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     "Oh, Selma, you should SEE my new BOSS. Oh, he's such a DOLL.
     "Yes, he's tall, and has long dark wavy hair, and his voice is just out of this world. I mean, it's deep and booming, like this: 'Miss Cohen, come into my office please.' Grr-ouff, oh, he's a real MAN.
     "Now? He's in his office now.
     "No, he doesn't mind if I use the phone, so long as I get my work done. And you know what? He has the positively best handwriting of anyone I ever worked for. That's very important. I think that's the MOST important thing about someone you have to work for.
     "I can tell he likes me. You know that white knit sweater I have, the one that's a little too small? I wore that yesterday, and he just couldn't keep his eyes off me.
     "Well, I don't know if you'd call him handsome, maybe cute is a better word.
     "He dresses real nice, too, all the time suits with vests. Sometimes when I go into the office, he's sitting in his big chair with only his vest on---
     "Oh, stupid, of COURSE not, don't be so funny---and he looks so BUSINESSlike, I feel I'm working for the President of General Motors, or something, rather than for the Sales Manager of a string of used car lots.
     "No, I wouldn't say that. He TRIES to be serious, but he had a cute sense of humor that keeps popping out.
     "Now STOP that, Selma, you're going TOO far. He looks kind of like a kid when he smiles; and he has beautiful teeth, too. The better to bite you with---HA, I beat you to it.
     "He's interviewing. Some guy named O'Conner."




     "I wonder if I'd like working for this Bernstein character." O'Conner mulled this over just after his interview.
     "Pity he couldn't have trained his cute young secretary better---he had to answer the phone three or four times---he should have buzzed her to take the calls. However, I learned something about him: whenever he said 'Yessir' after the caller identified himself and spoke with dignity, he was talking to his superior. But when he grinned and called out 'Hi, Sam' or 'Well, hello there, Jerry,' he was trying to con his subordinates into thinking that he was a friend of theirs."
     "Then there were those conversations of the 'I know, I know, don't get impatient, WE'll take care of it for you' type, and I fear he's one who procrastinates because he can't make a decision. The questions he asked me were rather stupid, as if he were hiring a valet instead of a management consultant. Why should HE care where I bought my suit? Anyone who doesn't know how a vest should fit wouldn't be able to understand the qualities of a Chipp suit."
     O'Conner continued to evaluate his interviewer, and remembered that the walls of the inner office had contained the "safest" decorations: a picture of the company president and an architect's rendering of the newest West Coast branch. No individuality anywhere.
     "His attempts to put me at my ease were ludicrous, especially since I must be a good ten years older than he is. This can't be a very good company if someone with his inexperience is responsible for hiring my services."
     "He wasn't even smart enough to realize that an O'Conner might not care to listen to a string of Jewish jokes about schwarzes and shiksas, goys and goniffs." He was interrupted by the gum-chewing secretary.
     "Mr. Bernstein says that he'll be in touch with you by mail within the week."

     "Thank you," said Mr. O'Conner aloud---and silently: "He even chose the easiest way out of that. It's just as well. He needs help, but I'm not sure I'd be able to help him."




     "Get rid of that O'Conner guy, Miss Cohen, I can't use him."
     "OK, Mr. Bernstein."
     Martin Bernstein watched his secretary's round fleshy behind bounce toward the door.
     "What a DOG," whispered through his mind. But he'd have to watch his step and keep her happy: girls who could type as well as she were rare at $70 a week.
     Grunting with the effort, he pulled himself out of his chair: he had a charley horse in his left leg, and his head throbbed with the remains of a hangover from that party last night. With a penetrating clangor, the phone jangled for the tenth time that day.
     He picked it up, said "Hello," heard his boss's voice saying, "This is Mr. Crawford," and said, "Hi, Charlie, how's it goin'?" During the conversation he unbuttoned his tight-fitting vest and let his stomach relax against the confines of his blue shirt.
     "Tonight? Sure, why not?" he said breezily, hoping to impress his boss with a show of easy compliance. His calendar was crowded, but he had to accept his boss's invitation---less important things would just have to be postponed.
     "Yep, that'll be just fine," he lied. Why couldn't his boss leave him alone?
     "See you at seven, then."
     As the phone touched the cradle, it rang again. Martin Bernstein bugged his eyes in exasperation, grabbed the phone, and snapped "Hello."
     "Mr. Bernstein, this is Arnie Hotchkiss, from Payroll."
     "Yessir." He knew that that crisp reply would hasten the clerk to his business.
     "Did you authorize meal allowances for Phil Douglas's trip to Albany?"
     "Nossir, I did not, and I will not." Specters of budget meetings, revenue objectives, requests for raises, and stacks of bills and correspondence filled his head. Sometimes it was impossible to make a reasonable decision: there were just too many angles to cover. Sure, he'd like to give Douglas his meal allowance, but then he'd have to give them to everyone, and the retroactive requests would pile up. That one simple decision would cost the company a mint. He sighed. All he could do was his best.
     Now he had to make excuses to his wife. While dialing, he worked his mouth to collect enough saliva to down two aspirins without water. He gritted his teeth and swallowed before his wife answered.
     "Honey, I'm sorry, but I won't be home till late tonight." The aspirins helped his headache---helped it grow more painful.



     His wife slammed down the phone.
     "DAMN his inconsiderate hide," ---and she moved the thick sirloin steaks from the pop-art refrigerator back to the closet-size freezer. "He makes life SO complicated." The maid concentrated on polishing the silver.
     "No WONDER he has ulcers. And I was going to surprise him again tonight with another party. If we don't get a chance to practice the Watusi we learned last night, how can we remember it?" The maid smiled down into her polishing cloth.
     "When we were younger," she said, drifting into the past, not caring who might listen, "before he had a bald spot, and a spare tire, and smelly feet, and false teeth---" Her voice, lulled by the familiar litany, softened to a croon. "We lived in the City---not way out HERE." Anger stopped her tongue momentarily.
     "We danced somewhere new every night. Mostly in the spring, so we wouldn't have to wear coats and pay for checking them. We'd go to all the fancy nightclubs and dance and dance. We didn't NEED a table, so in many places, especially if they were crowded, we could dance all night free." A smile melted her hard face.
     "Marty was so clever. He'd get me a seat at the bar if I was tired of dancing. He'd hook drinks from drunks who never missed them." Her eyes misted with remembrance.
     "His arms were so strong---he could lift me off the floor and spin me around until I squealed to be let down. Then he'd throw back his head and laugh, just like a happy kid. Hahaha. Ha." The last laugh jerked to a halt in her throat.
     "He had no money; he only had me. He had only one thing to give me." A last whisper: "Himself."
     The maid only wished SHE had a husband like Martin Bernstein.