This story was inspired by a photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click here to see them.
Jeff groaned as yet another termination request flashed up on his computer. He hated being the one responsible for closing down accounts and these days it was even worse given the state of the economy. When he saw the name and date it was even worse. It was his friend Robert Newman and the term date was effective tomorrow. That was Robert’s birthday. He struggled all say with whether or not to tell his friend. Stickeez-R-Us had a very strict policy about such things. It could cost him his own job, but he and Robert had been friends a long time. Maybe it would be better coming from him rather than an impersonal walk to his boss’s office.
RE: Beer Tonight?
Rob. Thought you might like to grab a beer after work at The Town Pump. Let me know.
RE: Beer Tonight?
Absotively. See you there.
Jeff smiled. The scientist had always been ready for a good time. He had a great attitude and his penchant for practical jokes was well known throughout the company. Hopefully that would carry him through the next day.
He walked through the door of the local watering hole and saw Rob sitting there. The man was still wearing his bright yellow Stickeez lab coat. The sleeves were rolled up showing the wide, thick band of leather that held his steampunk watch. Reddish gray hair stick out in every direction. He had a mug of beer in front of him already two thirds gone.
“Hey man!” Jeff hoped that his tone was chipper.
Rob turned on his stool and smiled. Big blue eyes made bigger by their thick glasses. “Hey dude! Thanks for inviting me. I’ve been working hard the last couple of weeks and haven’t had much down time.”
Jeff looked around and spotted a booth off to the back. He looked at his friend. “I figured you could use an early birthday present and I’ve got something I want to bend your ear about. Mind if we sit back there?” He pointed at the booth.
Rob shook his head. “Not at all.” He gestured to the bartender and pointed to his beer. “I’ll take another one of these for my friend.” He looked back at Jeff. “Go have a seat. I’ll bring your beer.”
Jeff walked back to the booth, trying to keep his head from hanging. This was the right thing to do. He took a seat and Rob wasn’t far behind him. He took the frosty mug and downed a third of it in long swallows.
“Thirsty?” Rob smiled.
“Hard day at work. Look, I don’t want to put this off any longer than I have to. I saw an email today and I know I’m not supposed to say anything, but you’re going to get your pink slip tomorrow.” The words came out in a rush and he looked up when he was finished.
Rob’s face hadn’t changed. He still had a smile on it.
“Didn’t you hear me? You’re gonna lose your job.”
Rob nodded. “I know. I mean I didn’t know it was coming tomorrow, but I knew it was coming. Hey, working R&D for a company that makes variations on sticky notes isn’t exactly a guaranteed gig. I’ve had a good run. Thank for thinking of me.”
Jeff looked from his friend to his beer and back again. “You still look… Happy? You’ve got something percolating in the back of your mind.”
Rob shrugged. “The company has had me working on a few things that were ultra hush hush. I’ve been stressing out about it and decided that I’d tinker with something on my own. I had a breakthrough and let’s just say that the second I don’t log on to my PC at my usual time that little breakthrough will hit the production line ahead of schedule.”
That made Jeff a little uneasy. “Revenge isn’t a good idea.”
“I wouldn’t call it revenge.” Rob sipped at his beer. “It’s an idea that they’ll love eventually. They just won’t much like how it comes out. Don’t worry, when’s the last time you saw me do anything malicious? I’m not out to hurt anyone, least of all the company that’s been so good to so many people lately.” There was a less than gentle sarcasm in his tone.
Jeff thought about that. If this “surprise” wouldn’t hurt anyone except the company then who was he to tattle. If it did go badly they’d know to pin it on Rob and what did Jeff know, really? Rob could be playing one of his jokes on his friend. “Well I’m glad you’re taking it so well.”
“No guarantees in life, friend.”
He raised his glass and they clinked them together. “When you get your own pink slip, look me up. By then I may have some things you can help me with. I’ll need a computer geek one of these days.”
Jeff enjoyed the rest of their evening and didn’t think too much more about it. Breaking the news had gone better than he could have hoped and he didn’t see how anyone could get hurt.”
Days went past and in the drudgery of work and excitement of family life he had actually forgotten about the whole thing. His family was sitting around the table two weeks later when he heard the name of his company from the television in the other room. He excused himself and went to see what it was all about.
“-recall on all of their products manufactured in the previous week.” The camera pulled back from the pretty anchor and showed a young woman with a beatific smile on her face, what he could see of her face under a layer of sticky notes. “It seems a manufacturing error has led to some unintended effects. Stickeez-R-Us has said that their adhesive, when applied directly to the skin, can cause minor changes in mood. The effect is mostly positive and even the young woman pictured showed no ill effects.”
Jeff chuckled and reminded himself to send Rob a reminder about that job offer.