Chapter 1: Where the Boys Are
The room smelled of musk. Quite heavy of musk, in fact. The men's various fragrances hung so thick in the air you could choke on them. And yet, while you gagged and panted for relief from the pungency of their odors, you might find yourself stricken by an irrepressible admiration for the quality of colognes which assaulted your olfactory chemoreceptors. These gentlemen were no mere amateurs when it came to accessorizing their natural bouquets. The man with the lavender tie had picked Aqua Pour Homme by Bulgari as his poison, and one would be hard-pressed to engage in conversation without clearly detecting the notes of frosted citrus emanating from his open pores. The man with the Barker Black ostrich cap toe shoes had doused himself in Clive Christain 1872, the force of the aroma nearly enough to wake someone who had expired in that year. The man with the combover-back-forward-and-over-again would settle for no less than Ambre Topkapi, and would always apply generously until he smelled so much of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger that any dieting individual within a twenty-foot radius would immediately and unwittingly begin to salivate.
But there was one man—the one with the stickbug mustache and pronounced cranial scar (the result of an injury sustained when his wife assailed him with a curling trophy during one of her routine and perfectly justifiable fits of fury)—who refused to lower himself to the use of synthetics. For him, any cologne that graced his pale white skin must be derived from the glandular secretions of an actual musk deer, and preferably one that had been shot and killed on an illegal hunting expedition. As a result, the strengthening of his scent not only served to assert his dominance and attract undiscerning members of the opposite sex, but also to demand the attention and respect of any woodland creatures that happened to be in his vicinity.
"It is done," said the man with the ostrich shoes, employing a cackle he had worked long and hard to perfect. He took a celebratory and self-congratulatory sip of his Middleton Very Rare bourbon. There were other, more expensive bourbons on the market, but he preferred to drink this one, as the nature of its scarcity was indicated right there on the label, saving him the need to make a verbal point of its value.
"Wonderful," said the man with the scar. He really would have rather responded to pieces of good news with the more grandiose-sounding "excellent," but felt that the word had been effectively appropriated by another (albeit fictional) character of great wealth and absent scruples. He raised his glass of Rouyer Guillet vintage cognac and clinked the glass of the man with the ostrich shoes, taking care not to clink so forcefully that the swill his associate was drinking might threaten to slosh into his own glass and dilute the superiority of its contents.
"Well done, Silverwolf," the man with the scar went on. "Hand me the file."
The man whose name was Silverwolf handed over the file, the edges of which had been gilded in 18-karat gold. He thought it was a nice touch. "Here you are, Mr. Morningblood."
Morningblood opened the folder and perused its contents. "Nathaniel Horsebeard. Twelve years of accounting experience. Familiarity with QuickBooks, Integra, and Reach. Associate degree from Brigham Young. Hobbies include philately, chess, and collecting military grade firearms. I am thus far pleased."
There was an audible, collective sigh of relief. "However," said Morningblood, prompting all present to once again suck in their breath, "I am much more interested to read the second page."
He flipped to the second page contained in the file. On this page was a photograph of the newly hired Horsebeard, as well as a brief report detailing information that had not been made available in the résumé.
"I see from Horsebeard's photograph that he is white," said Morningblood.
"As the day is long, sir," said a man named Skybone.
"I also see that he is a man."
"We have taken pains to verify that it is so," said someone whose name was Cliffblower. "Silverwolf sidled up to him at the urinals and stole a peek. He appeared to have the requisite equipment. Nothing particularly impressive, but enough there to get the job done."
"Wonderful," said Morningblood. "I also see, by reading this report, that he is heterosexual."
"We wouldn't have it any other way," said Skybone.
"And may I ask—how did we ascertain this vital tidbit?"
"We put him to the test."
"The ‘Ken in Sales’ test, sir. No homosexual man could possibly resist Ken in Sales. And we had him give Horsebeard the full business."
"He approached Horsebeard at the urinals—he came at him from the other side, distracting him momentarily, thereby granting Silverwolf a prime opportunity to do a proper accounting of sexual organs—and very obviously came onto him. Not only was Horsebeard uninterested in Ken's advances, he appeared shocked and disgusted by them. In fact, sir, he threatened to kick Ken's ass."
"That is very encouraging."
"Indeed. We have since compensated Ken for his efforts. He was especially appreciative of the bonus pay, considering that his wife is now extremely ripe with child."
"Terrific. This is some fine, fine work, gentlemen. I am awfully excited about this Horsebeard fellow. When does he start?"
"Right after he’s done celebrating Yom Kippur, sir," said Cliffblower.
There was a sudden silence, and for a fleeting moment there was an awkwardness that hung in the air heavier than the colognes. However, once Morningblood noticed the light-hearted twinkle in Cliffblower's eye, and received a corroborating wink from the Senior Vice President, all the men broke immediately into a raucous and jubilant spasm of laughter. Glasses were clinked.