The Greenhouse Effect
By Harris Tobias
“We’re here sir.” Carroll Longacre III was so engrossed in his interior monolog that he hadn’t realized the limo had arrived at the office, 2600 Wall Street. A modern glass tower building with cold, austere lines without a hint of ornament or embellishment. Longacre and Company occupied several of its top floors. Jeffery, the chauffeur, held the door for him. He got out stiffly, his leg still sore from yesterday’s squash game at the club. He’d have to leave early for his massage. He gave Jeffery a nod and walked to the executive elevator.
His resolve hardened as the lift rose to the 45th floor. It was going to be hard on old Greenhouse finding a new position at his age. Still, expenses must be trimmed. Carroll III tut tutted all the way to his corner office suite. He poured himself a healthy shot of expensive scotch and prepared his game face. Greenhouse would have to go, there was simply no other way.
“It pains me to have to say this, Greenhouse, but I’m afraid we won’t be needing your services any longer.” Carroll Longacre III spoke the words into the mirror trying his best to look stern yet sympathetic. It was not an easy look to pull off, especially the sympathetic part. He hated having to fire people. He found no joy in it but still his visage would not comply with his better nature. He saw only the cold, unpitying face of his father staring back at him.
Poor Greenhouse. He’d been with the firm from the beginning. He was never management material but no one could deny his loyalty and years of hard work. Carroll’s father would have had no problem showing old Greenhouse the door. Longacre II probably would have enjoyed it. Carroll III sighed. Unpleasant or not, sometimes you had to do what was best for the firm. This was business, after all. He wasn’t running a charity. Accounting said he had to cut expenses and someone like Greenhouse with all those years seniority was expensive. He was due to retire soon. His pension and stock options would cost Longacre and Sons a fortune. There were no two ways about it, the man had to go.
Of course there was the vexing question of fairness. Was it fair to let a man go for no reason? Carroll could hear his father say derisively, “what does fairness have to do with anything?” The old man getting red in the face. “Don’t be a pussy, damn it. Be a man and do your job. You think I built this company by being fair? Fairness is for suckers.” And on and on until he would slink from the old man’s sight. How he hated the old man in those days. But that was then. These days father was gone and he, Carroll III, was in charge. If he wanted to entertain the question of fairness, he damn well would. It was just after such an outburst that the old man clutched his chest and keeled over dead at 60. Carroll III had no intension of letting himself get so emotionally involved with the business.
When the old man died, Carroll III inherited everything. His mother and sister were expressly written out of the will. How mean and petty the old man could be. It was up to him and his idea of fairness to give mother and sister a small allowance so they could survive. Poor mother. She stuck by the old tyrant all those years until she couldn’t stand it anymore and divorced him. She got custody of Susan, his younger sister and he stayed with his father. It seemed fair at the time. He was already out of college and Susan was only eleven. But, still, why cut them off so completely?
Mother and sister lived in straightened circumstances for years while father and son lived in luxury. Where was the fairness in that? What, after all was Mother guilty of—trying to be happy? The old man couldn’t help the way he was. He was shaped by his father. Meanness was in the Longacre blood. Was firing Greenhouse being mean? The thought gave him a moment’s pause as he left his apartment and took the private elevator to the garage. Was he being mean? Surely Greenhouse would see it that way but this was business and money was money.
Carroll III was not in a good mood. He found the current political climate vexing. The paper was filled with talk of income inequality, social injustice and one per centers. Such claptrap. He threw the paper away in disgust. Sometimes he found people infuriating. As if he didn’t deserve what he had. He thought about Greenhouse and what a shock he was in for and how unfair life could be. He never liked treating people as objects. Everyone was entitled to some dignity but business was business and expenses must be trimmed. Surely even Greenhouse could understand that.
Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of several novels and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, FriedFiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and several other publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at: http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com/
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