Morris staggered into his cubicle, dressed in his requisite suit-and-tie, and dropped his leather satchel onto the top of his desk. He looked tired and groggy as he hung his coat up in his gray cubicle in his gray office.
His supervisor, Will, stared across the aisle from inside his cubicle, and watched as Morris situated himself.
“Yo,” Morris said, bleary-eyed, when he noticed Will watching him.
“Hey, Morris,” responded Will, “how’s it going?”
He coughed. “Alright, I guess.”
“Whoa, don’t sound so enthusiastic.”
“It’s Monday, and my weekend was long, if you get my meaning. I should’ve called out but I need to give that presentation today.”
“Still feeling up for it?”
“I should be alright,” Morris said as he sat down. “So where’s Doug? I didn’t see him in his cube when I passed. He’s usually here by now. Did he call out?”
“Gone? Gone where?”
“To another department?”
“Nope. Let go.”
“He was fired?” Morris asked in disbelief.
“No, he was let go,” Will stated. “There’s a difference.”
“If they let you go here, you can still collect unemployment. If you’re fired, you can’t. I guess they took pity on him.”
“Why was he…‘let go,’ as you say?”
Will slightly turned in his swivel chair as he said: “Remember what you told me last week, about how you overheard Doug mumbling to himself about how much he hated his job?”
“That’s what did it.”
“Are you serious?” Morris said, surprised. “I only told you that as a goof. I never thought that’d be grounds enough for him to get fired.”
“Let go,” Will calmly corrected.
“Fired, let go, the end result’s still the same,” Morris said, failing to comprehend the logic behind the decision. “That comment wasn’t enough for him to lose his job, in my opinion.”
“Excuse the cliché,” Will said as he stood up and walked to Morris’s cubicle, “but it was the tip of the iceberg. Don’t get me wrong, Doug had some glowing references and a good track record, but there were some…questionable things that popped up on his background check. Red flags, if you will.”
“I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Come on, who am I gonna tell?”
“Well…no, I shouldn’t. It’s confidential.”
“I still think that firing…letting him go was a bit harsh,” Morris said, looking up at Will with a disapproving glare.
“In this day and age,” said Will without emotion, “you gotta snuff out any possible anomalies as soon as you notice them.”
“Oh, come on, man. Everyone around here mumbles to themselves about how much they hate their job every once in a while.”
“Like I said, it wasn’t just his comments. In addition to the red flags on his due diligence, his work’s been slipping lately and a few people have reported…strange behavior.”
“I can’t say.”
Morris shook his head. “I don’t get it. He always seemed like a good guy.”
“That’s why he fits the profile.”
“Profile for what?”
“Come on, don’t you watch the news? If we kept him around, who knows if he’d come in here with a gun and start blowing people away? Or build a bomb and set it off in the cafeteria during lunch?”
“Are you kidding me? How paranoid are you?”
“This isn’t about me. This is about the welfare of the company and the people who work for it.”
“How do you know he wasn’t just having a bad run of luck that he’d snap out of soon?” Morris questioned.
“Can’t take that chance,” Will answered with pragmatic calm.
Morris looked away. “I feel bad for him.”
He turned back to Will: “What if he really was having a bad string of luck and this sets him over the edge?”
“Like Denis Leary said: ‘Life sucks, buy a helmet.’”
Morris stared at him, wondering how someone could be so bluntly and emotionally cold. “Oh yeah? What if he really does flip out and starts looking for people? He knows where you live, remember?”
“And he also knows about my closet full of hunting rifles and hand guns, all with up-to-date permits,” Will responded gravely.
“God, I can’t believe we’re even talking about this.”
“Sign o’ the times, Morris.”
“I’m still of the mind that firing…letting him go…was a bit extreme.”
“Extreme or not, it was necessary. Trust me, in a week, we’ll have a replacement for him and all will be right with the world.” Will looked at his watch. “I’m going for a coffee. You want one?”
“No thanks. I had one on the way here.”
“Okay, see you later,” Will said as he walked away.
Morris hit the power button on his computer and sat back in his chair. As he waited for the machine to boot up, he thought about Doug and wondered how his ex-coworker was doing in the wake of his dismissal. Morris considered trying to get in touch with Doug but remembered that, outside of a few words here and there in passing, they never established much of a relationship inside or outside of the office. Now, he wished he’d done so, if only to find out how he was coping with the situation.
He pondered the matter for a few more moments before shifting his attention toward his workload for the day.