February 2, 2006

"Ultimatum? That is indeed strong language, Mrs. Filthy," Mr. Sittenzeplatz replied with a sunny smile. I got the feeling that he truly enjoyed this sort of thing, or at least relished the piquancy of a challenge. "Believe me, I didn't come here to shut anyone down. I'm here to optimize your talents. We don't want to lose you."

Suzette looked ready to melt, but whether with anxiety or infatuation, I couldn't tell. "But what about the new Jo-Ann? We have to do something," she pleaded. With her liquid gaze and beseeching posture, she looked so much the damsel in distress that I thought for sure Mr. Sittenzeplatz wouldn't be able to resist her. He seemed the knight-in-shining-armor type.

"If you will be so kind and allow me, Suzette, I will show you precisely what we will do to vanquish Jo-Ann forever in Arvada."

Suzette would be kind. She would allow just about anything from this debonair gentleman, so out of place in our milieu. Mes amis, I thought that perhaps if Mr. Karl Sittenzeplatz could possibly be the instrument of Suzette's happiness, then I, as her friend, should orchestrate...something.

Dearies, I really did pay attention to the PowerPoint presentation that Mr. Sittenzeplatz gave, but I did not give it my entire mind. Part of me was thinking, "Batik Workshop. Needlepoint Easter Baskets. Kids' Summer Craft Club." The other part was floating along on a rose-scented cloud of matchmaking glory. Suzette was young, affectionate and loyal. Mr. Sittenzeplatz had class, clout and as far as I knew, no paramour of his own. Even if he was only here to impose the will of Headquarters upon our small shop, he was not a bad man. He would take good care of Suzette. I began to form my plan of attack.

The meeting broke up, and I headed to my station, but only after taking Mr. Sittenzeplatz aside first.

"Thank you for your time, Mr. Sittenzeplatz," I purred, placing my hand gently on his arm in a matronly way. "You really gave me so much to think about, quite an inspiration."

"Please, call me Karl," Karl purred back. Obviously, he didn't resent me for speaking out earlier.

"Well, Karl, when do you fly back to Atlanta?"

"Oh, I still have a few more days here. I will assist Lois, until the new inventory is ordered and the display plans are finished."

"That's lovely," I said, and I really did mean it, even if he ruined our chance to attract men into the store.

"Yes. I do like it here," Karl said. "Your mountains are so shapely and stunning."

I instinctively looked down at my smock, then stifled a giggle.

"Excuse me, please, Mrs. Filthy. English is not my first language."

"Please, call me Beatrice," I replied. "And that is Suzette over by the buttons."

"She's indeed a lovely girl," Karl said.

"And creative," I added. "Did you know that she was the one who instigated the idea of attracting male customers? I know you disagree with the strategy, but you must still admire her cleverness."

Karl crinkled his cornflower eyes and said, "We are so lucky to have attracted such clever and creative people."

He called her lovely, I thought to myself. He thinks she's clever and creative. This match seemed to be even easier than I had thought.

This Week, Mrs. Filthy's Reading:

The Age of Conversation by Benedetta Craveri