Chapter 2: The White CEO
“Psychic hotline….Miss La’Tisha speaking.” The snap
of blackjack gum crackled through the wire.
“La’Tisha, hit’s me agin. Denny.”
“Oo, Den-nis darlin’,” the voice exclaimed, its accent warm and heavily Jamaican. “Crescent fresh! ‘ow you
“Not so good. Got impo’tant thangs hap’nin.
Ah needs some advice.”
“Okey, mon. Give me de numbers, an’ I read dem ole cards fo you.”
Dennis gave her the same seven random numbers he always did. “1,
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.” They were easy for him to remember. He could hear Miss La’Tisha breathing and shuffling tarot cards on the other end of the phone. She always took her sweet time, trying to use up as much of the three free minutes
“Coo yah darlin’, less see what we got. Fuhst
card….oh my. De Pilgrim. Someone
you know goin’ on a trip?”
Den was electrified. “Burris…my son.”
“Uh huh, uh huh, see? Miss La’Tisha always know. Well, he be fine if he be careful, but I dun know…dis nex’ card here….”
“What? What you see?”
“Ooh. Empty house wit dark clouds, mon. Bulldozers. Oh my…dis look like bandulu bizness. Blackheart man come an’ swindle yo’ land.
Den gripped the phone. His palms were sweating and his forehead ached. The walls of the room were simultaneously
rushing away and pressing in on him. Overhead, the bare light fixture was popping
and shimmering. He could hear voices murmuring, like water on stones.
“Someting else ‘appening,” Miss La’Tisha said.
“White foam…yo son be in danger….”
A strong smell of coffee pervaded the room. Dennis’
pupils contracted into tiny points as everything went dark. There was fire…burning
trees…..Hundreds of identical SUVs, parked on acres of brand new asphalt. Mothers
shuffling despondently in a straight line, each one clutching an empty cardboard cup.
Gaunt students and workers with grey faces, waiting.
The images came faster and faster. An evil hissing, a scalding
cataract of foam. A diabolical chrome machine that released a rare and precious
black liquid. Oil? Frankincense? A mob of people was begging for it…wailing…. elbowing and trampling one
another to get at it. The masters of the black liquid cackled in triumph, ensnaring
their victims with the fiendish substance. Torrents of money flowed across Den’s
vision. The groans of the wounded and desperate pierced the air. Laborers toiled on tropical plantations, while the rainforest burned around them and the red soil dried
up into desert.
Then, the ultimate horror…Dennis saw his own two sons in chains, kneeling and pleading for caffeine. Burris had the shakes. “Ask for
it the RIGHT way,” snarled the barista, cracking an ugly black whip across Ferris’ bare back. “There’s no such size as ‘medium’”.
Ferris writhed on the floor, his face contorted with the agony of withdrawal, his chest hair sticky with Sugar Twin.
“NO!” Dennis shrieked and fell backwards onto
the bed, clutching at the air in front of him. A sickly white nightmarish glare flashed through his head and vanished, leaving
him reeling. The phone clattered onto the floor.
“Missah Dennis? You okey?” Miss La’Tisha’s voice quacked through the receiver.
“I be legally required to remind you dat dis call be for entertainment purposes only.”
With a trembling hand, Dennis groped for the phone. “Ah’m
“Okey. One mo’ ting I got to tell you. Your son…”
“Which one?” Fog swirled in dense loops through
Dennis’ mind. His eyes were still unfocused. A stalactite of spittle hung from his lower lip.
“De las’-born. De noble one. It’s yo turn to cut him some slack, girlfrien’. Mmm-mmm. Don’t be dissin’ ‘im no mo.
Dat junk be bonk.”
“’Scuse me?” Dennis struggled to reconcile
“noble” with “last-born”. They’d been over this
territory before. La’Tisha believed firmly that Dennis should start treating
his sons more equally. Dennis believed firmly that she should butt out.
“Dat’s what dese las’ two cards say. De
fuhst card is de King. De card of male fertility, a rival, a competitor. Dat prob’y mean yo’ son. De
second card is Stren’th, an’ it represent a determined individual. Or
a stubborn one. An’ you as stubborn as dey come, honey. Dese two fight wit each other like crayfish in a barrel.”
“A rival…” Dennis suddenly remembered H.
Aristotle Gorn. “Does a King have th’ right to claim any piece o’
land he wants? Even by force?”
“Might be…He a powerful enemy, the King. Dangerous,
oh my, mm-hmm.”
Outside, the sun was setting, the last rays slanting through the dusty greasepaper window. Dennis shook his head to clear it.
“To ward ‘im off, you be wear purple tomorrow. The
color purple be good mojo. Protect your body from ‘arm.”
“Purple…” Den tried to think what he owned
that might be purple.
“Now I see ‘orses galloping.”
“Them might belong to my kin up over yonder hill.” The
Rowans, cousins of Dennis’ from the shallow end of the gene pool, were obsessive horse breeders. In recent years they’d started to trade in the horses for quads and motorbikes, which were much more
useful for hauling salt blocks and hay bales, and getting into town. Their stables
now boasted an impressive array of engines, which never needed feeding or grooming or shoeing or exercise.
“Could be. The ‘orses I see are goin’ round
a track. I also see the number 14. You
a bettin’ man, Missah Dennis?”
“No, no…well, mebbe….” Dennis’
head was still throbbing from his vision. He needed to lie down for a bit. “I got to go now, La’Tisha. You
been mos’ helpful.”
“Okey, den. Cool runnings.”
Den hung up the phone and stumbled onto the porch, the screen door groaning. Night was falling and he’d been thinking about huntin’ some possum for tomorrow’s supper,
but now his head hurt so bad he needed to get drunk instead. It was taking longer
and longer for the fog and the pain to lift after his sessions with Miss La’Tisha.
The boys had learned to steer clear when he was having one of his “spells”.
So Mr. Gorn was dangerous! He was planning to take the land
from Dennis and throw them out on the street like bums. And after his family
had lived here for generations. Just when Burris was coming of age to take over
the homestead. Den growled. He could
feel the hatred for Aristotle Gorn start to burn in the pit of his stomach…or maybe it was the fried mash he’d
had for dinner.
The bug zapper was going a mile a minute. Den grabbed a bottle
of Night Train and settled down to watch.
From her office on the 73rd floor of a black onyx skyscraper (designed by the famous Indian
architect I. Singh Ard), Sarah Mann, the White CEO of Starbucks, cackled delightedly as she watched a live web feed of the
groundbreaking ceremony for the latest franchise. An orphanage, a library, and
a petting zoo had been razed to make way for it.
Not for nothing was Sarah known as the White CEO. Everything
about her was white, from the plush Berber carpeting that stretched across the vast acreage of her office, to the crisp, snowy
linen suits and hair scrunchies she favored. Even her long blonde hair radiated
a glossy brilliance. White was pure. White
was merciless. White went with everything.
As one tree after another toppled in orderly succession, Sarah toasted them silently with her mid-morning
vanilla soy macchiato (served at exactly 140 degrees). Starbucks earth-moving
machines were the most efficient in the business. Her top engineers had cross-bred
a bulldozer with a fertilizer spreader to create a strong, fuel-efficient, tireless fleet of mutant construction equipment
that could level a forest in minutes, destroy all wildlife, and salt the earth, rendering the area sterile for generations
to come. The patent application referred to them as “killdozers”.
A dark, troubling secret was nagging at Sarah today. Arriving
home last week from a business trip to Ohio, she was sure she had brought the Starbucks marketing strategy document back with
her. Yet when she unpacked, it was nowhere to be found. That marketing plan was a classified document, so top secret that only one hard copy existed. The original computer file had been unceremoniously shot – deleted, rather – as soon as it
was printed out. Sarah had labored for years over that document, pouring all
of her malice, all of her cruelty, into it. It contained all of Starbucks’
deepest, most powerful and vile secrets, from viral marketing to predatory pricing calculated to drive mom ‘n’
pop coffee shops out of business. It also had the ten-year franchise growth plan
carefully mapped out. If that document were to fall into the wrong hands, it
could topple their empire…..Sarah shuddered. She couldn’t have misplaced
it. She just couldn’t have. It
had to be here somewhere.
One idle, cream-shellacked talon caressed the stack of reports on her desk.
Though the rest of her nails were kept trimmed to a no-nonsense ¼”, Sarah’s left pinky nail was three inches
longer than the rest. This was the nail she used to snort coke. Her slimy assistant, Graham Wormtape, was the only person who knew the source of the relentless energy
and aggressive drive that had made Starbucks the most profitable and ubiquitous chain on earth. Everybody else just assumed she was a naturally a bitch.
Maybe we ought to start putting blow in the coffee, Sarah thought.
She grabbed her memo pad, which listed agenda topics for the quarterly meeting.
Under “Launch marketing campaign for preschool demographic”, she wrote “New variety: Colombia’s Finest. Built-in brand loyalty”.
Sarah’s eye fell on the topmost document in the stack of reports, a spreadsheet of upcoming franchise
locations she’d copied out of the marketing plan before going to Ohio. A
place called “Go’nder Holler” was next on the list. From the
sound of it, a blot of nowhere nothingness in the middle of some hick state. To
Sarah’s way of thinking, hillbillies ought to be slobberingly grateful to be included in Starbucks’ global network
of sophisticated, pricey coffees. Instead, they’d no doubt kick up a fuss. Small-town hicks generally resisted progress.
Like the proverbial horse, they had to be led to water and told to drink. She
was doing them a favor, on the same scale as rural electrification.
“Go’nder Holler”, she wrote on her memo pad. “Send
all killdozers. Leave none alive.”