You haven’t been sitting in his office for more than two seconds before your boss, Crabtrey, says, “I have to fire you, Wes.”
“Yes. I accept that. I was prepared.”
Crabtrey shuts a file folder on his desk and plops it into his outbox tray. “Okey doke. So let’s not draw this out. No need for sentimentality. Clear out all your things now. Stop back Tuesday for your final paycheck.”
You start making your way back to your desk and say, “Will do, Sir.”
“Wes.” Crabtrey calls your name so abruptly that you smash your elbow on the metal doorframe.
“I gotta ask.” You wait for him to continue and rub your throbbing elbow in an uncomfortable silence. “Why, Wes?”
“You know…I mean…you’re newly married with a baby on the way. Why’d you do it? Jeopardize your job and all?”
Since Crabtrey had never been much of a talker, you didn’t think you’d get a chance to answer a question like that, though you’d daydreamed about it several times before.
“Mr. Crabtrey, I came to understand that trying to pass as a false soothsayer was wrong.”
“Is that all part of your newfound…uhhh–” Crabtrey gestures vaguely at your topi cap and shalwar kameez outfit. You realize Crabtrey had never mentioned your clothing before, even after eighteen months had passed since you started dressing this way.
“Right. Islam.” Crabtrey pronounces the word iz-lom. “Well, doncha think folks always knew that what you wrote for this company was just for entertainment?”
“I don’t think so, Sir.”
“It’s a shame, Wes. You made this company a fortune writing those fortune-cookie inserts, among other things. You’re very creative. Sad that you resorted to this…I don’t know what to call it…stunt?”
“It’s called dawah, Sir. And I deposited the cost of all materials and shipping from my own pocket. Accounting department will reflect that when you check.”
“I felt an urge to inform as many people as I could that there is a very real punishment waiting for those whose bad deeds outweigh their good. But it isn’t too late…while you’re still alive–”
“And you thought I’d be okay with that, Wes? Nevermind the embarrassment you put on the name of this company, but did you really think any Tom, Dick, or Harry that popped open a fortune cookie in our customer’s restaurants would take your information seriously?”
“I guess–I don’t know, Sir. Maybe you’re right. Maybe it was silly. Maybe I didn’t manage to change the heart of a single person. But there is an authority, a truth, higher than the one you hold with this company. That’s the one I answer to now.”
Crabtrey doesn’t say anything further. And you mumble a goodbye before going to pack up.
The usual hum of the office is dead. You realize everyone else has gone home for the weekend. So, it’s easy to hear Crabtrey’s office phone ring. You can’t make out what he’s saying but you can tell by his rude tone that it’s Crabtrey’s wife on the line. Your skin always prickles when you hear the crudeness and the harshness he takes with his sweet wife. But, you keep your mouth shut.
As you walk past your boss’ office–cardboard box in your arms and shoulder bag slung across you–you hesitate, wondering whether you should announce that you’re leaving. You aren’t intending to eavesdrop, but you overhear part of Crabtrey’s conversation:
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I guess he’s one of them religious freaks now. Even still, I wish I had a set of balls like him. Maybe his conviction. Direction, instead of the circles I’m running.”
Crabtrey looks up, stunned. You catch each other’s eye just long enough for you to give him a nod, and a smile, before leaving.
Featured Image Credit —> Najmo