Nebraska

Nebraska by Ron Hansen

Book: Nebraska by Ron Hansen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ron Hansen
eraser to. The two men ran an eight-minute mile together and leaned on their knees and wiped their faces on their sweatshirts, and after they had discussed pulse rates, refined sugar, and junk foods, Walter said, “You ought to move back to South Bend.”
    Jane, bless her heart, kept bringing up South Bend too. It was smack in the middle of his territory and a natural home base, but he had never really thought about South Bend much before the alumni picnic. When the company hired Rick, they had assumed he'd want to settle in a giant metropolis like Indianapolis so he could have some jam-packed leisure time, and he had never mentioned his roots farther north. And it wasn't unusual for Rick to spend two or three days in South Bend and not give anyone except his mom a call. But now there seemed to be a come-as-you-are feeling, a real hometown warmth he hadn't noticed before.
    In September he closed a deal with a gynecological clinic that would earn him six thousand dollars, what salesmen called the Cookies. But instead of immediately driving home for a wingding celebration, Rick decided to make some business phone contacts—thank yous, actually—and ride out his hot streak, see what fell in his lap. He stopped in the lobby of adowntown bank building to use its plush telephone booths, then, on an impulse, he asked to see someone in the business-loan department. A receptionist said a loan vice president could see him and Rick walked into his office and—how's this for a coincidence?—the vice president was Walter Herdzina! You could've knocked Rick over with a feather. “Boy,” he said, “you're really going places.”
    Walter smirked. “They'll probably wise up and have me sweeping the floors before my pen's out of ink.”
    Rick spoke off the top of his head. He had been with Doctor's Service Supply Company, Indianapolis, for six years, after three years with Johnson & Johnson. He'd built up a pretty good reputation in Indiana and southern Michigan, and now and then got offers from industries in Minnesota and California to switch over to a district manager's job and a cozy boost in salary. What he wanted to know was, could a banker like Walter, with years of experience and a shrewd eye for markets and money potential, give him a good solid reason why he shouldn't go into business for himself ? Crank up his own distributorship?
    Walter Herdzina glanced at his watch and suggested they go out for lunch.
    Rick figured that meant You gotta be kidding. "This is pretty off-the-wall,” he said. “I really haven't had time to analyze the pros and cons or work up any kind of prospectus.”
    Walter put a heavy hand on his shoulder. “How about us talking about it at lunch?”
    Mostly they talked about rugby. It had been a maiden sport at Notre Dame when they played it, but now it was taking the college by storm. Why? Because when you got right down to it, men liked seeing what they were made of, what sort of guts they had.
    “Lessons like that stick,” Walter said. “I get guys comingto me with all kinds of schemes, packages, brilliant ideas. And I can tell right away if they were ever athletes. If they never really hurt themselves to win at something, well, I'm a little skeptical.”
    Walter ordered the protein-rich halibut; Rick had the dieter's salad.
    Rick told the banker traveler stories. He told him anecdotes about salesmanship. He had sold insurance and mutual funds in the past and, for one summer, automobiles, and he had discovered a gimmick—well, not that, a tool —that hadn't failed him yet. It was called the Benjamin Franklin Close.
    “Say you get a couple who're wavering over the purchase of a car. You take them into your office and close the door and say, ‘Do you know what Benjamin Franklin would do in a case like this?’ That's a toughie for them so you let them off the hook. You take out a tablet and draw a line down the center of the page, top to bottom. ‘Benjamin Franklin,’ you say, ‘would list

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