Fiction: The Exit

October 11, 2017 Fiction , Literature , POETRY / FICTION

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By

Sona Maniar

 

 

 

 

 

The Exit

 

 

The breakfast meeting had just concluded. The real show would now commence, Paul noted.  Any minute now Nigel would barge into his office like a volatile rooster to whinge about Dan – how delusional Dan was, how inaccurate his reading of the market was and had it not been for Nigel anchoring the firm, it would have strayed adrift a long time ago.  No sooner would Nigel leave, than Dan would step in like a wise turkey with his version of the morning’s events and express his amazement that the firm had continued with the services of a person such as Nigel and had it not been for his stock options, he would have long severed the bond with the firm.  It was a tale of a regular fight between the rooster and the turkey.  Paul would nod understandingly at both the gentlemen, by now familiar with the daily routine, how much Dan and Nigel hated each other’s guts and yet every Christmas day they would hug each other like long lost brothers.

Once the explosive rants had ceased, Paul would waltz over to the coffee vending machine where Carla, Meg and Jen would have already congregated.  Carla would whisper in a conspirator’s tone about the latest developments on the floor, who was shagging whom and what bonus the trading boys were expecting that quarter.  Meg would giggle in bursts as she absorbed the gossip, grating Paul’s nerves ever so slightly.  Jen would pretend to be interested in the conversations, though her thoughts would be largely pre-occupied with the banter on her messaging app.

At the stroke of noon, fig-faced Alfie with tufts of hair above his ears would stroll into Paul’s office with lunch ordered from the local deli.  It was the same every lunch hour – tuna salad for Alfie and a cucumber sandwich for Paul – and yet somehow they had managed to escape the fatigue of having that on a daily basis.  Paul would then ward off the afternoon inertia by inviting his ace analyst Satbir to go over the market performance.  A young turbaned Satbir would dazzle him with his superior data crunching skills and piercing insights.  “How’s the market today?” Paul would inquire.  “In the doldrums- this Goldilocks state of the economy is expected to persist”.  Satbir would reply.  “Lucky if we could eke out a small margin”.  Paul would recline in his chair, secure in the knowledge that his bonus had already been agreed.  Satbir made Paul feel proud of himself – after all, Satbir was his find, his protégé.

Paul looked around the office with deep melancholy – books on the shelves, cabinets packed with files, drawers overflowing with paper – eight years of accumulation that he would now have to pack into just three boxes.  Retirement was such a dirty word, he had once remarked.  He could go on and on but the company had decided to pull the plug now that he had reached that magical age.  He was deemed to be too old to rock and roll.  As someone famously once said that by the time a person reaches the age of 60 or so, the shape of his story has already been set; only the epilogue needs to be written.  Life continues but the bulk of the story is over.

Paul’s mind, still sharp, could retain all the financial figures for the department even as the youngsters scurried around to pull up spreadsheets and consult miscellaneous notes.  Work would come to him even after he had long departed from the firm.  That was not his worry.  But would people view him differently now that he no longer wore a corporate badge?  A mild shudder ran down his back.  Just a vast wilderness awaited him – deep and quiet, with no more promises to keep. He imagined Carla talking of his departure in a hushed voice, while Jen would punch a message in her mobile – Paul’s finally gone!

With a huge sigh, Paul picked up the first of the three boxes.  At the same time, he quietly promised himself this: No matter what, the music would continue to be wonderful.  And with that, he slow danced his way, with the box cradled in his arms like a precious new-born, towards the exit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sona Maniar

Sona Maniar is a chemical engineer from UT Austin and a MBA from INSEAD (France). She’s currently working in strategy for a large engineering conglomerate. Her short fiction has appeared in print and online magazines such as Foliate Oak Literary Journal, Woman’s Era, Jellyfish Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Quail Bell Magazine, amongst others. She also draws in comic style. More on her website:  https://sonamaniarblog.wordpress.com/

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