Flash Literature, Poetry, Art and Photography!



Tinkered Toy







Julie Mark Cohen




"I gave up a lot to work for you," Lydia Witherspoon said. "You've won award after award in the past thirty years. Now, you tell me that you're in financial trouble?"


Lydia, who was clad in black attire typical of architects but looked more like a librarian than a creative soul, and her boss, Parker Williams, waited in a reception area.


"I'll straighten everything out today. Jake Legrand is the up-and-comer in real estate and I can't lose. He chose me as one of the five finalists to develop his new 40-story high-rise," said Parker. "I appreciate that you wanted to help, but this job is too important to me. It's not child's play."


Lydia reflexively tightened her facial muscles, which pulled on her hair, drawn back into a bun.


"Child's play?" she barked. "I saw what you wanted to pitch and offered you suggestions, but you walked away. Why?"


"Keep your voice down. Don't you understand? This proposal isn't for you to sell."


"So, why am I here?" Lydia asked, angrily tapping her foot against her overstuffed leather bag, blood rushing to her face, her ears ringing.


"To make sure there are no glitches in the PowerPoint presentation," Parker said.


No sooner had Lydia opened her mouth then a fashionably-attired older woman entered the room. "Folks, I'm Mr. Jake Legrand's assistant, MaryAnn. He's ready to see you now. Follow me."


While Lydia mumbled under her breath and yanked on the heavy wheeled case to start it in motion, Parker brushed by her.


MaryAnn opened an ornately carved oak door, revealing a dozen conservatively-dressed men sitting around an oval table, several punching numbers into calculators, a few reviewing spreadsheets on laptop computers, some slurping coffee.


At the far end of the table, a diminutive man with cordovan-dyed hair sat perched on a booster seat. In a booming baritone voice, he said, "Good afternoon, Mr. Williams. You may start your presentation."


Lydia scrambled to pull out their laptop and projector. Two of Legrand's men rose to assist her, but she smiled and waved them back.


"Thank you for inviting me." Parker slipped his CD to Lydia to whom he whispered, "Hurry up!"


"This is my concept for your high-rise," Parker said as the first image came up. "Here's a view of the north elevation. The east elevation. The south--"


"Is this some sort of freakin' joke?" Legrand interrupted. "I feel like I’m watching an old television. Everything's in 2-D, flat as a pancake, and in black-and-white." Jumping off of his chair, he bellowed, "What gives? I thought that you were one of the best? What the--"

"Mr. Legrand. I'm Lydia Witherspoon, an associate partner at Parker Williams Architects. Please forgive me. I must've pulled out the wrong disc. That was an early draft of our final design. My apologies."


Parker stared quizzically at Lydia, who fished for another DVD in her bag. He glided to her side and peered over her shoulder when she removed his disc and inserted her DVD.


"Ah, here we go. Gentleman, this first slide is a 3-D perspective view from the southwest showing the main entrance at the corner of Main and Ninth Streets."


His eyes widening with interest, Legrand quickly settled back into his high chair.


"First, we'll take a 3-D tour of our design. We'll start by viewing the cityscape with our proposed building as we'd see from an airplane and continue getting closer until we finish with views at ground level."


For fifteen minutes, the room was silent as Lydia spoke and Parker listened with resignation.


"Much better. Significantly better! Damn. This, by far, is the best presentation that I've seen today. Stellar!"


During the next fifteen minutes of Lydia's pitch, Parker extended his arm several times, palm upward, motioning with his fingers for the selector, but she finished undeterred.


"Gentlemen. In these packets, you'll find our projected budget which boils down to $304 per square foot."


"Th-that's below my figure. How did you...?" Parker muttered under his breath in Lydia's direction.


"Now, that was certainly impressive," Legrand said. "What an original design! The building geometry is unique and symbolic. I love it! The interspersing of granite, metal, and glass on the façade is exquisite. The expression of structural framing is striking, unparalleled. And, your budget is very well thought out with more than enough detail. Excellent presentation."


Legrand pushed a button on his table phone. "MaryAnn, please escort Ms. Witherspoon and Mr. Williams upstairs to the conference room where the others are waiting.


                          ~  ~  ~


Parker's competitors, all male, jittered about, yakking to anyone who would listen.


Parker observed, exuding the quiet confidence of a seasoned, successful professional.


Lydia kept to herself, pacing and repeatedly wringing her hands.


Legrand made his appearance, with his bean-counting entourage in tow. In anticipation, the architects moved toward him.


"Parker Williams Architects exceeded our design goals," said Legrand. "Definitely award caliber."


Parker puffed out his chest. Lydia winced.


"However, I've selected Edward Donaldson and Sons, because their budget at $268 per square foot is the lowest."


                          ~  ~  ~


Five months passed.


Lydia, who had just returned from an overseas trip, impatiently watched Parker signing several equally-thick documents. She interrupted. "W-what's going on? You've been in trouble, but--?"


"Lydia. You'll someday prove your--"


"Tinkle-tinkle! Tinkle-tinkle!"


Lydia answered her cell phone. "Witherspoon speaking... Excellent news...... Yes... Thank you!"


"And...?" Parker asked.


"We got the Frier-Goode high-rise in Shanghai! They liked my presentation so much that they chose us, even though we weren't the lowest bidder." Lydia paused and looked over her shoulder. "The office?"


"Today's competition is too tough for an old coot like me. While you were away, my creditors clamped down on me. I had to lay off some folks."


Stunned, Lydia was speechless.


"I knew you'd be successful. You've already found one large client who will pay for quality. You can build this business back up. Congratulations and good luck," Parker said, handing Lydia a pen, the documents, and a set of keys.






Julie Mark Cohen, PhD, PE, SECB, is a Consulting Structural and Forensic Engineer who practices in New York State. In early 2009, she plans to complete her first novel, _Shear Folly_, whose protagonist, a structural engineer, investigates a construction collapse against an almost impossible deadline, overcoming greed, pride, and death threats in a struggle to save his company and his soul.



MOTIVATION: This was the result of a 24 hour writing contest!


Graphic by:Ervin Bacik

Click the pics to meet the members!

" Reach high, for the stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal. "--Pamela Vaull Starr 
" It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them." -- Mark Twain
"We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting laundry. "-- E. B. White
"Tell a man that there are 6 billion stars in the sky and he will believe you. Tell him that the paint on a park bench is wet and he has to touch it to find out." -- Anon
If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it. -- Marcus Aurelius