I get knocked off my bike on my way to work. A car pulls in front of me and I go into the curb and over the handlebars.

When I get to work, it takes less than five minutes for my boss to come out of his office and ask what’s happened. I tell him, and he tells me to go home, or to the doctors, get that shoulder and wrist seen to, get your bike fixed, anything, just don’t stay here. I say, what about the Johnson Project, I’m needed here for that, but he tells me someone else can take over for the time being. Go home. Your health’s more important than your work.

That evening he rings to ask how I am, and I tell him I have a sprained wrist and a dislocated shoulder, which they popped back in. I’m fine, though. I’ll be back in tomorrow. He says, no you won’t. You’ll take the day off. Rest. I’m not going to be the guy who forces sick people to work. I tell him, but I want to work. I can tell everyone, your boss, it was my idea. If it gets worse, I’ll take the blame. I need to work on the Johnson Project, it was my idea. But he doesn’t budge.

The next day he calls again. He asks how I’m doing, and I say, bored. DVD box sets and novels I’ve been meaning to read can only do so much. I’ll come in tomorrow. He says, don’t, it’s a Friday, basically the weekend. I say, but I’m feeling better. He says, and what does your doctor say, and he knows he’s got me.

On Saturday he checks in again, and asks if I’ve got me bike fixed yet, I’ll need that before coming back to work, no? I joke that it sounds like he doesn’t want me there, I can use the bus for a few days at least, but he knows I hate public transport, so I take my bike to the shop.

On Sunday evening I call him. I tell him I’ll be in tomorrow, no matter what. He asks whether my bike’s fixed – no – and whether I can type. I say, not really, but that still doesn’t stop me from doing everything. He says, but what’s the point of having a worker only working at twenty-five percent? I say, so you get twenty-five percent more than you would if I wasn’t there. He says, or seventy-five percent less than I would if you were fit.

The next day I call Dave in IT and ask him to set me up a roam account so I can work from home. He says our boss said I was going to do this, and if I did, to refuse. I say, but, come on, the Johnson Project, I told you about that, remember, the idea that I came up with that everyone loved, this week’s crucial, but he goes, he’s my boss too, and remember that thing that came up on my appraisal last year, he said he’ll make it disappear.

I put the phone down, fuck it, and get my jacket. He can’t keep me off work if I want to be there, I’m a good worker, but when I get to the office I can’t get in. My swipe card doesn’t work. I look at Fraser behind security and he says, hold on a minute, and makes a call.

Five minutes later my boss is in the lobby going, what are you doing here, and I say trying to work. He says, with your arm in a sling and your wrist strapped up like that? I say, yes, I need to get on with the project, this week’s crucial. He says, go home. I say, you’re actually refusing a willing worker work? He says, willing but not able. I’m willing to be Prime Minister, but could I do it? I say, you’d probably do a better job than the guy we’ve got now. He says, thanks for the compliment, but it won’t work. Go. Home. Now. Or I’ll get Fraser to throw you out. I say, come on, but he just shakes his head.

The rest of the week I stay at home. My boss doesn’t call. I call, but he doesn’t answer, so I leave messages he doesn’t reply to. I go to the office, but the minute I touch the door Fraser shakes his head. I give in. I watch DVDs, read novels, go to the doctors and get my strap and sling removed. The following week I leave it a few days before going in.

When I get there Fraser isn’t on duty, so I swipe my card – it works – and go up to my floor. It’s early and there aren’t many people about. At my desk I find a cardboard box. Inside it’s full of my things. Pictures, postcards, documents, stationery. I step out of my cubicle and head to my boss’ office and knock on the door. He calls, come in, and when I enter, he looks up and says, what are you doing here?

I say, I’m better. I’m back. Where are we on the Johnson Project, but he says, it’s done. We finished it last week. No thanks to you.

I say, what? He says, where were you? In the crucial week, too. It was your idea, and you couldn’t even be bothered to turn up for work. I say, what are you talking about? You told me to stay at home. I dislocated my shoulder, remember. And sprained my wrist. He says, and that meant you had to take over two weeks off? I say, but you said someone else would take over. He says, and they did, well too. Anyway, it’s done now. Take your box and leave. You’re fired.

I say, excuse me, but he just repeats, you’re fired. You can’t act like that, take time off when it suits you, especially during a project like that one. I tell him again that it was him that told me, but he says, told you what? To stay off? When? I laugh, every day. He says, I may have asked you to take a few days off, but that was all. You took the piss. I say, you can’t do this. I have phone calls, time stamps showing when they happened. He smiles, and you recorded them? I say, but I left messages on your machine. He says, did you? You’re welcome to check, but I don’t remember receiving any. I say, fuck you. He says, nice to see you too.

I turn, open the door, and say, I’m going higher up with this. You can’t do this.

My boss smiles, higher up? Where do you think the Johnson Project’s got me?

I look back. He’s got a box on his desk too.



22 thoughts on “Two Cardboard Boxes

    • When I started writing I wanted it to be an accident that he got screwed over, not something malicious, but it just kind of changed as I wrote. Maybe I can do a boss next time who does bad things through mismanagement or even love rather than vindictiveness. He just doesn’t realise

  1. A great story, full of intrigue and mystery. One sort of knew that your lead was going to get ‘done over’, but your style is so good that the reader just had to read on; and the mysterious ‘Johnson Project’ is genius!

      • I thought it worked very well, but that might be because I’m ridiculously paranoid, and that type of pointless duplicity from a boss figure is something I worry about. And I’ve had past bosses go from wonderful to awful in a heartbeat for no apparent reason, so in corporate America at least, it seems a pretty likely flip.

      • Thanks. Glad it was. I was hoping it would come through that he wanted him off work because he saw it as an opportunity to steal his thunder, to use the cliche

  2. I love the staccato tempo of the sentences. I feel like I got a lot of story-bang for the buck, if you will. Yes, the boss was awful, but the ‘injured party’ seemed like a little bit of a dummy. Maybe it’s just me, but when the boss starts acting a little too nice, I’m always looking around the corner for the ulterior motive.

  3. A real business opportunity: specially designed “you’re fired” cardboard boxes, with custom inserts for coffee cups and your chair cushion, The bottom is slotted so that those pencils and pens you’re stealing to retaliate against cruel capitalism will just drop out before you get two feet from your former desk. And oh, yeah – take the stairs – we don’t want to alarm anyone here before we need to.

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