WEDNESDAY: Believe It Or Not


Copyright is held by the author.

I AM an artist. I should be on the coast of Maine, painting seascapes. Instead I am at a desk running The Whimsy company. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. When I got my degree in art from Defiance College, I was all ready to go to Maine.

Instead my father and his brother, who ran the company together, died in an automobile accident. I was the only one in the family who could run the company. My cousin Sandy might be able to run it someday but at the time of the accident, she was still in high school. 

Reluctantly I took over the company, hoping to run it until Sandy was mature enough to take over. I’ve been waiting for almost ten years. A few years ago we hired somebody to take control of The Whimsy company. He made a mess of it, and pretty soon the family insisted that a family member be in charge of the business. So I have been back in the position of waiting for Sandy to become old enough to take charge.

It has not been an easy wait. Sandy is not much more enthusiastic about directing a real retail company than I am. While she was still in high school, she wanted to become a singer. She has a nice little voice but the emphasis is on little. She applied but was not accepted at Cincinnati Conservatory, so she went to Ohio State and majored in music. By the time she was convinced that she didn’t have a future in music as a singer, she decided she was going to be a dancer. Then she was going to be a poet. Then she was going to marry that goofy Ken Rawlings and have a bunch of kids.

Through all this time she was working at the company summers and part-time throughout the year. She knew the business well, and she was capable. If she would only focus, she could run Whimsy Company.

She and Ken Rawlings kept breaking up and getting back together. While she was with him, she got interested in computers, and that made a difference in the future of the company. First she was fixing machines that broke down. Then she was finding new things that could be done on computers. She knew of course that I was eager to take my paint brushes to the Maine coast. Although she was okay with working at Whimsy for a few years, she was not ready to commit to it for the rest of her life.

By the time that Sandy finished college, we had got into a routine. I still made all the decisions, but more and more I checked with her before I made any big moves. Then one day she surprised me. “Ken and I have got back together. “I wasn’t happy with that news., but even less with the next tidbit: “I’ve found a way for both of us to take some time off when we need it. We can harness AI to run the place while we’re off.”


“Artificial intelligence. We could still be in control but we wouldn’t have to be on the job 24/7.”

“You mean robots?”

“No, James. The AI wouldn’t even have a physical being. We would talk to it through our phones.”

It didn’t seem like a good idea, but I was so anxious to get to the seascapes on the Maine coast that I let it sway my judgment.

A few weeks later, someone Sandy knew was at the office. His name was Bixby, an unimpressive looking man, short, skinny and balding. but he seemed to know his stuff. Within a week he had artificial intelligence behind the computer in my office. Sandy worked with him telling him what we needed while he talked to Dolores. I didn’t like the name he had given Dolores. It sounded so sad. But when I objected, he said he had already named it and it would be very difficult to change the name now.

I tried to run the company while Bix talked to Dolores and Sandy. He had an irritating way of always saying “believe it or not” that was getting on my nerves.

Finally Bix went on his way, leaving Dolores on the computer. “You’ll have to continue training her. By spring she should be ready to keep the company running,” he said before he left.

“Oh good,” Sandy said. “I’ll be able to go with a clear conscience. “

For several weeks Sandy and I sat with Dolores for an hour or so every morning, the three of us making decisions for the company. It was going pretty well, so we let Dolores talk to department heads every morning. Once in a while there would be a glitch, but Sandy and I were able to straighten it out without too much trouble. For the most part, things were going pretty well. I kept thinking about the coast of Maine.

Then we started getting some merchandise from the Overland company. I thought it was a mistake. We had stopped buying from Overland years ago after we realized they had been cheating us. I asked the acquisitions director about it. He said he had been surprised when Dolores told him to start getting stuff from Overland, “But she’s the boss.”

We canceled the contract with Overland, but two days later we learned that Dolores had declared Arbor Day a paid holiday. I sent a memo to the entire company, telling them the paid holiday was a reward for hard work and dedication but it would not be a paid holiday after this.

I told Dolores that Arbor Day would not be a paid holiday from now on. “Believe it or not,” she said, “a lot of businesses have made Arbor Day a paid holiday.”

Then one morning the secretary Brenda thanked me for the nice raise. I thought she was joking, so I didn’t pay any attention. I soon learned, however, Dolores had given everyone a ten percent raise.  At that point I realized we had to take the power away from Dolores before she bankrupted the company.

The thing that did it for me was when the telephone company disconnected half of our phones. Our customers were having long waits when they tried to place orders. I was able to get the phones reconnected at a hefty service charge. “The company depends on having a lot of phone service available,” I said to Dolores.

Shortly after that, Sandy walked into my office and sat down across from me.

She sat quietly for a minute and then she said, “Well, the wedding is off.”

I must admit my first feeling was relief. I never thought Ken was good enough for Sandy.

“Ken thought I was spending too much time here at the office. When we talked about it, we realized that I that we had different expectations for the marriage. “

“Think of it this way: It’s better to find out before you get married than afterwards.” 

Sandy looked at the computer for a minute. Then she said, “While I was thinking things over, I realized what was wrong with letting Dolores run the company.

“Dolores saves some time by doing some routine things that we can do ourselves. But we lose the time gained because we have to spend so much time and energy fixing the problems she has created.”

 I waited for her to go on.

“We have given Dolores too much responsibility. We should never have let her talk to department heads. It’s OK to get ideas from her, but what she has to say should go through one of us. That way we can take turns being here to monitor her. “

It sounded good to me.

Sandy is going on a month-long retreat in Arizona. When she gets back, I am going to the Maine coast with my paint brushes. 


Picture of Carl Perrin, leaning on one hand, wearing glasses, in a light suit jacket, and yellow-dotted tie and a turquoise shirt.

Carl Perrin started writing when he was in high school, and he never stopped. His stories have appeared in dozens of print and online magazines, including CommuterLit, Short-Story Me, and Mad Swirl. A collection of his short stories, The Robot Revolution, is available from Amazon as an eBook.