Short, short story – ‘Broke’

            ‘As part of our ongoing assessment of the viability of our financial base and our operating…’

            ‘Yeh I heard you first time.’  Dennis was beginning to feel careless and more confident.  The rules which had tied him for twenty one years had just fallen away.  He felt like an outsider, like a rebel.

            ‘There will be another review in three weeks where we can sit down and talk about future prospects and your employability,’ the young man smiled.

            ‘Future prospects, but you’re making me redundant, you just said redundancy?’

            ‘Well that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about your future outside this company in the wider work place.  We don’t subscribe to the idea we just drop you into nothingness.  There’s a job out there with your name on it Dennis.’

            ‘Are we done?’  Dennis slid his chair back and the man nodded and smiled again, his smile that said, I’ve done a degree in how to do this – a challenge.

            At home he switched TV on, his mind was empty.  He wasn’t even home early so Jenny could say, you’re home early?  And start the conversation, they’d done it right at the end of the day.

            ‘It’s fish, with green beans and potatoes,’  She shouts from the kitchen even though he didn’t ask.  He flicks across the channels, there isn’t anything on anymore, it’s been years since he loved anything on TV.

            ‘How was work darling?’ She was carrying a pile of perfectly folded bed sheets and towels through the living room.

            ‘They are making me redundant, I’ve got three months left there, they told me today.’  He heard her put the towels and sheets down at the bottom of the stairs waiting to go up, she came back through from the hall.

            ‘What was that darling?’  She said idly.

            ‘They’re making me redundant.’  That time she got it, Jenny put her hand to her mouth and stood there as though he’d suddenly shot her, or stabbed her.

            ‘I’ve got three months or so, I had the first meeting today.’  He felt he had to change the subject, like that was all he wanted to say on that matter, ‘Is the oven working again then?’

            ‘No…what?’

            ‘The ovens fixed, you’re cooking?’

            ‘I’m not using the oven, it’s still broken.  What are we going to do?’

            ‘Get a new oven I suppose, we only ever bloody use it for potatoes, you can do them in the microwave you know.  No more home-made bread though if we…’

            ‘I mean about your job, what are we going…I don’t care about the oven.  How can we afford an oven if you don’t have a job, listen to yourself?’  He turned the TV off and threw the remote onto the couch where it bounced once.

            ‘I need a drink.’

            ‘Dennis, talk to me, what are we going to do?’

            ‘Get another job?’  He thought about that game show where two families hear a question and they have to guess the most popular answers given.  We asked a hundred people what are we going to do and they said – get a job.  What else is up there, he thought, commit suicide, start a business, claim benefits?

            ‘Have you seen any jobs?’  She sounded hopeful.

            ‘Well I was made redundant less than an hour ago.’

 

She ran through to the kitchen then, the potatoes were boiling over and the water hissed and spat as it spilt onto the hob top.  Dennis moved over to the sofa and threw the remote back onto the chair which was right in front of the TV.  He put his legs up, positioned the arm so it was in the crick of his neck.  He thought about his office, the loo downstairs he liked to use because the one on his floor was always so busy.  He thought of the people there, their faces, like the art works around the house, familiar and comforting.  He thought about the barbeque in three weeks, would he still go?  He’d feel like he didn’t belong, like they were all talking behind his back, he’s not one of us, why has he come?

            ‘So?’  She was back.

            ‘I thought maybe you could get a full time job, and I’ll do the housework for the next twenty years.’  He didn’t know why he said it, maybe it was true, maybe he just wanted to argue.

            ‘Oh yeh, now the kids are at uni, tough job.’

            ‘You said it.’

            Her face turned sour, ‘listen, don’t take it out on me, I work hard here to keep everything ticking over, don’t you think I would have loved to spend my twenties and thirties at corporate parties and doing big sales deals or whatever you do, socialising with all those colleagues?  Well I was stuck here on my own with the kids so don’t start making out like I’ve had an easy time and you’ve…’  He had stopped listening, things felt more normal when she was shouting, his breathing regulated, he relaxed.  Maybe things weren’t so different.

            ‘Three months is a long time.’  He said and she sighed and walked back into the kitchen.

            ‘Let’s get a new oven this weekend.’ He shouted, but there was no response.

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