The previous week hadn’t been so good for Brewster. The stars had warned of uncomfortable questions, but if mettle held there was light ahead. He’d faced a horoscope inquisition in Curtis’ office.
“You’ve been asking everyone what star sign they are,” Curtis said. “Like a bad 80s chat up line.”
“Not like that,” said Brewster. “It’s an… interest I’ve always had. Astrology helps understand our own emotional states. With understanding comes efficiency.”
Keeping tabs helped Brewster read his colleagues better, all the better to foresee flaws, openings that could be exploited. “Efficiency makes for a better and healthier work environment.”
Curtis was Libra too. His bad week may be attempting to explain falling sales among the account handlers and Brewster’s quirky individuality made a convenient scapegoat. But least the balancing scales could help him see both sides.
“It’s unprofessional to pry,” said Curtis. “There’s a big difference between knowing what someone watched last night to making notes on their dreams.”
“It’s just caring,” said Brewster. “Making sure everyone is running on a full tank, and helping them if they aren’t.”
“It’s fucking creepy.” Curtis paused. He’d sworn and was on the verge of saying more. Brewster wondered if he should cross reference his manager with the Chinese calendar. It was a pig year and pigs had tempers.
“Anyway, this is a warning,” said Curtis. “We don’t have to make it written, can keep it verbal for now. Just keep your opinions to yourself. Headshrinking is for shrinks, not account managers with pagan hobbies.”
Brewster was duly reprimanded. He controlled his burning cheeks and didn’t overreact, sure in the hope that things would get better.
BE NICE ON THE WAY UP, BECAUSE YOU’LL SURE AS HELL SEE THOSE FACES AGAIN ON THE WAY DOWN
So they did. Brewster was back in Curtis’ office a week later. He’d kept his mouth shut and not talked up the stars since their last meeting. Not out loud anyway.
“You heard about Harris?” said Curtis.
Brewster nodded. “He was a…” He caught himself. “He’ll be missed.”
Curtis rolled his eyes. “Cut the crap. I know you’ve already sniffed it out and applied for his position. They’ve asked me for a reference already. Damn fast, even for this place.”
Brewster felt a knot tighten. Was Curtis a big man or a small one? His ‘scope was the same as his, so should be in a good mood, freeing himself of baggage and all that. Maybe.
Brewster cleared his throat. “Well, I hope that our previous discussions were kept as verbal rather than…”
Curtis cut him off. “Thing is Brewster, I’ve been here a while now, longer than most, so seen lot of people come, lot of people go. What people don’t realise, or pretend to forget most often, is that you better be nice on the way up, because you’ll sure as hell see those faces again on the way down.”
He stared at Brewster and smiled, a cool, smug rictus.
“I believe I’ve been…” Brewster began, before the manager held up his hand.
“You’ve got your reference,” said Curtis. “Damn good one too, glowing as a new born. Better than you deserve, but it feels good to clear decks once in a while. Some weeks we can all get what we want.”
Brewster began to form his thanks, but Curtis smiled broadly and stood. “Let’s leave it there.”
If Curtis was giving his office a sweep, was Brewster baggage he freed himself of? As he reached the door Curtis’ parting shot made him ponder more.
“Remember to say hi if I see you again,” said Curtis, standing at the window waving to the air outside. His final words were under his breath. They sounded like: “Harris did.”