The Leopard’s Spots: Rule Of Three Blogfest

Hiya, all!  Today’s the day we’ve all been waiting for: The first post for the Rule of Three Blogfest!

Careful observers will also note that today is the day we are supposed to blog for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

For me, these blogfests actually dovetail quite nicely.  You see, one of the things I am the most insecure about is sharing my work.  I always have a feeling that a piece is not done, it needs to be polished further, or I simply feel nervous about whether it’s “good enough”.

So, as a way to get over this insecurity, I have been working on a set of writing rules for myself (more on that later), one of which is: “Be more willing to share your work, even when you’re not sure it’s perfect.” 

That’s where the #REN3 Blogfest comes in.  I’ve worked hard on this first post.  I feel it’s ready to go, but in my heart of hearts I know I wouldn’t have shared it without an event such as this blogfest pushing me toward the finish line.

Thanks to Alex for setting up the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which happens the first Wednesday of every month (check my sidebar if you want to sign up).  And thanks also to Damyanti, JC, Lisa and Stuart for setting up the Rule of Three Blogfest.   This’ll no doubt be tons of fun!

So here’s my first entry.  And be sure to go check out the other entries.  There’s plenty of fiction to go around today, so enjoy!

The Leopard’s Spots
by Jon Paul
(c) 2011

Character: Magnus McGrool
Wordcount: 596
Prompt: There is fear of impending misfortune

Part One:

CALVIN RUMPUS stood at the conference room door, ushering the Directors to their seats, trying to shake a feeling of nervousness. All morning, his boss, Magnus McGrool, Operations Director for Barchadelli Marketing, Inc., had been on a rampage.

Magnus kept his cards close to his chest, so even Calvin didn’t know why the staff meeting had been called, but an anxious buzz infected the office. Falling stock prices. Rumors of layoffs. Trouble on the horizon. With the recent economic downturn in Renaissance, companies were tightening their belts. Perhaps it was time for Barchadelli to do the same. Or maybe something else was going on.

Chit-chat came to a standstill when Magnus strode into the room and took his seat at the head of the table. Calvin followed him in, steno pad in hand, careful not to meet anyone’s gaze. He was not a favorite with senior management because Magnus’ iron-fisted management style irritated most Directors. That resentment no doubt colored the way they viewed Calvin.

Magnus surveyed the other Directors with hawk’s eyes. “For those of you who returned my calls this morning, I thank you. We are entering a critical period. It is essential we stick together.”

This conciliatory language relaxed the group. Attendees stopped squirming in their seats. A few even dared to glance in Magnus’ direction.

Magnus went on. “But we are only as strong as our weakest link. I was on the phone with the CEO this morning. Earnings are down. Our stock price is falling steadily. Now Gauche Mining wants to cancel their contract.”

A buzz rippled through the room. As Barchadelli’s biggest client, Gauche’s departure might spark a mass exodus if other customers acted on the same fears.

“We’re too fat,” Magnus continued. “Too many people, not enough productivity.” At this comment, Carl Sturmfels stiffened, put his coffee cup on the table. The Human Resources Director was widely considered the most considerate of the senior managers. Calvin liked him, but that sentiment was not shared by Magnus, who thought the man was an idiot.

“Somebody’s to blame. But who?”

The question hung in the air like an accusation.

“Whose fault is it?”

Calvin bit his lip, waiting. What was Magnus playing at?

At the other end of the table, Carl searched the far wall. The other Directors inched their chairs imperceptibly away, like a herd scattering, offering up the weakest among them just before the lion pounces.

“What do you have to say for yourself, Carl?”

Carl looked up. Unblinking placid blue eyes calmly met Magnus’ withering gaze, but he remained silent.

Magnus chuckled. “Tight-lipped to the end, eh Carl? You should have more common sense, man. Even Calvin here has more common sense than that.”

At the mention of his name, Calvin snapped to attention in his chair.

“Well, no point in beating about the bush,” Magnus said, proffering a half-smile as if sharing a friendly anecdote. “Effective immediately, consider yourself on unpaid leave, Carl, until we sort things out.”

Calvin sat glued to his seat, thunderstruck. The misgivings he had stifled until that moment bloomed into full-fledged alarm. Magnus was using the crisis as a pretense to get rid of Carl.

“In the meantime,” Magnus said, “Calvin Rumpus will be the interim Human Resources Director. That is, until we find a suitable replacement.”

Calvin froze. All eyes were on him. Animosity swept the group’s faces. Even Carl gave him a quizzical look, like Calvin was somehow to blame. An abrupt, unbidden stillness permeated the air, and Calvin, suddenly unable to breathe, wondered how on earth he was going to get out of this one.


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