This story has been inspired by the following prompts:
Today’s things are: thirteen, midlife crisis, past
Never Looked Back
The alarm went off next to the bed. The demanding, screaming noise designed to wake anyone up from the deepest dream, possibly even a coma. It did nothing for his nerves. Reaching over he put his hand in a glass of water before finally reaching the alarm’s snooze button, then the off switch. Opening one eye, Jeremy Bartholomew Fletcher, known to his friends as J.B. relinquished his dream of staying in bed and glanced at the clock. It was 4:45 am. Life began again, the same old routine. He worked in the Tax office as an accountant and he was currently striving for promotion. He’d been getting in early and working late for two months. His last report had said he was doing well but they needed to see more dedication from him before they could consider him ready for promotion.
Rising, he stretched and wiped his crusty eyes then ran for the bathroom. He was regular as clockwork. After a shave and shower he began to feel more human. Over his bowl of cornflakes his mind drifted back to the past. His thirteen-year-old self had been so positive and full of confidence. He hadn’t wanted to be an accountant then, oh no. He’d wanted to be an artist. He used to love drawing and painting, but he hated being told what to paint. He wanted to paint what was in his own head, something that came from within. He had a talent for it, he could draw anything. Cartoon characters had been his speciality. Unfortunately, by the time he had finished school he had no longer the confidence or desire to be an artist. His parents, his teachers and his friends had all told him he wasn’t an artist, he should study mathematics instead. He had a natural flair for figures they said. He did, but he hated them too.
J.B. entered the office and switched on his computer. Before he had a chance to put in his password the rather intimidating figure of the Director came over. Mr. Bradshaw was the same age as he was. Middle aged was such an unpleasant term but he had to admit it applied to both him and his boss adequately. He’d actually started the same time as Larry Bradshaw but he had seemed to get on much quicker and so while he was only a junior accounts officer, Larry had now reached the level of Deputy accounts director. He had developed an overbearing and domineering manner too since those old days when they use to have a laugh in the pub. Those days quickly ended as soon as Larry had got his first promotion.
“Can I have a word Jeremy, In my office? It won’t take a moment.”
J.B followed Mr Bradshaw back into his small office at the end of the corridor. It had glass petition walls and blinds that were normally kept closed except when Mr Bradshaw had wanted to ensure everyone was working but didn’t want to leave his room.
Mr Bradshaw sat in his black leather swivel chair and indicated the plastic chair in front of his desk for J.B. to sit into.
Larry had that terrible habit of a lot of suited men, of sitting in their chair and letting their legs fall open, as if they needed to cool down their nether regions. It looked rather apelike and never ceased to make J.B’s stomach heave slightly. He also couldn’t help notice something weird about Mr Bradshaw’s flies. He seemed to have a little pink smear on them. He wouldn’t have noticed if Mr Bradshaw hadn’t been flaunting the area.
Looking quickly up into his boss’s eyes he asked “So what did you want to speak to me about?”
“Well, Jeremy, I understand you have submitted an expression of interest in that new Senior Accounts Officer position that’s come available.?”
“Yes, that’s right. I am keen to get on, I’ve been in my current position for over ten years now.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that. You’ve been in the department twenty years too, haven’t you?”
“Twenty-one in April. I am really eager to get on. I know I have drifted for a while but I’ve been getting in much earlier and working longer hours. I have caught up on my backlog and I’ve even began working on that new development project with Debbie Stevens.”
“I have noticed you’d been putting in extra hours. Don’t think that I am not appreciative of that. But, I have to be blunt here, you are really not cut out to be a senior accounts officer. You need constant dedication and a certain amount of get-up-and-go. I think you should withdraw your expression of interest. I don’t think you stand much chance of getting it.”
Feeling totally crushed and demoralised, J.B dropped his eyes and saw that pink smudge again. It made him think for a second.
“Has someone else expressed an interest in that position too?” he asked.
“Yes, actually Debbie Stevens has, she’s much more the kind of young executive that I would expect to get the position.”
Something snapped in his head. He was forty and had worked his backside off for twenty years for this department. Well, actually he turned up every day and had done the bare minimum for most of time, he’d only started working hard recently, but still it burned. The thought that here was a man who had started the same time and had been promoted several times had the gall to tell him he hadn’t got what it took. He had been teetering on the edge of a midlife crisis for a while now, but this just tipped him over the edge.
“Well that’s it then. I am sick to death of this, constantly being passed up from promotion. I have trained most of the people in this team you know? Many of them have got promotion on the back of my advice. I realise now that I have been used. Well I am not going to take this any longer. You can take your job and shove it where the sun don’t shine, although you probably think it does. I trained Debbie Stevens too, you know? Clearly, she had some talents that I didn’t teach her. You appear to have her lipstick on your flies.”
J.B stormed out of the room, grabbed his bag and started towards the lifts. Then he saw Debbie over by the photocopier with Suzie, Sharron and Calvin. He walked over and smiled at her. He reached out his hand to her and she gave him a bemused look and took it.
“Congratulations Debbie, I think you’ve got that Senior Accounts Officer position. Well done.”
She blushed slightly. “Oh, thanks Jeremy, but weren’t you going for it too?”
“No, I’ve decided it’s not for me. I’m leaving instead. Good luck, Debbie. Your lipstick’s smeared, by the way. Nice shade of pink. ‘Bye.”
Then he walked to the lift, got in and waved good-bye.
That was a few years ago now. Since then he followed his dream and become an artist. He’s never looked back.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty: 21/July/2018