Robbie begged me to go for a ride in his new, old Corvette. “A ’62 Stingray. Cherry red. 8-Track,” he said, like specificity would sweeten the deal.

“I’m drowning in paperwork,” I said. “Which my consultant couldn’t look over.”

Robbie snatched the Polaroid from my desk, then sat in its place. His suit seemed too shiny, teeth too white, hair too slick, half truths too promising. If Robbie knew half as much as he swore when I first called, he’d be the Dean of Harvard Business.

“My consultant was out all morning buying an old beater.”

He didn’t apologize. “If not today, when?”

“If not today?” I hit equals on my calculator, which printed onto the paper roll. “If I don’t get these forms postmarked today, this company will go under before it’s afloat. You know this.”

“Deadlines change, Linda.” He waved, dismissively, like I was worried about getting dinner reservations at seven instead of six thirty, rather than my future, my pride. My father never believed my talent agency would tread water, but put down half the capital anyway. A business professor helped find investors for the rest. This deadline couldn’t change.

Robbie stood, Polaroid in hand. He snapped a picture of the photos taped to my wall—child actors I planned to call yesterday.

“A Polaroid of Polaroids,” he said. “Now that’s modern art.”

I slammed down my pen. “That’s company property. Might as well sit on the Xerox.”

“Then I’ll take a company photo—a headshot of the boss, CEO of the best damn talent agency in the U.S. of A.”

“I haven’t written your last check,” I said, hoping the threat would work.

“Don’t,” he said. “Come for a ride, and we’ll call it even.”

The camera flashed.

“Okay, okay,” I shouted. “Five minutes, nothing more.”

When the image blurred into being, my face shocked me. My expression wasn’t fear or annoyance or rage. Worse. It was surprise. My hands wanted to throttle him, but I wanted to escape. We stepped out into the sun, locked the office, and for that moment, I could breathe.

Story by James Figy

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