maintain the air of exclusivity. I was told I was a pretty classy sounding guy and that when I dressed well I looked like money. I could play the part of a sort of erotica concierge, perhaps. And she would be the remote executive. Vidal Sasson might have swanned around at his wealthy client’s’ parties, but he didn’t actually cut their hair.
“So if you like what I’m about to show you, you will say yes?” It was difficult to see her face in the kaçak bahis dim light, but she sounded anxious. She might really have some customer service problems. Preventing escalations is the one part of my job I’m proud of. She knew that.
“Yes, if it’s good.” There, I was in. She knew that, too. A good salesperson asks for the deal at least three times, built on a series of ‘yesses’..
Charlotte touched her phone and the image cast to the flatscreen changed. The woman and the room faded, leaving only Chatterley at the top on a black velvety background. We were in a dark little office in a shopping center in the Low Country in the middle of a busy day, but I was still transported into that warm room with that lithe, pink-hued woman gazing pensively out into the light.
“A little background”, Charlotte said. “This request came from a woman in Connecticut. A white woman who’d never had a black man, if you can imagine that. This is what she asked for….with some artistic license. It may surprise you.” Then she tapped the phone again and leaned against the wall. I found myself caught between trying to take this as a serious job interview and my suddenly heightened curiosity to see into the mind of a Connecticut Yankee trophy wife. I leaned forward a bit despite my effort to look cool.
Chatterley faded from the dark screen and a gentle yet rhythmic music could be heard. A string quartet, maybe. And soft voices. A man with the tambor of Al Green. A woman breathing and sighing softly. The silky sound of flesh on flesh. Everyone knows that sound. The rhythm was slow and the light gradually increased. I could begin to make out a dark arch over a lighter area. The dark upper edge undulated like a curtain. Slowly, the details of the scene sharpened. The cinematographer was using a very tight depth of field and a golden, filtered light. Focused in the middle ground was a hand, a black man’s hand firmly gripping an erect penis. His own, it appeared. He was lying back away from the camera, his body and head out of focus. The skin of his shaft was melted chocolate, shiny, cocoa colored. His fist squeezed gently and repeatedly as he spoke. Are you ready?, he said. Don’t come over here ’til you’re ready. A drop of clear fluid appeared at the tip of his erection and slowly slid along the frenum and down the shaft to wet his fingers. I heard the woman moan softly.
The focus pulled back away from the man and the dark arch shape became clearer. The shadowy undulation at the top of the screen took on definition. I saw fingertips circling in the curly folds of a woman’s vagina, her legs spread to each side of the screen as she stood pleasuring herself, her rear to me. Hers were perhaps the meatiest labia I’d seen and she pulled at them, sliding her fingers along the edges of her vagina, teasing her clitoris as she passed. She was wet, too. The light struck so as to highlight her glistening lips and the drop of glycerine-like moisture that formed there. The film went into slow motion then and I watched as her fingers so very, very slowly brought her to trembling. The drop of fluid gradually dripped, pulling a long tail of silver down out of the frame. The woman shook, thighs quivering, pulsing. The music mimicked her climb to pleasure as the film returned to real time and she clearly climaxed, practically singing her joy.
She moved forward, focus tight to her damp sex. The black man’s shaft, held up like a club came into focus between her legs. I’m ready, she breathed. So ready. I suddenly recognized the voice as Charlotte’s and was jolted out of the film. I felt her standing there across the little room watching me. I couldn’t look back at her. But I couldn’t see this film again with the same detachment. In a way, I was in it even more than before. Was it my imagination or was the room beginning to smell a little musky? I noticed I was trembling, myself.
On the screen Charlotte began to lower herself toward the black cock. My pants were tight across my own erection. My heart raced more than I could remember in years. I watched Charlotte’s fat labia part around the cockhead, their juices mingling as their swollen parts slid together. Her legs trembled, she descended, he thrust a very little upward to meet her and removed his hand as she engulfed him. He said, Go slow. Go slow. She only made a guttural moan and a sharp intake of breath. I was aware of the live Charlotte breathing hard nearby. I was, too, and sweating now.
Shifting to slow motion again, the couple slid fully together, then began to pull apart. The long black shaft shone as she rose. Each pulse of swollen vein could be seen, each bubble of frothy lubrication as it slid along their flesh in lazy and languid swirls. She was rose red, he dark leather brown, each coated in shiny slipperiness. Gradually, she reached the end of his shaft and, pausing, the meat just parting her thick lips, she quivered, then began the long slow ride back down. The orchestral score soared, evoking awe, mystery, triumph and power. I’d watched one stroke in and out and I was about ready to burst. This was some good porn. I couldn’t touch myself, couldn’t imagine what Charlotte expected of me. I guessed I should remain as professional as possible. I tried.
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