Series: Modern Lancer
Disclaimer: Own nothing, just borrowing.
Summary: The joy of corporate icebreakers.
There were many advantages to having his sons with him – one of them being they could drive and Murdoch could sit in the back seat with his laptop to memorize a short presentation.
Johnny looked back to him from the front seat. “What’s the deal with this one?”
Comfortable with the presentation, one he had done before with variations, Murdoch closed the laptop. Since missing one crucial board meeting, Johnny made sure he didn’t miss any others.
“Lancer, Inc. bought out two small companies – both were on the verge of going under. One had about 35 employees and was a distribution company for novelty items. The other is in software development and had 20 or so staff. The acquisitions team recommended merging the two. The software company has a decent product, but poor management and no distribution plan.”
“They dumped the management?”
Johnny had such a way with words. “Yes, they were more interested in the immediate dollar than continuing to invest in their product. It wasn’t a good situation for the rest of the employees. My understanding is that the software designers are talented.”
Scott’s eyes flicked to his through the rearview mirror. “The other company?”
“Makes up for the lack of management and distribution. Their buyers weren’t very good. Products didn’t sell. Who buys pineapple shaped salad tongs?” Murdoch slid the laptop into its case. “Today they are meeting and working with each for the first time, and that’s where we come in. I’ll do a presentation and then the new structure will be rolled out. It’s also a meet and greet.” A niggling thought entered his mind, but he pushed it away.
Murdoch looked back at Johnny to see his son studying his face. “Nothing, just a passing thought. Sometimes corporate leaderships get some strange ideas on teambuilding.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lancer. As you can tell by the applause, all of us are excited to be a part of the Lancer Corporations.”
Murdoch nodded his acknowledgement to the very energetic Ms. Tisdale as he went to sit down between his sons.
“Now with so many of us new, it’s time to get to know each other. We have a fun activity that will help us achieve that goal.”
Damn. Murdoch hated corporate icebreakers. There was nothing more awkward or a bigger waste of time. Ten years ago he never ran into this type of thing. To his right he heard Scott groan.
“Everyone in an odd number row turn your chairs around to face the even row.”
Johnny leaned into Murdoch’s shoulder. “What’s goin’ on?” The movement of chairs and people shifting covered his question.
Murdoch took a deep breath, and let it out in a puff. “Boys, I’m apologizing now. All I ask is that you give this your best shot.”
“Everyone, take this questionnaire and pass it down.” Ms. Tisdale’s perky tone continued through the wireless mic as she surveyed the room. “Each of you will take turns asking your partner, the person in front of you, these interview questions.”
Murdoch felt both his sons stiffen and thought he heard simultaneous whispers of shit. He managed a reasonable smile to the person across from him. Resigned, he took the sheet of paper and pencil, and prepared to do his minimal best.
“Okay, the odd row will start with the questions and you have ten minutes. Go!”
What Murdoch hadn’t expected was that he was interested in his sons’ answers.
“Your name and nicknames.”
“John Lancer, no nickname except for Johnny.” Murdoch was surprised that Johnny didn’t mention Madrid.
“Scott Lancer. Only my grandfather got away with calling me Scotty.” Catherine had disliked Scotty. She thought it had sounded too much like calling to a puppy. He doubted that Harlan knew.
“How long have you been with the company?”
“What’s today’s date?” Johnny made sure he was in attendance where and when he was needed. Didn’t mean he kept any better track of time.
Scott on the other hand… “Five weeks and four days.”
“What is your position title and what do you really do?”
Johnny sighed. “Part owner, and the majority of the time, I have no idea.”
owner, and all of it still in training.”
“What is your favorite color?”
And what was that question supposed to tell a person? Murdoch could see Johnny glance over at Scott. “It’s the one with the stupid name that people use when they can’t just say blue - cerulean, I think.”
Scott tapped his chin in a thoughtful, serious way, before coming up with, “Razzmic Berry. Great name, don’t you think?”
“What are your favorite hobbies?”
“Photography.” Murdoch could have predicted that one. He had recently started doing some research into photography since he had only ever managed a small point and shoot camera. What Johnny carried around had too many buttons and settings. He was afraid to touch it, but he was fascinated watching Johnny when he was taking pictures.
Now Scott, he didn’t know. Hobbies hadn’t been a topic of conversation around the dinner table. “Trail riding.” Murdoch made a mental note to ask Scott if he had a horse boarded back in Boston.
Johnny again glanced at Scott. “I like collecting those little souvenir thimbles. You wouldn’t believe how many places you can find them.”
Packed together as they were, Murdoch felt more than heard Scott’s subdued snort. “I collect those spoons. You know, the ones for each state? I only need Vermont and Idaho to complete my collection.”
Johnny: “I’m big into to cross-stitching. It’s relaxing. And the reason I needed the thimbles.”
Scott: “I like making those hats out of beer cans.”
Johnny had a sudden cough.
Maybe he hadn’t missed out on as much of his sons’ childhoods as he had first thought. Murdoch, keeping it casual as he replied to the questions directed to him, rested a hand on each of his sons’ legs. He didn’t want to see how far the hobbies could degenerate. He had a feeling the interviewers had caught on, too.
“What would be a dream vacation for you?”
“Camping, roughing it – with a camera, of course.”
This time it was Scott sneaking a peek at Johnny, but it was with an ironic smile. “Long trail rides, camping out, and no electronics of any kind.”
“If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?”
“That it wouldn’t be so easy for people to lie.” Murdoch had a feeling he knew where that was coming from. One of these days – when the time was right – they would talk about Maria.
“Doing away with wars would be good.” And that was another ‘when the time was right’ talks. Murdoch wondered if he would get up the nerve or had the right to ask the questions he so much wanted to.
“Have you ever been in the military?
“Do you know any good – clean- jokes?
“Clean ones? Nope. Sort of would take the fun out of it.”
“Yeah, there’s one…” Scott chuckled. “No, can’t count that one.”
“What is one thing nobody in this room knows about you?”
Aside from reports provided by people paid to find information – just about everything that Murdoch ever dreamed of knowing about his sons.
“We only have ten minutes, right? I like deep fried Twinkies.” Murdoch didn’t stop himself from looking at Johnny, who shot him a grin. “What? They’re really good.”
Murdoch felt Scott’s slight shudder at the Twinkie idea, before he said, “I like watching old westerns.”
By the time the ten minutes was up, Murdoch had mapped out a plan to take his sons camping through some of the most beautiful areas of the preserve. He used to do that years ago when he needed time to himself to think and grieve in private.
It felt good to have a different, happier reason to make the trip again.
Some of the packed camping gear would need to be aired out. He could buy new or borrow some, but it felt important to use the old stuff until they wanted to pick out new. They would need some gear for Scott and Johnny – sleeping blankets for one. Murdoch grinned, maybe in burgundy and blue. Teresa’s insistent quizzing of all Crayola’s colors when she was an avid crayon user was paying off.
Maybe they would even pick up a box of Twinkies.
Maybe it would be the right time.
One week later Johnny found a cross-stitch pattern Bless Our Happy Home with all the trimmings on his bed. Beside it was thimble depicting Elvis.
Displayed in the middle of Scott’s bed, was a six-pack of Sam Adams. Propped up against the cans, were two small souvenir spoons: Vermont and Idaho.