The Sticky Predicament of Mr. Thomas Agnew (Short Fiction)

31 May


When faced with confrontation, do you head for the hills or walk straight in? Was there ever a time you wished you’d had the opposite reaction?

The phone rang, interrupting me as I was figuring up the receipts and sales for the day.

“Hello,” I said, as I shuffled papers around on my desk.

“Yes, this is Mrs. Donaldson.  I am with Super Wholesale and I am trying to reach a Mr. Thomas Agnew,” replied the lady on the other end.

“Yes, this is Mr. Agnew,” I responded, “how may I help you?”

“Good morning Mr. Agnew,” she offered, “I am calling in regards to a Luke Shutter who has applied for a job opening with our company.”

Oh Boy, went through my mind as soon as she said the name, Luke Shutter.  Luke was a former employee of mine and had put me down as a character reference.  A million things raced through my mind as she continued her speech about Super Wholesale’s hiring procedures and the rest.

I had employed Luke for a few months.  He was one of those guys who would land a nice job and be gone in a few weeks or a couple of months.  He landed several places, but never seemed to stick anywhere for very long.

I knew the questions she would soon be asking me concerning Luke and his character.  I found myself debating my answers, even before the questions were posed.

Luke was a good worker and a likable fellow.  However, he had some draw backs as an employee.  He could be moody, often he was late to work, and we suspected him of stealing a few items from our business.  We never caught him red-handed, but, like the old adage says, Where there is smoke, there is fire, and with Luke there was a whole lot of smoke.

Now, at this point, what I should say may seem fairly straight forward to you, a no-brainer.  If he did steal things, obviously I should not give him a high and glowing recommendation.  There is a catch, however.  Luke was also a young father.  He had two boys and a newborn daughter.  He and his wife desperately needed for him to find and keep gainful employment.  This muddied the waters, as it were.

What should I do?  Should I tell the truth?  Should I tell Mrs. Donaldson what my gut instinct said was true about Luke or should I give him a good recommendation so he could provide for his kids?

I liked Luke.  I wanted him to find a job; and more importantly, keep a job.  I wanted his kids to have the necessities provided for them.  I wanted his wife to be able to be proud of her husband and respect him.

I’m all for second chances.  The problem was that I had given Luke, not only a second chance, but third and fourth; well, you get the idea.

As these thoughts seized my attention, the moment of truth arrived.  Mrs. Donaldson began with her questions.

“Do you know Luke Shutter,” she asked?

“Yes,” I said with something of a gulp, “I know Luke.”

“Good,” she replied, “Would you mind answering a couple of questions about him?”

I was hoping to find some excuse at this point.  An important call coming in on the other line.   A customer needing my undivided attention.  A meteor smashing through the roof of the business.  Anything to get me out of this spot.

I also wondered why Luke had put me down as a reference.  He knew of my suspicions.  He knew it got to the point I felt I had to let him go.  Why in the world then would he put me down as a reference?

Did he think I was naive?  Did he think I would just turn the other cheek?  Did he think because I knew his wife and kids I would keep the truth to myself?

Perhaps he did.  Maybe he was right.  After all, here I sat debating what to say.  Yet, I must admit, I felt a bit angry with Luke for putting me in this position.

“No, I don’t mind,” I finally forced out in reply.

“Okay, very good then,” Mrs. Donaldson said.  “Can you tell me about Luke’s dependability as a worker?”

I was still wrestling with what to do.  The jury was still in deliberation.  I smugly thought to myself, Yes, I can, but will I is the real question.

I began my answer with some general, vague comments about how long I had known Luke and how he was a likable guy.  I knew I couldn’t keep stalling forever.  I had to make a decision.

So I did.  I thought about how I was teaching my children to be honest.  I thought about how I taught them to live in integrity.

In the end, I chose to tell the truth.  I told Mrs. Donaldson about my suspicions of the stolen items.  But, I also told her about Luke and his family, especially his children, and how much they needed for him to have a job.

I told her if there was any way she could take a chance on him, to do so.

She thanked me for my honesty.  She also thanked me for sharing my personal feelings as well.

As someone who hires people myself, I would want someone to be honest with me and then if I decided to hire that person, at least then, I would know what I was getting into.

She thanked me again and said good-bye.

I still struggle with my decision.  I have looked it over from every possible point of view.  But, I keep coming back to the issue of honesty and integrity.  All the things I told her about Luke were true.  He would show up late quite regularly.  We did suspect him of stealing on several occasions.  He was a likable fellow and he did need a job for his family.

And I did truly want him to find a good job and be able to keep it.

I don’t know how it all turned out.  I don’t know if he got the job or not . . . wait, the phone is ringing.  I hope Luke hasn’t applied for another job!


Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Short Fiction


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3 responses to “The Sticky Predicament of Mr. Thomas Agnew (Short Fiction)

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