Register Wednesday | June 26 | 2019

Peterson

QWF/CBC Short Story Writing Competition

How you doin’ Peterson? You doin’ OK? You’re looking a little tired. Listen, the reason I called you into my office is that I thought it was time that you and I had a little chat. I mean, you and I have probably been here the longest, right? Kind of strange that I became your boss, after all, we started here at the same time, back when the Habs had a team. I remember doing the interview for this crap job the same day you did. Remember that interview? That’s almost twenty years ago. Can you believe it? Twenty goddamn years working here! Sitting in that waiting room with all those other schmucks, just waiting for them to call our name. I can’t believe how nervous we were. I mean, I can’t speak for the both of us, but my glands were secreting anything they could find. They finally call my name, and I walk in and see O’Reilly behind the desk. Remember that freckled face idiot. I mean, you know what he was like, with his short-sleeved shirts and his ties that always matched his pants. The minute I got my first promotion he was the first one I fired. Do you have any idea how good it feels to fire your own boss? I mean, I used to work for him, then I get the big promotion, and overnight the bastard is working for me. Those are the moments when I believe that maybe, just maybe, there is a God. Then again I’m five foot four and need to wax my lower back every two days, so who the hell knows.

I got to be straight with you Peterson. One of the things I’ve always tried to do with people is be straight. My father taught me that. He always taught me to look people straight in the eye. It’s the only thing the drunken bastard ever taught me other than Yahtzee. Man, could he play Yahtzee. Thing is Peterson, I always thought you were smarter than everyone here. That’s why I’m surprised you never got promoted. I don’t know what it is about you, I think you’re too nice. You’re one of those guys who doesn’t throw trash on the ground at the movies—the guy who brings everything to the garbage. Sometimes in life you just got to throw shit down. Just throw it down. What I’m sayin’ is that to get ahead in life, you got to ruffle some feathers. A guy like you don’t belong in this business. A guy like you would be doing real well in something else, like nursing or bird feeding. Food for thought. That’s all this is—food for thought.

I don’t want to fire you or anything like that. Get that worried look off your face, you look like one of those kids in Africa who wants a Happy Meal. I can’t fire you anyway, you’re much too valuable to us. But the thing is that you’re too qualified for your job. You belong somewhere else, where they treat you better. Not like in this cesspool. I mean what are you makin’, forty-five maybe fifty with overtime. And I admit, you’ve got a lot of seniority with some pretty sweet benefits. But for Christ’s sake, Peterson, you’re a grown man, with style and class, you deserve a real job. I’ve seen you at lunch with your fancy mustards and your tiny European coffees, I mean you’re a classy guy! What the hell are you doin’ workin’ here for peanuts selling tractor transmissions? I bet you’ve never even been on a tractor, right?

You would have told me when I was eight years old that I’d be doin’ this job, I would have killed myself. No hesitation. Bang! Bullet right through the cerebellum and out the frontal lobe! I wanted to be an astronaut. You ever think back to what you wanted to be when you were a kid? Well, don’t! It’s goddamn depressing. I mean, I really wanted to be an astronaut. I was serious about it. I learned everything about how we revolve with the moon around other planets and suns. I mean that stuff is great! That stuff is real! But at some point you grow out of it and you end up selling tractor trannies. You listening Peterson? The point is that we all got dreams and it’s not too late to go chasing after them. You know what I’m sayin’, right?

 

The next morning…

Listen, Peterson, I read your letter when I walked in this morning, and I must say that I was shocked. You sucked the air right out of my brain. I hope I didn’t make you quit. All that stuff yesterday was just talk. But I understand. Like I said yesterday, you got a lot of potential and you should really follow your dreams. I don’t know what those are, but who the hell cares. Buy a donkey farm or take Esperanto lessons. Just go for it. If I can be frank for a moment, I got to tell you that your timing was pretty damn good for us. I got to write up a budget by next week and your salary was killing us in this division. I mean, with all that seniority and overtime and all those benefits, you had it pretty good here. But listen, it’s your decision. If you feel that at your age you still have what it takes to start over, more power to you. That’s a goddamn inspiration. But let’s face it, you’ve got a family to feed and a wife to romance, so I hope you know what you’re doing. And I’ve seen your family. Your boys probably go through a couple pounds of meat every day, right? Those are big boys. I mean you’re not a big guy, so how did you end up with two chunky kids? Perhaps a portly neighbour was poking your wife back in the nineties. None of my business. Anyway, listen, I’ve sent the papers to human resources and I guess you’re free to go after today. Not much of an incentive to put in a good day’s work, but what can you do? That’s the system! Technically, you got to spend the day, so go to it and we’ll talk a little later before you go. I think Vicario upstairs is planning a little something for you, but you didn’t hear it from me.

 

The next morning…

Peterson! What you doin’ here? Don’t you remember? You quit! You don’t got to come in no more. You should be at home enjoying that bottle of peach schnapps the boys upstairs got you! I understand you’re feeling a little down, but get it together and start over. I mean, you’re the one who quit, right? I know what you’re sayin’, you got some regrets, and to answer your question, no, we haven’t filled your position. You and I go way back, so here’s what I’m gonna do for you. After lunch, I’ll go talk to Nguyen upstairs and see what can be done. But here’s the way it looks: I think you got a good chance of getting your job back, but you got to start over. What I mean is that you come back doing the same work, but you lose the seniority, and we start you off with the base salary. It’s a tough pill to swallow seeing as technically you really haven’t missed a day of work since you quit, but that’s the deal. You can have your old desk, and you can still be the focal point for the big accounts. God knows we need you on the Pruitt account, not to mention the Papapoupoulos account. Anyway, it’s a tough break, I know, but the deal is on the table.

I don’t know if you know this, but my first wife left me for another man. You would think that she’d leave me for a better looking guy, right? But the bastard was shorter and hairier than I was. Can you believe that? I come home one day and this juicy little Neanderthal has my wife strapped around his hairy little body. You know that was a tough break for me, but I got back on the wagon. I mean, the horse, you know what I’m sayin’, right? Life ain’t always like the goddamn Cosby Show, I mean, shit happens. You should just be happy to have a job. Anyway, I know you and I go way back, and I want to try and make things as easy as possible for you. So, I talked to Sanchez upstairs, and we agreed to get you a thirteen-inch screen for your computer and replace that old eleven-incher. I know two inches ain’t much, but it’s like pullin’ teeth in this place, you know that as well as I do. It’s a little favour between old pals. Let’s just say you owe me one. Listen, Peterson, I got to run and see Hammerstein upstairs, but we’ll talk again later. Welcome back!

 

For more information on upcoming QWF/CBC writing competitions go to www.qwf.org/awards/qwc.html.