Thursday, March 25, 2010

#friday flash - The Kind of People Who Fire People

This graffiti was spray-painted on a main commuter route in Brighton, England.

THE WOMAN LEFT Nelson LaVey’s office with tears streaming down her face and a cardboard box in her arms.

Nelson sat back in his leather executive chair and watched her being escorted through the door by a whey-faced security whelp who treated the departing secretarial clerk like she had just held up a federal bank with her staple remover, or stabbed somebody in the eye with her ballpoint pen.

Sandra Taylor, the head of the company’s human resources department, stood to one side of her boss’ desk, also watching the crying woman leave.

“I bet you’re glad that’s over with,” she said.

Nelson looked up at her, his features blank.

There was an uncomfortable split-second pause.

Then the expression came back into his face.

“Yes,” he said.

Sandra sighed. “She was a good employee, Nelse. Devoted. You can’t say she wasn’t devoted. It’s too bad we had to let her go.”

Nelson’s eyes narrowed.

Sandra didn’t notice.

“I know, the economy’s bad. I know. I just feel bad sometimes. Don’t you? I do. I hate this part of my job. You know what they call me behind my back? The Angel of Death. Can you believe it?”

“The Angel of Death,” Nelson mused. “You must like firing people.”

He offered Sandra a slow smile and she felt her rising bristles lie flat again.

“Good one.” she said awkwardly. “Seriously, though, everyone always feels sorry for the person being fired but I think it must be hardest on you, the decision-maker, the man who delivers the bad news.”

Nelson did his best to put on a suitably sad face.

“You are so right. No one understands how difficult it is.”

He stood up abruptly.

“Ready for lunch? I feel like steak, bloody and blue. Get your coat, I’m buying.”

Sandra watched his face change from sad to celebratory in the blink of an eye. But it was in that blink, that tiny grain of time, that she saw something else. A flicker of movement. A reflection. A ghastly insectile shimmer in his milk chocolate eyes.

Startled, Sandra let herself be steered toward the door.


  1. HEY!!! Its not FRIDAY yet .. you flash keeners all want to get your posts up on Thursday. I refuse to read it until tomorrow. I can hardly wait :-)

  2. I don't mind reading tonight! Easier to get to all the stories when one has an early start, and there is the time difference to think about for the writers who live abroad.

    Anyway, this story is so right on target in these times. People being escorted out by security while carrying their belongings in a cardboard box.

    You presented very well a little hint at what creeps inside SOME bosses!

    And you did it with such a lovely sentence: "A ghastly insectile shimmer in his milk chocolate eyes."

    Rather poetic.

  3. "I feel like steak, bloody and blue."

    They're going to eat Paul Bunyan's ox? Heartless! And expensive...

  4. I think I've worked for that guy. Seriously, though, the pauses between the HR chick's comments and his responses are dead-on for something that's not quite accustomed to those silly human emotion conversations. Great job!


  5. Your stories always seem so real. Your style of writing captures human elements so perfectly. And I really like the description of the 'whey-faced security whelp'.

  6. Excellent, excellent excellent ... although I've met a large share of HR people who resemble the boss ... Human Resources ... conjures up images of office social workers or therapists ... the truth is a lot of them are just office logisticians (who do we need, how do we get them ...oops we have too much). ... that from a guy who is not the type of guy who fires people, but none the less has, over and over and over again.

  7. Excellent interaction between HR and the boss. The tiny flicker at the end was just subtle enough, and quite startling indeed. Loved it.

  8. I love the steak line, too. And the way the HR woman lets herself be steered. Nice.

  9. I know that man! I'd like to squash him like a bug. Ironically, he was given the ax after he blazed through our company's ranks.

    Your descriptions and timing in this piece are perfect. You do subtle and creepy suberbly!

  10. The photograph is perfect, and haunting. And I am your number one fan. (Just between me and you of course) ;-)

    In this piece you really managed to set the exact right tone by creating the perfect distance, in part by not directly introducing the woman being fired. Why introduce her? She's just a number. And yes, milk-chocolate -- something we think of as comforting -- is absolutely perfectly placed. Loved it, Cathy. I'm so glad yo decided to pick up a pen.

  11. "whey-faced security whelp" - what an excellent description!

    Great ending with the milk chocolate insectness :-D

  12. I like getting a early start on reading #fridayflash. There's so many good stories to read, it's hard to keep up!

    >A ghastly insectile shimmer in his milk chocolate eyes.<

    I think that was my favorite part. Well done.

  13. Writing like milk chocolate. With almonds. And just the tiniest residue of shell.

  14. Ooh I liked this. Very subtle. Is he alien, the Angel of Death or just lacking emotion? The moment she realises he sees it differently from her is very well done indeed.

  15. Excellent character portrayal, Cathy. I loved it. He's such a slime-ball.

  16. I don't think I'd want to go to lunch with him...
    Well done!

  17. She is next, right? Ooh, chills! Fabulous and funny writing, Cathy. I love the security guard part too!

  18. The shimmer in the eye... great detail. Great story. Peace...


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