Flash Fiction Friday: Punch to the Gut

fffHe finds himself struggling to keep pace with fellow commuters as he goes up the subway stairs to above ground. He glances around at his fellow commuters and marvels at how uniform they are as they also climb up the stairs to the surface.

Breaking free of the crowds of commuters, he makes his way to his local coffee shop to get some fuel before facing another ordinary work day.

Sipping the hot black coffee, he smiles as he walks out of the coffee shop and heads for work two blocks away. Taking a look at his surroundings, he marvels at how beautiful the city of Chicago is at seven in the morning. Even though he's been working down in the Loop for almost two years, he still finds new things to admire and little elements he has never seen before.

As he enters his building, he smiles at the front desk as he awaits the elevator to the tenth floor.
Once the elevator opens, he and a bunch of people squeeze into the elevator and brace themselves for the next minute before the elevator closes and begins the journey to the top.

Once the elevator his his floor, he squeezes himself through four people and walks toward the entrance of his job.
Slipping through the doors, he feels an overwhelming sense of gloom hitting him in the face. This is an expected feeling, he thinks to himself, as he makes his way to his desk.

Before he can settle in, his supervisor Jacqueline asks to speak with him and he follows her into the small room in the corner of the office.

As he sits down, he sees his supervisor, manager, and HR staring at him with solemn looks on their face. He takes a sip of his coffee and then realizes just then what is going to happen.

"How are you this morning?" Jacqueline asks, barely able to look him in the eyes.

"I'm well," He answers. "What's going on here?"

Jacqueline clears her throat, "You've been a valued employee here for almost two years. You have helped our bottom line, brought fresh perspective to our office, and been an asset to our team." She takes a deep breath before continuing "Which is why this is painful to do, but due to a downturn in our sales, we've determined that we have too many Account reps on staff and that we have decided to let you go with three weeks severance and a great letter of recommendation."

He stares back at her, trying to digest the news she's just delivered to him. He can't decide if he's dreaming or not so he pinches his arms to make sure. When he sees himself still in the room, he knows it isn't a dream and decides to put on a brave face.

"I understand. I know it isn't personal, just business" He says, but secretly seething in the inside over the fact he didn't listen to his instincts nor talk going on in the break room over the last few weeks.

Jacqueline gives him a quizzical look before clearing her throat. "We will generate the recommendation letter and have it mailed to you within two business days. Also, you are eligible for unemployment so you can go ahead and file that before the end of week, too."

As she continues to explain the exit procedure, he takes out his key card and hands it over to Jacqueline before he gets up to go retrieve the full items on his desk.

He's been through lay offs before, so he knows never to bring too many things from home. He finds it makes it easier to leave if he has little to pack.

After putting his few possessions in his backpack, he says a silent good bye to his work space before leaving with Jacqueline to the elevators. Feeling as if he's doing the walk of shame after a drunken one night stand, he tries to tell himself that everything happens for a reason.

Not wanting to look at Jacqueline in the face, he gets on the elevator and heads down to the lobby.

As he waits for the elevator to hit the first floor, he feels the usual wave of emotions washing over him. He feels sad at losing a job, a failure for not listening to his instincts, uncertain over whether he wants to tell anyone he's unemployed again, and fear over losing contact with the real world due to people's general discomfort with people being out of work. He feels a sense of dread at wondering if he can afford a roof over his head or not.

Walking outside, he takes one last look at his former place of employment before turning around to walk toward his future.. whatever it might be.

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