by Stephen Bradley
Not more than two minutes after sending her the text message his phone rang.
“They must be really struggling if they’ve crammed everyone onto the same floor.”
As usual there was no preamble when Kat phoned. She rarely wasted time identifying herself or asking if you were keeping well and would instead launch straight into what was on her mind.
“Hi,” he replied, “I thought that text would cheer you up.”
Earlier in the day he’d had a phone call from a friend of his who still worked with his old employer, the same employer that had made Kat and him redundant two years earlier. Things were apparently going from bad to worse. The workforce had more than halved since they’d been let go, many were working three day weeks and their latest economy wheeze was to cram the remaining members of staff all onto one floor of their two floor office building and attempt to sub-let the newly vacated floor despite having less than eighteen months left on their own lease.
“Did Chris tell you this?” she asked.
“Yeah, he’s not a happy bunny. Everything has been rearranged. His department, or rather what’s left of it, has been shoved up into that area beside the stairs where Bob Hampton used to sit. Apparently Chris’s work area is now that small and cramped the back of his chair almost touches the back of Liam’s chair sitting behind him. Even my old boss Ben had to move and you remember how much stuff he had accumulated over the years. When I was there I was surrounded by his filing cabinets and a wall of dusty box files that where about six inches shy of the ceiling.”
She laughed. “I remember that. No one knew you were in there.”
He went on to recall as best as he could where he’d been told other members of staff and departments had been moved to. Occasionally she’d interrupt him and ask where someone specific was, but after two years away from the job he struggled to remember many of the names to faces he’d once seen on a daily basis.
“I suppose they still have that second office up North?” she asked.
“Apparently so and there’s still only about three people in it. Chris was a little touchy on that subject and can’t understand why such a small office should remain open.”
“That’s because my old boss’s family probably still own the building. You don’t think they will actually lose that particular source of income if they can avoid it, do you?”
“I suppose not,” he conceded. “It doesn’t make economic sense though.”
“Since when has ‘economic sense’ had anything to do with it? You know what some of those Partners were like. What about the Partners anyway, have they had to move too?”
“Yes. They’re back on the shop floor with everyone else. I think Mr French will use that small office at the front of the building that he used to use before becoming Senior Partner, but the rest of them will be back on the shop floor. His big office on the top floor will only be used for meeting clients so I’m told. The rest of the smaller private offices on the top floor will be left vacant.”
She replied with gleefully disparaging remarks about how the mighty had fallen and they laughed together. Aware of her ambivalence towards Jackie, who in Kat’s eyes had only survived redundancy because she was loud, brash and had jumped on the coat tails of a then high flying junior partner, he had saved the best bit till last.
“You’ll never guess where they’re putting your old friend Jackie?”
The anticipation clearly audible in her voice, she asked where.
“Right down at the back beside the fire door.”
“You’re having a laugh,” she replied unable to disguise her delight. “But that’s probably the worst spot in the whole office. It’s cold and drafty and anytime someone wants to nip in round the back of the office from the car park they use the fire door. She’ll be like a doorwoman.”
“Now it was his turn to laugh. “I know.”
“I don’t wish them ill. I hope . . . actually I do wish them ill,” she said quickly changing her mind, her voice taking on a hard, unforgiving edge. “They made me redundant, shattered my confidence and made me feel as if I wasn’t good enough at my job. Look at them now. I know it’s not very Christian of me, but I hope they go under. If you hear anything else will you let me know?”
“Of course I will. Take it easy and enjoy the rest of your day.”
“I will now. Look after yourself. Bye!”
Stephen Bradley graduated from the Open University with a degree in History and currently volunteers at a nature reserve in Belfast. He used to be a Civil Engineering Technician but doesn’t like to talk about that.