Chapter 6 (continued)
“Jeez! Look at that guy. Can you believe him? He looks like a dog I used to own. Get a load of that hair. What a fleabag!” He gave me a conspiratorial nudge on the arm. “What sewer did he sleep in last night?”
The current object of Cam’s attention was, indeed, a little scruffy looking, I suppose. He was tall and wiry, and his too-tan arms poked out from the cutoff sleeves of a blue tie-dyed T-shirt. Green khaki cargo shorts and Reef flip-flops completed what was a fairly run-of-the-mill beach ensemble. However, it was his amazing hair that set him apart from the rest of the crowd: prolific red dreadlocks fell down from the top of his head, and, beginning just beneath a wide, prominent nose, which held up round, lemon yellow sunglasses, a giant, red mustache and beard stuck out in all directions at once. As if on cue, the sewer dog in question launched himself over the retaining wall, scooped up a chair, and swung it over to our table. He sat down next to Cam and across from me as though we’d been expecting him all along. Truth was I had. If our visitor’s unruly, red beard really had been casting off fleas, Cam’s mouth would have caught them all.
“Here’s the funny thing, Cam,” I said, enjoying his shock. “This fleabag here is a friend of mine, and, it just so happens, he’s our breakfast date.” I could feel my smile broadening as I watched Cam digest this bit of news.
Smitty grinned at Cam and then bear slapped me on the back like he always did. “Farberoni, my man, it’s a great day to be alive and kickin’, especially considering the alternative.” Smitty’s laugh is infectious. It starts somewhere deep down in his body and seems to ripple all the way to the ends of each red hair—and that’s a lot of rippling. Cam, however, looked as if he was afraid of other infectious things.
“Smitty, I’d like you to meet Cam; Cam, my friend Smitty here is one of the wisest people I’ve ever met, and I’m not embarrassed to say so.”
“And I ain’t embarrassed to hear you say it. It’s a pleasure, Mr. Cam,” Smitty said, extending his tan, weathered hand. Cam shook it without much exuberance, but Smitty wouldn’t let go. He gripped Cam’s hand as if he was trying to squeeze a marble out of a fish. “Dang, son! You look a lot peppier than you are.” Smitty leaned in close to Cam and whispered, “You been drinkin’ your milk?”
Cam’s face reddened and he squeezed back.
“Don’t get angry now, son,” said Smitty. “I’m just messin’ with ya. Now why don’t you order me a coffee, here, Farberama. And get this boy a glass of moo juice. I’ll be right back. The lizard’s barkin’, if you know what I mean.” He jumped up and ran off to find the public terrarium, if I knew what he meant.
“What the hell was that all about?” hissed Cam. “Are you really expecting me to waste my time like this? I thought you were supposed to be coaching me.” He said coaching like he was he was trying to eject something nasty from the back of his throat.
I gazed out at the water and calmly replied. “Listen, Cam. Give Smitty a chance; you may be surprised what you can learn from him. Appearances aren’t always what they seem, right?”
“Wait a minute,” he said in amazement. “I just thought that he was your friend. Are you trying to tell me that he’s here to help me? This is a joke, right?” He waited for me to answer. “Right?”
Smitty returned much faster than I’d thought possible, but there he was parking himself next to Cam and cozying in nice and close.
Cam leaned back in his chair. “What is this?” he said looking over at Smitty. “A Christmas Carol? When do I meet the ghosts of breakfasts past and future?”
Well, well! Cam has a sense of humor. I had to admit I was impressed by his joke, despite the spiteful tone.
“Something bothering you, son?” said Smitty. “Is there something you wanna say to me?”
“Well go on, then.” “Stop calling me son.”
“Sorry, Buck. I don’t mean nothin’ by it. Just a Texas habit. So tell me a little about yourself.”
“Like what?” Cam said with a sniff.
“Well, for starters: where’d you go to school?”
“San Diego State. Graduated with a degree in Sorority Relations and I was immediately brought into ILGI where I decided pretty damn quickly to take no prisoners. Four years later, I’m 26, I’m senior vice president of a mortgage company with over 1,000 people on the payroll and it’s up to me to make sure we’re closing deals and writing loans. And I’ve got my boys and girls whipped into shape.” He popped his sleeve over the enormous watch on his wrist.
“Alright, then. You like to read? Read any management stuff?” Smitty asked, as he started mixing half a dozen packets of sugar into his coffee.
Cam raised his eyebrows at the empty sugar packets collecting one by one on the table. “I don’t have time to read books that tell me what I already know. Not to sound arrogant or anything but I’ve got, like, instinct or something. You can’t teach that. I can smell a deal. All I need is that feeling, and… BAM… another client for the company and money in my pocket. And, by the way, it’s not chump change I’m talking about.”
“Well, Buck, I’ll bet you just about got it all, then— the Porsche, the kick-ass apartment in the city, designer clothes, martinis at The Bitter End, steaks at Donovan’s, and more bling for your many young ladies then they could wear in a year. That about right?”
“That’s about right, Buck.” Cam said proudly looking my way. “Can we go now? I’ve got a sales team to run.”
“Now hold on a minute, there, Buck!” hollered Smitty. Several people at other tables looked our way to see what the fuss was about, and Smitty instinctively lowered the volume on his Texas boombox voice.
“Just relax,” he said quieter. “You’re getting the wrong idea. You’re thinkin’ that I’m some kinda money’s¯the¯root¯of¯all¯evil kinda guy. That I’m gonna tell you that the pursuit of material things is shameful. And that you’re a shallow, shallow little boy.”
Cam shrugged indifferently. “I don’t really care what you think of me, to tell you the truth. But, yeah, that’s what it sounds like, and I don’t need a lecture in ethics. There’s nothing wrong with the way I live, so butt out.”
This was not going quite as well as I’d hoped. “Smitty,” I interrupted. “Fair’s fair. Since you’re giving Cam the third degree, why don’t you tell him a bit about your background?”
“You betcha. Happy to oblige.” He turned to Cam. “Ever hear of a little company called Maritime?”
“Maritime and Son? Sure, who hasn’t?” “I was CIO.”
[Note: I’m excited to share my second book, The Radical Edge, in serial fashion here on SteveFarber.com! We’ll post one installment a week until the very end of the book. You can go back and read from the beginning here. If you ever get impatient and want to scarf the whole thing down at once, you can always just pop over to Amazon and satiate yourself.]