The Noowal Sales Log


Noowal is a planet with two brainy types of entities. The Wontranas are clearly in charge, with the women taking the leading roles and the men allowed to help if they remember their places. The Beeghys are artists and technicians and often supply the intellect that allows the Wontrana women to succeed.

Noowal is known as the universe’s junkyard. Spare parts and discarded goods are brought to Noowal for refurbishing and are offered to entities around the universe via the quarterly catalog and the Universal Voice System. Other goods are created on Noowal for the planet’s customers.

In 2125, the manager of the Noowal Reclamation Bureau asked her senior sales managers to write down their reminiscences of their years selling goods to buyers at far-flung places such as Clarkl, Farnoll, and Drintde.

Of course, as with any junkyard, the primary interest of the buyers and sellers is romance. A king’s mistress may say she wants to talk about new jewels, but she is primarily interested in keeping the affections of her lover. The clever and kind sales managers at the Bureau always know this.

Sample Pages

We have many lovely things here at the Noowal Reclamation Bureau, but we are known throughout the universe for our complete line of clothes. If an entity needs a certain type of garment, we have the best money can buy.

Twenty years ago I was just completing my work of raising my children. During those years, Monsieur Wodrenet and I owned a large candle shop in the center of Heiple. We lived above the store, and our children, Mynetin, Ofvigal, and Tuersen, learned the craft while they grew up.

Alas, one day I was alone. Monsieur Wodrenet died of influenza, Mynetin married a very senior Wontrana woman and followed her to the galaxy’s headquarters in Wiffant, Ofvigal was accepted into the university’s medical program, and Tuersen started his career as the second chair in the Heiple Philharmonic’s oboe section. All within seven weeks.

Madame Oblargy came from her house in the next block to offer her condolences. She looked over the candles and said, “I would like to include these in my next catalog. They would sell very rapidly. Can you let me have samples for photographs?”

“Ah, that’s the end of them, then. Monsieur was the artist. I know how to sell, but I could never make them. He had a wonderful eye with colors and shapes,” I admitted.

“I’ll be back in three weeks,” Madame Oblargy said. “I’ll have something to say to you then.”

Three weeks was about the time it took for other Noowalians to clean me out. Everybody knew Monsieur was gone and there would be no more beautiful candles. I put aside the best of them for my children and quickly sold the rest.

Entities of many other planets also came to me those weeks. Monsieur’s reputation was remarkable. I had no time to weep. I had time only to talk about his work, and entities were anxious to hear his story.

As she promised, Madame Oblargy arrived one day, without announcement. By that time, the store was almost empty.

“Madame Wodrenet, it is hard to live without your partner,” she began. “My mother ran the Bureau by herself for nearly thirty years. I saw her heartache every day, but I also saw how effective she was because she had experienced a great loss. She could communicate with our customers better than anyone we have ever employed. I am certain you will be just the same.”

“Oh, no, Madame Oblargy, I am just now over forty. I’m too old to start over,” I protested.

“I’m not talking about starting over, Madame Wodrenet. I am talking about using your skills and your intuition to help our customers with their most important purchases. I need you to help people select gowns and cloaks for solemn and festive occasions. Someone without your experience and sensitivity can’t do it. It takes years of working with entities and listening to their requirements.”

She continued to talk and talk, but all her words came back to the notion that my life experiences were of value to her. She wanted me, and, I had to admit, I needed someone to want me at that moment.

The next day I put a sign in the window of the shop: Will Return Tomorrow. I put on my dress that looked the most like the dress Madame Oblargy had worn the day before, and I went to her headquarters.

I walked through a labyrinth of offices before I was finally shown into the inner sanctum. There Madame Oblargy sat, surrounded by articles of every description. Vases were on the desk, clocks were on the shelves, even old suits of armor were on the floor.

She jumped up and shook my hand. “What a wonderful day it is for me,” she cried. “How glad I am that you are here.”

We spent the next several hours touring the plant. I saw great storerooms of household articles, clothes, books, and hardware. One tiny room, locked very securely, contained jewelry of every description, including a countess’s tiara made of diamonds and pearls.

Finally, we arrived at a tiny enclosed office with a window looking out onto the main street.

“This is your domain, Madame Wodrenet,” she said. “I will show you how our system works.”

In another hour I had learned everything I ever needed to know. I saw how to answer the telephones, how to take the initial customer information, how to direct the agents to send a catalog, and how to place an order.

“Our reputation helps us with our interplanetary business,” Madame Oblargy insisted. “We want you to put our good name above any individual sale. It will work out better, even in the short run.”

She continued, “Most of the entities calling about new clothes are interested in making a good appearance at some festive event. The most frequent request is for something to wear to a coming-of-age celebration. We find that nearly all the planets on our customer list have these celebrations, and entities usually will spend much more on clothes for these events than for any other.”

“Even more than for marriages?” I asked.

“Marriages are limited to just a few planets,” Madame Oblargy answered. “Most of our customers do not combine with others to form family units. Instead, youngsters are raised by individuals or tribes or political units. We have a complete catalog for marriages, but we don’t do much of that business.”

“And coronations?”

“Yes, we have been asked to furnish clothing for coronations, and we have one historian who tracks likely changes in rulers for us. Usually we will assign a general manager for a coronation, and clothes will be only a small part of what we will provide. An important part, of course, but certainly nothing to compare to the requirements for carriages and jewelry.”

Madame Oblargy sat with me in my office that first week as I answered the telephone and recorded information in my database.

“What event is coming up?” I would ask. “And the date?” I took the information and requested the appropriate catalog.

“I will call you in three or four days, after you have had a chance to review the catalog I am sending you. Then, we will see if anything in the catalog looks like the garment you would like to wear. Remember, though, we have thousands of choices for you, and we are anxious to make everything exactly right.”

Sometimes, though, it was too late to help a customer. If the event was in the next few weeks, we could do nothing because our stock was so far away. In those cases, we always had a local supplier to recommend, and we followed up a week later to make sure our customer was satisfied.

Most of the clothes we sold were made here in Heiple in our workrooms. Sometimes the agents were able to buy garments that were new, but they were never our best. Items we had constructed were easier to recommend because we knew their history and had pictures of entities in those clothes. If an entity wanted to return one of our garments, either new or slightly used, we always took it and refurbished it for someone else.

Fabrics were of the best materials. We had some silk, of course, but most of our fabrics were made of metallic thread on both the woof and the warp, woven in six weights. The most popular was silver because it was less expensive, but we also carried gold and platinum materials and found they were much in demand. One refurbisher worked only with platinum materials and was always busy.

I have many wonderful memories of the twenty years I spent at the Bureau. Some of these memories are of my colleagues on the sales force, but most of them are of the customers, anxious to look their best and very worried that a clothing broker across the universe would not be able to understand their requirements.

One of my favorite customers was Irennt from Drintde, a tiny planet in the Antnia galaxy.

Drintde was famous at the Bureau for its cyclical business. When the economy on Drintde was good, we were inundated with orders for jewelry, art objects, and carriages. When the economy on Drintde was poor, we had even more calls, with offers to sell the same jewelry, art objects, and carriages. We always bought back everything, and sometimes at a profit to the Drintdeians. All in all, the Bureau’s relationship with Drintde was successful, with sales outrunning returns.

We knew Irennt as a courtier. Over the twenty years I worked with her, I sent 576 dresses, 77 pairs of shoes, 89 handbags, 104 coats, and 23 platinum cloaks. Nearly all of these items came back, in need of some refurbishment but able to be resold. The net income to the Bureau for Irennt’s clothes exceeded 6,000 pieces of Universal Gold over that time.

The translation machine would tell me what she said.

“Ah, Lady Wodrenet, the King is planning a great banquet for the senior gold merchant. I am to sit two places away from the Crown Prince. What do you have for me to wear?”

I knew if Irennt were allowed to sit near the Crown Prince she was still the favorite of the King. There was no need for her to tell me anything else.

“The red and gold robe with the embroidered roses,” I said. “The solid gold sash will be just right for the merchant, and the King always likes the red.”

“I wore that just four months ago,” Irennt would say.

We would go back and forth, with suggestions and objections. Finally we would agree on something and I would offer to send several new items. I wrote up the orders and Irennt would be happy for another few weeks.

Over the years, Irennt’s placement at the table changed to reflect her diminishing status. A red and gold robe would not be appropriate for someone out of favor, of course, so I started to send more subdued clothes with fewer expensive trims.

Always Irennt remained confident of her return to her place of honor. She kept a dozen gowns she could wear when she was seated next to the King.

Finally, about ten years after I first talked to her, Irennt said she would be moving to the northern castle, a place the King visited only occasionally. We planned for new clothes, as appropriate, and Irennt seemed to remain happy and anxious to look her best.

The calls came less frequently for a few years after that. Perhaps once or twice a year Irennt would call for something new, but these appeared to me to be only replacements for mundane items that she had probably worn out.

Then one day, Madame Oblargy rushed into my office, holding a piece of paper.

“It’s your customer Irennt, wearing our Number 315b,” she cried.

The paper was a clipping from the Universal Courier. Irennt was pictured next to a young man. The headline read, “Conteros ascends to Drintde throne upon death of father.”

The article described Irennt as the mother of Conteros and one of three titled ladies who had borne children to the late monarch.

Madame Oblargy quickly wrote a note of sympathy to Irennt, including my name in the signature line.

“How elegant she looks, Madame Wodrenet,” my employer insisted, over and over. “How wonderful to have her as such a valued client.”

The frequent calls from Irennt started again a week or so later. The coronation was only nine months away, and she would need something very grand. The mourning period would be over a few months before that, and she would need many new things.

“How nice for you,” I intoned, “that your son is now the King. I feel better about your future now.”

Irennt told me she had borne four children to the old King, but he had set her aside when he believed he had enough children.

“Yes, it was time for him to savor those days of his old age,” Irennt said. “He took companions who were the friends of his youth, women who could talk to him about the old days. We younger women had lost our appeal.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “And now we need to prepare you for your greatest role, as the premier advisor to the young King. I have many ideas.”

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