Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 16


Renata is sewing a plastic molded zipper onto the Unicorn Wonderbag prototype. She flips it inside out and we assess it, first in the handbag mode, then in the sporty cross-body mode. We don’t have to put it in shopping bag mode to know that the zipper isn’t right.

“Size up?” she asks.


Renata starts ripping out the stitches and I unwrap the next size up from the zipper sample box. A smaller zipper will make it cheaper and more pleasingly compact when you collapse it into the unicorn horn, but the bag needs a substantial, quality feel, and a good zipper is a big part of that—more than most people realize.

Jack swans in after his deliveries and stops to talk to pretty Varsha.

“Oh, yay,” I say. He’s been bringing more normal bag lunches lately, sometimes really nice ones. Today he had a pressed Italian sandwich with arugula and roasted red pepper with a side of grapes and fancy cheeses, plus Pepsi and Cheez-Its from the vending machine.

Renata looks over. “You shouldn’t let him get under your skin. He’s probably just getting the gopher list.”

“I’m not letting him get under my skin,” I say. “Other than the fact that he’s the worst employee I’ve ever seen or even heard of. How’d he even land this job?”

“Betcha anything his references are fake,” she says. “He has no concept of office life.”

“Or maybe his boss upstate heard he was thinking about moving here, so they gave him an amazing reference to help him get a job so that he’d leave,” I say.

“I’ve heard of that for sure,” she says.

Jack leans in, speaking to Varsha with an air of intensity and confidence.

“Or maybe his references were truly awful, and that’s why Bert hired him. A few weeks upstate and the rest of his experience is in a real-life Renn fest.”

“Like Bert planted somebody to distract and annoy you?” Renata asks.

“All of us,” I say.

“Primarily you, though.”

“No, he’s objectively annoying,” I say.

“Uh-huh,” Renata says, tying a knot in the end of the thread.

Jack’s assumed a relaxed and elegant attitude, leaning on the desk, which he probably feels is at a perfect height for showing off his supposedly muscular physique. He tips his head, perhaps imagining that even the garish office light is kissing his scruffy cheeks.

Is he saying supply closet things to her?

“Mister fucking Jack Smith,” I spit. “The whole freaking world is a prop for him to peacock against, and no nineties outfit and certainly no weird mole is going to stop him. No, not Jack Smith.” I wad up the wrapper and toss it into the recycling bin. “Looky there, Mr. Shitstyle Charisma, posing for one and all. What’s that? Oh, noooo, he loves his weird glasses and above all he loves to be as offensive as he possibly can.”

I flatten out the new zipper with perhaps too much force.

“My manly-man body says come here, but my style choices scream maniac,” I continue, “and I don’t care about anything until I find out somebody else cares, and then I move heaven and earth to try and ruin it. And god forbid I’d be helpful. No, no, everything’s a party and nothing matters, because I’m a big nineties peacock. Wock-wock.

I look over to find Renata staring at me. “Did you just go into a fugue state?” she asks.

“Shut it.” I turn back to Jack. “You know what the worst thing about him is?”

“No, but I bet you’re about to tell me.”

“He chooses to be awful, but he could be an amazing ally. He’s competent when he puts his mind to something.” I pause, pondering hard. “Maybe he needs to feel more a part of things. Not just in terms of office duties, but like he’s in on the fun side of things. He wasn’t here when it was good, but there’s no reason he can’t still get a glimpse of the good stuff and come to love being part of this family .”

“I don’t know. The man is a lone wolf.”

“Even lone wolves have packs,” I say.

“Do they, though? Because where did the phrase come from?”

“What are you, a wolf expert now?” I say.

Renata puts her hands on her hips. “That’ll be all, Jada. You’re dismissed.”

I snort. Ever since Jack said that to Bert, people have been saying that when they don’t have a good reply to something. “No, you’re dismissed!” I say.

“No, you’re dismissed,” she says.


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