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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)

TITLE: Smiling Faces
By dub W


The waitress hung over the table like a wet dishcloth. “So, you decided?”

“It’s late. I think I will have 'decalf' coffee and we’ll split a piece of the that lemon pie.” Kate patted Steve’s hand. “How about you, hon?

“Regular coffee, that’ll do it.”

“Gotcha.” The waitress sauntered toward the long counter of the dinner. “Gimme a wedge of that lemon pie,” she yelled at a counter worker. “Two Joes but one naked.”

Kate looked across at her husband. “Steve, what’s eating you? We had fun at the party, didn’t we? I mean when you acted out 'dirt dauber' you brought the house down.”

“Oh, just think’n about work. Sorry, I guess I’m kinda lost in thought. Yeah, we did have fun. That’s a great group.”

“Okay, what’s going on at work that you can crash and burn so, and then fake this recovery? You’re still playing the game.” Kate giggled and patted her husband’s hand.

Steve leaned back in his chair. “I don’t know. I just have a funny feeling about some of the things going on, and especially some of the new corporate people.”

“Merger’s are like that I suppose.” Kate tried to look into her husband’s eyes but he was staring at his hands. “Luckily, we teachers don’t have mergers to worry about, just bus duty.” She attempted to laugh, but Steve didn’t seem to pay attention.

“It’s a different culture.”

“Like what?”

“Well, one day last week I went to lunch with my new director. I ordered my usual sweet tea with lemon. He ordered a double Martini with a twist. “

“Is that allowed?”

Steve shook his head. “Never has been before, but like I said, this is a new world. Then he told me how we were going to thin the staff. But, I have to act as if everything is fine, while they hack our people and replace them with theirs. He assured me that my job is safe – but, sheesh, I think it’s all a charade for my benefit.” Steve wiped his forehead with his napkin.

“Wow. Honey, I didn’t know.

“I can’t say anything to anybody. I’m not supposed to even tell you. But, this is killing me. You know Karl, who is in our Sunday School class?”

“Yeah, he and Shirley were at the party tonight.”

“Karl gets his walking papers on Monday. He has been with the old company for ten years, put he’s being put on the street.”

Kate felt her face burning. “Oh, Steve. I didn’t know, I don’t know what to say.”

“Don’t say anything. Especially, to Shirley. I know Karl will blame me, cause I will be left behind.”

Kate shivered. “I won’t. But, you’re staying for sure?”

“Well.... The director said I was safe. But, as soon as that data base is transferred and all the financials squared away, my guess is that I will be out too.”

Kate felt sick at her stomach. “Steve, we can last about three months without you working.”

Steve looked up. “I called Tony today. He said, anytime I am ready I can come over. It won’t be as much money, cause it’s a small shop; but, he needs a financial analyst and auditor. I may have to start really working again.” Steve snickered.

“Well, I feel a little better. But, I hate to see you give up all the years with the company.”

Steve laughed. “Give up. The old company is gone. The new people are king. I’m a pawn. I told Tony; by month’s end they will empty the house. My guess is that I am included. So, I am giving 30 days notice next week. I will probably be out the door before 5p.m. with a severance. “

“Oh, Steve. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I couldn’t hon. It’s happening too fast.”

“Do you think Tony’s people will accept you and all that, I mean you might be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

“Tony is a Christian. He is a good businessman. He wouldn’t have offered if there wasn’t a great chance for my success. But, it will mean a bunch of changes. Like, insurance is different and all that.”

Kate leaned across the table. “Steve, it’s your decision; you and God.” A tear formed in the corner of her eye.

The waitress appeared with coffee and pie. “Anything wrong?”

Kate smiled and laughed. “Oh, no, everything is fine.”

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This article has been read 785 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 08/21/08
Oooooh, love the zinger in the last line.

A few little errors--"decaf" spelled wrong, and an apostrophe in "merger's" that doesn't belong...little nitpicky things like that. No big deal.

I like the comfortable dialogue between two obviously caring spouses.
Sunny Loomis 08/25/08
This kind of thing happens every day and you brought it to life. Good dialogue between the couple. Like the last line "everything's fine." Very well done.
LaNaye Perkins08/25/08
I saw the little typos, but we all make those. I agree with the others that the conversation between the spouses was really good and relaxed. I also liked how you portrayed the charade with the husband at work, then again with the last line. Well done!
Yvonne Blake 08/25/08
Wow... you hit it right on the nose! I'm sure this is happening everyday. Well written. (I hope you don't lose you job over it..smile.)
Catrina Bradley 08/25/08
Characterization is great, the conversation very natural. I was really feeling for this couple! And the last line really clinches the topic.
Joanney Uthe08/26/08
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. It is hard knowing that everyone in the company is being laid off and not being allowed to tell. My husband was offered more severance pay if he stuck it out until they closed the doors than if he left before that.

The worrying about the friend and his reaction is so realistic. Great entry.
Patrick Whalen08/27/08
This was very enjoyable to read. I felt as if I were in the booth right next to them listening to the whole thing. Wait, maybe I was...is my name Karl? Oh no! :)
Beth LaBuff 08/27/08
Great opening line… love the image of the waitress hanging over the table. :) I see you slipped some "sweet tea" in too. This felt so real, like a scene from today's corporate world.
Sheri Gordon08/27/08
I love how you put the 'dirt dauber' part in there--so subtle. The last line sums it all up. Nice job with the topic.
Pamela Kliewer08/27/08
Loved the dialog in this piece. Very real. You hit the topic wonderfully!
Helen Dowd08/27/08
Oh yes, life can be a charade, can't it? This couple at least shared their thoughts with each other. The real charade is when one partner tries to hide the truth from the other. This is a good example of the charade of life. I liked your title. Doesn't a smile hide a lot of things?--a smile and a hurting heart...Good piece...Helen