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DeBarrie's needed help again. The part time people never lasted very long. The most recent had seemed okay at first. His name was Martin and he played the flute. He was fluent in German, and he liked to watch reality television. Joe DeBarrie scanned Martin’s old application one more time before consigning it to the trash bin. It didn't tell him much. His own remarks were limited to "clean, plain, straight-forward". Now, only two months later, he marveled at how wrong he'd been. Maybe it’s me, he thought, I really know how to pick them.

Aside from the part time people problem, DeBarrie's Stationery ran like a well inked machine. Joe and his brother Mike ran the place. They were the third generation of DeBarrie's to do so. Joe had the management job. He took care of all the buying, hiring, and paperwork. Mike took care of all the sales activity on the floor. This was the time-honored division of labor established by their father, Mike Senior, the patriarch.

They were an unlikely pair. Joe was tall and thin, had lousy eyesight and started going bald when he was twenty one. He was quiet, slow, methodical, and never made a movement that he didn't seem to have carefully considered first. Mike was short and bulky, dark haired, energetic, active, the spitting image of the old man. He was always in motion, always doing something. He was extremely quick when it came to things about the store, but impenetrably slow on other matters.

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