The Dismissal

Published: Saturday, 11 March 2017 Written by Niea Liverpool

The Dismissal

The crack in the doorway was to many a sign of an act of negligence, a brief lapse in judgement that allows the mind to overlook the completion of a task- forgo the closing of the door. To me it was a portal, a glimpse into Mr. Lisle’s office, his world, the world of stiff-starched-stark-white shirts and velvety suits. The world I would never know, for poverty is not a state but an inheritance. I sighed, running my hand down my overall as my father had done and his father had done and his father and his father…
I whipped my head around to see Mr. Lisle standing, hands behind his back as he observed me. Immediately, the bass drum in my chest quickened its pace. The man was unsettling in a way that could not be pinpointed which made him all the more unsettling, of course. His eyes swivelled and focused on my hand, now awkwardly raised away from my body in an attempt to greet my employer.
“How are you, Cole?”
His voice was monotonous-void of emotion-by choice I had come to realise. For many a time I had seen him, lips stretched exposing his symmetrical set of teeth, laughing and jesting, joking and jiving at the big uptown places where the big uptown people meet to discuss their big uptown ideals. I myself was a peasant.
“Am as good as the Lord permits to be and the Lord is a good lord, Mr Lisle,” I responded.
“Ah...”came the reply. Then he nodded, ran his hand over his smooth head and smirked.
“So Cole, do you think now is a good time to let us through?” He said as he motioned towards the door with his head.
Us? I stood perplexed, eyebrows furrowed, hands wrapped around the mopstick. Had Mr Lisle suddenly become even more pompous and had now begun to refer to himself in the plural form? Surely not even he could be so pig-headed.
“Oh -sorry Mr Lisle”
I scooped up my cleaning equipment and scuttled out of the way turning just one last time to see Mr Lisle entering his sanctuary, my sanctuary if I only had the chance. And that’s when I saw her, Tammy from Brookfield, Tammy turn office woman. She hadn’t changed a lot in all the years since we used to swing through the slums of Brookfield. She still wore her hair in seven identical cornrows which fell onto her back. She still had soft brown eyes that warmed whatever was lucky enough to be in her line of sight. And she was still short and squat, but the years had filled her out in places that a man like myself could not ignore. Tammy was strong-you saw it in the way she wore her hair. She was mature- you saw it in her body. And she was kind-you saw it in her eyes. But at that exact moment,I could not see her eyes for they were married to the floor. She stood hesitantly outside the door to Mr Lisle’s office, her body limp, her eyes firmly watching the floor.
“Tammy!” I hissed, trying to be as quiet as possible. She looked up and stared blankly at me, before a small light flashed in her eye. She seemed about to raise her hand to wave when she suddenly whipped her head to the side as if being called by somebody. She smiled weakly, raising her hand half-heartedly before entering the office. Minutes passed as I stood, me and my mop stick, recounting the countless crimes Tamara and I had enjoyed as children. My father’s voice echoed in my head. ‘Child can do no wrong,’ he would say, as he indulged in Mr Finnick’s grapefruit, the grapefruit I had just stolen-from Mr Finnick. I was removed from my reverie by the sound of voices coming from the office. The door was still partially open and although Ma had always warned me about being nosy, I inched soundlessly toward the door. Through the crack I could see Mr Lisle seated in one of the two leather chairs. He was leaning across the table on his forearms, hands clasped observing Tammy with a blank, cold stare. She was slumped, sandwiched between the chair and table. I watched in agony as she sobbed bitterly into her hands.
“I didn’t mean to upset you so much, Tamira, but unfortunately it’s not viable to keep you both at the company anymore. One of you has to go.”
A tense silence ensued, broken only by Tamira’s sobbing.
“Tamira this is business and in business sometimes people have to make cuts.”
H e stood up, poured himself a glass of wine and sat back down.
“But you know the other thing people do in business,” he said as he twirled a pen between his fingers, “they negotiate.”
Tamira sat up slowly, wiping her eyes as she did.
“What you mean, Mr?”
He chuckled to himself, regarding Tamira under cocked eyebrows. He then eradicated the contents of his glass before once more refilling it. When he sat back down this time his face was stone cold as he questioned her.
“What will you do to keep this job?”
Her tear-brimmed eyes bulged at the question.
“What you m-”she began, before she was cut off by Mr Lisle.
“You know what I mean Tamira. What will you do?”
She gulped, obviously recognising the weight of the question she was being posed.
“I just need a job, Mr Lisle, I need a job to feed the children and-”
“I’m sure Coleson also has a family to feed, Tamira”
My heart dropped. Me, Coleson, the cleaner-boy, I was the second one to be fired? A searing tear rolled down my cheek at the thought of having to explain to Missy. Monica and Maggi were straining my salary already and little Coleson Jr was starting to take chunks of it too. How was I supposed to provide for them if I lost this? I peered back into the office. Tamira was shaking her head violently, tears spilling out of her eyes. Mr Lisle slid out of his chair and walked over to Tamira before getting down on his haunches and looking up at her. He raised his hands and gently grazed his thumb against her cheek. She recoiled instinctively before turning once more to face him.
“I need my job!”
Her voice cracked as the words came off her lips in a rush of air that sounded more like a desperate wheeze than a discernible piece of speech.
“You can keep your job, Tamira, Just say it.”
She swallowed, as she often did when she was about to do something big, like she did before she confessed to Ma Sammy about selling her garden gnomes. I was already frozen to the spot, unnerved by the events unfolding before me but my heart stopped and my blood ran cold as Tammy stopped and turned her head to face me directly. Had she known I was there the whole time? Her lips trembled but her now bloodshot eyes were fixed pointedly on me. Sorry, she mouthed, as a fresh set of tears burst from her eyes. She turned to Mr Lisle and whispered the words I had dreaded to hear.
“I’ll do anything you tell me to”
She choked out the words and I choked on my disgust, my sorrow personified by the burning ball of emotion lodged in my throat. Whatever happened to Tammy the bold, indestructible girl from Brookfield project? I watched in horror as Mr Lisle got off his haunches and placed a kiss on Tamira’s cheek.
“I’m glad you made the right choice” he said, before realizing that the door was open and shutting it. Shutting it in my face, shutting out my last chance to see inside his office his world-the world I would never have.

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