Voz Corporation is in trouble. Chuck Nesbit, President
and CEO, looks out his office window across the rolling
lawns and gazebos of Voz's suburban headquarters. "Voz
Corporation is in trouble," he says. He is wearing a
pale violet dress shirt, a brown double-breasted suit,
and brown penny-loafers.
All across the fifty states and in sixty-three other countries on six continents, salesmen from Voz Corporation call on customers. Every one wears a pale violet dress shirt, a brown double-breasted suit, and brown penny-loafers. Every one brings the customer, or prospective customer, an expensive and age-appropriate gift. It is part of the Voz corporate image. A consistent corporate image is one of the cornerstones of Voz Corporation's success.
"A consistent corporate image is one of the cornerstones of Voz Corporation's success," says Chuck Nesbit to his executive secretary, who has just entered the room.
Anita Laplume, Chuck Nesbit's executive secretary, is thirty-five years old today. Her hair is dyed silver, and kept trimmed to a uniform length of three-quarters of an inch. Her head carries a perpetual silver halo. Anita Laplume's steamy autobiography, "Staying Competitive in the Global Economy" has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 43 weeks. Anita Laplume, stepping through the oak-framed doorway into Chuck Nesbit's office, wears a pale violet silk blouse, a brown double-breasted suit, and brown pennyloafers with two-inch heels. She walks to the TV and turns down the volume.
Chuck Nesbit is playing rock videos from the Bombay satellite feed on the MovieMax projection TV again. On the forty-inch (measured diagonally) screen, handsome dark-skinned young men and emphatically-built dark-skinned young women jerk coitomimetically; courtyards full of smiling hips thrust at the camera, jerk back. A young man tears off his sunglasses, spins to face the camera, smiles, spins back towards his co-star, who is smiling fixedly into the camera while rhythmically thrusting her chest at the revolving head of the young man with the sunglasses. All participants are, of course, fully clothed, in silks, scarves, brass bells, black denim jeans. There must always be some limits.
"There must always be some limits," observes Anita Laplume, turning from the VCR, halo gently rippling as she moves. When she was in the Marines, they called her "the Angel".
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Voz Corporation salesman has come to call on the Chief Information Officer of the Seabring Power and Light Company. In the bottom of his briefcase, as a gift for the customer, is a set of matched emeralds worth $14,000. It is early afternoon, and sunny in Grand Rapids, but chilly and windy.
"We're not making money anymore," says Chuck Nesbit to Anita Laplume, back east in the President's office, on the second floor of the middlesized brown building in the center of the Voz corporate campus.
The night before, last night, Chuck Nesbit had a dream. He dreamed he went down the back stairs in the middlesized brown building, the back stairs that lead to the quiet cement-walled room where the soda machine and the candy machine hum quietly, and the change machine is usually broken. But in his dream Chuck Nesbit kept walking down the stairs, until with the hum of the vending machines inaudible far above, he came finally to a large, dim, open space.
In this space, in the dream, the President and CEO of Voz Corporation sensed bulky mute forms crouching motionless in a blanket of dust. The wind of his coming stirred layers of silt accumulated on once-shiny automated printing presses, stacks of disused plates, engraver's tools, reams of paper carefully smuggled in from Europe. The dust rose slowly, and slowly descended, covering Chuck Nesbit's dress shirt, double-breasted suit, brown penny-loafers in a quiet, possessive wave of grey.
"Not making money anymore," affirmed Anite Laplume. And briefly she closed her eyes.
Voz employees are twice as likely as the population at large to own cellular telephones. They are twice as likely to take dates to "expensive" or "very expensive" restaurants, to drive cars over three years old, to fear rejection. The average IQ of the average Voz Corporation employee is a good two sigma above the mean.
"I remember," says Anita Laplume, "when I was a kid the power went out once, in the evening, for no particular reason. There wasn't a match or a candle in the house. The only source of light was my brother's laptop computer. I remember us all sitting around the table while Dad read the Bible to us by the light of the screen. When he turned the pages, the book would rock on the keyboard, and the keys clicked. Quietly. Eventually, it ran out of power and shut itself off. The next morning, the electricity was back on."