The Mercy Killing

"Bob Cassaderne, fine ... and you?" (Monte Dutton sketch)
“Bob Cassaderne, fine … and you?” (Monte Dutton sketch)

The first part of this short story was called “The Feeling Bottoms Out.” I’m going to try to keep the length of this one fairly short, but here’s the second episode:

Bob Cassaderne, The Morning Messenger’s publisher, didn’t actually get around to firing Clyde Barns. He had this convivial way of treating it as a foregone conclusion.

“Well, Clyde, we’ve all known this day was coming, and …”

Later, Clyde would wish he’d made him say it. Not “You’re fired.” Bluntness wasn’t allowed in the corporate lexicon, and truth was rare. At least, “Your position is being eliminated,” which would have been true. The Messenger, at the behest of its faceless corporate lord, wasn’t going it alone anymore. It would use the work of other colorful columnists, from other colorful places, though, as for that, The Messenger had been sharing Barns with other newspapers for years.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Cassaderne, undoubtedly relieved that Clyde hadn’t gone into some sort of irrational rant, excused himself to leave the meeting to a small man, wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a steel-gray suit, with an open briefcase on the table and a file folder in his lap. This was a man who would have been from “Personnel” back when Clyde had joined the staff, and then he would have been primarily in charge of hiring, not firing. Now he was invariably involved in “relations” or “resources,” and they would be “human” or “corporate,” because, as a practical matter, the words meant the same thing.

His name was Kyle LeFlore. He was by nature suited to be an undertaker. Clyde was sure they were called something else now, too.

LeFlore explained patiently, using a collection of seemingly English words whose meanings didn’t seem to jive with anything Clyde had ever learned, that, while Talleyrand Communications LLC had purchased The Morning Messenger along with a dozen other “properties,” Clyde’s modest pension was still administered through the previous corporate lord. When Clyde asked him what the practical meaning of this was, LeFlore said, “Well, nothing, really,” and Clyde shortly thereafter gave up on the possibility that candor might be glimpsed from afar.

Clyde resolved to read the paperwork carefully, in the off chance that the legalese featured there could somehow be more enlightening. Then LeFlore passed him the folder, briefly explained how a man who had never been unemployed might apply for unemployment, and Clyde proceeded to sign and date on lots of lines highlighted in yellow.

He left LeFlore the keys to the building, his cell, and his credit card. LeFlore asked for his laptop, and Clyde said he’d love to help him, but the laptop was his. LeFlore frowned for the first time.

“No, Kyle, the laptop is mine because I bought it,” Clyde said. “I paid for it. I needed it for free-lance writing and books I’ve written, and I never used a laptop this paper gave me that I could type on without the keys falling off.

“I think they must use them to swat flies in the back.”

There wasn’t much in the newsroom for Clyde to pick up. He had done little work there, and what little he had done hadn’t been particularly good. He’d been on the road, mainly – the Masters, the Final Four, the Super Bowl, the World Series – and the office was a place where others eavesdropped on one’s phone calls, arbitrarily analyzed the conversation taking place on one end, and then filed those observations away to be used satirically once the columnist was gone. What a shame. So many had wanted his job, and now, after all that positioning and ass kissing, he was finally gone, and so was the job.

Damn it all. He’d gotten himself bitter. What was he supposed to be? He walked out the side door, carrying a bobblehead doll of Chipper Jones in his hand and half a ream of paperwork in his backpack. When the door closed behind him, he resolved never to walk back in it again.

It still wasn’t noon. He wanted to be alone. He wanted to drink. Those three didn’t go together.

              If you’d like to read my non-fiction blogs, go to I’d appreciate it if you’d consider my books, particularly the novels The Audacity of Dope and The Intangibles, here:



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