The New Boss by cyravance© Everyone was sorry Harding was leaving. He had been our office manager since before I started there three years ago, and a kinder, more understanding man one would be scarcely able to imagine. Although our particular unit was never at the top of the list as far as productivity was concerned, we did exceed all others in employee satisfaction. Attendance was exemplary, people who worked here simply did not call out very often. And why should they? We were one happy bunch, people actually looked forward to coming to work. So, it was with some trepidation that we waited to learn who our new boss would be. Would he, or she, be as easy going, as laid back as Harding? Tough to do, to be sure, but even if his replacement was half as nice, it would be ok. "So, any of you guys find out who we're getting?" It was Lola, who answered the phones and directed calls. Lola was especially nervous, as she was, well, lets be kind and say she was often a wee bit slow on the uptake. She was the one who always had to have to jokes explained to her afterwards. Nice woman, just not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Only a boss like Harding would have the patience to deal with her, and she knew it. "I don't know, haven't heard anything yet." I told her. "But I hear that we might find out this afternoon." "Oh God, Carla, what if he's a toughy, like that Baxter over in receivable?" She twisted the bottom of her blouse, the way she did when nervous. Poor Lola was obviously a wreck, probably imagining she'd get fired straight away, and she needed this job desperately. Baxter was known to be a real hard-ass, and fired people for the slightest infractions. Baxter's unit was definitely not the happy place ours was. Oh Lord, I thought, spare us another Baxter! "Don't worry, Lola, I'm sure it will all be fine." I lied, because I wasn't at all sure it would be. "Hey Derek, why don't you take Lola over to the cafeteria and get her a coffee." I glanced at Lola, fiddling with the blouse bottom, looking like someone facing impending execution. "And, make it a decaf, before she rips that shirt to shreds." Derek gently took Lola by the arm, "C'mon girl, lets take a break." I silently mouthed a "Thank you" to Derek as he walked her off to the elevators. He winked back at me, made an 'OK' with his fingers. Derek was good people. Everyone in our unit was good people, we all looked out for each other. While other units had their folks at each other's throats and were thick with office politics, ours had none of those problems. We were like a little family here. Well, now "Daddy" was going away, and we were to get a new "Daddy", and everyone was on edge, wondering if things would ever be the same. I was especially worried. During the past 8 months or so, I had discovered a way to bring in a few extra bucks. I happen to be a fairly competent writer, and had been trying my hand at short stories. They were, uh, very special kinds of stories. Some would call them porn, but I preferred to think of them as erotic. Small difference, perhaps, but to me it was a critical one. Porn is just sex, sex, sex, with any 'story' used simply to tie the various sexual acts together. And usually not very well, but then, the audience for porn really didn't care if in chapter one the heroine went to school in Seattle, and in chapter three she went to Ohio U, as long as she got on her knees sometime before graduation. Mine were a step up from that, or so I believed. And evidently, others did as well, because the stories were selling. I wasn't getting rich, but the extra money was quite welcome. I wouldn't be able to quit my day job anytime soon, I needed the benefits, but I had been able to sock quite a bit away. The problem was, I had been doing most of my writing at work. Harding knew I was freelancing, but as long as I got my regular work done, it didn't seem to concern him. He never even asked what I was writing, and never begrudged me the use of office equipment as long as I didn't take advantage. And I didn't. It was a cozy little arrangement. But what would happen now? Although I was careful to delete everything before I left for the day, I was concerned about how I would be able to continue now. Writing at home was tough, with the husband and kids around I couldn't really concentrate on the subject matter, and was petrified that one of the kids might stumble across something I had written. Working from the office had been the perfect solution. Now, all that could change. And I wasn't very happy about it. As I was contemplating this new reality, Margie, the unit secretary, interrupted my thoughts. "Carla, he's here. The new guy. He wants to see us all in his office." I shook myself out of my reverie and looked up at her. "Well?" I asked. "What's he like?" "Oh God, he seems like a prick." She leaned over, spoke quietly, "The first thing he said to me was 'How do you people even have jobs? This place is a mess, and I'm going to straighten it out." She stood back up. "I'll tell you, he ain't no Harding." This is what I was afraid of. I could see, in my mind's eye, all my extra money drying up. I just couldn't do this writing from home, and if I couldn't do it from work, I didn't know how I would be able to continue. So, with these thoughts heavy on my mind, I rose and joined Margie. We walked over to Harding's office, Harding's old office, that is. Everyone was already in there. The two of us joined them, I could see that Lola had been working overtime at that blouse, the bottom edge was pulled and twisted all around the front, I guessed the decaf hadn't helped. I glanced around quickly at the eight of us standing there, everyone wore a grim expression, Lola looked to be on the edge of tears. Whatever was happening in here, it wasn't good. Our new boss was sitting behind his desk, (Harding's desk, I thought with annoyance.) He was young, at least younger than Harding. He was impeccably dressed, militantly groomed. His hair was dark, his eyes a steely blue. He looked angry. "And you must be Miss Ryan." he said, glaring at me. "You may call me Mr. Ronen. Please join us. We are going over the new rules that will be going into effect, starting today." He sat back in the chair, looked over all of us, and spoke. "This place is a disorganized mess. Your previous boss obviously let you all get away with murder here, this is going to stop." He paused, then continued. "This will stop. Today. This office is going to be run properly from now on. You will all do your jobs," and, glaring at me, "and nothing but your jobs while you are here. I expect you to do exemplary work, to be on time, to be efficient and professional. I will tolerate nothing less. I have no problem firing anyone who does not perform to my standards. And, my standards are high, very high." He looked around at all of us, his eyes stopped when they reached me. "There will be no personal business conducted on my time, from my office. Anyone found violating that will be terminated, without warning." I felt my heart begin to pound in my chest. Why was he looking at me when he said that? He couldn't possibly know what I had been doing, I was careful to delete everything before I left for the day. I must be getting paranoid, I thought. He spoke for a few more minutes, but I really wasn't listening, too deeply wrapped up in my own private thoughts to pay attention. The faces of my co-workers were grim, unsmiling, as he went on. Finally, we were dismissed, but as we all started to leave, he spoke again. "Miss Ryan, I will need to see you later, before you leave for the day. We have some things to discuss." That was it, then. I was busted, as they say. Somehow he knew, he just knew, what I had been doing. I tried to think of something to say, anything, but he cut me off. "We won't talk about this now. Go back to your desk and do your work, we will discuss this later." It was a dismissal. I left, my knees shaking, my stomach doing flip-flops as I went to my desk and began to sort through the items that needed attention. But I couldn't keep my mind on the job. I was trying on various excuses for my behavior, and trying to figure out how in hell this guy happened to find me out in the first place. The afternoon dragged on. I kept looking at the clock, waiting for 5 o'clock, wondering if I would have a job tomorrow. He had said he would "terminate without warning", but might he give me a second chance? I tried to come up with some argument I could use to convince him he should. I really needed this job, the writing alone was not going to cover my expenses, and jobs are not easy to find these days. Sick to my stomach, I worked through the rest of the day in a fog of thought and worry.