Why Can’t Everything Just Get Along?

Years ago, frustrated by YouTube’s lack of connectivity between devices, I called them on it. My gripe was that while I could access a video on my PC by copying/pasting the URL into my browser, plugging that same URL into the search window on my phone got me nowhere. To my surprise, YouTube implemented this fix. How satisfying! Unfortunately, this functionality vanished a year later, when Google acquired YouTube.

Internet-of-things

There are many examples of devices not playing nicely in the sandbox. For instance, in the early 2000s, you could purchase a full-color, touchscreen mobile device from Samsung (i300) that ran Palm OS and allowed the user to set a moving mobile wallpaper by adding the proper video file. The Apple iPhone did not offer users motion in a wallpaper until not that long ago, but even now will only allow images from Apple. It also used to be that with Alexa’s Spotify connection, you could tell Siri to skip to the next track and “she” would. This is no longer the case unless using Amazon Prime Music. These are just a few examples of functionality that hardware will allow, but is being blocked or even rolled back for business reasons.

Corporations have long understood that a silo mentality doesn’t work. When departments or groups within an organization are unwilling to share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same organization, it leads to communication problems, friction, counter-productivity – and it limits growth. In contrast, some companies have achieved unprecedented success simply by being open and cooperative with partners, customers, and prospects.

Today’s internet ecosystem allows for the interconnectivity of many rule sets, data streams, and functions. As firms mature, however, they often lose sight of the open and interactive landscape in favor of locking down revenue. When solutions and conveniences are limited to a private pool of functions, and a user is unable to take advantage of them, these firms are ultimately setting themselves up for failure.

Now that many platforms factor into the equation the “customer journey” – the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with a particular company and brand – the ability to carry a transaction (a full shopping cart, for example) across multiple devices is becoming increasingly available. Amazon seems to understand that browser experience across desktop, laptop, and mobile platforms must be seamless, no matter how many times users switch devices. Apple’s “Handoff” feature allows a user to instantly move whatever activity they’re doing to whatever device they want to continue doing it with.

The next generation of platforms will need to evolve in order to claim client market share away from outdated options. The user experience is what drives long-term revenue growth, expansion into new markets, and the true “word-of-mouth” that all marketing departments strive for. Adapting to a changing landscape, opening up platforms to modular use, and offering what customers are searching for – and demanding – is what will determine which firms flourish and which don’t.

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The Best Logo of the 1990s, Today

Never underestimate the power of a good logotype. Logos, which provide a business with the means to instantly communicate its identity and branding, are the most powerful marketing tool known. The merger between Citicorp and Travelers Group, and the need to create a unified design representing the combined entity, led to one of the most innovative and memorable logotypes of record.

What’s in a Name?
Citi Logo with the Traveler's Umbrella
While Citicorp, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, was undoubtedly one of the strongest financial services firms to expand and grow by customer addition and retention, the organization also added tremendous revenue by buying up other profitable concerns. In fact, Citicorp’s success in this arena during an era dominated by mergers and acquisitions is still a case study in flexible, sustained increase.

Enter Travelers Group
In 1998, Citicorp announced that it would merge with Travelers Group, a well-known insurance and financial concern, with tremendous potential for cross-selling and additional service offerings at existing locations. Every successful merger requires that the organizations’ operations be married at all levels, but what might stand out the most about this combination was the new entity’s legendary branding and logo.

Creating an Icon to Last
The design team that toiled to visually represent the merger of these two giants had several approaches they could take: Retire both icons and create an entirely new look and feel; take the colors of one and carry them over to the style of the other; or combine the two icons and create an emotive, solid look to the merger, one that would last for years to come. Decades, as it turned out. The stroke of genius that resulted incorporated the original feel of Citibank from the 1970s and 1980s and Travelers’ well-known umbrella icon.

This red umbrella was so beloved that several years after Travelers left Citi, as soon as it became available again, Travelers bought it back. Citi retained a red swash over its name, and the grace, simplicity, and power of its logo also endures.
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Herding Cats? NO, Sales Teams Are Dog Packs

The road to hiring solid business-development leaders can be littered with misjudgments and potentially costly mistakes. However, while it might appear that creating a winning sales team is more art than science, it absolutely is possible to establish a methodology that leads to success.

Who Sells the Sellers?
WolvesOne of my favorite communities for salespeople and business development is Sales Gravy, which I discovered in the early 2000’s. Jeb Blount, the founder, is a career sales leader who understands the mindset of the seller and who early on recognized the need to connect online. The informal community that he built is now complete with forums, a strong presence on social media, and a steady growth plan. I was introduced to Sales Gravy purely by chance during the period of time I was running a realty brokerage and mortgage firm. While listening to podcasts, I found myself wishing that more guidance existed with regard to driving real estate sales. While Jeb’s podcast was not specific to that industry, it was very much applicable – both then and now. He succinctly discussed sales, the rigors of keeping up with both product knowledge and the marketplace, and, most important, he addressed the need for regular outbound prospecting to achieve sales success.

The ‘Aha’ Moment
If you google “better sales and [ANY INDUSTRY],” you will see that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of options being offered that all but guarantee better sales growth. Everything from more online advertising, to specialized software, to sales training, are all available for a modest investment – but not one of them is a magic bullet. In fact, there is a great article on SalesHQ (part of the Monster.com brand for job hunters) that details the Top 5 Fastest Growing Sales Jobs. It’s interesting because while the industries vary greatly (Realty, Insurance, Retail, Technology, Wholesalers), the key practices recommended to help a good seller grow into being a great one are identical across the board:

  1. Keep Up With Your CRM
  2. Know Your Inventory
  3. Do Your Dials

Getting Good Sales Talent
“Want good sellers working for you? Pay ’em right.” This was the advice I received a decade ago from Lori Chmura, the second-generation owner and director of the Middleton Real Estate Academy. At the time I was attending classes there in broker ownership and contract law for my real estate broker licensing, Middleton was the highest-rated and most respected school for real estate licensing in Michigan. It really can be simple. Salespeople are good at sales because they are both outgoing and driven by financial reward. Selling is a career choice that rewards regular, intelligent, prospecting activity with opportunities to begin, and close, sales that pay. “Your raise starts when you do,” as one of my early sales mentors once told me.

Advice to the Pack Leaders
It’s not uncommon to hear people outside of the selling profession gripe about salespeople. Oft-heard complaints include: “So cheesy” and “impossible to deal with.” To grossly simplify, what lies at the heart of the matter is the difference between cats and dogs. Pet owners know that cats will always behave like cats: somewhat aloof and ultimately independent. They are trainable, but to a very limited degree. Dogs are the opposite. Like salespeople, they are always hungry for more, they are motivated by pecking order, and they are highly trainable when it comes to following the “boss.” When chaos rules and no lead orders are handed down, or when there are issues with regard to rewarding good behavior and punishing bad, the dogs are unhappy – and, more to the point, cease to function as a cohesive pack. However, when expectations are clearly set and enforced, and pack members understand that meeting these goals – or, better yet, exceeding them – will result in reward, the pack can be managed and will excel. If we can train Huskies to run the Iditarod, we can train the individuals on a sales team to follow the leader, assuming the leader leads. This will keep salespeople from being “cheesy” or “impossible” and will transform them into highly productive winners.

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Learning Sales Courage From The Late Tony Soprano

Sales leaders often succeed by being consistent and aggressive. But when is enough enough, and when is the soft touch needed? The most important thing to consider in a sales opportunity is what can happen if your prospect won’t close, and sharing with them what is at risk.

Anecdotal Evidence 

The magazine Private Wealth recently released an article titled “Sopranos Star’s $30M Misstep,” where the details of James Gandolfini and his $70 million estate’s loss of what is estimated to be $30 million by dying without protecting his assets in a private trust or some other vehicle for ensuring the IRS and local authorities couldn’t tax so much of what the actor left behind for friends, family, and charity.

k-bigpicIt is true that financial choices, indeed all choices, we make as human beings in this life are our own, and are our responsibility. But imagine the responsibility of Gandolfini’s financial advisors: Was there a possibility someone didn’t “sell” him hard enough on a review of his situations?

Sales Pressure

Apply pressure evenly and consistently for best practice. Prospects may have their own opinions (sometimes accurate, sometimes wildly fanciful) on how salespeople earn and receive compensation. Often, a CPA offering a valuable but low-cost analysis can be disregarded by a client’s psychological distrust of “selling,” which leads to delaying the close of a sale or putting it off entirely. This introduces a danger, not just in a salesperson missing a commission or falling short of a quota, but of the client not benefitting from the sale. If your car was in for service and the mechanic told you that your brakes were about to fail, but you ask, “can it wait?” Is your mechanic doing a good job if he or she backs off from your response, even though you will be driving at risk of a terrible crash?

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."
 - Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (1962).

As a salesperson, you will find that your strongest and best ability to persuade, educate and push is a power often tempered with timing, strategy, and relationship management. But the delivery of quality and quantity of contact with a prospect, or current client, is what is most important to averting the treacherous future without your product or service in your prospect’s employ. It is your duty to deliver to them the information they need about the risks they could suffer if they don’t work with you and your organization. Only armed with this possibility can they make the decision to buy or wait properly.

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Collaborative Consulting Confirms Commitment To Financial Services Practice With New Hires

As seen on The Wall Street Journal, week of 22 April 2013

Move Deepens Collaborative Consulting Services In Financial Sector

BURLINGTON, Mass.– Collaborative Consulting today announced it has recruited three executives with extensive experience in the financial services industry. Joining Collaborative’s financial services team will be Gary Jones, who brings a long history of experience in the wealth management business; Sandeep Singh, with deep technical and domain experience in financial services; and Sean Dykhouse, a seasoned business development professional. All three most recently ran the wealth management practice for eBusinessware where they delivered IT service offerings to the asset management industry.

Sean Dykhouse (Photo: Business Wire)

Sean Dykhouse (Photo: Business Wire)

Combined with Collaborative Consulting’s recent acquisition of the SMART Consulting Firm last year, the additions further enhance Collaborative’s Managed Accounts practice. All three hires bring experience and skills that advance Collaborative’s financial services offering.”By adding these three, very talented and experienced individuals, Collaborative will be gaining incomparable expertise and managed accounts consulting capability in the financial services field,” said William Robichaud, President and CEO of Collaborative Consulting.Jones comes with over 25 years of experience in the Managed Solutions industry having spent a significant period of time as a part of the leadership team in Merrill Lynch’s Advisory solutions business. He currently supports the Money Management Institute (MMI) as a private consultant in its effort to bring greater efficiency to the managed solutions industry.

“We are excited to join one of the industry’s strongest IT consulting firms in financial services and look forward to what we can achieve together,” said Jones. “This week’s MMI Annual Convention is the perfect opportunity to introduce our new team,” he added.

Collaborative’s acquisition of SMART Consulting Firm in July 2012 boosted its expertise in business development, enterprise and project management in the capital markets industry. That practice is based in offices at 77 Water Street in Manhattan.

“Collaborative Consulting has made rapid strides in the financial services industry and Mr. Jones, Mr. Singh, and Mr. Dykhouse will be valuable assets in expanding our existing systems architecture and implementation capabilities,” said David Gardner, Senior Vice President of Collaborative Consulting.

The recruiting of these industry experts comes about a year after Collaborative broke new ground with its “onshoring” initiative and the hiring of over 70 new IT specialists, jobs that in the past would have gone offshore to facilities in places like India and China. The Collaborative Domestic Solutions Center (CDSC) in Wausau, Wisconsin recently celebrated its first anniversary focusing on onshore application development and testing and is on track to hire up to 200 IT experts within the next year or two.

The announcement today about the firm’s financial services practice comes only weeks after Collaborative announced a boost to its life sciences capabilities with the acquisition of the Maxiom Group. Maxiom provides pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and healthcare technology consulting services.

The growth at the CDSC has resulted in significant new job creation at Collaborative Consulting’s Burlington, MA headquarters.

Collaborative is a leading management and IT consulting services organization with offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas, dedicated to helping clients achieve business advantage through the use of technology. The company delivers a full complement of services across multiple industries with a specific emphasis on financial services and life sciences. Collaborative’s foundational service areas are Information Management, Application Development, Program Management, Software Performance Engineering, and Quality Assurance. They deliver these services through a combination of traditional consulting and the Collaborative Domestic Solution Center providing optimal value to clients. Collaborative was recently awarded a spot in Software Magazine’s Software 500, a ranking of the world’s largest software and service providers. Collaborative is headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts.

See the full article on WSJ.com

This article is also available at the following syndicated sources:

Gary Jones (Photo: Business Wire)

Gary Jones

Sandeep Singh (Photo: Business Wire)

Sandeep Singh

 

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Of Cabbages & Clients

While some metaphors are effective because they are memorable, and some are regrettable because they are forgetable, this sales example of becoming and staying focused is one that always brings smiles.

Customer Focus
cabbage
One of the most common fallacies you can observe in modern business marketing efforts is the inability to overcome personality in order to offer customers what they want. It is true that you can sell more than what people think they want, but it is a terrible mistake to sit in meetings with marketing and promotional leaders and declare “don’t make the widget purple, I always hated purple.” Big wins and big breakthroughs come from surveying and listening to what customers really desire. If market research shows purple widgets are what will make the biggest impact for purchasers, mismanaging the process to offer only orange based on one opinion is too large a risk.

The Buyer’s Perspective
If a woman walks into a grocery store, and she is only looking for cabbage, she is not looking to buy anything else, although other upsell opportunities exist. Trying to sell her a hammer, or a box of pastries, may or may not be effective, but it is not what she walked into the store looking to purchase.

Purple Cabbage
The old adage, “sell the sizzle, not the steak,” has never been more true than today. Imagine the markets of England, where even today, in open air bazaars, sellers loudly hawk their wares,” Cabbages! Get your cabbages here,” they announce. In modern marketing practice, it would make more sense to holler the experience your customers could want. By getting your potential buyers to imagine a tasty sauerkraut, or a crisp cole slaw, even a warm and steaming rice and saucy cabbage roll, will make a far greater impact towards selling the cabbage alone.

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Nackles: A short story for the holidays by Donald Westlake

This winter I bring you a tale almost as delightful as Krampus, and nearly as chilly. I’ll always remember being curled up with an OMNI magazine, sipping coffee and reading this little piece for the very first time. I have since learned much more about this gem from HeartInAJar.

NACKLES:
By Donald Westlake, writing as Curt Clark.

Used without permission.

Did God create men, or does Man create gods? I don’t know, and if it hadn’t been for my rotten brother-in-law, the question would never have come up. My late brother-in-law? Nackles knows.

It all depends, you see, like the chicken and the egg, on which came first. Did God exist before Man first thought of Him, or didn’t He? If not, if Man creates his gods, then it follows that Man must create the devils, too.

Nearly every god, you know, has his corresponding devil. Good and Evil. the polytheistic ancients, prolific in the creation (?) of gods and goddesses, always worked up nearly enough Evil ones to cancel out the Good, but not quite. The Greeks, those incredible supermen, combined Good and Evil in each of their gods. In Zoroaster, Ahura Mazda, being Good, is ranged forever against the Evil one, Ahriman. And we ourselves know God and Satan.

But of course it’s entirely possible I have nothing to worry about. It all depends on whether Santa is or is not a god. He certainly seems like a god. Consider: He is omniscient; he knows every action of every child, for good or evil. At least on Christmas Eve he is omnipresent, everywhere at once. He administers justice tempered with mercy. He is superhuman, or at least non-human, though conceived of as having a human shape. He is aided by a corps of assistants who do not have completely human shapes. He rewards Good and punishes Evil, And, most important, he is believed in utterly be several million people, most of them under the age of ten. Is there any qualification of godhood that Santa Claus does not possess?

And even the non-believers give him lip-service. He has surely taken over Christmas; his effigy is everywhere, but where are the manger and the Christ child? Retired rather forlornly to the nave. (Santa’s power is growing, too. Slowly but surely he is usurping Chanukah as well.)

Santa Claus is a god. He’s no less a god that Ahura Mazda, or Odin, or Zeus. Think of the white beard, the chariot pulled through the air by a breed of animal which doesn’t ordinarily fly, the prayers (requests for gifts) which are annually mailed to him and which so baffle the Post Office, the specially garbed priests in all the department stores. And don’t gods reflect their creators’ (?) society? The Greeks had a huntress goddess, and gods of agriculture and war and love. What else would we have but a god of giving, of merchandising, and of consumption? Secondary gods of earlier times have been stout, but surely Santa Claus is the first fat primary god.

And wherever there’s a god mustn’t there sooner or later be a devil?

Which brings me back to my brother-in-law, who’s to blame for whatever happens now. My brother-in-law Frank is—or was—a very mean and nasty man. Why I ever let him marry my sister I’ll never know. Why Susie wanted to marry him is an even greater mystery. I could just shrug and say Love Is Blind, I suppose, but that wouldn’t explain how she fell in love with him in the first place.

Frank is—Frank was—I just don’t know which tense to use. The present, hopefully. Frank is a very handsome man in his way, big and brawny, full of vitality. A football player; hero in college and defensive linebacker for three years in pro ball, till he did some sort of irreparable damage to his left knee, which gave him a limp and forced him to find some other way to make a living.

Ex-football players tend to become insurance salesmen, I don’t know why. Frank followed the form, and became an insurance salesman. Because Susie was then a secretary for the same company, they soon became acquainted.

Was Susie dazzled by the ex-hero, so big and handsome? She’s never been the type to dazzle easily, but we can never fully know what goes on in the mind of another human being. For whatever reason, she decided she was in love with him.

So they were married, and five weeks later he gave her her first black eye. And the last, though it mightn’t have been, since Susie tried to keep me from finding out. I was to go over for dinner that night, but at eleven in the morning she called the auto showroom where I work, to tell me she had a headache and we’d have to postpone the dinner. But she sounded so upset that I knew immediately something was wrong, so I took a demonstration car and drove over, and when she opened the front door there was the shiner.

I got the story out of her in fits and starts. Frank, it seemed, had a terrible temper. She wanted to excuse him because he was forced to be an insurance salesman when he really wanted to be out there on the gridiron again, but I want to be President and I’m an automobile salesman and I don’t go around giving women black eyes. So I decided it was up to me to let Frank know he wasn’t going to vent his pique on my sister any more.

Unfortunately, I am five feet seven inches tall and weigh one hundred thirty-four pounds, with the Sunday Times under my arm. Were I just to give Frank a piece of my mind, he’d surely give me a black eye to go with my sister’s. Therefore, that afternoon I bought a regulation baseball bat, and carried it with me when I went to see Frank that night.

He opened the door himself and snarled, “What do you want?”

In answer, I poked him with the end of the bat, just above the belt, to knock the wind out of him. Then, having unethically gained the upper hand, I clouted him five or six times more, then stood over him to say, “The next time you hit my sister I won’t let you off so easy.” After which I took Susie over to my place for dinner.

And after which I was Frank’s best friend.

People like that are so impossible to understand. Until the baseball bat episode, Frank had nothing for me but undisguised contempt. But once I’d knocked the stuffing out of him, he was my comrade for life. And I’m sure it was sincere; he would have given me the shirt off his back, had I wanted it, which I didn’t.

(Also, by the way, he never hit Susie again. He still had the bad temper, but he took it out in throwing furniture out windows or punching dents in walls or going downtown to start a brawl in some bar. I offered to train him out of maltreating the house and furniture as I had trained him out of maltreating his wife, but Susie said no, that Frank had to let off steam and it would be worse if he was forced to bottle it all up inside him, so the baseball bat remained in retirement.)

Then came the children, three of them in as many years. Frank Junior came first, then Linda Joyce, and finally Stewart. Susie had held the forlorn hope that fatherhood would settle Frank to some extent, but quite the reverse was true. Shrieking babies, smelly diapers, disrupted sleep, and distracted wives are trials and tribulations to any man, but to Rank they were—like everything else in his life—the last straw.

He became, in a word, worse. Susie restrained him I don’t know how often from doing some severe damage to a squalling infant, and as the children grew toward the age of reason Frank’s expressed attitude toward them was that their best move would be to find a way to become invisible. The children. of course, didn’t like him very much, but then who did?

Last Christmas was when it started. Junior was six then, and Linda Joyce five, and Stewart four, so all were old enough to have heard of Santa Claus and still young enough to believe in him. Along around October, when the Christmas season was beginning, Frank began to use Santa Claus’ displeasure as a weapon to keep the children “in line,” his phrase for keeping them mute and immobile and terrified. Many parents, of course, try to enforce obedience the same way: “If you’re bad, Santa Claus won’t bring you any presents.” Which, all things considered, is a negative and passive sort of punishment, wishy-washy in comparison with fire and brimstone and such. In the old days, Santa Claus would treat bad children more scornfully, leaving a lump of coal in their stockings in lieu of presents, but I suppose the Depression helped to change that. There are times and situation when a lump of coal is nothing to sneer at.

In any case, an absence of presents was too weak a punishment for Frank’s purposes, so last Christmastime he invented Nackles.

Who is Nackles? Nackles is to Santa Claus what Satan is to God, what Ahriman is to Ahura Mazda, what the North Wind is to the South Wind. Nackles is the new Evil.

I think Frank really enjoyed creating Nackles; he gave so much thought to the details of him. According to Frank, and as I remember it, this is Nackles: Very very tall and very very thin. Dressed all in black, with a gaunt gray face and deep black eyes. He travels through an intricate series of tunnels under the earth, in a black chariot on rails, pulled by an octet of dead-white goats.

And what does Nackles do? Nackles lives on the flesh of little boys and girls. (This is what Frank was telling his children; can you believe it?) Nackles roams back and forth under the earth, in his dark tunnels darker than subway tunnels, pulled by the eight dead-white goats, and he searches for little boys and girls to stuff into his big black sack and carry away and eat. But Santa Claus won’t let him have the good boys and girls. Santa Claus is stronger than Nackles, and keeps a protective shield around little children, so Nackles can’t get at them.

But when little children are bad, it hurts Santa Claus, and weakens the shield Santa Claus has placed around them, and if they keep on being bad pretty soon there’s no shield left at all, and on Christmas Eve instead of Santa Claus coming out of the sky with his bag of presents Nackles comes up out of the ground with his bag of emptiness, and stuffs the bad children in, and whisks them away to his dark tunnels and the eight dead-white goats.

Frank was proud of his invention, actually proud of it. He not only used Nackles to threaten his children every time they had the temerity to come within range of his vision, he also spread the story around to others. He told me, and his neighbors, and people in bars, and people he went to see in his job as an insurance salesman. I don’t know how many people he told about Nackles, though I would guess it was well over a hundred. And there’s more than one Frank in this world; he told me from time to time of a client or neighbor or bar-crony who had heard the story of Nackles and then said, “By God, that’s great. That’s what I’ve been needing, to keep my brats in line.”

Thus Nackles was created, and thus Nackles was promulgated. And would any of the unfortunate children thus introduced to Nackles believe in this Evil Being any less than they believed in Santa Claus? Of course not.

This all happened, as I say, last Christmastime. Frank invented Nackles, used him to further intimidate the children and spread the story of him to everyone he met. On Christmas Day last year I’m sure there was more than one child who was relieved and somewhat surprised to awaken the same as usual, in his own trundle bed, and to find the presents downstairs beneath the tree, proving that Nackles had been kept away yet another year.

Nackles lay dormant, so far as Frank was concerned, from December 25th of last year until this October. Then, with the sights and sounds of Christmas again in the land, back came Nackles, as fresh and vicious as ever. “Don’t expect me to stop him!” Frank would shout. “When he comes up out of the ground the night before Christmas to carry you away in his bag, don’t expect any help from me!

It was worse this year than last. Frank wasn’t doing well financially as he’d expected, and then early in November Susie discovered she was pregnant again, and what with one thing and another Frank was headed for a real peak of ill-temper. He screamed at the children constantly, and the name of Nackles was never far from his tongue.

Susie did what she could to counteract Frank’s bad influence, but he wouldn’t let her do much. All through November and December he was home more and more of the time, because the Christmas season is the wrong time to sell insurance anyway and also because he was hating the job more every day and thus giving it less of his time. The more he hated the job, the worse his temper became, and the more he drank, and the worse his limp got, and the louder were his shouts, and and the more violent his references to Nackles. It just built and built and built, and reached its crescendo on Christmas Eve, when some small or imagined infraction of one of the children—Stewart, I think—resulted in Frank’s pulling all the Christmas presents form all the closets and stowing them all in the car to be taken back to the stores, because this Christmas for sure it wouldn’t be Santa Claus who would be visiting this house, it would be Nackles.

By the time Susie got the children to bed, everyone in the house was a nervous wreck. The children were too frightened to sleep, and Susie herself was too unnerved to be of much help in soothing them. Frank, who had taken to drinking at home lately, had locked himself in the bedroom with a bottle.

It was nearly eleven o’clock before Susie got the children all quieted down, and then she wen tout to the car and brought all the presents back in and arranged them under the tree. Then, not wanting to see or hear her husband any more that night—he was like a big spoiled child throwing a tantrum—she herself went to sleep on the living room sofa.

Frank Junior awoke her in the morning, crying, “Look, Mama! Nackles didn’t come, he didn’t come!” And pointed to the presents she’d placed under the tree.

The other two children came down shortly after, and Susie and the youngsters sat on the floor and opened the presents, enjoying themselves as much as possible, but still with restraint. There were none of the usual squeals of childish pleasure; no one wanted Daddy to come storming downstairs in one of his rages. So the children contented themselves with ear-to-ear smiles and whispered exclamations, and after a while Susie made breakfast, and the day carried along as pleasantly as could be expected under the circumstances.

It was a little after twelve that Susie began to worry about Frank’s non-appearance. She braved herself to go up and knock on the locked door and call his name, but she got no answer, not even the expected snarl, so just around one o’clock she called me and I hurried on over. I rapped smartly on the bedroom door, got no answer, and finally I threatened to break the door in if Frank didn’t open up. When I still got no answer, break the door in I did.

And Frank, of course, was gone.

The police say he ran away, deserted his family, primarily because of Susie’s fourth pregnancy. They say he went out the window and dropped to the backyard, so Susie wouldn’t see hi and try to stop him. And they say he didn’t take the car because he was afraid Susie would hear him start the engine.

That all sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Yet I just can’t believe Frank would walk out on Susie without a lot of shouting about it first. Nor that he would leave his car, which he was fonder of than his wife and children.

But what’s the alternative? There’s only one I can think of: Nackles.

I would rather not believe that. I would rather not believe that Frank, in inventing Nackles and spreading word of him, made him real. I would rather not believe that Nackles actually did visit my sister’s house on Christmas Eve.

But did he? If so, he couldn’t have carried off any of the children, for a more subdued and better behaved trio of youngsters you won’t find anywhere. But Nackles, being brand-new and never having had a meal before, would need somebody. Somebody to whom he was real, somebody not protected by the shield of Santa Claus. And, as I say, Frank was drinking that night. Alcohol makes the brain believe in the existence of all sorts of things. Also, Frank was a spoiled child if there ever was one.

There’s no question but that Frank Junior and Linda Joyce and Stewart believe in Nackles. And Frank spread the gospel of Nackles to others, some of whom spread it to their own children. And some of whom will spread the new Evil to other parents. And ours is a mobile society, with families constantly being transferred by Daddy’s company from one end of the country to another, so how long can it be before Nackles is a power not only in this one city, but all across the nation?

I don’t know if Nackles exists, or will exist. All I know for sure is that there’s suddenly a new meaning in the lyric of that popular Christmas song. You know the one I mean:

You’d better watch out.

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