From the author: Monger just wants to move up in the company, and he will ingratiate himself to the top dogs any way he can. But the new boss is not interested in having his boots licked.
"And then over at Hower and Drake, I learned how to play bocce – that's this game with balls, kind of like bowling – and spelunking and growing organic orchids, because that's what the boss was into, you know? A nice way to get in with the big guy." Kenneth Monger leaned forward, his half-full plate pushed to one side, his drink forgotten.
P. Bagshaw dabbed at a corner of his mouth with his napkin and chuckled."A go-getter, you certainly are," he said, his jowls shaking. "I used to be the same way, back in the day. Always on the lookout for an in with the bigshots on the upper floors."
Monger leaned back. "There's nothing wrong with that," he said. "For some people, they went to the same school, so they have that connection. Other people might play golf at the same club, or whatever. But I don't have anything like that. I have to forge my own connections."
"Oh, I wasn't putting you down, kid," Bagshaw said. "I guess it's just that these days I can look at the whole bloodthirsty, cutthroat, competitive world in a different light, now that I am just inches away from a very comfortable retirement."
"I just want to make something of myself," Monger said.
"So – I thought maybe you had some ideas. You know, on what kind of things the new CEO is into. Sports teams, or hobbies, that kind of thing."
"Hmm." Bagshaw began cutting another piece of steak. "Can't say I've heard that he's into any sports or hobbies."
"He must enjoy something, outside of the job."
Bagshaw popped the meat into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "I've worked for a lot of interesting characters, over the years," he said. "But this new guy--" he swallowed "—really does seem to care about one thing, and one thing only. And that's eating other companies alive." He jabbed at the air with his fork. "Chews them up and then moves on to the next target. And that, kiddo, is why he is an ideal CEO. Totally focused. He showed up, out of the blue, at a directors meeting, and when the old CEO asked him what he was doing there, well, he practically bit the old guy's head off. That's when the directors knew they wanted him. Now, turns out the new guy really didn't want to get chained to a desk, but things seem to working out." Bagshaw shrugged and began cutting another piece of steak. "They say his bite is worse than his bark," he added.
Monger frowned. "Have you been to the guy's house?" he finally asked. "Maybe in his house, there are clues. Plaques on the wall, collections under glass--"
"Nope," Bagshaw said. "He stays in the office, pretty much all the time."
"He has to go home sometime. See his wife and kids."
"Not married. No kids."
"Wow. So he really lives for work, huh?"
"That's not how I would put it, exactly," Bagshaw said, "But these days, it's all about keeping up with the competition. Wall Street is brutish. Can't afford distractions."
Monger picked up his fork and toyed with it. "OK," he said. "So he's all about work. I can use that. I can be – or at least I can come across as – just the kind of person he wants in his close inner circle. Have you heard about what kind of people he is looking for?"
"I hear him asking for brains a lot."
"Brains, huh? Well, my grades weren't stellar, but I can toss off some clever lines, throw in some obscure quotations. That might help."
Bagshaw took a sip of wine. "Maybe I can do something for you. I owe you for this fine dinner. Le Bernardin's not cheap – between the two of us, and this wine, we must have spent four hundred of your dollars."
"I'm not afraid of making an investment," Monger said.
"Tell you what," Bagshaw said. "I can bring you in for an introduction tomorrow. Meet him. If that's what you want."
"Really?" Monger said. "That would be great!"
"Just don't get your hopes up," Bagshaw said. "And I wouldn't bother learning any cute quotations. He wouldn't be impressed. Consuming, that's all he is into. And don't try to shake his hand." Bagshaw smiled. "There's a reason they keep him chained to his desk. One bite and – well, you'd be CEO material yourself."
This story originally appeared in Bards and Sages Quarterly.