A hearty welcome to Irish writer, Joleen...
“What do you drink then?” Marty asked.
“Vodka, I suppose, why?” Carl asked.
Marty gave him a grin, lifted Carl’s coat and stuffed a bottle of vodka in the inside pocket.
Carl shook his head. “What are you at?” he exclaimed.
“It’s grand, mate. There’s quotas and all that, they expect a certain amount of them to go missing,” Marty explained. “As long as no one gets too greedy, we’re all grand. Call it a Christmas bonus, since they don’t pay one.”
“But...well, it’s still stealing,” Carl said, holding his coat awkwardly.
Marty shrugged. “So? The wages are criminal. And like I said sure, there’s quotas. They expect a few bottles to disappear.”
Carl looked around. “Well, me Da would like a bottle for the Christmas,” he admitted, slowly putting the coat on.
Marty nodded and clapped him on the back. “Good man. I’ll see you down the pub at some stage then,” he said. Carl nodded, but couldn’t help feeling conspicuous as he left through the staff door.
Marty laughed a little to himself, then reached for his own coat. A cold, bony hand fell on his shoulder. He turned around abruptly.
The store manager stood behind him. “How’s it going?” Marty asked, acting casual.
“Out the door in people’s pockets,” the manager replied dryly.
“Ah, well, how do you mean?” Marty asked, trying to maintain a cool facade.
“You know full bloody well what I mean,” the manager challenged. “Carl, tonight, vodka. Jenny, yesterday, whisky. Johnny, yesterday, brandy.”
Marty put his hand up to ruffle his hair. “Ah, well, now, you see...”
The manager nodded. “Quotas. I know,” he interrupted.
Marty nodded enthusiastically. “Aye, see, quotas...I mean, no offence but when there’s no bonus, you have to do something, there’s such a high turnover of staff, we have to do something to keep them!” he tried to justify.
The manager scratched his cheek. “Quotas,” he repeated.
“Quotas,” Marty echoed.
“There’s quotas, for staff turnover too,” the manager said. “Especially junior managers. No one expects them to last that long.”
Marty ran his hand through his hair again, nervously. “So, you want rid of me?” he asked. “You want me to resign?”
“I already have the letter. All you have to do is sign it,” the manager replied, taking a folded sheet of paper from his pocket and producing a pen. “No mention of anything...untoward. Just that the pressure was too much for you.”
Marty’s hand was sweaty as he took the pen and signed the letter.
“Good,” the manager said. He scratched his cheek again, appearing thoughtful.
“Right then,” Marty said after a pause. “I...I should go.”
“It isn’t that simple,” the manager said, shaking his head.
“You...you need to dock my pay?” Marty asked, his stomach a pit of nerves.
The manager shook his head. “As I said, quotas. No one asks too many questions, when a junior manager disappears,” he said philosophically.
Marty gave him a puzzled look, swallowing hard as he wondered what the hell was going on. “Disappears?” he croaked.
The manager nodded. “Disappears. The letter...you didn’t read all of it?” he asked, unfolding it again. “You mention needing to get away. Feeling under more pressure than you can handle. Stress. Not being up to the job. Apologising for your inadequacies, ” he listed off the sheet.
Marty didn’t reply, waiting to see where he was going with this, checking his route to the exit out of the corner of his eye.
“It could be viewed, perhaps, as a suicide note,” the manager commented.
“S-suicide?” Marty repeated, now glancing around for a weapon. “Look, come on now. I’ve resigned; I’ll pay you back for the bottles!”
The manager shook his head. “That won’t be good enough, I’m afraid,” he told Marty. “Quotas. Statistics. It’s all the same really.” He rolled up his sleeves and grabbed Marty by the throat.
Marty struggled. The manager was shorter than he was, at least a decade older. Marty was fit, he played football and rugby. He couldn’t understand where the pathetic little man was getting all his strength, though there was a maniacal look in his eyes.
“Quotas,” the manager said with gritted teeth. “It’s so easy to play on them. A tragic death, suicide by hanging. They expect a certain amount of men your age to do it.” His laughter was the last thing Marty heard.
Bio: Joleen Kuyper likes to do horrible things to her characters but she is much nicer to real people, most of the time. Some of her dark stories and poems appear in the anthology Casting Shadows at www.lulu.com/joemjo and her musings can be found on joleenkuyper.blogspot.com