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The International Writers Magazine: Life Fiction

Tough Luck
• Jude Perera
Terry sighed and looked away. It was a long sigh; there was bitterness in it. His tax dollar was funding some of those lazy bums. The injustice bit into him. There were too many to count on the beach, late morning, and mid week, getting their sun fix.


 Some, and they didn’t look like retirees, were practicing Tai Chi as if time waited on them. Suddenly he felt suffocated beneath his clean white shirt and tie. The air-conditioning in the car was struggling against yet another simmering summer attack. The sea looked viciously close. The waters delicious, he wanted to strip and dive in. But he had no time.

So he dragged his attention back to the rear fender in front of him.

An old seven-storey building, painted in loud shades of purple and red brought his distractions to an end. Nothing much had changed over the last two decades except the paint. He could still see the sea from his office, but he knew he had to put up with it. He took his weather beaten briefcase and hauled himself out of the car. He walked slowly to work.

His sedate routine came to a crashing halt at the old lift. Melanie, the new accounts girl staggered through the doors, propped up by old Mrs. Day; and she was crying. She waved a trembling hand at him, it looked like a goodbye. Mrs Day’s face was a vacant blur of sweat. Perhaps the physical labor was all too much. He didn’t wait to find out. Terry hurled himself in to the lift; he could feel tremors run down his body. His heart froze as he stepped out on to the fifth floor. Chaos reigned. There was noise, yelling. Jeremy the purchasing manager was hurling abuse at the boss’s empty room. Old Norm the security officer was wrapped around him; gasping for a grip. Norm was a gnarled stick; Jeremy weighed ninety-seven kilos and was known to be in possession of a short fuse. There was no question of Norm escorting Jeremy out and Jeremy had got Norm in to the job. There was huge potential for an incidental injury. Terry cringed. He wanted to blot out the sorry spectacle.

He was still confused as he floated towards his office, the one that looked out on the sea. He wasn’t sure if his legs were up to it. Wendy the admin clerk was sniffling quietly and Pete the young chap from maintenance, the one who could smile on Monday mornings, looked as if he had just got the sack. Terry was very fond of them; they were mates. They looked lost, and were gazing right through him. He couldn’t help them, he didn’t know how; so he walked on. The phones were going berserk, and no one was answering. The staff looked on, arms firmly crossed, there was sedition in the air. The gears shifted, the clues found each other and Terry knew. The recession had finally lashed their decks. Blood had been let and heads had rolled. Some had thought that it would by pass their little patch. It was a fool’s dream and the wake up call had pushed them into denial. 

The weasel was missing. The sallow cheeked nerd, whom everyone loved to hate. The boss’s son. Gutless, he had to be in hiding; Terry fumed. He was the type who conjured expensively printed business cards for his visitors. The kind who littered their office walls with oversized paper qualifications in gold plated frames. He was prodigiously working towards demolishing what his grandfather had created and his father had built. Terry felt his pulse race; he still felt some loyalty to the place that had kept him safe him for so long.

He was just about to close his door, when that fat hand landed on his back. Joe, fat and ugly Joe, the weasel’s lackey had his usual smirk on. His flappy cheeks strained under pursed lips. The general manager, the survivor who was generously hated by all, and Terry’s arch nemesis. Unmarried and fiercely proud of it, Joe had aged with the institution, sucking his way down those three generations of managers; grandfather, son, and now the weasel. But his glorious independence had not won him much respect, it was popularly felt that he had no choice in the matter. But the ogre had a pride of nieces who loved him to death. The nexus between their affections and the significant stake he enjoyed in real estate was a heavily presumed fact. He loved them back with startling intensity, it was reasoned out that they excited his paternal instincts. He’d vent his venom out on all staff, but had a special bone to pick with Terry. Terry had rubbed it in with a refined smile and an educated wit. It was all too much for the bully. Yet Joe waved his knife in the open, didn’t stab from behind, subtlety had no hope of growth with him. Terry was quite sympathetic of some of his failings.

Right now he was ready to faint. It was too much for his “stented” heart.
‘Can we have a chat maaite.’
Joe drawled.

Terry struggled against the stench of old nicotine that gushed from his lungs. Joe manhandled him towards his office, well escorted him really, it was both the same as far as Terry was concerned.

The door smashed behind them, destroying Terry’s eardrums. He was still getting used to it. Stacks of unlooked at files barricaded the windows. It was a smoker’s nirvana. And with a grunt Joe settled his monumental posterior on two chairs. The stench rose again as Joe leaned over.

‘Bad times maaite’
He started the conspiratorial whisper.
Terry wanted his space. The door is closed; he wanted to say.
‘We had to lay off, we had to, I was holding it back, best as I could and you knaw it’s all global’.

Terry knew he knew next to nothing about anything outside the business.
‘Our market’s shrunk, we can’t keep it up, but the best part is some of these jokers are getting good packages, Industry redundancy regulations you knaw’.

Joe sounded depressed. As if it was his bloody money. Terry’s heart was getting excitable again. He took a deep breath and edged forward. The time had come to let go and face the enemy. Joe waited for the words, patiently; there was a long silence. But none came.

Joe leaned over again and Terry tried hard not to show he had winced.
‘But you are safe maaite, you have provided us over twenty years of loyal service, how could we get rid of you, so you are safe, and besides we’d have to pay millions to get rid of you’.

He winked and chuckled. Terry felt his body go limp.

‘Thanks maaite, that’s bloody great isn’t it!’

He yelled.

And stormed out of the room. Not forgetting to bang the door behind him. He missed Joe’s fat face going gob smacked.

He looked out and up, hoping for a single fleck, the sky was a clean blue sheet. He looked down; the shimmering turquoise sea stared back unrelentingly. Suddenly he felt that suffocation again. So he tore his eyes away from the window.

Terry released his longest sigh for the day and cursed his luck.

 © Jude Perera June 2012

Jude’s other fiction publishing credits include; My Mom and My Niece – Hackwriters,  It’s a glorious day  - fiction 365, Redemption and I don’t love my dolls anymore - The Fringe magazine. His travel narratives have been featured on the international online travel magazine Travelmag – Touchdown in Colombo, Sarees and Monuments: a Tour of North India and Too close to elephants in a Sri lankan forest.

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