Gris and Mr. Bury ride to their appointment with the accounting firm and talk a bit. Mr. Bury wonders about taking a more direct approach to dealing with Heller/Wister, but Gris/Inkswitch mentions how Torpedo Fiaccola ended up failing in his assassination attempt - you know, the one that happened over one or two chapters last book. Gris explains that Heller used the money Bury had paid Torpedo to finance his new fuel supply, and unsubtly hints that revealing this to Rockecenter could be bad for Bury's health. Then he tries to use that as leverage to get Bury to tell why Rockecenter doesn't want a son - as if this wasn't explained three chapters ago - but Mr. Bury refuses. He throws around phrases like "the defense rests!" to remind us that he is a lawyer.
And somehow this all convinces Bury that Gris is "the wiliest, craftiest son of a (bleepch)" he's ever met, while Gris replies that Bury is "the most vicious, conniving (bleepard) I have ever had the privilege of working with."
We shook hands solemnly in mutual admiration.
We had arrived at our destination. "Now," said Mr. Bury, let's go get this Wister's life so (bleeped) up and ruined, he'll never again be able to lift his head! Let's do it beyond any appeal and carry it straight through to total condemnation!"
With what enthusiasm we aligned!
It's all downhill from there.
Their car arrives at the offices of America's largest advertising and public relations firm, Fatten, Farten, Burstein and Ooze, whose name makes the like of "Captain Stahb" look restrained. Another opportunity for subtlety is discarded when Gris outright calls the fish decorating the murals of the office lobby "suckerfish," as opposed to identifying them as loaches or lampreys or anything. Let's just avoid any ways to let the reader feel clever for getting a joke in favor of beating them over the head with your use of imagery, Hubbard.
Headed to the elevators, my it's busy, Mr. Bury gets preferential treatment. He gives Gris instructions to act like a hired goon at certain nonverbal cues. Then they reach the 50th floor and the spectacle begins.
A pair of women, "scantily dressed like ushers," unroll a red carpet as Gris and Bury walk out of the elevator. Another pair of girls scatter flowers in their path, while a team of violinists in Hungarian costume - I don't know either - follow behind, playing "seductive melodies." Male trumpeters blast a fanfare when Gris and Bury reach the office of Vice President J.P. Flagrant and are admitted by a girl in a "lamb costume." Hubbard really was a visionary.
The theatrics aren't done yet. Three little girls in angel costumes sing a song of welcome set to "Happy Birthday to You," and ends in a line about "JELO" scrubbing and rinsing. What the hell is JELO? Wikipedia is stumped. Google is no help. I can only assume Hubbard is cleverly avoiding copyright infringement by omitting a second L.
Mr. Flagrant greets his guests warmly, offering a "Havana Havana Havana cigar," champagne, or a "nice, ripe secretary to refresh you." When Bury tries to get down to business, in rushes a secretary with "her notebook ready for dictation in one hand and a bag of contraceptives in the other." Hey lady, you should take those down the street and save Rockecenter's employees some money at the abortion clinics.
Bury wants J. Walter Madison to handle Heller's case, and pandemonium breaks out, consuming the remaining six pages of the chapter in complete madness. Flagrant and his secretaries drop to their knees and cry out ("in chorus") "NOT J. WARBLER MADMAN!" Bury gives a signal, and Gris acts like he's going for a gun in his coat. People scream, offices empty and employees go to hide in closets, while others barricade themselves in their rooms.
F.F.B.O.'s chairman, Mr. Buhlshot
I need a minute.
So is Hubbard breaking down as he writes this? Let's examine the name Soltan Gris. The last name evokes the words "grease," indicating something slick and slimy, and "gristle," tough and unsavory portions of meat. The first name I guess foreshadows the amount of time Gris will spend in Turkey sitting on his ass while trying to shag a dancing girl. Overall it's a appellation that's trying to tell you how to view the character even before you see him do anything.
But it's at least a little more subtle than "Buhlshot." The head of Fatten, Farten, Burstein and Ooze.
There's seven books left. Just how bad is it going to get before this series is over? (editor's note from the future: worse than you can imagine, but in ways that make stupid names the least of your concern)
Anyway. Buhlshot is furious that Flagrant is risking business with Rockecenter, at least until he hears why. He seriously gets on his hands and knees and licks Mr. Bury's boots while begging him not to assign this J. Walter Madison to the case. Bury threatens to call in some bank loans, Buhlshot caves and calls an "immediate inspiration conference" to find someone who knows where Madison is. A terrified Miss Dicey is hauled out of a closet but refuses to disclose Madison's location, even when threatened with defenestration from the fiftieth floor. Death is better than dealing with Madison, you see.
Gris gets "giddy" when they open the windows in anticipation of chucking her.
A director is called to get the lighting and choreography of this murder correct. Musicians are summoned. There is a clapboard, but no camera. They call it a "JELO" commercial. What is JELO. Why is this happening. Is this even real. Am I real.
The first take is ruined because Dicey faints before she can be tossed to her death. She cracks once some champagne is thrown on her face to rouse her, because it ruined her makeup and she'd just die if the public saw her like that while splattered on the sidewalk. In exchange for a free trip to China and a posting behind the Iron Curtain, she reveals that Madison is living out of his car on a pier. Gris and Bury set off to retrieve him, because Gris is the viewpoint character so he has to go. The musicians and flower girls see them off. Flagrant is fired for risking the Rockecenter account.
I guess this is... satire... about how advertising firms like to throw people out of windows while setting the murder up like a commercial? And how public relations workers have violinists around all the time? From Hungary? And the JELO is... and the bowl full of contraceptives, that's a very important component of the... who was Burstein and why is he or she so loathsome to have the company of Fatten, Farten and Ooze? Or is it a comedic "odd name out" sort of thing? Like the great clans Hong, Sung, Fang, Tang, and McSweeny of Interesting Times?
At the beginning of the chapter - when things made more sense, so I'm going to cling to it - Gris actually remembers that he doesn't have Heller's platen yet. He worries that if things go wrong the Voltarian invasion fleet will wipe everything off the planet and start the ecosystem from scratch before colonizing it. But Heller is there on a mission to turn the environment around. They have the means to reverse the damage. So even if Heller fails, can't they just come in and use that same technology to salvage the situation? Instead of destroying everything and having to rebuild it from scratch?
This might not be feasible if the invasion is years and years away, and the environment may be too damaged by then - so why is Gris worried then? His boss is about to usurp the Voltarian government. He just needs to stall for time long enough for those plans to go through.
I don't know. Maybe next chapter... oh God there's someone named Peeksnoop.
Back to Chapters One and Two