Searching for Swimmers–Chapter 12
Jason sat listening to the rain, which had changed from a downfall to a drizzle all in less than ten minutes. For the last couple of months, he’d been feeling more discontent than normal. His life had never had much luster, but where it lacked in luster it made up for it in comfort. But lately comfort didn’t seem to be enough. He felt like he’d been in the same place for the last ten years. Consistency had always been something he’d sought, but now that he had found it, he wanted more, only he wasn’t sure what it was that he needed. It’s probably just my mother’s email and pictures of my nieces and nephews. Jason was a devoted son and did not want his mother to be disappointed by his choices.
Jason was so lost in thought he didn’t notice his boss calling his name.
“Oh, sorry. What can I help you with, Maureen?”
“I’d like to see you in my office.”
“Yeah, of course.” Jason stood up and followed Maureen through the dreary common area into her office on the other side of the floor.
“Could you please shut the door?”
Jason shut the door. In the spectrum of office decoration, Maureen’s office fell somewhere between Jason and Brenda. There were personal touches: family photos, a few plants, even a couple of prints of famous artwork. Maureen had settled into her position. Her office was the size of Jason’s but it was her own. She took her seat behind her desk and gestured for Jason to take a seat in one of the two chairs in front of her. Jason sat down with a little unease, observing Maureen’s steadfast poker face. Maureen wasn’t an overtly warm person, but she wasn’t cold either. All in all, Jason had always found her to be a good, even-mannered boss. She was fair, but also knew her place. Some bosses like to make friends with their employees, while others chose to treat them as minions. Maureen found the middle ground between these two extremes.
“So, Jason. As you know, times have been a bit rough for everyone and I’ve had to make some hard decisions, while others were made for me.”
“ We all know the economy’s been, well, crap,” Jason said.
“Yes, well put.”
Jason shifted in his chair and crossed his legs. “Maureen, are you firing me?”
“No, Jason, not yet.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean that. Jason, you do a fine job here, and the last thing I want to do is let you go.”
“But, nothing. You still have a job.”
“Great, then what is this about?”
“There’ve been cuts in our budget across the board, and I’ve battled with upper management to keep our workforce strong in these troubled times.”
Jason’s thoughts dulled. He didn’t think anything really. It was as if he just took a hit from the bong, and all thoughts flowed from his head with an incredible force but then quickly evaporated into the ether.
“Which is why we’re instating pay cuts across the board.”
“Effective on your next paycheck will be a fifteen percent pay reduction.”
“Fifteen percent! Shit!”
Maureen deflected the curse. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but it’s the only way for us to keep going.”
“Uh, yeah. Sure.”
“Well, you are now free to return to your work.”
“Thanks?” Jason stood up. At first his limbs felt very stiff but after he took a few steps, the stiffness turned to limpness. Thoughts flashed through his mind at warp speed. Should I quit? What would I do? I’ll be fine. I won’t be fine. Why should I take this shit? What else am I going to do? At least I don’t have a family to support. What about people who have families to support?
Just as he stepped through the doorway, Maureen called out one last thing. “When you return to your desk could you please send Brenda in?”
Jason didn’t even respond, he just nodded and continued his disconnected walk back to his office.
When he returned to his office he was relieved that Brenda had not returned from lunch. He thought about leaving early so he would not have to face her with the news. Now’s not the time to go missing, he concluded. He picked up a stack of files on his desk and decided he’d spend the afternoon catching up on filing.