Glenn’s hands dampened, and he almost dropped his tray. First days sucked. It was like school all over again. Where did the cool kids sit? Would they welcome him? Would anyone?
Where he sat could conceivably impact his happiness at work for years—maybe decades—to come. He finally landed his dream job. Sure, he had to cross the country and leave everything he knew behind him, but it would be worth it if the job panned out. The last thing he wanted was to get in with the wrong crowd and be miserable for the foreseeable future.
This was his last chance. He couldn’t afford to move back home, and he definitely couldn’t afford to be ostracized by the only people he knew in the state.
He scanned the room, found a couple of guys who looked friendly enough—guys he’d enjoy spending a happy hour or two with, maybe. Glenn squared his shoulders. He needed to relax. They were just guys, and this wasn’t high school. Adults wouldn’t be petty and exclusionary. Right?
He approached the table and cleared his throat. “Mind if I join you?”
One of the men pushed a chair away from the table with his foot and gestured to it. “Sure. Have a seat.”
The other guy swallowed a large mouthful of Italian sub, then smiled. “I’m Dave. This is Rick.”
“I’m Glenn. Today’s my first day.”
“Yeah? What department?” Dave asked.
“Ah. You took over for Dorothy Parkman.” Rick took a long pull from his Pepsi bottle. “You’ve got big shoes to fill.”
“Oh?” The last thing Glenn wanted was to fall short of his predecessor. The comparisons could ruin his career before it got started. “How so?”
“That girl had spunk. Chutzpah. Moxie.” Dave opened a package of Twinkies, bit one in half, barely chewed before he swallowed. “She’d always tell it like it is. To anyone. Fixed a hell of a lot of problems. Of course, she caused—”
“Yeah,” Rick interrupted. “No one messed with her. Your department never ran so smooth when she was in charge.”
“So, what happened to her?” Queasy, Glenn pushed his tray away from him. Things were looking worse and worse for him. “She get a promotion to a different branch? A better job at a different company?” Please let it be a different company. He didn’t need Wonder Woman nagging him from a satellite location.
Dave finished his Twinkie and shook his head. “Nah. Bosses didn’t like her questioning them. Rumor has it, she got—”
“Let’s just say she was terminated.” Rick stared pointedly at Dave, then he leaned over the table and stage-whispered at Glenn. “You don’t ask a lot of questions, do you?”
Glenn swallowed and shook his head. “N-no. I’m a company man.”
“You’ll fit in just fine here, then.” Rick opened a bag of chips and tipped the bag toward Glenn. “Chip?”
His appetite was long gone. He shook his head, offered a thanks, and made an excuse about learning the ropes. Glenn hurried back to his office and opened Google. The first result he got when he searched Dorothy Parkman’s name was an obituary. The second was a news article titled, “Local Whistleblower Found Dead Under Suspicious Circumstances. Company Charges Dropped Due To Lack Of Evidence.”
What had she found out?
What had he gotten himself into?
The VP poked his head in his office. “Working through lunch? Is there a problem?”
Glenn’s heart leapt then plummeted. He frantically clicked his mouse until he found the little X and closed the window. Swallowed. Prayed his boss hadn’t seen what he was researching. Shook his head. “No. No problem. I just want to do a good job.”
“See that you do, Glenn. I put my neck out for you. Don’t let me down.”
“I’m a company man, sir. You won’t have any trouble from me.”
“Yes, well. I didn’t expect trouble from your predecessor, either. We all learned our lesson there. Do you learn lessons quickly, Glenn?”
“Lightning fast, sir.”
“Good. I’ll be keeping my eye on you.” The VP glanced over Glenn’s shoulder at the dark computer screen before he walked away.
“Won’t be a problem, sir,” Glenn called after him. “I’m a company man!” Then he opened his email and sent a message to the headhunter who he’d been working with. Time to start looking for another job. Maybe out of the country.
This story inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Moxie.