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by Joy
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Comedy · #371164
An employee takes it for the boss
          “I’m on my lunch break, Ralph.”

         Ernie was truly annoyed at his boss. It didn’t matter to Ralph if his employee died of hunger. Here in Harbor Marine Electronics the customer really came first. Ralph acted very friendly toward the customers who spent any amount of money on their boats. Some people even brought small presents to the store. But guess who did all the work... “Ernie, Repair Mr. Johnson’s Audio Gauge.” “Ernie, Go take a look at Mr. Walker’s autopilot. See if it’s Benmar!” Ernie this, Ernie that...

         Sometimes Ernie thought he’d break down. The hours dragged by as he dashed from one spoiled customer to another. Sometimes there was a brief ceasefire in order to get lunch, snack, or bathroom break, but these didn't happen as often as Ernie would like and for sure they were full of interruptions. This week even Ernie's paycheck was late. Some mix-up in the bank, Ralph had explained.

         Ernie’s shattered nerves were getting the best of him. Yet he couldn’t leave this store. His father needed him to stay in the same neighborhood after his heart attack and not very many good jobs were around. His poor father! The doctors had explained to Ernie that his father’s disease was partly genetic and partly the result of a careless lifestyle. But Ernie knew better. His father’s heart was sick because he was heartbroken over his last wife leaving him. That bug-eyed woman had attacked his father’s heart. How could Ernie leave him now? Leaving this job meant leaving his father, causing him another heartbreak and another heart attack.

         “I need you in the shop now Ernie. You can take your break a little later!”

         “Coming!” Ernie said wiping his mouth with a tissue, thinking that the moment to talk with Ralph about things unspoken could be drawing nearer and nearer.

         After Mrs. Mac Aichren, came Dr. Morris, then Mr. Fagan on and on and on until Ralph shouted. “Ernie! You made a mess here!” Ernie darted into the backroom. His ice cream cone had melted all over the table.

         Ralph was annoyed. “Ernie, you have to throw your leftover food in the trash.”

         “Yes, Ralph. Sorry Ralph...” Ernie dashed to the bathroom. If it weren’t for his urgent bladder, maybe he’d come back with a better retort but not now. He had his own emergencies to deal with.

         “Is everything all right?” Ralph asked when he came out into the shop again.

         “Yes, I cleaned up the spill,” Ernie answered.

         “Ernie, can you stay in the shop alone for a few minutes? I’ll go take a look at Miss Hale’s wireless. She doesn’t know what’s wrong with it.”

         Of course. Whenever the customer was Donna Hale, Ralph would go by himself. Donna Hale was the ash blonde so animated that her every part wriggled a different way. No wonder she needed help with the parts inside her boat...

         George Slater walked in a couple of hours after Ralph had left. Ernie had seen him before while he waited for Donna in the car. George was Donna Hale’s boyfriend, a body builder who wore his shirts a little too tight to show the muscles in his chest. His photos hung all over the gym Ernie had registered in but never attended.

         George stood in front of Ernie with legs slightly apart, the veins on his temples pulsating.

         “If I ever catch you around Donna, I’ll snap your neck in two,” he growled.

         “Donna?” Ernie’s voice trembled into a high alto for being wrongly accused.

         “Don’t play dumb with me!”

         “If you’re talking about Miss Hale, she hasn’t been here. She never comes around; she calls on the phone.”

         “How come she’s always getting the boat fixed? If you think you’re fooling me, you’re in for it.”

         “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sir. I’ve never been on that boat.”

         George Slater grabbed Ernie by the collar, “What’s your name?” At that time, Ernie saw Ralph outside on the sidewalk. He had never felt so happy to see him. “Ralph!” he yelled.

         “I knew it! You little weasel... It was your name she was saying in her sleep.”

         When Ralph walked in Ernie was already on the floor with a shiner.

         “Sir! I’m calling the police,” Ralph yelled.

         “Call the Pope if you want.” George Slater turned to Ernie, “You just stay away from Donna. You hear?” He slammed back toward the door.

         “Ernie, Pal! You took it for me. What a pal you are!” Ralph cooed over Ernie. Ernie was speechless, finding a weird comfort in the smarting throbs on his face.

         “Your paycheck, Ernie,” Ralph said as Ernie was leaving to go. “You get double the amount for loyalty. Plus the live bonus.”

         “What do you mean live bonus?”

         “Since you’re already involved, next time Donna calls, you attend her.”

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