Sammy took the pink slip he was handed and punched out of Renders Automotive and Plastics for the last time. He knew the layoff was coming, but it still left him feeling both sick and desperate. Ever since one of the executives, Marley Compton—also known as the boss’s romp—caused a fiasco by not fixing equipment to OSHA’s standards, the company began downsizing until talk of layoffs were finally aired, and today it became a reality.
“So whatcha gonna do, now that we don’t have to come back to this dump anymore?” Pete said as he gave Sammy a quick slap on the back.
Sammy shrugged as they walked out of the haze of blue plastic fumes of the shop and into the fresh air of the parking lot. “I was thinking of moving to Lucifer’s Island for a while. How about you?”
“I’m gonna sit back and collect my unemployment for a while and then . . .” Pete rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess I’m not sure, there aren’t many jobs like this around anymore. I think all the good paying factory jobs went to China. I’ll probably end up working at McDonald’s.”
Sammy laughed then turned his attention to an argument brewing at the factory door. Apparently some workers were airing a grievance with the foreman. He turned back to Pete and they continued walking to their cars. “I know what you mean about jobs; I might have to learn a new skill. Good thing I saved up some money.”
Pete was about to veer toward his car when he stopped. “Hey, a bunch of us are going down to Flashers for a few drinks, why don’t you join us.”
“Nah,” Sammy said, looking down at the cracked concrete. “I’ve got packing to do at home so that I can get over to the island.”
“What’s on that island, anyway?”
Ruby was on that island and he wanted to be near her. “I have a friend who’s staying there for a while and she needs help with something.”
“She?” Pete teased. “I didn’t realize you had a girlfriend. Anyone I know?”
Sammy put his hands in his pockets and that was when he noticed that he did not have his cell phone. “Shit. I think I left my phone in the lunchroom.”
“You’d better go get it before they lock the door on your ass,” Pete said, walking away. “Call me sometime and we’ll have a few drinks. It’s been good working with you.”
“Same to you,” Sammy said, focusing his attention on the ruckus at the door that he would have to go back through.
He walked toward the disgruntled workers, a few women and men, who were making accusations that the company had not given them enough warning that it was going to close permanently.
“What am I supposed to do?” a woman said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I’m a single mom with young kids and you made it sound like the layoff would be temporary. But now you say the plant is closing permanently.”
A man piped in and pointed a finger at the foreman’s face as a security guard approached. “I’ll bet you did this on purpose, telling us it would be temporary so that we didn’t look for other jobs and leave before the last day. This place is always thinking of itself and never giving a crap about the workers.”
Sammy sighed as he approached the angry group. He was a big man, towering over most of them. Even though his girth was mostly fat, not muscle, he was still intimidating. Worried the foreman was about to sic the guard on him, he said calmly, “I left my phone in the lunchroom and I just need to get it.”
“No one is allowed back inside,” the foreman said, putting his hands on his hips.
Sammy stared at the foreman, not sure how to respond. “That’s the only phone I have and I really need it. I’ll just be a second.”
“Let the guy get his phone, for god’s sake,” an agitated man said, his nostrils flaring. “Send the guard with him if you think he’s gonna steal something.”
The foreman looked back at Sammy, who looked more like a well-worn teddy bear than a threat. “Okay, go get it, but be fast about it.”
Sammy walked past the keyed up coworkers, the nervous foreman, and the security guard who was watching him as closely as he was watching the others. He darted past the time clock, opened the lunchroom door, and walked to where he had been setting while he ate the last low carb food—boiled eggs and cheese—-he would ever eat, at the cluttered table. Sammy felt sad, it was like losing a family. All the people he talked with for all the years he had worked there, made it seem as though someone had died. Even though they razzed each other a lot, he knew more about the people he worked with and their families than he did his own.
Sammy looked at the tabletop, covered with old fishing magazines, Avon books, and order forms to purchase whatever the latest fundraiser project was for someone’s kid at Black Water School but did not see his phone. He was about to panic when he saw it on the floor next to the chair he had sat in earlier, he must have somehow knocked it off the table. Sammy reached down, retrieved it, and put it in his pocket, hoping he had not damaged it. He would test it later, right now he wanted to get out of there as the loud voices at the door turned to shouting.
Sammy was about to open the lunchroom door when he heard scuffling and saw punches being thrown. The foreman, guard, and the men were fistfighting while the crazy women spurred them on. What a spectacle, he had not seen a brawl since middle school when he punched a bully in the face for calling him a fat bastard, promptly knocking out the kid—and winning himself a two-week suspension from school and a job cleaning cow manure on the neighbor’s farm. He hurried to the door at the back of the lunchroom, leading to the offices.
“Thank you, Jesus,” he said aloud, relieved it was unlocked. He pushed it open and entered the office space where a woman screamed upon seeing him rush past her desk and toward the exit. “I’m leaving. I can’t get out the other way.”
“I’m calling the police,” another woman said, dialing the phone.
Sammy dashed out of the factory and toward his car. He wanted nothing to do with the chaos, even if his friends needed him.