Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Messenger Gets The Ricochet

It was Sunday, and there shouldn't have been a letter in the mailbox, but there was. The last four days had been hell, but Hardy Shepard had a feeling that whatever was in that envelope was going to make everything worse. It was surely lemon juice and salt on the gaping psychic wound which he was already contending with.

The Bremer Company was a public relations firm, and it was the epitome of corporate/employee relations until seven years ago. The founder and president, Jeff Bremer, was a benevolent leader and friend to everyone, until he met the girl of his dreams, Emma, who was thirty-eight years his junior.

Emma blessed Jeff with three children, and that was three more children than she intended to raise. As Emma dedicated her time to shopping and spas, Jeff became both father and mother. The more time he spent away from his company, the more he decided that he really didn’t need it after all. Jeff figured he would be better off if he simply sold the company, but he didn’t want to pay out any would-be bonuses or severance packages. He also decided out that he would keep the money for himself and let the company flounder a bit, and then he could sell it off for cheap.

The thing was that Jeff didn’t want to deal with each and every employee during the execution of his plan, so he needed a hatchet man to deliver the bad news as the company was pared down. He thought he had found that hatchet man in Hardy, when he overheard a remark that he made. When an employee’s car was towed for parking in one of the handicapped spaces, Hardy notified the employee long after the fact and was met with a barrage of cuss words.

Hardy replied, “Don’t shoot me, I’m only the messenger.”

Jeff noticed a gleam in Hardy’s eyes at that tidbit, and he knew that he found a low-rent Judas. And he had, though the first couple of times were difficult for Hardy. The young would-be executive decided that he would find resolve by using slights his fellow employees had wrought upon him...both real and imagined.

Dennis, who ate everyone’s food in the refrigerator? Oh, that was the icing on the cake. Ava R. had never done anything wrong to Hardy, so he simply called her "Avarice" in his mind before he told her the bad news. Ava G, however, was tipsy at last year's Christmas party and she pawed at him in front of his girlfriend Dani. Dani believed that Hardy was cheating on her, and he wound up spending Christmas and New Year's alone.

But Mort never did anything wrong to him...hell, Mort helped Hardy move, and he even helped him install his home theater when such devices needed a degree in electronics and a contractor’s license. It didn’t take long for Jeff’s hatchet man to become a pariah, which only made Hardy relish giving his fellow workers the shaft even more. The more he was shunned, the more he began to savor being the villain.

The Germans have a word for what he was feeling, “schadenfreude,” which is the feeling of enjoyment in seeing the misfortunes of others. Hardy stopped going to the few company parties and picnics that the Bremer Company bothered to throw (everyone had mistakenly chalked the reduction in festivities to the economy).

Alas, when Jeff personally let his attack dog go last Friday morning, Hardy didn’t see it coming at all. He thought all along that he was going to be rewarded handsomely for doing the dirty work, but his prize ultimately was being left to do the walk of shame in front of the ten remaining people. Unlike all the others he had given termination notices and layoff slips to, no one made any effort to console Hardy. They wouldn’t have urinated on him if he were on fire.

So here this envelope has been sitting by the front door, the unopened white elephant in the room. He picks it up, cuts an end open with scissors and slides out the contents. In it he finds a letter that shows it was sent from his former fax machine right back to the same machine. A little opening salvo that was delivered, no doubt, from whomever escaped the bloody axe that Hardy used to wield. The first page is a list of everyone that he had to give the bad news to, and there are more people than the former hatchet man can initially remember, though they were all let go by him.

The second and last page is a low-res picture of Hardy when Jeff gave him notice. Hardy Shepard has cried all of three times since he turned fifteen. The first time was when his favorite aunt passed painfully and quickly from cancer. The second time was when the Chicago Bears lost the Super Bowl in 2007. And the third? Well, Hardy’s reaction is all too clear despite all pixilation; that of a child who has had his sand castle stomped, dropped his ice cream cone in the sand, and has been slapped.

Hardy decides to take a shower, where no one will see or would notice tears that can’t seem to stop.

The End

This was written for the Second Session of Icarus' Flight To Perfection. There were three starter sentences to chose from and I went with, "It was Sunday, and there shouldn't have been a letter in the mailbox, but there was."


Joyce said...

It would seem he forgot that you generally get what you give. In his case, that really turned out to be true. You have to feel for him though, even if he's basically just a worm. I guess even slugs have feelings... Love this one!

Beach Bum said...

I'm envious, this was high grade professional writing.

Cormac Brown said...


Thank's, I'm glad you like it. He is an attack dog, based on several ones that I know, and they know not what they wrought until they're out on the street too.


Thank you, but I'm...not in love with the quality of this tale.

Flannery Alden said...

I liked the way you described his process for building contempt for the people before he fired them. It's always interesting to get into the mind of someone like this.

I'm not sure I understand the ending, though. Does this fax finally force him to see the error of his ways?

Cormac Brown said...

Secret Agent Flan,

Thank you, and absolutely, motivation fascinates me too. Unfortunately, Hardy does not see the error of his ways, he was more concerned over having to suffer the same fate as everyone else.

Freida Bee, MD said...

Usually, I don't have a ton of attentions span for longer or fictional blog posts (unfortunately), but this one really drew me in. I like the way you went back in time. It was subtle, but intriguing.

Cormac Brown said...


Why thank you Ms. Bee for the compliment, and for coming by. It's all appreciated greatly.

Flannery Alden said...

Thank you, Cormac! I knew I didn't have it quite right. I blame it on my head cold.

Cormac Brown said...

Secret Agent Flan,

If you didn't get that the first time, then it's my fault as a writer and I apologize.