Down the Hatch

Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

“Take a seat, Miles. Drink?”

“No, no thank you. Better not.”

“Oh, go on. It’s Friday, after all.”

Miles wipes his brow and sits down at his boss’s desk, while Mr Cooke pours two generous tots of whiskey.

“It’s been a tough week, Miles.”

Miles nods.

“Have you not found it a tough week?”

“Oh, yes sir. Very tough week. Yes. I nodded.”

“You what?”

“No, I… I agreed. Tough week.”

“Let’s talk about it.” Mr Cooke pushes a glass towards Miles. “Tell me about your week.”

“Well. I had… a few problems.”

“Oh, I know, I know. Exactly how much money did you lose the company, Miles?”

Miles swallows hard. “It was, um, a little over… seven, I think. Yes, seven million.”

“Seven million. Phew! That’s quite a problem.”

“It is. And, again, I’m so, so sorry. I can’t apologise enough.”

“I know, Miles. I know. And I want you to know that I’m not angry.”

Miles finally looks his boss in the eye. “Really?”

“Really. I’m not angry. Not anymore. I’m sad. Because you’re a good guy, Miles. And a great employee. You’re dedicated. You’re loyal. You work hard. You’ve been here for two decades; you know the business inside out. And I don’t want to have to lose you.”

“I know, sir. I don’t want to lose my job, either. It won’t happen again. Nothing like this will ever happen again.”

“Do you expect me to let a mistake like this go unpunished?”

Miles pulls at the back of his shirt. Sweat is trickling from his neck to his waistband. “No. I understand that I should be reprimanded. But I hope that doesn’t involve the loss of my job.”

Mr Cooke smiles and sips at his whiskey. “What do you suggest?”

“I… It wouldn’t be right of me to make a suggestion like that, I don’t think. But, um, perhaps something like a temporary suspension? Without pay, of course. I think that would be… fair.”

“Fair?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Interesting.”

“But I’m sure that whatever disciplinary action you choose to take will be fair.”

“Yes. I think so, too. A tough week, indeed, Miles. You haven’t touched your drink.”

“I’m not much of a drinker, sir.”

“But after the week we’ve had.”

“Yes, I suppose.” Miles grasps his whiskey glass with shaking hands and brings it to his lips. He tries not to grimace as he takes a sip.

“Come on, Miles, take a real drink, will you? You’ll feel better for it. Down the hatch, old boy.”

Miles reluctantly tips back his glass and swallows the measure of whiskey in one. Mr Cooke reaches beneath his desk and –

“Argh!”

The secret hatch opens and down tumbles Miles, chair and all. Mr Cooke listens for the thud and the brief moment of silence. Then come the growls and the screams.

“What a shame,” he mutters to himself. “Though I suppose it’s good timing. The lions were getting hungry.”