CEO 1

Wait, what did you say?” Dave was in his wife’s office. She was the head honcho of the division, the big cheese. Dave, he was a lowly accounts representative, quite a bit down the food chain. he was a little nervous at first when she came on board, but there were several levels of management between them, so it was all good, he thought. Maybe not.

“You’re numbers are way down, Mr. Waxman. You were the worst performer of the year in your division. I’m afraid we had no choice. X is waiting outside to escort you to your office to collect your things.” X stood for Xavier, one of their two security guards.

The had always called each other Mr. and Ms. in work settings, to keep it more professional. She kept her last name for professional reasons, so she said, but everybody in the office knew they were married. He even had a picture of her on his desk, of her shaking the hand of the Chairman of the Board as she received her promotion.

“That’s it? Nine years of loyal service to this company and I’m terminated because my numbers are off? If you had bothered to listen to me, you would know…”

“Please, stop. The decision has been made. Let’s not make it any harder than it has to be.”

For some reason, that struck him as funny. “Listen, Pink, I mean Ms Patterson, I really…”

She must have hit some button, because all of a sudden three hundred pounds of black muscle was in the room with them. “Xavier, would you please escort Mr. Waxman to his desk to collect his things? Best of luck to you Mr. Waxman, perhaps this will encourage you to try harder at your next position.”

X definitely looked embarrassed, but he had his own job to do. Dave looked at him and grinned. “C’mon X. Like the lady said, let’s not make it any harder than it has to be.”

She was still talking when Dave went out the door. Everyone avoided looking at him, which told him most of them knew beforehand. That definitely didn’t improve his mood. He walked slowly, looking those who would glance at him in the eye. They looked away every time, and the women actually blushed. He kept very little in the way of personal items in his office, so it didn’t take fifteen minutes to pack one small box. He was walking out when X spoke.

“You forgot this, Mr. Waxman,” he said, handing Dave the expensive pen and pencil set she had given him when he made Salesman Of The Year the first time. Dave looked at it for a second and dropped it in the wastebasket with her picture.

“No, I didn’t”

X drove Dave home, so he could take the company car back. After several attempts at conversation he got the message and shut up. As Dave got out, X reached over to shake my hand. Dave took it, because it was just his job and he really liked the guy. “Sorry, man. Sorry it happened like that.”

Dave grinned, even though he didn’t feel like it. “Me, too.”

He walked in, looking at the house as if it was the very first time he ever saw it. He realized suddenly there was very little of his presence in the house. It seemed she was minimalizing him at home as well as work. It made him wonder if he had a performance issue at home, and if he’d be canned for not keeping his numbers up.

She came in about seven, late even for her. Dave was watching a baseball game and didn’t even look up. “Hi, honey, sorry I’m late. Meetings ran over, you know how the Board loves the sound of their own voices.”

He didn’t respond, just kept watching the game. She looked at him for a minute before deciding to try a different track. “What’s for dinner?”

It had been their practice over the years that whoever got home first made dinner. It had occurred to him as he examined their relationship that she probably hadn’t fixed dinner more than a dozen times in the last year, and most of those times were because he was traveling.

“Whatever you decide to fix yourself. I’ve already eaten.”

She just stared for a minute before she opened her mouth and started the worst fight of their marriage. “Surely you’re not mad about today. It was a business decision, honey. It had nothing to do with you personally. I still love you just as much.”

“For an executive and a fairly intelligent person, I can’t help but think in this case you’re a fucking moron! And by the way, yes, I am angry. In fact, I’m pissed beyond words. You handled the whole thing very badly. Had I ever gotten an unfavorable review in all the time I’d worked there? Where’s the paper trail of warnings, counseling and reprimands? Sure, my numbers were down, but there’s a very good reason. One you never bothered to discover. I…”

“Stop begging! I’m sure I did the right thing professionally.”

It shocked him so badly that he did stop talking for a minute. She smiled and started to speak, but he exploded. “Fuck you, the Board, and every other asshole in the company! YOU WERE NOT PROFESSIONAL, YOU WERE NOT REASONABLE, AND YOU DAMN SURE WEREN’T INTERESTED IN ANYTHING I HAD TO SAY. Tell me, how much input did Adler have in this?”

She was reeling at his outburst. She actually stuttered for a minute before she got it out. “He’s been concerned for months, and was very nervous when he brought me the numbers. You had gone from being one of our top producers to the absolute worst. I had no choice! I had to send the message that no matter who you were, if you didn’t produce, you were gone. It was the only way I had to keep the respect of the people under me.”

“Once again, a fucking moron. I’ve been thinking all afternoon, now that I had some free time. When did you stop respecting me as a man and an employee? If you’d had the least bit of love for me, personally, or regard, professionally, you would have handled this completely differently. You could have tried talking to me, give me a heads up, and if it got bad, you could have offered me a chance to resign. Do you have any idea how hard it’s going to be for me to find another position? If I can’t perform well enough for my wife, someone who is supposed to love me, why would strangers trust me to do a good job? You’ve fucked me in this town; I’ll have a hell of a time landing a job now. It not like I can whip out a glowing review from my old company, now is it? I’ve said enough. If we continue, we, or rather I, may say some things that can’t be taken back. Why don’t you get some dinner, and I’ll finish watching the game.”

She tried one more time. “I never thought you’d take it so badly. It’s just business, honey. We’ll be fine. And don’t worry about a job; I make more than enough to keep us…”

Dave held up his hand. “Please, stop while you’re losing. I’d bet you’d love to turn me into a househusband; it would cement your reputation as a tough as nails CEO. I can hear them now. ‘Watch out for that one. She’s so tough she fired her husband and turned him into a little house bitch. Bet she’s the one who’s on top when they fuck, if she isn’t banging him with a strapon. Wonder if she makes him wear panties around the house?’ Well, you can forget that shit. I’ll eventually land another position somewhere, even if it’s not here. Now please, stop talking.”

He’d finally managed to piss her off. “Fine! Sulk! Get angry! It might give you enough motivation to do a good job next time. FYI, honey, your little tantrum put the skids on the extra good loving I had intended to give you tonight. Looks like it’ll be you and your fingers if you want any release in the near future.”

He shrugged. “Fine. At least they won’t fire me if I don’t perform as expected.”

That one hit her hard. She tried forming words until she finally screamed in frustration and stomped out of the room. He heard her rattling pans in the kitchen, so he assumed she made her dinner. A little while later, he heard her go up the stairs. She came back in the ‘absolutely no sex for you tonight’ outfit: an old tee shirt and ratty sweatpants. It seemed to upset that he didn’t comment. They sat, and he let the silence stretch. Finally she spoke.

“I’m sorry, okay? I wrestled with it a long time before I made the decision. I do love you, and it isn’t the end of the world. We can…”

“We can stop talking about it. What’s done is done, and you can’t unring the bell. I’m going to bed. I need to get up early and put some feelers out, see if I can salvage anything out of the fiasco you turned my life into. Good night.”

She floundered for something to say, before settling on “I’ll be up in a little while.”

He was already asleep when she woke him with her scream. Seems when she changed, she never noticed that his things were gone. He was in the largest guestroom with attached bath, and planned to stay there a while. Soon she was knocking on the door, demanding that he let her in. Dave just turned back over, wondering how mad she’d be when she realized he’d changed the lock on the door and she didn’t have a key. Ten minutes later he heard the lock rattle. A few minutes after that he heard a sigh, and then went to sleep.

Jen brought her boss her standard coffee and pastry the next morning, as well as her own. She had been with her since her first promotion, as secretary, and later private assistant. Jen loved Bev for how she treated her, and was the one person in the company who was able to tell her the truth without worry of repercussions. Jen pulled a chair next to the desk, and they went through their morning ritual of coffee and personal time.

“How’d it go when you got home?”

Her boss sighed. “Not good. Not good at all. He said more swear words in two hours than I’ve heard from him in all the years we’ve been together. Apparently, when he’s angry the truth comes out, and he thinks very little of my management skills. He even moved out of the bedroom, and changed the lock on the one he moved into. Have I told you he threw the pen set he kept on his desk in the trash? Along with my picture? Really, why is he taking it so hard?”

Jen looked at her boss with sad eyes. “I warned you. You should have left him some dignity. The way you did it was really cold, boss.”

“I had to do it that way! I was sending a message to everyone. No one is bulletproof if you’re not performing to standard. How did the rank and file take it?”

“Truth?”

“Always.”

“Well, Bev, it’s divided. Most of the men and some of the women think you’re a screaming bitch. A few admire you, but it’s very few. A surprising number are updating their resumes, saying that a company that fires people with no warning whatsoever is not a company they want to work for. Two more of your salesmen say they’ve seen the writing on the wall. One already has an interview lined up, and I suspect that in two-week’s time, he’ll be gone. The other is thinking about relocating to be closer to his aging parents, and this is the incentive he says he needs.”

Beverly couldn’t believe her words. This wasn’t what she had in mind at all. She thought that if she showed them regardless of whom it was, she meant business when it came to the company, everyone would work harder. She had no intention of sparking an exodus. This could be very bad. Very, very bad. She knew that in a couple of years she would be in line for a board seat, maybe eventually Chairman. This might slow those plans down considerably.

Jen brought her back to reality. “What are you going to do about your husband?”

She waved her hands dismissively, still thinking about her job. “Give him a little time and space, I guess. He really does love me, he’ll come around.”

Jen had an idea it was going to take more than that, but held her silence. She had been loyal to Beverly all these years, but if things got bad, if people started leaving, she needed an exit plan. She had her own family to worry about…

*****

Dave spent the next three weeks being spectacularly unproductive. He stopped going to the gym, stopped eating right and was drunk more than he was sober. He did nothing around the house, leaving a mess wherever he felt like. Bev tried being supportive at first, enduring his cutting remarks, until finally sinking into silence. He did note that she spent a lot more time at work. Evidently, she felt more comfortable there, where she was Queen.

He then went through a phase of not bathing. After three days Bev finally had enough. “For God’s sake, Dave, man up! You stink and you’ve got a pretty good start on a pot belly. You might like living like a pig, but I don’t. I’m sorry, all right? I could have handled it better, but as you said, I can’t unring the bell.”

Her face softened. “Please honey, I miss the old you. I miss you in our bed, and I miss you in me. It’s been almost a month, why won’t you come back to me?”

Dave held up his fingers and wiggled them. “I’m kind of involved now. They seem to love me, and have never once complained about my performance, or offered to terminate me. Besides, you’re already in a committed relationship.”

She went white, then red. “You asshole! I have never cheated on you, not once in all the time we’ve been married. Although I have to admit, once the word got out we weren’t getting along that well, I’ve had offers.”

“We’ll get back to that in just a minute. And you’ve cheated on me our whole marriage. Not with a man, but with a job. It will always have first call on your time, you will always put it first above any needs I may have. Know how many anniversaries we’ve missed celebrating together? Eight, out of thirteen years. Something was always more important at work than spending time with the man you supposedly loved above all others. Don’t get me started on missed birthdays, the times you broke commitments with both our parents and good friends. Ever notice how rarely you see your parents now, or how many old friends we used to have that we haven’t socialized with in years? You just never seem to be able to spare the time. I’m really glad now we never had children, they would think they were living in a single parent home because they would never see you. As for your offers, how many have come from people higher in the organization? I can’t imagine you fucking down; it would have to be someone who could help your career somehow.”

Dave felt bad for her for just a second, looking at the pained expression on her face. He quickly got over it when she slapped the hell out of him, the first time either had ever touched the other in anger. He looked about thirty minutes later, and the print was still on his cheek.

“You sonofabitch! Don’t you know I’m doing all this for us, so we can retire while we’re both still young enough to enjoy it? So I’m not Miss Congeniality, and I apologized every time I missed an anniversary or major event in our lives. And we agreed no children, I couldn’t afford the distraction, so don’t throw that up to me. As for the offers, yes, some were from people who could help my career, but I would never have an affair, because I still love you and could never betray you like that. You need to get your act together, so get showered, dressed, shaved, and let the woman who loves you take you out for dinner.”

She stopped, out of breath from emotion and the long speech. He gave her a sad smile. “Sorry, I’ve already had dinner, three burritos and a large fry. And on the subject of children, I didn’t want to be a biological dead end. I loved you so much at the time, though, that the choice was easy. Still hurt, though, when my clients used to pull out pictures of their families. What was I going to show them? We don’t even have a fucking dog.

“You’re right though, the pity party has to stop. I’m going upstairs to shower, shave, and try to turn back in to a real person. I’ll hit the gym three times a day for a while, after all, what else do I have to do? Thanks for the motivational seminar.”

She just stood there in shock, from the words and the fact that she’d hit her husband. Bev was smart enough not to follow him, although when he got downstairs she was very contrite and apologized.

“I’m sorry, but you don’t know how hard this is on me. One business decision shouldn’t destroy a good marriage like this. Please, I’m sorry I had to fire you, but it was in the best interests of the company. Like I’ve told you many times before, it was just business. It doesn’t mean I love you any less.”

He sighed. “Look, Bev, I know you think in your heart you did the right thing. Firing me was just the final straw. I’ve played second fiddle to your career our whole marriage, and frankly, I’m done. I hope the Board chair can keep you warm at night, and that the raises and accolades will make up for the loss of grandchildren to dote on. I hope your success fills the void of a sterile life, without family or close friends.”

He paused. “And is it hard on you because you regret how you handled things and hurt me so badly, or is it hard because suddenly people are leaving? You created a hostile work environment when you did this to me. People don’t respect you anymore, they fear you, afraid you’ll arbitrarily fire them at any time. That can’t be conducive to a productive workforce. Don’t look so shocked; I actually had friends there, and every time I see one they fill me in. And before you ask, I say nothing to denigrate you; I only say you were sure of your actions at the time. I’m curious as to how you’re going to handle it when the numbers drop and the Chairman pops round for a visit. Better hire a really good spin doctor, if you don’t already have one.”

Dave sighed, quietly. “Bev, I shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to tell you now this is going to get a lot worse. Be prepared for what’s coming in the next few weeks. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some serious gym time to make up for.”

Beverly was lying in bed, feeling sorry for herself, going over the conversation when it hit her. he said “I loved you so much at the time” She was still wondering if he still loved her when she finally drifted off into a fitful sleep.

*****

Beverly found herself sitting with Jen three days later, pouring her heart out. “I just don’t know what to do any longer. Everything I say or try he turns around on me. I’m beginning to understand he’s carried these resentments around for years, but held them in. He hasn’t touched me sexually in almost eight weeks. I had to buy a vibrator to keep the edge off or I’d be climbing the walls. I can’t believe he turned down the job opportunity I wrangled for him. He didn’t even wait for me to get home; he came here while you were running an errand for me, and exploded. I’m very glad it was lunch time and most everyone was out of the office or in the break room.”

“Why did he get so angry when you were just trying to help him?”

“Well, I had to promise the President over there I’d spread a little of our business his way if he helped me out. Things were going well until the final sit-down, and the guy laid it out. He was only hiring him as a direct favor to me and only then after I had made some concessions. He told Dave he was giving him the absolutely worst territory, and if he didn’t bring the numbers up quickly he wouldn’t make it past the probation period. Just because your wife carried you all those years, he told him, he wouldn’t be as understanding.”

“What did Dave do?”

“He stood up, and politely thanked the man for the interview, then he turned and left, coming straight here. The President called me just after he left, and raised hell with me because he just walked out. Then he demanded that I keep my commitment to him.”

They changed the subject, talking general business, when the receptionist called and said she had a gentleman there who wanted to see Bev, but he didn’t have an appointment. “He says he only needs five minutes, if you would be so kind. He says he has something to deliver.”

Contact me at : [email protected]

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