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Two Pumps for the Body Man, B.A. East (New Pulp Press, 2016)

This black comedy set in Saudi Arabia does for American diplomacy what Catch 22 did for military logic: The enemy in the War on Terror cannot kill us if our own institutions kill us first.

In this excerpt, Management Officer Gary Storp aims to please the vain Consul General, Vanna Lavinia. But as he offers to paint her name on the employee association yacht, the duck-and-cover alarm goes off and Storp must cower behind a potted plant. On his knees at the CG's feet, is Storp practicing self-preservation from imaginary bombs, or soliciting promotion in an up-or-out system?

B.A. East served as a Foreign Service Officer in Saudi Arabia during the WOT's early years. He survived the December 2004 terrorist attack on our consulate in Jeddah and continues to ward off evil with regular doses of black humor at BenEastBooks.

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Two Pumps for the Body Man
Chapter 11
by B. A. East

The neat white stack of printer paper, three inches thick and butterfly clipped at the upper left corner, contained every significant promise, agreement, action, decision, conclusion, proposal, quotation, idea, debate, suggestion, concern, and what-have-you that Vanna might ask Gary Storp to update her on. The stack comprised e-mails, schedules, memos, minutes, budgets, calendars, and a duty roster, and was littered with hand-written notes and lengthy passages from the Foreign Affairs Manual, Books One through Nine. The stack was organized topically and indexed thoroughly and it concluded with personnel directories for the consulate, embassy, and Department of State in Washington, D.C. The stack of paper served as the right hand to the man who considered himself the right arm to the woman who called herself the Representative in the that particular Province of the Representative in Saudi Arabia of the President of the United States. Management Officer Gary Storp carried the document everywhere he went, including the John, in case of urgent calls from an anxious Vanna wondering when she could expect her new golf cart, which had better arrive in burgundy, Mr. Storp. Burgundy. How he loathed the thought of disappointing this sexy creature, a woman who looked young enough to be the daughter he never had and whose shoes he longed to wear, no matter how badly they pinched his toes.

Armed with his formidable ream Storp arrived at the front office suite, prepared to do battle with Pervis in his weekly argument that preceded his weekly meeting with the CG. Storp didn't like arguments. His face grew hot and his whole head reeled. His thoughts became jumbled. His heart pounded and sweat beaded up on his lumpy forehead. Arguments took him off script, and Gary Storp didn't do well unscripted.

"She's extremely busy," Pervis said.
"We have our standing end of week meeting at eleven."

"You'll have to wait. She's just such an extremely busy person."

"Vanna herself scheduled this meeting."

"Vanna does not schedule meetings. That's why I'm here."

"Then you scheduled it. Just look at this calendar."

"Are you telling me how to do my job? Because if you're telling me how to do my job, let me tell that GSO of yours how to do his."

"Tom Cautwauler?"

"He's an awful man. Where's my ergonomic furniture?"

Storp consulted his script. "It's in the warehouse. Just submit a work order and have it delivered."

Just like that Storp's script got him through the door and a good way through the small talk until he made the mistake of leaning back and looking relaxed on the faux-leather sofa.

Vanna led by instilling fear in her subordinates, and Storp's lack of fear represented a clear threat to her leadership. Fortunately she had countless tools with which to correct his poor judgment. Vanna, erect in her armchair, knees crossed and shapely calf bouncing seductively, tapped the tropical turquoise blotch of her fingernail against her temple. She squinted at Storp and considered which dull blade she would use to inflict the pain.

"I'm reminded, Mr. Storp. What is the status of the recreational center?"

Storp straightened. He reached for his script and hunched over it, knees together, pawing through the pages like a dog after a bone. "FARSA…," he said. "The board…" He sifted through the pages until he found the one he wanted: an email from Clements. "The board will meet next Wednesday."

"But whatever is there to meet about?"

Storp read directly from Clements' message. He refused to interpret. He didn't like having other men's words in his mouth. Other men's words were logical, and speaking logically caused Storp to feel like a stranger to himself. It was an out of body experience during which he watched himself in horror, a balding, middle-aged man, slightly overweight in ill-fitting clothes, trying to hold it together. As long as he didn't see this image of himself, Storp maintained control. But as soon as he saw the poor image he cut, Storp became a quivering wreck, flushed and regretful. He read from Clements' message explaining why the employee association preferred to put their money toward a new boat rather than a rec center.

"The only way they're getting that boat in here," Vanna told Storp, "is if they put my name on it."

Storp noted this fact on the top sheet of his stack. "Full name?" he asked.

"The Vanna Lavinia."

"Because maybe we could talk them into calling it The Vanna."

"Do you have any idea how many Vanna's there are in the Foreign Service?"

Storp was sure the fact didn't exist in the stack on his lap, but he dug down deep anyway so as to appear useful.

"Isn't there something in the FAM about naming new property after the Principal Officer? Every post I've served at, I've seen plaques commemorating buildings to past principal officers. I'd like a plaque of my own."

"I can write to Washington."

"Check the FAM, first. Don't want to raise unnecessary attention." Vanna ran a turquoise fingernail along her smooth and shiny thigh, drawing Storp's eyes to the rising line of her hem. Convinced she'd muddled his sad, lumpy mind she struck again with her dull blade, exercising a slow torture that would leave him panting at the prospect of more. "Where are we with the Fourth of July? I've heard nothing from your planning committee."

"Its— They're— We're all pretty busy with the Club Soda re-opening." To distract from the Fourth of July, Storp admired the carpet at his feet, an expensive gift from one contact or another who Vanna barely knew but dearly loved.

"Not because of my position, Mr. Storp. Because of my person. Check the ethics language."

"No need to, ma'am. You're perfectly right."


"Do we need to have the carpet appraised?"

"I wouldn't do that, ma'am."


She looked at the rich, reddish carpet and said, "Probably worth thousands of dollars."

"I didn't hear that, ma'am. My sense of carpets is very bad. I'm sure I would pay several thousand dollars for a carpet worth only hundreds."

Vanna smirked and went for more. "Speaking of ethics. What about your mission with our friends in back? What has No-lips got that I haven't got?"
Storp told Vanna about the leather furniture in No-Lips' office.


"If they have leather furniture, I want leather furniture."


"That isn't all—"


—Before Storp could continue, the hi-lo alarm pierced his ears, alternating high and low, high and low. Vanna and Storp stared at each other, unsure what to do. Ducking for cover was bad enough when nobody witnessed the act. But Storp felt that cowering on his knees underneath furniture, ass in the air in front of his boss, was a lousy strategy for promotion. And Vanna worried what crawling under her desk would do to her hair.

"Maybe your desk?" Storp asked, regretting the suggestion immediately. It felt like a proposal to park somewhere dark and secretive and spend the night fumbling with zippers, an idea that now gave him an uncomfortable bulge.

"Certainly the desk has room for one of us," Vanna shouted. "But I refuse to be the kind of leader who protects herself and abandons her subordinates."

The intercom crackled to life and Decker announced: This is the Marine Security Guard. This is a drill. I repeat, this is only a drill. All staff are to remain in the duck and cover position until the conclusion of the drill.

"You might squeeze behind the potted Fichus by my desk," Vanna suggested. They moved at a crouch, and after they'd repositioned themselves Vanna shouted, "Where were we?"

Storp, on his knees, trembling and cowering behind a potted plant like a cartoon figure, realized he'd left his script behind in the scramble for cover. "I- I- I was about to suggest we requisition new furniture for you," Storp guessed.

"Using what money?"

"Post Improvement Funds?"

Vanna's face grew puffed and red. Her forehead wrinkled, and Vanna hated wrinkles. "Need I remind you that I have ruined a dozen of my favorite shoes, ONE DOZEN, on that strip of tarmac you call a "road" out there? We will not touch one cent of the Post Improvement Funds until I see every pothole repaired."

"Of course," said Storp, ready to agree to anything. It was impossible to concentrate. His ears hurt. Screeee-Uhhhhhh! Screeee-Uhhhhhh! Screeee-Uhhhhhh! Storp prayed for Decker to end the drill. He muttered promises to join Miss Wellstone and GLASSCOCK in the illicit chapel at the back of the chancery if only the screaming would end.

"Speaking of repairs. When will Mutton's contractors finish installing the razor wire?"

Storp masked his ignorance behind a mumbled response.

"As soon as it's finished, he's sure to insist on more. Don't even let him ask me about the front gate. His security plans would turn this place into a prison. Take care of it. Am I clear? Eliminate it. You're the management officer. How long will it take?"

"Ma'am?"


"To replace Mutton?"


"I—"


"His insecurity threatens my promotion. It threatens your promotion, Mr. Storp."

"Yes, ma'am."

"This place already feels like a prison. The inmates are running the asylum. Do you know what those JOs are up to?"

"No, I—"

Amid the blaring of the hi-lo alarm Storp heard: "emergency, Emergency! EMERGENCY!"

"—Refusing visas. For my contacts! They're threatening my chances of getting to Crawford. I won't have it!"

"No ma'am."


"Get them under control."


"Yes, ma'am."


"Another thing. Direct orders from Fourth Branch are to make us loved in the Kingdom."

"Fourth Branch?"

"You misheard. Let's just say we need intel to support the invasion of Iraq and the war on terror. Let's send them something to show how much the Kingdom loves it."

"Tinker's working on something."

"Tinker. He's busy drafting the Human Rights Report, the Religious Freedom Report, and the Trafficking in Persons Report. Do you know what those reports will do to our efforts?"
"Yes, ma'am."

"The Crown Prince will be livid when he hears what we say about their human rights record. How can I win hearts and minds with that looming over us?"

"Potts?" Storp guessed.

"Potts! The Sousaphone. Mr. Storp, if you'd like to remain my Management Officer, here are your orders. I want to stop hearing complaints from Mutton about security! I want to control every aspect of this mission, from the furniture in back to the JOs in consular! I want a plan on my desk for the Fourth of July! And I want cables detailing how well I'm doing to promote the war on terror!"

"Yes, ma'am."

Vanna stared cruelly out at Storp from the cave of her desk. "Are we clear?"

"We're clear."

"Any questions?"

"No, ma'am." The siren immediately relented. In the profound silence that ensued Storp lost his thought. He rose slowly to his feet behind the potted fichus, a tortured wreck, lost in the wonder of his own survival.

"I'll take care of it," he said, crossing the carpets as quickly as he could.

"Mr. Storp?"
"Yes?"


"Don't forget your stack of papers. God knows I have enough piling up on my own desk."

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