The Kindness

This is a sample of the short story, "The Kindness" by author, William F. Powers.

“Please Mr. Penquite. I can’t afford to lose this job.  I just now got caught up.  Haven’t I been doing a good job?”

Bob Abernathy had been laid off almost four years ago when the plant where he worked shut down.  It had taken him almost eight months to find this position on the loading docks at Moreland Industries, and now the whole nightmare was repeating itself.

“Sure, Bob, you have been doing a fine job.  It’s just that we must stop the hemorrhaging, and that is going to require us to reduce the staff. Please don’t take it personally; it’s just a matter of survival for the company.”

Moreland Industries had brought in Garrett Penquite several weeks ago to evaluate their company, and, well, “trim the fat” was the phrase the board of directors used.  He had done that kind of thing for seven years now, assessing and cutting, then moving on to another company.  Each successful operation had enhanced his resume as well as the demand for his services. 

Interestingly enough, Garrett’s first week at Moreland was the same week that Bob celebrated catching up on all his bills.  Bob took his wife out to dinner at a little Chinese restaurant they liked; it was the first time that they had eaten out since the plant closing.

Penquite continued, “It’s not just you, Bob; we had to let George and Marcy go too.”

Bob had heard about George and had seen Marcy leave in tears. He wasn’t sure why that was supposed to help.  It didn’t.  Sure, the company needed to save money, but it was the money that he needed to pay his bills.  Now he was going to slide right back into the pit he had just clawed his way out of.

The young consultant had honed his monologue to perfection. Before speaking to Bob and his two coworkers, he had delivered his little speech to two midlevel managers and a few other office people. After Bob left, he would dispense the same mmonologue to four warehouse people.  He delivered his closing: “We will mail you a check for this week’s pay, two weeks severance pay, and any unused vacation time. The company is also giving an extra week for each year of seniority; in your case, that is an extra three weeks pay, Bob. The papers in your packet explain your options and list phone numbers of agencies that may be able to help.”  Then he violated his own strict rule by issuing an unpracticed addendum, “I am sure you will find something, Bob.  You are a bright young man."

With that, Penquite stood up from the table and opened the conference room door. In a fog of embarrassment, frustration, and despair, Bob rose slowly and picked up the manila envelope. With eyes cast toward the floor, he walked out of the room, out of the building, and out of a job.

Garrett had done a hard day’s work.  By the time he released the warehouse people and finished up with two engineers, he had cut the annual payroll by almost a million dollars - a little more than the directors felt they needed to remain viable.

It was quarter to three when Garrett ushered the last of the shell-shocked victims from the small conference room that he had used as an office for the last several weeks.  He finalized his notes, gathered his papers and made his way to the CEO’s office.

Richard Mellon sat behind his desk.  When the secretary announced Penquite’s arrival, Mellon stood and came around the desk to greet him.

“Well, the damage is done,” Garrett announced as he entered the executive’s office.

“How did it go?” the CEO questioned.

“Nothing unusual.  Some tears and some protests but nobody really blew up or broke down.  Overall, a soft landing.”

“Good.  I have really been dreading this day.  I have worked with some of those people the whole eight years I have been here. I always hate it when these things happen.”

“That is why guys like me have jobs. Since I have not made the attachments that you have, I can make the cuts and take the blame.  It accomplishes the inevitable and minimizes the emotional energy as much as possible.”  Garrett continued, “Well, I left the records with the HR department.  Everyone signed out, and I collected the security badges. I think you will find everything in order.  I will overnight my report and final invoice in the morning.”

“Thank you, Garrett.  We appreciate your help.”

They shook hands. Garrett walked out through the office area that had finally become stone silent after an early-morning whisper campaign began to announce successive victims, causing each worker to wonder who was next.  The tension in the air was so thick it was like breathing dark molasses. When Garrett walked out the front door and into the parking lot, a collective sigh escaped into the air. Heads poked up above cubical walls, and workers exchanged wide-eyed expressions as they realized they had endured the blast and survived to tell the story.

{End of Sample}

Thank you for your interest in "The Kindness". The complete story is available for Kindle, Nook, and in other formats.



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