Own Medicine

Illustration by Asata Roberson

by David O’Boyle Copyright 2021 Transient Visitors: Month 1 of 12, a Collection of Very Tiny Tales.

Harold Morton Meade took off his chukkas and sat Indian style on his chair. Once his legs were folded, he propped his keyboard on his monitor and greased down his desk with a pocket wipe.

Guillermo watched Harold’s routine from his office security monitor. If nodding off after a mid-morning coffee break was a one-time thing, Guillermo would have overlooked it. New to the company and his managerial role, he was wary of beginning his reign with an iron-fist. It could cause dissent among the ranks, even if the first head to roll fell from the body of a lazy slug like Harold.

Still, Guillermo had a job to do. Part of that job demanded a certain quality work product.  If Harold did respectable work and treated himself to an occasional snooze, that was one thing. It was another thing entirely to hand in crap so he could keep on sleeping. That process gave Guillermo two jobs to do—his own and Harold’s— and it was killing him. 

Days at the office therefore spilled into nights. Arrivals earlier. Departures later.

Guillermo rubbed his eyes. Then he looked around his office. Old coffee mugs stacked high around his desk like skyscrapers, obstructing his views. 

This had to stop. It was time for the slug to get salted.

Guillermo hit the intercom to contact his personal assistant. “Laura Lynn, please set up a meeting for me and Harold in the conference room today.”

“What time?” Laura Lynn asked.

“After lunch. Let him have a last meal,” Guillermo said.

Laura Lynn set the meeting for 3:45 pm. Harold came inside the conference room at 4:10 pm. As he sat down opposite Guillermo and Laura Lynn, he apologized for the delay. ‘An urgent matter had to be finished,’ he said, and his computer ‘wasn’t cooperating.’ Guillermo wondered if the urgent matter was a dream and his computer complications came from using his keyboard for a pillow.

“Coffee?” Laura Lynn asked.

“I’ve had more than enough today, Laura Lynn, thank you,” Guillermo said.

“Same here,” Harold said.

The consummate professionals, Guillermo and Laura Lynn refrained from informing Harold that the caffeine wasn’t working.

With the coffee situation resolved, Laura Lynn left the conference room. When she was on the other side of the door, she smiled at Guillermo through an adjacent window and gave him a nod of encouragement. First firings. Never an easy thing, she thought.

Since he knew that Harold moonlighted at one of the local oyster bars, Guillermo inquired about the seafood festival next month. The question certainly calmed tensions, but it redirected the conversation too far from Guillermo’s goal. As his boss, he should have known better. When Harold Morton Meade had the chance to talk about anything other than work, the slug turned into a salesman.

A half-hour passed without progress. Then, when Guillermo thought all hope lost, Harold tripped on his own snare. During his tired explanation on oyster preparation, Harold paused twice to warn Guillermo about ‘purchase-to-shucking-time.’

“You need to purchase the oysters and shuck them as soon as possible,” Harold said. “Let them sit too long, and they’ll suffer. When they suffer, so does your gut.”

“That reminds me of why I called this meeting, Harold,” Guillermo said.

The manager stumbled through the preamble of his five-minute firing speech. By minute two of the speech, Guillermo’s eyes got heavy. By minute three, they closed. By minute four, Harold was the only person awake in the conference room. 

Laura Lynn looked at the clock on her computer screen. The five-minute meeting with Harold had just passed the one-hour mark. What was taking so long? She headed to the conference room to see if Guillermo needed any help.

It turned out what he really needed, what both men really needed, were blankets.

Both Harold Morton Meade and Guillermo were sound asleep on opposite sides of the conference room table.

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