But right now my mind isn’t supposed to wander.
I’m supposed to feel inferior from the visitor’s side of the mahogany desk. Across it sits a successful man with a successful hairstyle frozen to his successful skull. You can just read the company’s b*llsh*t mission statement in his b*llsh*t eyes. He looks Photoshopped onto a canvas of dated elegance: lots of leather books he’s never read shelved in weathered wood that came from real trees. To him, the diplomas and certificates in expensive frames on the wall say he’s accomplished, educated. To me, they mean student-loan debt.
In case I missed the stenciled lettering on his door, a nameplate rests a few inches from me, his full first name and middle initial etched before his last name, all above: GENERAL MANAGER. How pompous, the way he inserts his middle initial as if to boast greatness. I wonder if his friends use his middle initial when they address him. I wonder if he has even one true friend.
He offers me a cup of coffee. I say no thanks. I lie and say I don’t drink coffee. Truth is—and he’ll never know this—I tried his brand of coffee before, one night when business was slow and I didn’t have anything better to do but sneak into his office, brew myself a pot of his java , drink it from his mug. It tasted like sh*t and left an aftertaste of sh*t. But he sips away because sh*t doesn’t taste like sh*t when you’re successful. He pulls out a drawer and gives me a bottle of Perrier and, God’s honest truth, it’s cold, it’s g*dd*mn cold! I want to ask him how he had a refrigerated drawer installed in his desk but I just enjoy my first sip of water with a sub-6 pH level.
“Do you know, Mister Pettigrew, how I rose to the position of general manager?” he asks. Mister Pettigrew. Nice touch. It tells me, Fall in line, join the rat race, one day you, too, can have your own coffee pot at work.
I don’t know if it’s the coffee or a lingering effect of his last executive committee meeting, but his office really has a unpleasant scent about it. Bad butter melted into blackened toast or something like that. Whatever it is it makes my gut frown.
I say I don’t know, to answer his question, and he tells me about hard work and dedication and a productive lifestyle.
I stop listening and think about the great men who’d sat in his chair, men of a bygone age, men of vision. Men who didn’t invent the wheel, but found creative, efficient ways to use the wheel while maintaining personal and professional integrity. Men of an age that died when the Ted Turners of the world sold out to the corporations. Now everything is decision by committee, everybody playing Congress, 100 men and women with fancy diplomas and fancy offices and sh*tty coffee of their own, people who boast expertise on Antarctica because they’ve learned about it in seminars and read about it in magazines but have never felt the bite of an Antarctic breeze.
While he talks down to me, I smile. He doesn’t know what it is that I know that he doesn’t and confusion makes his chair feel lumpy, too. He doesn’t understand what I have to smile about. I have no boat, no breakfast nook, no timeshare in the Keys.
He talks about ambition, about my lack thereof. He says he’s never known a Mensa member who’s worked such a menial job. He wants to know how a guy with a high I.Q. can find happiness making nine bucks an hour. Again, I smile.
“May I speak frankly with you?” I ask, and he tells me to please do. “When we speak, my nose points straight ahead. Yours is about a quarter-inch left-of-center. That’s because your neck’s strained from looking over your shoulder and from it being in the wringer every day. When you conclude your 70-hour work week, you’ll be too tired to enjoy your family. They’ll cry all over the nice things you’ve bought them. When I wrap up my 40 hours this week, I’ll take my family to a ball game, to the zoo, then out for ice cream. Which one of us do you think will die unhappy? alone? Which one of us is truly successful?”
And before he excuses me so he can phone in my termination order to H.R. in private, I see the light reflect a tear or two inside his successful slave eyes.
Answer by Misty
I absolutely, 100 percent love it. I haven’t read anything so honest and right on for so long that I forgot how it felt. The only critique I have is that there are a few run on sentances that break the pace of your story by making me reread. Other than that…great stuff! Makes me want to go get back to brutal basics. Just for the fun of it.