His thumbs were hooked into his suspenders, and he was deep in thought. From the 33rd floor, he could see the entire city, the suburbs beyond, and the clouds above. Seated behind him, at the conference table, sat every member of the executive committee. He could smell their cologne, and hear the low murmurings between pairs of them. He had heard, in the halls, the concerns of the employees. The talk was that the Rex Publishing Company, after one hundred and thirty three years of distinguished service to the world of readers, was about to be sold.
The rumor mill had it that they would be purchased by The Bindery, a huge bookstore conglomerate; the type that sells coffee and music, and fancy little places to sit and read.
People came there to read, and to look hip and scholarly as they did so. It was not good news for the employees of Rex Publishing. The Bindery had a reputation for reducing both salaries and employees when they took over.
The biggest salaries of Rex Publishing were now seated behind him. He knew that they were concerned, as well they should. Samuel knew that a single word from him, and the merger plans could be dashed, or they could be brought to fruition.
Certainly, they all knew that something had to be done. All that one would have to do, would be to walk through the shipping department, and see that less than half the number of books were being shipped out, compared to ten years ago.
He was not certain why. Some said that the agents had gotten fat and lazy, and had stopped scratching for new authors. Other said that readership overall was down, and blamed television. Others blamed Oprah.
Samuel knew full well that whatever Oprah told people to read, they read. Not one of those books came from Rex.
Although Samuel, of course, felt no concern for his own position or income, he knew that they did, the people in that room, seated behind him now. He knew that the “little people” did also.
Much of the buzz about their uncertain future came from the plain workers; he heard it everywhere, although they never seemed to be aware that he was listening. The secretaries, the printers, the binders, even the custodial staff, worried about the loss of their job, their income, and their way of life.
Samuel could not help but feel that the group seated here could have done something to avoid coming to this predicament, long ago. But they had not.
They overspent, had meetings, and protected their own interests.
Looking out that window, with all of them seated behind him, he began to feel his power. It was time, he decided, for leadership. It was time to shake things up, and get in gear. There were too many people depending on these folks for them to be sitting around, in endless debate. The words began to form themselves in his mind. He could imagine himself swinging into action, turning away from the window, and with a strong voice, filled with the authority and responsibility of his position, he would begin.
“People, the future of this company, and the lives of many, have been placed into your control. It is time to shut up, and get to work.” He would remind them that the number of books that went out of the loading dock doors had gone down steadily, and they had failed to do anything about it. He would remind them that every employee was aware of this situation, and they were waiting for a response from management. Those days were over, he would tell them. Immediately, he would take control over every aspect of the business, and he was committed to returning it to the kind of place where people did not go to work every day, wondering if their next paycheck would be their last. They would shorten their vacations, roll up their sleeves, think outside the box, and generally get to work. Anybody that was not with him, was against him. They should leave now.
It was just unimaginable, that they would even entertain the idea that some candy-assed, frou-frou bookstore conglomerate, could take them over.
It was time for plain talk, and action. Folks were depending on them.
As he thought these things, he felt his posture improving. He was standing erect now, almost military perfect. He felt as powerful as he ever had. He was ready to take command, and he swung his body around to face them. This was the moment, and he knew it. Someone had to rally the troops, and he knew that he was the man for the job.
He removed his thumbs from his suspenders, and turned on his heel to face them. His face was taut with purpose. Surely, he reasoned, his wartime stare would be enough to gather their assembled attention.
He stared at them, and they stared back. It was one of them that spoke first.
“You will have to excuse us now, Samuel, our meeting is set to begin.”
There was a low chuckle from somewhere; he could not identify it.
He picked up the squeegee, removed the cloth from his pocket, and gave a final scrub to a stubborn smudge on the huge window. As he left the room, he heard the word “Daydreamer.”
He imagined that it was said fondly.
He had heard it before.