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Drama Fiction

He had endured a lengthy career. In recent years he had also become aware that his end date in the workplace loomed ever nearer. The signs were everywhere. Interaction with his coworkers had become non-existent. There was a time when all he seemed to do was attend meetings. He had shaken his head and complained to his wife often, explaining that he worked long hours because he could not complete his work because of all the meetings he had to attend. Everyone wanted to hear his opinion. Now he was invisible. He received invitations to only the most general meetings, the kind that was directed at everyone on the team. Yesterday he had overheard his frenemy John refer to him as a dinosaur. 

The company had initially been a small mom-and-pop type. Bill started working for the company in accounting when he was twenty-eight. The owner was eccentric but devoted to the company and had a strong work ethic.  Bill found the owner's behavior more amusing than irritating, and they developed a solid working relationship over the years. The accounting team consisted of the owner's wife and Bill. Twelve years after Bill signed on, the owner's wife, who headed up accounting, retired. Ten years later, the owner retired and turned the business over to his son. To Bill's chagrin, the owner's son was far less ambitious and smug.

Bill knew he needed to get on the son's right side once he had taken over operations. So, being an opportunist, he seized the opportunity to expand his territory. Bill offered to become the go-to guy for the third-party IT company that managed the company's network. He had laid it on thick about how the son must be overwhelmed taking on so much responsibility. His delivery was convincing, and he was rewarded with more work but no more pay. Nevertheless, the son managed to keep the company profitable despite his lack of interest and engagement for five years. 

Then unexpectedly, a large firm looking to expand into the area offered to buy the company. For months it was like watching a tennis match as the offers and refusals went back and forth. Then, finally, a deal was struck, and the unambitious, smug son who had inherited the business became a multi-millionaire. Bill knew he was the reason for the son's continued success. Yet the son did not offer even a small parting gift to Bill for all those years of shouldering the lion's share of the work. 

On the other hand, the new owner recognized Bill's abilities and offered Bill an increase in salary and a significant retention bonus. Bill accepted the offer without hesitation. There were multiple reasons for Bill's decision to remain. First, he did not want to look for a new job.  He liked the new owner well enough and especially liked the independence the new owner allowed him. Secondly, his two children would soon be of college age with a college fund that was sorely lacking. 

They had been forced to borrow from the college fund years ago when one of the cars stopped running. The car had over two hundred thirty thousand miles on it, and the mechanic said there was just no fixing it. The intent was always to repay the college funds. Then came the leaky roof that had to be replaced, closely followed by a replacement for the twenty-four-year-old HVAC. Then, one by one, the other appliances died and had to be replaced. 

He was grateful that his wife had chosen to leave the workplace and stay at home while the children were young. His workdays were long, and weekend work was necessary at least once a month. The bulk of the responsibilities of parenting rested squarely on her shoulders. This had been an ongoing point of contention between them throughout the years. And while it was true that he was often not there, what alternative was there? He was the sole provider for their little family of four.

As the children got older, he became less grateful for his stay-at-home wife. It would have been a welcome change to have the extra income if she worked part-time.  Although they had this discussion regularly, his wife was decidedly against it. She argued that the teenage years are critical to keeping children on the right path. He agreed wholeheartedly with the premise. He did not understand precisely what she did for seven hours a day while the children were in school. Not that it mattered. She had no intention of returning to work, and he knew that. The college funds had never been replenished, and the repayment of college loans rested squarely on him as usual. 

Over the next fifteen years, there were three more mergers and acquisitions. Bill survived each of them, and John thrived. John was promoted to Manager of Information Technology in the latest buyout. The new owner had explained to Bill that John's education and experience were best aligned with the IT role. He went on to say how much he appreciated all the years Bill had invested and all the demanding work he had managed. It is time for you to take a breath and return to your roots in accounting. Bill was not an idiot, he knew it was only because John was younger, and he was what they would have called a bootlicker in days gone by. It was so unfair and made Bill feel salty. He swallowed the contempt and congratulated John each time he received another unearned accolade. 

Those years in accounting had served him well. Bill was a planner. He had begun work on a parachute plan years ago. Being the go-to guy in IT had advantages too. He learned so many new things, such as how to design a worm and all about spoofing. The worm he had designed lay dormant, but on January 1, it would come to life.  January 1st and 2nd are companywide holidays. It was also when the system backup for the year was generated to set the stage for closing the books on the last year and setting up the new year. The worm's payload would remove operating files and overload the web server, which would cripple the system. There would be no alerts or alarms because they had been disabled. John, the new IT manager, would know something was wrong on January 2 when he set up the script to open a new year. 

It would take an external systems expert to assess the damage and develop a restoration plan. Then, when the audit was complete, all signs would point to his best frenemy, John.  He had not even had to spoof John's IP address. He covered for John when he was on vacation. John had left his laptop behind because he was receiving a new one, and the old one was needed to transfer files and duplicate network settings.  It was a cinch to plant the worm on his old computer, which was then transferred to the new computer. In addition, the old computer was wiped clean, so no evidence was left behind. 

Bill was eavesdropping yesterday evening, as was his habit when he worked late. He learned the current owner is looking to go public with an IPO at the first of the new year. That may not be a bad idea, thought Bill, thinking of the stock awarded to him in place of the richly deserved bonuses. If he retired and sold the stock at year-end, he may come out ahead of the game for once. The owner then said, "pump-and-dump," a vaguely familiar term. He almost held his breath as he listened closely to the rest of the conversation and quietly exited. It was true after all that good things come to those who wait. 

Bill had hardly slept last night. He had made the decision to postpone his retirement and go another round. He had options now. Option one, ride it out a little longer and time his retirement and the selling of his stock with the pump-and-dump scheme. But, of course, no one would ever believe that bumbling, old Bill was savvy enough to be part of such a slick scheme even if he reaped the benefits. Option two, choose to be a whistleblower, and receive a significant reward along with the title of hero. He typed notification of retirement in the search box on his computer. The file popped up, and he removed it. He then emptied his trash file. Suddenly he realized the icing on the cake was that he would be there watching the year-end debacle up close, and Bill smiled the first genuine smile in a long time.

October 07, 2022 15:09

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1 comment

Stevie Burges
04:28 Oct 13, 2022

Hi Deborah. I loved this story. From the start, it kept me reading, and yes it clearly is a drama. My emotions for bumbling old Bill went from empathy for none of the rewards coming his way to the unpleasant development of a man who felt he had no support and was determined to get his revenge. I enjoyed the way the story was delivered in layers and certainly kept my interest as the reader. Good story.


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