The Short Story Experience: THE BOSS

“And, now, for our greatest achievement of the year,” Damon paused dramatically. I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes. “Please give a round of applause to Carmen.”

Everyone cheered as she stepped in front of the team. It was clear she was beloved by everyone. Well, almost everyone.

“For the twelfth consecutive month, this branch of Middle of Nowhere turned in the highest revenue ever.” Everyone clapped louder. “All thanks to your brilliant manager, Carmen.”

Excuse me, I thought. All thanks to the team that worked here, right? She might have been the first one in and the last one out, but Carmen didn’t work on her own.

“Thank you, Damon, but I must say it’s all thanks to everyone,” she turned her welled up eyes to us. Ugh. “We have such a great team here. We’re really like family.”

To that, I couldn’t keep my eye-roll concealed. Of course she’d be the kind of boss to consider the employees her family. It was sickening.

“Please, one more round for the best manager this store has ever seen.”

And the most annoying boss I’ve ever had.

I lingered behind as people started to line up to thank her. Just the thought of having to even talk to her in front of everyone was enough to make me want to dig up a hole and throw myself in.

“Thank you so much for everything, Carmen. I’ll never forget you were the one to give me a chance here.”

She had been the one to give me a chance, too. I was fresh out of college and struggling to get a job in my area. She brought me here—thirty miles away from my house, literally the Middle of Nowhere—and gave me a job as a sales assistant.

I was late on my first day since I had to basically take a road trip to get here. I rushed through the door—directly into her.

“You’re late!” she said in that little sing-song voice of hers.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, running past her to the locker room.

“No problem!” she chirped.

Right then I knew what kind of boss she would be. I would have to learn to deal with a lot if I was going to make it work.

“Carmen!” The line moved along. “You’re so deserving of this! You’re such a hands-on boss!”

Yes, that was also true. She liked meddling into our jobs, mainly so she’d be certain we were doing things her way. Just last week, as I was restocking the cereal shelf, she appeared by my side. She must have a sixth sense for these things.

“Everything all right here? Do you need any help?” she’d asked.

“No,” I’d answered, not stopping my monotonous task.

“Why don’t you use a ladder?” she asked when I had to stretch my arm to reach the top shelf. “I’ll fetch it for you.”

Five minutes later, she was the one on top of the ladder organizing the boxes according to her ‘system’—which is whatever way she likes them organized. She droned on and on about the reasons they had to be put together a certain way, as if there was some kind of science behind it. I didn’t listen.

“She’s not only a great boss, but she’s a friend,” whoever was first in line was telling Damon. “She cares about our well-being.”

She cares about not being sued, that is. She’s super strict with break times, sick leaves, and even vacations. Nobody spends one minute more inside this hellhole than they need or want to.

After my first year here, I tried to sell back my vacation days. I still had student loans to pay, which I wasn’t able to cover, not even after my salary raise, so I figured I’d make a little more money off of my resting rights. I didn’t have anywhere to go, anyway. But Carmen had different plans.

“I can’t authorize that,” she’d said, her warm brown eyes open wide. “Don’t you have plans with your family?”

“Yes, but I need the money. They will understand,” I’d argued.

“I’m sure they would, but you need a break. You’ve been working so hard the entire year…”

And then she proceeded to make a long speech explaining why I should reconsider. Or, rather, why she wouldn’t give me my damn money.

She was really good at disguising her business-thirst with sweet concern.

“Don’t carry that many boxes at once, it will harm your back,” and earn her a labor suit.

“Go home right now, there’s no need to work when you’re sick,” and contaminate other employees, resulting in fewer people working.

“Let’s rotate day and night shifts so nobody feels burdened,” and no one can get a second job.

And it worked, right? We’d been the highest selling store for a whole freaking year. The damn witch.

I paused in front of her. It was my turn to congratulate her. I took a deep breath.

“Well done, Carmen.”

She squealed, pulling me to a tight hug.

“Thank you, sweetie,” she cooed in my ear.

I endured it like a warrior, fully aware of everybody’s eyes on me. When she let me go, Damon tapped my back.

“You must be so proud,” he smiled. I only nodded. “Tell me, is she as good as a mom as she is as a manager?”

I rolled my eyes, looking back at Carmen’s beaming face. It was enraging.

“Yes,” I admitted in defeat. “Yes, she is.”

Ilustration by the amazin Javi!
@javi_draws on Twitter

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