The hotel barroom sang a muffled song of jilts and laughs and confident exertions. A bandbox of a space with a lone billiards table and an L shaped bar, a few worn leather chairs and sofas rounding it out, businessmen and a country club crowd filled its seats and standing room.
"Come on now, Johnson, you can't possibly have bet against the Phillies last night. And who bets on baseball, anyway?" asked Robeson.
"I only bet it when I get the urge," replied Johnson, "and last night I had precisely that."
A third man sat and listened to this exchange, unamused. A business associate of Johnson's, visiting unexpectedly from China, Johnson felt his disapproval and knew its root.
"Oh, Wang, don't be such a curmudgeon. You've traveled all this way, may as well relax and let yourself go a little."
Wang boiled. "Mr. Johnson, you are correct. I've come a long way indeed. And all day today you avoid discuss with me the reason I am here. We go to ballgame, get massage, have long dinner with your friend-" Robeson nodded "-but not once we discuss business. You know why I am here."
Johnson, slightly drunk, laughed. "Sure, of course, you're here to bust my balls."
Now Robeson laughed too. "Mr. Johnson you owe my company hundreds of thousands of dollars! We are reaching the high credit limit we can extend to you. If this balance not cleared up soon, we will stop the relationship."
Robeson cringed as he listened to Wang threaten his friend. "Excuse me," he said, and walked to the other side of the bar, where he seamlessly fell into conversation with a well coiffed acquaintance.
"You can't cut us off, Wang! Don't be ridiculous, we own the market here, your customer base. We'll work something out tomorrow. Have another drink, wouldja?" Johnson slurred a little bit. He finished his Scotch and signaled for the bartender. "Wang, whaddaya wanna drink?"
"Nothing, Mr. Johnson. I'll retire now to my room. We talk first thing in the morning. 8:00. See you then in the lobby." He bowed to Johnson and left in a brisk strut.
"Darn Chinese," muttered Johnson to himself. He hid his stress level with a forced smile – a frequent, false expression of self-satisfaction. He thought of everyone to whom he owed money: Wang's company, various other enterprises in China and some in Europe, and multiple individuals, some more demanding than others. Lacking for a solution, he ordered another Scotch and resigned that he'd find a way to appease Wang the next day. He'd come up with something, he thought, he'd always come up with something.