The elementary school teachers passed the booth by the hundreds, gleefully filling tote bags and backpacks they’d brought for the occasion to brimming with free books and tchotchkes. Sometimes they’d even pretend to listen to Henrietta’s sales pitch, only to slip away with a souvenir or two as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

One of the few sane design decisions in the Van Haagen Press pavilion was that, among the styrofoam buttresses and backless chairs, there was a small room isolated from the sales floor and accessible only to the sales team. It was intended to store stuff that theĀ  conference attendees weren’t supposed to see, but Max had run all that stuff back to the hotel already to save himself a trip later, and it wound up being used as an ersatz breakroom.

“Look at them out there,” Henrietta sighed. “Filling up their bags in jeans and t-shirts while I lose half-an-inch of cartilage in these heels for eight hours. They don’t seem to realize I’m paid on a commission basis.”

“And they’re salaried at a level that a Van Haagen bigwig wouldn’t pay an illegal maid,” retorted Max. “They might not get fired for wearing comfortable clothes to work, but they also don’t get paid three months out of the year.”

“You saying we should join them?”

“I’m saying it doesn’t matter. They don’t have any money, we’re throwing it away on baubles. I just hope I can find another job before someone with letters after their name at Van Haagen realizes that.”

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