[June Featured Short Story] What Motivates You by Heidi Slowinski

Monthly Short Story Feature

One of my writing goals for 2022 is to create more short stories. They’re a good creative exercise and sometimes lead to bigger ideas for novels. Or who knows, maybe an eventual collection of short stories in the form of a new book. For now, I’ve added them all to my Goodreads profile.

My selection this month is from my archives. This story was created from the writing prompt: ‘Apparently spite is not an appropriate answer to the questions what motivates you.’ I wrote this quite a while ago. It’s very much tongue and cheek. I hope it will bring a smile to your face.

What Motivates You

  

“Hey, babe,” said Lisa, as he came through the door, not looking up from whatever she was cooking on the stove.

“Hey,” Josh replied, flatly.

“How did the job interview go,” she asked, her cheerful tone unchanged. She still hadn’t looked at him yet.

“Not great,” he answered. “I’m not going to get it.”

Lisa finally looked up from the pan she was stirring. Finally seeing him; really seeing him.

“Aaww, babe,” she cooed sympathetically. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” He obfuscated, heading for the fridge and grabbing a beer.

Lisa turned around, her gaze following him to the fridge. He hated the way she studied him. It was like she was taking in a piece of art in a museum. Interpreting the artist’s intent and message from the image. Reading him like a book. Her mind was clearly at work but she didn’t speak. He couldn’t stand her silence.

“You must have some idea what happened if you don’t think you’re going to get the job,” she said, finally breaking the silence.

Maybe he didn’t mind her silence after all. He cracked open the cap on the bottle he’d taken from the fridge and took a drink.

“Apparently ‘spite’ isn’t the correct response to the question ‘what motivates you’,” he said, not looking at her.

“Babe.” She said it sharply, like she was about to scold a disobedient puppy. “You didn’t seriously say that!” She wasn’t quite shouting yet but her tone was elevating. He could feel the argument coming.

Josh had been waiting for this opportunity for the past ten months. He’d finally gotten his chance and he blew it. He’d had a promising career at a law firm. He was working insane hours but it was worth it. He was so close to making partner he could taste it. That was until the Martin case. He’d been assigned to the case by his senior partner with a classmate of his, Nick. Everything about Nick pissed Josh off. Nick was good looking, cocky, egocentric. He’d brought his girlfriend to the firm’s holiday party last year. She looked like she’d stepped out of the pages of some swimsuit magazine. He drove a brand new car. He had everything. Nick had gotten the better internship and somehow graduated higher in their class than Josh, yet never seemed to study. Josh always wondered how Nick had even passed the bar. But Josh had managed to get a good job with his first choice of firm, after graduation. He finally felt like something was going right for him. Until he ran into Nick in the break room on the first day. Nick had interned with the firm during school and was offered a job before he’d even graduated. Josh really didn’t have it all that bad. He’d met Lisa during his undergrad. Lisa was amazing. Everything every guy should want when looking for a wife and a mother. She was so smart. Smarter than him, that

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was for sure. She’s doing her residency in pediatrics. She was so great with kids. They were building a life together in their small apartment. It was the first floor in an old house. The winter heating bills were terrible and there was always a weird smell but the rent was cheap, which was helping them save toward their first house together. They’d agreed a wedding would wait until after they’d bought the house. They both drove old cars with tons of miles on them. They were a typical young couple, just starting out. Josh should be happy. But he wasn’t.

When Josh got the assignment to the Martin case, he was really excited. This was a really high profile case and it was a big deal to be put on the defense team. The case involved one of the firm’s biggest clients, an insurance company in the mid-west. He’d brought home a bottle of champagne when he got the assignment. He and Lisa had celebrated with candles and Japanese takeout. This was it. The big break he needed. A successful outcome in this case and he’d been one of the youngest members of the firm to make partner.

The next day, he’d walked into the conference room for the first strategy meeting and there was Nick, seated near the head of the table, schmoozing their senior partner. Josh’s stomach dropped. Throughout the meeting, Nick seemed to know more about the case than anyone else in the room. Josh realized he’d been briefed before the meeting and looked like he was second in the chain of command. Josh could feel his rage building as the meeting wore on. He was so distracted, he’d missed an easy answer on the only question he’d been asked. He got the grunt work assignments. Work that could have been handed off to a paralegal. As the case moved forward, he got the role of the silent second attorney at the least important depositions. He was no where near the action on the case.

Nick, on the other hand, was being given major depositions. He was involved in vetting the experts. He was even on the conference calls with the client. He was basically the lead attorney on the case. Their senior partner was coaching him to assist at trial. When Nick passed off yet another bit of menial labor on him, late one night, Josh finally snapped.

Josh waited until the office had cleared out and went into the conference room where the case documents were being kept. He pulled a keep expert report and took it back to his office. Josh recreated the document, altering the expert’s findings. As he walked the altered report back to the conference room, he noticed Nick’s computer was still on, in his office. Josh slipped in, pulled up Nick’s calendar and changed every deposition and meeting time on Nick’s schedule. Josh laughed has he changed the last time.

Josh was whistling when he walked into the firm early the next morning. Josh was going to discover the altered report, bring it to the senior partner’s attention, blame Nick for the oversight and finally get the recognition he deserved. And Nick wouldn’t be working there long when he showed up late to every meeting on his calendar. Or at least that was the plan.

Josh stopped in his tracks when he walked into his office to find his senior partner sitting behind his own desk with Nick standing alongside. And a security guard. Josh didn’t even know the firm had security guards.

“Mr. Jackson, we need to talk,” Paul said, from behind his desk.

Josh could feel his pulse starting to race.

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Paul turned a laptop around on Josh’s desk, so Josh could see the screen. A surveillance video was playing on the screen. Josh didn’t need to watch the video to know what he was being shown. It was the firm’s surveillance video feed, showing him taking the report and going into Nick’s office. Paul watched him. Nick looked so smug standing there. Paul stood up and dropped a document on Josh’s desk.

“While you’re explaining what you were doing in Mr. Buchanan’s office, maybe you can explain why you altered the reconstructionist report,” Paul growled.

Josh opened his mouth to speak but closed it again. There was nothing he could say.

“I’ve already had your computer searched. I know you altered the report. We also have a signed statement from Janice, the member of the cleaning staff who was on duty last night and saw you,” he continued. “You also failed to remember that our calendar system alters users of calendar alterations. So we know about all of the adjustments you made to Mr. Buchanan’s schedule.”

Josh remained silent.

“Mr. Jackson, you no longer work here. Bruce will escort you out of the building.”

The security officer moved toward him. Josh hesitated for a minute. He wanted to say something, anything. There had to be something he could say. Some explanation they would buy that would at least save his job. This was supposed to be his big break. But Josh said nothing. He’d driven around for a while before he’d come home. Lisa had been asleep, coming off the night shift. She’d found him on the couch when she’d gotten up that evening.

That was ten months ago. He still hadn’t found another job.

Nick had made partner thanks to his work on the Martin case. The outcome had exceeded anyone expectations. A defense verdict. No one had thought it was possible.

Then a month ago, Josh had found a job posting for a managing counsel position with the insurance company. The job involved overseeing the company’s panel counsel firms. This was Josh’s chance to redeem himself. He’d get the job, see to it Nick never got any work from the company. Maybe even take away the firm’s biggest client. He’d turned on the charm in the interview and felt it was going really well. Until they’d asked that question. What motivates you? It was a standard interview question. He had a great stump response all ready to go. But when his mouth opened to respond, the first thing to come out his mouth was “spite”.

There had been silence in the interview room. No one could believe what he’d just said. No one knew how to respond. Josh had wanted to walk out of the interview right then and there. How was he supposed to spin that? He’d tried to babble his way out of it. But he’d really just made it worse.

Little did he know, things were about to get so much worse.

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Past Short Story Features:

[March Featured Short Story] The Bus to Haifa by Heidi Slowinski

Monthly Short Story Feature One of my writing goals for 2022 is to create more short stories. They’re a good creative exercise and sometimes lead to bigger ideas for novels. Or who knows, maybe an eventual collection of short stories in the form of a new book. The story I’ve selected for this month is […]

[April Featured Short Story] The Kashering by Heidi Slowinski

Monthly Short Story Feature One of my writing goals for 2022 is to create more short stories. They’re a good creative exercise and sometimes lead to bigger ideas for novels. Or who knows, maybe an eventual collection of short stories in the form of a new book. My selection this month is more personal in […]

[May Featured Short Story] My Name is Hathor by Heidi Slowinski

Monthly Short Story Feature One of my writing goals for 2022 is to create more short stories. They’re a good creative exercise and sometimes lead to bigger ideas for novels. Or who knows, maybe an eventual collection of short stories in the form of a new book. My selection this month is just for fun. […]

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