Outplacement

Here’s some advice.

Never bring your children to the employment agency.

I should have known better but it was Take Your Daughter to Work Day and I had to show off. If Annie hadn’t been there, I would have gotten my new hire from a university like a sensible person and avoided a lot of trouble. Instead we piled into my Lexus and drove to the secure facility on Palomar Road. Once the guard saw my corporate ID, he snapped a salute and let us through the gate.

“Why is there barbed wire on top of the fence, daddy?”

“To protect the people inside, Annie.”

“But why?”

She gave me that inquisitive look I couldn’t resist, the one where her blue eyes cross like she’s looking at a fly on her nose. But how can you explain to a six-year-old?

The reception area was in a concrete blockhouse painted with murals of rewarding careers: workers in hardhats shouldering a steel beam, a chemist holding a beaker up to the light, and so on. We entered and approached a in a ponytail and khaki uniform with a nametag sewn on her chest. It said Barb.

“I’m looking for a new account manager,” I said.

“And he should have brown eyes and like to play dolly, too,” Annie added.

“Annie, please.”

“And how old are you?” Barb leaned over the counter.

“I’ll be seven in July.”

“It’s Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” I said.

“Annie, we have some nice books and games in the waiting room,” Barb said. “Would you like to see them?”

“No.” Annie stomped her foot. “I want to interview new hires.”

“What can I say?” I shrugged. “She takes after her mother.”

“All right. Put these on and head over to the C wing.” Barb gave us each a yellow badge. “You might consider Wilson in C-14. He’s very good with children and his time here is almost up.”

Barb buzzed us through the reinforced glass door. We took a left and headed down the corridor. Even before we got to the C wing, I could hear one-time executives barking at their imaginary subordinates. A bald man sat at a desk in the first holding pen. When he heard Annie’s penny loafers scuff the concrete floor, he sat up straight and covered the Minesweeper game on his computer with a spreadsheet. The woman in C-2 merely opened her eyes without lifting her chin off her forearm. Neither was management material. Other ex-workers paced, chewed pencils, scratched behind their ears, lay on futons in corners, and read copies of Howl. Was it any wonder they’d lost their jobs? At least the woman in C-8 wore a businesslike pantsuit. I asked a technician to bring her to the interview room.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” I asked while jingling my car keys in front of her face to test her intelligence.

C-8’s bared teeth indicated she was not the kind of employee I was looking for so I had the technician return her to her cage. Annie and I strolled to the end of the corridor but none of the candidates impressed me. I was about to turn back when Annie latched onto the bars of C-14.

“Look, daddy. It’s Wilson. Can we take him, please?”

C-14 had all the wrong signs: facial hair, scuffed shoes, and the condescending air of someone who studied philosophy in college.

“I don’t think so, pumpkin. Why don’t we go get some ice cream and come back next week?”

I would have gotten her out of there if it hadn’t been for the two technicians wheeling the meal cart.

“It’s a shame wasting a good steak dinner on someone who’s gonna get the needle, tonight,” the first said.

“Then why don’t you adopt him?” the second asked.

“I’ve already got more gardeners and maid than I can use.” The first technician opened the door to C-14. “Look what we’ve got for you, Wilson.”

“What did he mean about the needle, daddy?” Annie asked.

“After tonight they’re going to take Wilson to a big farm where there’ll be sunshine and plenty of friends for him to play with.”

Annie didn’t buy it. When I explained that Wilson would be put to sleep, she pitched a fit. Even though she’s only three feet tall, that kid is louder than a car alarm. I tried explaining it was the only humane thing to do but she wouldn’t shut up until I promised to adopt Wilson.

“You made a good choice,” Barb said back at the receptionist’s counter. “That’ll be fifteen dollars for the adoption and an extra fifty to have him neutered.” She swiped my credit card. “You can pick him up, tomorrow after his surgery.”

I didn’t have the heart to ask about their return policy so I signed the receipt, tore off a copy, and put my credit card away.

“How about that ice cream?” I lifted Annie off her feet and she wrapped her arms around my neck.

Now I’m stuck with an incompetent employee. He’ll never make it as an account manager. Maybe I’ll put him in customer service.

Ω

Jon S. Wesick has stories appearing in journals such as Space and Time, Zahir, Tales of the Talisman, Blazing Adventures, Bracelet Charm, Metal Scratches, CC&D, American Drivel Review, The Aphelion Webzine, Lullaby Hearse, Oracular Tree, MiniMAG, SamizDADA, Sunken Lines, Tabard Inn, Tidepools, Today’s Alternative News, and Words of Wisdom. He’s also published close to two hundred poems in small press journals such as The New Orphic Review, Pearl, Pudding, and Slipstream. One of his poems won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest.

Other works by Jon S. Wesick