Lou Swinney wheeled his new SUV into the cramped parking lot. A cup holding his morning java suddenly jarred forward as he
made the abrupt stop. The inertia sent a quarter of the contents on an additional journey. Swinney quickly wiped the rim and
base of the cup with a tissue and barreled out of the vehicle toward the front door, a wide briefcase trailing from his right
arm like a broken rudder.
He entered and saw Pam Kennedy at the front desk. He dropped the case and straightened his shirt and tie.
"Hello, Lou," Pam said as Lou completed his personal re-arrangements.
Lou finally looked up, smiled and asked if Dr. Moss was in. "He usually is, but he didn't feel well today. Dr. Ben Collier
is here. He is just finishing an appointment and may have a few minutes," Pam said.
Lou smiled and thanked her.
He represented Acme Drug and Serum Co. and was part of a dying breed of mobile sales representatives still offering a wide
variety of drugs and equipment. His company was the largest in the region and had stabilized after a "Fortune 500" company
had acquired it a few years ago.
After a few minutes, Dr. Collier entered and greeted Lou professionally.
Lou was very good at his job and was affable. He could be quite persuasive if he was behind in his sales goals. Usually, however,
he just wanted to talk and meet people and was genuinely interested in the well-being of his clientele. This was really why
he loved his job. After he got to know his clients, he would sometimes probe a bit too far.
Like most sales associates, Lou started with new-product detailing and inquiries into the needs of the practice. The conversation
eventually ended with the trading of opinions on the general state of the profession.
Sometime during the visit, regardless of its success or failure, Lou would pop the inevitable question: "Are you slow, or
are you busy?"
Center Valley had been fairly busy, so the question and the answer seemed to satisfy all parties.
"Are you happy here, Dr. Collier?" Lou finally probed.
"Oh, pretty well. You know nothing's always perfect, but Dr. Moss has been good to me and so far it is all going well."
"Did you ever think of starting out on your own?" Lou asked.
Ben blushed a bit and hesitated. "Occasionally, but I am not really ready for all that right now," he said.
Lou leaned forward at bit and whispered:
"Well, if you ever do, give me a call. I can set you up completely."
Early a.m. Tuesday
Dr. Gene Moss turned over and looked up at the dark ceiling. He could see only a shaft of light peeking into the room from
the hallway "night light." His mind was racing as he worried and fretted. Shadows appeared and moved with every passing car.
He could hear a distant train — something that he hadn't noticed in years.
He turned over one more time as his wife shifted and whispered in his ear.
"You're not sleeping. How come?"
"It's nothing. I just can't get to sleep."
Sally moved to the lateral edge of the bed and dropped off to sleep again almost immediately. John continued to toss and turn.
Gene fumbled with his shirt button for no apparent reason. He continued to see clients but dreaded the morning like none before
it. He watched his busy associate Ben Collier and imagined the worst.