A flash fiction response to a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com.
The assignment was to write flash fiction using an unlikable protagonist in less than 1000 words. The TV show House was the first time the idea of an unlikable protagonist ever resonated for me. The character was such a revelation, it felt much like being punched in the face. Only, in a good way.
The day is off to a good start. I hang around the entryway until Joanna arrives. I step onto the elevator behind her so she can only see me out of the corner of her eye. “Hey, Jo.” Her brow wrinkles. She reports directly to me yet I haven’t spoken to her in six months.
I note she doesn’t have enough balls to correct me on her name and she smells like my grandmother’s basement. “Are you ready for the meeting this morning? I heard it’s going to be one hell of a presentation.”
She shifts her insulated lunch bag to the other hand. The dark green of the bag matches the color of her coat. They’re so ugly, I want to burn them both. “I’m not going to be there. I’m in that new workgroup.”
“Too bad,” I remark. The elevator comes to a stop. I head in the opposite direction.
I open the spreadsheet. Damn it! How many times do I have to tell Ben how to fill this out? I might as well as just do it my damn self, right after I pick up his dry cleaning and fuck his wife. For a moment, I muse about the wife but then I remember his car. Ben drives a piece of shit. There is no way he has a pretty wife. I slug back half a can of Rockstar and watch the traffic around the break room. Several people come and go while Jason stands off to the side with Joanna. He checks out her tits while she talks to him. Nice.
I turn back to the screen. The spreadsheet is still a piece of shit. I print a copy. The fresh ink smears as I circle several columns with a big red pen. For a finishing touch, I scribble “Ben, WTF?!” at the top of the paper. I check the time. It’s 11:05am, not too early for lunch. Ben isn’t at his desk. I tape it to his screen where everybody walking by will see it and head to the elevator.
Candi passes my office on her way to the break room. I hastily grab my mug and follow her. As usual, she goes straight to the coffee pot. She greets me and we make small chat. The black skirt she’s wearing needs to be about 8 inches shorter but still, I get a good look down her blouse when she dumps the old stuff down the sink. Candi drones on about the specs of the new product line while she fusses with the coffee. I manage to lean in and get a whiff of her perfume before she catches on.
“Oh, would you mind doing me a favor?” I ask.
“Sure, what is it?”
With a big smile, I raise my coffee mug. “Would you bring me some fresh coffee with the pot is ready?” Grudgingly, Candi takes it. She may be a Senior Engineer but I outrank her. “Thanks, you’re a doll!” I head to the elevators for a smoke.
I enter the bathroom behind Ted. He’s short. I notice his balding head as we step up to the urinals, which is unusual. He tends to lock himself in a stall when I encounter him in the bathroom. Taking advantage of the moment, I start up a conversation about local college sports. Ted excitedly recounts the bad calls from the night before. I take my whizz, shake twice, and zip ‘er back up. Ted finishes after me, but not before I notice he has an incredibly tiny johnson. As we wash our hands in adjoining sinks, I remark, “Tell me something. Do you have a girlfriend?”
He says, “Tristan, I’m married and have four kids.” I shrug.
I get lucky after lunch. There’s an email from Jason. The marketing team is jonesing to get their sticky paws on the test unit. It’s not even due for another two months from Hong Kong but he wants to send them a mock-up. It sickens me how well Jason works with others. If he didn’t report to me, he’d make me look bad. Just last week, he fixed a fuck up – Ben’s of course – that would have cost us a week of production time. I’m halfway tempted to send Jason to India to lead the setup of the new call center but frankly, the idea of Ted’s wife fending with four kids for three months on her own is tantalizing. If only I had an excuse to send Ben. Then again, I doubt the guy could find the airport much less another continent.
I head to Connor’s office, and breeze by Jerry, the C.E.O.’s pink cardigan-wearing admin. She looks up briefly then returns to her online gossip column. I walk in his office.
“I got your email. Have a seat,” Connor says.
I casually sit down in one of the bank chairs in front of his desk.
Connor leans forward. “I’m glad you stopped by. I’ve been wanting to discuss something with you. You know we have some new opportunities.” Instantly, I sit up in my chair. Where is this conversation going?
He continues, “I think it’s about time we took advantage of all your experience and I have just the thing. I’ve made a decision on the call center. I want you to run it. I’ve seen how you handle your people. You keep them in line, make your deadlines, and hit your targets. I want you in Bangalore and I’ll make it worth your while. Tell me you’ll do it.” He stands up and offers me a hand.
Fuck, I’ve been promoted to India. I jumped up, dazed. I thought they were sending that jerk Pentowski who sneers at me in the hallways.
”Tristan, I won’t take no for an answer. You’re the best man for the job.” His words ring in my ears. My hand rises of its own accord.
”Okay,” I mumble.