International Writers Magazine:
staff of the State of Californias Birth and Death Statistics
Section sat around the long table in their chiefs office.
Harvey Stone, the newest staff member, sat at the foot of the table.
At the head was Steven Blair, the Section Chief. Blair
was a man in his 40s, tall, good-looking with thinning blonde
hair and white teeth. He was also, Harvey had concluded, an
office tyrant and these weekly staff meetings were mostly held to
demonstrate his power over his subordinates.
As he was doing
now, when he asked Irving Fisher, a research analyst, about the report
he was preparing for the departments deputy director.
Im, uh, still working on it, said Fisher, 50ish,
overweight, already sweating.
Didnt I say I wanted that report today, asked
Blair, his deep voice soft but menacing.
Yes, I know, but . . .
I dont want any excuses, interrupted Blair.
I want that report and I dont care if you have to stay until
midnight to finish it.
Yes, sir, said Hartman, wiping his forehead with a white
handkerchief. Ill get it done.
What about that report on teenage birth rates? he asked
Rosemary Harris, another research analyst, 35, prim, spinsterish.
Its on your desk said Rosemary.
Oh. Well, the figures had better be right.
And how are you coming with that chart? Blair asked his
statistical clerk, Myrna.Wells, young, plump, patches of acne on her
I think Ill have it done by tomorrow. she said in
a small voice.
Dont think, do it..
Harvey awaited his turn. He was a recent college graduate
and this was his first job with the State. He was on the
small side, pale, wore heavy glasses. How are
you getting on? Blair asked Harvey..
Good. Evidently Paul hadnt been there
long enough for Blair to get on him about anything. Fisher
has been taking care of the section budget, but hes evidently
been overworked since he cant complete his assignments.
So I want you to take that over, immediately.
Harvey had no idea what taking over the budget meant except that he
knew it would be more work and that Blair enjoyed piling the work on
his subordinates. All right, he said.
The meeting was over. Blair hadnt said anything to
his secretary, Leona Smith, an attractive redhead in her 30s.
She was said to have a special relationship with him.
The next week Blair summoned Harvey to his office and told him
that he was going to a meeting in San Francisco on Friday.
Im taking Leona with me, he said. . Theres
enough money in the travel allowance for that, right?
Paul had just been putting the budget figures onto his computer and
so had a pretty good idea of each item. Yes, there
should be, he said. The sections travel
allowance was almost used up but it should cover a trip to San Francisco.
Hed noticed that Blair had already made a lot of trips that year,
many with Leona along. As far as he could see, no one else
in the section had done any traveling.
Theres something else. The Departments
medical staff is having a conference in Hawaii next month.
I intend to go. How do we stand on that?
A trip to Hawaii meant airfare and a hotel room plus a per diem
for food and other expenses. There was no way the travel
allowance would cover that. Paul told Blair there
wasn't enough left for Hawaii. Blairs face turned
red. What do you mean? Where did it go?
Paul said he didnt know and reminded Blair that hed just
taken over the budget.
Its that dolt Fishers fault. Hell
be sorry for that. I want you to write a memo to the Department
immediately asking for a supplemental appropriation. Make
it strong. I intend to go to that conference.
And dont forget, youre still on probation. Do
I understand, thought Harvey. You like to make your
subordinates squirm by threatening them. Ill
do my best, he said, then turned and quickly left the office before
Blair could say that his best had better be good enough.
Harvey was having lunch in the building cafeteria with Rosemary Harris.
Blair and Leona were away on the trip to San Francisco.
The office is a lot more relaxed, Harvey said. .
Yes. The one good thing about Blair is that
hes out of town a lot, said Rosemary
Hes used up almost all the travel money in the sections
budget and now he wants to go the doctors meeting in Hawaii.
I suppose hes told you to request a supplemental appropriation.
Yes. He also implied that if we didnt get it
I may not pass my probation.
Hes really a bastard. Did he say he was
going to take Leona with him to Hawaii?
He didnt mention that. Why?
Leonas an ambitious girl and I think shes figured
out that Blairs not going to leave his wife and kids for her.
Ive heard her on the phone and shes trying to get a job
somewhere else in the department. Shes not going to
be a secretary forever.
No, shell wind up being a Deputy Director.
I see that Fisher is working through lunch again."
Blair gave him another impossible assignment and told him it had
to be finished when he got back Monday.
Why doesnt he tell Blair to go to hell?
Hes not on probation like me so Blair cant fire him.
No, but he can demote him. Fishers wife has
health problems so he needs every dollar he makes.
Hmmm. Blair has Fisher on the brink of a nervous breakdown
and Myrna is scared to death of him. Cant we do anything
Not much. Marcus Cruz, the Division Director, doesnt
like him, but he doesnt care enough to do anything.
Ive been trying to get a transfer, but I know Blairs been
giving me bad references.
Well. Im going to try to figure out something.
When Blair returned the next Monday he was in a foul temper.
He usually played the benevolent supervisor when in the outer office
where other people might observe him, reserving his tirades for his
own office, with the door tightly closed. But now he attacked
Myrna immediately, giving her back a report to be completely retyped.
Then he ordered Fisher into his office.
Rosemary caught Harveys eye and he went over to her desk.
I think he and Lady Leona had it out in San Francisco, she
whispered. It looks as if shes dumped him.
In a few minutes, Fisher came out of Blairs office, ashen-faced..
Both Rosemary and Harvey went over to him. What?
Hes done it, said Hartman. Hes
going to demote me.
Youre going to fight it, arent you? said
I cant, said Hartman. He
has everything written down, all the assignments I havent done
But you couldnt possibly have finished all the things
he gave you to do.
It doesnt matter. Hes too smooth.
Whod ever listen to me?
Before Harvey could reply, Blair opened his office door and barked,
Stone, in here, now.
My turn, thought Harvey.. Blair didnt ask him to sit
down. Whats happened with my Hawaii trip?
he asked immediately..
Well, the supplemental appropriation didnt get approved.
What? Blair rose from his chair as though propelled
by a spring. Those stupid front office assholes.
What kind of faggot memo did you send them? Ill
write something and I want you to walk it over. Do you understand
Yes, said Harveyl
I hope you also understand that if I dont go to Hawaii you
dont pass your probation.
That weekend Harvey thought over the situation. It was clear that
something had to be done. He knew there was no point in
attacking the problem head-on by going through the department bureaucracy..
As Fisher had said, whod listen to him? The
trick was to use Blairs own tendencies against him, kind of like
ju-jitsu. The next Monday Harvey again was summoned to Blairs
Blair was red-faced with anger. I just got this reply to
my memo, he said. They turned me down again.
What do we do now?
Harvey was ready with his answer. Its okay,
we dont need the additional money. Theres enough
in the office supplies fund to cover Hawaii.
Are you sure? asked Blair.
Ive checked it out. I also checked on reservations
for airplane tickets and a hotel room.
Blair slowly sat down again. All right,
he said grudgingly.
Blair returned from Hawaii, like Nixon, tanned and well-rested.
Even learning that Lenore was moving on to another position in the Department
didnt seem to bother him. At about ten in the morning,
he came out of his office and told them he was going to the see the
Division Chief, Marcus Cruz.. He left as if expecting the
Chief to congratulate him on his new tan. At 10:30,
the call that Harvey had been expecting came. He was to
report to the Division Chiefs office at once. He straightened
his tie, put on his jacket and picked up the folder he had ready.
Wish me luck, he said to Rosemary.
Marcus Cruzs secretary looked at Paul as if he was a peasant but
told him he could go in, he was expected.. Cruz was seated
behind his desk, with Blair seated off to one side. Blairs
self-satisfied look was gone. Instead, he looked mad enough
to chew nails, like an attack dog straining at the leash.
Harvey knew who would be the object of Blairs attack.
said Cruz, Mr. Blair, as you know, has just returned from a meeting
in Hawaii, a meeting he went off to while I was gone and to which I
was surprised he was invited. But thats by the way.
Mr. Blair says you had informed him there was enough money in your sections
budget to cover his travel expenses.
not exactly, said Harvey. I told him our travel
money was all used up but we did have some unexpended funds meant for
And you said it was okay to use that money for my trip,
burst out Blair. Hes in charge of the budget
and I took his word for it.
look very innocent when he wanted to. Now he took out the
budget pages from his folder, pushed his glasses back on his nose and
peered at the figures. Yes, there it is, the office
supplies item, 16b. We did have unexpended monies there
but Id never presume to tell Mr. Blair he could use that for travel
What! You little son-of-a-bitch, you told me youd
already made my plane and hotel reservations.
No, Im afraid you have it wrong. I had those
on hold in case the supplemental appropriation was approved, but it
Damnit! Blair turned to Cruz. Do
you believe this little faggot?
There may have been a misunderstanding, said Cruz smoothly,
but the responsibility of using that money, or I should say mis-using
it, has to be yours. Then theres your former secretarys
threat to sue the Department for sexual harassment.
No, Im afraid something will have to be done.
Cruz folded his hands and studied them as if expecting them to tell
him what course of action to take. He looked up and said,
Oh, Stone, you can go now. Thank you.
When Harvey returned to the Birth and Death Statistics Section, they
were all waiting for his news. He told them it looked good.
Since nobody in State service, except those on probation, could be fired,
Blair was removed from his position and assigned to a staff job, where
he no longer had any subordinates to bully.. Rosemary
replaced him as chief of the Birth and Death Statistics Section.
Fisher was promoted to her position. Myrna was promoted
to Statistical Clerk II. Harvey in due course passed
his probation. Leona did not, as hed predicted, become
a Deputy Director but did get to be secretary (and possibly mistress)
to one. After a few years, Harvey left the State to
open his own research firm, vowing never to become an office tyrant.
Green Jan 2008
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