The Story Teller

The Trophy

When Leslie handed in her resignation, giving the customary two-weeks notice, her manager Larry astonished her by announcing that she could leave immediately. As if replying to the stunned looked on her face, he quickly added that anything she couldn’t carry out with her that morning would be boxed and shipped to her home address. He then sprung from his chair, scooped up his coffee cup, a pad, his favorite pen and his sports jacket in one continuous motion, and snapped a final reassurance that he would say her goodbyes for her at the 11 AM product team meeting and headed off. A barely audible “Good luck with the new job”, followed. His back was already turned to her, and he most certainly was out of earshot, as he exchanged replays of last night’s Jet game with Matt, before she could meekly say “Thank you”.

After a while, Les got up and walked over to her desk. She stuffed the two photos that had sat patiently on her desk for the past ten years into her handbag. She picked up her coffee mug, a brightly colored office birthday party gift, by its handle and proceeded to walk towards the nearest exit, keeping her eyes focused straight ahead towards her target, without a glance or a goodbye to any of her now ex-coworkers. To anyone passing by or bothering to look up from their PC, it must have seemed as if Les was just heading to the cafeteria for her normal ten o’clock refill.

* * *

Almost a month later, Les still hadn’t received her promised box of belongings or her last two paychecks. Numerous messages had been left with the temp that Larry had hired to fill the vacuum when Les left. HR was polite, but like Les, they were unprepared for this type of situation. Les finally decided, after several days and many sleepless nights of careful consideration, to pay Larry a visit. After all, she still had her old employee badge. Larry had never thought to ask for it back. She commandeered all her courage to ask her new boss for his permission to take a slightly longer lunch break. Without looking up from his desk or questioning her motives, her gave her nod of approval. He chuckled to himself, as he watched her leave, thinking about how she never went out for lunch, how she always took just under 15 minutes to heat up and eat the Cup of Soup that was her customary lunch, and how she ate noiselessly at her desk. Today, she looked like a woman with a mission. He wondered for a moment what that mission might be, before burying himself again in his paperwork.

Les left the office and headed towards the subway with all the anticipation of getting ready to hop on the Cyclone at Coney Island. Arriving at her old office, ten minutes later, she marched confidently past Security, and looking very much as if she belonged, she zipped through the turnstiles towards the elevator bank to await her ride up to her old desk.

Now heading down the familiar aisles, she could see the two white pay envelopes atop the pile of mail that had accumulated during the passing weeks since she had abandoned her old post. Only Anna and Greg were around to greet her. Everyone else, including Larry, Matt and the temp were at lunch. She pulled open the cabinets of her cubicle, one by one, fully expecting to find some treasure. The neatly lined up systems manuals and user documentation, she had so meticulously prepared, were already laden with dust. She dismissed the evergreen Evan Picone pumps she had tucked away in the lower left hand drawer of her desk, months before, with their shiny brass-like buckles and their well-worn heels.

Her eyes darted around, as she continued to search the other drawers of her desk, hoping to find some memento, some proof of the significant contribution she had made. But now it all looked like old stale paper. She whisked the two pay envelopes into her handbag, her eyes still sailing around her, searching for something to hold onto. And then they docked. Larry’s favorite pen with its blue rubber world eraser, perched on top, was sticking out of his pencil cup. He used to twirl this pen like a baton at meetings and thump its eraser on his desk when he was agitated. Before she could think, she had lifted the pen out of its cup, neatly pulling it under the cuff of her suit jacket. She contained her giggles with a beaming smile, gave a little Miss America wave to Anna and Greg, shaking the pen further down the sleeve towards her elbow.

She kept right on waving goodbye as she exited through the glass doors to the elevator bank. And she was still waving as the heavy metal doors of the elevator sealed her inside and hustled her away to safety. Surrounded by silent employees, she perched her chin on the tip of her fingers and stared into space with a faraway look, as if deep in analysis, all the way down to the ground floor where she was greeted by Larry and Matt. She responded to their cheery hellos with a quick wave of her hand, shaking the pen further down her sleeve. They chirped in unison as to how she liked the new job. “Great”, she shouted to the closing elevator doors as Larry and Matt were hauled back up to their desks, no doubt having resumed their endless replay of another sporting event. Then she let her prize slip into her hand.

And with a twirl of Larry’s baton, she left for the second time, without a trace.