THE EXECUTION OF STANLEY BEST
By Russell Waterman
Stanley Best sensed something slithering up behind him. His skin started to crawl off his bones. When he turned to look his suspicions were confirmed: it was his boss, Krishna Pyata. Krishna was dressed in his usual drab khakis, brand name sneakers and his finger styled hair had just the right amount of product spiking it in place. A devout Hindu, Krishna’s forehead was decorated with the symbolic red bindi dot. Stanley noticed that his boss’s ever present condescending grin was mysteriously missing?
Following closely behind Krishna like two puppy dogs wanting to suckle were two armed security guards who were perfectly casted for the roles of tough guys: dressed in black suits, fedoras and a distinct bulge in their jackets.
Marching through the Birney IT Institute's (whose motto: if you can imagine it, we can build it, adorned the walls) open concept floor plan they walked by several rows of the sterile warehouse styled desk furniture. Like hangmen on their way to an execution they made a beeline toward Stanley.
As they passed each row the employees seated at the elongated tables bobbed their heads in unison (mimicking the mannerisms of a drinking bird) pretending to be consumed in the company’s business, they were wise to do so, but all were silently praying Krishna and his henchmen weren’t coming for them.
It was when the brute squad, secretly named by the rank and file, stopped and breathed down Stanley’s neck that his co-workers, sitting on either side of him, took the obvious hint and vacated their seats post haste, electing to save their own skins and leaving Stanley to fight his own battles. Unlike the shootout at the OK Corral where there was an equal number of guns on both sides of the fight, this wasn’t fair in the least. Stanley was alone on his island, unarmed and against three angry men packing heat.
Stanley didn’t begrudge the men’s duties. Their job to carry out the Institute’s orders was completely valid. Given the choice and the roles reversed, Stanley would’ve done the same thing. Everyone working at the Institute had seen this same tragic comedy play out many times in recent days thanks to the recently enacted law from the State’s Dictatorial Government, so everyone knew their parts and how the play ends. Theirs was to get out of harm’s way and Stanley’s was to submit to the powers that be and accept the consequences of getting old without making a scene.
Krishna Pyata put his hand abruptly on Stanley’s shoulder, causing Stanley to fat finger his keyboard and the development of his imaginary character.
A bead of sweat popped on Stanley’s nearly bald scalp. He pushed his thick rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose and inhaled slowly, “Yes?” Answering as if he was the only one in the entire organization who didn’t know what was about to happen.
“Please gather your personal belongings and come with me,” Krishna commanded. “No, no…there’s no need to take anything else, just take your things.”
As with every forced early retirement this is when the itchy trigger fingers of the company’s rent-a-cops needed scratching. They drew their .38 caliber Glocks and held the gun barrels inches from Stanley’s head. The scent of spent powder indicated they had recently been fired. The sweat running down Stanley’s face was now a stream.
“That’s right, leave the laptop and everything else right where it is,” said Krishna, in a tone worthy of a police officer trying to talk a jumper off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Outnumbered and unarmed, Stanley saw no way out—there never was. He admitted to being three times as old as his new boss and all the new employees, but he was still in charge of all his faculties, both his intellect and his bowels. The Institute had to comply with the State or go under. Their adapted new policy was clear: anyone past thirty years of age must be immediately retired giving way to the young revolution of cutting edge innovation.
Stanley got up slowly, showing both hands were empty so as not to encourage any sudden or mistaken discharging of the Glocks aimed at his skull, the end result was never pretty. Such a misunderstanding happened just last month to Stanley’s good friend Steven Martinez, whose blood stains remain as a stark warning.
Stanley met Krishna’s stony eyes. If looks could kill, he thought.
One of the rent-a-cops named Joey snarled and waved his Glock motioning for Stanley to get moving. The State’s protocol required Stanley’s work space to be thoroughly decontaminated of any remnants of old-age in time for the arrival of the next group of young recruits.
Stanley hung his head. He wasn’t about to make any trouble. He’d seen what happened to Steven and others close to him that spoke up. Besides, he was too old for such shenanigans, but then again, wasn’t that why he was being pushed out?
Then he walked on down the hall with the rent-a-cops pushing him violently to hurry up. Stanley banged his head on the wall and collapsed. His eyes rolling around in his head like a ferris wheel. His marbles had come loose somehow and he was going mad, he was sure of it. The rent-a-cops yanked Stanley off the floor and continued where they left off.
As he staggered Stanley could hear what sounded like clapping and yelling. Still off balance Stanley couldn’t open his eyes yet for fear of vertigo. The cheering increased to rockstar status. Lining the hallway co-workers and friends smiled and yelled, “Smile! Smile!” as they snapped picture after picture. When Joey Myers shot off a streamer, Stanley hit the ground and grabbed his chest, checking for blood. Always the practical joker, Joey couldn’t help himself spooking Stanley one last time.
They continued to walk through the hallways packed with people, pushing and shoving, as everyone wanted to offer their personal congratulations and thanks for Stanley’s years of service.
Krishna draped a friendly arm over Stanley’s shoulder leading the way and laughing when Stanley reacted at every popped streamer or blown party favor.
“C’mon, Stanley, we’re almost there, everyone’s waiting for you. You’re gonna be late for your own party,” said Krishna, flashing his toothy smile and patting Stanley on the back like a long lost friend.
His old buddy Steven Martinez met them at the door with a drink in his hand, “W-What’s wrong? You look like you’re walkin’ the green mile, buddy. Retirement ain’t all that bad. It worked out for me just fine.”
Steven handed Stanley and Krishna a drink and led them into the Institute's multi-purpose room. A huge space usually reserved for meetings with the big muckety-mucks, all-hands employee meetings and company parties. A big sign hanging in front read HAPPY RETIREMENT, STANLEY. The room was decked out in colorful decorations and party favors. Each circular table had a bottle of champagne, plastic glasses and a bouquet of orchids placed in the center; they were Stanley’s wife Margie’s favorite.
When the balloons fell and Joey and Steven launched into FOR HE’S A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW is when the tears came. Stanley smiled and took it all in for a brief moment, and remembered.
Stanley wished that Margie could’ve been here to share this with him, but she died a few weeks ago from a gunshot wound fired from a .38 caliber Glock.
© Copyright 2020 – Russell Waterman