Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Stanley

"The Good, The Bad, and The Stanley"
(written May 2009)
Aaron M. Smith

Stanley’s boss looked up from the pile of Xeroxes on his desk.
“You’re quitting?”
“That’s right, Mister McMahon. I’m quitting.”
Mr. McMahon’s dark, heavy-lidded eyes rolled up to look Stanley right in the face. Somehow he managed to convey irritation and pity in the same glance.
“Just like that?” His monotone voice drawled.
“That’s right. I’m moving away from town, too.”
“You know, Stanley,” Mr. McMahon squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’re really going to be leaving me in a spot.”
“There are plenty of people who can make shoelaces, Mister McMahon. I won’t be hard to replace.” Stanley smirked, for the first time in the eight years he’d worked for Mr. McMahon. “Didn’t you tell me that, once?”
“You know we’ve got a shipment of eleven eyelets that’s got to go out in three weeks,” Mr. McMahon continued unabated. “Eleven eyelets, Stanley.”
“You’re just going to have to find someone else to add those extra twenty-four millimeters, Mister McMahon.”
For the first time in Stanley’s memory, Mr. McMahon made eye contact with him.
“And jut what are you going to do, Stanley?” His sunken eyes tracked across Stanley’s plaid western shirt, his wide belt with huge silver Texas-shaped belt buckle, his too-tight jeans, and his leather boots without a stain on them.
“I’m moving to Texas.” Stanley pushed his glasses up onto his nose proudly.
“To be a cowboy?” The monotone drawl seated behind the metal desk said.
“I’m going to get a job on a cattle ranch.”
“And be a cowboy.”
“I have a cousin that lives outside of Austin. He knows someplace where I can stay when I get there.”
“Have you ever seen a cow, Stanley? They’re big.”
“A lot of people are moving out there, learn to live off the land. They all want to go to ranches. There’s a place that’s hiring.”
“Hiring middle aged office workers who want to be cowboys?”
“I’m going to learn to ride a horse. Maybe shoot a gun.”
“Stanley,” Mr. McMahon’s voice rose, just a little bit. “Are you serious?”
“More serious than I’ve ever been about shoelaces, Mister McMahon.”
They locked eyes for a second more. Finally, Mr. McMahon looked away and yanked on a drawer on his desk. It took two pulls before it screeched open. He rifled through the mess of papers inside and finally drew out a slip of paper.
“Here’s your final paycheck, then.” He passed Stanley the slip of paper. “Do you need anything else? Letter of recommendation?”
Stanley took the slip of paper and turned without a word. He strode out of the office into the open work space, his boots clip-clopping loudly across the bare concrete floor. He’d already cleaned out his desk; all that lay on it now was his ten-gallon hat, where he’d placed it that morning. Just as he reached the desk, the lady from Human Resources and a young man in a white shirt and red tie reached it as well.
“And this will be your workspace,” she was saying, but stopped when she noticed Stanley. She and the young man in the tie looked at him for a moment.
“Who are you?” said the man in the tie.
Stanley plopped the hat onto his head and tugged it down until it obscured his eyes from the young man. “I’m you in eight years, kid.”
Then, every eye of every worker in the entire space enviously on him, Stanley strode away to freedom.

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