Ready to Pounce
A game of cat and alpha
By Cynthia Adams
I was so eager to break the glass ceiling that I began eyeing the work exits if the ceiling showed no signs of cracking. Some bosses made exits easier than others.
My first real job paid peanuts, but the boss was a rock star in the civil rights movement. I was idealistic enough to love the grant-funded dead-end work. When the grant expired, I accepted a permanent job with a lackluster boss, only to discover a telling omen.
My desk overlooked a cemetery.
Between the new boss’s whispery voice and the graveyard view, I flapped my wings daily just to get my blood flowing, achieving minimal career velocity.
I moved on to an international corporation with real pay and prospects, and two bosses. All they shared in common were New York backgrounds and human bodies.
One, a pipe-sucking, tweed-wearing adman with a lofty vision of himself, drove a Volkswagen Thing. Despite his eclectic exterior, he was a dullard counting the days to retirement. The other, a Dapper Dan right out of Mad Men, was fresh out of rehab — imposed after he infamously peed off the boss’s deck at a Christmas party.
Dapper Dan was utterly brilliant, but bitter about his ex-wife, who had recently left him.
Unfortunately, I reminded him of her. He immediately nicknamed me (ugh) Cat Turd.
No longer bored, I pointedly ignored the insult.
Slowly, the embittered one found grace, thanks to a relentless pursuit of recovery (although my feline excrement moniker stuck). He invited me to hear him speak at AA meetings — for once, he knew what he was talking about — sharing the program and his spiritual practice. Soon, I recognized toxic relationships of my own. Dapper Dan’s recovery helped me leave a painful marriage and recover myself, too.
Next, I found yet another colorful boss (imagine Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H). He was no alcoholic, but rewarded late workers with a splash of Dewar’s in our coffee mugs. I didn’t like Scotch, but adored the irreverent man.
I was recruited away from that job, but soon remorseful, as the new boss, a shameless sycophant, was Colonel Potter’s opposite.
Soon, I hastened to my final corporate gig — working alongside a vainly handsome, abusive alcoholic: “Mr. Alpha.”
What are the odds? Seemed I also reminded Alpha of his ex-wife.
I am ashamed to admit how thrilled I was when Alpha revealed himself by lewdly insulting an off-duty police officer at a work event. Arrested on suspicion of DUI, he dispatched me to find cash for his bail. Before I did, I whispered to the arresting cop, “Take his belt. He’s probably a suicide risk.”
Of course, Alpha was far too in love with himself for self-harm.
Alpha began making moves upon our shared assistant, who tearfully reported it to me. Human resources was overseen by Alpha’s pal and she refused to go there.
How to stop Alpha?
The answer surfaced while I was scanning articles for a work project.
I enlisted friends far and wide to mail articles on workplace harassment to Alpha — printing or typing his address.
I played a long game, and nervously waited.
Eventually, Alpha summoned me to his corner office.
“Shut the door,” he growled.
“Stop it. Right now,” Alpha demanded, face reddened.
“Stop what?” I asked, temples pounding.
“You know what,” he said. “I’m warning you.”
“If you tell me exactly what it is you want me to stop, I’ll certainly try,” I bluffed quietly.
Alpha glowered. His mouth opened. Then closed.
“Get out,” he snarled.
I padded away.
From that day forward, Alpha stopped pawing our assistant. Even so, I knew that even a Cat Turd had only nine lives and pondered my exit, praying I would land on my little cat feet. OH
Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry.