"Very resourceful of you, Bob."
"I also get inventory from the store across town. That manager doesn't really care too much.
He's passing time there. He'll give me whatever I want. I don't think that store has made a sale
in a year or so. You might want to look at the sales reports every now and then."
Butane Bob burst through the door with a cart full of pizzas, sodas, snacks, and cookies.
"Lunch is here!" he announced. Bob showed him the way to the break room.
"I only have two employees. How many people were you trying to feed here?"
"They can take some home and have it again for dinner. And they can have it again for
breakfast," he said as an afterthought.
"We do appreciate your generosity. Thank you."
They all grabbed some pizza and then crowded into plain Bob's office to work on the plan.
Mandy and Violet listened to every word from plain Bob. They continued to take copious notes.
Once he was finished talking, Mandy said, "OK, let's recap what we have here." She
followed her notes down the page as she spoke.
"You need inventory.
"Current fashionable merchandise
"Back stock for what is on the floor.
"A better and more specialized selection of candy than you can get at the drug store.
"A phone.
"A cash register. You ran out of sales checks years ago.
"Party items, paper plates, decorations. "Training material.
"We'll have to fulfill your inventory before we can send the training manuals.
"Advertising to drive some traffic in here.
"New uniforms. They haven't been updated in eight years. "Clown makeup.
"More inventory to sell.
"OK. Do you think that covers it?"
"Oh, one more thing. Can you get that inter-office mail straightened out? It's bad enough
that you continue to send me planograms and markdowns for inventory I don't have, but it takes
six weeks to get here. Even if I had the stuff, I would have missed the sale, anyway."
"How do we send it to you now?"
"On a slow boat from China, as far as I can tell. I find it sitting outside the door when I get
here in the morning. I've never seen who's delivering it."
"We'll be sure to add that to the list."
"Then I think this is a very good start. I feel better now that I've met you and we've worked
through this."
Butane Bob had been silent throughout the session. He sat squeezed into the corner of the
tiny office, without saying a peep all afternoon. As they said their good-byes and headed out the
door, he began to mumble.
"Biglar, Biglar, Biglar. Where is Biglar? What are you doing, Biglar?" He hung his head over
his chest.
"Butane Bob, what are you saying?"
"Nothing, Violet, nothing."
"You know, that other Bob is kinda cute. Do you think he's married?"
"Violet, do you have a one-track mind? We're here to work, remember?"
"I'm never going to find a man if I'm not looking for one in every possible place. Wouldn't
it bother you, Mandy, to always be working and never have a date?"
"My sister cured me of that. She married a creep and thinks she's in seventh heaven. Why?
Because he controls her every move. She doesn't have to think about a thing. Not the kind of life
I'm looking for, that's for sure."
It was a little after three when they drove up to the next store on their list. The handwritten
sign on the door read:
Store Hours 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
M – F
Butane Bob looked at his watch. When they tried the door, they were surprised to find that
it opened.
"Hello! Hello! Anybody here?"
They heard a loud clatter. Looking around, they spotted an old man sprawled out on the
floor behind the counter. A chair was upside down on the floor beside him.
"Are you all right?" Mandy rushed over to him.
"I must have dozed off," he said as he stood up and brushed himself off.
"What time is it?"
"Quarter after three."
"Well, then I've had myself a good little nap. I was supposed to lock the door an hour ago.
Who are you?"
The old man caught his first glimpse of Butane Bob as he began to speak. His head jerked
back in utter surprise.
"We're here from the Big Top headquarters in Florida. My name is Butane Bob, and this is
Violet and Mandy."
"How'd you get that name? Set your hair on fire, did ya?"
"Something like that. Is the manager here?"
"No, he leaves at one every day. I lock up."
"What's your name, gramps?"
"Gramps! You got it right on the money! How'd ya know?"
"Wild guess. So, Gramps, if you could tell me one thing that we need to change to bring in
more sales, what would it be?"
"Ha! Easy question. Stuff to sell. Look around—the shelves are bare. Everything we do get,
that Bob from the other store comes here and takes. But you know"—he scratched his chin—"if
we had any sales, I'd have to find another job."
"Why's that?"
"I'm retired. Forty years in an ice cream plant. I couldn't wait to be retired, lead a life of
leisure, and be warm at least some of the time. But you know what? My wife drove me crazy.
We've been married almost fifty years and, for the life of me, ever since I retired I've had no idea
why I married the witch in the first place. ‘Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag.' I came in here one day just
to get out of the house. I was hired. I sit here by a cash register with no cash in it and I nap. I
give my paycheck directly to the old lady and now we're both happy. But if I really had to do
some work, it would be messin' up a really good thing. I couldn't nap so much. Forty years
making ice cream took its toll on the body, you know."
"Gramps"—Violet was scribbling out a note—"can you give this to the store manager
tomorrow? I'd really like to speak with him after I get back to the office. Here's my name and
Gramps took the paper and put it in his pocket. "Will do, missy. It was nice of y'all to stop
by. Now I'll have something to say to the wife when she asks me how work was today. She asks
every day, and every day I have to make somethin' up."