Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Sophie floated gently on the music.  It had been an incredibly hard week, and she felt in need of repair.

Years later watching Jack Lemmon have a melt down in the movie ‘Glengarry Glenross’, she would be sickened by the parallels between her job and the blackness portrayed on screen.  The road to that black job was not straight, but rather a well travelled downhill spiral.

Sophie graduated from school with good grades, high hopes and a bad case of baby fever.  Suddenly with no warning she would find herself desperately lusting for a baby.  A baby was an impossibility with Alex still in the final year of his degree. When the fevers passed, Sophie would breathe a sigh of relief that she was on the pill and there was no chance of a baby.

As the year wore on and Alex came closer to graduating, the primal urges began coming with increasing frequency, and by the time convocation day came in June, Sophie could stand it no longer and talked to Alex about the possibility of going off the pill.  She had read that being on the pill as long as she had been often interfered with fertility for up to a year or more.  That, she reasoned, along with the nine month gestation meant that it could easily be two years before they could have a baby.

Alex reluctantly relented and within a week of going off the pill Sophie was expecting.  Shocked and scared Alex forgot about looking for work related to his degree and returned to plumbing for the security of a good paycheck, but by fall was on strike.

Sophie’s career plans were also sidetracked.  Unexpectedly unemployed, her pregnancy proved to be a major impediment during job interviews, and no matter what the law said, interviewers glanced speculatively at her increasing girth and the needed job offer never materialized.

Pregnant, apparently unemployable, and with a husband on strike, she was stuck working as an office temp to keep the wolf from the door.  Through the long cold northern winter, Sophie trudged through the snow to the bus stop each day to present herself at a different office every few days.

Finally in February, exhausted and heavily pregnant, Sophie got a break.  The office manager for her current temp assignment took pity on her, asked how much longer she wanted to work, and offered to find enough work to keep her busy for the final few weeks of her pregnancy.  Sophie cried grateful tears for the compassion.

March came and so did the baby, much to the delight of both Sophie and Alex.  As poor as church mice, they were rich in love and totally enthralled with Emma.  Unfortunately, along with Emma, also came an economic downturn that ensured Alex would not have a job to return to, even if he wasn’t hostage to a strike.

When Emma was 6 months, they decided it was time to go home.  As it turned out, job prospects at home were only marginally better.  Sophie continued on maternity leave while Alex found a job, which lasted for only a few months before he was once again laid off.

With no other option, and after a long and disappointing search, Sophie was offered a commission sales job in the new and burgeoning field of vacation time shares.  After two grueling, sale-less and ethically disturbing weeks, Sophie quit and returned to the search.

Finally in the nick of time before being forced to make a decision about applying for social assistance Sophie landed a sales job, with a reputable national company, that had been named as one of Canada’s top 50 employers.  There was a welcome training allowance, and a potentially good income.

With record unemployment, Alex decided that instead of wasting his time looking for a non-existent job, he would go to grad school and work part time on campus.

So with Alex back in school and Sophie making her way in the world of corporate equipment sales, Emma began her days as a day care baby.  The first day of day care was the day that Emma stopped waking up at 2 am to nurse .  Sophie was heart broken. Their nightly rendezvous had become more of a comfort feeding than a real meal, but snuggling up with Emma as she suckled in the inky darkness was more precious than uninterrupted sleep to Sophie and she mourned its loss.

Being an introvert, Sophie was not a natural sales person, but in spite of the challenge of the work, she enjoyed the independence and was gratified to be able to earn her way each month.

There were two sales teams in the office, comprised of an odd cast of characters.  It was like working with an office of clichés.  There was the crusty veteran salesman, the up and coming sales manager, the office slut boinking her way to the top, the cocky young hot shot, the mouse, the new Dad who unfortunately lost his premie son just weeks after his birth, the tired, old underperformer and a few work-a-day types just putting in time.

About ten months into Sophie’s sales career, a new branch manager rode into town, full of plans to make his mark.  One of the first new initiatives he took was to create a motivational program he called ‘Beef and Beans’.  Each month the sales people who made quota would be taken out for a steak dinner.  The kicker was that they would be the guests of the ones who didn’t make quota, and who would get only beans for dinner.

This did not sit well with Sophie.  Although she had been consistently making quota each month, she did not intend to eat steak, which would be paid for by an underpaid, grieving father.  Marching into the branch manager’s office, with what she considered a strong bargaining position thanks to making quota, she informed him that she did not intend to participate.  The branch manger pinned her to the wall with a steely-eyed stare and informed her that if she didn’t show up to dinner she would be fired.

Not being in a position to throw away a scarce job without an alternative, she started looking for a new one that very afternoon, and braced herself to participate in the distasteful event later that evening.

As awful as she found it, she discovered there were others that felt as strongly, and the evening erupted with a public shouting match between her sales manager George, and the branch manager, that resulted in George being fired on the spot.

The Monday morning following the Beef & Beans debacle, Sophie arrived at work to find the office in an uproar and a police investigation in full swing.  Apparently George was accused of coming back to the office following dinner and stealing the lead books that kept track of all the customer accounts.

It was never revealed if the investigation was successful in determining how the lead books disappeared or who was responsible for taking them, however, a torrid affair between the married branch manager and the equally married administrative manager was revealed.

Life had not been easy of late.  It was becoming a recurring theme.  Sophie found a job, ironically selling office temp services, and gratefully gave her notice.

All these new beginnings were tiring.  Sophie sighed and turned on the music.


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