Speaking Out

The mood in the boardroom was sombre as was the room itself. Nobody had bothered pulling back the curtains, nobody wanted to be reminded of the world outside these four walls. The board members gathered one by one, exchanged the briefest of greetings with those around them before taking refuge in the papers set out before them. After ten minutes someone started tapping his fingers on the table. One member looked up, another looked at his watch. Several others followed suit; it was unusual for the chairman to be this late. Indeed, he didn't arrive until almost twenty minutes later, silently taking his seat and beginning the meeting without a word of explanation.

Robert had been ready for every eventuality but not for this. No argument could sway these people now. Everbright was destined to become the latest victim of a crisis which had already swallowed up millions of victims on every single continent. Yet, he had to do something. To just sit there without a word would be immoral. Everbright was after all, Vaysol's first customer. Its chairman had come knocking on Vaysol's door before well before any other company even inquired about Vaysol's cutting-edge technology. Their chairman had given a considerable amount of time and energy in helping get the company off the ground. And now it was all over, and it was Vaysol's destiny to pull the plug on Everbright.

The chairman outlines the issues in his usual dispassionate way. For the third month in a row Everbright had failed to meet its commitments, and it was unlikely that it would be able to do so in the foreseeable future. He presented slide after slide of irrefutable figures and finished by calling upon the board not to neglect its responsibilities. He didn't recommend any particular course of action. He had no need to. Everyone knew what needed to be done but nobody wanted to do it. The silence was as black as the storm filled atmosphere pervading the valley. Finally, a young man Robert hadn't seen before stood up and addressed the meeting... a man a third of the age of Everbright, who didn't know a single one of their workers, a man who only cared about balances and bottom lines. His arguments were nothing more than a rehash of the chairman's seasoned with that particular blend of egotism so peculiar to shareholder gatherings. During a brief pause he met the eye of every single member before continuing.

'Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the shareholders I insist you take action today. The figures speak for themselves. You must make a decision. One of you has got to have the courage to put a stop to the haemorrhaging being caused by Everbright and to do so before it's too late.

This was too much for Robert. With no encouragement from the chair he sprang to his feet.

'The figures speak for themselves, yes. And I'm not going to contest them. There would be no point in that. But has anyone thought about the... I mean, can we really... Are you not willing to take a...'

But it was no use. Robert looked into a dozen pair of empty eyes and knew it was futile. He took a final look around the room, gathered up his papers and left the room to the sound of the chairman's words:

'We wish to thank Mr. Stanton for his contribution and deeply regret his decision to resign his position on the board. We wish him every success for the future.'


These times bring the worst out in people. Your prose rings startingly clear and true - likely that you have sat in one of these meetings. Your story was delivered in a clipped and efficient manner - befitting its title.

27 March 2009 at 13:16  

I wasn't actually in one of those meetings. I have been the victim of one and I tried to imagine how it was. The situation in my story is different, however.

27 March 2009 at 13:31  

This is so well written - I felt I was there!. Poor 'ole Robert.

28 March 2009 at 00:11  

The contempt of loyalty and the honouring of history is absolutely dispicable and your portray it with stark authenticity.

My only suggestions are
1. perhaps a reference somewhere near that beginning that the emerging company Vaysol, had ended up swallowing Everbright, or bought the company in a friendly takeover or something that gives the reader some indication as to how Vaysol could be making decision to end the company. I got just a tiny bit confused.

2. to put in italics the name of the company - I guessing that Robert Everbright was the founder of Everbright the company. Just to clarify it for the reader.

I love reading your stories Paul - the texture, the complexity and the originality of your prose.

29 March 2009 at 00:56  

You can find my ultra late addition at Wall Flowers and Corner Kicks

29 March 2009 at 00:57  

The first paragraph really sets up the mood of the piece. This is very good.

30 March 2009 at 15:10  

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