applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([pretty] it will be ok)
How About Them Apples? ([personal profile] applespice) wrote2011-02-19 01:54 pm
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LJ Idol - Week 14 - Cracks

My boss was the kind of guy who liked to see people sweat. It was somehow deeply fulfilling for him, and he never seemed to get tired of it. He was knocking people down pegs all day long, but he always had time for one more. Everyone in the building was terrified of him, and nobody was more terrified than me.

I was the intern, the low man on the totem pole, and as far as my boss was concerned, a newly-birthed lamb to be fattened for slaughter. He didn't cut me down with the same snakelike swiftness he used on various coworkers, but I knew it was because he had something much worse in mind for me. I was like a psychology science project, and he put so many twists in my brain during the first few weeks of my internship that I was surprised I could even find my way out of the building at the end of the day (and who knows, maybe that was part of his plan - maybe he regularly sent interns into the labyrinthine passages of the accounts department in hopes that they would be devoured by some kind of modern-age minotaur in a tribute of blood so he could keep his ergonomic throne).

Despite several near-breakdowns and many nights spent desperately gripping beer bottles in some warped semblance of relaxation, I was determined not to be just another poor, shattered shell of an intern. No, he wouldn't break me - I would be the one who withstood the many slings and arrows of internship, the cheese that stood alone, and in the end he would respect me. It became something of an elaborate psychological game, with him gradually upping the stakes while I gritted my teeth harder and harder through each successive work day.

I started each work day at the coffee shop across the street from my building, and made several successive visits throughout the morning as part of my boss's daily warm-up bout. It became kind of a routine for me to buy an armload of coffees for my boss and his upper tier cronies (each of whom had a laundry list of specifications for their brew), only to be sent back at least three times due to mistakes (even though I dutifully wrote down every order). At first this was just yet another tooth-grinding test of my sanity but then... I met Marnie.

When I say I met Marnie, I mean that she was hired to work at the coffee shop and I tried my best not to stare avidly at her whenever I was on the property. She was short and curvy, with a large amount of dark curly hair and big brown eyes behind purple rectangular glasses. She seemed to regard everyone who passed before her counter as a kind of character study, and every time her curious eyes passed across me I tried not to swallow my tongue.

I was about as in love with her as any guy can be with a woman to whom he has spoken only of coffee. Of course, I wanted to speak to her about other things, but I could never quite work up the nerve. She didn't look like the type of woman who would be interested in barely post-collegiate guys who regularly visited her place of work in between intervals of licking their boss's sociopathic boots. She looked like she probably dated guitarists. Or writers. Or cage fighters.

In the end, she talked to me first. "You sure are in here a lot," she said. My knees went watery. She might as well have said, "You sure are the handsomest hunk of man I've ever seen ordering a double whip white chocolate mocha in my life."

"Yeah," I said, in a stunning show of wit.

"Are you like, the coffee boy or something?"

I closed my eyes and tried not to let the vertigo take me out. The coffee boy! The coffee boy was below even sycophantic boot licker in the office hierarchy.

"Sorry," she said, and I opened my eyes to catch her mid-wince. "I guess that was rude."

"No, no," I reassured her, even though it kind of had been rude. She hadn't meant it, I knew - under her barista apron she was wearing a t-shirt for the local SPCA. Obviously she was a generous and kind-hearted person. "I guess it probably seems that way."

"Kind of. You're in here at least three times every morning ordering coffees. Either you're buying coffees for an entire floor of that building over there, or you've got a serious crush on me." She smiled - she was kidding. I laughed weakly.

"Yeah, ha ha, well, my boss... it's just kind of a thing he does. Like a game. The coffee thing is part of it."

"What kind of game?"

This was not going to end well for me. "He, ah, likes to play with people. People's minds."

"You mean he likes to play with your mind. I don't see anyone else in here ordering fifteen coffees every day."

"Well, everyone gets it some way or another, but I'm just the intern."

"If you ask me," she said, "you sound like the doormat, not the intern." This was not the kind of conversation that led to my getting her number, I knew, or asking her out, or getting to see her in anything besides her barista apron, but it was more than, "three eighty-five, please," so I thought I would take it. "Also, your boss sounds like a dick."

Before I knew it, I was spilling my guts about all of the things my boss had done to me. Somehow, Marnie actually seemed interested in it all, and by the time I was done with my tale of woe, she was shaking her head sadly on my behalf. Again, I knew that sympathy was not usually the foundation for a long and loving relationship, but it was the best I could do and I was happy for it.

"You can't keep this up, you know," she said finally. "You're going to crack. Nobody could deal with that every day."

"There are people who have been there for years."

"Yeah, but they're getting paid, aren't they?"

As I rode the elevator back up to my boss's office five minutes later, juggling six cardboard cups filled with weapons-grade heated coffee, I realized that Marnie was probably right. Not because she was beautiful and I loved her (though I admitted that such things might factor in somehow), but because I was already starting to sense the hairline fractures in my psyche that would soon lead to total meltdown.

And that meltdown, it seemed, was closer than I thought. After I had dropped off all the coffees to my smirking coworkers, my boss called me into his office. He was turning a softball over and over in his hands, a relic from a former inter-office softball championship (I'm pretty sure nobody would have ever attempted to actually beat his team, even if he had staffed it entirely with geriatrics and puppies). He looked at me with his snakey little eyes and didn't ask me to sit. The faceted paperweight on the corner of his desk cast swirling shadows of light across his face.

"Mr..." he paused.

"Fisher," I supplied.

"Mr. Fisher. You've been with us now for some months, isn't that right?"

"Yes, sir."

"And on your application for this internship, you expressed an interest in working for this company in the future, isn't that right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Based on that, well, enthusiasm, we took you on board in...," he shuffled some papers on his desk, "June of this year. Unfortunately," and he fixed me with a laser-sharp glare, "you have not performed in a manner that suggests that you actually are interested in employment with this company once your internship ends."

"Excuse me, sir?" The floor seemed to be shifting under my feet. This was new. I hadn't expected this.

"Fisher, I hate to say that you're incompetent, because I'm sure you're a very intelligent boy, but I just haven't seen that in this office. In fact, it seems like you've been going out of your way to avoid being in the office at all."

I had no idea what he was talking about. I hadn't called out sick - not once! I had never shown up late, or left early. "What do you mean, sir?"

"Well, Fisher, it's these little runs to the coffee shop."

My stomach sank like a stone. I could see where he was going with this now. He continued, a tiny smile playing at the corners of his thin mouth. "You spend half the morning in there. Now I'm not sure if it's because you simply can't figure out how to order the correct coffees or because you want to waste time, but frankly, neither of these are acceptable in this office. If this continues, I will have to cut short your internship with us, and I'm sure you wouldn't want that, now would you?"

It was a trap, and a masterful one. If I wanted to stay with the company, I would have to stop making so many trips to the shop, and if I was ejected from my internship, I'd look like an idiot. Unfortunately, I knew all too well that he and his minions would never stop with the complicated coffee orders and continual insistence that I'd made a mistake.

I was screwed. I could either suck it up and try desperately to find my footing on a sinking ship, or I could do something insane.


"I think I threw a paperweight at his head," I admitted. She raised her eyebrows at me, and I wasn't sure if she was impressed or quietly mortified. "There was some glass, anyway. I think I missed - he was still conscious when they dragged me out, and it was a big paperweight. I'm pretty sure that if it had made contact, he would have been at least mildly concussed."

Marnie stared at me. I was standing in front of her counter again, my jacket rumpled and my tie askew. I'm sure I must have looked completely out of my mind.

"So," she said after a moment. "Do you maybe want to go get lunch somewhere?"

*This is a work of fiction. I am not a man, not in love with a barista, and have never thrown a paperweight at my boss's head (even when he deserved it).

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 12:15 am (UTC)(link)
I don't know if this is a personal project or...what. But I couldn't stop reading. Scrolling up and down it at first I was a little like "well, I'll probably just read the beginning, get the gist of what's happening, and comment". That didn't happen. I read the whole thing, and found it whimsical and so true of so very many things that happen to regular every day people.

There are so many people who deserve a paperweight to the head.

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 04:33 am (UTC)(link)
It's an entry for Livejournal Idol ([ profile] therealljidol, a writing competition I'm participating in :)

And yay! I'm so glad you liked it! I know it's long, especially for an LJ entry, but I was so enjoying writing it and couldn't figure out how to trim it.

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 06:53 pm (UTC)(link)
I'll have to read up on it! sounds intriguing :D

So very glad you didn't trim any of it, the whole thing was such a great read (especially for a stormy evening) I kind of want you to write a whole book! Please?

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 10:05 pm (UTC)(link)
It's fun! And at least it keeps me writing.

Heee, now I'm blushin'. I'm actually working on a novel concept right now (though then again, when am I not?) and trying not to let my insecurities cut the knees out from under it before it even starts walking. Wish me luck!

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 12:49 am (UTC)(link)
Hahaha, this was fantastic! I love that the guy got what he deserved at the end. I hate when people play that level of mind-games with people in a professional setting.

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 04:34 am (UTC)(link)
It's definitely something most people have struggled with... unfortunately, unlike my fictional hero, most of us don't get to throw paperweights at their boss's heads.

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 01:35 am (UTC)(link)
I love this along the "Take this job and shove it" Johnny Paycheck kind of way--only you weren't being paid and a lot more physical. If it weren't for the fact you'd probably be in prison for assault and battery, I'd wish he'd been hit in his pompous head.

Well written.

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 04:34 am (UTC)(link)
Haha, well, I guess I should be more clear that it's fiction ;) I have never thrown anything at anyone's head, I don't think, except maybe a chicken leg at my sister once when we were kids.

Thank you!

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 03:02 am (UTC)(link)
Great story. It sucked me right in.

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 04:35 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you!

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 04:26 am (UTC)(link)
I thought this was you writing as you until I got the part where the writer was a man. :P

Regardless, fantastic story!

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 04:35 am (UTC)(link)
Haha yeah... I'm seeing that I should probably put more than a tag on it that it's fiction, lol.

ext_11045: (firefly: river water were her limbs)

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 03:34 pm (UTC)(link)
This is wonderful! Great job!

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 10:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you! ♥

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 09:20 pm (UTC)(link)
This was great! I like your fiction just as much as your non-fiction!

[identity profile] 2011-02-20 10:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you!! Ahh, that makes me so happy. I am pretty insecure about my fiction.

[identity profile] 2011-02-21 01:45 am (UTC)(link)
This was a really fun story! Loved the ending! You had me hooked from the beginning :)

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:03 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you! :)

[identity profile] 2011-02-21 02:37 am (UTC)(link)
Great story!

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:03 am (UTC)(link)

[identity profile] 2011-02-21 03:37 am (UTC)(link)
This was fantastic!! It was also realistic - I'm sure many of us have had bosses who have set those kinds of traps.

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:04 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you! And yes, I am all too familiar with boss mindgames. Damn their eyes!

[identity profile] 2011-02-21 04:59 am (UTC)(link)
Great story! We've all had a Scrooge type boss! Glad he got busted for how he treated the intern! AW

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:04 am (UTC)(link)
Hehe, thanks! Yes, I might have been working out some latent issues here ;)

[identity profile] 2011-02-21 12:00 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh God, the poor guy having to deal with a situation like that! At least he got the girl in the end :)

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:06 am (UTC)(link)
Well, I wanted to make sure something good happened for him!

[identity profile] 2011-02-21 03:37 pm (UTC)(link)
This was excellent!

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:06 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you!

[identity profile] 2011-02-21 03:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Very good story-telling. Kept me totally interested!

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:06 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you so much!
shadowwolf13: (Default)

[personal profile] shadowwolf13 2011-02-21 10:15 pm (UTC)(link)
*laugh* Very nice! I've certainly daydreamed about throwing something at a couple of my bosses. :)

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:06 am (UTC)(link)
Oh man, me too! I might have been working out some of those issues with this story ;)
shadowwolf13: (Default)

[personal profile] shadowwolf13 2011-02-22 01:59 pm (UTC)(link)
*laugh* I can imagine! :D I suspect that's preferable to actually doing it though. ;)

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 02:34 am (UTC)(link)
Well, still, its cathartic to read about somebody throwing a well deserved heavy item in the proper direction. Hurray for love! Boo to tyrant bosses!

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:07 am (UTC)(link)
True that! Sometimes I wish I had the nerve (and the violent tendencies), but alas, we can't have it all!

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 03:13 am (UTC)(link)
Loved this! I was hoping he'd walk out in the end. Glad to hear he went down swinging!

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 05:08 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I had to get the poor guy out of there - he was just dealing with too much ;)

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 09:03 am (UTC)(link)
This made me smile I was about as in love with her as any guy can be with a woman to whom he has spoken only of coffee.

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 07:44 pm (UTC)(link)
This was hilarious and good.

... pity.

[identity profile] 2011-02-22 10:43 pm (UTC)(link)
I was hoping this was a true story. I once had a Boss From Hell, and Ghod knows I was tempted to do something similar.

Still: Excellent story telling. Nicely done.