By Derek Hayes

To: Rebecca ([email protected])
From: Jean
Re: your replacement

I haven’t had the best week. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get fired because of the girl who replaced you. This new girl is something else.

She applies layers of rouge, coats her eyebrows and lashes with Maybelline and somehow perks up her breasts and buttocks. She wears garish earrings. The only accessory I have is a headband, and I strap this on only when I want to dress up. I think you’re the only other woman that could wear blue jeans to work and not give a rat’s ass.

There’s a fog of perfume that hovers over her desk. She hung a fuzzy pink Hello Kitty doll on the wall of your old cubicle. I told her this was sacrilegious to your memory and not really appropriate for an office. She whined that it gave her luck. She flaunts the fact that she’s a size two. She laughed when I told her that her waist was the same size as my thigh.

She doesn’t have an original thought in her head. She’s giddy about Will and Grace. She idolizes Ally McBeal. I was discussing the latest Alberto Salazar film a few days back. I looked over and I saw her puzzled look of incompre­hension. In fact, she’s probably unacquainted with all foreign films. (Who do I have to talk to around here now that you’ve left?)

She idly stands around other people’s desks at lunch. She reeks of phoniness. She reads Steve his horoscope every day — like he gives a flying f . . . A client was waiting for her at her cubicle and she raised her finger and continued to gab on the phone. So I said to the client, “Samantha’s just sorting out her plans for Friday night. Maybe I can help you?” I tell you, if I don’t get fired, and if this is how she conducts business I’m going to have a busy year.

She showed up at the pub two days ago and hugged everyone. Such phony affection. In the middle of the evening she started to dance seductively in the aisle of the pub. Know what I did? I stood up and jiggled next to her. People laughed.

Miss Samantha had no idea what I was up to. After the song she spouted platitudes about how funny she thought we were together. I’d drunk about five beers and was tired of her affected camaraderie. “We’re not friends,” I said, “so why act as if we are? Why spend valuable time getting to know each other when we don’t really care?” Then I gave her the goods. “Look,” I said. “I pride myself in being an honest person, so I might as well give you a head’s up. I was making fun of you back there when I was dancing with you.”

Her reply? She said, “What end does it serve you to ridicule me. Up until now I’ve seen you as a moody but funny person. I’ve liked listening to your stories and I’ve appreciated your sense of humour. Now I’m always going to be careful around you.” She gave me this Prince Myshkin look — a guileless stare that was empty of irony.

I took a long swig of my beer and said, “Listen, Samantha. You’re obviously so shallow that you don’t get it. I’m my own person and if people don’t like me so be it. I’m not going to change. Why should I suffer fools?” And I cackled, but she had it coming, don’t you think?

The poor little thing choked back a few tears and left the bar.

She obviously was going to tell all our colleagues, so I beat her to the punch. I approached each and every person that night and told my side of the story. I asked Steve to meet me outside. I told him he’s got to get rid of her — either that or I might not come back to work. He said he’d look into it. I’ll bet you any money she’s complained to him about me and is scheming to get me fired.

If only you were here. You’d take my side. Sometimes I think we’re the only truly genuine people on this planet. How’s your new job? I’d love to hear from you. I haven’t heard from you since you left?!?


Excerpted with permission from The Maladjusted by Derek Hayes, Thistledown Press, 2011.

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Derek Hayes

Derek Hayes has worked as a high school teacher in Toronto, Taipei, and Istanbul. His stories have appeared in literary journals such as The Fiddlehead and The Dalhousie Review. He was born in London, Ontario and lives in Toronto.