Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: AS EASY AS PIE (12/01/16)
TITLE: Canary In A Coal Mine
By Shoba Sadler
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Frantically pushing the keys on my laptop I attempted to locate the file for my business proposal which had disappeared. I had been entrusted to put it together after only a year and a half with this company.
"Michael," I hissed over the phone. "They've sabotaged me - again. Just twenty minutes in the toilet and someone has tampered with my laptop. My meeting starts in two hours."
Michael reminded me I had emailed him the proposal before I left work last night so he could approve it. I was so relieved to see his email with the final proposal attached that I did not even mind Michael's annoying catchphrase underneath his signature: 'Easy as pie'.
When we were undergraduates at university he would often say, "Jennifer, why do you strife? When you trust God everything falls in place. Easy as pie."
"Thank you," I texted him.
"You're welcome, Mrs Flynn," he texted back, using his own surname for me. He hoped God would make me see we were destined to be married.
That was the last thing on my mind. I had a career to build. Two weeks ago, I did a mock presentation for Bruce Montgomery, the CEO of my company and my supervisor, Martin. No more than five years older than me, Bruce was poised to take the company into the multi-million dollar bracket with this proposal.
"That was quite an effort, Jennifer," Bruce said at the end of my presentation. "I got to where I am due to hard work. You're invited to my house Sunday morning. Brainstorming session with Martin and Mallory."
Had I just joined the elite club? Suddenly, all the back-stabbing and cruel pranks didn't matter anymore. I was a Christian and refused to participate in office politics. So I got shunned. Wait a minute. Was I a Christian only to my colleagues? What about my bosses?
"I'm sorry, Bruce. I will be in church on Sunday." Every fibre of my being was screaming that I was committing career suicide.
Bruce studied me intently. "There's just one thing I value more than hard work - trust. The higher I climb this corporate ladder, the less I trust people."
He had a private discussion with Martin while I collected my belongings.
"Jennifer, I'd like you to sing like a canary in a coal mine," he declared before I left the room.
I took that to mean I was to shine my brightest. I was excited again.
Armed with the proposal safe in my briefcase now, I caught up with Mallory outside the building. She was surprised and informed me I was not going. I fired rapid questions at her, but Bruce's car had pulled up and Mallory was obliged to get in.
"I'm not religious but I believe in your prayers, Jen. Please pray for us," she appealed, clearly unaware of my pain at being left behind.
For hours I wandered the streets until I found the courage to call Michael.
"Why would he say 'sing like a canary in a coal mine'?" I sobbed into the phone. I had not shared this with Michael. He was now telling me it meant sacrificing yourself to protect another. He gently chided me for having too much pride to ask Bruce what it meant.
"Where have you been?" Martin cried out the moment I walked in and ushered me into his office.
"Our competitor presented after Bruce, but the client chose our proposal. We won the contract! We also found out Alfred and Marion were supplying information to our competitor. I just fired them. Until we discovered the moles in the company, we needed to pretend you had the real proposal. Honestly Jen, I would not have let a junior staff know she was preparing a fake proposal, but Bruce tipped you off by telling you to sing like a canary in a coal mine. He obviously trusts you."
I returned to my table in a daze.
"Are you okay, Jen?" Sandra, my colleague asked with a smile. I nodded.
What a fool I had been. So self-absorbed I could not pray when Mallory asked. So paranoid with looking for enemies that I could not see the friends. It wasn't about me getting ahead. It was about working as a team and shining God's light.
I noticed a text message from Bruce: "We got the contract. Thanks for your help."
"Easy as pie," I texted back.
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