When Gavin Greeley Died
A flash tale of indifference in the workplace
Seventeen employees were gathered in the employee room waiting for the manager, Mr. Hutchison, to arrive and start the employee meeting. It was 8:35 in the morning and the doors of Sanger’s Department Store opened to the public at 9 a.m. sharp.
Most everyone was drinking coffee and talking quietly among themselves when Wendy Wolters looked around then spoke up, “Hey, where’s Gavin?”
Everyone looked around but then Mr. Hutchison came into the room with a legal pad and pen in hand and everyone’s focus turned to him.
“Sorry I’m a little late. I’ll make this meeting quick. Let me start with the good news. I’d like to introduce a new employee to everyone.” He pointed at a small red-haired woman in the back of the room.
“Everyone, this is Shelly Samuelson. Shelly stand up and let everyone get a look atchya.”
Shelly stood up, smiled briefly then quickly sat down.
“Shelly started yesterday in Housewares. She’s got plenty of retail experience and I think she’ll be a great addition to our team. I want everyone to give her support and encouragement and make her feel at home.”
Everyone looked at Shelly then back at Mr. Hutchison.
“And now for the bad news. As a few of you know Gavin Greeley never showed up for work yesterday. In the eight-plus years Gavin’s been working here that’s never happened. In fact I looked at his records and not once has he ever even called in sick. He’s the only employee we’ve had with perfect attendance.”
“Anyway, I called him and texted him but got no response. Well, I got a call from the sheriff this morning telling me that Gavin is dead.”
A murmur spread through the room as everyone looked at each other in astonishment.
“It… uh… it appears it was suicide.”
The murmur intensified.
Mr. Hutchison took a deep breath then cleared his throat, “Uh… We should… uh… probably take just a minute of silent prayer and then if anyone wants to say a word about Gavin please speak up.”
The moment of silence turned into a few minutes. Looking around the room at everyone’s closed mouths, Mr. Hutchison finally spoke, “Uh, doesn’t anyone have anything to say about Gavin?
Finally Wendy Wolters spoke up, “Hey listen, I’ve been working here for ten freaking years so I’ve been here for the whole time Gavin worked here. And I have to say that he was a model employee. He was really good with the customers and he always did a good job and stuff. But you know what? After working with him for eight years I don’t know the first thing about him. He was always cheerful but he never, ever talked about himself. I always thought he was a little bit weird.”
This was followed by silence as all the employees looked at each other.
Finally, Manny Morales raised his hand, “Several times over the last couple of years at the end of the day on Saturday I invited Gavin to the bar to have a drink with me and the other guys but he never once came. I finally got the hint and quit inviting him.”
Another minute or two of silence filled the room. Mr. Hutchison then tossed his legal pad down on the table as he looked at his watch, “Okay, we’re just about out of time…
Just then the shrill sound of wailing broke out from the back of the room. Everyone turned to look at the new employee, Shelly Samuelson. She was sobbing uncontrollably.
“I’m so sorry, Shelly,” said Mr. Hutchison. “Did you know Gavin?”
Shelly shook her head back and forth as she wiped tears off her face with her hands, “No, I’ve never met him.” She then scooted her chair back as she stood up, “I’m sorry, Mr. Hutchison. I know I just started yesterday but there is no way that I can work here. I’m sorry but I quit.”
With this Shelly Samuelson walked out of the employee room. The mouths of everyone in the room hung open in astonishment and a very unpleasant moment of silence ensued.
Finally, Wendy Wolters spoke up, “What the fuck is her problem?”
Another moment of silence passed and was finally broken as Mr. Hutchison spoke, “Great, now I’ve got to hire two new employees. Okay, as everyone knows the BOGO sale starts tomorrow so we’ve got to get ready for that in each of our departments. Meeting adjourned. Now go out there and sell, sell, sell!”
The room was filled with the sound of screeching chairs across the floor as all the employees stood up and left the room to go to work.
Three days later in a drizzling rain at the Evergreen Cemetery on the other side of town the casket holding the remains of Gavin Greeley was lowered into the ground. The graveside funeral was attended by almost two hundred people not one of whom worked at Sanger’s Department Store.