Fiction – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

 


 

“We have to let you go Kenneth. Clear out your desk immediately. You can stop by HR and pick up your final check.”

My jaw dropped. I was not expecting this. “But, Mr. Dithers I, we’re, just getting rolling on the Bumstead project. As project manager I am confident that we can bring this one in, on time and under budget.”

“The Bumstead project has been cancelled Kenneth. Please go down to HR now. I don’t want to have to call security.”

“Can you at least tell me why, Mr. Dithers?”

He picked up his phone and spoke, “Gladys, can you ask Security to come up here right away?”

“That won’t be necessary, sir.” I spun and walked out of his office with as much dignity as I could muster. Gladys was ignoring me, feigning intense concentration and staring at her monitor, when I went past her desk on my way to the elevator.

A security representative fell in step and rode down the two floors with me to the cube farm I had called home for the last year and a half. As I threaded the aisles towards my desk the people who I had considered friends averted their gaze, or picked up their phones and pretended to be having conversations. I was, apparently quite the pariah. How had I not seen this coming? How could I have been so blind?

I packed up my desk, and went to HR with my new friend from Security. I got my check, signed some termination papers and left. In the ground floor lobby my escort peeled off and went to jaw, snicker, and point with the others of his kind. The ones we had always called ‘the gatekeepers’. With my meager box of belongings tucked under my arm I reached to push the door open.

“Kenneth?” I turned and saw Lois hurrying my way. She stopped short and said, “Kenneth, I just heard. I’m so sorry, this is so unfair.”

I wanted to put my arms around Lois and cry on her shoulder but instead I pulled her aside and asked, “Do you know why? No one will tell me why?”

Lois nodded. “You should have stayed on your meds Kenneth. There were complaints, and you were scaring some of the girls on the third floor.”

“Thanks for being honest with me Lois.” I said and angrily stormed out of the building.

It was Friday afternoon so I had the entire weekend to stew and I certainly started out that way. Got good and drunk Friday night but on Saturday morning I got busy. I poured out what little bourbon was left in the bottle and started taking my meds again. I shaved and went out to find a salon. A pear shaped girl gave me extensions, and snapped her gum while she dyed my hair and eyebrows blonde. Downtown I found a sale and scored a whole new business casual wardrobe, khaki trousers and long sleeved dress shirts. Beige, white and light pastels are the new me. I spent Sunday teaching myself to talk like an educated surfer.

Monday morning found me checking my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I nodded and spoke to my reflection, “lookin’ good, dude.” I approved the transformation, my mother wouldn’t recognize me. I went back to work prepared to tackle the Bumstead project, and see it through. I just had to make sure that my cover remained intact. There would be no paychecks for a while but I had enough savings to last. This could work.

I snagged a visitors badge from the gatekeepers: traded up for an employee badge that S. Smith had left on his shirt in the locker room and took the lift to Marketing. An empty cube was easy to find there. Marketing had been short-staffed since ’08. I requested copies of my Bumstead work from filing and while waiting for them to come up, carefully cut S. Smith’s photo from the badge and replaced it with one of mine. I re-laminated and was suddenly in possession of a legitimate looking, albeit forged, employee ID. I needed them to see what I saw. They should have let me stay. They should not have made me go. I needed them to realize their mistake. They would beg me to come back. I reached into my pocket, found a pill and swallowed it without water. I couldn’t afford to be erratic. I had to maintain.


 

Summer Grid #172

Too cool – Top row – Thanks guys

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31 thoughts on “Fiction – Should I Stay or Should I Go?

  1. Wow, what a shame for Kenneth. I did not see the mental health twist coming, overall this had echos in plot from a Brett Easton Ellis novel. Makes we want to know to what extent he gets away with his undercover work or whether this is the end of the line for Kenneth before he gets sectioned! I started reading this almost as a parody piece given the nicknames but as it went on I felt that this still had an air of dark comedy along with being alarming. Did I pick the tone up right? Good work & one on my faves from you so far.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you picked it up great and I’m really glad you liked it. This one was over 1000 words in no time and I still had not gotten it where I wanted it to go. I had to do a lot of sculpting to get it down to the 750 range. I may have to give them “less disposable” names and have another go with these guys. I guess I need to look up Brett Easton Ellis – thanks for the tip.

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  2. Colour me impressed! What an intriguing story about a man with mental health issues. I love how it’s told from the narrator’s point of view, which blurs the reality of the situation. We never truly get to know how he was behaving, which led to his dismissal. From his perceptive, he was working hard on the Bumstead project. I want to know how things pan our! Great work! TiV

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked it. I always have good intentions of carrying some of my characters forward into new and uncharted story lines but, I seldom do. Too many shiny things, ya know?

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  3. I really enjoyed what you did with the question. Clearly, Kenneth has no doubt as to whether he should stay or go! I wasn’t sure at first why Dithers was so quick to call security (not at all dithery!) but by the end, it all made sense. One question: if he’s on his meds, how is he so out of touch with reality? Maybe I’m showing my lack of familiarity with the effectiveness of meds. I’d love to read more if you decide to re-expand or continue this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it is more likely me showing my lack of familiarity with the drugs. I am probably out to lunch but I do know it was fun to write but hard to carve back down to an acceptable word count for the grid. I’ve already got an expanded version but I would have to split it up to put it on the grid.
    Hmm, maybe so?
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  5. I like how you keep the moral compass spinning in this story (if that phrase makes any sense at all…) by never letting the reader settle into a comforting groove with regard to where their sympathy should lie.

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  6. Btw I think I had the old man from your poem Sally the Stripper at the back of my mind when I made-up the old narrator in my story for this particular prompt. One of the things I’ve enjoyed since I started blogging is how, as you visit other bloggers, you read things and think “hmm I’d like to put my own spin on that kind of idea” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting that he was fired without any of the usual steps that have to proceed a firing, since he had no idea. His behavior must have been way beyond the usual creepiness!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your non-romantic take on the prompt. Very cool. Also, I think it’s so interesting that Kenneth would go back and try to prove himself after getting shamed that way. I personally would have gone and died in a hole somewhere. As for the med question above, I work in the field of mental health (as a legal not psychiatric professional) and I know that people often go off their meds for usually one of two reasons: (1) the person feels fine and believes there is no longer any need to take the meds, or (2) the meds make the person feel “foggy” so he/she stops the meds. The behavior often cycles as a result of going on and off meds. Also, it can take several weeks to titrate meds, depending on the precise meds, once they need to be restarted. So this story fits perfectly. He might be back on his meds but it will take a while for him to reach baseline. Great stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Finally! Someone who knows what I’m talking about. Because, I usually just make this stuff up as I go along. It’s nice to have my imagination validated.
      I’m also glad you liked it. The relationship angle just seemed like a trap to me. I had to go another way. But there’s a lot of great relationship pieces on the grid this week, don’t you think?

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    • Ditto what Melanie said. And, depending on the meds, some have side effects of fatigue/tiredness/sleep disturbance, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and so on (contributing to the “fogginess!” no doubt). Also, I’m not sure if it would happen this quickly, but … long story short. I tried a little ginger beer (literally half-an-ounce, probably; I’m not much for alcohol) while on one of these type meds (an SSRI, specifically) and it gave me a horrific headache. I had forgotten the directions say “no alcohol.” ANyway, not sure how long Kenneth has been off his med(s) or specifically what his mental illness(es) might be [though I sensed a bit of paranoia, for some reason], but it might be more authentic to have him have a headache the next morning after the binge drinking OR you could even say something like, by way of backstory, “with the meds, he knew he was never supposed to drink alcohol, but since it had been 3 months and he’d just been sacked for who-knows-what reason, he thought it was an acceptable risk” (or whatever wording you think works best for his characterization). My 2 cents’. Fascinating story and, as Blake said, as a reader, it’s kind of fun to be on a tilt-a-whirl in trying to figure out Kenneth and why he was fired.

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  9. Tom, I enjoyed your take on the prompt. I loved the term “cube farm”, and I especially liked the paragraph with the hairstylist – it was very real, and your descriptions were believable. Melanie already mentioned this, but I too, loved that Kenneth went back to the company he was fired from to prove himself. Karen

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A great take on the prompt. Loved the ending where we almost get inside Kenneth’s head and start to believe, like he does, that having started his medication again everything is going to be OK.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all you had to do was take a pill and your life would be OK again? OK maybe not, maybe I like it the way it is now! Thanks Mike.

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  12. Got to give him points for persistence. Perhaps erratic, but I wonder if the company truly appreciates the dedication. What an interesting personality, and I love the transformation he went through. You were thorough in the details. An interesting story that held my attention in a firm grip the whole way. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Eric:
      I appreciate the wonderful comment. It will be a joyful day indeed when corporations remember, once again, that their most valuable assets are their people. Glad you liked it. Thank you.

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  13. […] In first place, we have Suzanne P at Apoplectic Apostrophes with her lovely, haunting 42-word poem, Troubled. She is followed closely by the rest of the top row: Cyn K at That Cynking Feeling with her essay, There is No Nobel Prize for Motherhood; Melanie at My Own Champion with her short story, Redefining Dominion; and Thom at tnkerr with his short story, Should I Stay or Should I Go? […]

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