This story is by Ronnie Wood and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The email had announced that there would be a quick meeting at 7 am sharp. The clock read quarter to seven when Clint entered the meeting room. “Get it ready… get it ready… tablecloths…” He muttered small things to himself while wondering what the hell this meeting was about. There was enough going on for him to have to arrive early to set it up, and to pick up the refreshments. “Grab the muffins, hurry… I’m going to need a smoke…” His hands worked lightning quick as he arranged the muffins on platters. It has to look good for Dorian, He thought bitterly. He hadn’t had a single dart yet today. “Gotta…” As he began to whisper, the door flung open. A man stumbled in carrying three boxes of coffee and a bag of creams and sugars. “Thank god! Come in, John, bring them here! Just set them up by the muffins, I need to go for a minute.” With that, Clint rushed out. John shook his head, but didn’t protest.
John was done and waiting when people began filtering into the long conference room. “Look Howie! There’s coffee!” a woman exclaimed. Howie, who was behind her, did not respond. She looked back at him. “What?” He asked. “What’s wrong? You love coffee!” Howie said nothing. “You’re being such a grump! You yelled at me this morning, and now you won’t even talk to me.”
“Gloria, you see…” He began to defend himself, but she interrupted. “Please, tell me you’re not thinking about what happened last week? That wasn’t a big deal.” Howie glared at Gloria. “Dorian heard me shit talking him. You know what he gets like.”
“Yeah, but it sounded more like a joke than anything else. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t even email you, you’re fine. Now look, they got muffins this time!” Howie didn’t really care much about the muffins but took one anyways. He couldn’t help but feel that this surprise meeting was involved with the incident, and would end with him being fired.
The email that had been received by all staff the day before had simply stated, “Meeting at 7:00 am, mandatory.” Most grumbled, but Albert couldn’t help but be extremely curious. His less negative attitude came off naturally, as one of the first things he said after entering the meeting room was, “Jeff, do you have any idea what this meeting is about?” The man named Jeff, who sat next to him, was in mid sip of his coffee. He gulped it down and replied, “Nope.” He immediately continued sipping his coffee down. Albert asked, “You’re downing that pretty quick, what’s the hurry for?”
“I want to get a second before the meeting starts.”
Jeff withheld the fact that he had been up most of the night, and was very tired. His father’s recent passing was plaguing him. He needed time to mourn, but the stress of work and the council asking him to take his father’s place as an elder bothered him almost constantly. He had sacrificed a lot for his job, including time that was once spent within his indigenous community. Most of all, he’d have to ask for certain days off, and asking Dorian for days off for that reason? No way.
“Aren’t you curious?” Albert interrupted his self muse, and Jeff shrugged. “I heard we may be discussing the new distribution goals. I hope we get a better client than the last one, they were so…”
“Honestly, unless he’s giving us a day off or something, I don’t give a damn what Dorian has to say.” He felt a little guilty for cutting Albert off, but he didn’t want to hear Albert spew. Albert, however, grinned.. “Yes, that would be wonderful, if for once Dorian wasn’t being a dickweed.” He winked at Howie, who sat across from him. The man turned red. At that, Jeff finished his cup and went for another on.
At the other end of the table, a woman was smoking a vape pen into her purse. Her portable handheld filter was very effective, as no one noticed her. She actually knew what the meeting was about, and was probably the only one who would care, to some degree. She put the vape down, exchanging it for a hair elastic to pull back the strands of black hair cascading around her face. She sighed, the sound falling on deaf ears. No one cared much for her, she was too quiet, and not quit pretty enough to attract attention. The secretary was the loneliest of all the staff, and that would not change in the days to come. Invisible, she ducked back into her purse for another hit.
Howie scratched his neck. It felt damp with sweat. Looking down, he noticed his shiny wrist watch, which reminded him of the fat debt it had left on his credit card. Gloria, beside him, enjoyed her muffin quietly. They had been tight for a while, and Howie had been planning on an engagement. Dorian could change that today. He glanced at the clock, 7:01, and the door opened. A voice bellowed, “Hey-a hey-a how’s it going Jeff?” Jeff’s dark eyes looked down quick, and Howie noticed his jaw clench. Howie’s stomach sunk. Here comes Dorian, he thought.
Dorian Brown was almost late to his special meeting. As he stepped into the room, Jeff Bird’s brown face was the first thing he noticed, and he sung loudly, “Hey-a, hey-a how’s it going?” Dorian took no notice of Jeff’s indignant expression as he continued. The secretary looked to have her face stuck in her purse. Dorian said, “Martha, what ya doing, smoking crack?” She looked up, her eyes wide. Dorian chuckled, then turned to his audience with a vibrant smile. His hand went through his blonde waves quickly, and he asked,“Good morning Calgary Branch, you ready to hear the new bitch pitches? Oh shit.” He covered his mouth, his eyes scanning the silent room. He’d expected at least a smirk in response. Martha grimaced. He shook his head, “I meant, pitch, bitches…aha…anyways, I assume you’re all dying to know what this little meeting is all about.
Eyes bore into him.
Clint returned, bringing a distinct scent into the room. “Ah, Clint, I always know when you walk into a room.” Clint avoided eye contact, sitting promptly across from Martha. “Anyhow, as I was getting to, there is a new pitch and thus a new client with merchandise we are looking to distribute. However, that is the general topic for the Monday Meeting, which is at 12:43 sharp. This is Friday at 7 am. Thus, you can reason that this is not about the new client.
He noticed that some eyes were droopy, and other faces blank. “Ahhhhhyahayaaaa!” Dorian’s yell carried to the end of the room, setting everyone upright in a flash. “Power-nap time is soon, children but…” A cell phone went off, playing an old sounding blues song. Dorian said, “What the hell, I thought everyone here was young,” and added a laugh to be comedic. Embarrassed, a young black woman took her cell out and turned it off. “Ah, Pamela, I should have guessed! Listening to some grass-roots, as in roots!” He gave her finger guns and she rolled her eyes. He continued, “Speaking grass, and roots, I need to discuss a new development in the office. Howie, what was it you said?” His question caught him off guard; just when he’d gotten comfortable. “Uh…”
“If I lived in a garden, I would be a…” He paused, waiting for Howie to finish. Howie remained silent. “A dickweed!” Albert called out. There were some smirks across the room. “Yes! I’d like to tell you all that the gardening is done, because dick weed is out of here, goodbye!” With that, he strode out of the room giving them all middle fingers.
The door closed with a ‘thump.’ The whole staff stared at the door, expecting him to re enter laughing. Within a minute, the level of noise had exploded to mass chatter volume. “What? Why?” “Did he finally realize he was a piece of shit?” “Can’t believe he admitted to being a dickweed, good one Howie!”
Comments were whirling around. Howie managed to ask, “Gloria, how about we get some breakfast? I want to talk to you about something.” The chatter began to emulate the idea of breakfast and prompted the staff to all file out of the meeting room. They all looked quite satisfied, and Jeff looked as if a huge weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. Martha stayed put, however. Her hand was in her purse, holding something she’d concealed with much care. A small plastic bag with a small amount of white powder. She’d stolen it from Dorian’s desk, had been for a while; now her supply was gone. She was only glad Dorian had never noticed.