One Picture, One Story
Bill stumbled out of bed after hitting snooze for the 5th time that morning. The cat strategically placed its body where Bill’s foot was coming down causing him to trip and fall head-first into the wall, leaving a dome-shaped dent in the drywall. He swore under his breath as he pulled himself up to standing and turned on the light. *POP!*. Both lightbulbs burst at the same time blanketing the room in darkness as quickly as it had lit it. Bill shook his head, felt around for a pair of socks, grabbed his pants from the floor and headed for the washroom. His right arm was asleep and he had the indentation of his had branded on his face. He began waving his arm as the feeling began to return giving the sensation of being poked simultaneously by millions of needles. He glared at his reflection as if it were its fault that he was in the pain he was in. He turned on the water and jumped in the shower, letting the warm water run down his face. He saw a tile coming loose on the far wall of the shower and made a mental note to repair it later.
Having washed and regained the feeling in his arm he slowly turned off the water, dried himself off and dressed. He was feeling a little more optimistic now that he was more awake and greeted his dog warmly as he walked up the stairs to the kitchen. He glanced at the time and realized he was running rather late. He gathered his lunch together, placed it on the counter and rushed out to start his car to let it warm up. These -30 days were wearing on him and his car wasn’t too pleased with it either. After the 3rd try it slowly roared to life and Bill ran back inside having thoroughly frozen himself in the morning darkness. The dog ran sheepishly by as he walked in, showing the most guilty face he could manage. Bill ran to the counter where his lunch once stood. It was gone. The bag was on the floor, but the food was gone. He shook his head in disbelief and walked to the living room where his dog sat with his head down in an admission of guilt. Bill had the mind to let the dog have it, but the eyes were so apologetic that he just couldn’t get angry. He grabbed a left over muffin from the pantry and ran out the door, slipping on the ice at the top of the stairs and landing bottom first on the hard ground. He grumbled something about the world and it’s stance of being against him before standing up and limping to the car.
He was running behind schedule and was becoming more and more irritated as he drove. It seemed that everyone was driving slower and the traffic lights were timed in a way that they would turn red just as he approached and would stay red for an agonizing amount of time. He grasped the wheel tightly as he swore at every driver he passed along the way. When he pulled up exactly 12 minutes late he punched the steering wheel in frustration before getting out. He reached for his non-existent lunch and cursed loudly before looking up to see if he had been heard. Luckily his being late meant that the parking lot was empty of people (though full of cars) and his outburst had not been witnessed. He ran to the front door as if sprinting would somehow turn back the hands of time and make him early rather than late. He gathered himself and walked to his desk, feeling the eyes of his coworkers silently judging him as he walked by. As he sat down he noticed a sticky note on his computer screen. See me in my office. – Sean. Sean was Bill’s boss who he did not see eye to eye with most of the time. The note made his blood boil, but he decided to get a coffee before going in. The coffee-room cleared as he walked in as he had the Black Plague, but that seemed to happen a lot lately. It could have been his inconsistent moods or his inappropriate jokes or the fact that he wasn’t all that pleasant to be around; in any case he didn’t mind. He didn’t come to work to make friends. He poured himself some coffee, leaned on the counter and took a few sips before making his way to Sean’s office.
Bill was almost 10 years older than Sean and resented the fact that some kid fresh out of college was in the corner office telling him what to do. He realized that it wasn’t Sean’s fault that the company hired him above Bill for the job, but still there was an obvious tension between the two. He knocked lightly on the open door and was motioned in by Sean so he made his way to the desk and sat down opposite from his boss.
“Why were you so late this morning?”
“Car trouble. It’s friggen cold out there.”
“I wouldn’t know, my garage is heated.”
Bill suppressed the urge to choke the kid seated across from him.
“What is this all about?”
“It’s about your attitude lately. It seems as though you don’t want to be here.”
Bill just gave a look of confusion as his answer.
“I’ve had complaints about you being unwilling to help and not being a team player.”
“I don’t know what to say. No one has approached me for help and when I try to be a part of the team, the room clears. It isn’t from a lack of trying.”
Sean folded his hands like a tent and rested his chin on his finger tips. He leaned in closer to Bill as if he were about to spill some sort of secret, but didn’t say a word. Bill leaned back in his chair trying to seem as nonchalant as he could. They sat, silent, for minutes before Sean finally broke the standoff.
“Bill, here’s the thing. Corporate wants to promote a more amicable work environment and they have asked me to spearhead this initiative and turn this otherwise drab work environment into a place where people are comfortable and happy.”
Bill hated when Sean used terms like “spearhead” and “initiative”. To him they were merely words that dumb people used to sound smart and in this case he knew that he would be correct in the assumption. The problem was that Sean was his boss and he couldn’t call him out on this.
“Ok. I’ll work on being a better co-worker.”
Sean shook his head with a sarcastic smile on his face.
“You see, Bill. They have asked me to get rid of anything or anyone responsible for the low morale. You have been overwhelmingly pointed out as the source, so I am asking that you pack your things and security will escort you out.”
Bill sat in amazement. 15 years of service and he was being tossed to the side like a candy wrapper. He stared Sean straight in the eye, but said nothing. He could tell Sean was becoming more and more uncomfortable as the seconds past. Finally Bill stood up to leave, but as he reached the door he turned to him one last time, “So long, chum.”
Sean looked confused as Bill left his office for the last time.