FICTION

Sympatico

"You mustn’t let your heart rule your head," Ellen warned her secretary. Then in walked Jefferson T. Craig

KALMAN PHILLIPS June 1 1947
FICTION

Sympatico

"You mustn’t let your heart rule your head," Ellen warned her secretary. Then in walked Jefferson T. Craig

KALMAN PHILLIPS June 1 1947

Sympatico

"You mustn’t let your heart rule your head," Ellen warned her secretary. Then in walked Jefferson T. Craig

KALMAN PHILLIPS

Teeth so sparkling, teeth so bright, Teeth a lovely, milky white; Have the smile to make men dream, G-L-E-A-M spells Gleam.

ROGER KIPLINGER switched off the turn-table. The oak-panelled conference room in the offices of Kiplinger and Rorick, Advertising, was completely silent as his shaggy-browed eyes swept the occupants of the deeply cushioned leather chairs. His voice was heavy with disgust. “Spelling lessons!”

A thin-nosed man cleared his throat nervously. “We’ve had considerable success with that sort of thing in the past.”

“Oh?” The Kiplinger scowl was black. “Please get through your thick skulls that we’re not interested in the people who bought tooth paste yesterday. We’re after those who are going to buy it tomorrow. Our client isn’t going to waste a coast-to-coast radio hookup on a commercial like that. Get something fresh!”

They rose uncomfortably.

“Oh, Miss Kirby.”

The neatly serged young woman with the severe bun at the base of her neck and the level blue eyes turned. “Yes?”

“How are you coming along with the station line-up?”

“Almost complete.”

“Good!” His lips curled as he surveyed the apologetic males in the room. “I wish I could place as much confidence in you men as I can in Miss Kirby. That’s all.”

Ellen Kirby could feel the resentment of the men as a prickly feeling between her shoulder blades as they stepped aside to let her leave first. Strangely, however, it and Mr. Kiplinger’s commendation failed to elate her today. Something was wrong.

Continued on page 26

Continued from page 23

She sat down behind the large mahogany desk in her office and gazed moodily at the papers on it. She didn’t know what was the matter with her lately. t It had started again that morning, walking to the office through the park from her apartment. It had something to do with the birds singing and the fresh smell of the trees and grass, and the first golden feeling of summer. Being radio-time buyer for a top advertising agency had suddenly seemed an empty accomplishment. She had felt this way before, increasingly in the past two months, but never as depressingly as today.

She shook her shoulders. This was silly. She had work to do. Her small chin set firmly, and she turned to the reports on her desk.

The door opened. The tall blond girl who was Ellen’s secretary entered. Her cheeks were slightly flushed. “Shall I have him come in now?”

“Have whom “come in?”

“Mr. Craig—Jefferson T. Craig.” “Who is he?”

“The young man who’s been waiting, remember? He’s been here since before lunch.”

Ellen shrugged her shoulders irritably. “I’m very busy, Adelaide. Have him make an appointment for sometime next week.”

“He can’t wait. He says his time in town is limited. I think you really should see him, Miss Kirby.”

“Why?”

The other girl hesitated. “Well, he— he’s very nice.”

Ellen smiled wearily. “Adelaide, you’d be a lot better off if you wouldn’t let your heart rule your head quite so often.”

The other girl’s eyebrows raised slightly. She seemed unconvinced. “Shall I tell him to come in?”

“Oh, all right.” Ellen sighed, pushing back the papers on her desk. People could think of more ways of wasting her time!

She looked up as a tall loose-limbed young man entered. Her eyelids flickered slightly and she felt a queer tingling somewhere in the vicinity of her solar plexus. She realized suddenly what Adelaide had been talking about. He was nice. It wasn’t his features—actually they weren’t too regular. It was something about the way the little wrinkles sprayed from the edges of the pleasant grey eyes, something to do with the good white teeth and the ruffled eyebrows and the friendly, completely unself-conscious way he was smiling—as though he liked her personally. Ellen felt warm—warm and a little confused. “Please sit down.” “Thank you.”

Alarm bells chimed in her mind as he pushed a big chair nearer her desk and relaxed into it. Her voice had trembled. This was silly. This wouldn’t do at all. Just because a man had grey eyes which looked directly into hers and birds had sung in the park in the morning was no reason for her nerve ends to flutter in that erratic way. She frowned and looked at her watch. “I can give you exactly 10 minutes, Mr. Craig.”

The ruffled eyebrows went up. He took a pipe and tobacco from his pocket and started to fill the pipe. His fingers were deliberate, unhurried. He lit the pipe, puffed deeply, and a satisfied cloud of smoke floated gently toward the ceiling. He crossed his long legs and smiled at Ellen.

She swallowed. “Uh . . . well . . . aren’t you going to say anything?” He shrugged. “Not much I can say in 10 minutes that would do much good.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m very busy.”

“The GleamToothPasteCampaign?” “Mostly.”

“Ah.” He puffed deeply, reflecting. There was a long pause. Ellen fidgeted. He took the pipe out of his mouth. “Mind a suggestion?”

“Not at all.”

“Use KDAL in Vancouver.”

Ellen’s brow furrowed. “I don’t seem to know it. What network is it on?”

“No network. It’s an independent.” She smiled deprecatingly. “We very seldom use off-network stations.”

“I know. That’s the trouble with you big advertising agencies. Fixed ideas. No vision. You need talking to.” He looked at his watch. “Oh—oh.

Time’s up.” He rose.

She blinked. “You haven’t told me what you wanted to see me about.”

He looked pained. “Frankly, Miss Kirby, I dislike discussing business during business hours. It’s too—well too cold-blooded. Too much of this 10-minute stuff.”

“But—but why did you come, then?” “To establish sympatico.” He paused at the door. “Miss Kirby, would you mind my making an observation?”

“Why, no. Not at all.”

“You have the loveliest blue eyes I have ever seen.” The door closed behind him.

ELLEN JUST sat there gaping at it.

Her face felt warm. She was aware suddenly that her heart was beating fast enough to make her conscious of it. What was the matter with her? Just because an obviously eccentric young man said ...

Ellen rose. She walked slowly to the closet, opened the door and gazed intently into the deep dark-lashed eyes looking back at her from the mirror, Her knees felt weak, and she was curiously lightheaded. She frowned, bit her lip suddenly, and went back to her desk. She was a practical, successful young businesswoman. There was no star dust on her eyelashes.

Nevertheless she lingered on the way • home that evening through the earlysummer twilight, gazing into shop windows. Tailored suits failed to grip. It was the dream stuff with the moonbeamlike sequins and misty lace that held her fast. She paused in front of one window. The dress was white tulle, with a snug waist and a sweeping skirt. A crimson camellia clung where the skirt flared. The small neatcard beneath it said, “For That Special Date.”

Ellen looked at the dress for a long fime. A fullness rose in her throat, and she glanced away. She had a dream dress—she’d bought it for herself last Christmas in a sentimental mood—but she’d never worn it. There hadn’t been any occasion to.

She had trained a sexless impersonality into her manner. And she had made the office her life. Ellen was 25, and she had thought she was happy. But lately something had been happening to her. She didn’t know what it was, but her adjustment seemed to be breaking down.

The girl at the. desk of the apartment hotel said, “Miss Kirby.”

Ellen paused on the way to the elevator and turned without interest. Messages, though not infrequent, were invariably from either the office or the woman’s business club to which she belonged.

“Yes?”

The girl at the desk was smiling at her in a friendly, half-envious way.

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Continued from, page 26 Ellen’s eyelids flickered. She had always suspected previously that the other had thought her something of a pill. The girl said, “A gentleman left a package for you.”

Ellen gazed at the small box tied with blue ribbon which the girl had placed on the counter. Her eyes had difficulty in believing the exquisite white orchid inside the transparent cover. Her fingers trembled slightly as she took it. “Thank you.”

Upstairs she sat down on the couch a moment to let her pulse slow down before she opened the small white envelope. It read, “From station KDAL to the girl with the beautiful eyes.”

So that was it. Ellen smiled slightly at what had been her own eagerness. It was only business as usual. The young man of this afternoon obviously represented KDAL and wanted her to swing some of the Gleam Tooth Paste business his way. More sympatico. He hadn’t learned yet that one of the reasons Mr. Kiplinger had so much confidence in her was because she wasn’t affected by things like receiving orchids. But she’d have to -speak to Adelaide about not giving out her address. Ellen looked wistfully at the orchid. It was a lovely thing. But she wasn’t going anywhere, and it wouldn’t last long.

The telephone rang. Ellen lifted it. A pleasant baritone voice said, “Miss Kirby?”

Her pulse quickened just a bit. She knew who it was. “Yes?”

“This is Jeff Craig.”

“KDAL?”

“How did you know?”

“The corsage, Mr. Craig.”

“I hope you like it. I need some advice, Miss Kirby. I’m a stranger in town, you know. I thought you might help me.”

“I’ll try. What is it?”

“Could you recommend some place for dinner ... a little out of the ordinary, preferably?”

Ellen pondered. The places at which she normally dined might be a little tame for a young man from Vancouver seeing the town. He’d probably prefer something which had dancing and a show. She smiled ruefully to herself. She’d recommend the place Adelaide spoke of so often. He might even be taking Adelaide out. “ Y ou might try Armand’s. And, incidentally, you’ll probably get a better table if y ou wear a dinner jacket.”

“Thanks for the tip. Shall I pick you up about eight, then?”

Her heart jumped. “Pick me up?” “Yes, of course.”

Ellen gripped the telephone firmly to steady her voice. “I’m sorry, Mr. Craig. I don’t go out with business acquaintances.”

There was a small exasperated grunt at the other end of the line. “Miss Kirby, you aren’t going out with me. This is business.”

“Armand’s?”

“Merely background. I find that things can be presented more clearly in a relaxed atmosphere. Of course, if you’re the type of employee who thinks her duty to her firm ends at five o’clock, I don’t suppose—”

“Oh, I’m not, Mr. Craig!”

“Then you’ll co-operate?”

“Well—” Ellen’s heart was thumping now. “All right. But make it eight-thirty, would you?”

“Fine.”

Ellen replaced the receiver a little breathlessly. It was all right. She’d be able to talk. It was only a business appointment. She looked at the white orchid on the table. She’d wear it. And she’d pile her hair on top of her head. And she’d wear that dress. And

it was all legitimate. After all, maybe Kiplinger and Rorick had been overlooking a good bet in stations like KDAL. It was certainly her duty to find out.

BUT IT wasn’t interest in KDAL that flushed the’ cheeks of the girl in the mirror two hours later. The dress was powder-blue, daringly strappless, and tight to the waist where the skirt flared in a gracious swirl to tha golden slippers. Small gold earrings clung to her ears, tiny sapphires deepening the blue in her shining eyes. She looked — well — if she hadn’t known better, she would have said very feminine and very attractive.

The doorbell rang. Ellen hesitated, feeling shaky inside. Then, like a novice diver approaching the end of a 10foot springboard, she moved to the door. She opened it.

The grey eyes of the tall young man in the smartly tailored dinner jacket observed her for a long moment “Hmm,” he said, “that’s what I thought. Hello.”

Ellen wanted to say hello. She wanted to meet the friendliness in his voice with equal warmth. But she couldn’t. Her throat was tight and her knees were trembling. She couldn’t just stand there. She had to say something. She opened her mouth. “Uh— just what sort of listening audience does KDAL have, Mr. Craig?”

He chuckled. “People with ears,” he said, but he kept on talking about them, and Ellen was saved. It was business, and she could talk business to men.

She found out all about KDAL at dinner. Jefferson Craig owned it, and according to him it was the coming voice of the Far West. He had charts, surveys and statistics to show her, but he hadn’t brought them with him. He also would like to dance.

“Uh—dance?” Ellen said. She could feel the color mounting in her cheeks. “Well—that is, I don’t.” But he was standing next to her chair, one hand drawing her up. And she wanted to— very much.

She hadn’t danced since her highschool days except at home to the radio. Acute consciousness of that fact made her steps stiff and uncertain, and her tense body maintained a clear six inches between them. She was biting her lips after the second stumble, fiercely regretting the impulse that had kept her from refusing. He’d know better than to ask her to dance again.

She paused apprehensively at the end of the number, expecting him to mutter something as a means of escaping from the floor. He didn’t. He said, “I’m sorry, Miss Kirby. I just don’t seem to be able to get the hang of this eastern method of dancing. How about trying it British Columbia style?” Ellen swallowed. “What’s that?” The music had started. He drew her toward him. “Well, to begin with, go limp.”

“I—I don’t understand.”

“Just collapse.”

“Here on the floor?”

He chuckled. “No. In my direction. And from there out leave everything to me.”

“Like—like this?” Ellen wanted to know.

His arm drew her in to where she didn’t have to think about her feet— only about the soft lights and the man holding her and the disturbing pounding of her pulses. So this was dancing, not doing steps, but floating in a spangled sea of music. It wasn’t hard. It—it was wonderful. It seemed to break down a wall inside of her—a strange self-imposed wall between herself and the enjoyment of living. She let the music seep into her, down to her very toes. She felt light and free and queerly excited. She wantod to go on dancing forever.

The music stopped. His grey eyes smiled down at her. Ellen felt herself smiling too, smiling back, almost with confidence. He didn’t want to stop dancing with her. He was enjoying it too.

It was late when they returned to her apartment hotel, later than Ellen could remember ever having been out with a man. And they hadn’t talked only business. He was an electronics engineer, had worked with radar in the Navy during the war. He’d bought KDAL with the naïve conception that all one needed to operate a radio station with success was technical j knowledge. He had found out dif| ferently, and was learning the promotion end of the business fast. Ellen, from his approach in her case, had no doubt that he’d make a sucess of it.

She held out her hand at the door of her apartment. “Good night, Jeff. Thank you for a lovely evening.”

He pressed her fingers slightly. “Shall I bring the charts and surveys tomorrow?”

Ellen hesitated. “You—you mean to the office?”

“Not unless you prefer it that way. I find I talk better in the evening—more sympatico. Here?”

She said, “All right,” so quickly it startled her. She closed the door and stood with her back against it until she heard the elevator door close behind him. Then she turned on the radio, pirouetted on the rug, tossed herself onto the couch and hugged the pillow. She’d come out of her shell and hadn’t been gobbled up. She’d talked and she’d danced. It had been a wonderful evening, and he was coming again tomorrow. She didn’t care if it was only sympatico to put over his station. Most of the world was run on sympatico and so long as she didn’t commit Kiplinger and Rorick to anything bad for them, she didn’t see how she was hurting anyone by basking in some of it.

The world remained a scintillating place until Mr. Kiplinger called her into his office the next afternoon. He was scowling blackly. “Bad news, Miss Kirby.”

’ “What is it?”

“Gleam Tooth Paste. They’ve cancelled.”

Ellen’s eyes shocked wide open. “But they can’t do that! Not after all the work we’ve done!”

“They have. Kent and Carstairs sold them on some silly nursery rhyme deal and got the account.”

“Oh, no!” Ellen moaned.

Mr. Kiplinger got up and patted her on the shoulder. “I appreciate your loyalty, but don’t take it so hard. Chambers brought in a new hair-tonic account this morning — Fresho. You can start working on that.”

A ray of sunlight pierced the gloom. “Coast to coast?”

“Just the Maritimes. But a tremendous campaign. Almost as good as -say, what’s the matter with you?”

Ellen gazed blankly at him. “What? That is . .. uh, nothing, Mr. Kiplinger.” “Then don’t look that way. It depresses me. After all, I’m the one who should feel worst about losing that account.”

“How little you know!” Ellen said. But she said it to herself, deep in her own heart, as she went back to her office.

She knew what she ought to do. She should call Jeff’s hotel and leave a message for him that there was no point in his bringing the surveys over that evening, that the account was dead, that there was no reason for him to establish any more sympatico her. Ellen looked at the telephone, her throat filled, and her eyes misted over. She lifted it slowly, then replaced it. She couldn’t do it. She just couldn't. Not that way. Not so so abruptly. She’d tell him tonight. She could say that she’d been so busy, telephoning him had just slipped her mind.

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Continued from page 29

SHE LOOKED at his surveys that evening. Somehow telling him just seemed to slip her mind again. And of course she couldn’t tell him when they were dancing in the tiny French restaurant later. He seemed to be enjoying himself, and it wouldn’t be fair to dampen his spirits. And on the ferry ride the next night, with the dark waters swishing around them and the lights of the city gleaming through the fog, she couldn’t very well tell him because he was kissing her. One didn’t talk when one was being very soundly kissed. And on Sunday, feeding peanuts to the monkeys in the park — well, you shouldn’t talk business on Sunday.

It took Ellen another week to face the reality of the situation. She was living a lie. She had been too weak to tell him—too weak to face the end of their evenings together. Jeff had talked types of program, rates, audience reactions, and how many times a day people washed their teeth in British Columbia until she was convinced that KDAL was the ideal station for its area to properly put over Gleam Tooth Paste. And Jeff knew she was convinced. He hardly bothered to talk business any more. He obviously felt that all that was required now to close the deal for a time contract was more sympatico. He didn’t know that as far as sympatico was concerned she had reached her peak. Ellen was in love.

Complete realization of what she had done came home to her when they were sitting in the park late one evening watching the moon sink below the tall buildings. Jeff’s arm was around her shoulder. He sighed. “It’s really been a wonderful trip for me.”

“Has it, Jeff?”

He nodded. “You know, I was dubious about making it at all. Quite an expensive gamble, with plane fares and everything. If not for this Gleam Tooth Paste deal, I’m afraid little KDAL would have found itself in something of a hole.”

Ellen shivered. She felt very cold and small and miserable. “Jeff, I—-I—” “Anything wrong?”

She swallowed. She couldn’t get it out. “I’m tired. 1 want to go home.” She cried after he had gone, cried bitterly into the pillow on the bed. She had done something horrible something she could never explain away. She was self-indulgent, two-faced and treacherous. Jeff would despise her, but not nearly as much as she despised herself. She’d known all the while that he’d be going eventually. But that he should leave hating her was almost more than she could bear.

She’d have to tell hitn, though. Tomorrow night, when he came for dinner.

It was almost dawn when Ellen finally fell asleep. The sun streaming through her windows awakened her. She started up on one elbow. Ellen blinked, then tumbled out of bed. It was past noon.

Adelaide greeted her with some surprise when she entered the office. “Thought you weren’t coming in today.”

“I overslept. Anything important?” Adelaide glanced sideways at her. “That depends on what you consider important. Jefferson T. Craig was in to see you.”

Ellen's stomach turned over. “Is is he coming back?”

“1 don’t think so. When he found you weren't in he went in to see Mr. Kiplinger. He left just before lunch. He seemed to be upset about something.’’

Ellen swallowed. She went into the office quickly. She didn’t want Adelaide to sei» her face. If Jeff had spoken to Mr. Kiplinger it undoubtedly had been about Gleam Tooth Paste. Mr. Kiplinger must have told him that they no longer had the account . She sank weakly into her chair and stared out through the window. Clouds were gathering. But they weren’t as dark as the ones inside Ellen. She shuddered. How Jeff must detest her now !

She prepared dinner for two that night. After all, she’d invited him. Then she waited, listening to the rain slapping against the windowpanes, a desolate numbness inside her. The dinner grew cold. There was no Jeff. She hadn’t really expected him to come. She’d never see him again. She sat in a chair in the living room and scanned the books on the shelves dully. “Principles of Radio Advertising”; “Radio, Coast to Coast”; “Radio Sells Your Product”; others. All pallid, uninteresting, no sympatico. Like the life she had made for herself. Her adjustment had collapsed with the finality of crushed rubble.

The doorbell rang. Ellen started out of her chair. She opened it, then stepped back apprehensively.

Jeff was scowling at her. “Hello.” Her voice was shaky. “I—I almost thought you’d forgotten about dinner.”

His scowl deepened. “I’ve had dinner, an excellent dinner. At a restaurant, with the time buyer of Kent and Carstairs.”

“Oh,” Ellen said miserably.

He closed the door behind him, gazing at her. “Why?”

Ellen gulped. “You you’re wondering why 1 didn’t tell you that we no longer had the Gleam Tooth Paste account?”

“Wondering is hardly the word for it. I’m perplexed, dazed and in a complete fog.”

Ellen turned away. Her eyes had started to brim over. “Would—would you see the Kent and Carstairs time buyer any more if they didn’t have the account?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s why.”

“I don’t get the connection.”

“I just liked to be with you, that’s all. You wouldn’t kiss their time buyer on ferry rides if they didn’t have the account, would you?”

“I wouldn’t kiss their time buyer if they had six accounts. His mustache would tickle. Haven’t you gathered, my innocent young female, that most of this business-in-the-evening talk of mine was merely western technique? Í happen to be in love with you.”

Ellen blinked the mist out of her eyes. “What?”

“I’m in love with you. As soon as I close this tooth paste deal I’m going to gather you up and cart you off to the coast.”

Thunder crashed outside. Ellen was surprised. She’d had a distinct impression that the moon had come out. “But—but why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I was afraid you’d think I was talking to promote my deal. When I think of all the time I wasted . . . come here, please.”

Ellen drew away breathlessly after a bit. Her eyelashes blinked. That stuff on them —star dust. It was getting into her eyes. But she didn’t mind it. It was sympatico.