The ex-executive assistant

A free, serialized story about a 30-year-old man who loses everything in one fell swoop and has to start his live over from scratch.

"The Ex-Executive Assistant" is a comedic story about a young man who loses both his job and his girlfriend on the same day.

Monday morning, ten-thirty. Lyle opened the door to his one-bedroom apartment just as his girlfriend, Annabelle, was emerging from the kitchen wearing only a T-shirt and underwear.

“Oh my god!” Annabelle screamed, jumping backward.

“Oh my god!” Lyle screamed, jumping backward.

Annabelle pulled her T-shirt to her knees. “What are you doing here?”

Lyle stood in the doorway, frowning. “Me? What are you doing here?”

Annabelle looked at him, her mouth open. Finally, she said, “I asked you first.”

“I lost my job.”

“You lost your job?”

“I lost my job. Melinda called me into her office this morning, said my position had been eliminated. It was an across-the-board, 30 percent reduction in staff.”

Annabelle’s mouth dropped open. “They eliminated 30 percent of their workers?”

“Yep. And of that 30 percent, only 5 percent were given the option of accepting a lower-paying position in another department. The odds weren’t in my favor.”

“Oh, Lyle,” Annabelle said. “I’m so sorry. What are you going to do?”

“Well,” Lyle said, kicking off his shoes in the doorway, “my plan right now is to change into my weekend clothes, head down to the bar and get drunk. No sense wearing a collared shirt and a tie anymore. I might get mistaken for a contributing member of society.”

Annabelle frowned. “Are you sure getting drunk is the best idea right now?”

Lyle shrugged. “I’d planned on climbing to the top of a skyscraper and jumping to my death, but you know how I feel about heights.” He set down his briefcase and loosened his tie. “Besides, it’s not like I got to start looking for a job right away. I got two weeks of severance.”

“So you’re going to wait until your severance runs out before you start looking for work?”

“Of course not. It’s when my unemployment runs out that I’ll start looking for work.”

“Lyle.” Annabelle shook her head. “I don’t want you getting depressed about this. You have to keep in mind that you’re not alone. A lot of people are out of work right now.”

“Yep. I’m well aware of that, hon. And all of us unemployed people are competing for the few jobs out there. I’m filled with so much optimism.”

“C’mon — think positive. This could end up being a good thing. You hated that job anyway. You always said you were Melinda’s bitch.”

“My official title was ‘executive assistant.’”

“Well, your official duties included fetching Melinda’s coffee and taking her pets to the groomers. It wasn’t the best use of your journalism degree.”

“It was the only job I could get with a journalism degree.”

“Beyond that, try to look on the bright side,” Annabelle said. “I think this could be a great thing. You were always telling me you were going to quit, anyway.”

“Yeah, but I’m also always telling you I’m going to lose twenty pounds and have the oil changed in your car. Clearly, I don’t mean anything I say.”

Annabelle threw up her hands. “Fine. Whatever. Go get drunk and wallow in your own pathetic bubble of self-pitying misery, then, if that’s what you want.”

“I’ll stop at getting drunk. I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew.” Lyle tugged at his tie, pulling it away from his shirt. “By the way, you never told me why you were home.”

Annabelle’s eyebrows rose. “Me?”

“Yeah. What are you doing home so early? I thought you had a mid-morning meeting.”

“Oh, that.” Annabelle looked at the wall. “It got canceled.”

“It got canceled? Who canceled it?”

Annabelle clucked her tongue. “Me.”

“You?” Lyle frowned. “I don’t get it. You canceled your own meeting?”


“Why? I thought you said it was important?”

Annabelle shrugged. “I guess I realized I didn’t have anything to say.”

“Huh.” Lyle raised his shoulders. “Too bad you don’t have that problem at home.” He started walking toward the bedroom.

Annabelle caught his arm. “Where are you going?”

“To the bedroom.”


“Because I want to change my clothes, and my clothes are in the bedroom.”

“You don’t need to change your clothes. You look fine.”

“I don’t care how I look. I care about how I feel. And I feel uncomfortable in dress clothes. I want to wear my jeans.”

“Here.” Annabelle gently guided Lyle to the kitchen. “I can get your jeans. Sit down and have a cup of coffee.”

“But I don’t want a cup of coffee. I want a drink. That’s why I need my jeans.”

“You don’t need your jeans to have a drink,” Annabelle said. She picked up a glass of water off the counter. “See, I’m having a drink, and I’m not wearing any pants.”

“I noticed that,” Lyle said. “Where are they, by the way?”

Annabelle blinked. “Where’s what?”

“Your pants.”

“My pants?”

“Yes, your pants. As you pointed out, you’re not wearing any.”

“Oh.” Annabelle swallowed. “I took them off.”

“I can see that,” Lyle said. “The question is, why did you take them off? Is that the first thing you do when you cancel a meeting? You come home and take off your pants?”

“Well, no,” Annabelle said. “I usually pour a drink first.”

“You pour a drink and then take off your pants?” Lyle stood up. “Hold on a sec, hon. I think I see what’s going on here.”

Annabelle stopped in her tracks and swallowed. “You do?”

“Yeah.” Lyle approached her from behind. “You think you’re fooling me, but you’re not.”

Annabelle stiffened. “I’m not?”

“No.” Lyle frowned. “Melinda called you this morning, didn’t she? She told you that I was going to lose my job, and she asked you to come home to cheer me up. That’s why you greeted me with no pants on.”

Annabelle took a deep breath, her eyes closed. “You’re … you’re very perceptive. You should have been a newspaper reporter.”

“Well,” Lyle said, grinning, “that’s why I majored in journalism. It’s just too bad the newspaper industry died the moment I graduated.

“Here –” he grasped her shoulder and turned her around so that she was facing him. He embraced her in a tight hug, so that her mouth was pressed uncomfortably into his shoulder.  “I don’t need to go out drinking. Not when I have you to support me.”

“Mmm.” Annabelle said, unable to speak.

“You know what I want to do?” Lyle asked. “I want to take you in the bedroom and forget all about Melinda and my job and the barren, desolate landscape that is now my future.”

“Mmm!” Annabelle said. She yanked her head away. “The couch!”

Lyle frowned. “The couch?”

“The couch. Let’s use the couch. The bed … the bed’s not made.”

“Of course it’s made. I made it this morning. You told me to.”

“Yeah, but … you didn’t do a good job. I had to unmake it.”

Lyle frowned again. “You had to unmake it?”

“That’s right.” Annabelle nodded. “You have a problem with hospital corners, Lyle. I didn’t want to tell you. Especially today … since you lost your job and all.”

“Uh-huh.” Lyle looked past her. “Tell me something. Why is the bedroom door closed?”

Annabelle’s muscles tightened. “The bedroom door?”

“Yeah. Why is it closed? We never close that door.”

Annabelle gritted her teeth. After a moment, she said, “I didn’t want anyone to see the unmade bed?”

Lyle looked at her, then let her go. He charged toward the door.

“Lyle!” Annabelle said. He paused, his hand on the doorknob.

“Do you have something to tell me?” Lyle asked, looking straight ahead at the closed door in front of him.

Annabelle swallowed, then let out a sigh. “Your day’s not going to get any better.”