Compton Associates

by D. E. Fredd

I work at Compton Associates. The head control freak is Marsha Sundstrum. We do interior office design, lawyers a specialty. Marsha’s associates (when we’re out of earshot we are merely her staff) are Mary Lou Weinstein, Lily Wang (pronounced Wong for some reason) and me. Lily never goes on business trips for prospective clients. There is a language issue (pronunciation mostly) plus a severe lazy eye. Garlic breathe is also a problem.

So, when a new client is at hand, it’s Marsha at the point with Mary Lou (ML for short) and me as her wingmen. My end of things involves practical matters. If a giant floor to ceiling aquarium is wanted, it’s my job to tell Marsha how many people will be killed on the floors below when the weight overwhelms the support beams. Or how hot the tank will become when the sun comes up and fish begin to explode. I am also the company’s computer guru and the only one who can find the rental car in the airport parking lot.

* * *

Marsha crosses her legs any number of times while pitching our services. This is one of the company’s chief selling features. Once the client has signed on, they indicate what type of look they’re after. Mary Lou is an excellent artist so she enters the picture and sketches out a reasonable facsimile of the space being talked about. Then I’m consulted about electrical wiring, computer stations and target dates for completion. Finally Marsha sets the price and hands are shaken. The rest is up to the fine print boys. Chalk another one up for the team.

* * *

We hate Marsha. Lily, who does Feng Shui design for us, put it best. “I no like her; all time stuck up nose in air.” The three of us are closely united by this Sundstrum animosity. We put up with her because we get to do what we like professionally as, after the contract is signed, we’re pretty much on our own. And the money is great. I have a nice condo on West 20th Street and, at twenty-eight, am socking money away for a time when I feel comfortable striking out on my own.

Very little is known about Lily Wang’s personal life. She is not secretive; it’s just the opposite. Every morning she tells us in great detail what happened after work, how she spent her evening, and about the morning commute from Chinatown. We can’t understand a word.

Mary Lou Weinstein lives in Astoria, Queens and takes care of her two aged parents. At thirty-nine her dream of finding a nice Jewish man who doesn’t live near the “RR” subway line is fast fading (the far reaches of Long Island being the ideal). In the four years I’ve been with her she’s put on five pounds each year. I’ve never met her mother, but I suspect the glasses ML wears, her hair style and clothing selection were all in vogue twenty years ago and heartily approved of by Mama Weinstein. She is prone to weeping over her key board. It takes Lily and I minimal coaxing before she lets loose with how depressed she is over being tied down by her parents. We nod in sympathy at her plight. Lily tries to help by relating a totally unintelligible story about her venerable ancestors during the Boxer Rebellion, and then we end the office version of Dr. Phil with tea, donuts and a round of Marsha bashing.

* * *

Though based in Manhattan, we do work all over the United States. When we travel some distance, Marsha goes first class, ML and I are in coach. Marsha has a suite (turn down service and complimentary robe) in a posh downtown hotel; we’re at the airport Econo-lodge (free HBO). Marsha tells us it’s all about making an impression on clients us when she feels the need to justify her self-serving behavior.

Marsha is just over forty, works out at a chic gym each morning, watches her weight and looks great. She has a bit of the Las Vegas showgirl look to her, platinum blonde hair pulled back severely into a bun and wears exquisitely tailored business suits as well as all the designer accessories (Hermes, Movado, Prada). We know little about her personal life other than Compton was her father’s firm and, when he died, she took over. She was married (hence the Sundstrum surname) but no mention has ever been made of a husband. Her office is devoid of photos or memorabilia. ML has reported seeing birth control pills in her purse so one can deduce a regular sex life but any partner is a mystery.

She vacations at upscale, power broker places several times a year. Upon her return she tells us how nice the French Alps were this time of year. Or that Venice is undergoing a change for the worse, and she will probably never go again. And Tahiti is not all the travel experts say it is (sewage issues), but there is a little Pacific island which she doesn’t want to name because people will find out about it and then her personal paradise will be no more. Lily, ML and I always restrain our urge to beg her for the location info.

The Portland, Maine Affair

On local trips like Boston we all fly together. Boston and Providence are day trips so hotels are a moot point. Our Portland, Maine trip last month was slightly different. Marsha had lined up two “fish” as she calls them, both in Maine. One was a new law firm in downtown Portland while the other was a boat design company in Wiscasset, forty miles north. The plan was to fly to Portland on Thursday morning, meet with the boat guy in Marsha’s hotel suite that afternoon, stay overnight and touch bases with the law firm on Friday over lunch before visiting their space. Marsha (queen of all accommodations) wanted the Portland Harbor Hotel, but it was booked solid with the leaf peeping season in full swing, and all her bribes couldn’t dissuade the people in charge that no matter how important she was, there were no rooms. If you can’t go big and brassy then you go quaint. That’s Marsha’s credo. The Danforth qualified nicely. Nine rooms, fifteen fireplaces, canopied beds, peaceful gardens, and plenty of rustic charm in the meeting rooms to make an impression, plus staid, Victorian homes in the neighborhood for ambience. There were no small suites but a ground floor business room was available for our use.

We arrived at the Danforth in time for Marsha to rearrange the flowers and furniture the staff had set up in the meeting room and congratulate herself on such an excellent choice sight unseen. Our prospective client was Channing Wentworth II. He was a boat architect and builder for the well-to-do and looked it. Silver gray hair, the right mixture of Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica and Ivy League charm were molded together in one package. After brief introductions there were anecdotal stories of famous races he’d been in, names dropped (as if any one of us had a clue to sailing terms or history) and then down to the brass tacks of what “look” he wanted for the office. He talked. Marsha made suggestions. Mary Lou looked at photos of the space and sketched. Marsha crossed her legs. He listened more intently. I made my contribution and then lunch was served, lobster rolls. ML got Marsha’s death stare when she asked for fries and extra ketchup rather than the usual side order of fresh fruit salad.

We finished up by five. Portland has an AHL hockey team, the Pirates, so I thought I’d get a quick sandwich and take in a game. ML wanted to shop the Old Port and, fingers crossed, invited Marsha along. Marsha, perhaps not wanting to spend hours on end looking for cute cat figurines, said she would have an early night, order room service and study tomorrow’s law firm project. Mary Lou promised, since they shared a room, to be back by eight, being as quiet as she could so as not to disturb Marsha’s sleep.

* * *

I enjoyed the hockey game. I sat behind a young, obese couple dressed in matching Pirate game jerseys who rang a cow bell when anything positive happened on their team’s behalf. The row I was in (Section 104) won a free French fries coupon from a local Burger King which I generously gave to them. There were two college girls next to me. We chatted between periods. There might have been some chemistry happening with the blonde, but the logistics for a one night stand were so overwhelming that I just wished them a happy life at game’s end and walked back to the hotel.

It was a little after ten. I turned on Fox news. They finished a great old duffer story; the kind where a seventy-five year old had suffered “pedal” confusion and “parked” his Grand Marquis in the bread aisle of a local convenience store. Great visuals of shattered glass and scattered pastries were shown in close detail. Sorry Fox, not enough blood and gore for this tired hockey fan. I used the bathroom, stripped to my shorts and had just finished stacking the pillows to my satisfaction when there was an urgent pounding on the door.

My first thought was fire so I grabbed my pants and wallet and yanked open the door expecting to see a yellow helmet urging me to save myself. Instead it was Mary Lou who burst past me as if it was an FBI raid. She was swore all the way to the window overlooking Spring Street, picked up a drinking glass, turned and fired it girlie fashion at me. I ducked as it hit the wall without even breaking and bounced onto the bed. As she calculated the enormity of her deed, I took the opportunity to put my pants on and grab a tee shirt. By that time she was on my side of the room grabbing on to me for dear life and sobbing.

We stood there until she, exhausted, slumped down on the bed, mumbling an apology. I was trying to figure out what could be causing this uncharacteristic behavior--bad news from home, being attacked in the Thomas Kinkade aisle of some gift store on Fore Street? But, as her emotional storm began to ebb, the word “Marsha” slipped out of her mouth.

It seems that Mary Lou had shopped until she dropped, gotten back after nine and, surprise surprise, Marsha was entertaining a male companion in the room. Through a crack in the door ML was handed her cosmetic bag, the company credit card and asked to please to get another room for the night. She’d immediately come next door to my room, but I wasn’t there. She went downstairs but they had no rooms available. They were nice enough to call the Holiday Inn by the Bay just up the street and a room was available if she acted quickly. She’d started walking over there, got half way before she changed her mind and came back hoping I had returned.

By eleven I was still calming ML down. I violated Marsha’s number one travel rule and opened the mini-bar. I found Hennessey miniatures, got some ice and had her sip that. She complained of a migraine coming on so she sat in the desk chair, and I tried loosening up her neck and shoulder muscles. There were two double beds in the room so sleeping wasn’t an issue. But, just when I thought I’d gotten her quiet, she’d come up with another hysterical indignation to add to this most recent one, and the tension and tears would re-emerge.

By midnight things were winding down. She had puked up the brandy and half bottle of Napa Valley chardonnay. We were sitting on the bed. She was slumped against me, eyelids getting heavy. All I needed was to pull gently away, lay her down and tuck the comforter around her. And then it began--a rhythmic knocking from the headboard on the adjoining wall next door, followed soon thereafter by Marsha’s unmistakable moans of pleasure and a few stage directions to her companion, to better enhance her sensual experience.

It might as well have been a cannon blast. Mary Lou was wide awake as Marsha climaxed. She leapt up, grabbed her shoe and was about to assail the wall before I tackled her. “Wait, they‘re done. They’ve probably been at it since before you came back from shopping and it’s after midnight. Let it rest; it’s over.”

I got her back to the bed. She had fully accepted my premise when, the Poe-like, gentle rapping, tapping on our chamber wall began anew. It was Marsha evermore. “Christ!” I muttered. Defeated, I leaned down, handed ML her shoe then watched as she vented and dented her fury (fucking slut among other terms of opprobrium) upon Marsha.

I don’t know who Marsha was with. The odds favored Channing, the boat architect. If it was him then I must tip my hat as it seemed every half hour the unmistakable sounds of his oar being dipped into Marsha came through loud and clear. Mary Lou, having spent all her emotion, was huddled in the corner along the far wall, eyes shut tight, hands over her ears like a five year old blotting out the horror of the holocaust happening around her. My own situation was less problematic. Sitting on a bed not a foot from two people engaged in riotous sex for hours, envisioning the attractive Marsha, her bare feet pointed towards the ceiling and/or other positions was having an arousing impact on me. Indeed I envied Channing, if that’s who it was, and rued my decision not to pursue an evening with either (or both) of my nubile hockey seat mates. Just as I was daydreaming myself into a demimonde of illicit pleasure, Mary Lou came out of her shelter.

“I think they’re done. Nothing’s happened for a while now, but I’m too wired to sleep. There’s a nice irony. We finally get them to stop and we can’t sleep anyway.”

I nodded agreement, thinking that her use of “we” was a bit too inclusive.

“You want to go for a walk? Maybe there’s an all-night diner. We could get coffee and Danish,” she suggested.

“It’s almost one in the morning, Mary Lou. We could still get some sleep before we need to be at the lunch meeting.”

As I was saying this she was nervously pacing about the room.

“Would the light bother you if I watched TV; I’d keep the sound on low.”

I sat up. I was tired of babysitting. I was frustrated. Marsha had put me through sexual hell. I doubted I could ever look at her again without wondering what she might be like in the sack. So I just blurted it out. “What would you think of you and me having sex?”

Mary Lou braked in mid-stride, her form frozen in the dim light coming from the bathroom, her mouth slightly open and ready to speak if ever her brain came back on line. Seeing her reaction I backpedaled and quickly clarified the idea. “I mean pretend sex. They kept us awake so now we make noise to keep them up.”

“How do we have pretend sex and not, you know, be naked and end up really doing it?”

“It’s easy. We push on the head board so it thumps the wall, we jump on the bed to make it creak; you groan, I moan, and we say dirty stuff just like when you’re really doing it except we’ll have our clothes on.”

She came over to me bright-eyed. “God, that’s brilliant. It will teach her a lesson she’ll never forget! There’s just one thing though. I’m not too experienced in the intercourse department. I’m not sure I’ll know what to say. What if it’s not the right thing?”

“Think of all the movies you’ve seen or just wing it—say whatever comes into you head.”

* * *

At 1:15 AM Eastern time the performance began. We knelt on pillows facing the wall. ML began by loudly kissing the back of her hand and murmuring “Oh Mike, oh Mike.” I commenced rocking and knocking our pretend pleasure boat against the wall seconds thereafter. She came up with some nice throaty moans. I grunted a few times. She said, “Take me, take me—make me a woman tonight.” I gave her a look and whispered my critique that this wasn’t a Barbara Streisand 1970’s film. She shrugged. I slapped her ample rear end a few times. She got the message and ad libbed, “Ride me, Ride me.” We stopped every few minutes just to hear if there was any response from Marsha, but silence reigned. We kept it up for fifteen minutes until Mary Lou did a decent Meg Ryan-style fake orgasm, and we both flopped back on the bed exhausted. She leaned over and pecked me on the cheek.

“God that was liberating. I couldn’t have gotten through tonight without you.”

I squeezed her hand before dozing off.

* * *

I woke up around seven. The sun made a nice orange glow to the room. We were both on our left sides, my right arm slung over her shoulder, her rump tucked snuggly into me. Sometime during the night she had taken off her dress and was sleeping in a bra and loose fitting panties circa 1970. There were a few moments of prurient thought on my part. The slightest gesture from me and I’m sure our mock escapades would easily evolve into a reality. She stirred and wiggled herself closer into me, reaching up to touch my arm for reassurance.

She was a nice lady, one of the best designers in the business. If I ever went out on my own, she’d be the first person I want on my team. But then there was the thought of an apartment teeming with cats, her parents in wheelchairs being bundled up in blankets even in August for their afternoon walks and a lifetime of weekend yard sales or jaunts to the Poconos. I disentangled myself. She flipped over and stared up at me.

“Bathroom and a quick shower, we can do room service if you want.”

She sat up, bunching the sheets around her chest. A more experienced woman would have used a come hither look to signal her desires. Instead she looked away, bit her lower lip and asked me to open the curtains more.

I showered and got dressed in the bathroom. I came out and she wanted to go out for breakfast if I could find a spot. She went into the bathroom. I grabbed the yellow pages and started leafing through. The room phone beeped and I picked it up thinking it was a wake up call. It was Marsha.

“We need to talk. Come out into the hall.”

Well, good morning to you, Marsha was my first thought as I hung up. I walked to the door and opened it. Marsha was dressed in her best professional Jones of New York outfit.

“Manley and Kane called. They can’t do lunch. Everything’s been moved up. We’re to meet them at their space on Forest Avenue by ten. I can hire a car service for you. I’m going to cab up in a few minutes just to show how ‘early bird’ we are.”

I nodded. “We’ll get a cab too. Was the number 950?”

She nodded then paused. “I think last night’s charade was a bit juvenile on your part. One of these days you‘ll grow up and learn what it is to be an adult.”

“It wasn’t an act. We’re in love. We’d like your blessing for the wedding.”

“Don’t give me that shit. She ten years older, outweighs you by fifty pounds and gives new meaning to the word ‘yenta.’”

“It would be nice of you to apologize to her; one adult to another.”

“I’m one step ahead of you as usual, ‘ride’em cowboy Mikey.’” She handed me an envelope on Danforth stationary. It was addressed to Mary Lou with “Sorry!!!!” in Marsha’s flowing script just below the ML’s name.

She turned and went back into her room. I stepped back into mine. The shower had just turned off.

“Were you talking to me or is it the TV?”

“Marsha stopped by.”

The door opened and ML appeared out of the mist wearing a heavily monogrammed bath towel which struggled to keep her decent. I handed her the envelope. She tore it open while attempting to keep the towel in place.

“She wants us up at Forest Avenue by ten so we’ll only have time for a donut.” I didn’t know if she heard me as she ripped the letter open with damp hands. “What’s she say?”

ML handed the contents to me. It was a check for five hundred dollars and another note, Sorry--hope this makes up for the inconvenience. Remember we are all professionals and have to work as a team tomorrow.

I handed it back to her. “I feel so dirty,”

She smiled and gave me a semi-naked hug. “We’ll go out and buy some very expensive soap when we get home. This will make a great story for Lily.”

“Ah ha, the next time we travel we’ll bring her along and have a mock threesome just to put Marsha into a further orbit.”

“As long as you’re the one explaining the threesome concept to Lily. Now, do me a favor and get my travel bag from next door while I fix my face.”

© 2007 by D. E. Fredd


About the Author

D. E. Fredd lives in Townsend, Massachusetts. He has had fiction and poetry appear in several literary journals and reviews. He teaches Writing and Literature at New Hampshire Community Technical College.


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