Welcome back to Fiction Friday Folks! Here’s a character I met one night while dreaming. Wanna meet her? Join us for some coffee? Don’t be shy… she’s nice. Really she is.
I get paid to fire people. It’s an ugly job, but someone’s gotta do it. My name is Deana. Some call me Dee for short. D stands for doomsday, death, deadly, and door. As in slam the door shut on your career. That’s my deal.
My company is aptly named BP: or Burn-Proof. A touch of love with every axe. That’s what I offer in this world full of harsh goodbyes. The economy is what it is. No money. No buyers. Too many sellers. Something’s gotta give. Someone’s gotta go. But no one likes to be the bad guy. So I took the job. I’m the bad guy. Girl if you’re talking specifics, a detail that actually helps. They say that 95% of lay-offs or terminations delivered with a woman’s voice are accepted more readily, met with less push back, and in some cases, the employee even thanks you. Not too often, but every once in awhile I get a thank you. For the gift box that is.
It’s BP’s winning feature. The double layered Good Luck Box I like to call it. Each 8X8X11 cardboard package opens displaying a small gift bag within. Below the layers of pastel tissue lay a $50 gift card for LinkedIn or Monster Jobs, Godiva chocolate and Triple M’s coffee beans, all tucked inside a sturdy mug that reads, “Thank You for Being You.” The gift bag is easily removable, leaving the employee the larger box to remove the contents from his or her desk. My favorite Good Luck Box pattern presents a tiny lilac floral print, but there are many to choose from. No one suspects a thing when you make your final exit. Yeah. Wish someone had given me a gift when I got fired.
That’s actually how Burn-Proof started. After two months of laying in my bed, eating every take out within delivery range, drinking the last sip of cheap wine that lay on my shelves, and crying myself to sleep over my rejection from my first real job after college, I wake up one morning and see my reflection in the bathroom mirror and, to put it nicely, I look disgusting. I need a shower. My armpits require a shave. And my eyebrows look bushier than Groucho Marx’s mustache. Not good.
My pajamas feel like they have become a part of me and my teeth need flossing. I think that spinach was from the Greek take out. Two days ago. Nasty.
“You look like sh…Don’t say it.” My reflection speaks back to me. She isn’t ready to hear it. The truth hurts.
“So do something about it.” I reply when my face looks away, trying to avoid my eyes.
“Why are you here?” I ask like I don’t know the answer to that question. I mean I do live here after all. “Not the obvious stupid. I mean, why are you here as opposed to working?”
“I got fired!” I scream to the face that keeps asking me dumb questions.
“And??” She’s not buying it. She could care less about my pity party that I forgot to come home from. Even though technically I am home. But we already established that. “So you were fired? If your company was going under and you had to make cuts, you’d have done the same thing.”
“I guess. But, maybe…” And that’s when I leap up in a face to face with my own rage. “Actually, No! I wouldn’t have done it the same way. The way they fired me was so cold-hearted, hard-hearted, actually heartless is what I’d call it. Those friggin frogs in the PR Department don’t know how to tell you nicely. They just walk in your office one day and say, ‘Deana. You’re fired. Have your stuff outta here by noon. And turn in your keys on the way out.’”
Just like that. No, Thank you or Excuse me, can we sit down and talk about your future. No, We’re so sorry to see you leave or even Keep in touch. Is this what divorce feels like? Just the emotionless gun shot—straight to my foot. And they expected me to walk out without limping. Without complaining. Without a peep.
“So what are you gonna do about it?” The shaggy looking mess of a face didn’t need to say the words aloud. I’d only seen that look a few times in my life. It surfaced right before the birth of a great idea, like the time I mass emailed the student body at Columbia that we were honoring our new President’s election by purchasing black-white cookies in the middle of campus. Stayed up all night making and icing a thousand cookies. Sold every last one and had enough money to pay for spring break in Sarasota. I couldn’t stay at Siesta Key forever so I snuck some sand back with me in my suitcase. Now I stare at the flower vase of the world’s softest sand speckled with a few shells and ask myself, how do I plan to get back there? Without the mula, there will be no hula.
I tell the face in the mirror, “I will never be fired again.”
“How is that possible? How can you guarantee that?” I find speaking to myself very therapeutic. Especially since the only people who spoke to me for the last month were the cast members of Lost. Watched all six seasons back to back. And people stuck on an island are just not the best inspiration. The image that plastered my eyes as I floated off to dreamland each night for the last four weeks has been Jack’s grisly bear face and glassy eyes pleading, “We have to go back, Kate! We have to go back!” And all night I would dream of going back. To my job. The place where I got my worth, my contacts and my burnt coffee that everyone complained about. Back to my copy machine that always jammed and to my company laptop where I jumped back and forth between work and Facebook all day long. There was a lot of down time. Multi-tasking is one of my gifts.
Then one morning, three minutes before my alarm used to go off, a voice inside my head says to me, “You can’t go back.”
I push back. “Why? Girls go back to their boyfriends. Husbands go back to their wives. So why can’t I go back. She wasn’t unfaithful, just cruel.”
“Ms. Jobs rejected you. She doesn’t want you back. Besides, what’s all this nonsense about ‘my this’ and ‘my that’? You never owned any of it. Not the copy machine, the coffee maker. Not even the pens and stationary you slipped into your bag each night. Let’s be honest. Who texts you now? Any coworkers inviting you out to happy hour these days? Nope. Why? Cuz frankly, most people do not go back. History belongs in the past. And that’s where it should stay. Read it. Examine it. Learn from it. Then move on. Forward. Onward ho. All that jazz. Now get your butt out of bed and decide which way you’re going to move and do it.”
And that’s the last time I talk to myself with my eyes closed. I’m more of an eye contact type of gal and the whole faceless voice inside my head was more than I could take.
I take a long shower, hoping the extra time might pour some inspiration on while ridding me of weeks of grime from behind my ears. I drop the soap for the second time and inhale the strong scent of Dial that does more for me than roses. The waft of soapy delicacy surges into my brain and if scents could Swiffer, my mind felt swept clean of the past. Stepping out the shower, I feel ready for the next step. Just need some coffee and a jog first.
I lace up my white and blue Aetrex and stretch the creeks out of my cracks. Grabbing my shades from my purse after linking my apartment key to a runner’s band, I head down the stairs six flights and out into the city’s hustle and bustle. The whole world shuffles somewhere fast at 6:30 in the morning. I speed-walk a block and then pick up my pace to a jog as I cross Fifth Avenue and enter Central Park on this warm June morning. This is my favorite route, because it starts by the zoo and I love to hear the yaps of California Sea Lions during breakfast. This early, when all the kids are just rolling out of bed, is the best time to get a peak without the wall of short bodies lining the fence. My breathing quickens as I veer to the right and head down past the East Lawn and turn left on 79th Ave toward Belvedere Castle.
As I approach the castle, I think about my prince who sits in a nursing home out on Long Island somewhere. Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year and mom couldn’t handle the spiraling regression. Social Work gave her options after the third falling incident when she couldn’t manage helping Dad out of the shower. He became so dependent on her, he didn’t even brush his own teeth, and Mom was simply tired. Emotionally and physically. She quit her job a year before Dad was admitted to Rosy Days Home and had to return as a volunteer at the library until the new hiree couldn’t hack the hours and left, giving her a second chance.
Don’t we all deserve second chances? I think to myself. But if you can’t get a second chance…
I slow my jog as I pass Strawberry Fields and exit the park back into the hustle bustle of folks heading to work. Wahh. I want to go to work. Walking now, my breathing still heavy, I recognize the approaching sidewalk vendor behind a coffee and donut set up.
“Top of the mornin’ to you me lady. What can I get you? Cup o’ joe or protein smoothie to start you day?” He’s looking down at his sizzling bacon and keeps talking. “These crispy pups will be ready in two minutes if you can wait.”
“Mark?” I remember his name. “Hey, didn’t you used to work at Starbucks?”
“You got the wrong guy.” He reaches back into his cupboards and then lines a platter with paper towels. “Egg sandwich?”
“I know that smile anywhere, Mark. It’s me, your faithful double espresso skinny latte gal. Deana. From Gold…” I stop myself. I don’t work for Goldman Sach’s anymore. The name alone shoots lactic acid to my brain.
“Deana!” Mark turns around and looks me in the eyes. “Didn’t recognize you without your stiff business get-up on. Looking mighty fine in the sweats if you don’t mind me sayin. Hungry?”
“So why’d you quit?”
“I didn’t exactly quit.”
I feel like an idiot. I kick the sidewalk with my toe. Idiot. Idiot.
“There’s nothing to feel bad about. It was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. When Starbucks bucked me to the stars, I decided that day that I will never be fired again.”
Ring a bell? Who said that to me recently? Duh!
“So you’re doing your own thing. You’re your own—”
“Boss!” We say the obvious at the same time.
“I’ll take a—”
“Double expresso skinny latte…I gotcha covered. And it’s half the price at MMM!”
“MMM?” I read the orange and yellow awning lettering across the umbrella shading Mark’s set up.
“Mark’s Magnificent Mornings! To be confused with Mmmm Mmmm Good.”
I laugh at his creativity but even more at his huge cheesy grin. Broader than I ever remember it.
And that’s when I have my answer to the questions, “How is it possible? How can I guarantee it?” Because I know like I know Mark’s coffee is gonna rock my nerves to go-gettem mode, that I will never be fired again.
Mark hands me a cup of steamy frothy goodness, and before I can sheepishly admit that I ran out of my place without so much as a penny, he says, “The first one’s on me. Spread the word will ya. Tell everyone, especially those standing in line at Tarbucks, that Triple M is only a hop skip and a coffee bean away.”
I smile and give him an air cheers after my first sip. “Mmm. So good. Watch out Tarbucks. Magnificent mornings are taking over!”
I nearly skip back to my place double time, allowing my coffee to spill spurts of froth from the opening. I can hardly contain myself. I know what I’m gonna do. I have a plan. The plan is foolproof. Cuz I’m gonna be my own boss. Of the company that does it well. Better than well. I’m going to give the art and package of my product a whole new look. And the best part: I’m gonna get paid. The big bucks. To bite people. I mean, to fire people.
Watch out world. A match of epic proportions is about to be lit. Right. Now.
** SO, are you ready to see Breaking Dawn2 now? This is what Bella’s life would have turned out like if she never became a vampire, after all!
**How do you like your coffee? Ever had to fire someone? What would you drink first out of your “Thanks for Being You” mug if someone gave you one for Christmas?