One more

“One more.  One more, and then I’ll stop.”

James had been promising himself that for the past two hours, and he kept picking up more work.  He didn’t have a choice really – there was just so much that needed to be done.  But this time – this time – he really would take a break.  He would.

He was so sick of this project.  He’d gotten into this industry to be an innovator, to shake things up and make a different.  In the end though, he felt like he was turning into one more robot on the assembly line working his nine-to-five.  Not that those were his hours, by any stretch.  Even the least of his coworkers probably added ten hours a week to that kind of schedule.  He added more.

And they’d done great things, he couldn’t deny that.  He knew what they did made a difference, but at the same time…it didn’t feel like he was making a difference.  James felt like a zombie – he gave his 110%, and the caught what sleep he could before shambling back to work the next day.  He did what he could to keep himself going, but coffee and caffeine could only do so much.

He was tired.  More than that, he was probably burned out.  How embarrassing…

No!  He shook his head vigorously, trying to shake off his doldrums.  No, he was not going to turn into one of those people who whined about working too much, or too hard.  No!  He could do this.  He was going to do this!

The door opened, and James’ boss Sean walked in with a two-inch stack of papers under his arm.

“James!  How are you doing?  I can’t believe you’re still at it.”

“I’m doing well Sean.  I’m almost finished.  What do you have there with you?”

“Some more revisions.  The bosses want us to fit them into Friday’s release.”  Sean handed the stack to James.

“Sean, it’s…” James stopped and checked his watch.  “It’s 1:32am Wednesday morning.  I don’t think we can fit these into the release at the end of the week.  Wasn’t there a blackout period on revisions that went into effect two weeks ago?”

“Yes, but these are just some last-minute, emergency changes.”

“Sean, we’re barely going to make the release date as is.  How in the world are we supposed to fit in more ’emergency changes’ into it?”

“We’ll have to figure that out.  Consider it a testament to their faith in us and our ability to follow-through.”  Sean smiled.

“Sean…we can’t.  I’m sorry, but we just can’t.”

“Nonsense.  We’ve delivered on tighter schedules in the past.  And you’re our best and brightest – I have absolute faith you’ll be able to produce another miracle with this project.”

James leafed through the stack that Sean had delivered.  These weren’t last-minute, emergency changes – several of them would require that they rework sections of the project that had already been completed.  A couple of them even invalidated the work he’d done tonight.

“Sean…” James began.

“Now, now,” Sean tsked.  “You’d best get to work.  I’ll see you in the morning James,” Sean said, moving towards the door.

That was it.  That was IT.  He’d had enough.  James stood up.

“Sean, I’m need to take a break.”

Sean turned around, “What do you mean?  You need to get to work man!  They’ll be time and time a-plenty for breaks after the Friday release.”

“Sean, I’m taking a break,” James said moving out from behind his desk.

“James, you can’t.  We just got a new stack of updates.  We need everyone to give it their all if we’re going to make the release date.”

James looked at Sean.  He’d been with the company for five years, and worked under Sean for two of them.  They were friends – they’d even gone out for drinks on occasion.  He liked Sean.

He walked past Sean and stopped in the doorway.  Slow and deliberately, he unclipped his security badge from his collar and put in on the shelf next to the door.  Turning around one last time, James said, “Sean, I’m taking a break.”

And then he left.  It was the best damn decision he ever made.

I lie for a reason 2

A writer friend of mine recently told me about a Reader’s Digest writing prompt to write a story that begins with the phrase, “The difference is, I lie for a reason.” I found the idea inspiring, and below is my second story based on that prompt.

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“The difference is, I lie for a reason.”

Jane sat there, a contented-looking smile on her face while she listened to her husband boast to his coworkers at a corporate dinner party. They’d had some hard times recently, a few lean years, but things were turning around for the two of them. And with the way things were at Tom’s law firm, the two of them weren’t in any danger of decline.

“Our clients do the most ridiculous things, and then they start mouthing off to the first person who will listen to them. But me – I lie to get them out of the messes they make for themselves. I say, ‘Your Honor, my client would never be so foolish,’ but in reality, they’re probably already digging themselves a deeper hole. I swear, some of them are probably making their next mistake before they ever even leave the courtroom.”

Tom’s coworkers laughed at this, and the closest of them gave him hearty slaps on the back. All but one of them were Partners – her husband’s peers. But they were joined by Robert Mullivan, Senior Partner and one of the members of the firm’s Leadership Committee, and it was his endorsement that catapulted Tom to his position ahead of more tenured employees. And with the way he was laughing along with the others, Jane’s husband still had Robert’s support.

“You crack me up Kid,” Robert said with a guffaw. “I had a hunch you had something significant to offer this firm, and I was right. Congratulations on your success!” Robert raised his glass, and the others joined him before swallowing their drinks in a toast.

After finishing his drink, Robert checked his watch. “And as much as I’d like to spend the rest of the night celebrating with you youngsters, my old bones and this watch are telling me I need to be on my way. If you’ll excuse me?”

“Of course Sir,” Tom said, shaking Robert’s hand in farewell. Robert turned to leave, and the remaining partners turned back to Tom to talk shop. As they closed ranks, Jane leaned in close to her husband.

“Honey,” Jane said, “I’m going to go powder my nose.”

“OK Jane – you’ll be back soon?”

“Of course Love,” Jane said, planting a peck on Tom’s cheek before walking away.

Jane heard her husband’s coworkers teasing him over that kiss as she walked away. She didn’t look back, but kept walking: past the buffet, the bar, the restroom, and out the front door. She kept a brisk pace, and caught up with Robert just as he was getting to his car.

“Robert.”

He startled, but quickly recovered. “Jane – you surprised me. What can I do for you?”

“I wanted to thank you for all you’ve done for my husband,” Jane said with a smile on her face.

“Oh – oh, you’re quite welcome,” Robert replied, looking a little anxious.

“Do you have a few minutes to spare, before you have to leave,” Jane asked, lowering her head and looking at Robert through her lashes.

“No, I really have to go,” Robert said

“We won’t be long. I promise.”

“No Jane. Tom needs to make it on his own. If I intervene every time there’s an issue, it will get out and reflect badly on all of us.”

“But there won’t’ be any issues, will there Robert?” Jane asked in slow, measured words as she approached him.

“He’s a fucking idiot! Did you hear him in there: insulting his clients in the middle of a very public setting?! It’s a miracle he’s come this far! I refuse to be a part of this any longer!”

“Now Robert, we’re just so grateful for your support. I only want to thank you on behalf of the both of us,” she said, beginning to stroke him lightly.

“Jane – we can’t…”

“Shh. Don’t worry. Everything will be OK,” Jane said, as she lowered herself to her knees and reached for Robert’s fly.

“I promise you Robert: I’ll make everything OK.”


 

Fifteen minutes later, Jane returned to her husband – her makeup as immaculate as her smile.

I lie for a reason

A writer friend of mine recently told me about a Reader’s Digest writing prompt to write a story that begins with the phrase, “The difference is, I lie for a reason.” I found the idea inspiring, though I took some liberties with its execution. But below is my story based on that prompt.

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People tell a lot of lies.  Some lie to others; others lie to themselves.  Some tell white lies, while others spread the darkest gossip.  I’m not like any of them though.

The difference is, I lie for a reason.

I lie for a man, a father, on his deathbed.  I tell him, “I love you.”  He smiles – I’m not sure if he knows I’m lying.

I lie for a woman, her hair streaked with grey.  I tell her, “You were a good wife, a good mother.”  She says nothing – I know she knows I’m lying, but I lie anyway and hope that I can convince her otherwise.

I lie to a girl who lied to me.  Once upon a time, she told me she loved me.  She didn’t.  Now, she tells me her boyfriend doesn’t beat her.  He does.  But I lie to her, and tell her that I don’t remember the last time I saw him.  I do.

The last time I saw him, the whites of his eyes shone like two full moons right after I told him a truth that left the night hushed like the twin kisses of a double-barrel shotgun.  The last time I saw him, he looked like a Jackson Pollock painting of the Invasion of Normandy.  The last time I saw him, he ran out of lies to tell me as I threw one last shovelful of dirt on an unmarked grave in the middle of nowhere.

“How could you do it?” you ask?  Maybe I’m just a stone-cold bastard.  Maybe not.  Anyway, that’s not the question you should be asking.

“Did you get the girl?”  No – but I keep an eye on her.  I listen to her lie to her acquaintances and say that she left him, and lie to her friends and say that he ran off with another woman.  Neither are true, and she knows that.  But she lies to them and to herself, out of habit or maybe just to make it through the day.  But that’s not the right question either.

“Do I think I’ll ever get caught?”  Of course not – most criminals don’t, not that I think I am one.  But for all the red this confession seems to paint on my hands, no one will ever find a body.  Even if the cops bring me into the station, they’ll never get the story out of me.  Nothing will come of it.  Anyway, that’s still not the right question.

“Why did you do it?”  Ah…now that’s a better question.  Maybe I did it for the girl; maybe I did it for myself.  Maybe I’m mad, or maybe I’m just the last righteous man in a world full of liars.  Maybe you’ll never know.

Because when I lie, I lie for a reason…

And what if I’m lying to you tonight?  That…that is the right question.  Because anything else…?  Well, how can you believe anything I’m saying?

After all, I am a liar.

Sight for sore eyes

She loved to spend her days
dancing in the light
of the summer rays.
Now isn’t that a sight.

But she cries every night
‘cause she’s lost him to the haze
of the bottle and its bite.

But tonight he finally says,
“It’s time to make things right,”
and for her mends his ways.
Now isn’t that a sight.