Better Late Than Never

“You’re fired,” said Heather calmly. She stood behind her desk, leaning on her hands and staring at the scattered papers that lined the surface. Slowly, she looked up at Tommy, the young messenger who was clearly not understanding that he had just lost his job.

“Wait… what?” Tommy asked, more confused than was usual for him. Heather sighed in frustration. Of course he wouldn’t understand why she had just fired him. He spent most of his time being confused by the things going on around him, why would being fired make things any simpler?

“I said that you’re fired.” She was still trying to maintain her calm, even though her reasons for dismissing the kid were enough to make her incredibly angry. “I’m sorry to do it, Tommy. You’re just not cut out for this work.”

“Why do you say that?” he asked, still confused but trying to understand.

Heather just looked at him. She wondered if he would ever truly get it, even if she explained in exhaustive detail. She shook her head and said, “I hired you to work for this company as a messenger. That’s the only job you have with us. But you’re constantly showing up to work late. And when we send you out on a delivery you can never really seem to make your deadlines.”

“I didn’t realize you were putting me on a time limit!” Tommy said, showing his first signs of anger.

“Tommy, when I interviewed you for this position, I asked you if you understood that some of the things that you would be delivering would be time sensitive. And in that interview, you assured me that you could handle that. You told me that you had no problem being prompt when making deliveries.”

Tommy scratched his head and then rubbed his neck. He was at a loss. It wasn’t as if he could come up with a good excuse for all of his tardiness. And he certainly couldn’t tell his boss the truth about all of the late deliveries. If he told her that, most of the time, he was just on the phone with his friends and goofing off, it wouldn’t help his situation in the slightest. “I’m sorry, Mrs. H. I just assumed we had a ‘better late than never’ policy.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth he knew they were a mistake. Mentally, he kicked himself and tried to prepare for the whirlwind that was to come.

“Better late than never?!” Heather’s patience had now reached its limit. “Tell me you’re kidding!”

“Mrs. Hutchins, please, I’m really sorry! I need this job.” Tommy got very quiet. Heather could barely hear him over the sound of her heart beating in her ears.

“What if you were delivering someone’s supply of blood pressure medication that they desperately need? What if you were delivering someone’s paycheck?” she asked, trying to convey the gravity of what was happening. “Don’t you think the people waiting for the things you deliver are important enough to deserve your undivided attention when you’re doing your job? The fact that you just said what you did tells me that this isn’t important to you. How would you feel if some kid showed up with something that was important to you two or three hours after you were told he would be there?”

“I guess I’d be pretty mad,” Tommy said, his voice getting softer as he spoke.

“You guess?” It was all Heather could do to contain her anger. “Get out of here. Your last paycheck will be in the mail. It’ll get to you eventually. But hey, better late than never, right?”

With those words, Heather sat down at her desk and went about her own work. She made a conscious effort not to look at Tommy’s hangdog expression as he turned and walked out of her office. She didn’t want to feel sorry for him. He had made his own bed as far as she was concerned. It was over now. She reminded herself not to think about it, because it only served to anger her all over again. How could he be so flippant about the job that he was being paid to do? She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Eventually she would be calm again. Eventually she would be able to hire a new messenger, one who wasn’t completely incompetent.

Feature Photo by Ana Moreno on Unsplash


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