Tuesday, September 07, 2010

FFF #41: The Good Old Days

He walked in and slid the photograph across my desk.

"Here's your proof, old man," Leon said, rolling a toothpick around in his lips. "Here's the picture I took of him in the act and, as a bonus, just for you...his phone records."

I took a moment to finish signing the letter I was preparing and he slumped into one of the burgundy leather chairs I had in front of my desk for guests. He began to tap his fingers in a cascade of insistent thumps on the arms. I didn't really want to look at the picture and behold the proof it contained. I also didn't care for Leon's casual impatience, so I used my age to stall.

I took great care in replacing the cap on my pen. I made quite a show of patting myself down for my spectacles. Once found, I reached for my handkerchief and worked it over the lenses. My recent bout of bronchitis gave me a wonderfully phlegmmy cough. I had become quite adept at snorting and clearing my throat in the last week, so I added this talent to the show. It was for Leon's benefit, after all. Him coming in here with his proof. His smug, smart-alec aura oppressed me, as did the lingering smell of his breakfast. Let him stew in his own compulsions, let him tap his tattoo and dream of murdering me just to pick up the pace.

To be fair, I did ask him to do this, didn't I? I have a business to run and I needed to know if my nephew really was the leak. For months we'd been scooped by the other paper on critical stories. Leon, my best photographer, has great ambitions but also a nose for scandal. He brought his suspicions to me along with a report of dozens of complaints of nepotism. This was becoming a disaster on so many different levels. I made him get me proof.

I gave my spectacles one final wipe and added one more cough. I put the spectacles on my old face and reached out toward the photo, my hand shaking with its usual palsy. I dragged the photo towards me and picked it up. It contained the imageof my nephew in a booth at the Brown Derby, cozied up to that blasted female who heads up the news desk at The Herald. I could feel the electricity in the room as Leo stopped tapping and straightened in his chair. He was hungry for my outrage.

"I see," I said steadily, frowning a bit. "And what about these phone records?"

"I've gone through them and circled the calls that originated from Stanley's desk and were connected to the news office at The Herald offices," he said jumping up and grabbing the document.

"See? Here...and here," he flipped through the pages.

"You've been very thorough, Leon."

"And here..." he said, his eyes glowing with a new furor.

"Thank you, Leon," I said, pulling the papers from his hands. "I will review this thoroughly."

"Don't you want to call him in now?" Leon pressed.

"Why would I do that?"

"It's obvious he's the one leaking our leads!" Leon nearly whined.

"Leon, my good man, I appreciate all the hard work you've done to implicate my nephew in wrong-doing, but this has all the earmarks of a true witch hunt orchestrated by yourself perhaps with the help of some of your cronies."


"I'm not going to call him in here so that you may satisfy your thirst for 'justice.' I must give this evidence proper consideration and hear Stanley's side of the story. We must keep open minds about this, Leon. You of all people should know this. You with your sympathies for the downtrodden...where are those sympathies now, hmm?"

"But...he...look at that picture again...can't you see?"

"I see very well. But I also know about due process. And I'm not about to rush to conclusions, especially when the evidence blends business, pleasure, and family."

"But sir, we must be quick about this! We can't afford to lose another story!"

"But we also cannot afford to rush personnel issues, your union saw to that. I remember back in the day when I could fire anyone anytime I wanted...I also didn't have to pay for such things as health care and vacation days and such. Ah, a golden age for the rich...then again, what days aren't a golden age for the rich, eh Leon?"

"Hmph," Leon snorted. He began to pace.

I was taunting him now and it really wasn't fair. He was a good photographer and reliable, mostly. But I cannot stand it when someone tries to push me into something. I had actually asked for Stanley's resignation this morning. He was embezzling money out of the petty cash account, treating it like his personal piggy bank. Indiscretion was one thing, stealing my money was quite another. And theft was something I could act swiftly on within my corporate restraints.

I looked at Leon and studied him for a moment. He was pacing in the light shining though my large window. A vein in his temple throbbed as he worked his toothpick back and forth over his bottom lip. He shrugged his shoulders and pulled on his lapels, straightening his jacket.

"Listen, Leon," I reasoned, "All will be handled in its own time. We can't rush these things. You understand, don't you?"

"I do understand, sir," he said as he stopped pacing; he seemed to have decided on something.

"What now, Leon?" I asked.

"I quit," he said, looking at me with righteous anger.

"Fine," I replied. "You will do me the courtesy of offering a two-week notice...without which you will get no reference from me. See Sarah on the way out so that you can complete all the appropriate exiting paperwork."

I returned to my signing duties as he stood in front of me. I could feel a his shock, disappointment, and anti-climax as he exhaled. I hated to lose a good photographer, but good photographers were a dime a dozen; he could easily be replaced. Besides, his union, leftist ways only caused trouble with my staff and gave me heartburn. So I let him dig his own grave. His only move was to leave and so he did.

It was almost as good as firing someone used to be.

Sumbitted for FFF#41


  1. Lovely painting of the old man's slow reluctance to look at the photo.

  2. A well written tale, but...

    "Besides, his union, leftist ways only caused trouble with my staff and gave me heartburn. So I let him dig his own grave. His only move was to leave and so he did."

    (site decorum) boo!

    That doesn't mean that it wasn't a good story, though.

  3. The situation had already been resolved--from a different perspective--but, resolved still, and yet he allowed the photographer to go on and on. Looks like it became sort of a game to the old man, and I believe he enjoyed the outcome. Interesting characterization. Well done.

  4. I'm glad to see that, even in fiction, the unwashed masses know their place.

    Anyone else inspired to grab torches and pitchforks?

  5. GB: Thanks!

    Cormac: Really? I thought it was "fairly non-political." :-( His politics were part of his personality. Sorry if I crossed the line...I'll mind my p's and q's wrt to this in future.

    Joyce: Thanks! I pictured this guy as a cat playing with a mouse before he eats it.

    Randal: Yes, totally!

  6. What an old bugger! The kind of character you enjoy - but never want to meet in person! An interesting re-working of an old style but using a new context.

  7. That old bugger is a tough nut! I loved the image of the cascade of thumbs on the arm of the chair. Great story.

  8. Flannery - he he! I enjoyed the 'young pup' getting his come-uppance!

    Wonderful tae and lovely descriptions of the old man's demeanor. :-)