ONE CLOWN SHORT, page-11

Mandy still couldn't bring herself to take the fraudulent expense check to the bank. It was
sitting propped up in front of her computer, just in case Lulu decided to change her mind.
Tony, one of Mandy's best writers, knocked on the door.
"Mandy, I know you gave me a tight deadline on the module for the flaming hoop, but I just
don't understand what the manufacturer is trying to say in the instructions."
"Well, let's look at it."
"Right here it says, ‘Do not hold hoop in bare hands while flaming.' Does that mean don't
hold the hoop at all? It makes no sense. How can you light it if you aren't holding it? Or does it
mean put a glove on and light it? That doesn't make any sense either. Looking at the pictures, it
seems it doesn't have a grip at all. It looks like it lights all the way around."
"That's very odd. Who's the buyer we could call to get some clarification?"
"Violet might know. She used to work for Butane Bob." "Who's Butane Bob?"
"He's the vice president of fire throwing and extinguishing equipment. And if you haven't
met him yet, you're in for a treat."
"I guess I can hardly wait. Let's see if we can find Violet first." She went down the hall to
check, but Violet wasn't in her office.
"OK, Tony, take me to the infamous Butane Bob. Do I call him Butane Bob, or is that
another joke like everything else around here?"
"Call him Butane Bob. He loves it. When he found out that's what he had been nicknamed,
he laughed so loud you could hear him on the second floor. He thought that was the greatest.
He's been Butane Bob ever since."
His office wasn't hard to find. The door was bordered with yellow, orange, and red flames of
varying size and shapes. The nameplate was a big red BOB, no last name. Mandy knocked.
A voice from inside said, "You're supposed to ring the bell. Don't you see it?"
A big red button was placed underneath the big red BOB name- plate. Mandy pushed it. A
siren went off, shocking them both.
29"
"Come in," said the voice.
When she entered, she was confronted with more red. Everything was red. Red desk, red
chairs, red walls. The only thing that wasn't red was Butane Bob's white hair. He appeared to be
of average height with a toned physique. As he stood, he showed a trim waist and muscular
arms. His shirt and trousers, which were also red, fit him as if they had been finely tailored. But
his hair! Mandy couldn't get past his hair. It was as if he permanently had his finger jammed in
the light socket.
The snow-white hair was at least six inches long and stood on end all over his head. Mandy
held out her hand and introduced herself. Just then her cell phone rang.
"Excuse me."
"Mandy." It was her mother. "Some man called here wanting to know why you haven't paid
your credit card bill."
"Ahhrrrgh." She wanted to crawl into a hole, but Butane Bob's office didn't seem like a
good hiding place at the moment.
"Are you sure you have a job? I think you're lying to us. You haven't asked us for money in
a while. If you were working, why wouldn't you pay your bills?"
"Mom, I'm busy. I'll call you later."
"No daughter of mine better be sleeping in her car like some skid row drunk."
"Mom, I'm busy." She tried to sound firm, but with her mother that never seemed to work.
"You had better not be trying to pull the wool over my eyes. I just don't understand why you
can't be more like your sister."
She hung up the phone and tried to regain some composure. Why did she always answer the
phone when her mother called? And in this red hot office, of all places, in f ront of a strange man
she had never met before. "This must be what a hot flash feels like," she thought.
"I'm Mandy Maloney, the manager of sales training and curriculum. It's nice to meet you."
"Mandy Maloney. I've heard about you. Wondering when I would get a visit."
"This is Tony, and we have a question about this new flaming hoop. We were hoping you
could help us so we can complete our training module on time."
"Well, then you came to the right place. I know all there is to know about anything
flaming." He ran his fingers through that amazing hair.
Tony went through the same concerns he had explained before to Mandy.
"Well, Tony, good catch. You most certainly can't handle a flaming hoop without a grip.
Let me have someone check into it. You'll hear from me by the end of the day."
"Thank you, Bob. It was nice meeting you."
"It's Butane Bob. Same here."
Once they were out of earshot, Mandy said to Tony,
"Gee, he seems normal compared to a lot of people around here—except for his hair."
30"
"He is a pretty nice guy, but don't get the idea that he's the normal one around here. I heard
that he was smoking a cigar while putting gas in his lawnmower one day. That's what made his
hair like that. But he loved the feeling so much of the wind blowing through it while driving his
red Porsche that he just left it that way."
"Really? How weird is that?"
"He's fascinated by fire, so he probably didn't think twice about it."
CHAPTER EIGHT
ROAD TRIP
"Mandy! Violet and I need your help." It was Butane Bob, shouting as he ran down the hall
toward her office. She was ready for him as he rushed through the door.
Calmly she asked, "What can I do for you, Bob?"
"It's Butane Bob," he said, catching his breath. "Violet and I need hands-on in some of our
stores. The stores aren't doing too well, you know."
"We have stores?"
"Yes, we have stores," he replied with disgust.
"We're going to get a firsthand look at what they need and want in marketing and
advertising. We'll interview some employees, see if we can't come up with a better plan."
"What kind of plan do we have now?"
"We don't. So any plan will be better than what we've got going now."
"Where do I come in?"
"Since you're doing such a great job with the training material, I thought you could work
with the store folks on some of our new product lines. It might help them sell more if they knew
more."
"You mean to tell me no one in the store sees the product training manual?"
"No, I don't think they do."
"Don't you think they should?"
"I think you have a point there, Mandy. So why don't you come along with us and find out?
Then you can add that to your project list."
"Come along where?" She was starting to wonder where this conversation was headed
31"
"Minneapolis, Louisville, and Houston. We'll make a day trip to a couple Florida stores
when we get back. So are you in?"
"OK, Butane Bob, I'm in. When do we leave?"
"Next week. Call travel and have them copy Violet's itinerary."
Whoosh—he was gone. She picked up the phone and dialed Violet
"Violet, what's up with this road trip?"