"Give it a rest, Jim," Madeline Massey said. "I went out with the guy one time. It's not like I'm dating him or anything."
"Ah, but, Maddy, even one date with Phil Anderson shows me how far your standards have sunk over the years," I teased. Phil works for me and I know what a sleaze ball he is.
"It's not that my standards have dropped," Maddy said. "I had to go to that damned dinner. I'd have been the only one there without a date and you were out of town. I'd have probably been a lot better off going by myself though. Phil made a real ass of himself."
"Oh, really? I hadn't heard anything except that you had gone with him. What did he do?"
"I probably shouldn't even tell you, Jim. It'll just give you more ammunition for giving me a bad time," Maddy smiled.
"You know it's just in fun, Maddy. Is it something I'm going to have to have a talk with Phil about?"
"No, It's just something I'd like to put behind me. Okay, here are the sordid details. When we got to the restaurant, Phil started bragging about himself to Mike and Louise. He knew Mike is my boss and I don't know if he was trying to make an impression on him or what."
"I think Mike's level headed enough he's not going to hold that against you," I said.
"That's not what bothers me the most," Maddy said sheepishly. "I had a chance to talk to Louise in the lady's room later and I told her I was embarrassed by him. I explained that I had never gone out with Phil, but that I needed someone to go to the dinner with me and he was available."
"I'm sure she could understand that."
"Yes, she could. That wasn't the worst of it though. She told me that Phil had been fondling her leg under the table. She said he probably had bruised ribs from her elbow."
I couldn't help it. I cracked up. Maddy and I are thirty-one years old. Phil is a year or two younger. Louise has to be well into her mid forties. "If the bastard was going to fondle someone, I'd have thought it would have been you," I managed to get out between fits of laughter.
"Oh, he did that too. I grabbed the middle finger on his left hand and bent it back nearly to his wrist. Then I quietly told him that if he touched me again, I'd break his fucking finger off and shove it up his ass."
Now we both cracked up. Maddy and I had always been comfortable together. At least for the last twenty years we had. We even tried dating for a while in high school, but it just hadn't worked out.
I'm Jim Silvers, by the way. Maddy and I both work for the same company, but in different departments. She's in sales and I'm in engineering. The dinner we were talking about was her department's annual management dinner.
Theoretically, the dinner was to go over the last year and to plan for the following year. In actuality, it was a time to pass out kudos and condemnations. It was also the time for upper management to make threats about the consequences of repeating past mistakes. Maddy was good. She didn't have to worry about the condemnations or the threats.
"Ah, Maddy, always the lady," I teased.
"Yeah, right. You're as bad as I am, Jim. I hear you had a confrontation with the VP of engineering last week."
"I don't know if I'd call it a confrontation," I told her with a rueful smile. "I did have a discussion about the merits of using substandard components to maximize company profits."
"Oh, shit! Not again! That bastard is going to cause the company to go belly up if he doesn't lay off."
"Yeah, that's pretty much what I told him. I know the company he's pushing makes cheaper programmable controllers than the ones we are using, but they don't last even half as long as our standard ones and they won't do half as much."
"If you keep bumping heads with him, Jim, he's going to eventually get rid of you and find someone who'll do it his way," Maddy warned.
"Yeah, maybe he'll put Phil in charge of Controls Engineering. I'm sure Phil would do just what he wanted."
"Phil would definitely do what Tom Jenkins wanted him to do. He'd probably bend over and take it up the butt if Tom asked him to," Maddy said.
"As I said, always the lady," I laughed.
Maddy grinned, but asked, "What would you do if Jenkins did fire you, Jim?"
"I've been thinking about that for a long time, Maddy. I think I'd start my own consulting company. I've got good contacts with all of our suppliers. I also have good relationships with all of the contractors who do our installations. I have enough money put aside so I could make it for a while if things didn't start off with a bang."
Maddy looked very thoughtful. "You know, I think you could pull it off, Jim. Our company turns down most jobs if they are less than a million dollars. You could make a lot of money just going after the smaller jobs. I could even feed you the names of the jobs we turned down."
"You could get into a lot of trouble for that, Maddy. I wouldn't want you to jeopardize your own job to supply me with information."
"I wouldn't have to, Jim. All I'd have to do is e-mail you a company name every time we turned one down because it was too small. That type of information would be common knowledge in the industry eventually anyway."
"Well, right now it's a moot point. If I ever have to get out on my own, I may take you up on it."
I had graduated from college when I was twenty-two with dual degrees in electronics and computer science. I had gone to work for Allied Systems shortly thereafter. I had eventually worked my way up and was now the manager of the Controls Engineering department. I'll have to admit I had enjoyed my work a lot more when I was a Project Engineer.
I had met Mitsy Green in my senior year in college. We had fallen immediately in lust with each other. Of course, we thought it was love and not lust. We were married about six months after I started work at Allied.
I know I put in a lot of hours at work over the first couple of years I was there and I also traveled a lot. Maybe that's what caused things to turn out the way they did. I had been with the company about two years and I was on an out of town job. There was a major flood in the area while I was there and it wiped out electrical power for the area. They were saying it might be as much as a week before the power was restored, so I came home.
I found out that day that Mitsy had a lot more lust than I had realized and that it wasn't all directed at me. To make a long story short, I caught her in bed with another guy. Later, during the divorce proceedings when she was trying to hurt me as badly as possible, she confessed to me that she had been with twenty-six other guys during the year and a half we had been married.
I immediately had myself tested for AIDS and any other STDs my doctor could think of. Luckily I was clean.
Surprisingly, the divorce didn't bother me nearly as much as I'd thought it would. I guess that's when I realized I'd never really been in love with her.
Maddy had gone to a different college than I had, then she had moved out of town for a job when she graduated. I hadn't seen her except on holidays for almost six years when she moved back into town and went to work for Allied. Our friendship seemed to pick right back up where it had left off. Maddy had never even met Mitsy, but when I started telling her tales about Mitsy, she started referring to her as "The Receptacle."
Maddy had never married, but she had been in a long term relationship with a guy. When he had lost his job for not showing up for work (he didn't tell her that was the reason of course), Maddy had supported him for six months while he laid on the sofa and claimed he was looking for work. When I found out why she'd left him, I started referring to him as "Lazy Boy."
It was on the Friday following my conversation with Maddy that Tom Jenkins called me into his office. "Sit down, Jim," he said. When I had taken a seat, he went on. "I don't suppose there's any chance you'll change your mind about using Mitsotushi programmable controllers is there?"
"No, Tom, I think I've made my position on that very clear. They cost less than the ones we are currently using, but they are of inferior quality. I think they'll cost the company more in the long run than the more expensive ones."
"Well, Jim, upper management doesn't agree with you. We feel that to be able to stay competitive we need to use Mitsotushi products. Since you're making such a big fuss over this, I'm afraid we're going to have to let you go."
"I kind of suspected something like that was going to happen, Tom. I hate to see a company like Allied go under, but with the policies you are instituting, I don't see how it can be helped."
"That's your opinion, Jim, and you're welcome to it. Since we're not giving you any notice on this, the company president has advised me to give you three months salary in lieu of notice. If you could please remove any personal items from your desk, I'll see that payroll has a check made out for you before you leave."
I cleaned out my desk and Julie from payroll brought around a check for me. I had two weeks I hadn't been paid for plus three weeks of vacation. Add that to the three months of severance pay and I had a check for a little over four months of work.
Maddy stopped by the house just after work. "I hear the bastard fired you," was the first thing out of her mouth.
"Yeah, I guess I'm on my own now. I talked with an electrical and a mechanical contractor this afternoon and both of them are willing to work with me if I can get a consulting business going. Both of them said they could split their crews for small jobs, even if they're doing something for Allied at the time."
.... There is more of this story ...