The Feeling Bottoms Out

What mysteries lie ahead? (Monte Dutton)
What mysteries lie ahead? (Monte Dutton)

I didn’t plan on tumbling right back into another short story, but today really is my birthday. When my job was eliminated, it wasn’t on my birthday. Obviously, this is total fiction, and any similarity to actual events … you know the drill.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

The first observation of Clyde Barns on his birthday was that his Facebook timeline was crammed. Some just cut and pasted “Happy birthday,” some took the time to add his name, some attached cartoons with rabbits dancing around or some such, and a few included a personal message.

Such as, “You’re fired,” or, as Ted Baxter once read it on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, “You’re fried.”

Same difference.

The message came by that most personal of deliverances, the text.

Please be at the office at 10:45, Clyde. Bob would like to meet with you. Its urgent.

                Clyde replied:

                IT’S, Bob. I can’t wait to see what extraordinary plans you have for me.

The word was around. More cuts. More layoffs. The Morning Messenger was well on its way to becoming The Morning Message. This morning’s message: You didn’t make it. You’re out. Called third strike. Them’s the breaks, kid. Don’t worry. We booked you a bus to Poughkeepsie.

And bring your keys to the building. They’re not yours anymore.

Clyde wondered if it would be short and sweet. Bob Cassaderne was the publisher. At least he rated an audience with the publisher. Everyone called him Bob Taciturn. Would Bob be genial and sympathetic, or would there be some reason for him to find fault in Clyde’s performance as a sports columnist? It probably depended on the severance package. Ever since the paper changed ownership, the severance packages had been declining. Cincinnati always was a skinflint town. Cassaderne was a survivor of the change, anxious to prove he could be as ruthless as the new bosses. Clyde never had liked him. In retrospect, perhaps he shouldn’t have made it quite so obvious.

Ah, fuck it.

Clyde didn’t let his emotions get the best of him. He’d known it was coming. He was surprised he had held on this long. It had been out there, hovering on the horizon like a nimbus cloud, lightning flickering, thunder rolling, poised for destruction. In a way, it was seductive. He could shed away all the bullshit, do what he wanted, write the novel, and manage to achieve, in the harsh solitude of independence, what he had never managed working for the man. And all the man’s stockholders. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, he wouldn’t need them. He’d put himself back to together again.

A tiny voice inside him kept laughing, though, and saying, Yeah, right. It was the same tiny voice inside every successful man, the one that knew he was a fraud, a bullshit artist, who, by the grace of God’s mysterious ways, had managed to convince the world that he could write, describe, analyze, and strip away the extraneous, so that they could find insight into the inexplicable decision of grown men and women to play the games of little boys and girls. Somehow, he could make all this seem important, which was the greatest flaw of them all.

Damned if it didn't happen.  (Monte Dutton sketch)
Damned if it didn’t happen. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clyde could walk out of that gigantic collection of cubicles, the one he had always avoided like the plague, and bring to bear all his mythic powers on … the open market! Perhaps it was the coffee’s rush that gave him these heady visions of grandeur. He had an hour to spare. Maybe he could quickly update the resume, print copies and staple them together, place them in his briefcase, and as soon as he received word of his free agency, he could leave right then, letting nearby environs know of his availability to help them, and not The Morning Messenger, increase their power and range.

That wasn’t what he was supposed to do, of course. It was his birthday. He was supposed to leave that office and celebrate. He was supposed to get drunk, and, since he was not currently involved with any woman, perhaps find one to share in the celebration of birth and free agency. Clyde definitely didn’t want to put up with any commiserating. He wanted to go to the office, get the word, avoid all possible personal interaction with grieving colleagues wondering, oh, by the way, if his departure might provide opportunities for them to advance.

Shit. Clyde’s gone. Nothing I can do about it. Nothing wrong with trying to make the best of it.

It was time to move on. He’d thought about it at least once a day since other sportswriters went from being his favorite people on earth to being his least favorite. There were a few exceptions. Most of them were out on the street where Clyde was about to be.

                I think this is another serial story. I’ll have to make up my mind whether this is worth a more complete story. Perhaps you’d like to offer an opinion. Read my non-fiction thoughts at and consider my books, fiction and non, here:



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