||Downsized and Drunk
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|Riiiiiiinnnnnnnggggggggg! Joe, a 500-pound Brown Bear, groaned as he reached over and slammed a paw down on his alarm clock. He stood up, stretched, and looked over at his wife Lenore, who snored while curled up in the fetal position. He sighed and prepared for work. Soon he sped his Honda down a parkway and grumbled aloud to himself, “just 55 more payments and this damn car is mine. I don’t want to work at Pine Tech anymore. I am sick of it all. There are just too many 10-289’s to complete on Mondays.”
Joe punched in at the time clock and plodded down the hallway. He paused in front of the water cooler and gazed at the bubbles that floated to the top. He didn’t want to sit in front of a computer screen all day. No, he just wanted to stand in front of that cooler and stare at the bubbles. They were hypnotic and peaceful. Part of him wished he were two inches tall so he could live in that water cooler. He would be like one of those humans who lived in the woods. He would be naked and free from work and would swim inside of that water cooler all day floating up up up in the bubbles. He felt a moist paw slap him on the back. He turned and realized it was Bob, a bald and pudgy dwarf panda who worked in accounting. Bob asked, “Have a good weekend?” Bob didn’t even wait for a reply from Joe and continued with “hear about Jane? She got arrested and put in jail over the weekend.”
Joe hated workplace gossip but he couldn’t help but say,” Well, that’s what she gets for running with Polar Bears. Still, I don’t know how you can get arrested in this day and age.” He sat in front of his computer and logged onto a project when he heard a “ping!” sound on his monitor speaker that indicated that he had a new email. The ping echoed throughout the office on all of the other computers, which meant that everyone received the same new email at once. “Probably an email from corporate demanding that we work this Saturday,” he thought and ignored the new email icon while it flashed in the corner of the screen. He overheard his coworkers as they cursed and someone yelled “they can’t do that to us!” Curious, Joe clicked the email icon and mouthed the words on his lips as he read it:
Dear Respected Employee,
Due to the ever changing needs of our customers and a struggling economy, Pine Tech is forced to permanently shut down your branch as of 5 p.m. today. However, you will be allowed to apply for new jobs with any Pine Tech sister company until noon today. Employees who do not apply in the bear resources department for a new position by noon are considered as voluntarily resigned.
CEO Pine Tech Incorporated
Joe snorted in disgust and his stomach churned. He sprinted to a bathroom only to find seven grizzly bears waiting in line. He rushed down the stairs and, after he used the maintenance workers’ bathroom. Afterward, he hustled to bear resources where Bob stood in front of the door with Rory, an Irish Sun Bear. Bob fished a bottle of Pepto Bismal out of his briefcase and chugged down the whole bottle.
Rory spat out, “Git a load of this shite!” He tapped on a notice taped to the locked-shut door of the bear resource office. The note read, “ Jason and Ken are both on vacation this week. They will return Monday the 23rd at 8 a.m. Should you have a bear resource emergency please contact corporate headquarters at: 1-800-866-1973.”
“What a crock of shite!” Rory shouted. “Both of the bear resource employees are gone so we are all considered to have voluntarily resigned! What a bunch of Fockers!” He looked over at Bob, who dialed the 1-800 number on his cell phone. “What are you doing?”
Bob grimaced and said the bear resource number was busy.
“Course it ‘tis!” Rory shouted. “What a crock! At five we all be fired! After that I’m going down to the pub. Who be joining me?”
Bob shook his head no, and Joe noticed that Bob’s lips and chin were pink-coated from the Pepto Bismal. Rory shouted, “What a pansy!” He turned to Joe and demanded, “You got any spunk in you? You’ll be joining me, right?”
“Well,” Joe hesitated. The thought of going home to Lenore and explaining that he had to find a new job in this economy sickened him. They had $43,000 in credit card debt and an adjustable- rate-mortgage payment that was going to skyrocket next month. Lenore was an unemployed nurse slash aspiring poet who had a taste for diamonds, gold, and a new pair of ‘everythang.’ Joe wanted to delay telling Lenore for as long as possible and said, “I’ll go with you for a couple drinks.”
Rory smiled and shouted, “Now there’s the spirit.” Then he lowered his voice and said, “course, I may need a wee bit of a ride to the pub as I got meself a DWI last month.”
Joe called the bear resource number a dozen times but received a busy signal each time. Noon passed. Then it was 5:10 p.m. and Joe steered his Honda through traffic and stammered, “I can’t believe this happened. I j-j-just wish I was still at Pine Tech and everything was going to be okay. I used to hate my job but now, looking back, maybe it wasn’t so bad. “
Rory said, “this be a string of bad luck but ‘tis nothing to cry over. There are plenty of new jobs out there for a feller who wants to work.”
Joe growled at Rory and said, “How long you been in this country? I don’t know what it was like in Ireland, but here in America, the economy has gone straight to hell. Sure, there are plenty of jobs at McDonald’s, with lousy pay and substandard benefits. But as far as good jobs go there is jack squat left.”
“All will seem better after a couple of beers,” Rory said.
They sat in a dimly lit pub and Joe felt a nervous twinge when he noticed a group of polar bears by the pool table. They were unusually silent for polar bears, and they stared at Joe and Rory for some time. Joe tilted his head back while he gulped down the first bottle of beer.
“That’s the spirit!” Rory shouted clapping Joe on the back. “I like to see a bear who can chug down a beer. You got’s to be careful though. It be bad luck to lay your bottle caps down on a bar bottom-side up. In Ireland that will be bring you bad kismet.” Rory picked up Joe’s bottle cap and turned it over top-up on the bar.
Joe guzzled another beer and said, “ I’m going to have to stop at two beers though. I have to drive home.”
“Aw ya pansy!” Rory shouted. “I’ll call a cab to drive ye home!” Three hours passed and Joe gazed at the string of top-side-up bottle caps spread out across the bar top. He noticed that Rory shouted louder with each round. Soon, the polar bears left the pool table and came over to the bar. One polar bear, dressed in a flannel shirt and pants so low you could almost see his tail, shambled over to Rory and said, “Your shouting is giving me a headache, dude.”
Rory shouted, “What da the fock is your problem?”
The polar bear smirked and said, “Check out your accent, dude. Where you from?”
“I be from focking China! Where do you think I’m from? I be from Ireland.”
The polar bear turned to his friends and said, “The loudmouth is from Ireland!” One of his friends shouted out, “What were you there, a drunken potato farmer?”
Rory scowled and shouted, “Me mother’s arse, I wasn’t a potato farmer! I was an industrial engineer.”
One of the other polar bears said, “James Joyce is from Ireland. Tell me dude, was that guy wasted 24-7? I mean how can someone write so no one could understand him at all? Like all the time he just wrote gibberish.”
“What are ye, a literary circle? And don’t be knockin’ Joyce, he be my country’s pride and joy.” Rory began to quote James Joyce’s Ulysses, “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stair head bearing a bowl of lather—“
The polar bears laughed and one shouted, “Did you ever hear of Irish Spring? We have soap here in America. Seriously, you are one smelly dude.“
Rory stood up and shouted, “That be the last straw!” He charged toward the polar bears. Soon, everyone except for Joe and the barmaid left the pub to fight outside. An hour passed and Joe gave up hope on Rory returning. Joe settled their bar tab and realized he had $2 left, which wouldn’t pay for a cab ride home. He debated calling Lenore but they only had the one car. He used his $2 to buy breath mints out of the bar’s vending machine and stumbled out to the parking lot.
While he sucked on a mint, he steered into traffic and drove slowly down the highway. He felt his cell phone vibrate in his chinos and he reached down and looked at the cell’s screen: it was Lenore. He decided not to answer, but on a whim, while still looking down at his cell phone, he decided to drunk dial a Brown Bear named Kristy Iowa who he had a crush on in high school. He had googled her online a week ago and realized she lived only two miles from his house. He thought he would give her a call just to chat about old times and maybe get together for coffee. He had trouble pushing the buttons of the phone and grumbled, “Why do they make these cell phone buttons so damn hard to get your paws on.” He kept misdialing and gave up on calling her. He felt confused when he glanced up from his cell phone and saw a car parked in front of him. Ka bam! His body jerked forward snug under the seatbelt and he shouted, “Who the hell parks in the middle of a highway?” Ready for a fight, he exited his car and looked up in shock at the policeman exiting the crumpled-up car in front of him.
The cop, an American Black Bear, marched toward Joe. “How did you manage to hit me? Have you been drinking?”
“No, sir, well, maybe just a couple.” Joe felt terrified. “I didn’t see you there and I was—“
The cop barked, “Oh, I know it’s hard to spot marked squad cars with a half dozen red and orange lights flashing on top.”
Joe took in the scene and realized that he had rear-ended a police car far off to the side of the highway’s shoulder.
Two hours later Joe shuffled into a cell of the county jail, and he was puzzled to hear someone call out, “Joe! They got you too!” Joe noticed Bob (still with Pepto Bismal on his face) who sat pants-down in the corner atop the cell’s toilet. Joe averted his gaze from Bob but asked, “What’d they get you for, Bob?”
Bob moaned and said, “I violated Jill’s restraining order. I just wanted to ask her to take me back.”
Joe sat down on the concrete bench, looked at his graying paws and wondered how he would get out of the cell.
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