J. ERIC CASTRO ~ DRINKIN’ WITH THE BOSS

“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant; O come, ye, O come, ye to Bethlehem…”

The Christmas music blared from the speakers; still, Carlos Trent wouldn’t look up from his desk. It was five to five on Christmas Eve, but Standard Insurance’s top underwriter still had work to do. A massive pile of paper sat on the floor in a corner of his cubicle, and his uneaten Subway sandwich waited while his fingers typed away on the Dell keyboard just inches from his heart.

Just a few more premium changes, and I’ll be done.

“Hey Carlos, what the hell are you doing?”

“Just making a couple of policy changes, is all. I’m getting out of here soon.”

Carlos didn’t have to turn around; he felt the gaze carving a cross into the back of his skull. It was Matt Evans’s gaze—his newest supervisor, one who’d shown some care for the endless stack of work he’d been assigned in the last month, but who also was in charge of assigning it. Matt knew better than anyone what needed to get done…so why bust chops?

“I’ve got family coming over the house,” Matt said, as if reading Carlos’s mind, “so you need to get clear of here. I can’t close up unless you leave.”

Carlos sighed; he knew Matt was right. After typing in a couple of numbers into the black fields on the blue screen ahead, he moved his cursor to the start menu and queued up the shutdown procedure.

“If you want, I can kill some of that junk on Monday morning,” Matt said, eyeing the stack of forms on the floor. “That way, you don’t have to do all of this.”

“Naw, it’s okay. I can handle it.”

We were supposed to go paperless a year ago, Carlos thought to himself.

“No, you can’t. I know you can’t. Don’t try to kill yourself over it. Seriously. It’s not that big a deal.”

Carlos spun his chair around. Matt looked into his tired eyes.

“You all right, guy? It’s Christmas Eve.”

“I know it is.”

“Do you have any plans? I mean, seriously…do you have any family, or anyone that you’re going to see tonight?”

“I don’t celebrate the holidays,” Carlos stated.

“Okay, gotcha.”

Carlos returned to the computer monitor. The Dell ran update 1 of 3. Matt reached over him and removed a sheet of paper from the desk; Carlos, enthralled with the machine, didn’t take note. His superior jotted a phone number on the page.

“Listen. If you feel like you need it, I’ve got an extra seat at the table tonight. Samantha won’t mind an extra guest. It just feels wrong if you’re spending the night alone.”

“No worries, Matt.”

“I insist. Come on down.”

Matt placed the page on the desk in front of Carlos.

“If you need to. All right?”

Carlos turned around. Matt extended a hand to shake.

“Or even if you just want to talk.”

“I’m fine; I promise.”

“That’s good. I’ll see you Monday?”

“Yeah.”

Carlos shook Matt’s hand as the computer finished update 3 of 3 and whirred through the shutdown.

Carlos Trent was far from fine. He had no family left in New York; while he’d received plenty of invites from relatives, they were in faraway states. Mom had moved to Ontario, Canada, a few years back; Dad was in Los Angeles and had been there since the divorce. Twenty-six years of life had yielded few girlfriends and even fewer close friends. He had a brother just across the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City that he hadn’t seen in forever and didn’t want to bother at this stage. Standard Insurance had bought him an apartment in the city, close by the job, but couldn’t give him what he wanted or needed most on this cold, and frosty, evening—self-worth.

But it did give him a few extra bucks. And he was going to use them at the one place where he felt most welcome.

The Old Carriage House was nowhere near old. It was established in 2007; the proprietor, one Mitchell James, owned several dive bars in and around the city. Carlos had visited them all, but the Chambers Street location was his favorite by far. It was a quaint spot by FiDi standards—on a good night, one might find a few hardcore drunks catching a Premier League football match on tape delay, but not much else. It was the kind of joint where a loner could be all alone, and Carlos the workaholic could indulge in his second vice without incident.

Upon arriving, Carlos found an even smaller crowd than anticipated. How does this place make any money? The thought was lost as soon as his Florsheim shoes hit the weakened third plank away from the bar, awakening the bored bartender.

“Oh, my…God!”

Shelby wasn’t expecting company; it was Christmas Eve, after all. Before Carlos picked a seat, a Pabst Blue Ribbon was in front of him, and she was in the midst of pouring his shot of Palo Viejo rum. After sliding it down the bar into his open palm, she emerged from behind the bar and wrapped her slender arms around his long neck.

“How have you been?” I haven’t seen you here in ages!”

“I’m cool,” Carlos said while embracing her. “Working like a dog, you know what I’m saying?”

“That doesn’t mean shit to me,” Shelby said while pushing her blond hair away from her face. “I miss you, darling.”

She has a boyfriend, Carlos reminded himself. A big, ugly dude, with tattoos across his forehead and a wannabe Harley bike he parks like the Ark wherever the fuck he feels like.

“I’ve missed you too,” he said, trying not to fall in love. A few drinks would probably change that, he knew, but for now, her words were honey to the ear. “What’s the good word today?”

“Christmas,” she replied. “That’s a pretty good word, I think.”

“Not for me,” Carlos said. “Alcohol. That’s my good word, for now.”

“I’m glad it is,” Shelby added. “And I’m so glad you’re here. Drink up. We’ve got some catching up to do.”

Catching up, to Shelby, meant talking about how she’d lost her apartment in Williamsburg and had to move to Astoria. Her cats weren’t helpful at all with the move. The calico, Paco, seemed fine being boxed up but sprayed his authority all over as soon as they got to the new place; the Cheshire, Dennis, scratched her the moment he realized the furniture was leaving. The boyfriend, now dubbed Asshole, hired some drinking buddies to assist; aside from breaking her Tibetan vase, they made little impact while the teenagers from the next house over got three-quarters of her stuff into the U-Haul for twenty bucks and a pizza pie. Carlos nodded throughout and listened as best as he could, but Shelby’s crazy blue eyes, fire-dancing across their sockets, served only to distract.

“You finished that beer really quickly, love,” Shelby said while weighing the can. “ You’re having another?”

“Yeah, I’ll have another,” Carlos replied. “And another shot. You’ll have one with me this time, won’t you?”

Shelby’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree for the next day; it might have been the reflection from one in the background.

“Would I! Of course I would!”

Shelby turned around and poured two shots of Palo Viejo. After placing them on the bar, she raised hers to toast.

“Merry Christmas, love.”

She hooked her arm into Carlos’s. He reached over and grabbed his drink.

“Merry Christmas.”

With interlocked arms, they swallowed their drinks.

A few more minutes of small talk were followed by a comfortable silence, during which Carlos concentrated on the Doctor Who episode lighting up the television screen while Shelby fiddled with her cell phone. Carlos had his drinks refilled once, then twice, more.

“This feels nice and cozy, sitting right here.”

Shelby looked up from the phone.

“You’re so quiet tonight, darling. Tell me why?”

Carlos shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t know. It’s just…”

“It’s that everyone else is celebrating, and you’re not.”

“That’s not true.”

“Of course it isn’t, love. I’m here with you,” Shelby said with a wink. “Now, that’s something to celebrate.”

“I agree.”

“Another shot?”

“You betcha. And you’ll have another?”

“Certainly.”

“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant; O come, ye, O come, ye to Bethlehem…”

The minutes turned to hours, and Doctor Who turned to the evening news, then world news, and finally, to Christmas masses around the world. Carlos made a face.

“What’s the matter, sweetheart? You don’t like the music?”

“No, it’s all right.”

“I’ll turn it off if you want.”

“That’s okay. I’m just not a religious guy, is all.”

“I’m sorry. I’m Catholic; I guess I took it for granted that everyone else is.”

“As long as the drinks keep coming, I’ll pretend to be Catholic for the night.”

Shelby smiled and passed him a beer. She reached for his shot glass; but he gently touched her hand.

“No. Grab me a shot of blackberry brandy this time.”

Nodding, she retrieved another bottle from the back of the bar and poured the shot.

“Got anything to munch on?”

“Just some peanuts…I think they’re stale, though. I think I can find a menu for a Chinese place somewhere around here, there should be one open—”

“The peanuts are good.”

Shelby poured some into a bowl and passed them over. Carlos grabbed a fistful and held them up.

“Body of Christ.”

He then filled his mouth with them, while Shelby fell over in hysterics.

“Damn…they really are kinda nasty.”

“I told you!”

Carlos then held up the brandy glass.

“Blood of Christ.”

He knocked back the shot. Shelby shook her head.

“You’re so going to Hell; you know that…”

The liquor burned the back of Carlos’s throat, but not as badly as the first couple of shots did.

“I’m already in Hell, Shelby.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Can’t help it.”

“That damn job again, eh?”

Carlos sighed.

“How much stuff have they added to your workload?”

“You don’t wanna know,” he replied. “I don’t want to complain too much about it tonight, though…it’s Christmas Eve, after all.”

Shelby pouted.

“I feel for you. Really, I do. I’m here to listen if you want to complain.”

She motioned to the television, where the Pope sang Gloria in excelsis Deo.

“It’ll be better for me than trying to figure out Latin.”

Carlos smiled.

“All right, I’ll talk. But first, I’ve got to break the seal. Give me a minute or two.”

“You’ve got it.”

Carlos climbed off the barstool and made his way to the restroom.

By the time Carlos first needed to relieve himself, he’d already had five shots of liquor and three beers. Such rapid alcohol consumption caused the restroom to swirl a bit on him; though woozy, he was in no danger of vomiting or fainting. However, the events that took place within the next several moments left him wondering if he’d drank rapidly enough to induce hallucinations.

First were the shoes on the creaky plank. Then, another Shelby oh my…God! And finally, a booming voice that Carlos hadn’t heard for several hours…one he didn’t expect to hear again until Monday…and the last one he wanted to hear after consuming mass alcoholic beverages.

James E. Boss IV. The Big Boss. His Boss.

Everyone’s Boss. At Standard Insurance, anyway.

Jim Boss’s great-grandfather, the first James E. Boss, founded Standard Insurance in 1902 as The Standard Accident and Indemnity Corporation of New York. In the beginning, coverage was limited to liability, personal injury, and reinsurance provided to other carriers; the company would eventually grow to protect against everything from fires and floods to alien abductions and zombie apocalypses. Carlos technically worked in the worker’s compensation division, but recent cutbacks and downsizing by attrition had him underwriting everything from auto risks for elderly drivers to coverage for relaunching lost or damaged satellites, as well as replacing ones lost in outer space.

What the hell brings him to Old Carriage House?

“Where have you been, Jimmy? Long time, no see—”

“I’ve got a company to run, my darlin’. It don’t always give me as much time as I’d-a like. But trust me, when I get these opportunities, I take ‘em.”

“On Christmas Eve? Not that I’m complaining, though…”

“And why not? Which one of my four ex-wives should I go n’ see this year? Or which one of my kids? They all hate me anyway.”

“Don’t say that. I’ll bet you’re a good father.”

“I was a busy father. Too busy running my own company, but not busy enough to allow our share of the business—or better yet, their share of the inheritance—to fall.”

“I think you need a drink.”

“I sure n’ hell do, young lady!”

While Shelby turned to pour a drink, Carlos attempted a quick exit. No matter that he’d left nearly fifty bucks on the bar; losing the money was better than spending his night drinking with the boss. Jim Boss. Here! At the Old Carriage House!

His foot hit the weakened floor plank again, giving his position away.

“Hey? Where are you going?”

Dammit.

“Just going outside to grab a smoke really quick,” Carlos said, attempting to hide his face with a sleeve.

“Well, don’t make it too long there, boy!” Jim Boss added. “Three’s company tonight, and I don’t mean the old TV show!”

Carlos wasn’t sure if Mr. Boss had recognized him or not; after stepping outside and lighting a Newport, he resolved to head back in and face the music as best as possible. But first, he needed some kind of disguise, in case Mr. Boss hadn’t.

“I know you’re a little drunk, but you do know it’s Christmas Eve, and not Halloween, right? You don’t need the getup.”

While outside, quick-thinking Carlos nabbed some white cotton from a decorative display on a nearby storefront window and affixed it to his face using a white pipe cleaner he’d stolen from a different display. Before returning to the bar, he’d turned his black bomber jacket inside-out to reveal the reddish interior, and borrowed a Santa Claus hat from a bar display near the entrance while neither Shelby nor Mr. Boss were looking.

“I think he looks cute that way. By the way, have the two of you met yet?”

Carlos’s eyes widened with horror.

“Jimmy, this is my friend Trent. Trent…Jimmy.”

Mr. Boss reached out a hand to shake. The gold cufflink on his sleeve was a powerful contrast against his crisp, tailored white shirt.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, son. I always love meeting new people, especially bar people.”

Trent. Carlos sighed with relief. He’d forgotten that Shelby always called him by his last name; she probably didn’t even remember his first.

“Likewise, sir.” Carlos deepened his voice a little on purpose, just in case.

“What brings you out here on Christmas Eve yourself? You’re a young’un; where’s the girlfriend? Or boyfriend, if that’s your thing?”

“No such things,” came the reply.

“Well, that’s a shame. You know, Miss Shelby here is rather easy on the eyes.”

“Aw, thank you,” she added, blushing.

“As they say in Spain, de nada.”

Carlos nodded his head, smiling under the Santa Claus beard.

“So, let me buy you a round, poor fellow. What are you having?”

Before Carlos could protest, Shelby already had a PBR and a Palo Viejo shot at the ready.

“What is that shit?” Mr. Boss asked.

“Oh, it’s a Pabst Blue Ribbon,” Carlos said. “It’s my favorite beer.”

“What’s so special about it?”

“I dunno; it’s pretty good, I guess.”

Before opening it, he turned the can to read some of the print.

“Says here it was voted America’s Best in 1893.”

“1893?”

Mr. Boss let out a guffaw that could have awakened Bethlehem.

“What a load of horseshit! Who gives a fuck about 1893?”

He waved one hand towards Carlos and the other at Shelby.

“No, you don’t open that…Darlin’, can you get this boy one of my drinks? And get one for yourself. It’s time for me to give some Christian charity on this holiday, if you will.”

Shelby nodded and replaced Carlos’s inexpensive alternatives with a large glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label whiskey.

“Now, this is what a man drinks this time of year, son…”

Mr. Boss raised his glass to toast.

“Merry Christmas to all.”

They clinked glasses and swallowed the spirits.

“So, what do you think about the Yankees’ chances at this time in four months?”

Carlos rolled his eyes. His fourth shot of Johnnie Blue swished about in his mouth, and he sipped his Guinness stout before replying.

“Sir,” he replied, “what makes you think I’m a Yankee fan?”

“Isn’t everybody?”

Before Carlos could answer, Mr. Boss wheezed, let out a cough, and laughed heartily.

“Son, let me tell you something. You strike me as a corporate gent. And you know what? Us corporate gents love our Yankees.”

He lifted his glass to his lips and took a giant swallow of booze.

“It comes from the DiMaggio days. Back when Joe McCarthy was the manager, and it used to be said that rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel. Those were the stories my Daddy told me about, while bouncing me on his knee back in the fifties. But I didn’t know nothin’ about that then.”

Carlos let some alcohol slip down the back of his throat. He stained the faux beard with his next sip.

“All I knew about was winning. And drinking. My Yankees…they did a ton of both. I grew up idolizing the drunks…Billy, and Whitey, and, of course, Mantle. Those were my heroes. And as I grew older, I read a little about the older guys, especially Ruth. He was the greatest home run hitter they ever saw…The Sultan of Swat, The Maharajah of Mash, The Caliph of Klout. These were all names the media called him in those days. Not to mention, of course, the great Bambino. ”

Mr. Boss waved Shelby over.

“Babe’s favorite drink was called a Tom Collins. He used to down it, both drink and ice, in a single gulp.”

Shelby nodded.

“Making it is a lost art …it is a drink from the Roaring Twenties, you know. But, by chance, would you happen to know how to make one?”

“Teaspoonful of powdered sugar. The juice of half a lemon. A wine glass of Old Tom Gin. A bottle of plain soda. Shake up, or stir up with ice. Add a slice of lemon peel to finish.”

Shelby pulled out three Collins glasses and began pouring.

“You know your art, my dear,” Mr. Boss replied.

“I try,” she added, smiling. “And it’s not just a drink from the twenties. It’s been around a long, long time; the recipe I just recited comes from the Steward and Barkeeper’s Manual of 1869.”

“She knows her history too, apparently,” Carlos added.

With the drinks now in front of them, Mr. Boss raised his glass to toast.

“To Babe Ruth!”

Glass met glass in melodious rapture. Carlos and Shelby sipped theirs; Mr. Boss shotgunned his. Ice and all.

“Ah! I always wanted to do that. Quite Ruthian of me, don’t you think?”

“Indeed,” stated Shelby.

As twilight still raged, the lack of patronage became apparent. Everyone who might come in on a normal night was home with family, leaving just the three lonely souls to sip drinks and continue their small talk. But Dionysus would not be contained for long, and ritual madness would soon set in.

“You know what I miss the most about this holiday?”

“What?”

“My kids,” Mr. Boss replied.

Carlos nodded.

“You have any family, son?”

“None nearby.”

“That’s a shame,” Mr. Boss said, looking down at his Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.

“It’s quite all right,” Carlos replied. “It’s not like I wasn’t invited anywhere; I chose not to go. Just had too much work to take care of.”

Mr. Boss cocked an eyebrow at him.

“You know, I never did ask you what you do for a living.”

Carlos thought for a long time before answering. Having gotten to know a little bit more about Mr. Boss tonight than previously, and feeling the effects from multiple drinks, he boldly removed the beard.

“I work for you, Mr. Boss.”

Startled, Mr. Boss nearly fell from the stool. Now identifying Carlos as his most prized underwriter, he let out a gasp that awoke Shelby from a temporary snooze.

“Oh my,” he said softly. “Carlos Trent. I didn’t recognize you.”

“I didn’t want you to,” Carlos said. “I didn’t think it would be appropriate.”

“Nonsense,” he retorted. “You didn’t have to hide. You’re not on company time right now.”

“I understand that. However, I do appreciate my job, and don’t usually mix business and recreation.”

It was Mr. Boss’s turn to nod.

“I hope you won’t take this personal, but I wasn’t sure how you would react to finding me here.”

“How I would react,” Mr. Boss repeated, snickering. “Are you drunk when you come into the office?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Then why should I worry? It’s Christmas Eve, for goodness sake. We’re closed for business tomorrow, and won’t reopen until Monday. Drink up.”

Mr. Boss raised his glass again to toast. Carlos smiled and tapped Mr. Boss’s glass with his, and they both sipped.

“I do have one question, though.”

“What?” Carlos asked.

“When I said that you didn’t have to hide because you’re not on company time, you responded that you appreciate your job. You didn’t say you love your job. Why is that?”

Carlos breathed in heavily, fearing a loaded question. He flashed back to his college studies on Cold War China, and how Chairman Mao Tse-tung would recruit the country’s intellectuals to advance his programs, only to purge them later for their honesty. Could answering with sincerity cost him future advancement, or even employment? Or could it be akin to tossing someone else—Matt Evans, for instance—under the proverbial bus?

Mr. Boss glared at Carlos, awaiting an answer.

“Well, Mr. Boss,” Carlos finally stammered, “I do love my job. I never said I didn’t—”

“You lie,” Mr. Boss stated. His tone of voice raised the fine hairs along Carlos’s spine.

“Another drink?” Shelby asked, seeking to defuse the situation.

“Of course, my darling.”

He placed his glass back onto the bar.

“You know, work talk is so overrated,” she said. “We’re here to get away from all that, aren’t we?”

“Indeed, we are,” Mr. Boss replied. “But I’m curious. I’d like to know why Carlos used the word appreciate, rather than love.”

“He loves his job,” Shelby said. “He always tells me about it.”

“Always? How often do you come here?”

“On…occasion.”

“Occasion, like what? Every month? Every week? Every day?”

“Certainly not every day,” Carlos said.

“So, every week?”

Carlos suddenly regretted taking off the Santa Claus beard.

“Look,” Mr. Boss stated while placing a hand on Carlos’s shoulder, “I’m not going to bite you. You have been one of the cogs in the mighty machine that is Standard Insurance. To date, I’ve never had a problem with you. And my meeting you here does nothing to change that.”

Shelby placed another drink in front of the Boss.

“I’m glad to have met you here. Because now, at this very moment, I have an opportunity to truly know what is going on with my company.”

Mr. Boss now turned his seat around and looked at his glass. His head hung low.

“I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but I will. If you haven’t noticed, we’ve been processing quite a few cancellations in the past few months. As you may know, our loss cost multipliers are going through the roof, and we’re having some trouble staying competitive in many markets. Profit projections are going to be down for the fourth quarter…and perhaps for the foreseeable future.”

That explains all of the policy changes, Carlos thought.

“This really isn’t of much concern to you; we have the funds to stay solvent for a good while. I’m confident in our investment strategies, and I’m not worried about shareholders jumping ship at this time. But I’d really like to nip this in the bud. It starts here…and I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t gone out of my way to fix this below the corporate levels. So, with that said…what can I do better?”

Mr. Boss lifted the glass to his lips and took a long drink of Johnny Walker Blue.

“If you think I should demote, or fire, your supervisor, you can be honest about that.”

“Absolutely not,” Carlos stated in a firm tone. “He’s not the problem.”
“Then, what is?”

“The risks are the problem, if you ask me. Mr. Boss—”

“No more of this Mr. Boss shit. Call me Jim.”

“Okay, Jim. I feel as though we’ve spread ourselves too thin. In all honesty—and you’ve asked me to be honest here—do we really, really, need to insure against losses resulting from shakedowns by organized crime syndicates?”

“We’ve provided that type of protection since 1933.”

“And how often do we underwrite that risk?”

Jim was about to take another sip from his drink, but didn’t.

“I’m not really sure, son. Tell me.”

“Almost never. Wanna know why?”

Jim wanted to know why.

“It’s because few would actually try to collect on that. I’m sure our honest, hardworking insureds like to keep their limbs. And those that do file claims…well, if they aren’t stuck to the bottom of the East River by now, those we’re protecting them from are having nice dinners at our expense at some grand banquet hall in Brooklyn, or Staten Island, or New Jersey on our dime. It’s beyond absurd.”

Jim downed the rest of his drink.

“I’m only using this as an example. There are many, too many, risks that we insure that no other company will touch. Why is that? I value our insureds as much as anyone here, but holding on to ridiculous business that loses money because no one else wants to is recipe for disaster. Aside from worker’s compensation, or other required coverages, I don’t see the point in insuring against far-flung situations just because no one else thinks to do it. Or because it’s status quo; because your granddaddy felt it was the right thing to do during the World War or the Cold War or whatever war. Nobody’s dropped a nuke on us yet…maybe that was profitable in the 60’s, and maybe it had an upsurge around 9/11, but what is that insurance doing for us now? They’re not buying it!”

Exhausted from the rant, Carlos looked around. The Old Carriage House’s blue, unpainted walls now closed in on him, and the Christmas decorations seemed more fire hazard than peace symbols. Shelby hovered somewhere between sobriety and sleep; Jim’s demeanor suggested the latter rather than anything to do with the former.

“You wanna know something, boy?”
“What, Jim.”

“I miss my kids the most. How excited they used to get on this holiday. The tree trimmings, and the Christmas music, and all the presents under the tree.”

Carlos nodded again, this time like a bobblehead doll after a bout with Mike Tyson.

“But you know what else?”

“What else.”

“I didn’t get to see enough of that. Because I spread myself too thin.”

“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant; O come, ye, O come, ye to Bethlehem…”

This time, neither television nor radio blared the hymn. It was Jim Boss and Carlos Trent, singing at the top of their lungs, while awaiting a cab to take them from Old Carriage House to their respective residences. Carlos made it uptown safely and without incident, and he wished Jim to do the same. The Boss nodded, hiccupped, muttered something about making Shelby his fifth wife, and was gone shortly thereafter.

Carlos woke up with frighteningly little recollection of the night. He remembered a few moments—his blasphemous communion, his attempt to hide his identity from Mr. Boss, and the ill-advised reveal. Christmas morning was spent in turns vomiting and regretting. Several people called throughout the day to wish him a Merry Christmas, including Matt Evans, who wanted to make sure Carlos had a safe and pleasant holiday; he thanked all, and took solace in the fact that Matt hadn’t mentioned anything about the night at the Old Carriage House. Mr. Boss, or one of his superiors, hadn’t contacted him, and he held out hope that James E. Boss IV may not have retained details of the night either.

Jim Boss remembered.

“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant; O come, ye, O come, ye to Bethlehem…”

On Monday, December 27th, Carlos Trent was again seated at his desk. It was 8 AM. A large cup of coffee sat near his left hand, and he grabbed the first policy atop the stack of work that awaited him. Firing up his Dell, he silently prayed to God, whatever God that might be listening, that his job was still secure after he’d drank with the Boss.

“Hey, Carlos.”

Turning around, he found Matt Evans waiting. Matt held a package in his hand.

“I’ve got something for you.”

“Okay…”

Matt placed it on Carlos’s desk. The package had no return address.

“I was told to give this to you. It doesn’t sound like it’s ticking or anything…but be careful when you open it.”

“Duly noted. Thanks.”

“If you need me for anything, let me know, okay guy?”

“Got it. Thanks.”

Matt left Carlos’s cubicle. When he was gone, Carlos reached over and opened the box.

Inside, there was large bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. And a note:

Dear Carlos,

Santa Claus thinks you should have this. And he agrees that we need to stop spreading ourselves so thin. I promise that we will turn our losses into profits soon, and believe your input will help us make it happen. Let’s do the Old Carriage House again sometime soon.

Your friend,

Babe Ruth

Carlos smiled, moved the package to the side, and returned to his computer. But he wasn’t at his workstation for long.

“Hey again.”

Again, Carlos turned and found Matt behind him.

“I just got out of a meeting with Executive. And I’ve got some really, really, great news for you.”

Carlos bit his lip.

“I don’t know what’s going on, but apparently, Mr. Boss himself has reviewed your work. And he’s asked me to personally inform you that a supervisory position is open at this time. He wants you to interview for it.”

Carlos’s eyes grew to saucers.

“I’ve always known that you have what it takes to move up in this company. And it’s awesome that, out of everyone, Mr. Boss himself sees it. Congratulations.”

A smile crossed Carlos’s face.

“Mr. Boss wants to see you now. Good luck with this.”

“Thanks, Matt.”

His supervisor stepped towards him, shook his hand, and left again as Carlos shut down his Dell and left the cubicle for the final time.

Castro NIGHTMARES cover

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