Really Short Stories: Time for Change?

He began, “I am terribly upset.  My boss is impossible.  It is time.  I must change jobs.”

She softly asked, “Do you really want to change?”

Taking the question as disapproval, he justified himself, “I do the best I can, but it’s never good enough.  I feel I should quit.”

Her silence was discomfiting.  Dropping the complaining tone, he became defensive.

“I was late for the meeting.  So I rushed through the presentation.  That didn’t work very well.”

 Still there was no comment.  He hastened to add, “I was late because the car was punctured.  It got late last night, and there was no way I could take care of it then, so….”

As he trailed off, he realized that his mid-week party had not been a good idea.  He could have put in a better effort on the slides, if he had not been in a rush to leave for the opposite end of town last evening.

Speaking as though he had said all this aloud, he explained himself. “It was my classmate’s surprise birthday party.  The one I have talked about before – the celebrity singer.  My friends don’t understand why I have to work so late.  They are all doing well.  Losing my father early caused a gap in my education.  And then the break between the last job and this one.  People don’t recognize how my personal problems damaged my career.”  He scowled bitterly and reflexively shot a guilty glance towards her.

Though she did not reply, he had heard from her often enough in the past.  So with a sigh, he spoke for her:  “Yes, I know.  All that was a long time back.  I can choose to carry that complaint forever.  Or move on without making it an excuse every time something goes wrong.”

He felt helpless now.  “Even if I were to do that, it doesn’t change the truth isn’t it?  I am nothing compared to others from my class.  I keep trying.  But it can never happen.”

He looked up in frustration as a memory flashed before his eyes.  “I have known this for years.  Right since that day in school, when I slipped and lost the relay race for my team.  All the abuses I received!  Everyone told me how I would always slip up when it matters most.  And they were right!”  Tears of pain and helplessness filled his eyes as he repeated to her: “They were so right! I have been proving them right again and again.”

He looked down to wipe his tears and mumbled again, “I have been proving them right again and again.”

He looked up startled by his own words and for the first time, her face showed some expression.  The quizzically raised eyebrow and a quiet smile confirmed his profound insight.

 “I have been proving them right!  I believed them and so all my life I have done nothing but expected to fail.  To struggle.  To slip up when it really matters! To make poor choices like I did last night.  A voice inside me always says ‘Why bother? You know how this will end.’”

He shook his head in amazement.  “Does this mean I can change it all?” he asked her.  Fresh hope and courage flowed into him.

With sparkling eyes, he smiled as she asked him once again, “Do you really want to change?”

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