“What are you drinking, pal?” the big cigar-chomping man in the tailored suit said to the thin man in spectacles sitting alone by the bar. “I’ll buy your next one.”
“Gin and tonic,” the thin man said. He didn’t quite make eye contact with the larger man, mostly looking down the bar at his napkin that had some scribbles on it.
“No good,” the cigar-chomping man said as he sat down next to the thin man. “Bourbon is a man’s drink. Let’s switch you up. Bartender! A bourbon each for me and my friend here. Make it a double.”
“Very generous of you,” the thin man said.
“I saw you sitting with the big guys from Mastersons Ltd. at my presentation before the break,” the big man said. “Lucius Lockstock, pleased to meet you – but you already knew that. I didn’t catch your name.”
The thin man looked down absently at his jacket pocket where a conference nametag was now missing. It must have fallen off. He frowned, then met Mr. Lockstock’s look with a reasonably friendly smile. “Henry Ford,” he said, making eye contact for the first time. “Executive Assistant to Mr. Rooney at Mastersons.”
“Henry Ford, really?” Lockstock asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Ford said. “No relation to the famous industrialist, though. A coincidence.”
“You must get that all the time,” Lockstock said with a skeptical look. “Beg my pardon, but that’s just a terrible name. Have you ever thought of changing it?”
“On occasion,” Ford said. “But it is the name my parents gave me. Besides, I couldn’t think of another I liked more.”
“No good,” Lockstock said. “No good at all. How can a man make a name for himself when his name is already taken by one of the greats in the history of our nation? Why, it’s impertinent is what it is. It’s almost like being named Jesus Christ or George Washington. It’s impossible.”
“What can I do for you, Mr. Lockstock?” Ford asked. He stared ahead at the bottles across the bar.
“Hmmm,” Lockstock said. “Well, yes. To be honest, I’ve been wanting a meeting with someone at Mastersons for some time. I can’t quite get my foot in the door, but as I’m sure you’ll understand from my presentation, I’ll barge right into your office if I have to! What did you think of my presentation, by the way?”
“On the sheep and rhinoceros?” Ford asked. “It was good.”
“Yes, of course, but what did you like about it?” Lockstock asked.
Ford declined to make eye contact again. “It seemed to be an accurate observation of how the business world works.”
“Yes, quite so,” Lockstock says. “In this modern business world, there are sheep and there are rhinos. There are men who follow along making little noise and doing just as their masters require – and those captains of industry who charge forth, unafraid of any natural predator and ready to trample down any opposition in their path. But which one are you?”
“I suppose, if the truth be told, I am a bit of a sheep,” Ford said. “An employee with no prospect or ambition of running his own agency. I’m actually quite comfortable doing my job and nothing else.”
“That surprises me greatly,” Lockstock said. “I had understood that Masterson’s firm employed men of great drive and skill – no offense, sir.”
Ford seemed to be lost in thought. In another moment, he downed the bourbon in his glass and turned to face Lockstock directly. “I suppose to aspire to do well in one’s position is a kind of ambition,” Ford said. “And I do have skill at my chosen lot – mainly, arranging the meetings for Mr. Rooney and handling his correspondence. I suppose I’m a gatekeeper of sorts.”
Lockstock smiled broadly at that. “Then I was right to track you down here in this bar,” he said. “You’ll arrange a meeting for me, then?”
“Mr. Lockstock, I know who you are,” Ford said. “I knew who you were before we arrived at this conference. I’ve come upon your name on a dozen letters, business cards and floral greeting cards addressed to our company. We came to your presentation only as a curiosity – but in truth, my employer is not interested in what you are selling. We haven’t been interested for months.”
The big man leaned over, letting his cigar smoke drift into Ford’s face. “That’s not very friendly, Mr. Ford. If I may be so bold, I would remind you that you are the sheep and I am the rhinoceros. You don’t want to get trampled.”
“There’s a funny thing about the topic of your presentation,” Ford said. “Mr. Lockstock, have you ever actually heard of a sheep and a rhinoceros meeting in the wild?”
Lockstock thought about it for a moment, eyeing Ford warily. “No, I have not.”
“I haven’t either,” Ford said. “Good day, Mr. Lockstock.”