Carl and Gerlinde (XXIV)
The news exploded like a bombshell! Miriam Braun had been working as sales manager for almost six months in the sector ’hosiery and knit-ware’ at TRIGA – and now this! For the general manager, Dr. Osterkorn, it really hit home: this was not how he had envisaged the career of his promising, attractive model manager…
And Carl had not yet so much as settled comfortably behind his desk, when Frau Wolf balanced her usual morning coffee precariously towards him with an air of conspiracy. He was sure she would have burst with a loud bang if she had been forced to keep her news to herself for as much as another half hour. That would have made her new hair-dress quite obsolete, too! Mind you, this ruthless summer haircut looked extremely well on her. Besides, it would have been a pity to spoil her lascivious smile and those super-big eyes of hers …
”Have you heard already, Carl?“, she nervously hissed while slowly placing the cup of extra hot coffee and the exquisite piece of her delicious ”Poppy Seed Strudel“ at their usual place next to the screen.
She seemed to enjoy their new sense of closeness. Last week, they had finally – during a dinner – made “thou-ing and thee-ing each other” official with two modest kisses. How very moderate! Basically, it was a pity, but then, it was certainly the right thing to do!
”What do you mean, have I heard… “? Carl asked sluggishly.
”Well, the news about your Miriam…“
”Bettina, how often do I have to tell you, she is not ’My Miriam’!“
”I, know, I know, Carl. It was just a joke! Everything else would certainly be grotesque; if someone gets someone else put in front of him in such a brutal way as you had to suffer with this Miriam Braun, you definitely cannot expect him to like her, can you …“
”So what is it with my dear boss Bettina, who was put in front of me“?
”Carl, you will never guess.“
”Is there something between her and Osterkorn? Well, that would not surprise me … “
”Well, there might be, but I do not know about it “…
”Or did she secretly try on our underwear collection in her office at night?“
”I am sure that would have been something you would have liked to see?“
”Now I know: she is again wearing this hot rubber underwear…“
“You pig! Is there nothing else you can ever think of?“
“I can – but not when I see you standing in front of me obviously totally beside yourself …“
”Well, you can slow down, Carl – because your dear boss is simply and quite unspectacularly pregnant!“
”She what! Pregnant? Impossible!“
“Is, too. She is four months along already“.
“Four months? But you cannot see anything!“
“Well, you may not see anything, but I can see something!“
“So who told you this spectacular news?“
”I am not telling! But I bet it will be a boy“.
”Is that your famous female instinct talking?“
“Call it whatever you want, Carl. But in the end you will see I was correct!“
“So who is the father? Braun spends every hour of the day at the company, including the nights?“
”Well, there is no shortage of rumours, but nobody really knows“.
”So when is she due?“
”Probably in October or November …“
“In other words: exactly at the time when we are supposed to present the new company structure! Now won’t our dear Osterkorn be just happy? I think the first thing I have to do now is enjoy a really spiteful breakfast on your delicious poppy seed strudel…“
“Go ahead, Carl. You are not the only person who is happy about the turn of events“, Bettina said with a roguish smile. “And before I forget: Dr. Osterkorn will expect to see you at ten“.
“And he wants to see the documents on the current budget planning“, she added. But this last sentence did not really seem to register with Carl. Instead, he seemed to disintegrate in seed puppy strudel and cold coffee…
When, at ten on the dot, Carl entered Osterkorn’s office, there was a short moment when he actually was afraid Osterkorn was going to embrace and kiss him. That is how enthusiastically he was welcomed. His right hand was gripped in such a vicious death grip that Carl, for the slightest fraction of a second actually feared he would have to amputate it…
“Mr. S., we have a huge problem – or are we already ’thou-ing and thee-ing’ each other“, Was Osterkorn’s greeting.
“Yes, three months ago on Milano, with Frau Braun…“, Carl tentatively replied while doing a few finger stretches in order to re-vitalize his numb right hand.
“Carl, now I remember! So once again: I am Bernhard, my friends call me ’Bernie’! Carl, as you know, six months ago, after intense negotiations, we both installed Miriam – that is Frau Braun – to become sales manager for our sector ’hosiery and knit-ware’ . Regardless of her youth, she came with absolutely excellent recommendations and references. And even you, my dear Carl…“
“I? Are you – sure…“
“Or course, Carl. At the time, you were the determining factor, as they say; without your mute content, I would never have dared this courageous step with Frau Braun. Never. Absolutely not. Don’t we both know that I always sought and seek your consent? After all, nobody knows TRIGA as you know it, Carl, do they?“
“No buts – Carl! But what a miserable host I am. Would you like a cup of coffee, or a glass of water?“
“No, thanks. I have been served superbly by my …“!
“Now isn’t she just a dear, Carl? I really envy you there. Unfortunately, we both are not to be envied with respect to the problem I just mentioned …“
“What problem are you talking?“ Carl asked hypocritically.
“Just imagine, Carl, our good Frau Braun, for whom we both really took all pains, told me yesterday – as bold as brass – that she is pregnant“!
“Pregnant? – Wow. But then, being a young woman, maybe she is entitled to it, isn’t she?“
“She may be entitled to it as a young woman, but not as a freshly-made sector sales manager! And if that was what she was planning to do all along, she should have told me when I interviewed her, or at least when she noticed what a huge task there was ahead of her…“
“But perhaps she never planned to get pregnant, perhaps it just happened“, said Carl, playing naivety.
“What? Just happened? This is the 21st century – no, that is not something I am ever going to believe. Braun cunningly planned it all from the start, Carl, you can believe me. There you see again: women, women, women; it is always the same, you can never rely on them“!
“I am not sure. Are you, perhaps, going a little too far…“
“Am not! It is exactly as I said. In the end, women will always play their tricks on you. But, of course, they want equal rights! And, naturally, they want to earn at least as much as their male competition! Sure, sure. But as soon as you take them up on their word and want to see them deliver what they promised, they slick their tails – which they don’t have but would very much like to have – between their legs. Carl, you cannot say I am wrong, can you? …“
“ Bernhard, maybe you want to be a little careful with your choice of words. They might be a little over the top right there…“
”Over the top, Carl? Ha, ha, ha! There is no need to become mute among friends, is there? You must be permitted to talk freely in certain contexts. After all, this talk about emancipation is nothing but shallow drivel. Don’t we both know what women really want, Carl! And we also know that, come November, the new company structure has to be finished! And so did Frau Braun! But, no, she has to pick this of all times to give the world another mouth to feed and then be gone for nobody knows how long! Well, if you are perfectly honest, this is more than a little unfortunate! Where am I supposed to recruit a new sales manager who fits the job description in a hurry now? One who knows both the market and our products. It is basically impossible!“
“Oh, yes, I admit, this is not easy, Bernhard.“
“Call me Bernie, Carl. Let us stick with Bernie. Aren’t we old, war-proof friends who now have to stick together in order to see how we can put the shoulder to the wheel? Consequently, I thought maybe we should make good use of the time – as long as our consultant is still in the house and generating the new company structure – and do some castling between you and Miriam.“
“What castling, Bernhard?“
“Come on, don’t pretend ignorance, Carl! What I mean is, of course, that, starting now, you will be in charge of the total sales and Miriam will do underwear. Naturally, the entire process will be accompanied by a suitable added income for you, Carl. So how do you feel about it? Isn’t this a great offer among men?“
“Well, Bernhard, I must say this comes as a bit of a surprise for me …“
“What do you mean, surprise, Carl. Don’t we both know you would have been the right person to do the job from the beginning? And if you had not given me the wrong ideas by being so enthusiastic about Frau Braun …“
“Yes – after all, you had all the opportunity of the world to stop the employment of Frau Braun by how you evaluated her. But, no. All you did was sit there and silently nod. Well, Carl, there you see. There are times when you should not just let your judgment be clouded by a woman’s bust size. Sometimes it is wiser to actually judge them by their qualifications. … But, hey, let us be done with it. Nobody will ever bear a grudge against you, least of all your old war comrade Bernie…“
“No but Bernies. Carl, we two men now simply have to right things that went wrong because, again, women fucked it up big time. I am sure we will manage, as in old times, won’t we?“
Enthusiastically, Bernie jumped up, ran towards his cupboard near the entrance door with surprising speed and dexterously fished for his most expensive Cognac, along with two not really small cognac glasses while plastering a conspiratorial smile onto his face. And before Carl had time to think about what was happening, he already cheered along:
“To us men, Carl. Nothing will ever strike us down, not even women!“
(Translated by EG)