Week 20: 52-Week Writing Challenge
Word prompt – downsized
Ramsey felt God had punished him enough.
An honors graduate of Northwestern with nineteen years professional business experience should not be managing a second-rate grocery store.
He fumed thinking about the brand new sixty-foot boat his brother now owned.
Ramsey Carter’s pulse quickened remembering the sadness of his wife’s eyes viewing the photos from her sister’s European vacation.
The former new accounts director owned a boat once. Ramsey took his wife to Europe for their eleventh wedding anniversary… thirteen years ago.
But that was all in the past. The boat was sold two years ago in Ramsey’s second full year of unemployment. Unless they won the lottery, the Carters may never see Europe again.
Closing his laptop, Ramsey pinched the bridge of his noise. Grateful the new work schedule was complete, Ramsey wasn’t looking forward to the usual employee complaints. His penny-pinching regional manager decreased Ramsey’s allotted monthly staffing hours again. The deli and bakery would have to close five hours early to keep checkout lanes and customer service staffed.
Senior employees would scream. Insisting they’d already paid their dues by working the inconvenient shifts and doing grunt work, being scheduled for swing or short shifts was a slap in the face to long term staff.
Ramsey Carter agreed with them. He believed years of service and loyalty to an employer should mean something… have some value.
Or at least he used to.
He believed it right up to the day Bentek Corp’s security escorted him to the parking garage. Security manager Dick Roddy took Ramsey’s employee identification card, handed him an envelope, and walked away.
So, while understanding employee anger at their situation, Ramsey had a job to do. Take the newly allotted hours and staff the store for eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.
At least he wasn’t firing anyone. Yet.
Easing his tired body from the chair, Ramsey headed for shipping and receiving to double check the evening lock-down.
Passing through Household Goods and hearing his name called, Ramsey turned. The throbbing in his head was immediate along with the bitter taste in his mouth.
Delia Pennock, health and beauty clerk, teetered toward him on heels too high… and unsafe for the workplace.
How many times would Ramsey have to warn this woman?
Before Delia caught up to him, Ramsey’s inter-store walkie buzzed. The display showed the call was coming from Ramsey’s intended destination — shipping and receiving.
“What’s up, Minas?”
“Need you back here, Ramsey. Now.”
“On my way.”
Red-faced and out of breath, Delia reached Ramsey as he returned the walkie to his belt-clip.
“Ramsey, I know you’re working on the next schedule. Do be a dear and not schedule me for the opening shift or on the checkout stands.”
“Sorry, Delia. The schedule’s done. You open on the express checkout week two of the schedule.”
He turned to leave, but Delia caught hold of his arm. Ramsey looked back to find the bottle-blonde attempting a full-fledged pout. Pursing his lips, Ramsey stepped out of Delia’s grip.
“Ramsey! Six in the morning is just too early for someone with a social life as active as mine.”
“It’s your turn, Delia. You know the rotation.”
Delia had gall. He had to give her that. Most employee scheduling concerns were about babysitting issues, evening classes and caring for disabled family members. Only Delia would want special treatment so she could sit in a bar all night.
Though her employee file carried a birth-date making Delia thirty-nine years old, Ramsey Carter would swear in open court sitting on top of Bible-mountain she was older than his forty-seven years. Even from where he stood, Ramsey could see the layers of makeup on Delia’s face intended to hide wrinkles. It didn’t.
“I have to go, Delia. Problem in S and R. And Delia,” he looked at her feet, “the shoes.”
“Oh, okay. We’ll talk… later.”
Ramsey walked away in double-time to keep from laughing in the woman’s face.
If the employee rumor mill were to be believed, Delia Pennock lured three of the last four store managers into sexual trysts outside… and inside the store. The fourth manager was female and not into women, even though it was said Delia tried anyway.
Ramsey Carter had no intention of becoming the over-the-hill party girl’s latest conquest.
Toni Temple-Carter was the sunshine in Ramsey’s life. He’d loved her since the day she’d walked into their seventh-grade English class. But the shy, awkward Ramsey Carter resigned to be just friends with the dark-skinned beauty. For six years Ramsey watched Toni date other guys, his heart breaking piece by piece each time. When he learned Toni would also be attending Northwestern, it cheered him to know he would still get to see Toni from time to time.
Ramsey’s world spun out of control the day Toni Temple plopped down on the bench next to him in the Student Union.
“Do you like me, Ramsey… at all?”
Ramsey, still gawky at nineteen, sputtered for the right words.
“Huh? Like you? Of… of course, Toni. We’re… friends. Have been for a l-long time.”
“Why haven’t you ever asked me out?”
Ramsey’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Ask… you out? Because… I thought… we’re friends. I didn’t think-”
“Ask me out.”
“Ask me out.”
Understanding registered with Ramsey and the two young people shared a grin.
“Will you go out me, Toni?”
“Yes, Ramsey Carter. I thought you’d never ask.”
They’d been inseparable ever since, marrying five years later.
Committed to each other, the Carters had avoided most of the pitfalls which darken some marriages. When their second son entered college, Toni and Ramsey were excited about the future and making plans. Plans which imploded less than a year later when Ramsey was downsized out of Bentek Corp.
Toni was steadfast, never complaining about their financial situation. At the end of her work day, the nursing manager would often pick up extra hours in patient care to help with their household budget. Toni never blamed Ramsey or even Bentek for their lot and Ramsey was in awe of her. Each time he looked at her, Ramsey saw nothing but love in her eyes.
Other downsized Bentek employees lost everything… homes, savings, and their marriages. But Toni was Ramsey’s fortress, holding him up and shielding him from the depression which threatened to take him.
Yes, the Carters sold their boat, the cabin upstate, and their timeshares. And they no longer splurged on artsy furnishings or ate out. But they had saved their home and kept both their sons in college. Toni often said they were an unbeatable team, but Ramsey knew better. Toni’s love for him was his armor against the world, but her endless faith in him gave him the strength to keep moving forward.
When Ramsey suggested putting their artistic sides to good use by getting into the on-line graphic arts business, Toni not only agreed, but she researched and found the best on-line classes they could afford. Eighteen months later, the couple was close to realizing their dream and beginning a new journey together. Ramsey knew it would be a struggle at first, both of them working full-time while trying to start their own business. But Ramsey looked forward to the day when he was his own boss.
Opening the security door separating shipping and receiving from the rest of the store. Ramsey Carter gawked at the sight before him.
Department manager, Minas Fortuni, stood at the bay doors attempting to unbend metal around a three-foot hole in the door.
“What the hell?” Ramsey inched forward, his stomach churning at the paperwork in his immediate future. “What happened, Minas?”
Shaking his head, Minas gave up his futile attempts to close the hole.
“That last delivery guy… from Buckley Dairy… didn’t swing the back end of his trailer wide end enough. Backed right into the door. He leaned out the window and saw what he’d done. Know what he did then, Ramsey?”
The store manager stared at the hole in the door, still incredulous.
Minas continued. “He said, “Oops, sorry, dude” and drove off. Just like that.”
Ramsey hung his head defeated. He was tired, hungry and he wanted to go home. This day had to end.
Ramsey Carter decided it was time to delegate. “You busy this evening, Minas?”
“No, and I already put in a call to Rolla-Doorz. It’s going to cost extra, but they’re sending a guy over.”
“Good thinking, Minas. If you’re willing to stay and cover for me, I’ll authorize the overtime… as long as it takes.”
“Of course, I’ll stay. It’s Patty’s turn to host girls’ night. You’re saving me from watching a bunch of baby boomer females get drunk and cavort around the house to the soundtrack from “Grease.” It’s a win-win situation for us both. Go home, man… I got you covered.”
“Thanks, Minas. I owe you for this… big-time!”
Returning to his office in record time, Ramsey made quick notes about the incident and put the Buckley Dairy file on his desk for tomorrow. Before Ramsey could lock his file cabinet, Dale Johnson from the meat department leaned into his office.
“Hey, Ramsey… got a slip and fall near aisle twelve. The woman says the floor was wet and Good Buy Foods is going to pay for her pain and suffering.”
Ramsey leaned against his desk, ready to scream.
“Is the woman okay? Anything broken? Bleeding? Do we need to get paramedics here?”
Dale smirked. “Ramsey… she’s fine.”
“Is someone with her?”
“Yeah. Gail from the front desk.”
“Okay, on my way.”
Ramsey pulled an accident report from the file cabinet along with the store’s Polaroid and headed out of his office. He stopped and returned to his desk, grabbing his cell phone.
Ramsey had to let Toni know he’d be late getting home… again.