In The Land Of Giants – Dave Bailey

In The Land Of Giants

Carl walked down the street casually. Not really walking fast. Not really walking slow. He had no specific destination in mind. Nowhere definite to go. Just meandering along. Out and about for an afternoon stroll.

He had time to kill. A lot of it. For now anyway. But it wouldn’t last long. So, he wanted to enjoy it.

It was a good day. He was happy. More than happy, Carl was in love. He had recently met this really cute chic. Sharp-witted. Smart as a dart. Very energetic. Extremely adventurous. Yes, she was single, he had gathered. And to top it all off, he was going to get to see her every day.

There was only one problem. She would be Carl’s boss. Yep. She was going to be ordering him around, and he didn’t know how he felt about that. He wanted to ask her out. During his first interview with her. Tell her that he loved her. Wanted to spend every possible second with her.

But he could foresee a lot of potential problems and pitfalls with that. He knew it wouldn’t be easy to navigate both a professional and private relationship with someone like that. If things didn’t pan out between them, that could really put a damper on a future promotion or even his career.

And if they had problems at work, that could sour their relationship. Carl thought about turning in his resignation right after the first interview. But that would be stupid because he didn’t even know if he stood a chance with her.

However, with the way she made him feel, Carl was almost willing to take the risk to find out. Resign from the job he hadn’t even received yet. And ask her out.

He knew that the company had a strict policy about managers dating their subordinates. And if he read her correctly, he knew that she wouldn’t even accept an invitation for coffee with an employee to avoid any wrong appearances or give herself the chance to be tempted to break that rule.

Carl knew he was probably over exaggerating, but she seemed like the type that took herself seriously. Way too seriously. Completely unlike Carl. He always wanted to find out what the rules were so he could break them.

Rules were made to be broken.

That was his philosophy in life. He lived and died by it. Not because he enjoyed being a rebel, but because he wanted to push back the boundaries. Explore his limits. Find out how to do things faster and better than anyone before him.

Obviously, he was careful to make sure that no one got harmed in the process. Because it wasn’t about trying to prove himself to anyone. It was just that he enjoyed the challenge of pushing himself to see how far he could go. How much he could get done.

Carl knew that would be the most significant source of conflict between him and Hanna. She would be the one making the rules and telling him what to do. But he would always be pushing them back. Playing around with them. He knew that it wouldn’t be long before they had their first run in. Not that he would purposefully try to irritate her, but he knew that it would happen.

He had always irritated his superiors. Even when he got great results that exceeded their expectations. His managers and bosses would still get their panties all up in a wad because he hadn’t done it the ‘right’ way.

Carl didn’t understand why they preferred to follow the company rules and policies instead of striving to become the best they could be. Even if that meant switching things up.

He hated company politics. Always having to play the corporate game. Sucking up to somebody else for a promotion instead of just earning the right to advancement and higher pay based on results and exceeding expectations.

He sighed and shook his head to himself as he stopped at the crosswalk. He waited for traffic to let up or the light to stop them.

Someday, he would start his own company. Then he could make his own rules and policies. He could strive to exceed himself without anyone else trying to push him back down or pull his rug out from under him.

Carl would run his company by giving his employees all the support and free reign they needed to get better than average results. He would only promote and recognize those who were willing to go all out like himself.

He already had some great ideas for different businesses that he wanted to start and companies he hoped to run. But for that, he needed to raise capital. A lot more capital. It wasn’t that he didn’t make good money, just that he often spent more than he made.

That was a habit he needed to break. Not that he planned on downgrading his lifestyle or cutting back on his expenditures. No, he needed to find a way to make a lot more money.

This job was the first step in that direction. Not only was the salary three times more than he had ever made before, but it would allow Carl to get even more training and experience in his field of expertise. As well as open doors to other potential people, positions, and partnerships that had currently been closed to him.

The light turned red. Cars stopped. Carl crossed the street and continued walking as he pondered his options.

No, he needed this job. He was going to take it if they offered it to him. He wasn’t going to turn it down on a whim. He’d still get his chance to sweep Hanna off her feet later.

He had a good feeling about this. He knew he had impressed Hanna and the HR manager. He knew that they were only undecided between him and one other candidate.

Hanna had told him as much at the end of the interview. So, now he just had to wait for her decision.

He just reached the following corner when a man came rushing by and almost rammed into him.

“Hey, watch it, buddy!” Carl shouted after him.

But the man was long gone. He hadn’t stuck around. Much less tried to apologize. Carl shook his head in disgust. People around here could be so rude.

Carl walked on a few more steps before realizing his cell phone was gone. The realization of what had just happened suddenly hit him.

“Argh!” he yelled in frustration.

Several passersby turned to look at him. Others still coming in his direction widened their path to walk out around him and avoid getting near him.

“You okay, dude?” someone asked.

“Someone just stole my phone,” Carl growled. “Bumped into me like he was in hurry. I didn’t even realize it.”

“Sounds like old James. The homeless bum. He’s always around here. Pickpocketing, stealing, you name it. The only thing I haven’t heard anyone complain about is him outright holding someone up.”

Carl thanked him for the information and kept on walking.

“Wait, man. Aren’t you going after him?” the passerby shouted after him. “At least register a complaint down at the precinct.”

“Nah, I got better things to do with my time,” Carl yelled back over his shoulder.

It was an old phone anyway. Time to upgrade to a new one. He spotted a phone store down the street and headed for it.

Just as he got to the door, the same passerby came up behind him.

“Hey,” he said and tapped Carl on the shoulder.

Carl turned around and raised his eyebrow.

“Here’s your phone back.”

“Oh, thanks,” Carl said suspiciously, wondering how the man got it back so quickly and what he would want as a reward.

“Also, here’s a new company phone. Hanna will call you on it in a few minutes.”

Carl took it. The confusion obvious on his face.

“I work at Hanna’s company. I’m a research psychologist. We’ve been following you and analyzing your reactions to different situations that we tossed in your direction to build up a profile on you. Normally, you wouldn’t ever meet me, and you would most likely never know what I was doing. But we’ve had a bit of an emergency and Hanna needs to get in touch with you. So, she asked me to return your phone.”

“Does this mean I got the job?” Carl asked with a grin.

The man shrugged.

“I have no idea. I don’t make those decisions. I just analyze and report my findings in your portfolio. I let the higher ups decide what they want to do with that information.”

“Thanks,” Carl said. “I guess I’ll find out soon enough.”

The man smiled.

“Dude, you are so in love. It’s written all over you. Who’s the lucky woman?”

Carl grinned.

“That obvious. Huh? Just someone I met recently.”

“Okay, well, you have a great day. If you get hired, I suppose I’ll see you around. I’ll be doing your onboarding session and preliminary evaluations.”

“Great. I hope to see you again then,” Carl replied enthusiastically.

“Sure, my name is George, by the way,” the man said as he stuck out his hand.

Carl reached out and grabbed it firmly, pulling the man into a warm embrace.

“Wow, I didn’t see that coming in my analysis,” the man exclaimed with a chuckle. “Either you really are in love or you desperately need this job.”

“Probably a bit of both,” Carl admitted awkwardly.

He felt a bit miffed and embarrassed that the man had picked up that much about him in such a short time.

Carl really hoped that was all the man knew. That it wasn’t that obvious that he had fallen for Hanna. He really needed to get it together if he wanted this job. He had to step up his game. Otherwise, he would go back to working in another museum for a measly salary that was barely enough to pay his bills each month.

He loved the work itself and had been grateful for the experience it had provided him. Working as an assistant curator in the Greenvine Museum of Natural History had been interesting. He loved the expeditions and digs. Working with volunteers. Even holding office hours at the local university.

But Carl had outgrown that position and wanted something that paid much better. At first, he tried requesting a promotion, but he was told flat out that there was no chance for growth where he was unless he wanted to wait till the current curator retired or kicked the bucket.

He had spent a few months looking for a new job on the side without luck. Carl grew tired of the wait and put in his resignation. He made looking for a new position with a better salary his full-time job.

That had been three months ago. Carl had come close to getting something, but things had hadn’t panned out. They always paid him some dumb compliment right before letting him down and telling him that they had given the position to someone else.

Carl had been extremely frustrated and ready to throw in the towel when a headhunter had contacted him last week about this opening at Quest Technology Services. He hadn’t found the position very interesting at first, but for lack of other options, he had gone in for the interview just so no one could say that he hadn’t tried.

That was when he had first met Hanna. A brief chat over a cup of coffee before she explained to the group of potential candidates what she would expect of them if they were hired.

He had loved her passion and vision. Carl wanted to work with her and for her. He was sure he would be willing to do just about anything if she asked him personally. He was willing to apply himself diligently and do his best on the tests that the group was required to participate in.

But then when she told the group that the starting wage was a six-figure salary, he was sold. He didn’t care if he had to mop floors to get the job. Carl was determined to convince her that he was the right person for the job. He had slaved over every test and task.

In the end, it had all boiled down to himself and one other candidate. And it had been three days since he had last heard from anyone at the company. These had been the longest, most agonizing days of his life.

And now, Hanna was about to call him. In just a few moments, he would receive the call that had the potential to change his life.

Carl took a deep breath as he walked across the street towards a park in the middle of the city. He sat down on a bench and took several more deep breaths to calm his nerves. The last thing he wanted to do was sound anxious over the phone.

He didn’t have to wait long. The phone started to vibrate, and Carl let it ring a few times before answering it.

“Hello,” he said pleasantly.

“Hey, Carl. It’s Hanna. How are you doing?” she asked.

“Good. I’m doing really good. I have to admit that I’ve been a little anxious waiting for y’all to get back with me.”

“Oh, of course. I understand. That’s a perfectly reasonable way to feel when you’ve worked so hard to compete against so many other people for the same spot. You did really well and impressed us all. We loved your dedication and commitment to the entire process.”

Carl’s heart sank. There it was. The compliment. Right before they stuck the knife in and twisted it for the final kill. As if somehow paying him a compliment helped them feel better about letting him down. He held his breath and waited for her to continue on with rest of the details and ramble on with the blah blah blah.

“We wanted to make a decision sooner. I had scheduled a meeting with the board of directors the day before yesterday for us to go over your profiles and come to a consensus. But unfortunately, we had a huge issue come up that took all of our attention.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you got everything resolved okay,” he muttered despondently, not really meaning it.

He already knew what came next. A few more details about the decision process. Why the chose the person they did. The fact that he had only been discarded for the other person because of one tiny detail. And then the let down.

“So, we went over all the results from the tests and exercises that you finalists went through. It was really close. It was pretty much a tie between the two of you. But we had to make a choice, so in the end, it came down to one tiny thing that made all the difference.”

“And what was that?” he asked.

“Well, you know that we are expanding our network. And the next two countries that we’re targeting both speak Spanish. And since you don’t speak Spanish yet and Juan is fluent, we decided to go with him. But I want you to know that is the only reason we picked him over you. You were a really strong candidate with a lot of great experience under your belt.”

Carl tuned out immediately after that. He heard Hanna rambling on a bit more, but he didn’t listen to a thing she was saying. The sense of bitterness and disappointment was overwhelming. After three months of this frustration, he had had enough. It was more than he could take.

He had thrown himself into this opportunity for the past two weeks. Given it everything he had. Even if Hanna had asked for just a little bit more, he wouldn’t have been able to give it.

Suddenly, the phone went silent, and Carl realized that she had asked him a question and was waiting for an answer.

“I’m sorry, Hanna. I was in a park when you called and someone going by distracted me. I didn’t catch the last thing you said. Could you repeat that for me please.” he said as politely as he could.

All he really wanted to do though was scream and smash the phone into the sidewalk. Carl was ticked. Two weeks of his time that she had wasted. Two weeks that he could have been looking for something else. Two weeks of free work that he had done for her.

And now that nice fat salary that he had been dreaming of and counting on would go to someone else. He felt almost as much anger and hatred for her as almost as great as his love had been for her less than an hour ago.

No, not hatred. But just deep disappointment and regret at letting him get so emotionally involved in his head without any acknowledgment or reciprocation.

Not that it was her fault. He knew that it was completely on him. Carl had never let on how he felt, much less spoken to her about it because he didn’t want that to be something that could be used negatively against him.

So, he couldn’t blame her.

But he had been so sure that she was going to give him the job that he didn’t even consider it. Now, he wondered if it would have changed anything. If he had at least hinted that he cared for her or even given her some indication of how he felt, would that have tugged at her heartstrings? Possibly thrown things in his favor?

Carl wished so badly, that he could go back in time and change things just a little bit. At least try. A second chance. But now it was over.

He realized that she had repeated her question, but he still hadn’t caught it because he had been so deep in thought. So, he just said whatever came to mind.

“Okay, I understand your position, Hanna. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to at least give it a shot. I wish you all the best and your company lots of success.”

Carl figured he was supposed to say something to the effect of congratulating the guy who took his spot as well, but he just wasn’t in the mood.

He was ready to hang up and started to press the button. But then he wondered why George had given him a company phone. What was he supposed to do with it now? Was it a reward for his participation in their training?

Carl looked around for the shrink but didn’t see him anywhere around. Then he remembered about the man telling him that they were still observing him.

Why would they be doing that if they had already made the decision about the other guy who got the spot? Was this still part of the test? Were they still analyzing him and adding his reaction to his portfolio?

A twinge of excitement hit him. Not too much. He was careful not to get his hopes up.

“Carl? Did you hear what I said?” Hanna asked again.

“I’m afraid not,” Carl replied. “I don’t think the connection is very good here. Why did you give me a company phone anyway, if I didn’t get the position?”

“Standard procedure, Carl. We just wanted to make sure we were talking to you on a line that was encrypted at both ends.”

“So, what do I do when it when we wrap up the call? Is George still around?”

“No, Carl. He’s already back at the office. I saw him walk through a minute ago. I guess you really didn’t hear what I was asking you.”

“Sorry, I guess not,” he retorted.

Carl wanted to give her a piece of his mind and tell Hanna that she had given him the hardest bit of news that he had received in his life. But he didn’t. Carl bit his tongue and kept his mouth shut after that.

“I asked you if we could go out for coffee later on this afternoon. I’d love to meet you outside a business setting. You know, employer vs. employee kind of setting. Just to talk about normal people stuff. To get to know you as a person. I have to admit that you really left an impression on me. And you’re kind of cute too. Know what I mean? I kind of got a vibe from you. I think we really clicked. Like we were synchronized. On the same wavelength. I felt like we really hit it off and I wanted to explore it a little. See if there’s something there.” Hanna said quietly, her voice lowering and getting quieter at the end as if she were unsure of herself.

Carl couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Was she for real? Rage flooded through his body and his pressure rose to the point where his vision started to black out. He breathed deeply to control his fury.

“Are you there, Carl,” Hanna asked. “I, um, sorry if I read things wrong. Maybe I’m mistaken. If so, that’s okay. Or maybe I’m not mistaken, but you’re upset about us choosing Juan, that’s okay too. I understand. I wish I could have talked to you about this earlier, but I didn’t want to confuse the lines between a personal and professional relationship before we had come to a final decision.”

Hanna’s voice trailed off at the end. She waited for a few seconds to give him time to reply.

“Well, I’m going to be at that little coffee shop at the corner where you and the other candidates would go after the training sessions. I’ll be there from four to five p.m. I hope to see you there.”

Carl wanted to laugh into the phone. What was this woman thinking? That she could just go on like nothing had happened after all of this. He was absolutely furious.

“Well, Hanna, I do appreciate the offer,” he finally said when he got his emotions back under control. “But I’ve got to get back on the wagon here and find another job. I’ve stopped looking after the training sessions started at Quest. So, I need to find something a.s.a.p. Even if it’s just a temporary gig. Not that I don’t appreciate the offer, but I’m gonna be really busy over the next few days. You know. I’m not in a very good place right now. I don’t think I would make for very good company. Perhaps when all of this is over, and I nail something down, then we can do the coffee thing. Okay.”

“Yeah. Sure, Carl. I understand perfectly. I appreciate your honesty. You’re probably right. Things might not have worked out any different anyway. I do this to myself. Set high expectations and then make a stupid mistake and shoot my own hopes down. I hope you aren’t angry about this. I apologize if I said or did anything that upset you or offended you. I just didn’t want to let the opportunity slip by without at least letting you know how I felt.”

Carl grinned to himself at the irony of the entire situation. Not less than ten minutes ago, he would have given anything to hear her say those words. He would have even given up that job position. He had even considered resigning if he thought he had a chance with her.

But now, that it had been snatched away from him, since she had snatched it away, and given it to someone else, everything had changed inside. His perspective of her had completely flipped a hundred and eighty degrees.

Even Carl was shocked at the complete change in his attitude. If someone had told him just twenty-four hours ago, he would have scoffed at the idea. Now, he had no idea what he was capable of doing even to himself if his thoughts, attitudes, and feelings could change so radically in a single moment.

“Thanks, Hanna. That was kind of you. I appreciate your courage and sticking your neck out on the line. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do something that bold.”

“Yeah, sure thing. Don’t mention it. I don’t think it was that bold of a thing to do. I did it mostly for myself. I try to follow my heart which means I can be pretty impetuous at times. But it also tends to get me into trouble.”

“Sure. I hear you. Well, I’m gonna run. I gotta meet up with my brother-in-law. He’s kind of a douchebag, but he’s family you know. So, gotta keep the peace.” he tried to say jokingly to lighten the mood.

“Okay. I’ll let you go then Carl. You take care now. Okay. Give me a call in the next week or so, if you change your mind or find some time to have that coffee.”

“Sure, Hanna. Bye-bye.” he said.

He waited for her to hang up. Carl had always had the impression that it was rude to hang up on someone who had called him. There was a long pause as if Hanna was waiting to hear if he would say something else.

But he held firm. He so wanted to let go of the anger and rage and bitterness. Tell her the truth. Confess that he had been madly and deeply in love with her the entire time. Tell her to wait and give him a few days for his wounded pride to heal.

Carl admitted that it was mostly just his pride that had been hurt. The fact that they had chosen Juan over him. But he didn’t want to let go. He didn’t want to tell her how he felt. He liked to nurse his grudges. He didn’t even know why. It was just an old habit of his.

Sit around and brood over the his broken ego and wallow in his own misery. Steep himself in negative thoughts for a week, until he was forced to do something about it. Only now, he didn’t have any time left. His bills were piling up. If he didn’t start making money soon, he was going to be in a real pickle. He was already feeling the effects of his three month cash crunch.

He had complained about his salary before while working at the museum. But at least he had enough to pay his bills and enjoy life. Recently, he didn’t do anything but look for jobs or sit at home. He didn’t go out anywhere with his friends anymore because he didn’t have the money.

But at least he could go work with his brother-in-law. It wasn’t anything fancy. It was just a mowing job in his brother-in-law’s landscaping business. He had offered Carl a bit over the average wage he paid his regular employees just a few weeks back.

Carl had turned him down because he wanted to be free to focus on finding his dream job full-time. But after all this time and no luck yet, Carl knew he should take it. Beggars can’t be choosy, he mumbled to himself.

He stood up and stretched. No time to be lazy. He’d call Carl and start first thing in the morning. He continued walking down the street in the same direction had been headed earlier.

Carl didn’t walk fast. Nor did he walk slow. He still had no specific destination in mind. Nowhere definite to go. Just meandering along. Out and about for an afternoon stroll.

It hadn’t been a good day. He wasn’t happy. Not happy at all. Carl was alone. He had just lost his dream job. Good pay. Great people. Energetic vibe. Intense learning experience. That he could have had, but he didn’t. And to top it all off, he wasn’t going to get to see Hanna any more.

But none of that mattered. He would get a job. Work his tail off. Make some money. Go back to school. Improve his resume. Then he would come back and get an even better job. Rub it all in their face. And if they offered him another, he would turn it down point blank.

Or better yet, he would start one of those business ideas that he had. Maybe they would come begging him for a job in a few years when the market changed. He smiled to himself and hummed a little tune as he walked down the sidewalk. Amongst the hustle and bustle of those who had places to go, things to do, and people to see.

Carl looked around wondering if that old shrink was watching him. Still taking notes. Filling out his portfolio. Analyzing his profile. Feeding them back to some nameless corporation.

He knew he would get his shot. It hadn’t been this time. The experience had been disappointing, but he was still alive. He was on his feet. And he would make a comeback when the time was right.

Carl put his cell phone to his ear.

“Hey, Dora! Is your husband there?”

“Well, listen, when he gets back in tonight, could you let him know that I’d be happy to come work with him tomorrow if he still needs a hand.”

“No, the opportunity didn’t pan out.”

“Yeah. Me too. I’m still pretty bummed out about it. But that’s life. Right?”

“Yep. I’m sure it will. Another opportunity will come around and my number will pop up.”

“Okay. Thanks. I love you too. Bye.”

Dave Bailey

Dave Bailey started writing short stories when he lived in Brazil to help his students learn English. Now, he lives in Florida again where he continues to write fun and inspiring sci-fi and fantasy fiction stories. You can read his weekly short stories here on his blog. Make sure to join his advanced reading crew so you know when new stories become available >>>