“CHANGING MENTAL CHANNELS (So You Don’t End Up in Podunk When You Wanted Emerald City)”
by Glenn Younger
Creating a story from reader’s input—rough first draft.
Chapter 12: Power Games
Mimi has the stained glass desk lamp still turned on from her early morning arrival into the office. Its soft halo of colored light is her only concession to color in an otherwise neutral white decor. It’s purpose is to always remind her of her roots back in Berkeley City College where she got her degree in Business Administration on a scholarship for the underprivileged. If she ever wavers in her determination to always look forward, never back, there’s the photo underneath that lamp to keep her on track.
Being prepared for any meeting with Dermott Kingsley has its price, one that Mimi has always been fully prepared to pay. Today is no different. Her 6am arrival after a full workout, blow dry, and dressed to the nines in a well tailored black business suit with pencil thin skirt and low cut black silk camisole gave her plenty of time to prepare for the 7.30 video conference call.
A lot of thought had gone into preparing her speech asking for his additional funding. She’d even practiced it by speaking to the photograph taken of them back when AUM was first officially founded her senior year. Except for Mr Kingsley, all the faces looking at the camera are those of the young and naive, just starting out and filled with lofty ideals.
The photo shows a stern Dermott Kingsley with is arm draped across his daughter’s shoulders as if to protect her from the cold hard world. Mr Kingsley had more hair back then, not like now with his fully shaved head. She had more hair, too. Parted in the middle with long strands painstakingly crimped with a heating iron to match the proverbial flowing Indian print dress that college-aged spirituality required.
It was Marianne Kingsley who first connected Mimi to her father. She was at UC Berkeley and falling into the drug scene when she tripped across Mimi’s group of copy-cat Krishna chanters sans the shaved heads. After Marianne’s near-arrest for drugs, Mr Kingsley stepped in and funded Mimi’s group with one criteria: “Keep my daughter away from drugs. As long as she stays clean, you’ll have your funding.”
After that, he’d been like a surrogate father to Mimi, giving advice, making strategic introductions when she wanted the Foundation to grow, and staying true to his word. Even after Marianne went to India on a holiday and stayed, as long as he received an annual drug test showing his daughter was clean, a new funding check arrived. That is, up until today.
Things aren’t going well on the video conference call.
“If the Foundation isn’t profitable by the end of third quarter,” he says, “I’m pulling out.”
“But Mr Kingsley,” Mimi says working hard to keep her voice calm. “You’re our major contributor. One of the Founding Fathers.” Without you, we’ll fold, she thinks. But pride prohibits her from saying it out loud. If you show weakness to these people, she believes, they’ll drop you flat.
“That is not my problem, Ms Light. I make enough charitable donations as it is. To causes much worthier than yours, I might add.”
“But I was the one who personally kept your daughter off of drugs—”
“Yes, you did,” he interrupts. “But I now consider that debt paid in full. This is business. Nothing personal.”
“I understand,” she says in a conversational tone that comes from years of practice of working under pressure. “We do have the musical fundraiser coming up. If you know of anybody who should be included on the list, I’d be more than happy to extend a last minute invitation. Maybe one of your friends whose children are into alternative music? Why don’t I send you a copy of the invitees and—”
“You’re missing the point.” His brusque rebuke makes Mimi’s hackles rise. “The Foundation has reached the point of diminishing returns. I suggest your first action to be drastic cut backs on staff. You have too much fat on the books for AUM to be interesting to new donors. My secretary sent you a suggested list of people for cutbacks. Have you read it?”
“I suggest you do. That’ll be all Ms Light.” The screen goes blank.
Mimi gives a hard shove at her desk, and rolls back a few inches in her white leather executive chair. Damn. Damn. Damn. As she paces the room, trying to come up with a viable solution, her face is taught. She looks like a panther more than ever with her chin jutting out under high cheekbones, and tilted green eyes slitted in concentration.
Yes, she’s read his list. Yes, she’s already taken action on it. At least in the direction of Tandy Johnson. The other four are impossible to cut. They’re part of her original group, have been with her since the very beginning. If she fires them, it’ll kill her reputation in the grass roots spiritual community. That’s her bread and butter, the reason AUM even exists. And she can’t flat out fire Tandy Johnson either, even if she is first on Dermott Kingsley’s list. If word got out that she actually fired JJ Johnson’s daughter, any self respecting artist wouldn’t come within two city blocks of AUM. No, Tandy has to either bring in the equity or quit. That much is clear. So do the others in some way, and still somehow leave Mimi’s reputation in tact.
By God, she’s going to get this right because there is no way in hell she wants the bad Karma that’ll make her have to come back and do this all over again. Her thoughts flash back to how the group evolved into an activist movement on a war against drugs. It had all gotten so out of hand. She absentmindedly rubs the scar on her upper thigh from the old bullet wound, and stretches her shoulders to loosen up the chronic knots that always flare up when she thinks of how five of her closest friends had split off from the group in a public scene of intense anger at her unwillingness to take the fight to the next level. She’d backed down then. But never again. Not after what happened.
She swallows down remorse, but can’t shake the buried guilt that she could have somehow stopped them from foolhardy thinking that their spirituality would give them the force necessary to fight the drug cartels single handedly down in South America. They’re all in jail now for killing an innocent American man who’d gotten caught in their crossfire when their arms of spirituality had escalated into real firearms and real bullets. No. She shakes her head in anger. She can’t help it if the authorities deemed her innocent of any wrongdoing, and they got caught. There’s nothing she can do for them now, but face her problem at hand and keep things under control.
Making a list of alternatives helps Mimi focus.
What new artist can she pull in? No, she needs an established artist so AUM gets immediate recognition. Who? Mimi keeps coming back to JJ Johnson. She touched a raw nerve back in the day. She can again. Mimi writes the initials JJJ on her list. Beside it, she notes: TJ either brings in value or is out. Period.
There’s the music fundraiser coming up. She needs to bring in new blood, up-and-coming executive types with cash to spare and who’re willing to donate to the ideology of their college days in order to alleviate the pain of selling out for a ticket on the merry-go-round of making money. Who does she know who’s naive enough to accept a last minute invitation? She writes down a name: Rebecca Morley. From the original group. Just had a baby. Getting married to a hotshot investment banker.
She Googles Rebecca Morley to see if she can find the name of her fiancee. When his name and picture pop up, she leans back in her chair. With a calculating eye and red fingernails drumming on her desk, she thinks about how she can use this to her best advantage.
COMMENTS are open for business. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and ideas. Or just cheer me on in this NaNoWriMo challenge of getting a rough draft of a new novel finished by November 30.
**What are your thoughts? What do you think Mimi has got in store for Tandy?
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