“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.
Too cool – Top row – Thanks guys