I’ve only been fired once.
It was actually quite unfair, coming as it did during my performance review.
I had been unaware, until it was presented to me, that the one woman in a company of 48 who did not care for me was my boss’s best friend.
And she had made it a point to express her displeasure.
I listened in stunned disbelief as, one week before Christmas, I was let go.
“We could put you on a performance plan,” Nancy said, smiling, “but you’d just burn anyway.”
And that, my friends, was a direct quote.
They had security walk me out, a hiccuping woman clutching both her dignity and a cardboard box stuffed with a year’s worth of work-related detritus.
Karen was already home when I got there. Two single women with their two boys. I sat at the kitchen table with my head in my hands.
“Here,” she said, handing me a shot of vodka. I held the shot dully, staring inwardly. She fished a pickle out of the jar, handed it to me.
“Nostrovya,” she said.
We downed our vodka, ate our pickles.
And in the morning, my pillow was wet with tears.
A couple months later, Karen moved out, moved in with the man who would become her husband, moved out to the country where she gained acres of land, a four-bedroom house, Rottweilers and chickens and mosquitoes and a commute that made your eyes cross.
I worked odd jobs until the next full-time opportunity came along; and Karen remained at the place I had just gotten fired from.
She would call me, from time to time, to share the gossip. So and so had a baby. So and so got a divorce.
And someone had been tampering with Nancy’s office.
Karen laughed gleefully. “Someone’s been doing things to her phone,” she whispers.
I switch ears. “Yeah? What things?”
“Yikes!” she hisses. “I gotta go.”
She called back a day later. “Did I tell you what happened to Nancy?”
Nancy. I may never like another person named “Nancy”.
“Someone came in and smeared dog poop all over her phone!”
Karen’s laughing, and from experience I know she’s going to have to wipe her eyes soon. “Her phone! Hee hee hee! Someone smeared what appears to be DOG poop on her phone and now they’re talking about setting up surveillance video! Oops. Shoot. I gotta go.”
She hangs up.
That afternoon, I flip through my mail: bills, circulars – and a newsletter from my old place of employment: Sales are up, costs are down, a recipe from someone in Marketing.
And a short article, written by Karen, about her Rottweilers.
I run to the phone.
“Good afternoon, Free Market Slave Trade.”
“May I speak with Karen, please?”
Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking, and when she passes –
“Good afternoon. This is Karen.”
I utter a string of excitable curse words, and Karen starts laughing. “What’s going on with you?”
“I know who smeared the dog poop on Nancy’s phone!”
The line goes absolutely silent.
“Karen, did you just write an article for your company’s newsletter?”
“More to the point, did you write about your dogs?”
The silence, if possible, becomes even more silent.
“!@#$!@*!! They’re going to fire me,” she says, finally.
“Nah,” I said. “They got nothin'. You look like an angel, and everyone loves you.”
She sighs. “I gotta go,” she says.
“She just made me so damn mad,” she says.
“I love you,” I say.
“I love you, too.”
And we laugh.
The surveillance camera never went up, Nancy was fired less than a year later, and the mystery of who smeared the dog poop on her phone remained, officially, unsolved.