The Picture
Alison Gerads

Allen pulled his hot orange Audi R8 V10—a too powerful to be sensible in a city car that looked like it was straight out of a scifi movie—into his parking spot in the garage. He took a sip of his needlessly hot Starbucks espresso as he listened to the end of the Glenn Beck Radio Show. Taking a moment, he checked his slicked back blond hair in the mirror and gave himself a cheery wink, his pale blue eyes smiling back at him. Like always, he was early, so it gave him just enough time to enjoy his morning espresso.

"Oops!" he said suddenly.

Allen saw a duffle bag with his hiking boots in his backseat in his peripheral vision. They were still there from his hiking trip a month ago. No problem, he would remember this time. His backseat is normally so clean that he forgot that it was back there.

Finally turning the car off, he gathered his leather-bound briefcase and gracefully slid out of the car as he popped open the door, which was a feat due to his tall, lanky body. The rush of St. Paul met Allen's ears like roar. His lip sneered a bit in response to the noise. The energy of the city irritated him, but this was the best place to make money, despite all of those liberals in this city trying to bankrupt the hardworking types like him. Giving the door a gentle nudge, the door closed with a click.

He took long strides over toward the door that led to the accounting firm that he was an associate. Marching in, he gave a nod to Kelly the receptionist. She just returned a dull smile. Walking over to his desk, he found a group that has converged in view of his desk. He frowned. What were they up to? He did not allow any hint of doubt or suspicion cross his face, though. He had a face of immovable stone. Stoically, he approached his desk. Sitting elegantly on his daily planner was a framed picture of a square-jawed man standing next to a woman with long blonde hair and ice rimmed eyes. Underneath them were four children who appeared to take after their mother more than their father, thankfully. Allen's jaw clenched, but he appeared to be just as rigid as he always did.

He heard whispered chuckles behind him, but he refused to turn around or acknowledge them. Carefully, he picked up the picture and despite his rage, he carefully put it in his drawer. Then, as if nothing had happened, he gingerly placed his briefcase on his desk. He was still early, so he closed his eyes and recited the Our Father in his head a few times, hoping it would calm him down and give him the patience he needed.

A slap against his briefcase woke Allen out of his prayer. He looked up to find Kelly over him. She gestured to the memo in front of him with her eyes and moved on without a word. He poised himself as he picked up the piece of paper and read it.

Today's Focus: Remember that we need to get the Fletcher account finished by Thursday. We need to work extra hard on that today. Also, the O'Mally account is right after that. It's the busy season!

Also, congratulations to Bill McCoy. His true leadership skills and hard work have paid off. He will be replacing the late George Stefferson as partner.

Allen shot a look behind him to the newly promoted Bill McCoy. His rosy cheeks were spread wide as he smiled from congratulations from his peers. Allen could feel rage pulsing in his eyes. He stood up from his chair and turned mechanically. Good leadership? McCoy spent the last quarter schmoozing up the boss and going to parties, Allen was the one who pulled the group together to finish those accounts on time—despite everyone believing it was a lost cause. Hard work? Allen was the one who spent those all-nighters, even when everyone else gave up and went home.

Standing before McCoy, he beamed a smile and said as he reached out a hand, "I couldn't have done it without you, pal!"

You can say that again. Despite the venom coursing through his veins, he seized the other man's hand. He gave it a good yank and squeeze. McCoy's eyes sprang open with surprise, as if he wasn't expecting Allen to be so strong.

"Congratulations," Allen said.