George and the Armadillo; Chapter 8.
A chapter from my new book, George and the Armadillo
‘Welcome onboard, Mr. Miller, Ms. Munro. Do, please, take a seat. Would you like a drink? Coffee? Green tea?’
‘Black coffee for me,’ said George.
‘Coffee for me too, please,’ echoed Hannah, ‘but just a little milk. No sugar.’
A prim young lady left the room.
‘Good. Good. I have to tell you, Mr. Miller, may I call you George, we’re all very, very excited by this.’ There was a hum of agreement around the table. ‘We want to move forward as quickly as possible, which is why I wanted to have this meeting today. We’ll draw up the agreement over the next week or so, but we’ve already outlined the terms in our e-mail – I’m sure you won’t find any surprises . . . ’ At this, those around the large glass table smiled flaccidly. ‘So today I’d really like to work on names so that we can get our publicity peoples’ juices pumping. Can we go round the table and introduce ourselves? I’ll start; well you know me, of course. I’m Trevor Leech, CEO of Leech and Tang. Our goal is to provide financial assistance and management advice to start-ups such as yours.’
Trevor managed a slight upturn of his mouth which George assumed was an attempt at a smile.
‘OK Mike, you want to go next?’
‘Sure. I’m Mike Tang, partner at Leech and Tang. I’d like to reiterate what Trevor has said, I’m really excited to be involved with this. This could be really big.’ Mike wore a crisply ironed white shirt that tightly hugged his body. His blood-red tie was held in place by a gold and ivory tie clip which matched his cufflinks.
‘Hello, Mr. Miller. Hello, Ms. Munro. I’m Ashley Peters. I also work for Trevor, and I’m going to be working closely with you to promote you to the world.’
George was about to say something but Hannah kicked his shin sharply under the table.
‘Hello, everyone. I’m Rachel: I also work for Leech and Tang and I work in marketing with Ashley. I think you and I will see a lot of each other in the coming months.’
‘Oh, I’m last, am I? Well I’m Donny Hardcastle, and I’m a marketing consultant, based in Baltimore – that’s in the US of A – but I help out Trev out from time to time. Trev and I have worked on many projects together, haven’t we, Trev?’
Trevor gave Donny a look that would not have seemed out of place had he just been implicated in some paedophile ring.
‘OK, people, let’s get to work. George, we want to free you up as much as possible. This is a new product from a new company, so we need to get it out there now, start some gossip and rumours, get the expectancy level up. So today, people, I want us to brainstorm a name for the company and a name for the product. George, am I right in thinking that you haven’t given much thought to this so far? I should maybe explain, George is an engineer —’ (at this everyone around the table collectively sighed, as if the death of a favourite pet had just been announced) — ‘and he’ll be managing the design of this thing, but Ms. Munro is in marketing so we’ll mostly be working with her.’
‘Please, call me Hannah.’
‘Hannah, as in that British guy from the Mummy movies?’ asked Donny.
‘Well, yes, except that Hannah is my Christian name and John Hannah is a man.’
The prim girl entered the room with a tray of drinks and doughnuts. George noticed that she had such uncommonly large breasts that the buttons of her tight blouse were struggling to contain them.
‘Oh yes, Tuesday, doughnut day. I’d forgotten. Help yourself Ms. Munro, er . . . Hannah. Now,’ Trevor wiped the pink, sticky doughnut topping off his lips with a paper napkin, ‘you all have the summary in front of you that Rachel has prepared for us. Rachel, do you want to quickly remind us what George’s idea is all about?’
‘Well, we’re all familiar with Apple of course.’ George waited to see if they would all bow their heads and say a short prayer for Steve Jobs, but instead she continued in her Violet Elizabeth Bott voice. ‘All of us have something of Apple’s, I’m sure, tablet or watch, I know I have. And other companies, such as Samsung, have copied their designs . . . ’
‘Well, actually . . . ’ Hannah gave George another sharp kick to the ankle. All eyes turned towards George, who muttered, ‘Sorry, nothing.’
‘Well, anyway, the point is, what’s the most frustrating thing about all these fabulous products? Anyone? OK, I’ll tell you. It’s having to recharge them all the time. And that’s the key feature of George’s new product, the thing that will make people want to buy it in their millions: it’s a phone that lasts forever without ever needing to be charged.’
‘Well, not forever, that would be . . . ’
Hannah interrupted brutally. ‘Sorry, George, let’s hear what Rachel has to say first.’
‘Well, that’s it, really. An Apple-featured phone that never needs charging. Never!’
‘That’s incredible, George. You Brits, you really do come up with some awesome ideas.’ Donny had a drawl to his voice that, George felt, sucked the neurones from his brain and flushed them down the toilet.
‘Yes, it’s incredible, isn’t it? Won’t be long before George here will be mentioned in the same breath as Steve Jobs. . .’
‘That’s probably the most insulting . . . ’
Hannah pinched the top of George’s leg so hard he let out a small yelp.
‘So, we have this billion seller product. What do we want to call it?’
‘Well, I don’t think we have to be too radical here, Trev. Already we’ve got a number of manufacturers using a fruit as their name, Apple obviously, and Blackberry, and Samsung, and . . . er, others.’ Mike fiddled with his tie clip.
‘Yes, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Samsung is Korean for grapefruit.’
‘Really, I didn’t know that. What about Nokia? Is that Finnish for some fruit then?’
‘Almost certainly. Kumquat, maybe?’
‘Anyway, why don’t we come up with a fruit for George’s company?’
‘There’s a mobile phone company called Orange. It’s another fruit.’
‘Oh yes, of course. Good. Good. Keep thinking everyone. Jenny, can you print us out a list of fruits?’
George tried to time how many seconds passed between her breasts and the rest of her body leaving the room.
‘As this is a British company, we should play up the British aspect of things, I think.’
‘Is that such a good idea if we want to sell internationally?’
‘Why not? Think of selling Scotch whisky to Japan or, or . . . ’ Well, I’m sure there other things that sell because of their unique British quirkiness.’
‘James Bond? Harry Potter?’
‘Well, those aren’t really products, are they?’
‘No, but . . . ’
‘Let’s not veto the ideas before we get them down on paper. Ah, Jenny, you’re back. Can you just write down the key ideas on that whiteboard there? What do we have, Orange . . . ? Blackberry. Someone mentioned kumquats.’
‘I just need to find some pens that work.’
‘What about sloe, that’s British. My aunt is always making sloe gin. And drinking it. God, she can down that stuff.’
‘Sloe, good. Quick, Jenny, write down sloe.’
‘Is sloe such a good name for a phone? Don’t you think it might give the wrong message?’
‘What about pear?’
‘Good thinking. “I have a pear in my pocket.” Hmm.’
‘Think there could be another connotation to that? Oh, you’ve written it down anyway.’
‘Don’t forget, we’re also brainstorming product names today. Pear, Pear-phone? Pear-shaped. I-Pear. Pear-pod? Keep those ideas flowing.’
‘Fig? “I’ve got a figging phone in my pocket.” Or — get this — “My figging phone is fantastic.”’
‘Thank you Donny,’ said Trevor with a hint of exasperation in his voice.
‘What about blueberry? They’re exceptionally good for you, I make a smoothie with them every morning, with bananas and some yoghurt – I get this special imported Greek yoghurt called labneh from the delicatessen on the corner of Ponds Avenue, it’s expensive but your health is so important . . . ’
‘Thank you, Ashley, for that insight,’ muttered Trevor.
‘“Extend your life with blueberry phones”’ . . . he continued.
‘Or prunes? “Prunes keep you going forever!”’
George looked at Hannah. ‘Do you have any Tylenol on you?’ he whispered, ‘just a bottle or two.’ Hannah reassuringly squeezed his bruised leg, causing him to grimace.
‘Tomato is not a fruit.’
‘I think you’ll find that it is. It was a question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.’
‘Melon! “Suck on my melons!”’
‘Thank you, Donny. I think we might already have enough to work on. Rachel, can you take a photo of that board? — I’d like you and Vicky to do some market research into the public’s acceptance of those names. If anyone has any other names they want to add, just give them to Rachel. Well, I think we’ve had a very fruitful meeting today. Ha, fruitful! — Awesome! Anyway, Mike, you wanted to add something?’
‘Yes, thank you, Trev. George, you’ll be getting the agreement from us in the next few days. Run it by your lawyer if you want to and if everything is OK you and Ms. Munro, sorry, Hannah, just have to sign it and then we can move forward. But you can start putting your design team together now. I have some contacts in the property business, so I’ll see if we can get some deal on a factory somewhere. I guess we all want it in this area if possible, yes? — I think I can pull in a few favours. Let’s schedule another meeting in a fortnight and see where we are then. Rachel, can you get that done in two weeks – I know you have that Kitchener project on your plate as well?’
‘Well, I’m sure I get it done in time, Mike. Vicky can tidy up the few loose ends on Kitchener.’
‘Good. OK, well, see you in two weeks, Hannah.’
‘Yes, thank you for all your input today. And you too, Ms. Munro. Do you want to take some doughnuts with you?’
‘Uh, no thanks.’ George nodded to the others, ushered Hannah out of the room and closed the door behind him. ‘I need alcohol, and quick. And I need to buy something for the bruising on my leg.’
‘Relax, George, I noticed a pharmacy just round the corner . . . ’