Magic Happens When You’re Good

Contains strong language.

‘I don’t know,’ says the younger man. He takes a sip of his pint of Kronenbourg.

‘Look,’ says the older man. ‘Look at me.’

The younger man holds his pint close to his chest.

‘I’m looking at you,’ says the younger man.

‘You can play it safe or you can get yourself noticed. And you really need to get yourself noticed. It’s up to you. All I’m saying is that you need to make a decision.’

‘I want to think about it.’

‘It’s the end of the project, and you want to wrap it up. Things aren’t going to get any clearer on this if you leave it. You’ve just got to make a decision.’

The older man sips from his pint of bitter. He puts it back on the table and turns the glass in his hand, looking at the younger man.

‘I need to speak to Cheryl,’ says the younger man.

‘Cheryl?’ The older man slumps back in his chair.

‘No disrespect, Tom, but what does she know? She’s a twenty-three year-old nurse.’

‘I want her to like the idea. I’ll feel more confident.’

He leans forward again. ‘You’ve been with her for six weeks. She won’t have a view on this that’s worth anything and she doesn’t know you well enough to know how you work. Her greatest contribution to your future would be to give you a shot in the arm that’ll make you see some fucking sense. You’re a risk taker. She’ll want you to play it safe. Women always do. They’re practical like that.’

‘Then maybe that’s what I should do. She thinks my risks don’t pay off. She might be right.’

‘You want to know what I think?’

‘Go on.’

‘Playing it safe is the biggest risk you can take. She won’t understand that. You’ll die of anonymity in the marketplace. You’ve got to shout and be heard. It’s tough. You’ve got to be heard. Above the others.’

‘She knows about the other businesses. She’s not impressed. She wants this one to work. She told me. She told me clearly. She even sat me down. Like a proper talking to, not some throwaway comment. She was serious.’

‘She’s serious because she doesn’t understand dick all. That’s why she’s worried.’

‘Try and see it from my point of view,’ says the younger man.

‘Tom, that’s what I do. That is what I do. See it from your point of view. Yours and the customer’s. That’s why I’m successful, because I take myself out of the equation. That’s what they need to learn pretty fucking quickly. This is not my business. I come up with these ideas for you. It will work, but you’ve got to go with this one last idea. This final piece of the puzzle.’

‘Why are you so keen?’ says the younger man. ‘Why don’t you just come up with something good and safe and take your money? It’s the same money, whatever you do. Why are you working so hard on this idea? And if we wrap this up I’ll have the money in the bank in a week. Done.’

The older man scratches his chin, exhales and looks around the pub. ‘I’d like to be able to do that. That would suit me much better than this. But I can’t.’

‘Where are we up to, money wise?’ asks the younger man.

‘It’s about eleven. It might be thirteen.’

‘Got anything else on?’

‘Bits and pieces.’

‘But not eleven grand’s worth of bits and pieces, though?’

‘It’s been a long project. It’s made things pretty tight.’

‘I’m sorry about that. I get some money, you get some money. But to do that you’ve got to give me something normal, take the fucking money, and let’s call it a day.’

‘But this idea will work. It will make everything else you’ve done work better. It will sell your business and you’ll be in profit within the first two quarters. No other fucker is doing this. You know, they’ve got all those young cunts doing their stuff, and it’s all fucking sizzle and no shelf life. In six months, they’ll hate the fucking sight of their ideas, but then it’ll be too late, because the newbie fucking most-likely-to-succeeds will have taken their money, pissed it up or stuck it up their noses, and fucked off.’

‘What do you reckon Ralf Montgomery would have chosen to do?’

‘Who?’

‘The man they call RM.’

‘Him? I have no idea, but what’s he got to do with anything? He’s not even around anymore.’

‘Yes he is.’

‘Really? I thought he’d fucked off. New Zealand or somewhere. She’s not interested, though, is she?’

‘I sincerely fucking hope not, on account of her being with me now. But he’s done well hasn’t he? First time out. She spoke about that.’

‘What difference does that make? He’s not even in your line of business is he?. What is this? You’ll be getting a fucking wristband next with WWRD on it.’

‘What?’

‘What Would Ralf Do?’

‘She likes successful men. She hasn’t seen me succeed yet.’

‘Then she’s going to fucking love you if you go with this idea.’

The younger man sips his pint and looks at the older man.

‘How long have you been doing this?’ says the younger man.

‘Twenty five… thirty years. I don’t know. It’s a job that improves with age.’

‘You know some of the new people have got some pretty good ideas. Why don’t you take it easy?’

‘Luck. They strike it lucky sometimes. They’re talented. But I’m the best. I’m Henry Scoones –.’

‘You’re Henry Scoones. The best in the business.’

‘Says who?’

‘Says you quite a bit, but says everyone else too.’

‘Really?’

‘You know they do. Don’t feign surprise. It undermines your integrity. Don’t let those young bloods see you basking in the glow of your reputation. You’ll be held up as a vain old has-been, propped up by former glories. Your reputation will die overnight.’

‘Well, I know you Tom, so I’m a little more… open. You know it bothers me.’

‘It doesn’t help your work if it feels… kind of… infused with desperation.’

‘No. I must make sure that doesn’t happen. Thanks for the advice.’

‘Maybe I’ll see if one or two of them have any ideas,’ says the younger man. ‘I’ll still pay you, but they’ll do stuff for nothing just to be sitting here like you. You can see their ideas, and piss all over them if you like.’

‘Why would you want to do that? That would be a complete waste of time and effort. It will just delay things.’

‘I don’t know. Just to see what’s out there.’

‘You don’t need what’s out there, Tom. Seriously. I’m not just saying that. Forget what I said earlier. This isn’t being over-protective or paranoid, but why would you want to do that? It’s right here. The idea is right here in front of you. I’m the original and still the fucking best. Fifty and firing like a fucking Maxim across no-man’s land, cutting those little cunts to ribbons. I fucking own this job. And you know why, Tom? One word. P-R-O-C-E-S-S. I don’t shoot from the hip. I start at the beginning and I work it out. I spend hours and hours on it. I cover every conceivable angle. And then, when the idea comes through, I fucking own it, and it’s brilliant. I give most of them five years in the game and then they’re going to be fucking travelling or chugging in the North Laine or independent financial salespeople or some other worthless fucking undertaking.’

‘Yes, you’re very good. Everyone says so. But they have some good ideas too. Original.’

‘Bollocks. They’re not fucking old enough to be original. They’re still emerging from their fucking university cocoons, laden with style guides, blinking at the sun and wondering what it’s doing up there instead of shining out of their arses. Bollocks.’

The older man finishes his drink. ‘Another?’ he says to the younger man. ‘Your shout.’

The younger man hands him a ten-pound note.

As the older man waits at the bar to be served, the younger man starts looking through a folder of bound papers on the table. The older man returns with two more pints.

‘Why is this a good idea?’ says the younger man.

‘Let me ask you a question, Tom,’ says the older man. ‘Do you think it’s a good idea?’

‘I do. It’s good. Excellent in fact. It’s very, very original.’

The older man nods his head, smiles, leans back in his chair, and takes a sip of his beer.

‘And it’s witty,’ says the younger man.

The older man sits forward, and gestures with his hands, like he’s holding something up. ‘It’s not witty Tom. It’s fucking hilarious. Customers are going to love it. They’re going to love you, and more importantly, your business. That’s why you’ve got to go with it.’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Oh for fuck’s sake Tom. What do I have to do?’

‘It’s funny. It’s not hilarious.’

‘It works Tom. It fucking works.’

‘It does work. It’s right. You’ve got it right. But I’m just… I don’t know. I don’t want this to fail. Cheryl’s great. We could be great.’

‘It’s a strapline for fuck’s sake. I have written ten thousand of these fucking things, and this is one of the best –.’

‘One of your best –.’

‘One of the best. If anyone else had come up with it, it would have been some shit like “magic happens when you’re good”, or… some other fucking bright spark piece of pop-up toast from the brain of a cunt.’

‘I quite like that. “Magic happens when you’re good”.’

‘Well, there you go, that was one of mine too. That’s a grand matey, or I walk out of here and sell it to R fucking M.’

The younger man laughs. ‘Not sure he’d buy it. He runs a lettings agency.’

‘He’ll like it so much, he’ll turn in his business and start a new one just to match the strapline.’

‘I don’t know. I want to run it past Cheryl.’

The older man stands up. ‘OK, it’s with you. But give me three grand while you think about it, and make a decision before the middle of next month, because I want to bill you the balance. I am brilliantly fucking skint.’

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