July 21, 2008 at 4:01 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
  I lay in the lifeboat, slipping in and out of consciousness.  The unrelenting sun beat down mercilessly.  No shelter, no cover.  No hat, even.  My bald spot was burning.  The water lapped against the side of the boat.  One arm hung over the side, and my fingers were in the water.  I half hoped/expected/prayed that a shark would grab me, and drag me under, and save me from this slow death.  A quick one was better, I thought.  But really, I had no information to go on.  What would make one death better than another?  Time?  Pain?  Where you went to afterwards?  Personally, I hoped to end up at a pub.
  Through half-raised eyelids, I saw the other two, my companions.  They whispered back and forth to one another, conspiring.  The roar of the quiet ocean deafened any chance I had of over-hearing them.
  Plotting against me, are they?  Good.  If they don’t kill me and eat me soon, I’ll do it myself.  There I would sit, with my guts laying open, blood everywhere.  Knife and fork in hand, kettle on the boil.  "Come on, boys!  Soup’s on!"  They would crawl over and I would spoon out some of the meaty goodness of my innards and flesh.  We’d drink a toast of my blood.  "To Philip!"
  But that was ridiculous.  Another dream in the delirious state of mind I was in.  I mean, we didn’t even have silverware, much less a kettle.  And my name wasn’t Philip.  I think.  I dozed off again.
  I come to, and have the distinct impression that I’m being watched.  I open my eyes, and sure as shit they are kneeling over me, eyes wild with hunger and desperation.  Their mouths were in a ridiculous open-mouth grin.  "Eh?  What do you want?"
  Neil said, "Come on, then.  It’s time."
  "Time for what?"  Even Paul looked up at him.  Paul had conspired with him–did he not know the plan, or was he stupid?  Hunger and thirst and heat will do a lot of things to a man.  Very little of it was good. 
  Neil slapped his co-conspirator.  "Time to draw lots, you cunt."
  My turn.  "What are drawing lots for, mate?"
  He turned a steely gaze to me.  "To determine who lives and who dies, twat."  He paused, then added slowly, "And I’m not your ‘mate.’  Poncey cunt."
  He pulled from his shirt pocket a box of matches.  There were three left in it.  He pulled one out, and broke the end off, to make it shorter, and placed it in his hand.  "Alright," he said, with an official tone to his voice, as though he were announcing a football game, "Whoever draws the short match, that person is the sacrifice.  That person will die so that the others may live.  Draw your match." 
  And then he held his hand out, palm flat, with the matches lying on it.  We could all plainly see which one the short one was.  He turned to me.  "Philip, you go first."  He offered me his open hand.
  I picked up a match.  Not the short one.  Verily, ’twas the luck of the draw.  Paul was next.  He looked over the straws for a long minute, trying to make up his mind.  Neil was close to slapping him in his silly head when he finally drew a match.  Not the short one.
  Neil looked at our two hands, holding our two matches.  He then reached into his hand and selected the last match.  He was shocked, surprised, and horrified.  He had drawn the short match.
  He went into a screaming tirade.  We were bloody poofters, conspiring against him.  He thought we were all mates.  Didn’t we go back?  What the hell kind of animals were we, that we were going to kill him, drink his blood, eat his flesh, and fashion an umbrella out of his skin for shade from the sun?  We might find use for his bones as well.  His skull would make a nice ashtray, too bad no one had any smokes left!
  Neil was standing in the boat, screaming and rocking and shaking his fist.  He tore at his clothes in a fit until he was naked.  Finally he collapsed in a heap, sobbing.  "It’s not fair!  I have tickets to the theater!"
  He was sobbing and sniffling into the crook of his arm, where he was so close to himself he could smell his own skin.  Mistake.  He grabbed his arm and stood up, backing away from us.  "If I’m going to lose, then I"m going to win, too!  I get dibs!  I get the first bit o me own flesh!  You can’t deny me that!  If you’re going to kill me and eat me, I get some too!  I get some too!  I get some too!"
  With that, he savagely attacked his arm with his mouth, ripping and pulling at his flesh.  He screamed as meat tore from his arm, and blood was everywhere.  His eyes were wild.  "Ha!  See!  I get dibs!  I’m first!"  He pointed at us with his bloody arm.  "You want some of this?  Eh?  Do ya?  Well, to bad, bitches!  This is mine!  I won it, fair and square!  And I’m taking it with me!"
  Suddenly, Neil turned and ran for the other end of the boat, tried to jump, but tripped clumsily and fell overboard.  He sank without a sound.  Paul and I sat and watched the edge of the boat, where Neil was last seen before he disappeared into oblivion.  There was a red mark–blood–on the edge of the boat where Neil’s arm had slid as his body tumbled into the water.
  We watched wordlessly for quite a while.  Five minutes, maybe.  Finally Paul said, "I don’t think the cunt is coming back."
  "Want to go home, then?"
  "It is time for tea, isn’t it?"
  We stepped up off the boat, onto the dock, and walked to the car.


  Friday afternoon, about an hour before I left, someone was laid off.  The guy works right next to me.  In fact, me, him, and one other guy do more or less the same job, just with different parts of the workload.  Our company is in the mortgage business.  We are doing better than anyone else…and we are down.  It’s occasionally scary.  When I saw and heard what was happening to him, I turned my back, put on my headphones, and minded my own business.
  I never like him, not really.  I work with all women, and him.  He’s a young guy, mid-20s.  He’s a black belt and he teaches–I went to check out his school once.  I was not impressed.  He was good, but I expect better instruction.  The students were sloppy, and their technique was poor.  I want good stances, and focus.
  At work, he’s always quiet.  There have been times where actual weeks have gone by and I haven’t spoken a word to him.  He does his job, but–
  Okay, look.  I fuck around.  I mean, while stuff is scanning, I have things going on.  But he milks it hard.  There are times where I see him at his computer just drawing (using Paint, or whatever) for hours on end.  Hours.  He has no work, doesn’t look for any, doesn’t ask anyone if they need help, or anything.  Just sits and draws in his own little. world. 
  Now, I can be accused of some of that, but I made an effort to seek things out.  I make sure I am quick to help people out.  When one bloke moved upstairs I offered to take over the machinery babysitting that he did down here.  Little things like that, I just want to be useful.  Read that =employed.
  He’s been here longer than me.  And I’ve been here longer than Joe.  Yet we remain, and he’s gone.  We had evaluations a few months ago, and just got raises.  I wonder how much that had to do with it.  I wonder how good–or bad–his was.  I got a raise, in tough economic times.  Yay me.  But I started paying attention more, and working harder.  I don’t want to get caught slacking.  I don’t want to end up like him.
  I didn’t really feel bad for him–am I cold fucker?  Mostly I was concerned for myself.  I felt like the thinning of the herd happened too close to me.  After he was gone, our direct boss went outside for a smoke.  I waited for her to come back, and as soon as she got to her desk, I slipped into office.
  I asked discretely, "So…is JR…gone?"
  She nodded.  I asked, "A layoff thing?"  Nod.
  I said, "Well, look, I just want you to know I can totally take over what he was doing.  No problem."
  She said the plan was to split up the stuff more or less between Joe and I.  However, Joe was gone for the day, so I thought I had dibs.  Anyway–
  I think these people liked JR.  I’m sure.  He was quiet, which people often mistake for sensitive when in reality his taciturn nature was due to the fact that he was not real bright and as interesting as a box of crayons, all the same color.
  So I began to feel a little like a vulture swooping down before my meal was actually dead.  But how do you know until you give it a few passes to see if it swings at you? 
  Honestly, I never liked the guy anyway.


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