Taking Names

   As soon as she walked in, she felt the tension. You could cut it with a knife. One of those little things they don’t tell you in the interview but has the power to destroy a career. Now the trick was to find out who was playing what part in this group’s version of corporate melodrama.

   Amelia had been through this kind of thing before. The parts were always the same. Only the player’s names were different. When she thought about it, maybe Shakespeare had something going with his “All the world’s a stage” analogy. If so, she always played the same role: HBIC, aka Head Bitch In Charge. Today’s first staff meeting of the Marketing Department at Schwartz’s Schprockets under her authority was where she needed to make her part abundantly clear to everyone concerned. She would take no prisoners and tolerate no crap.

   She closed the door gently and turned sharply on her three-inch heels to stand at the head of the conference table. She dropped her briefcase at her side and unceremoniously plopped her leather portfolio on the table where it landed with a loud thud. Several of her new employees sat up straighter with widened eyes, cheeks reddening as panic took over their souls. Yeah, this was gonna be like stealing candy from a baby.

   “Thank you for joining me on such short notice,” Amelia said. She glanced across the faces of each person sitting at the table, making sure she made eye contact with each person, her fingers pressing against the polished mahogany. “What I’d like to know right off the bat is who the bird-brain is who thought it was a good idea to drop branded quarters from the rooftop.”

   Amelia had worn her red power-suit for just this occasion. The first firing of her new tenure was a highlight moment, a watershed, that set the stage for the rest of her time as a cleaner. That was how she saw her career. She came in and mopped up the messes left behind by the measly-mouse weaklings that came before. She minced no words and didn’t bother with the touchy-feely corporate nonsense. 

   Amelia watched closely as eye contact was made across the table, one person after another trying desperately to communicate non-verbally through expressions and eyes alone until finally someone spoke. “Harry,” said one soft-spoken millennial wearing an obscenely ill-fitting cardigan over a frumpy corduroy jumper. “Harry Wilder,” she said, again, apparently to clarify and make specific precisely who she wanted gone. Within seconds several others jumped on her band-wagon to throw Harry Wilder, the true architect of the miserably-planned and majorly illegal marketing ploy, under the proverbial bus. You could almost hear the sound of brakes and broken bones.

  Amelia turned her attention to the millennial who had kicked off the Harry-stomping. “And you are?” She asked.

   “Kimberly Kefflinger,” said the millennial with a brightness to her tone, almost sing-song-y as if bluebirds were going to break out in a Disney tune any moment. She was apparently the one playing the part of the sweet young thing who will smile to your face while stabbing you in the back. Too bad really. Such an alliterative name. She almost wanted to sing it back to her but Amelia despised Disney. With a passion.

  “Well, Miss Kepplinger, was it?”

   “Kefflinger,” she corrected.

   “So sorry,” Amelia apologized. “Please go back to your desk and clear out your things and be down at the front desk on your way out within the hour. If you fail to do so, a security guard will escort you. Have I made myself clear?”

   “But it wasn’t my idea, the quarters!” Kimberly argued. “You can’t fire me!”

   “Oh really? It seemed like I just did a moment ago.” Amelia looked at the other people around the table. “You all heard that, right? I didn’t just imagine I fired a needle-nosed goody-two-shoes know-it-all who is overpaid because she has a degree from an Ivy League school her Daddy bought and paid for, did I?”

  Several of the new employees had a hard time stifling their smirks and joy at seeing Ms. Kefflinger meet her demise.

   “Lesson number one in the Amelia Johnstone’s School of Hard Knocks, Ms. Kefflinger, is don’t ever throw a colleague under the bus for any reason. This is a team so be on the team or off the team. There is no us versus them, and you, dear,” she said, turning to look the millennial in the eyes with the same smile Kimberly had just given her. “Well, you’re just not a team player so goodbye and good luck.”

   Kimberly rose from her chair, threw her paperwork across the table and slammed the door on her way out.

   The room was filled with a deafening silence again but the original tension still lingered. Amelia stood with her hands on her hips and chewed at her bottom lip for a moment.

   “Nobody has anything to say?” She asked.

   Gazes darted across the room again until Harry Wilder quietly raised a hand. “Thank you?”

   Amelia chuckled and smiled. “And can I presume you’re Harry?”

   The forty-something, slightly balding man with rosey cheeks and a devil-may-care smile chuckled with her. “The one and only.”

  Amelia finally sat down and unzipped her portfolio with her notes for the meeting. “Well, Harry, it’s nice to meet you but I’m afraid you’re right behind Kimberly. You had to see this coming. Same instructions as to the one hour or I call security.” Amelia sat back in her chair and crossed her legs under the table, demurely setting one well-manicured hand on top of the other. “Lesson two: Don’t be stupid or I’ll fire your ass. Goodbye Harry.”

   Harry got up, walked up to her, gave a salute then quietly left the room.

   Amelia flipped open her notebook until she found her itinerary for the meeting, looked up at the group of people’s faces who would become her family over the next few months and slapped the table. “Okay. Let’s get to work, people. How about we start with introductions, from right to left, name, number of years with the company and something interesting about yourself.”

   It was the start of another brand new day at a brand new company. Amelia would do her thing the way she knew how, give it everything she had until something better came along. It was the only part she knew how to play but maybe she was growing weary of the same ole show on a different day. Only time could tell. 

   As for Harry and Kimberly? Harry would land on his feet somewhere in a different marketing department doing half the work he should. Kimberly? Well, she’d either become a Republican strategist/politician or take up knitting and start her own Etsy store. It was hard to know which.

Goodbye Charlie

I don’t want to be a downer at Christmas-time, but I was dealt a heartbreaking loss this week. I’ve always mentioned living with my “geriatric dog Charlie” in my biography, but Charlie was never going to be with us forever. We had to put him down this week and now I have a Charlie-sized hole in my life. 

Charlie lived a very long life for a dog (sixteen years and seven months) and was on pain medication at the end. He had “doggy dementia,” was blind in one eye, and got easily lost, confused and scared. The deciding factor was when his back legs kept giving out on him and he had to pull himself around on his front legs. In short, he wasn’t living a happy life and we made the tough decision to let him go before things got worse. It was very hard, but it was the right thing to do for Charlie. 

Charlie was my constant companion and the sweetest dog in the world. (He was also adorable.) They say you get the dog you need and that was true for me with Charlie. He was patient and mild, my protector at all times and he taught me more about unconditional love than any person in my life. He had a quirky personality, sometimes almost seeming human, like my child. My heart aches without him, but I know that life will go on and we will always have fond memories of the many years of joy and entertainment he brought to our life. We loved him almost as much as he loved us. 

If you have a dog, give them an extra cuddle in Charlie’s memory. If you have kids instead, give them a hug and whisper his name. And if you have ever thought you’d want a dog, do it. The years I spent in Charlie’s company have been the best sixteen-plus years of my life.

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