Dinner and a lecture (Part 2)

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

Recap: In the last chapter, Lyle’s grandparents had invited him to dinner to console him over the loss of his job. During dinner, Lyle and his grandfather argued about the difference between being laid off and being fired. Part two of that conversation begins now: 

“I’d love to get a job with a newspaper,” Lyle said. “That was my dream career. Problem is, those jobs aren’t available. Newspapers are struggling.”

“Could you be an executive assistant again?” Lyle’s grandma asked. “Are those jobs available?”

Lyle nodded. “I would think so. The world’s full of incompetent executives.”

“You know,” Lyle’s grandfather said, wagging his finger at Lyle, “I don’t like the fact that you’ve been laid off from two jobs. You’re going to have problems.”

Lyle paused in mid-bite. “What do you mean?”

“What I mean is, it looks bad that two different employers found you expendable. Who’s going to hire you if they think you’re expendable?”

“I’m not expendable! It wasn’t my fault I was laid off twice. It was the economy’s fault!”

“How’s a potential employer going to know that?” Lyle’s grandfather asked.

“Because I’ll tell them, that’s how.”

“When? When will you tell them?”

Lyle frowned. “When else? During the interview.”

“Ah-ha!” Lyle’s grandfather said. “That’s assuming they give you an interview. But who’s to say you’ll even get an interview if they think you’re expendable?”

“They’ll give me an interview, Grandpa. Getting an interview’s not the problem. I’ve been to plenty of interviews.”

“But that was before you were laid off twice. Maybe now you won’t get any interviews because they’ll think you’re expendable.”

Lyle frowned. “You think they’ll think I’m expendable?”

“Would you like some more mashed potatoes, Lyle?” his grandmother asked, offering him the bowl.

“No thanks, Grandma,” Lyle said, his voice distant. “I’m getting full.”

He turned to his grandfather. “Do you really believe employers will hold it against me that I’ve been laid off twice?”

“Don’t you like the mashed potatoes?” Lyle’s grandmother asked. “You’ve hardly eaten any.”

“I love the mashed potatoes, Grandma. I’ve actually had two helpings already. I can’t eat any more.”

“Those are your grandmother’s prizewinning mashed potatoes,” Lyle’s grandfather said, wagging his finger at Lyle. “Finish them off. They’re very good.”

“I know they’re very good,” Lyle said. “That’s not the point. The point is that I can’t eat any more. I don’t have the room.”

“So don’t eat the mashed potatoes,” Lyle’s grandmother said. “You don’t have to finish them. I’ll throw the rest away.”

Lyle’s grandfather frowned. “Don’t throw them away. We can eat the rest tomorrow.”

Lyle’s grandmother frowned. “You don’t want day-old potatoes. I’ll throw them away if he doesn’t want to finish them.”

Lyle frowned. “All right, all right – I’ll finish the potatoes. They’re too good to throw away.”

Lyle’s grandmother heaped the remaining mashed potatoes onto Lyle’s plate.

“So,” Lyle said, turning to his grandfather. “Do you really believe employers will hold it against me that I’ve been laid off twice?”

“Be sure to save room for dessert,” Lyle’s grandmother said. “There’s a pumpkin pie in the oven.”

“Oh, c’mon,” Lyle said. “I told you I was full. I’m not going to have the room once I finish these mashed potatoes.”

“That’s your grandmother’s prizewinning pumpkin pie,” Lyle’s grandfather said, wagging his finger at Lyle. “You don’t want to miss dessert.”

Lyle pushed his plate away. “Maybe I better just slow down. I’m getting full.”

“You didn’t finish your mashed potatoes,” Lyle’s grandmother said, pointing.

“I know, Grandma. I didn’t finish the mashed potatoes.”

“Don’t you like the mashed potatoes?” she asked.

“I love the mashed potatoes. I told you that. It’s just that I’m full. I physically can’t eat any more.”

“Well, you better have room for dessert,” she said. “I made that pumpkin pie especially for you.”

“Leave the boy alone,” Lyle’s grandfather said. “He’s had a bad week, being fired from his job and all.”

“I wasn’t fired, Grandpa,” Lyle said, sighing. “I was laid off. I told you that.”

Lyle’s grandfather gave a dismissive wave. “Fired, laid off. Either way, they’re not calling you back, so what’s the difference?”

“The difference is that it wasn’t my fault. Being fired means it was your fault. Being laid off means it was the economy’s fault. We’ve been through this a million times already.”

“Or,” Lyle’s grandfather said, wagging his finger at Lyle, “being laid off could mean you were expendable. That’s the perception, you know – fair or not. Employers are going to have a negative perception of you. They’re going to think you’re expendable.”

Lyle frowned. “But that’s not fair.”

“I said ‘fair or not.’ Didn’t I say ‘fair or not,’ honey?”

Lyle’s grandmother nodded. “That’s what you said. ‘Fair or not.’”

“Weren’t you laid off once, Grandpa?” Lyle asked. “I thought I remembered you saying you were laid off once. What did you do?”

Lyle’s grandfather shrugged. “Back then, being laid off meant you could be called back.”

“So what happened?”

“I was called back.”

“Great. That’s great.” Lyle closed his eyes, massaging his temples.

“I think the pumpkin pie’s ready,” Lyle’s grandmother said, standing up. “Who’s got room?”