Francis Bowers was a dangerous man. He held ultimate control over the holiday scheduling at each and every Featherweight Mattress store in the tri-county area.
In prior years, this had not been a real issue, but this year was something else. Francis knew he had a disaster brewing on his hands when Joel Summers, the manager of the second largest store, called him on a Friday morning, bright and early.
“Frank, none of my crew has shown up today. I don’t know what’s going on. The only one who had any reason to act out is Stacy, because her family is holding that reunion this weekend and I told her she still had to work, but I don’t know the first thing about the others. None of them are answering their phones. When I called Steve in Midvale he said that none of his guys would be able to make the trip all the way over here, but you know as well as I do that he only has one kid that drives his mom’s car, and the rest are middle aged champion salesmen. Help me out here.” Joel was practically in a panic, which Francis found mildly unnerving since Joel was the coolest cucumber anyone could ever hope to meet.
“I’ll work it out, Joel, just hang tight for me.” Francis thumbed the phone off and rolled over in bed to have a look at the clock radio that he kept on his Ikea nightstand. 8:30. He relaxed back into his pillows, then started bolt upright. 8:30?? Francis hadn’t slept that late in years. His stores opened at eight on the dot, and he made it a point to be at a different one every single morning the moment the doors unlocked.
Just to make sure his managers were staying on top of things, you know. Got to keep them on their toes.
With a longing glance at the Stairmaster that towered in the corner of his bedroom, Francis resigned himself to having the offest of off days. No protein shake, no Stairmaster, but most painful of all, no leisurely soak in the hot tub downstairs after the workout and before officially starting his day.
Francis rummaged through his walk-in closet for what felt like hours, looking for that one pair of ebony black Louboutins that never failed to bring him out of a funk. He couldn’t even find one. Every other pair of overpriced dress shoes in the closet was neatly shelved in its individual space, but not the fucking Louboutins. He was going to have to fire Shirley and find a new maid. Again.
Francis kicked the closet door and cracked the frame. “Dammit!” he screamed. If Shirley had been in the house, she might have wondered who had broken in, because Francis never cursed. Aloud, anyway. He yanked a pair of Kenneth Coles from the nearest shelf and threw the left one across his bedroom, striking the Frank Auerbach painting he had acquired at great personal expense and knocking it to the floor, where it landed facedown.
He gasped and held a hand to his mouth, horrified at what he had done. “No, no, no,” he muttered to himself as he dropped the right shoe on his way to check on the painting. His hand trembled as he reached out to turn the painting over, but that fell to his side as he saw the irreparable damage that he’d done. The hole went straight through the canvas.
Francis looked up sharply and saw the dark scuff mark that the shoe had made on the wall when it passed through the painting. He stood up and snatched his phone from the Ikea table and furiously dialed Shirley’s number. When the busy signal blared its dah-dah-dah in his ear, he slung the phone even harder than he’d thrown the shoe; the phone fared less well, shattering as it hit the wall across the room.
Fortunately, Francis had missed the second Auerbach that hung opposite the first.