Constructive Dismissal: 101 by Paul M Clark
I stare at the plastic sign on the door – black with the word “Boss” in white comic sans. Not like the stylish “Hugo Boss” logo, which is what I’d go for, if I was the boss. What was this about? He never wants to see anyone at such short notice. I click the door open with
my trembling hand.
His face said it wasn’t good news. Thoughts of my work performance flashed through my head like a person’s life during their final moment. I had an unblemished record. Apart from the carp incident, but everyone brings fish into work during Fish-February. How was I supposed to know it was for lunch? Slaughtering and gutting a koi with a staple-gun and a pen wasn’t the best idea, but I maintain it was my choice of tools which made people sick.
He smiles a wide grin but his eyes still show concern. No words.
Nerves make me speak first. “Is there a problem, boss?”
“I’m glad you brought this up,” he replies, elbows on the desk, fingers steepled.
He glances at the parrot in a hanging cage. Or was it a cockatoo? I didn’t know birds.
“Mrs. Benniford.” The parrotoo croaks.
“Mrs. Benniford?” I ask the parrot.
She was the woman with the brown curly hair and the tick, who chain-smoked and never spoke. Efficient worker, I believe.
Realising I’m directly addressing the bird-thing, which is against company policy, I turn back to the boss. “I thought she’d left the company.”
“She did.” The boss turns slowly towards the storage cupboard on the far wall. “But you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?”
He picks up a remote control. Not a TV remote. The sort you open garage doors with. Presses the button like a toddler using a Speak-&-Spell. The door swings open and Mrs. Benniford’s bloated body tips out, thumping onto the carpet, head wrapped in Cling Film and silver duct tape.
My heart thuds, like a bowling ball trying to push itself out of my body. I gulp down pockets of thick air but it’s not enough. Why is he showing me this? Is this is how they fire people? You hear stories. Sweat gathers behind my collar. Shirt sticking to my back.
“What’s going on?” My only words. Pathetic, I know.
“You did this,” says the parrot.
The Boss nods, angling his computer screen towards me. On it, a grainy film of badly edited clips from various CCTV cameras of me interacting with Mrs. Benniford; in the canteen, in the corridors, trying to say hello, her ignorance. My mother always told me that my unconditional politeness would be my downfall. The film then cuts to this office, showing Mrs. Benniford filing paper. A large man in a Santa Claus suit enters the room with a tube of Cling Wrap. They talk. They laugh for a few seconds. They kiss! Then she turns her back to him and sticks out her ass, suggestively.
Off camera a parrot-voice shouts, “Christian Gray. Christian Gray.”
Next, Santa wraps cling film around her head. She struggles a little. He secures it with duct tape. She goes limp. He stuffs her into the cupboard.
“Well?” asks the Boss, pressing pause.
“You think that’s me?” I say.
“Well it isn’t Santa Claus, is it?” he replies.
He’s right. Santa Claus doesn’t kill people. He gives out gifts and apparently has illicit sexual encounters with chain-smoking, broody women.
“You were Santa! You were Santa!” squawks the bird.
I look at the Boss again.
He shrugs. “Pretty conclusive. You were Santa.”
My mind races. Of course the film was not conclusive. Of course it wasn’t me. I couldn’t pass as an Elf, let alone Santa. But the Boss’s word is final - company policy. If he says I did it, then it’s true. The only witness is the bird – and lawyers know that birds make the most reliable witnesses due to their inability to lie. My breath grew erratic. There was only one thing to do.
I march over to the cage and pluck out the parrot, clenching my fist around it before it could peck my hand.
It squeaks and squeals, “Attack! Attack!”
“What are you doing?” shouts the Boss.
I look at him. His mouth agape. Perfect. Like one of those toys where kids put the stars, squares, circles, into the corresponding holes. I grab my Boss’s head and stuff the parrot into his mouth. Muffled screams from both merge into one. He coughs and blows a few times. Red and green feathers puff into the air like confetti at a wedding. Then silence. Boss slumped in the chair, head back, feathery tail protruding from his mouth.
A knock on the door! I examine the scene. Dead woman on the carpet. Dead Boss in the chair. Dead parrot in dead Boss’s throat. This would take some explaining.
Another knock. Louder.
Think… The Boss was disposing of Mrs. Benniford’s body when the parrot returned from its morning flight and was horrified because it and Benniford shared a Santa fetish that the made the Boss jealous. Subsequently enraged, the parrot flew into the boss’s throat cavity, kamikaze-style, killing them both.
The door opens. I look up. Shocked. Three members of the senior management team enter the room. I hold my breath waiting for the inevitable. Police. Courts. Electric chair – killing parrots is a capital offense.
All three applaud.
“Congratulations on your promotion,” says the assistant director. “You are the new boss.”
Two of the managers move to either side of the boss and crane him out of the chair, discarding his body onto the floor. They gesture towards the chair.
I sit. The plush leather contours my body. So comfortable. So fitting.
“We will of course dispose of the bodies,” says the assistant director again, “but tell us, what is your first decree?”
That was easy. “Change the sign on the door. I want the same font as Hugo Boss. I think it’s called Walbaum Bold.”