FROM THE BOOK “642 THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT”:
Write a scene in which a woman is fired after only a week on the job. Just a week earlier, the same person who is now firing her was very persuasive in convincing her to take the job.
Lila entered Amy’s office and said, “Hey.”
Amy looked up from her computer screen for a second and returned the greeting, then said, “Have a seat, please.”
Lila skirted around the chair in front of Amy’s desk and sat down, feeling like she had in ninth grade when Vince told her he was going to set off an M-80 in the bathroom. She’d never heard the BOOM, but when Principal Skinner called her into the office, she had noticed the item sitting on his desk and tried very hard not to react, desperate to convince the man she knew nothing about it. She quickly scanned Amy’s desk for anything that shouldn’t be there.
Amy finished whatever she was doing with a final keystroke, then turned to Lila and said, “How are you doing?”
Lila shrugged and said, “I was doing just fine. Is something wrong?”
Amy shook her head and said, “No, nothing’s wrong, really. It’s just … we’re gonna have to let you go. I’m sorry.”
“Um, what?” Lila asked, shock lodged in her throat like a rock. “Why?”
“We’ve had reports you’ve been sleeping on the job.”
“No, I haven’t!” Lila said more emphatically than she’d meant to. “Who said that?”
“That’s all confidential, but it’s from a reliable source and, I’m sorry, but you were told at orientation that sleeping on the job was grounds for termination.”
“Except I haven’t been sleeping on the job!” Lila insisted. “I want to know who the hell said I was!”
“Look,” Amy said, steepling her fingers on the desk in front of her, her face all concern and heartbreak, “I don’t like this any more than you do. You’ve only been here a week—”
“Because you convinced me to take this job,” Lila added.
“Right. So I hate even more having to be the one to do this, but my hands are tied.” She held her clasped hands up off the desk as if Lila was expected to see the invisible ropes binding them. “I need you to clean out your locker and someone will walk you out to your car.”
“This is bullshit!” Lila said. “Amy, I wasn’t sleeping! What the fuck is going on here?”
“I’m gonna ask you not to use that kind of language. Please gather your things and go.”
“That kind of language? You just fired me for something I didn’t fucking do, of course I’m gonna use that kind of language because this is bullshit. I think I deserve to know who said I was sleeping and I’d like them to say it to my face!”
“And I wish I could give out that information, I think you’re owed it. But I can’t. We promise everyone who comes to us anonymity.”
“Fine. Then I saw someone sleeping on the job, too. When I came in here, you were zonked out in your chair, head back and drooling. Who do I go to with that?”
“We both know that isn’t true, Lila,” Amy said, sitting up straight in her chair, probably to indicate she was wide awake and alert.
“Neither is this,” Lila yelled. “I wasn’t fucking sleeping on the job!”
At Lila’s raised voice, the door opened and one of the security guards entered, asking, “Everything ok in here?”
“Everything’s fine,” Amy said. “Could you escort Lila to the lockers so she can get her things, then out to her car, please?”
The guard nodded and held the door for Lila. Lila looked back at Amy, the woman who was solely responsible for her taking this job only a week ago. She shook her head and said again, “This is bullshit. I hope this place burns down.” Then she walked out.
As Lila was leaving, Greg Ayers, one of the other supervisors in Amy’s department, entered. The door closed behind him, and he asked Amy, “How was it?”
“Did you not hear it?” Amy asked.
“Yeah, sounded rough.”
“But it’s done,” Amy said.
“So why did you hire her if you were just gonna make up a reason to get rid of her?” Greg asked.
“Power,” Amy said. “I heard Hitchcock used to fire someone right away from his movie sets, just to show he was in charge. Every so often, I like to bring someone in, give em a few days, then fire them. Keeps everyone else in line.”
“So, she wasn’t sleeping?”
“Nah,” Amy said, waving away the very idea. “She was awesome. But she wasn’t in the union yet, so no grievances. Try to fire one of those motherfuckers, even if they WERE sleeping, and you’ve got a battle on your hands. No, this’ll do. Word will get round, the worker bees will shape up, those who need shaping up, and all will be right.”
“That’s some cold shit,” Greg said. “Well, it’s time for lunch. See ya.”
“See ya,” Amy said. Greg closed the door behind him as he went.