Board Meeting
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 by Frank Shortt
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        “Fred, I don’t think I deserve this award”.
        “Sure you do, you earned it by being the best Secretary in the whole Elm Rock School District.”
        “But, But, how will I be able to face all those people?”
        “Don’t even look at them. Just pretend you are looking at me, your beloved husband, over a nice Starbucks Latte.”
        “Do you think my outfit is dressy enough for this occasion?”
        “Cheryl, you’ve never looked better. Why, you look like a model out of Vogue!”
        “My hair looks all blown around as if we just had a tornado.”
        “Oh phooey! You look like Marilyn Monroe in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
        “Well, I’ll take my chances and go, but I’ve never won an award in my life.”
         Fred Stone had been raised by an abusive father and a browbeating mother. He was an Air Force Veteran of the Vietnam war. While there he had been involved in a radiac detection team. This meant that if a crash landing occurred involving nukes his team were the first to arrive. They would try to salvage any lives not killed outright in the crash. The little round, black radiation detection box hanging around his neck was no consolation. It only told the commanding officer how much radiation the wearer had endured. Thankfully no hazardous crashes occurred during Fred’s tour of duty.
        Cheryl Stone on the other hand was raised very liberally. She was allowed to do whatever she chose, within reason. Her effacement was voluntary. She was modest to a fault and very much a wallflower at gatherings. She was a beauty but a little too unsure of herself. This was Fred’s choice in a woman.
        It would be a short ceremony. They would not even need to stick around for all the gibberish afterward. All that usually went on at these meetings was someone complaining about not enough money. Occasionally there would be a termination or layoff report, Dullsville in the flesh.
        As Fred and Cheryl drove to the District Office Cheryl was unusually quiet. She was no parrot by any means, but something was just not right. Fred did most of the talking this night. He was night custodial supervisor of the District. Fred’s way of dealing with custodial problems was to appeal to a man’s sense of duty to school and family. If all else failed he used the old standby, a guilt trip!
        “Do you think Stan should have let Sam Malero go? I wasn’t even allowed to be in the termination process. I didn’t think Sam was such a bad guy. He was always courteous, got most of his work done. He just didn’t bathe enough and his work habits were a little haphazard. Was it that Stan just didn’t like him for some reason? Could it be that Sam knew too much about Stan’s personal life?”
        Sam had come from Texas before hiring on as a custodian with Elm Rock District. His personnel file showed that he had been a cook for Dunkin Donuts, prior to that he had been a sniper in Vietnam. According to his service records he had done his job very well. He was under treatment for PTSD. His file showed no arrests, an alleged disorderly conduct but no conviction. Some said he was only hired because the former Superintendent was his cousin.
        Stan Fail was an ambitious man. He was handsome after a fashion. His ’Men’s Warehouse’ suits were of the finest cut. His thinning hair was always fluffed just right showing fullness. He drove a Benz. Having come from a hospital background everything had to be sterile in his surroundings. He had only been employed by the District for less than a year and had climbed the ladder very quickly. A little too quickly some folks thought. He also had a penchant for the young ladies in the Operations department, especially Jane Gomez. Too often he found extra work for her at the end of the day. His light burned even after everyone else had left. Sam Malero was the custodian in Stan’s section.
        “I still don’t want to go to this meeting.” Couldn’t we just go back home, or go out to dinner instead?”
        Cheryl was still not sure she wanted to endure the embarrassment. Why had Yolie, her clerk typist, even have entered her name in the pool for best secretary?
        “Stop worrying! It’ll all be over before you have time to turn red. I’m sure the board president will make it short knowing your personality and having been to the school so many times. Surely he has noticed your professionalism and way of doing things quickly.”
        “That’s not all that’s bothering me,” she replied. My woman’s intuition tells me that something is not right at this particular board meeting. Didn’t you notice when Stan Fail parked his car he emerged walking slower than usual with his head drooping? He must have a load on his mind. Maybe he is having second thoughts about letting Sam go.”
        As they entered the Board room there was an atmosphere of gloom. Asa Hernandez, the board president, was not his usual boisterous self. Was he already regretting having to do a personnel action? Why was everyone talking in subdued tones? Could something more than an awards ceremony be in the wings?
        The clock struck seven and the meeting was called to order. No one, except Fred Stone, who was always alert, noticed Sam Malero skulking just outside the boardroom door. Suddenly, without warning, Sam rushed in upsetting an empty chair as he ran. All eyes turned to the tumult, and at the same time Fred pulled Cheryl under one of the heavy boardroom tables.
        “You’re gonna pay for firin’ me Stan Fail. You with yore fancy suits and yore cheatin’ ways.”
        Saying that, he produced a nine millimeter semi-automatic firing a couple of shots at Stan hitting him full in the chest. Asa Hernandez tried to leap toward the other door but was hit in the neck by Sam’s next fusillade. Stan died instantly, Asa a few hours later.
        The Texan despairingly attempted to explain the why of his actions. “Stan Fail had no business judgin’ anyone. “Every night stayin’ late, cheatin’ on his wife with th’ likes of Jane Gomez.”
        The room lay deathly quiet. All feared to breath thinking Sam would turn the gun on anyone who blinked.
        “Don’t move, Fred whispered to Cheryl. There’s no need inviting more trouble.”
        Under his breath he uttered a silent prayer.
        Just as suddenly, as he had fired the automatic at Stan and Asa, Sam turned it upon himself. He blew his tortured heart into eternity falling backward over the upset chair. His life’s blood ran in a small rivulet over the shiny floor that he had buffed so many times.