Last week we left off with Nate about to take a scary phone call. What was the purpose of the call? Who’s Dick Burrell? Well, nobody died (not yet!) but it’s pretty shitty nonetheless. Read (and listen) on!
A War Between States Part 7:
Chapter 4: Campaign: Nate, Part Two
July 8, 2003
“This is Nate Wells,” he said.
“Hey, Nate. This is Dick Burrell.”
“Hey, Dick. Deanna says you want to pull your ad.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Can I ask why?”
For a moment, there was silence on the other line, and Nate could just see Dick – handsome, diminutive, platinum-dyed blond – biting his lip and shuffling his feet on the expensive tile floor of his salon.
“Listen, Nate. You and I go back a long time — to ever since you started the Atlanta Scribe and I opened my salon. I consider you a partner of sorts. A friend. And I’m proud of the way your paper has represented me and my community. So you know I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t serious.”
“What? What happened?”
“Well, the week after your article ran — the one about the R Bar’s problems with that church — I got a phone call from a guy named Fowler. Said he was pastor of the Evangeline Baptist Church, and that he was contacting folks who advertised in the Scribe to let them know, if they didn’t already, that they advertised in a publication that catered to the ‘lowest common denominator,’ and that their advertising dollars went to support purveyors of acts against nature and acts against God.”
“Evangeline Baptist Church? That’s nowhere near R Bar and Rigby Street Baptist.”
“No…. No, I don’t think it is.”
“Well then, what the hell is Fowler doing getting involved?”
“That’s not the point, Nate. Point is, he is involved.”
“Okay. Then after he said all that, didn’t you get upset? Didn’t you argue with him? I mean, he was saying some nasty things about you, at least by implication.”
“You know I did. I told him to take his lowest common denominator and acts against nature and stick ‘em up his ass. To which he replied, ‘You’re demonstrating exactly the vileness and disrespect for God’s Word that I’m campaigning against.’ Then he told me to stop advertising with you or I’d be sorry.”
“And you said?”
“I repeated my suggestion on the relocation of his acts against nature. And then I hung up. Didn’t think anything of it — figured Fowler was just another crackpot fundamentalist skimming for dollars and banging little boys behind God’s back.”
“Then that Saturday afternoon rolled around and nobody came into the shop.”
“Nobody came in. Not a single person. I haven’t ever really given that much thought to it in the past, but Saturday has always been Blue Hair Day here at the salon.” Nate sighed and leaned back in this chair. He knew where this was headed. “All the old women come in to get their gray hairs dyed and get their perms,” Dick continued. “They all sorta know each other, and it’s sometimes kind of like a party. But I never imagined that they were that tight.”
“And you think Fowler has something to do with no one showing up?”
“I know he did. He called me around closing time that evening. I says ‘Hello.’ He says, ‘That’s what it’ll be like from now on.’ Then he hung up. Took a while to sink in, who might be callin’ like that. But I’m pretty sure it was him.”
Nate took a moment and thought about how to convince Dick to stay on board. He regarded the North by Northwest poster on the far wall and the Lego robot on his desk. He knew that if Dick answered his next two questions in the negative, the cause was likely lost. He’d run the R Bar article over three weeks previous, so: “Did the blue hair ladies come back the next Saturday?” he asked.
“No,” Dick answered.
“And what about this past Saturday?”
“You know they didn’t. If they had, I wouldn’t be callin’ you. I don’t make hasty decisions, Nate.”
Nate sighed and ran his finger along the Lego robot’s head. When he lifted his finger and inspected it, he saw there was a heavy layer of dust on his fingertip. “So I guess you’re thinkin’ this is more than just another frivolous gesture on the part of a religious kook,” he said.
“Yep. His follow-through has been just enough to actually hurt my business.”
“Is it hurting business that much?”
“It is now.”
“So you figure pulling your ad is the best course of action?”
Dick didn’t answer for a while. Then, quietly, “Yes….”
After another moment of silence, Dick spoke again — this time in normal, chipper tones. “Look, Nate, let me just sit out a couple of issues. Maybe that’ll give Fowler the feeling that he’s won this little moral victory. After a while this will probably blow over and we can go back to business as usual. It’s like I said — I’m happy with my ads in your paper. This is just temporary.”
Nate smirked into the phone, knowing that Dick couldn’t see the smirk, and that Dick had no idea how permanent the loss of revenue from his pulled ads would be. For a moment, he thought about begging, decided against it, and also decided against saying anything at all to Dick about how desperate the Atlanta Scribe’s finances were. He could hear the phones ringing elsewhere in the office, could see a couple of red lights flash on his own set.
“Nate?” Dick said.
“Whaddaya say? Temporary?”
Nate nodded before he spoke, then affected a smile he hoped came across to Dick as he said, “Yeah. Sure. Temporary.”
After a little small talk and a hasty good-bye, Nate hung up his phone. He looked up to see Deanna standing in the doorway. “I took care of everything,” she said. “How’d that go?”
She frowned. “Well, you’re not gonna like this one, either. Mama Leoni’s Pizza is on line one. Alfie says his Sunday after church crowd quit showing up. And Anita from the Highland Market called to say she finally got around to reading the Scribe. Says she’s appalled and that she doesn’t want to have anything to do with us anymore.”
Nate stared at the North by Northwest poster. He wondered if Cary Grant’s expression on the poster was anything like the one he felt on his own face now. Cary had a plane bearing down on him. Nate thought he knew how the guy felt.
“I’ll talk to Alfie,” he said. Deanna pursed her lips, nodded, and left, pulling the door closed behind her. At first, Nate didn’t pick up the phone. He just sat at his desk, gazed at the blinking light on the plane, and buried his face in his hands.
- Nate Well - Jay Elgin
- Dick Burrell - Rick “Auntie Dote” Westbrook
- Deanna - Andrea Kruse
- Narrator - Will Kenyon