Sirens Of The Harbor

His arms could not be ignored. They swung forward like a challenge to tighten in the hard light of his desk. “Why is it, Atkinson, that you always use my office to demonstrate your inability? I’d think it spunk if I didn’t know you better.”

Perry Atkinson shifted nervously, but continued to hold his ground. The request had been reasonable, after all. At least he’d thought so, before he came in. “They’ve started a petition in the plant,” he said as forcibly as he could. “To keep her on. Everyone likes her, sir.”

“Everyone but me and my answer’s still no. Now I don’t like repeating everything just for your benefit, son. How much of what I say do you catch the first time?”

Perry ignored the contempt. It came with the office. “She has four children, Mr. Roburon. And no husband. She needs the money.”

Richard Roburon leaned farther across the desk. The muscles in his arms flexed, tugging at sleeves rolled emphatically to the elbow, rippling blue anchors tattooed in each forearm. The intimidation was unconscious, but unconscious only because it had become so ingrained.

“Since when is ‘need’ a condition of employment, Atkinson? If I listened to you, we’d have a factory full of derelicts. As it is, there isn’t anyone here who can do their job properly. No, I’ll tell you the only need that matters, son. The need to remember why you’re here. You’re my personnel manager not a labor spokesman. I pay you to protect my interests not theirs. I really thought that was clear when I hired you. Or are you one of those who need retraining every Monday?”