You know what it’s like on Monday morning, particularly whether it’s very bloodless and the double glazing is failing miserably to keep the bloodless out.

It was warm under three blankets thick sheets and a doona, and I didn’t want to get up.

It doesn’t help whether in the final few months, the dream job you once had had turned into a drudge, and there was any number of reasons to stay domestic rather than go into the office. Once, that was trying to find an excuse to stay domestic because you’d rather go to work.

That was a long time ago or felt like it.

My cell phone vibrated, an incoming message, or more likely a reminder. I reached out into the icy wasteland that was the distance from under the covers to my phone on the bedside table. It was very cold out there, and for a moment I regretted that impulse to check.

It was a reminder; I had a assembly at HR with the manager. I had thought I might be eligible for redundancy since the company was in the throes of a cost cutting exercise. Once I might have been apprehensive, but now, given my recent change in department and responsibility, I was kind of hoping now that it was.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Time to get up sleepy head. You have a assembly to go to, not one to be late.”

It felt strange to wake up with someone else in the bed. My luck in that branch hadn’t been all that hood lately, but something changed, and at the usual Friday night after work drinks at the pub I ran into one of the PA’s I’d seen around, one who was curious to meet me as much as I was to meet her.

One object had led to another and when I asked her if she wanted to drop in on the way domestic, she did.

“I’d prefer not to. I can think of better things to do.”

“So, could I but that’s not the point. Five more minutes, then I’m pushing you out.”

She snuggled into my back, and I could feel the warmth of her body, and having the exact opposite effect than she intended. But she was correct. It was important, and I had to go. But, meanwhile it was four more minutes and counting.

When you get a call from the head of HR it usually means one of two things, a promotion, or those two dreaded words, ‘you’re fired’, though not normally said with the same dramatic effect.

This year had already been calamitous enough getting sidelined from Mergers and Acquisitions because I’d been usurped. That was the Word I was going with, but it was to a sure extent, my fault. I took my eye off the ball, and allowed someone else to make their case.

Of course, it helped that the person was connected to all the correct people in the company, and, with the change in Chairman, it was also a matter of removing some of the people who were appointed by the previous incumbent.

I and four of my equivalent managers had been usurped and moved to places where they would have less impact. I had finished up in sales and marketing, and to be fairly honest, it was such a step down, I had already decided to leave when the possibility presented itself.

My assistant manager, who had already put in his resignation, was working out his final two weeks. I told him to take leave until the contract expired, but he was more committed than that. He had got in before me and was sitting at his desk a cup of coffee in his hand and another on the desk.

“How numerous days?”

“Six and counting. What approximately you? You should be out canvassing. There’s at least three other places I know would be waiting to hear from you.”

“It’s still in the consideration phase.”

“You’re likely to receive the chop anyway, with this object you have with Sharky.”

Sharkey was the HR manager.

You know something I don’t?” I picked up the coffee, removed the lid and took in the aroma.
“They’re downsizing. Broadham had decided to go on a cost cutting exercise, and instead of the suggested efficiencies we put up final year, they’re going with people. I don’t think he quite gets it.”

“You mean my replacement doesn’t know anything approximately efficiency. He makes a good yes man though, telling Broadham exactly what he wants to hear.”

Broadham, the new Chairman, never did understand that people appointed to important positions needed to have the relevant qualifications and experience. My replacement had neither. That was when the employees loyal to the previous Chairman had started leaving.

We had called it death, whilst Broadham had called it natural attrition. He didn’t quite understand that so far, over 300 years of experience had left, and as much again was in the process of leaving.

“Are you going to tell Sharky you’re leaving?”

“I’ll wait and see what he has to say. I think he knows the ship is sinking.”

There wasn’t much I didn’t know about the current state of the company, and with the departures, I knew it was only a matter of time. Sharky was a good man, but he couldn’t stem the tide.

He also knew the vagaries of profits and share prices, and we had been watching the share price, and the market itself. It was teetering, and in the last few months, parcels of shares were being unloaded, not a lot at one time, but a stable trickle.

That told me that Broadham and his cronies were cashing in while the going was good, and quite possibly were about to steer the ship onto the rocks. The question was who was buying, and that, after some hard research I found to be sure board members. Why, I suspected, was to increase their holdings and leverage, but I don’t think they quite realised that there would be nothing left but worthless inventory certificates.

It was evidence, when I finally left, that I would pass on to the applicable authorities.

Meanwhile, I had a meeting to go to.

“Best of luck,” my assistant muttered as I passed his desk.

“If I don’t return, I’ll will have been escorted from the building. Whether that happens, Call me.”

It had happened before. When people were sacked, they were escorted to their office, allowed to pack their belongings, and were then escorted to the front door. It would be an ignominious end to an illustrious career, or so I’d been told by the girl who was no doubt still asleep in my bed.

She had heard the whispers.

The walk to the lift, the traversing of the four floors to the executive level, and then to the outer office where Sharky’s PA sat took all of three minutes. I had hoped it would be longer.

“He’s waiting for you,” she said, “go on in.”

I knocked on the door, then went in, closing it behind me. “Now, sir, what on earth could you want to see me approximately?


© Charles Heath 2021

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