This Chapter brings the initial aftermath to the tire plant announcing its closing. Enjoy
Hangovers were a bitter reality of a decision made incorrectly. Gordon was awakened to sounds of birds’ singing which to his headache sounded worse than the buzzing of his alarm clock. His head was rattled but he was in a slight amount of panic. He wondered if waking up in this alley, was a precursor to what life will be like when it is time for him to be let go from the plant. The morning ground in the alley was not a welcoming bed. The loose gravel had imbedded on the side of his face. He had a desire for memory of last night left the same imprint.
The alley held many shadows along with the feeling of dread. Gordon wanted to find a way out as quickly as possible. He was not scheduled to be in the plant today. The union representative had a feeling after yesterday’s announcement; he needed to prepare for all of them to face a tough road. He knew the legal requirements of his job meant filing a complaint. Being the weekend no one was going to be available to help him with that. He knew he had another plan last night but the hard concrete of his bed erased it from his memory. The alcohol probably assisted as well. Gordon sat up not yet willing to test his head in the higher ground by standing. The feeling of doom seemed to rush into him as he sat straight up.
“How bad do you hate him?” A low voice came from every shadow in the alley startling Gordon. He did not doubt he heard the sentence he just wanted to know where it was coming from. The alley must have created an echo that played against his headache. The throbbing of his forehead must have added a bit of confusion to his ears because the voices changed with the direction of the sentence.
“Hello?” Gordon was a bit startled. The morning, or whatever time it was, was off to a rough start. He could not remember ever drinking so much that he woke up in an alley. “Do I know you?” The myriad of voices were not recognizable but the throbbing pain distorted everything this morning.
The voices repeated their initial question. “How bad do you hate him?”
The question insulted him. He felt he was a good man and the voices were insinuating otherwise. The source of the echo had to be easily spotted. The shadows did a good job of concealing the objects that held comfort in their blanket. Gordon focused his eyes a bit more searching the area with squinted vision.
He could not find the source of the voices. The mystery begged him off his feet. He started walking with legs that still had not awakened from the pavement slumber. Each step was a little bit unsure. Gordon felt he had explored the entire alley without a single clue to the source. A gust of wind penetrated the small area between the two buildings. Debris danced and swirled. A particular flyer landed at his feet. A soiled hand still had pebbles of small rocks from its service as a pillow from the night, grasped it.
A flood of memory rushed toward him as he read the top corner with the light blue emblem of Channel 4. The flyer showed the entire camera news team. It was an attempt to familiarize the public with the friendly television personalities. The attempt reached Gordon’s hazy memory when he looked at the soft smile of Maya Liberty. She was not prominent on the flyer but she was in his memory. The voices now made sense as his mind cleared. He did hate one man. The man who was responsible for his hangover, black eye and soon to be unemployment, was the target of his lone hatred. Nathanial needed to be removed from this planet.
“How much do you hate him?” The voices echoed once more. The question had meaning this time. Gordon knew the reason for it. He could not dismiss this as the remnants of an alcohol induced dream. The dream had logic. He knew the answer to the question.
“There is enough hate that I will break the ‘thou shall not kill’ commandment if I get the chance.” It was a confession without a doubt. The confession did not matter if this was a dream or there was not anyone to hear it.
“What would you trade for him to die?” The echo held a curiosity to the man’s conviction to the deed of ending another. The mix of male and female voices had a bit of torment within them as the tone changed with the question.
“I am willing to trade my freedom.” Gordon spat out his reply in the direction of the lone door in the alley. By logic, this was the only possible location of the original voice. “Isn’t that enough to prove my dedication?” Gordon could not believe he went from negotiating with a head of industry to arguing with a shadow. He felt this surely was a dream.
“What if I promise you a way to have him eliminated and not have to spend one day in prison? What would it be worth to you?” The voices left hints that they were struggling against something. The words spoken to Gordon were ones of a negotiation. He recognized the question. Well he recognized the format of the question despite the delivery through the chorus of the tortured. “I ask again. How much do you hate him?”
“I think it is pretty obvious the level of hatred I hold against someone if I want them dead.” Gordon was becoming a bit irritated. They seemed to be talking in a loop, and his head was pounding. The strange occurrence he found himself well entrenched, was trying the limits of his patience. “What do you get out of it?” Gordon knew there had to be a heart of the matter. He was tired of stumbling around. He wanted this conversation over and Nathanial dead.
“I just want something you will not even miss one little bit.” The red eyes met Gordon’s. They were within a few feet from him, and without any indication of movement they must have always had been there. Peering out of a dark hood that hid the rest of face, the voices still echoed from every direction. “How much do you hate him?”
“What the hell are we supposed to do now?” Jess’s voice reached a level of anger that Harold had never heard before. She was frustrated and worried, without a direct channel for those emotions they manifested to anger. Jess needed for Harold to tell her he had a plan and a solution. She needed to hear that the bills due next month were not a worry. She needed him to tell her their life, as mundane as it was, would not have to hold more sacrifice.
A barrage of words added the salt to the open wound of his pride. The partner he needed right now was not the woman who was making him pay for something he had no control. Situations such as a plant closing were becoming too frequent. The creation of even more workers to the thinning number of jobs meant Harold was probably looking toward a long time unemployed. He did not want to let Jess see that fact. He thought maybe he could be an exception to the norm. Family created a need that not every one of his fellow unemployed had to tackle.
“What the hell are we going to do?” Jess opened then slammed the drawer that held the paper copies of the bills they had owed. “These are not going away.” The impact of the slamming drawer knocked the handle slightly loose.
Harold made a mental note to tighten the handle, before it became something that would add tension. He felt like a cornered animal being pinned by the tensions of Jess and the unknown future. “I am going with Antonio tomorrow to job hunt.” The workers were given three days to allow the news of the move to sink in and for them to make plans. “We are good people. We will find a way.” Harold left the corner to move toward Jess. Wrapping his arms around her, he reassured them both with an embrace. Harold could not confess the worry he held for their future. He just knew he had to do what he could for who he held right now.
Jess immediately imagined her friend. Vanessa had to go through many changes and interruptions to their life. Jess was not sure she was strong enough to handle the tightened budget. The family did not enjoy a luxurious life; they just did the best with what they had. Now, the tight budget was the future her family was facing. Groceries alone would put a dent in their measly savings. Jess was not sure what to do other than be angry. It seemed to be the only feeling she could access. Every other emotion she held was despair, fear, or self imposed sympathy. Anger was the only thing that prevented Jess from becoming numb.
“We cannot pull from savings for long.” Jess’s eyes held a tear. She knew the small amount of funds put away were for their off spring would not suffer one day of these arguments in their future. She did not regret her life with Harold but every parent wants better for their children. She knew what a hard life was. Jess lived every breath she took in the low end of the working class. She wanted her children to have the freedom to get away from the jail of poverty.
“I know. I am hitting the job hunt first thing Monday morning.” Harold declared and made his vow in an attempt to ease the stress Jess was feeling. He held his wife’s fate had brought him tighter than he thought he had the strength. He was hurting in his pride. He was suffering the humility of putting his faith in a company that quickly discarded. Harold felt a failure that stung worse than any he could imagine. He had to tell his wife they lost their safety net. Harold never doubted she would be by his side. He did wonder if he deserved it. The writing had been on the wall, the industry was crashing as a viable career. The chances Mr. Stanley would abandon them to the pits of unemployment never felt like a reality. Mr. Stanley viewed the company and its workers as inseparable entities. That was the public message the old man always seemed to portray. Harold felt the fool for believing it completely, now he was paying the price.
Jess knew she had to support him, she felt the humility in his arms. The duo had faced adversity, but the loss of the job was a challenge she was not sure they were prepared to face. Most of the tears she had from frustration were held back. The look on Harold meant she was not sure he could handle the burden of making her cry. Life had a way of attacking them, but they had always faced it together. She admired that about Vanessa. No matter how the world took on her family it did not divide her from it. Now Jess had a chance to prove she had the same dedication. A small prayer for a better ending was whispered.
“We will get through this.” Jess said cloaked in Harold’s arms. “I know you are a smart man. You can beat this. Any company will be happy to have you.” The words were meant to provide him with inspiration. They were really words that Jess said as a small open appeal for hope. The family was about to be devastated if the words were hollow. Harold had invested in the family when a lot of men would have run. It was Jess’s turn to invest in him.
“Monday, I will hunt down a job that will keep us afloat.” He kissed her forehead as he had done time after time anytime they had faced a bit of adversity. “We are too strong for this to keep us down.”
Pen strokes hit the paper as the brown spotted fingers guided them. The tear welled in the wrinkled corner. Never would the old man have considered the announcement he had to make to his family. It tore his heart out. He felt he had little choice. The board chased the profit. The same prize as their competition chased. Every fiber of Mr. Stanley had resisted the change that so many pushed. Now, the paperwork in front of him left little doubt that it was a losing battle.
He had a bit of remorse as he signed his name and stood for a moment. He had to get away from the paper that sat in front of him. When his father had this office, he insisted that it overlook the working floor. Every expansion and plant that proceeded to be built, kept the office in the same location. It was the figurative heart of every building that held his name. Mr. Stanley wondered what good was a heart if the body was dying. The thought lead to an internal philosophical debate about if the mind of the company had turned against the heart and body.
He still remembers when the rising salesman interviewed for the promotion and sat in the chair in front of his oak desk. Nathanial was very sure of himself and talked about bringing fresh ideas. Mr. Stanley really felt he had no choice but to give the man a shot. It still amazed the company’s patriarch that the young Nathanial never seemed to age. Even when the pressures of the job increased, he stayed the same man who sat in that red felt padded chair. The old man wondered where he had failed as mentor, remembering the promise he would teach Nathanial the ropes at this very same spot. The memory haunted him as a failure in his promise. The student had fallen far away from his teachings.
When he was younger, William, a name he rarely heard these days since his father passed, remembered being mentored by the founder of this business empire. He spent many days in this office. He spent many days looking over reports before he had even completed his high school education. Looking back to the desk as he strolled around the room, he noted the paper he had just signed would have never even made it to his father’s desk. At the moment he realized he was not the man his father groomed him to be. He had fallen far from the teachings of his mentor. The difference was William Stanley felt he was the cause for failure in both circumstances. He paused a moment at his father’s painting that always overlooked the company from the wall. “I would never have dreamt this day would come.”
The silence was a small hope that the painting would answer. William wanted to hear his father’s reassurances that he made the right decision. He wanted to hear the board and Nathanial were to be trusted and it was smart to follow them. He had doubts that if his father could speak through the painting. He would have uttered those words. He felt more like the words would contain a scornful disapproval of the weakness William had to face the board. He knew his father would not let him forget that he was the one who invited the viper into the board room when he promoted Nathanial.
The pain of the moment had no cure. He knocked back another shot of his father’s scotch. He hated scotch. The unopened bottle seemed to be the only alcohol available to him. The bottle had remained sealed, bought as a gift for his father by his board of directors when the company expanded the first time. The bottle was doomed to stay sealed as age claimed his father within a few days of the gift’s arrival. William had not opened the bottle because his dislike for the type of drink. He also felt it fit the motif his father established and he never thought to change. One shot chased another; soon the contents of the bottle were disappearing.
William Stanley was not the strong man the person in the painting portrayed. The fate of the man in the painting had picked for William was a recipe for disaster. The stinging he felt just infuriated Mr. Stanley more. Wrapping his blood-stained fingers around the edges of the painting, he ripped it off the wall and tossed it to the desk. The cherry wood frame burst as it struck the corner. Mr. Stanley stood in the center of the room wishing he could have picked a different fate.
A different fate meant a possible different ending. A different fate meant that the workers who toiled tirelessly on the machines below would still have their lives intact. He would not have to put them in the unemployment line. William hated to think they would have to live a fate he had avoided. There was never a day when the Stanley family struggled with money. The torture of limited and scarce funds seemed like a nightmare that his self deemed, weak leadership had placed upon them.
The burn of the alcohol did not take away from the sting of his wrist as he collapsed on the floor against a bookcase. He was growing weary. All he could imagine was the sleep he had been denied since he made the announcement of the move. His pain was almost at an end in this world. He only wished it had been swift so he could have avoided the lamenting memories of what he had done. The legacy of William Stanley would not be a fond memory. The memory associated with his name would not include the heartfelt apology he had penned on the blood stained paper a few moments ago. He had hoped he was not too tired that when he wrote it, it would make sense to whomever found the paper.
A cold chill passed his last conscious mind as the vision of Nathanial appeared and walked through his door. The man appeared to be a bit younger as he leaned down to look into the cold eyes of his mentor. The eyes were windows to the soul the old saying goes. No soul was home to stare back. Nathanial stood and walked to the desk. Looking down at the paper that was covered in the blood of the last obstacle to his plans, he grinned. “Nope, I am sorry you don’t get to pass the blame with this.” Nathanial folded the paper and placed it in his pocket. He walked out of the room with the feeling of satisfaction.