By Nora Vasconcelos
James leaned his head towards the sliding doors of the subway wagon he was traveling on.
It was only then when he noticed a man wearing a Santa Claus suit. This made him feel worst.
Being fired hadn’t been bad enough. The company had waited until the last minute, on Christmas day, to let him know that he was no longer an employee of Sweets & Snacks.
“Don’t take it personal, Jimmie. With all these people going on a diet, and the new laws and taxes discouraging people from buying products like ours, we have to downsize the company if we want to give enough money to our Research and Development department, so they can come up with new sweets and snacks that fit into these new trends. Besides, you had mentioned that you wanted to take some time off to spend it with your family. Look at this as an opportunity to make it up to them.”
James knew they were right, but he just couldn’t understand how he was the only one chosen to go. He tought things were going okay, more than okay!
He had put on many extra hours all the year, getting the financial department in working order, after the previous manager had left the company with a self-paid ‘bonus’.
With nobody noticing it, 8,000 dollars had ‘disappeared’ from the petty cash box. It was only until James started working in the company, 12 months ago that, little by little, he put together all the pieces of the puzzle, noticing the frecuent visits the manager made to the cash area, with silly excuses such as a parking fine, when everybody new he walked from his apartment to the office, or those tickets for takeaway orders at late hours, when no pizza nor chinese packages were anywhere to be seen the following morning.
One day, in December last year, James arrived to the office thinking it’d be business as usual, until he saw the manager going out of the director’s office, ushered by two very tall and strong police officers. On his way out, he looked at James and yield at him ‘you’ll pay for this, Jimmie. I swear to it.’
Next thing he knew, he was the new manager. The big boss had offered him a nice pay raise and an office with a magnificent view of the new fashionable tall buildings in the city.
Then, his job became his whole life, and his office, his new home. James worked over Christmas and New Year’s. He also missed all the birthays and school events of his three kids, and his wife got tired of listening to him saying ‘I’ll make it up to you.’
Twelve months later, when the financial deparment was operating under a new set of standards and procedures, and the company had recovered not only the money stolen by the previous manager, but had got a very nice profit, despite the new trends in the market, James thought that he’d finally have time to spend with his family, and with his Christmas bonus he would take his wife on a wonderful trip around Europe, all the main shopping malls included.
It was then when all went wrong. All of a sudden he found himself without a job, leaving the building with his dreams broken and a silly check that hardly covered a month of his salary. ‘This are tough times, Jimmie,’ his ex-boss’ words resounded in his head.
‘Luckily’ he’d been allowed to take his things with him, all awkwardly positioned inside a cardboard box that the day before had contained some of the monthly supplies of paper for the copy machine.
An ordinary letter of recommendetion was part of the stuff he had filled the box with, along with several photos of his wife and kids, and some brochures that a travel agent had given to him a few days before, with all sort of European tours.
Of course, he had to return the company car; so, now, he was riding the subway. And here he was, with his head leaning on the sliding doors, watching the man disguised as Santa Claus.
How was he going to tell his wife and kids that he had been fired?, he wondered.
He took his sight apart from Santa, and looked intensely toward the railway. All inside the tunnel was dark. The only light that he could see came from the train.
Then a strange thought crossed his mind …what if? He shivered.
He turned his face back and saw Santa playing with a little girl, they both were laughing. Memories of the happy times with his family took over his mind. Then, that somber idea crossed his mind again …what if?
He contemplated the idea for a little longer this time. After all, he’d become a stranger now, his family might as well be better without him. At least they would have the insurance money.
Then, the unexpected happened. The sliding doors opened when the train was traveling at a high speed between two stations.
James was expelled of the wagon with such violence that not even strong and magical Santa could hold onto his legs on his efforts to bring him back into the train.
While flying away towards the immense oscurity of the tunnel, people on the train could listen to James calling out for help, screaming with his voice full of terror: I don’t want to die!
* * *
To be continued next week :)