Faithful readers. I apologize for the length of this one. Rest assured it’s the longest in the whole series with a return to the shorter episodes after this. I earnestly hope you enjoy it.
“Actually, sir” said Otis carefully, “I’m here because you requested me.”
Merlot smiled, as if he and Otis were old friends, “Oh, I see. You’ve come for me then?”
“Well, yes sir. I do admit to some curiosity about this appointment you mentioned, but this is what I do, you call and I come.”
Merlot spontaneously clapped and gave a funny little hop, almost dancing in delight, “Oh yes, indeed, indeed. You and I have very similar job’s Otis.”
“We do, sir?”
“Merlot, call me Merlot, Otis.”
A strange thing happened then. Each man spoke at precisely the same moment, speaking precisely the same words.
“So, what can I do for you?”
Merlot clapped again, beaming at Otis, saying nothing.
Otis looked back expectantly.
Anybody watching would have been surprised at the length of time the two stood there, as if engaged in some odd staring contest, Merlot smiling with that sense of repressed excitement he had, and Otis in his not less pleasant, but more submissive stance.
Merlot’s smile broadened and he leaned back against the wall comfortably.
Otis leaned slightly forward as if to hear better.
Otis knew he could wait as long as it took. It was not his place, here and now, to make suggestions. He had been summoned, and now he waited at the pleasure of the client, no matter how odd he behaved. Otis had offered to help and waited only for his client’s response.
Merlot, for his own reasons, strangely similar to Otis’ may well have been the most patient man in the world and the two of them could have stood thus for unfathomably long ages, like two titans of service poised in this strange contest of deference each waiting for the other to answer the very same question.
Otis’s face remained impassive, controlled, pleasantly waiting.
Merlot on the other hand looked like he was bubbling up with delight and about to pop. He chuckled again, then laughed out loud, than actually giggled. Finally he guffawed and the cork popped:
“Otis, my friend you are splendid. Perfect, absolutely perfect. Come, let’s go into my office. I’d love to have a little chat with you. Can you do that for me?”
Otis, relieved, followed Merlot into the office right under the Merlot, what do you need? Get it here.
There was no desk, no computer, fax machine, modem or other electronic device. There were two very comfortable looking overstuffed chairs, a beautiful meticulous rug and lighting that seemed somehow otherworldly and yet perfectly balanced for Otis’ eyes. Merlot sat in one of the chairs and motioned the other to Otis.
“Otis, you will find this hard to understand, but you are here so that I can help you out, not the other way around.”
“I don’t understand.”
Merlot chuckled and nodded, “That’s what I just said.”
Before Otis could respond, Merlot pressed on.
“But it’s true, isn’t it? All morning, you’ve been wondering what this was about. Worrying about poor Mrs. Jenkins, and Ben (the youth? Otis wondered), and intrigued by the Pluto group. You’ve been wanting answers, and so I called you up here to give them to you.”
Otis was indeed very interested, but felt like he ought to protest out of propriety, but before he could, Merlot resumed, leaning forward, gleam in his eye.
“No need to protest, Otis. I am delighted to give you what you need and besides, that’s the reason for this appointment.”
“But I didn’t make an appointment.”
“That’s true. someone made it for you.”
“But, I don’t understand…who? When?”
Merlot waved aside the question as unimportant.
“You need to know first about me. About my job. To put it bluntly, I meet needs.”
Otis looked blank. It sounded vaguely sinister to Otis.
Merlot looked slightly dismayed for the first time.
“Right. This is the hard part. Explaining. It’s so much easier to show, but there just isn’t time…not if…well, there just isn’t time.
For now, suffice it to say that I have a very unusual set of skills and talents. So unusual that it was many years before anyone, let alone myself, could see any use for them. My parents thought I would be a ne-er do well as did every teacher, mentor, or friend I ever had. It wasn’t that I had no skills, quite the opposite, but it was just hard to see how they would be, well, marketable, as it were. Really it was my sister who saw what could happen. She saw what I needed, I suppose you could say.”
Otis was completely confused. None of this made sense and Merlot’s rambling fashion of speaking wasn’t helping.
Merlot continued: “Anyway, Otis, our time is almost up, but the point is I use my unusual and varied talents to meet needs.”
“What needs? LIke, products? services? I don’t see.”
“Products, yes. Services too. Any needs. Well, real needs anyway: not just what people think they need, not what they tell you they need, but what they actually need. A mystery needs solving, I solve it. Someone needs a hand, I find someone who needs to lend one and put them together. Material things like money or treasures do occasionally come into play, but more often it’s things like confidence, or encouragement or humility.”
“How can anyone provide these kinds of things?”
“With my particular skills, it’s often no trick at all, to be honest. Rarely even a challenge. Every once in a while though, there will be a special case which requires my utmost focus and energy. “
“What kind of skills could possibly provide this kind of service? Are you psychic or something?”
Merlot laughed genially, “Oh no! A common enough mistake, but I assure you, it’s nothing like that. It’s quite all mundane I assure you. An ability to see is probably the most important skill I hold. So many people don’t see what’s right in front of them. But Otis, you understand that.”
Merlot nodded, suddenly serious, “You do. Everyday, up and down in that elevator, you see people. You really see them. Mrs. Crankle, for example. She’s just an ornery cantankerous controlling old lady, right”
Otis flushed, “Really I think that’s very unfair, sir. You hardly know her. She’s really an amazing woman. She has to be rigid to hold up under the burdens she carries.”
Merlot smiled and nodded, “Of course, but I wanted to hear you say it. I wanted you to see what you see. And I quite agree. Because you and me, Otis, we see her. You see her better of course, for having seen her more. But it’s like that everyday. You see people and you use that knowledge to meet their needs. I do the same. I just found a way to do it in a larger arena than your 30 square foot box.”
“So what needs did you meet for Mrs. Jenkins, or the others?”
“Well, of course client needs are confidential, but I can tell you that the scare Mrs. Jenkins received was part of her need. She needed an answer, but she needed that answer to strike her with a certain force in a certain way; your help was essential toward that end. Thank you Otis.”
Otis muttered “You meet needs.”
“Indeed. now you see.”
Otis wasn’t at all sure he did. One thing occured to him with a mild shock though.
“That’s why you’re telling me this; cause you think I need it!”
“Maybe, but who made the appointment?”
Otis startled…his daughter.
“Why do you know my daughter? Is she ok?
Merlot looked dismayed
“Oh dear, now i have muddled it. No, no, your daughter is perfectly fine. She misses you, but she really has very little to do with this part, only that she made this appointment. I’m sorry Otis. Please forget your daughter. Just go back to not thinking about her.
“Well, now see here, Merlot–
“No, Otis, really, I meant no disrespect. But we really must press on. I haven’t yet given you what you need.”
“There’s more answers?”
“Well yes, and no. As I said it’s much easier to show than tell, but you’ll get that too, plenty of that. No, I’m offering you something else.”
“A job, Otis.”
“Working for you?”
“I have a job.”
“A good job”
“A very good job.”
“I like my job.”
“I’m good at it.”
“What if I say no?”
Merlot smiled easily, ”Then I’ll have to refund someone’s money. But you won’t. I can see, it’s what you need.”