Animal Magnetism - the sequel, Part 1

(by SSTORYMAN, 21 March 2002)


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This fictional account contains adult language and sexually explicit themes.
If such language and themes offend you, please do not read further.  The
persons and events described in this work are purely fictional.  Any
similarity to actual persons or events is strictly coincidental.  Copyright
2002 by SSTORYMAN.  All rights reserved.  Permission is hereby granted to
reproduce this story in any form and for any purpose as long as this notice
is reproduced and no financial remuneration is received, directly or
indirectly, by the person reproducing or using it.

ANIMAL MAGNETISM - THE SEQUEL

1.	The Test.

   Bill Johnson entered the front door of Allied Manufacturing's executive
offices.  Behind the building stood two single story, rectangular
manufacturing facilities.  Allied had over 600 employees; most worked in the
plants on the manufacturing lines.  The executive office building was a
relatively small part of the larger industrial complex.

   He approached the front desk.  "Hi, Dot.  I'm here to see Debbie Simpson."

   "Well, hello, Mr. Johnson."  The pretty young receptionist greeted him with
a warm smile.  "Do you also want me to tell Mr. Lachey you're here?"

   "Only if Mike has time after I see Ms. Simpson.  I've been trying to get in
to see her for some time now."

   "Let me ring her office for you, Mr. Johnson."

   Bill sat down.  The waiting area was plush.  Thick carpeting covered the
floor, and comfortable overstuffed chairs were situated around several
hardwood tables.  Allied spent a lot of money on its executive suite, and it
showed.  But Mike Lachey had lots of money to spend.

   Behind the receptionist a lovely young brunette appeared in the doorway.
"Mr. Johnson?  Hi, I'm Cheryl Landon, Ms. Simpson's assistant.  I can take you
back to her office."

   Bill turned to the receptionist before leaving.  "I'll see you later, Dot,"
he winked impishly.  "Don't forget about me."

   "Don't worry, I won't, Mr. Johnson," she smiled affectionately.

   No, I'm sure you won't, Bill mused.  I'm sure you won't.  They never do.

   He followed Debbie Simpson' assistant down the corridor.  Cheryl looked to
be in her late twenties.  She had perfect hair, a great figure, and a
particularly firm-looking ass, he noticed approvingly walking behind her.  He
began to fantasize how nice it'd be to hold that sweet ass in his hands while
lying in her bed some night ?.

   His musings were interrupted when Cheryl stopped and opened a wooden door.
"This is Ms. Simpson' office," she announced.  "She's ready to see you now."

   "Thank you, Cheryl," he said, putting on his most charming smile.  "You're
sweet."

   The brunette blushed.  "You're most welcome, Mr. Johnson," she giggled.

   She likes me, Bill sighed.  But then, they always like me.

   "Hello, Mr. Johnson," he heard a voice inside the office.  "Won't you come
in?"

   Behind the desk stood a tall woman in her thirties with shoulder length
blond hair.  She had an attractive face.  Bill immediately sensed she was used
to being in charge.

   "Hi," she repeated.  "I'm Debbie Simpson."

   "Hi, Ms. Simpson.  I'm Bill Johnson."

   She motioned to him to sit down.  "I know who you are," she said politely.
"Mike Lachey, our CEO, told me all about you.  In fact, he insisted I see you.
But I'm somewhat resistant to hear your sales pitch for a new HR software
program."

   "Ms. Simpson, let me explain.  I met Mike through a mutual friend.  I sell
business software.  I told Mike I have a tracking program for manufacturing
inventories and shipping that's perfect for Allied.  We had a good session,
and he bought my program.  Then I met Roger Lindman, your CFO, and his staff.
I showed them our accounting program, and they decided to go with it.  I then
mentioned I also have a great human resources package.  I asked Mike to hook
me up with the head of HR here at Allied.  That's why I'm here to see you."

   "I know all that, Mr. Johnson.  May I call you Bill?"

   "Yes, please do."

   "Fine, Bill.  Call me Debbie.  Now, here's the deal.  You and Mike have
become friends.  He's the CEO, and he asked me, instructed me, actually, to
give you an appointment.  But I'm not very eager to give you any more business
here at Allied."

   "I see.  And why is that, Debbie?"

   "Before coming to Allied, I ran a successful company called SmokeStopperz.
It's still in business here in town.  You've heard of it?"

   He nodded.

   "I thought so.  SmokeStopperz runs smoking cessation programs for large
employers like Allied.  It uses a methodology I personally developed,
combining support groups, training sessions and a twelve step program with
nicotine gum and patches.  It's been very successful in helping people quit
smoking.  That's why I'm not interested in doing business with you."

   He frowned.  He knew where she was going, but he didn't let on.

   "Once you and Mike became friends, he started smoking again.  He'd quit
years ago.  I keep track of these things at Allied.  I watch very carefully
who takes smoke breaks on the patio behind the building.  Through Mike you met
Roger Lindman, our CFO, and Tami Akins, our Controller.  I don't think Roger's
smoking, though I can't be sure.  But Tami is."

   Bill smiled.  He purposely avoided encouraging Roger to smoke, to avoid
such criticisms.  Plus, he didn't really care if Roger smoked or not.  He was
a man.

   "I've seen Tami smoking out on the patio since you sold them your
accounting program.  I've also seen Beth, Mike's administrative assistant, out
there, and Suzi, the assistant to Roger and Tami.  In short, Bill, your
interaction with company personnel has caused a marked increase in tobacco use
among people in this building.  That troubles me."

   "It shouldn't.  I mean, they're grown-ups, for God's sake.  They make their
own decisions about personal matters like smoking."

   She snapped.  "I'm the head of HR, so to me it's not just a personal
decision.  Among my responsibilities, I was hired to reduce the number of
smokers at Allied.  Mike hired me with that goal in mind several years ago.
Statistically between 21 and 22 percent of adults statewide regularly use some
form of tobacco.  When I came, our numbers were in that range.  But since I
convinced Mike to give employees incentives for stop smoking programs, I
dramatically cut our percentages.  For executives and support staff, that is,
the people in this building, our percentage of tobacco users had fallen to
7.4% by the end of last year.  For manufacturing employees, it was down to
15.2%.  Both percentages were way below the statewide average.  I'm proud of
that."

   "And so you should be," Bill nodded, tongue in cheek.

   "Bullshit," she huffed.  "Pardon me, but I know you don't mean it.  Since
Mike Lachey met you, he's completely changed his attitude toward smoking.
Back when I was hired, he urged me to aggressively reduce smoking at Allied,
and I did.  Now he's very lackadaisical about the subject, and he's smoking
again himself.  He's no longer interested in promoting smoking cessation
programs.  I attribute that change to your pernicious influence!"

   "Look, Debbie," Bill interrupted.  He almost expected a harangue like this,
but she was getting on his nerves.  "I'm here to share some exciting ideas
about a human resources software program my company has.  It's designed for
manufacturing companies like Allied.  I'm happy to discuss my personal views
about smoking, if you like.  But mostly I want to talk business."

   "Smoking _is_ my business, Bill," she retorted angrily.  "Getting people to
quit is my business.  You influenced people like Mike, Tami, Beth and Suzi to
smoke.  It pisses me off."

   "I appreciate your candor, Debbie.  I'll be honest.  I do smoke, and I
enjoy it.  I don't hide it, either, and I won't bullshit you.  Most of my
friends share that feeling with me.  They smoke, too.  Mike and Tami and their
assistants are people I've spent a lot of time with, at the company and in
social settings.  When I'm with them, I smoke.  Apparently they all decided
they want to join me.  I didn't discourage them.  I admit that."

   "Mike's not just smoking.  He's become almost pro-smoking."  She frowned.
"It's a complete change.  Did you work some magic on him?"

   Bill smiled.  If she only knew!  "Debbie, I hardly know how to answer.
Unlike some these days, I don't shy away from talking openly about how much I
enjoy smoking.  I did share my feelings with Mike and Tami, and their
assistants, Beth and Suzi.  Now they're smoking, too.  So what?  What's the
big deal?"

   She shook her pretty head.  "God damn you, Bill!  Do you realize what
you've done to those poor people?"

   He smiled and took a deep breath.  He had to stay in control.  He slowed
down.  "Debbie, being a smoker isn't the end of the world.  There are worse
things."  He decided to try his typical approach in these situations.  "Tell
me.  Did you ever smoke?  My experience with people like you, heavily invested
in smoking cessation, is that you're almost all former smokers."

   She glared.  "I smoked as a teenager.  I know firsthand how young people
get sucked into the destructive habit.  That's why I devote myself to saving
them from nicotine addiction.  I'm proud of the hundreds here at Allied, and
elsewhere, who successfully completed my SmokeStopperz program.  It's why I
won't even look at your HR software package.  I don't give business to people
who encourage others to become entrapped in a habit of death!"

   "Oh come on," he laughed, struggling to maintain his composure.  "I'm not a
middle eastern terrorist.  I sell computer programs, and I like to have a
cigarette to relax.  So what?  You're over-reacting.  But tell me.  Why
exactly did _you_ decide to quit smoking, Debbie?"

   "I realized how deadly it is, that I was killing myself.  I got smart,
Bill, unlike you."

   "No, that's not why, Debbie.  No one wakes up and says, 'Oh my Gosh!
Smoking's not good for me.  What a surprise!  I should quit.'  Every smoker
knows it's not good for them.  No, something else happened, something that
shifted your paradigm.  What was it?"

   She shifted uncomfortably in her chair.  "It happened when I was a senior
in high school.  I'd been smoking a couple years.  I was up to almost a pack a
day."

   "Where did you smoke?  With friends?  Did your folks know?"

   "Mostly with friends.  God!  Why am I telling you?  Well, my older brother
smoked.  He was four years older, in college when I was in high school.  I
started 'cause I was jealous of him being older.  It was dumb.  He supplied me
with cigarettes.  My parents knew, but didn't do anything.  They were afraid
I'd be more rebellious if they confronted me.  But they knew."

   "So what made you quit?  You smoked, your brother smoked, you had friends
who smoked, and your parents didn't care.  What happened?"

   Debbie frowned.  How much should she say?  "I had a crush on this football
player.  I wanted him to ask me out.  I told a friend, and she approached him.
He said he'd never date a girl who smokes.  Didn't want to kiss an ashtray."
She smiled smugly.  "It was a wake-up call.  I saw I was hurting myself.  Not
everyone thought it was cool.  In fact, no one did.  I quit."

   "So it wasn't for health reasons after all.  You quit because you were hot
for some anti-smoking jock.  Tell me.  Did he ever ask you out?"

   "Nope," she admitted with a laugh.  "But it didn't matter.  My social life
improved anyway.  Suddenly, I could hang out with anyone, not just smokers.
There are more non-smokers than smokers, you know.  A teenage girl improves
her popularity if she doesn't smoke."

   "You see, that's exactly what I don't get.  People make decisions based on
what they think others want.  To me, that's dumb.  I smoke because I like it.
It relaxes me.  It's nice having a cigarette after a meal, with a drink, or
after sex," he grinned.  "Some teens smoke to be part of an 'in-crowd.'
Others never do, or quit, to be accepted.  That's backwards.  People should do
what they feel like, and then figure out based on that who they prefer to
spend time with."

   "And you spend most of your time with smokers.  Right?"

   Bill nodded.  "Smokers share something special.  We understand each other.
All of us spend time with those who energize us.  I'm energized by being with
smokers.  They're not afraid of life.  They live on the edge.  A friend of
mine once said he doesn't smoke, but he'd rather be with smokers than with any
other group of people he can think of."

   "Your friend's sick, Bill."  She stood and stuck out her hand.  "Good day.
There's no point in continuing our discussion.  I won't buy your HR package.
I don't even want to see it.  Your influence over Mike, Tami and their
assistants has been insidious.  You undermine everything I believe in here at
Allied.  So, have a nice day."

   Bill also stood up.  "Okay, Debbie, but think about what I said.  Your
teenage decision to quit was influenced by a need to belong.  But you liked to
smoke.  You enjoyed it.  Nothing's without risk.  You can quit smoking and be
hit by a bus.  If you look deep inside, I think you'll find there's still a
smoker in there, and she's just waiting to come out."

   She stared at him coldly.  "Mr. Johnson, I said it once.  Have a nice day.
Our meeting's over."  Walking toward the door, she opened it for him.

   He smiled.  "I won't tell Mike Lachey you brushed me off.  He'd be pissed,
but I won't rely on his influence to sell my product.  I use reason; my
products sell themselves.  If you won't listen, I won't make you.  But think
about it.  Let me know if you want to have a drink and talk about smoking
sometime.  It might help to talk to me, because I won't just repeat the
anti-smoking drivel you always hear."

   "I don't need to even think about that offer, Mr. Johnson.  Good day."

   Her assistant was at her desk outside the door as Bill left.  Seeing him
standing there as Debbie closed it, Cheryl got up and walked over.

   "Boy, that was fast," she grinned.  "I take it she isn't interested in what
you're selling?"

   Bill grinned at the lovely brunette.  "No, Cheryl, she isn't.  But that's
business.  Sometimes you make the sale, and sometimes you don't.  Debbie
wasn't receptive.  I think it's because I'm a smoker," he added with a
conspiratorial whisper.

   Cheryl nodded.  "Ah, yeah, that really pushes Debbie's button!"

   "It's too bad," he went on with his usual charm.  "Smokers are just people,
people who happen to enjoy an activity that's become politically incorrect.
Tell me, Cheryl, did you ever smoke?  Or do you smoke now?"

   She laughed.  "I did used to smoke a little, years ago, Mr. Johnson.  But
if I still smoked, I wouldn't be working for Debbie; not for long!"

   "Really?  Tell me about it while you walk me back to the lobby.  And
please, call me Bill."  They headed toward the reception area, and Cheryl
began telling him all about it.

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