AW Flash Fiction — “Punch” — 1/17/10

AW Flash Fiction = 90 minutes from the reveal of the theme word, “punch”, until the short must be posted online at AW.  This one’s a little light in the loafers but devilishly fun.

*********

“Hey, Laina,” Bob called out as she passed by his open door.

Sighing, Laina stopped and braced herself for what would most likely be a typical Bob conversation. She turned and stepped into his doorway, unwilling to move further into his sycophantic lair. Bob was her biggest rival, not because he merited the status but because he knew how to brown-nose better. Laina would have respected her bosses more if they’d been able to see past their own egos, egos that bloated up like ticks on the blood of Bob’s obsequiousness.

“Hey, Bob. What’s up?” she asked with false cheeriness. She was pretty sure she knew what he wanted.

“How did the Rogers account meeting go?”

Yep, got it in one. “Oh fine. They liked our campaign and ordered a couple more print ads. So, you know, I better go get busy on it. See ya.” Laina turned to leave.

“Oh wait! Laina!” Bob chased her down the hallway and walked beside her. “Hey, I’ve been added to the team and I wanted to talk to you about the ad for the sports drink.”

Laina froze and Bob overshot her before doubling back. No, no, no, no! Bob was on the account? That weasel. Who’d he blow this time?

She perched her hands on her hips and said, “You’re on the team now? Why?”

“Oh, boss man thought some fresh eyes would be good I guess. But listen, about the sports drink, I really think we need to punch it up a bit more. You know, make it a bit snazzier.”

“Punch it up? What do you mean exactly?” Laina asked trying to will her heart to stop pounding so hard, to curb the adrenalin surging through her system. She was only twenty-nine; too young to have a stroke. If this wasn’t Bob’s surefire solution to every advertising quandary, she might have paid him a little heed. But the guy had practically trademarked “punch it up” along with her other favorite, “the secret sauce”.

Bob nudged her in the arm and said, “You know…punch it up, add a dash of the secret sauce. The client laps that stuff up.”

Laina sighed, closed her eyes and counted to five. Through gritted teeth she asked, “Translate that into tangible terms please.”

He smiled at her then said, “You’ll see,” turned on his heel and strolled whistling back to his office.

“No, Bob, you’ll see,” she muttered as she continued to her own office.

Over the next two weeks, Laina toiled over the Rogers account, pouring her heart and soul into the newest print ads. Bob added nothing other than the sound of his self-importance.

On Friday, Bob’s and Laina’s boss, Mr. Clemmens, called a meeting to go over their presentation scheduled for the following Monday. Laina knew she was prepared, knew she had a good campaign, was confident Mr. Clemmens would recognize her marketing acumen.

Entering the meeting room, however, she realized that it had started without her.

“Oh, I thought the meeting was for 1:30,” she stated to Mr. Clemmens after she’d glared at Bob.

“Bob said you guys were ready early and pushed it up an hour.”

Bob piped in, “Remember Laina, I told you yesterday.” He shook his head in that “oh you crazy kid” kind of way then turned back to Mr. Clemmens. “So you see, Jasper, we’ve managed to tap into brute strength of the football player without sacrificing the supple artistry of the figure skater. This campaign embodies the secret sauce that our customers have come to expect from Clemmens & Smith Advertising.”

“Wait a second,” Laina interjected. She pointed to the display boards that Bob had arranged around the perimeter of the room. “These are what you are proposing for the Rogers account? Bob, this isn’t what we agreed upon.”

Bob chuckled and shot a good ol’ boy look over at Jasper, then said, “Laina, honey, are you feeling okay? First you forget the meeting, then you don’t even recognize the campaign we worked so hard on?”

Laina smiled. They had worked on those ads together. Well, it had mostly been her…and the fellows at their arch rival, Gershwin Marketing. She’d copied them all off the internet from ten year old campaigns and presented them to Bob to “punch up”. The real ads she had created on her own at home, working long into the evening every night.

“I’m fine Bob but I’m wondering about you. Those ads are the competitors’ samples I showed you when we first started, to give you an idea of what else had been done in the past successfully.” She chuckled then said, “But you’ve changed them a little bit haven’t you?” She pulled out one of the original Gershwin boards from her portfolio and propped it next to Bob’s for comparison.

Jasper gasped. “I recognize that ad now. Gershwin did that ad ten years ago when they stole Rogers from us for a while, those sons-of-bitches.” His jowls shook as he jerked his head from one board to the next. “Now I see it in this one too…and this one…and this one. Bob? What the hell is this foolishness?”

Laina seized her moment and sidled over to Mr. Clemmens. “Sir, I have a plan B. I told Bob that coating a competitor’s work in his secret sauce would only leave a bad taste in yours and Rogers’ mouths if you figured it out. Obviously you did. Of course you did. May I show you now?”

“Please do, Laina.” Mr. Clemmens retook his seat and frowned at Bob, who was busy turning his own unique shade of red.

Laina pulled out her ads and propped one in front of each of Bob’s that she’d known he’d sneak out of her office. She’d also known that he’d moved the meeting up but “forgotten” to tell her. That’s why she’d taken a long lunch and left her door unlocked but hidden away the real ads in the trunk of her car.

Jasper Clemmens smiled as his eyes lighted on each board in turn. When they finished drinking in the genius that was Laina’s pride and joy, they landed on Bob.

“Bob, make yourself useful for a change and go get me a cappuccino. Laina, my dear, would you like one too?”

“That sounds wonderful, Jasper. Bob, I’ll take a double decaf nonfat latte,” then winking at Bob she added, “and have them punch it up with a a little pumpkin spice would you please.”

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