This is for rix_scaedu‘s commissioned continuation of The Norm, from the October Giraffe Call.
The secretary was really quite cute. More importantly, and possible more unfortunately, she was bright. She caught the pun, there.
“And are you?”
“I can be. Certainly more people have called me that.”
“Well, there are worse things to be.” She looked me over. Again. I wondered what she was seeing, what she was looking for. How bad it would end up being for me – and thus for her. “You know, for all the five-ten, eyes of brown, you don’t look middle-of-the-road.”
She wanted to play. Oh, dear. “Well, the Median isn’t always the same as the Mean.”
“And neither are the same as the Norm, are they… Norm? After all, the Norm and the average aren’t the same thing. So, are you normal, then? Norm?”
“I’m certainly accepted as such by the majority of people I encounter.”
“And that’s what ends up mattering, isn’t it, for Norms?” She smirked at me. “And tell me… do you have a very wide range?”
Quite wide. All over the country, although only in average-length trips or things so far under the radar that nobody noticed. Not being noticed was a large part of the job (the other job), which was why this pretty secretary with the stunning blue eyes was disturbing me.
Not the only reason. She looked like I’d seen her before. Common chin, or something, maybe the haircut, which was all the rage on girls about her age recently. Was I being stalked?
My other job leads to paranoia, but that was a bit insane, even for me. “I have a pleasantly large repertoire, ma’am.”
“I’m sure it’s not just your repertoire that’s pleasantly large.”
Oh, she was flirting with me. Well, that had happened before, even with my average looks. I winked at her. And then she continued.
“A man like you must have hobbies too, no? Perhaps a pleasantly large… garage? Power tools?”
As a matter of fact, I did, but I’m not sure my hobbies were what she had in mind. “Ma’am, miss, you are certainly not your average…”
“Bear? No. I’m smarter, too. Nor am I your average secretary. I’m off by at least a couple standard deviations.”
“You sound proud of that.”
“You sound proud of being the average. Are you? It can’t be easy to maintain something that specific.”
“Is maintaining the deviation any easier?” I was no longer certain what dance we were doing, and my appointment was ticking closer. I didn’t know what game this woman was up to, but it was making me very uncomfortable all of a sudden.
“Of course it’s not. Any attempt to skew the statistics of a population will be tricky. Or, sometimes, I suppose, bloody.” She licked her lips at me. She said bloody and she licked her lips at me.
“Miss, I think you’re off by more than a couple standard deviations.”
She laughed at me. “Of course I am. And you?”
“I already told you. Normal. Mean, average.”
“Exactly average? That can’t be all that common.”
“Not on a scatter chart, sure, but someone has to hit it. Why not someone named after it?”
“Norm, why don’t you tell me why you’re really here?”
“Why don’t you tell me what your name is?”
“Why, are you thinking it’s Deviation?”
“I have to admit that the thought occurred to me.”
She leaned forward over her reception desk, showing me a nearly-perfect pair of B-cup breasts. “Mode. My mother named me Mode.”
“Mode?” I admit, I was more than a little startled. My eyes went to the little nameplate. Yes, yes indeed, her name was Mode Aver. “That had to be an interesting name, growing up.”
“No more awkward than Norm, I’d imagine.” There was an edge in her voice. Had she made me? “Now. “ This was not one of those good situations. As a matter of fact, it probably managed to be the exact opposite. I kept smiling at her.
“Now, you said you were here to see Mr. Williams, who is, I’d say, boring and average but not, perhaps the norm.”
Certainly not in his income bracket, he wasn’t. “Yes, ma’am – Mode – miss? I did.”
“Miss Mode, yes. And the nature of your business with Mr. Williams?”
“I’m here to talk about a contract.”
I never lied if I could avoid it. It just made things messy in the long run, and you had to remember all those lies. Easier to be what you said you were; easier to do things in such a way that you didn’t have to lie.
And I had a contract to explain to Mr. Williams.
“He doesn’t have you on his appointment book.” Something about her smile told me I was either going to have an appointment down here, or make it up to my appointment with Mr. Williams just fine.
“He doesn’t know I’m coming. It’s a surprise visit.”
“He’s not generally at home to cold calls.”
She knew, didn’t she? And she was so friendly, and so obvious, and so… extra-ordinary.
“Well, I’m sure he’ll be at home to this one. Please, Miss Mode?”
“Mmm.” She pursed her lips. “On one – no, two – conditions, Mr. Norm.”
“And what would those be?”
“First. When you are done with Mister Williams, I want a date. I want you to take me to someplace extraordinary.” She said it like two words, five syllables. Extra-ordinary. Like she was tasting every sound of the word. “On an average income, you ought to be able to afford that.”
“You want me to take you on a date.”
“Tonight. You can pick me up…” She curled her lips in a smile. “I’m tempted to say here, at the front door. But why don’t we say my house?” She scribbled down an address. “That’s my first condition, Mr. Normal.”
“And your second?” I pocketed the number. This isn’t the sort of job where you pick up girls while working. Well, most days it’s not.
“My second condition? Whatever you’re here to ‘talk to’ Mr. Williams about? Take your time, Mr. Normal. Take a good, long time about it.” She flapped her hand like she was talking about nothing all that serious. “Take a siesta in the middle, even. He’s got a four o’clock meeting and I Do. Not. Want. To take notes for it.”
“So. You want me to get you out of a meeting and take you on a date.” Now I was smiling. “Where do those fall on the Cosmo quiz?”
“Numbers one and three. We’ll worry about two, four, and five later.”
Later sounded both promising and ominous. I didn’t know what to make of this woman, with her so-common chin and her so-uncommon everything else. “You have a deal, Miss Mode.”
She smirked, and pushed a button on her phone. “Mistah Williams, there’s a Mister Norbert to see you. I’m sending him up.”
She took her finger off the intercom. “You have a good time with that, Mr…” She looked down at my business card. “Mr. Eames.”
“And I’ll see you at eight, Miss… Aver.”
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