UNITED STATES—There stood Sam in the snazzy, well-tailored clothes from New York, that were the outsize sartorial expression of a man who gets all the loot and has had enough of all the khaki and shirtsleeve decades. He made a concerted effort not to use the words kvetch, for complaint. But in the end was so crass, this little guy here in the belly of the octopus—it was Allied and his fortune was tied up in Allied’s fortune, and if they collapsed it would be a catastrophe.
Meanwhile, through the window he saw that same bleak Atlantic blue-gray he’d seen from the steerage deck of a ship arriving in New York from the old country, a boy named Ham, now from a country that no longer existed, swallowed up by the U.S.S.R.
He concluded: “You have to control the supply. The banana forests are withering. People want bananas. I never had to advertise a banana; it advertises itself. The banana split—who invented it? People argue over that. There was a guy in Missouri. A Pennsylvania optometrist, David “Doc” Stickler, inspired by the fruit laden sundaes he’d seen while vacationing at Atlantic City in 1904 and the three scoops of ice cream cradled between two halves of a banana split down the middle was a hit with college students.
“So listen to this voice in the wilderness,” said Sam. “Decommission some decrepit ships, control supply, increase plantings, heed severe warning about labor unrest. People badmouth the company openly. Thank you Wincent Auchinsloss Sutton.”
There was silence. A tugboat tooted in the ocean by the newly built George Washington Bridge. Finally, the Chairman of the Board spoke, “I really can’t help you, Mr. Delaney. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t understand a word you said.”
Then after a moment, the table of proper Bostonians, mostly clean shaven and wearing horn-rimmed glasses, joined in a hearty collective chuckle. In his heart of hearts, he had to wrench himself away, keep head held high or his suit would be a mess, all that beautiful, tailored herringbone from Great Britain. He retreated. What was it Ma used to say, Get out, Jaim, for God’s sake, before you get mad.
Sam withdrew. Mr. Vincent Auchinsloss Sutton looked on smugly, seeing how Sam had accepted defeat.
On the train’s approach, coming into Boston hadn’t been able to sleep on the train, usually a place where he lulled into relaxation. It was the place where he struck on the idea of staging a revolution himself and replacing the elected president with the banana-friendly President Padilla Ortiz when the U.S. government snubbed his banana business.
Boston was his only chance. He thought of Papa dying of brain fever in Bessarabia, the slate gray waters of New York harbor, coming the Ellis Island. And he came back in five minutes later where the old monopoly men were smoking victory cigars. Their jaws froze. Before the shocked Bostonians who’d driven Allied into the ground saw the wild Russian waving a fistful of stock certificates and also proxies Sam had gathered, for months he had been shlepping around the country chatting with shareholders, they were the public, the people he’d dealt with most of his life, since he became a kid-adult pushing a banana cart around New Orleans, and they were nice people who, when educated about Allied’s mismanagement of their money, got riled up and were happy to give him their voting rights at the board meeting. Sam had real clout when he walked into the boardroom, stood welded to the earth and spoke from his cojones and his heart:
“You’ve been —-ing up the business long enough. I’m here to straighten things out.”
When the President’s Secretary of State brushed him off and had had the notion of staging a revolution himself. Joe Holly, President Padilla Ortiz. The title of president did not please him, in fact made Sam nervous. He was named “Managing Director of Operations.”
From Boston to Bogota Allied Fruit got a lesson in efficiency, they cut out the deadwood, fired workers who underperformed. Fortune magazine reported the company’s income rose three times that of the first half. Sam was experiencing a surge of youth on the lee side of fifty and Sam was on his way to the crazy loot. He’d paid his dues.
To be continued…
Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction. His new story collection “Watsonviller Stories” can be browsed at amazon.com.