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Shirking From Home

Shirking From Home

August 13, 2012 Hooverville, Cascadia

Shirley Loman fell asleep in her living room listening to one of her own lectures online. She awoke to the smell of her pipe burning a hole in her sofa. She quickly stamped out the flame with a pillow cushion and checked if her recorded presentation was over. Luckily she still had another five minutes to go. She looked out the back window at another gray morning and the inevitable raven perched outside.

Over the past ten years Shirley had many titles but basically the same job at Netrosonics, to do whatever CEO Billy Thoreau wanted her to do. Sometimes it was customer engagement, where she physically helped close a sale. Lately, it was giving PowerPoint presentations on Digital Information Library Data Access, a software application to make sure all company communications complied with corporate standards. She had given the same webinar so many times that no one noticed when she switched to a recording.

Working from home had its advantages. On the Internet, nobody knew she was under the influence most of the time. The stuff she was using from her West African connection was strong. Stronger than the prescribed stuff she took from her mother’s hospice after she put a pillow over the old hag’s face when the health insurance coverage ran out. She sold most of that to her usual customers during one of her rare visits to the office.

But there were disadvantages with working at home. It was difficult to use her powers of persuasion on co-workers over the phone. It was best done in person with direct eye contact. People did not even know they were pushed until it was too late. Management was aware of her abilities and kept her on the payroll but away from them. They preferred to communicate by text message. They certainly did not want her working for the competition as a sales tool or mule. Occasionally she would be trundled out as a trophy token at a trade show and then put back in her McMansion for cold storage.

Shirley grabbed and put on a clean polo shirt with company logo on it for the computer camera. Pants were optional. Appearance was everything. She could never let on that she thought other people were dupes or marks to be exploited. It was important to appear normal by liking the best selling novels, top ten music, or highest rated television shows, follow popular celebrities online. Create a warm and fuzzy mainstream façade, an act, a big con.

Camoulflage was what her wingnut father had taught her, but did not practice. This particular nut did not fall far from the twisted tree. She never discussed her father and always got nervous when he suddenly would start ranting online about creeping socialism. Sometimes people would ask her if she was any relation and she would deny it, and then send him money to keep quiet.

In fact, Shirley was a mass of extreme contradictions and hypocrisy. A fanatic of Ayn Rand and Sarah Palin, she opposed a woman’s right to choose, even though she had chosen many times. She wanted tough drug laws even when she smuggled drugs on business trips. She thought that marriage was between a man and a woman, except for Log Cabiners like her. She dittoed Rush Limbaugh even though he would definitely not ditto back. She not only bought Ted Nugent’s music, she bought his cookbook. The cognitive dissonance between her personal and public personae was not a conflict but a career. She prided herself in being able to talk her way out of anything, like the drunk driving tickets with her daughter strapped into the backseat. It was all in the spin to her.

As the online lecture ended, she stood in front of her camera. The window on her computer screen that was supposed to show the Ohio office’s conference room was black. She checked the audio but the line appeared to be dead. For a moment she thought her little fraud had been discovered, but her phone had a message about a fire at the Ohio office.

She wondered if her former lover Anita Gromex was involved or maybe even started it.

Ten tears ago they were a team. If an employee needed to be driven to suicide, you could bet that Anita was behind the wheel and Shirley would be in the backseat giving directions. While Shirley was good at manipulating people, Anita was the grand master at making things look like an accident.

Like most people, even Anita had made the mistake of trusting Shirley. A deal went south and Anita was exiled to Ohio while she got promoted to Hooverville. Shirley suspected that Anita knew she had gotten the raw end of the deal and things had been uneasy ever since.

Shirley turned on Fox News to watch a huge fireball in Ohio. A big payout like this would help Shirley’s daughter through college without resorting to her mother’s methods. Shirley would have good news when her daughter returned from her grandfather’s Idaho summer camp to cure troubled teens.

But there was no ka-ching sound on her phone. Just a message from Diana Lemon, the company fixer, saying Code Orange.

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Copyright 2012 DJ Cline All rights reserved.