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E-Z-ROLL/ Willoughby Johnson JUST NOW, FARRIS is in the computer room showing off a glamour shot of his daughter. She looks like an ad for an escort service, a ponderous wonderbra-ed décolletage welling up around her feather boa. There is a stamped foU signature in one corner of the picture. She is thirteen, and Farris is a proud papa. He is showing the picture to Ruby, who has been fighting the fax machine, and he says, 'Ta know, I can remember when she was just a little girl. Idn that something?" Farris shakes his head in wonderment and lights up his most sincere smile. I look over at Ruby. She widens her eyes for just a moment and I can teU we are thinking the same thing, which is that Farris would like nothing better than to bang the heck out of his glamour-shots daughter in the back of his El Dorado. Ruby grew up in west Texas, and from the Anglos there she learned to say sweet things like "She's beautiful, Farris! Oh my, I think I'm going to have to find out about getting some of those done of my nieces!" while maintaining a dripping contempt for the object of her sweetness. Farris is just under six feet tall, wears a gold chain and crisply laundered clothes. The smell of his menthols mingles with his cologne and hair goo to create an unmistakable odor of rot. He is the sales manager of E-Z-RoIl, Inc., which is to say he is my boss. Farris pauses, as if he's thinking, and looks up. "Say, did you get the quote on that 3543 to Moline?" Ruby hands the photo back to Farris. "Yeah, it's eighty nine bucks." "Eighty nine?" "Yepper." "D'ja get a look?" Farris says to me as he walks out, holding the picture to me. Ruby or someone has left a big thumbprint on the girl's chest. Without really meaning to, I grunt back at him, a sort of prelinguistic "yes." Farris holds his precious photo closer to him and scurries down the hall toward the old man's office, his smell lingering for a moment. "Farris sell something?" I ask. "A 3543?" "No, just a quote." Ruby sits down at a terminal. "I can't believe you grunted at him like that. You can't just go around grunting at pictures of your boss's kids." The Missouri Review · 53 "You're fawning all over him and I'm . . . just a Uttle grunt," I say lamely. I hit the buttons on the Coke machine to see if anything wiU come out. "But fawning comes off good," she says. "He's happy, I get to feel like he's a pornographer. That's ok." Ruby gets paged and picks up the phone. She hates Farris' guts, but this hasn't prevented her from taking a few turns in the back of the El Dorado. I walk downstairs to my office. Don, in his office, has his feet up. He's laughing his extra-loud Kappa Sig laugh, no doubt talking to some girl he met eight years ago at a mixer. Jeff's voice comes from Tim's office, "Fucking Elway, man, fucking Elway. The thing is, the motherfucker can pass, you know?" I sit down at my desk and start a new section of this graph-paper mosaic I've been working on. Today, Ruby and I are going out for lunch. This is a bigger deal than it sounds like, because the company is very much a sack-lunch sort of place. Usually the only person who goes out for a sit-down lunch is the old man, when he's meeting with a lawyer or accountant or something . We're going out because I asked her to because there's been this wall that's grown up between us in the last month. Like me grunting at Farris. Two months ago Ruby wouldn't have scolded me, she would have been, like, sweet grunt there bad boy. But she has this new skepticism about me, as if she thinks I am in fact...


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pp. 53-61
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