Snap it up, Scallopenis!”  The sweaty workman grinned through the open skylight at the teenager crouching on the roof. “Ya girl friend wants you in the front office!”

Neil Scallopini ignored the remark. Felicia Nicely was The Boss, nothing more. He shoved the rusted support strut that had come apart back into place. The sagging steel frame of the giant “Icily Nicely” sign straightened with a metallic groan. “Be there soon’s I finish.” He poked a bolt through the holes in the rusted metal, spun on a hex nut and twisted it tight with a crescent wrench. 

Neil squinted up at the sign silhouetted in the hazy afternoon sun. Icily Nicely Ice it proclaimed in twelve-foot tall letters. Chilling Out Salinas Valley Since 1897. It was Felicia who’d sent him to the rooftop, concerned the unstable electric sign might topple on a delivery truck. Or worse yet, collapse to kill or maim someone. He looked down at the cars and trucks in the parking lot. 

It wasn’t that he disliked Felicia. In fact, Neil found her rather intriguing. He’d taken the after-school job at Icily Nicely for the money, of course, but also figured to get to know her better. Only at work Felicia was all business, not the same outgoing young girl he knew from Salinas High. “The Ice Queen” was what one of the crew nicknamed her. Hardly surprising. She was, after all, the daughter of C.W. Nicely, Jr., whose father founded the company back in the 1880’s. 

He pocketed the wrench, collected the rest of his tools and cautiously made his way back to the open skylight where an aluminum extension ladder protruded. He squatted down and lowered himself through the opening till his feet found the first rung. “Gangway, guys! Coming through!”

The elevator door slid open, and Neil sauntered down the hall to Felicia’s office. A silver-gray haired man in sunglasses with a cigarette dangling from his lip was talking with her in the doorway. She looked tired. Neil watched him shake her hand and then hurriedly take his leave.

“Hi, Felicia,” he said. “Whassup?” 

“Have a seat, Neil.” She motioned to the chair by her desk which was piled high with ledgers, files and computer printouts. “The new accountant was in yesterday. And I’ve had meetings and crises all morning.” Neil nodded sympathetically. “Heard Number Three chiller’s down.”

Felicia stared out the window at the refrigeration tanks shimmering in the sun. “It’s this heat. Great for business, but kills the equipment. Number Three and the rest are antiques C.W. should have replaced years ago. Maintenance thinks they can have things back up and running in a couple of days. So we’ll be able to deliver on the Cutting Vedge contract.”

“Our biggest customer,” Neil put in.

“And the biggest lettuce grower in the Salinas Valley. Can’t afford to lose them. That’s why we–”

The shrill wail of a siren cut her short. A sickly yellow mist spewed from one of the tanks and drifted across the yard. An alarm bell began to clang. By the time the fire department, haz mat crew, and E.P.A. investigators arrived, everyone had evacuated the building. And when Felicia was certain all escaped without injury, she drove Neil and herself to the Burgermania a few blocks away to continue their talk. 

“This really messes up everything,” she grumbled. “With the E.P.A. shutting us down, even if it’s only a few days, making good on that Cutting Vedge contract will be tough.”

“Impossible, I’d say,” interjected Neil, “without two chillers. What’s C.W. say?”

“C.W.’s in the hospital—”

“Gosh, I- I didn’t know.”

“He’s very ill. Besides, I already know the score. We lose Cutting Vedge, Icily Nicely’s down the toilet. That’s why I hired a new accountant and an advertising agency. And we do have a plan to turn things around. We just have to move on it faster than planned.”

The Burgermania waitress arrived with their order. “One Manic-DeLuxe, one Super-Ego Salad, and two Croaker Colas,” she recited, setting them down on the table. Felicia sipped on her soda, and Neil squirted a blob of ketchup on his burger.

“Advertising, huh?” he said between bites. “That’s good. Things’ll be okay then?”

“Only, I have to let some people go.” She frowned and picked at her salad. “Our new accountant insists. It’s strictly a dollars and cents thing.”

The teenager’s face reddened. “Bummer. Dad was counting on that extra cash for my college next semester. And the paint job on the car.”

“No, no! Not you… I need your help.” From her leather briefcase, she withdrew some papers and handed them to Neil. “Look– the ad campaign our new agency put together “What do you think?” She stared at him expectantly.

“Well, um, it’s–” He chuckled. “You’re kidding, right?” He burst out laughing. “What idiot thought this up?”


    Episode 4  Lester’s Brilliant idea


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