Exercising the craft—January 4, 2021

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: Write about someone whose job is to help people leave their old lives behind.



So, okay, look, let’s get one thing straight: I don’t get any kicks outta ordering people around. That just comes with the territory, all right? I been at this job 52 years now, and, yeah, I know when to put my foot down, but it ain’t fun. Mostly ‘cause the people I’m ordering around are real putzes, but them’s folks. What are you gonna do?

And, anyway, the Boss already told me I get to retire next. I stuck it out longer than most. You know why? I got moxie. That’s what the Boss says every time I bring him another file that I’ve closed.

“Morris,” he says, “I like you. You know why? ‘Cause ya got moxie.”

You need it in my line of work.

And, yeah, there’s a sense of satisfaction when I finally get people to fall in line. They’re only makin’ it harder on themselves when they don’t. I mean, when they decide they wanna go on to the next thing, it’s only natural for ‘em to feel a little nervous about it, ya know? But they don’t have to whine like babies about it. They’s the ones who made the decisions that got ‘em where they are. I’m just there to make sure they follow through on it.

I got called a lot of things in my time on the job: bouncer; butch; babysitter; ballbuster. Even some I don’t care to repeat here in mixed company, but, believe me, I heard ‘em. All the years I been workin’, I heard it all and seen it all.

And now I’m ready to leave it all behind. If anyone knows a thing or two about that, it’s me. I ain’t no baby.

The Boss said he had one last file for me, one that would let me go out on a high, he said. One that would guarantee that no one would ever forget the name of Morris P. Harris. He said he held on to it for me, special, ‘cause he didn’t think any of his other employees could handle the case. A pushback of the highest order, he said.

I gotta tell ya, I’m kinda glad the boss didn’t pick no sissy for me to finish on. A pushback is tough—it’s when someone’s gotta go, but they’re squatting on territory that’s no longer theirs—but it’s also one of the most satisfying cases. ‘Cause it needs someone with experience and years under their belt.

Someone with a special touch.

You know what else it needs?

Someone with moxie.


I knock on the Boss’s door and wait. I don’t barge in. I may not be the most polished guy on the planet, but I do got a sense of decency. Manners, even. My mama pounded them into me when I was a kid, and I ain’t forgotten it.

After a minute, I hear the Boss’s voice rumble, “Come in.”

I push the door open and then shut it behind me. All discussions with the Boss are confidential, bar none. You talkin’ about a case? Confidential. You talkin’ about not being able to take a dump for a week? Confidential.

It’s the Boss’s number one rule.

“Good to see you, Morris,” the Boss says, sitting back in his chair. He leans back and holds out a hand across the desk toward the chair on this side. “Have a seat.”

I sit and wiggle back to get comfortable. “Good to see you too, Boss.”

“Ready for the big one?”

I grin and rub my hands. “Always ready, Boss.”

He stares at me for a minute, and my grin kinda goes away. What’s he waitin’ on? Normally we jump right into the case. I should already be holdin’ the file.

“I have to tell you, Morris, we’re really going to miss you around here.”

Oh, so it’s the speech first. Okay, this I can do.

I nod. “Thank you, Boss. It’s been a honor to work under you and help all those people get on with their lives.”

“I bet you’ve had your share of tough cases.”

“They all come around in the end. They know they can’t fight what’s comin’.”

He stops talking and stares at me again. I wonder if I got mustard on my shirt or somethin’ then remember I haven’t even had lunch yet. What gives? He can’t be thinkin’ of givin’ me the boot, can he? Fifty-two years!

He makes a tent with his hands and keeps starin’, and I swallow a little and try to look like I’m not sweatin’. Kinda hard to do. The Boss has always had this weird knack of sensin’ when one of us wasn’t ready for somethin’. But I’m ready for this, I swear.

“Good,” he says finally, and it makes me jump. Some of the guys think the Boss can read minds, and I used to laugh at ‘em, but now…

“Good,” he says again, “because I have the case of a lifetime for you. A top official has been fired and doesn’t want to leave the job. All the paperwork has been cleared, there are people ready to pack his office, and there’s no issue with his marching orders. The problem is just that he doesn’t want to start marching.”

I relax. This I’ve done a buncha times. You’d be surprised at how many companies have issues with their top people letting go.

“No problem, Boss,” I say. “Just let me look at the file and let me know when to start.”

He hands me a dark blue folder, and my hands get all clammy. I don’t want the boss to think I’m a sissy, though, so I scrub ‘em on my pants and then take the folder from him. Flipping it open, I start readin’ specifics, but I really don’t have to. I heard of the guy. Who hasn’t these days?

“What do you think, Morris?” the Boss says, and I get the feeling he’s watchin’ me for a reaction.

Look, I ain’t got time to argue with people about their personal beliefs and all, all right? But some things just ain’t right. Some things need to change.

My stomach gets all smushy when I think of this guy, but then I remember the Boss wants me to be the one to personally escort him out. I look at him and grin again. He was right about this bein’ the one that’ll make me go out on a high.

“I think it’s definitely gonna be the case of a lifetime. When do I get going?”

He starts laying out the specifics, and I drop the file with the seal of the White House on the desk so I can concentrate. This case is gonna take every inch of my experience to get right. But I know I’m the right man for the job.

What did I tell you? Moxie.

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