Sunday, January 5, 2014

Writers Write Prompt---The Bitterness of a Fool

 (Author's note: Bored to tears this weekend, had to find something to play around with. This is almost complete and utter crappy fiction. Except for Martin, he's a combination of several people.)

Martin thought he had worked all the angles to secure the position of safety inspector for the factory. I couldn't really blame him for wanting the job when the duties involved walking around the plant writing up work orders and reading already prepared safety lectures to the production workers. The job even included a small office and the occasional trip to conventions in such terrible places like Orlando, Florida. It was a truly sweet deal compared to working maintenance on the night shift.

The morning Martin and I saw the human resources flunky posting the the job on the bulletin board I saw his eyes light up like a five-year old on Christmas morning. We went our separate ways at the time clock as he ran off to fill out the application. I thought about applying for the position myself for a couple of seconds then I remembered that while night shift sucked in many ways at least my wife and I didn't have to worry about who would be forced to take off from work when our son got sick and couldn't go to school.

That night though I found myself hoping Martin got the job and soon since it require him to work day shift. “Listen Gregg,” he said to me just minutes after we clocked in, “I'd appreciate it if you could see if Hank is still mad about our little disagreement. He could totally sink my chances on getting that job. But don't let on to him I'm the one really asking.” I physically cringed when Martin made the request. Hank Wilson was the plant's night shift production manager and he and Martin had almost came to blows one night over several matters one time. The tension between the two had put me in a difficult spot.

“Yeah Martin,” I replied, “I'll see how he feels.” The one thing that I could never quite get use to about Martin was that the man talked too damn much and clearly had an overly large opinion about himself on everything. It didn't matter whether someone had gone scuba diving in the Bahamas or served overseas in the military, Martin had done something ten-times as grand and twenty-times as dangerous. I wasn't the only one working night shift who felt that way, most everyone else who knew Martin's personality did their best to limit contact with him. It was different for me though, I had to directly work with the guy which forced me to adapt to the uncomfortable circumstances. It's childish really but his incessant bragging has long since forced me into the habit of spending several hours of each shift away from him in some far corner of the plant.

Contrary to my promise to Martin I just came out and told Hank that he was interested in the safety position and was quaking in his work boots that a bad word from him might sink his chances. Hank just laughed, “Damn Gregg,” he said, “I'll write Martin such an awesome recommendation letter he'll want to kiss me on the lips.”

Given Martin's opinions on evolving social morals not only was Hank making a monumental overstatement but the look on his face was a bit disconcerting. Maybe it was the mechanic in me but I could almost see an elaborate set of wheels turning in his head. Whatever the case, I delivered the news to Martin who promptly went into overdrive kissing the butt of anyone he thought could help him.

For two weeks I had to deal with Martin telling me what his plans were when he got the safety job. “I tell you Gregg,” he said one night was we replaced heating coils on an old plastic extruder, “I'm going to make sure all this old equipment is replaced with new stuff. That's what the safety guys does, he has the power to deadline stuff and force management to replace it.”

“Sure Martin,” I said while connecting the wiring for the heating coils to the relays. I quickly tuned out on his babbling and as usual, a few minutes later I looked up to see him twenty feet away talking to one of the production workers.

Given the amount and duration of Martin's butt kissing I wasn't surprised when he got the safety inspector position. A month later, after his replacement settled in on night shift I start passing him coming into work as I am leaving. Day shift had only amplified his bluster and supreme arrogance and it was obvious to everyone but Martin that people took great pains to avoid him. What pushed it into the realm of the comedic was his totally out of date tie and his short sleeve button-up shirt complete with a nerdy pocket protector he always wore to work. To me, he looked like a controlled obsessed character from a 1960's sitcom that was always on the wrong end of some disaster.

That is exactly what started to happened six weeks later. Anyone with the least little bit of awareness could have seen the signs but that left Martin out in the cold. The first was how the contract with the temp service was not renewed. In good times the plant had anywhere from twenty to thirty temporary workers filling in the gaps and generally doing all the dirty work. One day they were met by security as they tried to clock in and told to turn in their company ID's and go home. The next sign was how all overtime was forbidden, even having ten minutes over the standard forty-hours would get someone written up. The final sign was when I saw security and senior management standing at the time clock thirty minutes before night shift ended.

Incredibly they left night shift alone, it sort of made sense because we were always understaffed. But day shift was different, it was generally bloated with too many employees and to correct that it seemed as if one out of five people walking through the entrance was stopped and turned around. Just as I was about to swipe my badge to clock out Martin walked through the door. Almost out of nowhere Hank appeared with two security guards and the head of human resources nearby. They intercepted Martin and pulled him aside.

Poor Martin had a truly idiotic smile on his face, which probably originated from some belief that he would be immune from the ongoing slaughter. Hank and the human resources person leaned in close and told hims something in private. The look on Martin's face quickly flashed from astonishment, to disbelief, to anger, then to barely controlled rage.

“I have years of seniority in this plant!” He screamed at Hank who now was sporting a truly sinister smile.

“Yeah, you did Martin,” Hank replied loud enough for everyone to hear. “But that evaporated when you took the safety job. Now you're just a glorified new hire.”

Rage now mixed with intense hate on Martin's face and he stood there for several seconds obviously reeling from the news that not only had he screwed himself but was dealing with the possibility that he had been setup in some fashion he just couldn't quite figure out.

Just as one of the security guards reached for him Martin let loose with a guttural scream that came from the darkest regions of someone's soul. Martin tried to attack Hank but the other security guard quickly hit him with a tazer that had him convulsing on the factory floor like a fish out of water.

The last I saw of Martin was him being dragged away by security. He caught sight of me and while he still looked to be in a murderous rage he also looked totally lost and alone silently mouthing the question, “Why are they doing this to me?”


Gorilla Bananas said...

A modern-day parable on how pride comes before a fall. It's a pity the security guard didn't wag his finger at Martin and quote from the Bible:
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

Pixel Peeper said...

There seems to be a Martin or two at every company. Sometimes they come back a week or two later, followed by a headline in the paper: Disgruntled former employee kills six in shooting rampage.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Gee, I'm not sure, but I think Martin worked with me at the hospital. Different name, but his character's the same.

Good job!

lime said...

if only....the butt-kissers i worked with kept their jobs.