The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
“Why in the hell did Peter settle here?” Charles asked.
George answered, “He fell in love with Mom and stayed here to marry her after the factory was turned over to the employees.”
“It wasn’t quite that simple.”
“Dad always said it was love at first sight and he wasn’t going to risk losing you.”
“We didn’t have to stay here. It was just easier to stay here than move somewhere else.”
Patricia said, “What did you think of Pete when you first met him?”
“I was crying so hard the first time I met him that I couldn’t even see him, but he delivered something that meant more to me than a million dollars.”
AJ, wearing the orange coverall of the county jail, was sound asleep on his bed. He went from a deep sleep to ready to fight in less than a second upon hearing the door to his cell open. It took him a couple seconds to recognize the man standing at the cell door. Concerned, he looked up at the deputy.
“Come on, AJ. There are some people here to see you.”
“What time is it?”
“I have rights.”
“Your lawyer is here.”
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. It’s just there’s a bunch of people in one of the interview rooms wanting to talk to you.”
“I don’t like this.”
“Get your ass off of that bed.”
AJ walked ahead of the deputy. It made him nervous walking along like that. He expected that at any minute, he was going to get shoved face first into the iron bars of a jail cell and receive a strong shot to the kidneys. It was hard trying to walk casually while looking furtively over his shoulder. To his surprise, he was taken to one of the interview rooms where his lawyer was waiting for him.
He asked his lawyer, “What’s going on?”
“These people have a deal for you.”
Stephen Augustus Stapleton, the Third stood in front of the assembled crowd of factory workers. They were uneasy and restless. It was as if they knew bad news was coming. They wanted — and didn’t want — to know just how bad the news was going to be.
He had a little smile on his face, which only people who knew him would recognize that he was enjoying the cruelty of the moment. He glanced over at the rising star with a smirk. They were about to see if the guy could swim when thrown into the deep end of the pool. Peter looked back at him and gave him a cocky wink. Stephen decided that he’d add cement boots on the guy before tossing him in the water. He gave a short nod to the General Manager that it was time to start the proceedings.
Mr. Meyers stepped up to the microphone that was on the hastily erected stage. His arrival was greeted with a few catcalls and derisive comments. He waved his hands in a slow down gesture to calm things a bit. The crowd that was gathered there finally quieted down enough for him to be heard.
“I’d introduce myself, but based on how often I hear my name taken in vain, I’m pretty sure that you all know who I am.”
There was a ripple of laughter. The man might be management, but he was homegrown management and most folks actually liked him.
“We’re honored today to have Stephen Stapleton, the current Vice President of Manufacturing, come here for a visit. He said that he has some news that he thinks you’ll want to hear, and he wanted to announce it personally. I have no idea what he’s going to announce. So without further ado, I present Mr. Stapleton to you.”
The important man strolled over to the microphone. Upon reaching it, he turned to Mr. Meyer and said, “My name is Stephen Augustus Stapleton, the Third. It is not Stephen Stapleton. You will call me by my full name, Mr. Stapleton, or Sir. Am I clear?”
Mr. Meyers turned bright red with anger, but managed to answer, “Quite clear, Mr. Stephan Augustus Stapleton, the Third.”
The workers seethed in anger at the disrespect shown to one of their own. Someone muttered, ‘SAS, the Turd.’ With that single utterance, that became the unofficial name for the exalted Vice President of Manufacturing.
Stephen faced the crowd, pleased to see the churning anger. Smiling, he said, “Before I get on to the announcement, I’d like to introduce Mr. Peter Moore to you. He’s a rising star in the company and he’s been tasked with quite a difficult job. Please stand up, Peter.”
Peter rose and nodded to the crowd. He had a small smile on his face. He sat down at a gesture from Stephen.
“I’ll be blunt. Last week we sold this dump. The investors will take possession of it in nine months. Peter is going to be managing the transition. Give him all of the help you can. Thank you for your time.”
The man turned and walked away leaving a stunned audience behind. Taking control of the situation, Peter slowly rose and calmly made his way to the microphone. He looked around at the still stunned audience.
“As Mr. Stephen Augustus Stapleton, the Third said, I’m in charge of overseeing the transition in ownership. I’ll be working with Mr. Meyers and Mr. Carroll to work out a deal that is fair for everyone involved.”
One of the men in the audience shouted, “Newton is going to have to find a new rising star because their current one is going to disappear!”
Peter locked eyes on the man who had shouted. “Mr. Alphonse Justin Carr.”
AJ winced at hearing his full name spoken out loud. A number of people stepped away from him. They knew how much he hated being called Alphonse.
“Although I understand you prefer to be called AJ. Well, AJ, allow me to enlighten you about one small matter,” Peter said. His voice suddenly hardened, “I can take care of myself.”
Everyone in the room understood that a threat had been sent and a threat returned. The poor schmuck had no idea who he was dealing with. No one crossed crazy AJ, particularly when he was high on drugs and that was most of the time. Three men looked around the room not quite sure what to make of the exchange. This wasn’t the same guy they had dealt with a little more than a month ago.
Relaxing a little, Peter adopted a more conversational tone of voice. “I’m sure that everyone is concerned about what is going to happen. You’ve got families you’re worried about. There are bills to pay. Kids to put through college. All of a sudden, out of the blue, your future looks quite bleak. I do understand how you feel. In your place, I would be very worried.
“In the near term, your paychecks are safe. You’ll come to work and get paid just like always. Let me assure you of one thing that you can count on: you’ll be able to work until the day we turn the factory over to the new owners. At least you know that much.
“In the long term, I don’t know what is going to happen. That’s why I’m here. I’m to make whatever is going to happen be as good as possible. I’ll be working with the leadership of the new owners to establish what plans they have for you. It is quite possible they’ll want to retain you as employees. I won’t lie to you and say that I know they will, but I hope they will.
“No matter what the new owners decide we will be negotiating a severance package for everyone here. You’ll be represented by Mr. Carroll and by the national leadership of the union. I’m sure they have your best interests at heart.”
He turned to face Mr. Meyers and held out a hand. Operating on autopilot, Mr. Meyers took his hand and gave it a little polite shake. Peter clasped the joined hands with his free hand and gave a warm solid shake. He then clapped Mr. Meyers on the shoulder in gesture of friendship.
Speaking to the microphone, he said, “I’m looking forward to working with you, Mr. Meyers.”
Pointing a finger in the direction of Mr. Carroll, he added, “I’m very interested in what you have to say, Mr. Carroll. I expect that you’ll have a lot of insights into the problems we’ll be facing. I’m hoping that by working together that we’ll be able to keep those you represent informed with what is happening.”
Sounding very skeptical, Tim replied, “Right.”
“Mr. Meyers is there anything you would like to say?”
Looking out at the crowd in dismay, he said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
After putting a hand on the man’s back, Peter directed him off the stage and out the door along the same route that his boss had taken. Mr. Meyers stumbled along unable to believe the rudeness demonstrated by an executive of this company. Although he had meet Peter previously, he couldn’t believe how cool under pressure the guy had been.
“Well, Peter! You handled yourself like pro. I’m impressed.”
“Thank you, Mr. Stapleton. I’m looking forward to becoming a director.”
“You’re liable to make it, if you continue to handle yourself this well.”
“I’m pleased you think so.”
“I’ll be first in line for your ass if you get promoted.”
“I’m sure you will be,” Peter said with a smile.
“Now, I’m heading back to headquarters. I’ll stop by in a month to see how things are going.”
Mr. Stephen Augustus Stapleton the Third walked out the door and over to the limousine that was parked at the curb. The driver opened the door. He entered the car. The driver shut the door and glanced over at Peter shaking his head. Peter nodded to him.
“Was that a naked woman in the limo?”
“When he was talking about being in line for your ass, did he mean what I think he meant?”
“Yes. The man is a certified idiot.”
“I had no idea.”
“Now that he’s gone, let’s go up to your office where we can talk about the transition.”
It was a little after five when Peter made his way to his car. He pulled out his car fob and pressed a button. The car started right up. He smiled after glancing over at the small group of factory workers who were watching him like a hawk. He pressed another button and the driver’s side door and the trunk opened. He made his way to the trunk and pulled out a telescoping rod with a camera on the end. He flipped a switch on the handle of the rod after extending it a bit. He got out his cell phone and fiddled with it. Then, while holding the cell phone in one hand where he could see the face, he lowered the end of the rod to where it was under the car. He waved the rod around while looking at his cell phone.
“What’s he doing?”
“He’s checking for explosives.”
“AJ is too stupid to be able to use explosives and he’s too smart to try.”
“You’ve got to admit the guy isn’t as oblivious as you’d expect.”
“Come on, explosives? Get real. Take a two by four to a little f•©ker like that and your problems are over.”
“If it was SAS the Turd over there, I’d be first in line to plant something under his ass. Hell, I’d shove a stick of dynamite up his ass just to see the expression on his face.”
“You and me both.”
“What an asshole. Could you believe that jerk?”
“No. That little f•©ker over there handled it pretty well.”
“Better than Meyers.”
Peter finished his inspection and returned the rod to the truck of his car. He went over to the driver’s side door and turned to face his audience. He gave them a brief wave of his hand before getting to the car and driving off.
Two nights later, AJ pulled his car off to the side of the road. Leaving the engine running, he climbed out of the car. Without closing the driver’s side door he walked over to the group of people who were waiting for him. It was quite a large gathering of people for two in the morning.
“AJ, I’m glad to see you made it.”
“I almost didn’t.”
“You’ll be okay.”
“I hope they can help you.”
“I hope so too.”
AJ hauled off and hit Peter in the stomach. It took some effort, but Peter straightened up.
“That’s for calling me Alphonse.”
“Consider us even,” Peter said while rubbing his stomach.
“I guess it’s time I pull a disappearing act.”
Peter said, “Susanne will drive you there.”
“Let’s go, Deputy. I’m nervous enough as it is.”
“Don’t be nervous, AJ. Rehab isn’t so bad. Just think of all the movie stars who go through it.”
Chatting about movie stars, they walked over to her car and got in. A minute later they were heading down the road. The others separated, each to his own vehicle. All of the vehicles, with the singular exception of AJ’s, had been parked on the road. There were no tracks, no cigarette butts, or empty soda cans providing evidence to indicate that anyone had been there.
The great mystery of AJ’s disappearance was about to begin. An abandoned car found on a seldom used country road, left with the door open, lights on, and the engine running. People were going to wonder. There would be speculation and rumors about what happened that night. There would be whispered conversations and sideways looks at Peter. Was it possible that the little shrimp had taken out Crazy AJ?
Peter made it a point to eat in the cafeteria of the factory every day, although calling it a cafeteria was a bit of a stretch. It was really just a room with tables. Food was either brought by the person or purchased off a food truck that pulled up at the back door a few minutes before noon.
He sat down after putting his little brown bag on the table. With the kind of interest of a school child unpacking his school lunch that had been made by his mother, he would pull items out of the bag one at a time. It was usually a simple sandwich on white bread, a small bag of chips, a piece of fruit, a small baggie of cookies, and a can of juice. He would then proceed to eat his meal, seemingly taking great pleasure in it.
People didn’t know what to make of him. There were rumors that he had something to do with AJ’s disappearance. He wasn’t what they expected of someone tasked with his current job responsibilities. They expected him to show up at the factory wearing a suit every day. He wore business casual except on the days when upper management from Newton would drop in for a visit. Seeing him arrive at work wearing a suit let everyone know to be careful.
No one was more confused about him than the national leadership of the union. They would sit there at the negotiating table making demand after demand. He just sat there listening to them without saying a word in response. Their demands kept increasing well past the point of ridiculousness and still he said nothing. That went on for five months.
Finally one day the head negotiator asked, “Aren’t you ever going to say something?”
“We’ll give each of you $500,000 dollars cash to rubber stamp whatever deal we put on the table.”
Peter went over to a closet and retrieved five briefcases. He returned to the table, set them on the table, opened one, and turned it around so that everyone could see its contents.
“A half million dollars is 50 straps, or if you prefer packets, each of which contains one hundred $100 dollar bills. There’s fifty straps in each of these briefcases. The deal is you get a briefcase in exchange for agreeing to rubber stamp whatever deal we offer the employees here.”
“You’ve got a deal. It’s been real nice doing business with you. Call us when you need our signatures.”
“I’ll do that,” Peter said.
After shaking hands, four of the men scurried out of there as fast as their feet could carry them. Each of them clutched the handle of a briefcase.
Mr. Meyers said, “That was easy.”
Tim slid the briefcase back across the table in disgust. “You were right. They took the money and ran.”
“I cheated. They spent the night with some prostitutes who promised to put on a real big show tonight for them. I imagine they’ve each got a couple thousand dollars already spent.”
“Egos, greed, and lust. You called it.”
“I’ve also got it all on tape.”
“When does SAS the Turd make his next visit?”
Stephen Augustus Stapleton, the Third sat at the table with a slight frown on his face. “When are you getting rid of the Union?”
“I already did. I promised them a million each. They’ll be headed for the hills as soon as I deliver it to them.”
“I will need the money.”
“It’ll be here in two days.”
“What happened to that Cart fellow?”
“You mean, AJ Carr?”
“Did he run off?”
“There’s a lot of speculation about what happened to him. It’s quite a mystery. His car was found on the side of the road, abandoned. No trace of what happened to him.”
“Interesting. Why didn’t you call us to take care of it?”
“You told me to take care of it so I did.”
“I had my doubts about you, but you’ve convinced me. You’re going to go far at Newton.”
Peter sat down at the table in the Dairy Queen across from the young woman. She looked up at him and was suddenly flustered.
“How was your first year at college?”
“It was everything that I was hoping it would be.”
“That’s good. Have you selected a major?”
“I have to declare one soon, but I can’t make up my mind. There’s education, nursing, and all of the liberal arts. It’s a whole world of ideas out there. I guess, I’ll go with something safe like education or nursing. There are always jobs for teachers and nurses.”
“My older sister is about to become a medical doctor. She says that she wants to be a neurosurgeon so that she can help people who’ve suffered a brain injury return to a life of normality. My little brother is going after a law degree. He says he wants to be a great defender of the people.”
“They must be smart.”
“How about you? Are you that smart?”
Having grown up as the daughter of the one of the hardest men in town, Becky was fully aware of what people thought of him. She also knew what her father thought of other people. His opinion of others was often times more harsh than his treatment of them. As he had said to her on an occasion or two, he did not like pretentious little gits. Of anyone her father knew, Peter was a total enigma to him. There were times when he was convinced Peter was a total blowhard and times when he really respected Peter as perhaps the most complete person he had ever met.
“That’s hard to say. My intelligence is directed to its own goal.”
“Sounds weighty ... directed to its own goal.”
“Speaking of weighty goals, would you care to go on a picnic with me?”
Coquettishly, she asked, “Are you saying that I’m one of your goals?”
“Yes. There are no goals greater than achieving the love of a good woman.”
“Talk like that could turn a girl’s head.”
“I’ll settle for that so long as it turns in my direction.”
Rebecca, or Becky as she was known locally, suddenly felt uncomfortable with the casual banter. It wasn’t anything he had said. It was the appearance of a family coming through the door. The man was glaring at Peter with absolute hate. Sensing the hostility behind him, Peter turned to look at the family that had just entered.
He turned to Rebecca and said, “If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I see that someone has arrived who could be quite important to my plans.”
Peter went over to the man, invading his personal space to the point where the guy backed up. “Leo Paulson, the last time you assaulted someone, you spent a little time in jail.”
“Everyone knows that.”
“You appear like you’d really like to take a swing at me.”
“You’re screwing over this town.”
“Let’s go around back. I’ll let you take one good shot at me without any reprisal so long as you agree to one condition first.”
“You let me talk for one minute, alone with you.”
Peter returned a few minutes later untouched. He settled into the seat he had abandoned and asked, “So, are you up for a picnic?”
Looking thoughtful, Leo Paulson rejoined his family at the counter where they were ordering soft ice creams. It was a weekly treat for the family. His kids looked forward to it. If he really had to punish them for bad behavior, all he had to do was skip a week.
His wife asked, “Are you okay, Leo?”
“I’m fine. The fellow just gave me something to think about.”
“What did he say to you?”
“I’m not ready to talk about it. I need to see someone first.”
Becky had watched Leo return with a confused expression on her face. She had seen the hatred on his face when he had marched out with Peter. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking now, but it wasn’t hate.
“What did you say to him?”