Chapter 1

Magus flipped through the thirty eight pages of the first section of the Boston newspaper searching for his new advertisement. There on the last page was the simple two line advertisement that took up an inordinate amount of space on the page considering the brevity of the text. The first line read: Solutions, Incorporated. The second line was a phone number. He smiled thinking that it was nice when the owner of a newspaper would negotiate a service directly with him.

Having a fully functional office and an advertisement in the newspaper, Solutions Incorporated had officially moved to Boston and was open for business. It was now time for Magus to get to work. Magus was very pleased with the situation. He pushed the button on the side of the desk. The desktop moved upward and then forwards eight inches. A projector displayed the computer screen on the wall across the room from the desk. He bent over the keyboard and starting typing.

It was midmorning when a noise disturbed the quiet of the office. Magus looked up from the keyboard when he heard the front door close. He could hear Stephen typing in his office so he knew that it must be a visitor. It would be the first visitor in his new place of business. He pushed the button on the side of his desk to lower the desktop and turn off the projector. He called out, "Come in the office on the left."

He looked over at the door waiting for his visitor to enter. There was a noise that appeared to originate from the chair at the receptionist's desk. It sounded like someone was seated at it and moving around. The only problem with that was that he didn't have a receptionist. He frowned and then shouted, "Come in the office on the left."

No one showed up at his door. The noise from the reception area continued. Grumbling, he got up from his desk and headed towards his office door wondering if his visitor was hearing impaired. It had been a while since he had used sign language and he hoped that his skills were still up to snuff.

Upon reaching his office door, he looked at the desk in reception area and gave a small scream of surprise while his eyes got big. He waddled back to his desk. He ducked behind it trying to look as small as possible. He pressed the panic button under the desk. After a minute he looked over the desktop and saw that he was alone in the office. He shouted, "What are you doing here?"

"I decided that I preferred the commute here over the job you had lined up for me," Claudia shouted back. It was hard stifling her giggle. His reaction had been perfect.

"That's ... You ... No... ," Magus said unable to frame a coherent sentence much less a rational thought.

From the office at the far right end of the reception area, Stephen shouted, "Is that you Claudia?"

"Yes, Stephen," Claudia answered. When Stephen stepped out of his office she put a finger to her lips to let him know to be quiet. She then made a come-hither gesture to get him to join her at her desk.

Magus made a second attempt to speak and was more successful in the endeavor. "This is a disaster!"

"Did you miss me, Magus?" Claudia asked.

Magus considered his words very carefully and then asked, "What do you want from me?"

"I was hoping that you'd give me a welcome back hug," Claudia said. She held a hand over her mouth when Magus squawked and laughed without making a sound. Stephen was finding it nearly impossible to keep from laughing. He thought Magus' attitude towards beautiful women hilarious.

"Keep your distance from me you evil woman," Magus said. Few men would have used the adjective evil to describe Claudia Alford. In fact, she was a stunningly beautiful woman with long blond hair, blue eyes, and a figure that was the stuff of fantasy. More than one man had been injured by walking into a sign post because he was too busy staring at her to watch where he was going.

Claudia moved over to his office door and looked in at him. All she could see of him was the top of his head poking up behind his desk. She smiled and said, "You can get out from under your desk now."

"I'm warning you. Keep your distance from me. You are not going to trap me into marriage no matter how gorgeous you are," Magus said.

"So you think I'm gorgeous?" Claudia asked. She winked at Stephen.

Magus looked over the desktop at her. He groaned when he saw the tight fitting clothes she was wearing. He said, "Why does this always happen to me? I meet a beautiful single woman and then she chases after me all over the country. I am cursed!"

"Cursed?" Claudia asked. She was amused at the idea that he thought she was chasing him all over the country.

"Stunningly beautiful women love men with intellects like mine. They just can't resist us. Our brilliance to them is like a candle to a moth," Magus said.

"Do you really think it is a curse to be pursued by a woman that looks like Claudia?" Stephen asked.

"Yes. Definitely. There's no doubt about it."

"She is a living walking wet dream. I wish I had a woman half as attractive as her chasing me."

Claudia smiled at Stephen and said, "That's a nice thing to say about me."

"You don't know what you're saying, Stephen. Stay away from Claudia."

"Why?"

"Why?"

"Beautiful women like her get into your head and destroy your ability to think. In the process they destroy every bit of dignity that you have. Once you are completely destroyed they drop you like a hot potato because you're no longer attractive to them. You are left a bitter shallow shell of your former self," Magus said.

"Oh come on," Claudia said. She was quickly coming to the conclusion that some woman had really done a number on Magus in the past.

"It has been happening since Biblical times. Look at Samson. Delilah cut his hair and got him blinded, imprisoned, and put to work grinding corn just because he got stupid as a result of her beauty," Magus said.

"You've got a point there," Stephen said. "Come to think of it, Cleopatra did ruin two smart men. Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony both ended up dead."

"That's almost right," Magus said. "You need to revisit your history a little on that. Cleopatra took down more than two men during her lifetime. She married both her brothers and they ended up dead. She was worse than the black plague when it came to ruining smart men. The only woman who was worse was Helen of Troy."

"I didn't even think about Helen of Troy. A lot of men died because of her," Stephen said.

"A face that could launch a thousand ships, indeed. Homer should have said that it was a face that could kill a thousand men with one smoldering glance," Magus said.

"She did take down a whole city."

Magus said, "You're darned right she did. History is full of stories about beautiful women destroying men of intelligence."

Putting a hand on Stephen's shoulder, Claudia said, "You don't believe that nonsense, do you Stephen?"

Stephen backed away from Claudia looking a little uncomfortable at being touched by her. He said, "Now that I think about it..."

"Oh come on," Claudia said. She gave Stephen a little pout intended to get him to feel sorry for his treatment of her.

"It might be best if you keep your distance from me," Stephen said quickly taking two more steps back. Her pout had been extremely effective and that worried him. A couple more looks like that and he would turn into a blithering idiot. All of a sudden he imagined himself walking a poodle that was wearing one of those frilly sweaters through downtown Boston. He was beginning to see what Magus meant.

Magus said, "When you see a woman who looks like Claudia you should run away as fast as you can. Don't let anyone call you a coward; it is matter of self preservation."

"You're right," Stephen said while still backing towards his office.

"I think I'm beginning to feel a little insulted," Claudia said.

"If you want a girlfriend, then find a nice plain looking woman; preferably one who is a little older than you. All of the parts are the same and feel just as good. It is just easier to keep from letting them make you stupid," Magus said.

"I never thought about it like that," Stephen said.

"You might want to read Benjamin Franklin's treatise on that subject. He makes a lot of valid points about the advantages of pursuing older women," Magus said.

Stephen asked, "How much older should she be?"

"For someone your age, I would suggest a woman who is in her forties," Magus said.

"Your mother is going to hear about this," Claudia said while shaking a finger at Stephen.

Magus said, "Definitely read Benjamin Franklin's treatise titled 'Old Mistresses Apologue.' You will find it a treasure trove of remarkable insights."

"I shall read it at the first opportunity," Stephen said.

"A plain looking woman is a whole lot less trouble than a woman who looks like Claudia," Magus said. He was beginning to warm up to this subject quite nicely.

"What do you mean?" Stephen asked.

"Yes, what do you mean?" Claudia asked. A slight chill had entered her voice.

"For one, you don't have to worry about every Tom, Dick, and Harry trying to steal her away from you. A beautiful woman doesn't even have to encourage them. They just show up all by themselves. Even with a plain woman there will always be the occasional Irving trying to get her, but that's a whole lot easier to deal with. I've found that sitting on the poor fellow tends to restrict his breathing and discourage his intentions of stealing my girlfriend."

Claudia shook her head. She could just visualize Magus sitting on some poor slob. It wasn't that he was fat. The more accurate description was that he was pudgy.

"I hadn't even thought about other men," Stephen said.

Magus said, "A gorgeous woman will eventually fall prey to the attentions of the sharks. It is inevitable."

"Hey!" Claudia said. "It was my ex-husband who cheated; not me."

"Your ex-husband is an idiot," Magus said.

"True. He is an idiot."

"Stephen, honesty compels me to say that you and I aren't the best looking apples in the barrel. It is sad, but true. We don't stand a chance of fending off all of the Romeos who pursue gorgeous women. There will always be the strong guy who can bench press us with ease. Sitting on one of them just doesn't seem to discourage them," Magus said.

Frowning, Stephen said, "I'm not that bad looking."

"I'm not saying you are ugly. If you were better looking, you wouldn't have been so bored in high school. You'd have been bedding every cheerleader and girl on the pep squad," Magus said.

Stephen nodded his head. He said, "Cheerleaders do have a hard time keeping their legs together around athletes."

"They are trained to do that. Have you ever watched them practice? They jump up and spread their legs. It gets so that it is a Pavlovian response," Magus said.

Claudia said, "Hey, I was a cheerleader! I'll have you know that I was virgin when I got married!"

"You're the exception that proves the rule," Magus said dismissively.

"Maybe you're right about me not being the most handsome guy in school. The cheerleaders wouldn't give me the time of day," Stephen said.

"That's because they were at the age where they are easily seduced by brawn. After a while, the truly gorgeous women realize that handsome men are really assholes in disguise. That's when they start finding intelligent men irresistible. Once gorgeous women start recognizing your brilliance, they will form a queue outside your door hoping to sink their fangs into you," Magus said.

Not quite appreciating the direction of the conversation, Claudia said, "I'm beginning to think that all men are assholes in disguise."

"And you are quite correct in thinking that," Magus said.

"At least you don't deny it," Claudia said. It was refreshing to hear such honesty.

Magus said, "I would never deny something like that. I value facts. All men are assholes."

"I don't think I'm an asshole," Stephen said.

Claudia said, "This conversation is just getting better and better."

"Just wait until the opportunity arises for you to follow your baser instincts, Stephen. After you stomp all over some woman's feelings because the urge to rut has overcome your better senses you will come to the realization that you are indeed an asshole. An erection has no conscience," Magus said.

"I know that," Stephen said. "So I take it that you aren't ashamed of being an asshole."

Magus said, "Shame doesn't enter into it. You either are one or you aren't one. Like all men, I am one. Of course, I would have to say that the word pompous tends to precede the word asshole when I'm being described."

"That's exactly what I was thinking," Claudia said. It seemed to her that Magus had taken the words right out of her mouth.

Magus said, "Being pompous is all part of the curse. Soon people will be saying the same thing about you, Stephen."

"I'm not sure that I like the sound of that," Stephen said.

"Actually, that is something in which you can take great pride," Magus said.

"You're kidding," Claudia said.

"Why?" Stephen said. He knew better than to challenge Magus on a statement like that.

"Well, it just means that your brilliance is shining bright enough for all to see. People see that you're smart and immediately think you are pompous. It is like night following day. Never be ashamed of the fact that you're smart. That is what motivated Claudia to travel halfway across the country in pursuit of me," Magus said. His comment caused Claudia to roll her eyes.

"Do you really think Claudia came here in pursuit of you?" Stephen asked.

"Definitely. She didn't come here because this is the only receptionist job in the world. She came here because she lusts after my mind. She can't resist it despite knowing that she'll have to accept my less than stellar body as part of the deal."

Claudia snorted. She said, "You are such an idiot. I didn't come here because I was chasing you. I came here chasing Phil."

"Phil?"

"He's a hunk."

"Phew! That's a relief," Magus said while he wiped his forehead. He rose up from his crouch behind the desk and returned to his chair. Looking over at her, he said, "In that case, you can stay."

"Thank you, I think," Claudia said.

"Just keep your distance from me. You still make me uncomfortable," Magus said.

"The same goes for me too," Stephen added.

Claudia said, "I think you both need to see an analyst."

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Slow /