Barry Ergang is back
this week with an excerpt from his short story e-book STUFFED SHIRT.
by Barry Ergang
Label it instinct, intuition, or clairvoyance—when I met
Theron Claymore, I immediately sensed a predator in our midst.
When he strode
into the department alongside Haskell, art director at Danforth Advertising, I
thought Claymore was a model. Tall and blond, with appraising slate-blue eyes,
he carried himself with the erect confidence one associates with a California surfer. He
lacked only the deep suntan. Sensing his superficiality, I was astonished when
Haskell announced him as the newest member of our ranks.
the room and the occupants of its glassed cubicles a conquistadorial scrutiny.
Haskell then individually introduced him to us.
“This is Eric
Dennison,” Haskell said, smiling benevolently beneath his heavy mustache, “our
repulsion, I shook his hand and murmured, “Nice to meet you.”
Within a short
time my initial assessments were confirmed. Claymore’s work had a draftsmanlike
competence but lacked the passion, if such a term may be used with regard to
advertising, necessary to our type of illustration. Haskell, however,
apparently took to it. Perhaps Claymore’s greatest artistry was his ability to
sell himself despite the charming sophistry of the product.
was his biggest commodity and he used it like a chameleon, adapting himself to
suit the various agency personalities with whom he had to contend. His good
looks and forceful manner endeared him to many of the women, but he was equally
adept at bantering with the men. He had none of the newcomer’s reserve and
quickly became the focal figure in the art department, magnet for the
irreverent remark or salacious joke. Tales of the women he purportedly bedded
Most of it I
was able to ignore. In my five years at Danforth, I had for self-protective
reasons kept distant from my colleagues, which allowed me to work with a
relative freedom from interruption. What I could not ignore was Claymore’s
camaraderie with Haskell, my immediate superior. Their time together was not
spent exclusively on matters of agency business. They lingered in the corridors
exchanging jokes and stories, they went out for drinks after hours, they
lunched together—often with other department heads. During my tenure I had
never socialized with the upper echelons; Claymore exerted a disproportionate
amount of time insinuating himself into their circles.
My mother would
have been appalled. When she returned to the workplace after my father died,
she performed her duties diligently and reliably but shunned the intra-office
politicking common among her colleagues and thus never received the promotions
she deserved. “I don’t understand them,” she would say of the other women in
her office, “fawning and bootlicking and backstabbing to be noticed. No
woman—nor man either—should have to stoop that low.”
Up until her
own death, she did not possess the pragmatism necessary to deal with Theron
Claymore’s sort. She never knew her child did—never knew, for instance, that
the disfiguring “accident” in high school chemistry which befell one of
my classmates avenged an affront; never knew that during my first year at
Danforth, the occupant of an apartment in the building next to mine died to
prevent disclosure of what he saw when, upon arriving home from work one
evening, I carelessly left the bedroom curtains open.
Barry Ergang ©2013
is one of a
number of Barry Ergang's books available at Amazon