Leo massaged the back of his neck, thankful the meeting was finally over.
“It’s been a good run,” Mason smiled.
Leo didn’t respond. He took the file box he’d been given and began carefully placing the framed pictures from his desk glass-side down. Janie missing her front teeth. Julie peeking out from behind lilacs in the front yard. Should he call and tell her?
He didn’t know if he could take her positivity. “This is just the change you need!” she’d say. “That company didn’t deserve you.”
Most of the time he wondered how he’d married someone like Julie. Beautiful, a dentist. Someone so fundamentally good. But other times he wondered what it would feel like to drive the claw side of a hammer into her skull, to never have to hear her natter on about anything again. Now was one of those times.
After security made sure he’d packed only personal effects and nothing confidential, he was led out the front door. That’s it, he thought. Ten years of loyalty gone because of a buy-out. He’d become “redundant” after the merger. “They have their own marketing department,” Mason had said only an hour ago.
He drove to a bar a few miles away where he hoped he wouldn’t see anyone he knew. The parking lot was full of pickup trucks, and a sign with a drawing of a gun announced, “We shoot first!” Leo was sure no one he knew would be here. Just one beer, he thought. Just one beer to calm my nerves.
When the girl with the gun walked in, at first he thought nothing of it. It was a rough crowd. You couldn’t blame a girl for carrying in a place like this. But then she let herself behind the bar and climbed up, standing on the counter. She kicked a Pabst can out of a man’s hand. “Where’s Bill?!” she yelled.
It took only a second for the bartender to grab her around the knees and yank her down. The old-timer who had lost his Pabst had the gun, and the girl was sobbing.
“You have to stop this shit, Ashley.” The bartender was a big man. He seemed to be bear-hugging her while getting her to take deep breaths. “Bill isn’t worth shit. You’re going to get yourself killed over that asshole.”
Her sobs seemed to come further and further apart. The few patrons stared into the neon above the bar. A man asked if he could change the channel to watch the game.
Leo wadded up a twenty in his sweaty palm and threw it down on the bar. He walked out into the bright sunlight. He’d forgotten it was still daytime. He didn’t look back.