Free Fiction: The Promotion Minisode #3

As previously announced, The Promotion: A Novella is now available for sale from Amazon as an e-book. I just approved the print version, which should be available very soon. As usual, I’m trying to keep costs down for the reader by pricing the e-book at $2.99 and the paperback at $4.99, at least for now. I’m also releasing sections of the book in a series of minisodes. Enjoy!

Previously in The Promotion: Minisode #2: In Which the Annihilation of the Narrator’s Soul Leads to a Stunning Development

The Promotion Minisode #3: In Which The Narrator Refutes His Critics and Begins a Critical New Position

I am aware that the purpose of all this is to explain my disappearance. And I know this is a serious task I need to take seriously and that my relationship with this firm will depend on the mah mah mah etc. I’ve heard the rumors—that I was hit by a midlife crisis (which of course is my business) and tried to reinvent myself as a television writer (not entirely true and is anyway my business). Or that I became obsessed with a woman I had never met (my business!), or that I got on a plane with the intention of kidnapping and/or killing that woman (my business!!!).

Oh, but you’re busy? You like having the main points summarized, up front? In bullet points? Because you’re so busy and important? Oh, yes you are! Everyone in this office knows it! And they believe it because you act like you are!

No. I will not be rushed. Not this time.

I’m telling you what you need to understand first.

#

I should have jumped at the promotion, of course. A passionate person would have! But I am cautious to a fault, ruled if anything by an absence of passion. I have been called “dead in personality, dead in spirit, a walking void,” a characterization I accept. And of course I was still numb from the revelation of the nothing email. Even as Jennifer the office manager sat in the chair across from me, all smiles and positive energy, I elided the two developments, the epiphany that I was worth nothing and the offer of a promotion. What I did was worthless and yet the firm was eager for me to do more.

They thought I’d be good in a new role with increased responsibility, Jennifer said. Also they had looked at the numbers and noticed that I was in a “slow cycle” of billable hours.

I heard all this and imagined that somehow they had seen my draft email with the typo. Worth nothing. How widespread was this knowledge?

Jennifer finished her description of the offer. I had understood enough to know it had to do with recruiting. An administrative task, in other words, like serving on the Management Committee or the Emergency Procedures Committee or the Green-the-Office! Committee.

I realized I was nodding my head.

“So you’ll do it?” Jennifer asked.

My mind was beginning to clear. Recruiting! Every fall our firm hired between sixty and eighty newly minted attorneys, who arrived the following summer, eager to please. They changed everything about the place: gave it new energy, pushed us in new directions, helped us serve our clients in new ways. And I would be involved in bringing them in? This was not a nothing!

I tried to stay casual. “I’m pretty busy right now, Jennifer. But I agree—it’s an important job. You need to find the right person.”

“Yeah. Anyway, my understanding is that you’re not that busy. According to your billable hours, you’re one of the lowest-performing attorneys—”

“I’ll make time,” I said. “Who else is on the committee?”

“To be clear we’re not just asking you to serve on the committee,” Jennifer said. “We’re asking you to be the director. I hope that’s okay.”

Her demeanor implied that others had turned her down. I felt sorry for her.

“Even better,” I said grandly.

She laughed and touched her lips several times, a nervous tic of hers. “You’ll be given a new title. Director of Recruiting and Development. We’ll add it to your online bio, of course.”

“Of course.”

This was more responsibility than I had ever been given at the firm. It felt like a new era.

I asked what kind of development they were asking me to coordinate.

“Attorney development,” Jennifer explained. “Ongoing education requirements. How to gain new skills, how to become an expert in a specific practice area, preparing for life after the firm. Everything that helps the lawyers at our firm become better lawyers. It’s a valuable job.”

Valuable!

The timing of this was extraordinary. I asked her several more questions. How much of my time was expected? Who had done this in the past, and how long had they served in this capacity? Who would help me? And what did it mean that I had a new title?

Jennifer smiled in an apologetic way. “Well…it doesn’t affect your compensation or anything. It’s more of an honorific.”

“Of course,” I said with a small shrug, as if I were doing her a favor. I was already starting to imagine the impact I would have. I could tap the talent pool in new and interesting ways. I would strive to put together a perfect blend of top-tier candidates with scrappy underdogs. This was not a mindless administrative task. I would leave my mark on the firm.

“We only need to change the bio for two weeks,” Jennifer was saying. “Then we can take it down.”

I frowned. “Take what down?”

“The title. Recruiting season will be over, and we’ll remove it from your bio.”

“What about Development?”

She smiled sheepishly. “Well… the truth is you don’t actually do anything for that.”

“Oh,” I said.

“We add it for marketing reasons.”

“Oh,” I said again.

We stared at each other.

“Well, I don’t mind having it on there,” I said to break the silence. “I can be the permanent Director of Recruiting and Development! You don’t have to take it down.”

“You don’t understand,” she said. “We want to.”

I didn’t know what to say. She stood up, told me her assistant would drop off a batch of résumés, and left.

“Congratulations,” she said from the hallway, with no enthusiasm whatsoever. “Congratulations, Director.”

“Thank you.”

We had one last exchange of awkward smiles before she disappeared.

On my screen, the nothing email was still staring at me. I changed the word to noting and sent it on its way.

Next: The Narrator Meets the Deputies Who Will Make or Break His Fortune

Can’t wait to read the whole thing? A full version of The Promotion is available on Amazon.com.

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